George MacDonald.

Mary Marston. A novel online

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she was tired of it.

"Things hardly look iis if they were going to remain just
as they arc at this precise moment," said Mary. '' How could
they, when, from the very making of the world, they have been
going on changing and changing, hardly f'v» r even seeming to
stand still ?"

*' You frighten me, Mary I You will ilo .vonielhing terrible
in my house, and 1 shall get the blame of it!" said ilesper,

But siie did in truth feel a little uncomfortable. Tiie
shadow of dismay, a formless apprehension overclouded her.
Mary's words recalled sentiments which at home she had heard
alluded to with horror; and, however little parents may be
loved or respected by their children, their opinions will yet
settle, and, UTUil they are driven out by better or worse, will

"AVhen I tell you what I was really thinking of, you will
not l)e alarmed at my opinions," said Mary, not laughing now,
but smiling a deep, sweet smile ; "I do not believe there ever
will be any settlement of things but one ; they can not and
must not stop changing, until the kingdom of heaven is come.
Into that they must change, and rest."

'• You are leaving politics for religion now, Mary. That is
the one fault I have to find with you — you won't kecj) things
in their own places ! You are always mixing them up — like
that Mrs. — what's her name ? — who will mix reliction and love


in her novels, tlioiigli eyerybody tells lier tliey have nothing to
do with each other ! It is so irreverent ! "

^^Is it irreverent to believe that God rules the world he
made, and that he is bringing things to his own mind in it ? "

^^ You can't persuade me religion means turning things up-
side down."

^^It means that a good deal more than people think. Did
not our Lord say that many that are first shall be last, and the
last first?"

'^ What has that to do with this nineteenth century ?"

*^ Perhaps that the honorable shopkeeper and the mean no-
bleman will one day change places."

^^Oh," thought Hesper, ^Hhat is why the lower classes
take so to religion ! " But what she said was : '' Oh, yes, I
dare say ! But everything then will be so different that it
won't signify. When we are all angels, nobody will care who
is first, and who is last. I'm sure, for one, it won't be any-
thing to me."

Hesper was a tolerable attendant at church — I will not say
whether high or low church, because I should be supposed to

*^^In the kingdom of heaven," answered Mary, ^''things
will always look what they are. My father used to say people
will grow their own dresses there, as surely as a leopard his
spots. He had to do with dresses, you know. There, not
only will an honorable man look honorable, but a mean or less
honorable man must look what he is."

*^ There will be nobody mean there."

'^ Then a good many won't be there who are called iionor-
able here."

^^I have no doubt there will be a good deal of allowance
made for some people," said Hesper. ^* Society makes such
demands ! "




When Lotty receiycd Mrs. Eodmain's card, inviting her
with licr liu.-^band to an evening party, it raised in lier a be-
wildered flutter — of pleasure, of fear, of pride, of shyness, of
dismay : how dared she sliow lier face in such a grand as-
sembly ? She would not know a bit how to behave lierself !
]>nt it was im})Ossible, for slie liad no dress tit to go anywhere !
Wliat would Tom say if slie looked a dowdy ? lie would be
ashamed of her, and she dared not think what miglit como
of it!

But close uiion tlie jwstman came Mary, and a long talk
followed. Lctty was full of trembling delight, but Mary was
not a little anxious with herself how Tom would take it.

The first matter, Imwever, was Ix'tty's dress. She had no
money, and seemed afniid to ask for any. Tlir distance be-
tween her and her husband had been widening.

Their council of ways and means lasted a good while, in-
cluding many digressions. At last, though unwillingly, Letly
accepted Mary's i)roposal that a certain dress, her best indeed,
though she did not say so, which slie had scarcely worn, and
was not likely to miss, should be nuide to fit Tx-tty. It was a
lovely black silk, the best her father had been able to choose
for her the last lime he was in London. A little l)ang did shoot
through her heart at the thought of i)artingwith it, but she
had too much of that father in her not to know that the
greatest honor that can be shown any things is to make it
serve a jtcrson ; that the dearest gift of love, withlield from
human necessity, is handed over to the moth and the rust.
But little idea had Letty, much as she ai^prcciated her kind-
ness, what a sacrifice Mary was making for her that she might
look her own sweet self, and worthy of her renowned Tom !

When Tom came home that night, however, the look of the
world and all that is in it changed speedily for Letty, and ter-
ri])]y. lie arrived in great good humor — somebody liad been
praising his verses, and the joy of the praise overflowed on his


wife. But when, pleased as any little girl Avitli tlie prospect of
a party and a new frock, she told him, with gleeful gratitude,
of the invitation and the heayenly kindness which had rendered
it possible for her to accept it, the countenance of the great
man changed. He rejected the idea of her going with him to
any gathering of his grand friends — objected most of all to her
going to Mrs. R^dmain's. Alas ! he had begun to allow to
himself that he had married in too great haste — and beneath
him. Wherever he went, his wife could be no credit to him,
and her presence would take from him all sense of liberty ! Not
choosing, however, to acknowledge either of these objections,
and not willing, besides, to appear selfish in the eyes of the
woman who had given herself to him, he was only too glad to
put all upon another, to him equally genuine ground. Con-
trolling his irritation for the moment, he set forth with lordly
kindness the absolute impossibility of accepting such an offer
as Mary's. Could she for a moment imagine, he said, that he
would degrade himself by taking his wife out in a dress that
was not her own ?

Here Letty interrupted him.

" Mary has given me the dress," she sobbed, *^ — for my very

*^ A second-hand dress ! A dress that has been worn !"
cried Tpm. '^ How could you dream of insulting me so ? The
thing is absolutely impossible. Why, Letty, just think ! —
There should I be, going about as if the house were my own,
and there would be my wife in the next room, or perhaps
at my elbow, dressed in the finery of the lady's-maid of the
house ! It won't bear thinking of ! I declare it makes me so
ashamed, as I lie here, that I feel my face quite hot in the dark !
To have to reason about such a thing — with my own wife, too ! "

^^It's not finery," sobbed Letty, laying hold of the one fact
within her reach ; ^^it's a beautiful black silk."

^' It matters not a straw what it is," persisted Tom, adding
humbug to cruelty. ^' You would be nothing but a sham ! —
A live dishonesty ! A jackdaw in peacock's feathers ! — I am
sorry, Letty, your own sense of truth and uprightness should
not prevent even the passing desire to act such a lie. Your


fine dress -would be just a fine fib — yourself would be but a
walking fib. I have been taking too much for granted with
you : I must bring you no more novels. A volume or two of
Carlyle is what you want."

This was too much. To lose her novels and her new dress
together, and be threatened with nasty moral medicine — for
she had never read a word of Carlyle beyond his translation of
that dream of Richter's, and imagined him dry as a sand-pit —
was bad enough, but to be so reproved by her husband was
more than she could bear. If she was a silly and ignorant
creature, she had the heart of a woman-child ; and that pre-
cious thing in the sight of God, wounded and bruised by the
liusband in whom lay all her pride, went on beating laboriously
for him only. She did not blame him. Anything was better
llian that. The dear, simple soul had a horror of rebuke. It
would break hedges and climb stone \valls to get out of the path
of judgment — ten times nmre eagerly if lier husband were tlio
judge. She wept and wailed like a sick child, until at length
the h;ird heart of selfish Tom was touched, and he sought, after
the fasliion of a foolish mother, to read tlie inconsolable a les-
son of wisdom. Rut the truer a heart, the harder it is to con-
sole with the false. By and by, however, sleep, the truest of
things, did for her what even the blandishments of her husband
could not.

When she woke in the morning, he was gone : he had
thought of an emendation in a poem that had been set np the
day before, and made haste to the oflice, lest it should be
printed without the precious betterment.

Mary came before noon, and found sadness where she had
left joy. When she had heard as much as Letty thought prop-
er to tell her, she was filled with indignation, and her first
thought wixs to compass the tyrant's own exclusion from the
paradise whose gates he closed against his wife. But second
thoughts are sometimes best, and she saw the next moment
not only that punishment did not belong to her, but that the
weight of such would fall on Letty. The sole thing she could
think of to comfort her was, to ask her to spend tiie same
evening with her in her room. The proposal brightened Letty


up at once : some time or other in the course of the evening
she would, slie fancied, see, or at least catch a glimpse of Tom
in his glory !

The evening came, and with beating heart Letty went up
the back stairs to Mary's room. She was dressing her mistress,
but did not keep her waiting long. She had provided tea be-
forehand, and, when Mrs. Eedmain had gone down, the two
friends had a pleasant while together. Mary took Letty to
Mrs. Eedmain's room while she put away her things, and there
showed her many splendors, which, moving no envy in her
simple heart, yet made her sad, thinking of Tom. As she
passed to the drawing-room. Sepia looked in, and saw them

But, as the company kept arriving, Letty grev/ very restless.
She could not talk of anything for two minutes together, but
kept creeping out of the room and half-way down the stair, to
look over the banister-rail, and have a bird's-eye peep of a por-
tion of the great landing, where indeed she caught many a
glimpse of beauty and state, but never a glimpse of her Tom.
Alas ! she could not even imagine herself near him. What she
saw made her feel as if her idol were miles away, and she could
never draw nigh him again. How should the familiar associate
of such splendid creatures care a pin's point for his humdrum

Worn out at last, and thoroughly disappointed, she wanted
to go home. It was then past midnight. Mary went with
her, and saw her safe in bed before she left her.

As she went up to her room on her return, she saw, through
the door by which the gardener entered the conservatory, Sepia
standing there, and Tom, with flushed face, talking to her ea-

Letty cried herself to sleep, and dreamed that Tom had
disowned her before a great company of grand ladies, who
mocked her from their sight.

Tom came home while she slept, and in the morning was
cross and miserable — in part, because he had been so abomi-
nably selfish to her. But the moment that, half frightened,
half hopeful, she told him where she was the night before, he


broke into the worst anger he had ever yet shown her. His
shameful jiride could not brook the idea that, where he was a
guest, his wife was entertained by one of the domestics I

"How dare you be guilty of sucli a disgraceful tiling ! '• lie

*'0h, don't, Tom — dear Tom I '' pleaded Letty in terror.
'' It was you I wanted to see — not the great people, Tom I 1
don't care if I never see one of them again."

''Why should you ever see one of them again, I should
like to know ! What are they to you, or you to thi'in ? ''

'' But you know I was asked to go, Tom !"

''You're not such a fool as to fancy they cared about you !
Everybody knows they are the most lieartless set of people in
the world !"

*' Then why do you go, Tom ?" said Letty, innocently.

"That's quito another thing I A man has to cultivate con-
nections his wife need not know anything about. It is one of
the necessities laid on my position."

Letty supposed it all truer than it was either intelligible or
pleasant, and said no more, but let poor, self-abused, fine-fel-
low Tom scold and argue and reason away till he was tired.
She was not sullen, but bewildered and worn out. lie got up,
and left her without a word.

Even at the risk of hurt to liis dignity, of which there was
no danger from the presence of his sweet, modest little wife in
the best of company, it had been well for Tom to have allowed
Letty the ])leasure within her reach ; for that night Sepia's
artillery played on him ruthlessly. It may have been merely
for her amusement — time, you see, moves so slowly with such
as have no necessities they must themselves supply, and recog-
nize no duties they must perform : without those two main
pillars of life, necessity and duty, how shall the temple stand,
when the huge, weary Samson comes tugging at it ? The won-
der is, there is not a great deal more wickedness in the world.
For listlessness and boredness and nothing-to-do-ness are the
best of soils for the breeding of the worms that never stop
gnawing. Anyhow, Sepia had flashed on Tom, the tinder of
Tom's heart had responded, and, any day when Sepia chose.


slie might blow up a wicked as well as foolish flame ; nor, if it;
should suit her purpose, was Sepia one to hesitate in the use of
the fire-fan. All the way home, her eyes haunted him, and it
is a more dreadful thing than most are aware to be haunted by
anything, good or bad, except the being who is our life. And
those eyes, tliough not good, were beautiful. Eyil, it is true,
has neither part nor lot in beauty ; it is absolutely hostile to
it, and will at last destroy it utterly ; but the process is a long
one, so long that many imagine badness and beauty vitally
associable. Tom yielded to the haunting, and it was in part
the fault of those eyes that he used such hard words to his
wife in the morning. Wives have not seldom to suffer sorely
for discomforts and wrongs in their husbands of which they
knovf nothing. But the thing will be set right one day, and
in a better fashion than if all the woman's-rights' committees
in the world had their wdll of the matter.

About this time, from the top, left-hand corner of the last
page of **The Firefly," it appeared that Twiliglit had given
place to Night ; for the first of many verses began to show
themselves, in vdiich Twilight, or Hesper, or Vesper, or the
Evening Star, v,^as no more once mentioned, but only and al-
ways Nox, or Hecate, or the dark Diana. Tenchrious was a
great word with Tom about this time. He was very fond, also,
of the word interhinar. I will not trouble my reader with any
specimen of the outcome of Tom's new inspiration, partly for
this reason, that the verses not unfrequently came so near being
good, nay, sometimes were really so good, that I do not clioose
to set them down where they would be treated with a mockery
they do not in themselves deserve. He did not direct his
wife's attention to them, nor did he compose them at home or
at the office. Mostly he wrote them between acts at the theatre,
or in any public place where something in which he was not
interested was going on.

Of all that read them, and here was a Nemesis awful in
justice, there was not one less moved by them than she who had
inspired them. She saw in them, it is true, a reflex of her
own power — and that pleased, but it did not move her. She
took the devotion and pocketed it, as a greedy boy might an


orange or bull's-eye. The verses in -which Tom delighted -were
but the merest noise in the ears of the lady to whom of all he
would have had them acceptable. One momentary revelation
as to how she regarded them would have been enough to release
him from his foolish enthrallment. Indignation, chagrin, and
mortification would have soon been the death of such poor love
as Tom's.

Mary and Sepia were on terms of politeness — of readiness
to help on the one side, and condescension upon the otlier.
Sepia would have condescended to the Mother Mary. The
pure human was an idea beyond her, as beyond most people.
They have not enough religion toward God to know there is
such a thing as rclifjion toward their neiglibor. But Sepia
never made an enemy — if she could help it. She could not af-
ford tlie luxury of hating — ojienly, at least. But I imagine
she would have hated Mary heartily could she have seen the
way she regarded her — the look of i)itiful love, of compassion-
ate and wailing helpfulness which her soul would now and then
cast \\\^o\\ her. Of all things she would have resented pity ;
and she took Mary's readiness to help for servility — and natu-
rally, seeing in herself willingness came from nothing else,
though she called it prudence and necessity, and knew no
shame because of it. Her children justify the lieavenly Avis-
dom, but the worldly wisdom justifies her children. Mary
could not but feel how Sepia regarded her service, but service,
to be true, must be divine, that is, U^ the just and the unjust,
like the sun and the rain.

Between Sepia and Mr. Redmain continued a distance too
great for either dilTerence or misunderstanding. They met
with a cold good morning, and parted without any good night.
Their few words were polite, and their demeanor was civil. At
the breakfast-table. Sepia would silently pass things to Mr.
Redmain ; ]\Ir. Redmain would thank her, but never trouble
himself to do as much for her. His attentions, indeed, were
seldom wasted at home ; but he was not often rude to anybody
save his wife and his man, except when he was ill.

It was a long time before he began to feel any interest in
Mary. He knew nothing of her save as a nice-looking maid


his wife had got — rather a prim-looking puss, he would have
said, had he had occasion to describe her. What Mary knew
of him was merely the reflection of him in the mind of his
wife ; but, the first time she saw him, she felt she would rather
not have to speak to him.



Mary went to see Letty as often as she could, and that was
not seldom ; but she had scarcely a chance of seeing Tom ;
either he was not up, or had gone — to the office, Letty sup-
posed : she had no more idea of where the office was, or of the
other localities haunted by Tom, than he himself had of what
spirit he was of.

One day, when Mary could not help rcmarknig upon her
pale, weary looks, Letty burst into tears, and confided to her a
secret of which she was not the less proud that it caused her
anxiety and fear. As soon as she began to talk about it, the
Joy of its hope began to predominate, and before Mary left her
she might have seemed to a stranger the most blessed little
creature in the world. The greatness of her delight made
Mary sad for her. To any thoughtful heart it must be sad to
think what a little time the joy of so many mothers lasts — not
because their babies die, but because they live ; but Mary's
mournfulness was caused by the fear that the splendid dawn of
mother-hope would soon be swallowed in dismal clouds of
father-fault. For mothers and for wives there is no redemp-
tion, no unchaining of love, save by the coming of the king-
dom — in themselves. Oh ! why do not mothers, sore-hearted
mothers at least, if none else on the face of the earth, rush to
the feet of the Son of Mary ?

Yet every birth is but another link in the golden chain by
which the world shall be lifted to the feet of God. It is only
by the birth of new children, ever fresh material for the ere-


ative Spirit of the Son of Man to work upon, that the world
can finally be redeemed. Letty had no ideas about children,
only the usual instincts of appropriation and indulgence ; Mary
had a few, for she recalled with delight some of her father's
ways with herself. Him she knew a

Online LibraryGeorge MacDonaldMary Marston. A novel → online text (page 24 of 40)