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George MacDonald.

Mary Marston. A novel online

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appearance, that he might jiart with his share in it to the
better advantage ?

She turned, and, walking back to the town, sought
Beenie.

The old woman being naturally a gossip, Mary was hardly
seated before she began to pour out the talk of the town, in
which came presently certain rumors concerning Mr. Turnbull
— mainly hints at speculation and loss.

The result was that Mary went from Beenie to the lawyer
in whose care her father had left his affairs. He was an old
man, and had been ill ; had no suspicion of anything being



A CHAXGE. 293

wrong, but would look into the matter at once. She went
home, and troubled lierself no more.

She had been at Durnmelling but a few days, when Mr.
Redmain, wishing to see how things were on his estate in
Cornwall, and making up his mind to run down, carelessly
asked his wife if she would accompany him : it would be only
for a few days, he said ; but a breeze or two from the Atlantic
would improve her complexion. This was gracious ; but he
was always more polite in the company of Lady Margaret, who
continued to show him the kindness no one else dared or was
inclined to do. For some years he had suffered increasingly
from recurrent attacks of the disease to which I ]\ave already
referred ; and, wliatever might be the motive of his motlier-in-
law's behavior, certainly, in those attacks, it was a comfort to
iiim to be near her. On such occasions in London, his solo
attendant was his man Mewks.

Mary was delighted to sec more of her country. She had
traveled very little, but was capable of gathering ttMi times
more from a journey to Cornwall than most tnivelcrs from
one tlirough Switzerland it.gized nor sought to
cover.

"Why, child !" he said at last, "you are half starved ! '

The pity and tenderness of both word and tone were too
much for her. She had not been at all ])itying herself, but
such an utterance from the man she loved like an elder brother
so wrought upon her enfeebled condition that she broke into
a cry. She strove to su})press her emotion ; she fought with
it ; in her agony she would have rushed from the njom, had
not Godfrey caught her, drawn her down beside him, and kept
her there.

"You shall not leave me I " he said, in that voice Letty
had always been used to obey. "Who has a right to know
how things go with you, if I have not ? Come, you must tell
me all about it."

'' I have nothing to tell, Cousin Godfrey," she rei)lied with
some calmness, for Godfrey's decision had enabled her to con-
quer herself, "except that baby is ill, and looks as if he would
never get better, and it is like to break my heart. Oh, he is
such a darling, Cousin Godfrey !"



302 MAUr MARSTOK

^' Let me see him/' said Godfrey, in his heart detesting the
child — the visible sign that another was nearer to Letty than
he.

She jumped up, almost ran into the next room, and, com-
ing back with her little one, laid him in Godfrey's arms. The
moment he felt the weight of the little, sad-looking, sleeping
thing, he grew human toward him, and saw in him Letty and
not Tom.

"Good God ! the child is starving, too," he exclaimed.

*^0h, no. Cousin Godfrey!" cried Letty; "he is not
starving. He had a fresh-laid egg for breakfast this morning,
and some arrowroot for dinner, and some bread and milk for
tea—"

"London milk !" said Godfrey.

"Well, it is not like the milk in the dairy at Thornwick,"
admitted Letty. " If he had milk like that, he would soon be
well ! "

But Godfrey dared not say, "Bring him to Thornwick" :
he knew his mother too well for that !

"When were you anywhere in the country?" he asked.
In a negative kind of way he was still nursing the baby.

" Not since we were married," she answered, sadly. " You
see, poor Tom can't afford it."

Now Godfrey happened to have heard, "from the best au-
thority," that Tom's mother was far from illiberal to him.

" Mrs. Helmer allows him so much a year — does she not ? "
he said.

"I know he gets money from her, but it can't be much,"
she answered.

Godfrey's suspicions against Tom increased every moment.
He must learn the truth. He would have it, if by an even
cruel experiment ! He sat a moment silent — then said, with
assumed cheerfulness :

" Well, Letty, I suppose, for the sake of old times, you will
give me some dinner ? "

Then, indeed, her courage gave way. She turned from him,
laid her head on the end of the sofa, and sobbed so that the
room seemed to shake with the convulsions of her griet



GODFREY AXD LETTY. 303

**Letty/' said Godfrey, laying his hand on her head, '* it is
no use any more trying to hide tlic tnitli. I don't want any
dinner ; in fact, I dined long ago. But you would not be open
with me, and I was forced to find out for myself : you have
not enough to eat, and you know it. I will not say a word
about who is to blame — for anything I know, it may be no one
— I am sure it is not you. But this must not go on ! See, I
have brought you a little pocket-book. I will call again to-
morrow, and you will tell me then how you like it."

He laid the pocket-book on the table. There was ton times
as much in it as ever Letty had had at once. But she never
knew what was in it. She rose with instant resolve. All (he
woman in her waked at once. She felt that a moment was come
wlien she mii.st be resolute, or los^^ her hold on life.

'* Cousin Godfrey," she said, in a tone he scarcely recognized
as hers — it frightened him as if it came from a sepulchre — '' if
you do not take that purse away, I will throw it in the lire
without ojH'ning it I If my husband can not give me enough
to eat, I can^starve as well as another. If you loved Tom, it
would be dilTerent, but you hate him, and I will have nothing
from you. Take it away, Cousin (iodfrey.''

Mortified, hurt, miserable, Godfrey took the purse, and,
without a word, walked from the room. Somewhere down in
liis secret heart was dawning an idea of Letty beyond anything
lie used to think of her, but in the mean time he was only
blindly aware that his heart had been shot through and through.
Nor was this the time for him to reflect that, under his train-
ing, Letty, even if he had married her, would never have grown
to such dignity.

It was, indeed, only in that moment she had become capa-
ble of the action. She had been growing as none, not ^lary,
still less herself, knew, under the heavy snows of affliction, and
this was her first blossom. Not many of my readers will mis-
take me, I trust. Had it been in Letty pride that refused help
from such an old friend, that pride I should count no blossom,
but one of the meanest rags that ever fluttered to scare the
birds. But the dignity of her refusal was in this — that she
would accept nothing in which her husband liad and could



304 MABY MARSTOK.

have no human, that is, no spiritual share. She had married
him because she loyed him, and she would hold by him wher-
ever that might lead her : not wittingly v/ould she allow the
finest edge, even of ancient kindness, to come between her
Tom and herself ! To accept from her cousin Godfrey the
help her husband ought to provide her, would be to let him,



Online LibraryGeorge MacDonaldMary Marston. A novel → online text (page 26 of 40)