George MacDonald.

Mary Marston. A novel online

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She had been on the point of saying that a thin skin was
not purity, but bethought herself in time.

" You are scarcely in a position to lay down the law for
me, Mary," said Hesper. " We will, if you please, drop the

Mary's words were overheard, as was a good deal in the
house more tlian was reckoned on, and reached Mr. Redmain,
whom they perplexed : what could the young woman hope
from taking his part ?

One morning, after the arrival of Mewks, his man, Mary
heard Mr. Redmain calling him in a tone which betrayed that
he had been calling for some time : the house was an old one,
and the bells were neither in good trim, nor was his in a con-
venient position. She thought first to find Mewks, but pity
rose in her heart. She ran to Mr. Redmain's door, which stood
half open, and showed herself.

" Can / not do something for you, sir ? " slie said.

"Yes, you can. Go and tell that lumbering idiot to come
to me instantly. No ! here, you ! — there's a good girl ! — Oh,
damn ! — Just give me your hand, and help me to turn an
inch or two."

Change of posture relieved him a little.


" Thank you," he said. ** That is better. Wait a few mo-
ments, will you — till the rascal comes ? "

Mary stood back, a little behind him, thinkinfi^ not to an-
noy him with the sight of her.

''What are you doing there?" he cried. *' I like to see
what people are about in my room. Come in front here, and
let me look at you."

Mary obeyed, and with a smile took the position he pointed
out to her. Immediately followed another agony of pain, in
which he looked beset with demons, whom he not feared but
hated. Mary hurried to him, and, in the compassion which
she inherited long back of Eve, took his hand, the fingers of
which were twisting themselves into shapes like tree-roots.
With a hoarse roar, he dashed hers from liim, as if it liad been
a serj)ent. She ri'tiiriH'(l to her ])]ace, and stood.

** What did you mean by that ? " he said, when \\v camr to
himself. *' Do you want to make a fool of me ?"

Mary did not understand him, and made no reply. Anoilur
fit came. This time she kept lier distance.

"Come here," he howled ; "take my liead in your hands."

She obeyed.

''Damned nice hands you've got!" he gasped; "much
nicer than your mistress's."

Mary took no notice. Gently she witlidrew her hands, for
tlic fit was over.

"I see! that's the way of you I " he said, as she stepped
back. *'13ut come now, tell me how it is that a nice, well-
behaved, handsome girl like you, should leave a position where,
they tell me, you were your own mistress, and take a cursed
place as lady's maid to my wife."

'" It was because I liked Mrs. Redmain so much," answered
Mary. " But, indeed, I was not very comfortable where I

*' What the devil did you see to like in her ? I never saw
anj-thing ! "

" She is so beautiful ! " said Mary.

'*Isshe! ho! ho ! " he laughed. ''What is that to an-
other woman ! You are new to the trade, my girl, if you think


that will go down ! One woman taking to another because
' she's so beautiful ' ! Ha ! ha ! ha ! "

He repeated Mary's words with an indescribable contempt,
and his laugh was insulting to a degree ; but it Avent off in a
cry of suffering.

" Hypocrisy mustn't be too barefaced," he resumed, when
again his torture abated. '^I didn't make you stop to amuse
me ! It's little of that this beastly world has got for me !
Come, a better reason for waiting on my wife ? "

'^ That she was kind to me," said Mary, '^may be a better
reason, but it is not a truer."

^^ It's more than ever she was to me ! What wages does she

giye you ? "

^Ye haye not spoken about that yet, sir."

^^ You haven't had any ?"

"I haven't wanted any 3^et."

^^ Then what the deuce ever made you come to this house ? "

"I hoped to be of some service to Mrs. Redmain," said
Mary, growing troubled.

"And you ain't of any? Is that why you don't want
wages ? "

"No, sir. That is not tlie reason."

" Then what is the reason ? Come ! Trust me. I will be
much better to you than your mistress. Out with it ! I knew
there was something ! "

" I would rather not talk more about it," said Mary, know-
ing that her feeling in relation to Ilesper would be altogether
incredible, and the notion of it ridiculous to him.

"You needn't mind telling me! I know all about such
things. — Look here ! Give me that pocket-book on the

Mary brought him the pocket-book. He opened it, and,
taking from it some notes, held them out to her.

" If your mistress won't pay you your wages, I will. There !
take that. You're quite Avelcome. What matter which pays
you ? It all comes out of the same stocking-foot. "

"I don't know yet," answered Mary, "whether I shall ac-
cept wages from Mrs. Redmain. Something might happen to


make it impossible ; or, if I had taken money, to make me re-
gret it."

"I like that ! There you keep a hold on her I" said Mr.
Redmain, in a confidential tone, while in his heart he was more
puzzled than ever. "There's no occasion, though, for all
tliat," he went on, *'to go without your money when you can
have it and she be nothing the wiser. There — take it. I will
swear you any oath you like not to tell my stingy wife."

"She is not sting}'," said Mary; *'and, if I don't take
wages from her, I certainly shall not from any one eh-c. — Be-
side.-J," ishe added, " it would be dishonest.''

" Oh I that's the dodge !" said ^Ir. liedmain to himself;
but aluud, '' Wliere would be the dishonesty, wlien tlie money
is mine to do with as I please ?"

*' Where the dishonesty, sir I'' exclaimed Mary, astoundeil.
** To take wages from you. and pretend to Mrs. Kcdniain I was
going without ! "

"' Ila I lia ! The first time, no douiu, you ever prelLiuled
anything ! ''

'*lt would be," saiil Mary, **so far as I can, at the moment,

" Go along," cried Mr. Hedmain, losing, or pretending to
lose, patience with lier ; '"you are too unscrupulous a liar for
me to deal with."

Marv turned and left the room. As she went, \\\< keen
glance caught the ex})ression of her countenance, and noted
the indignant red that Hushed her cheeks, and the lightning of
wronged innocence in her eyes.

** I ought not to have said it," he remarked to himself.

lie did not for a moment fancy she had spoken the truth ;
but the look of her went to a deeper ])lace in him than he knew
even the existence of.

''Key I stop,'' he cried, as she was disappearing. *'Come
back, will you ?"

"I will find Mr. Mewks," she answered, and went.

After this, Mary naturally dreaded conference with Mr.
Redmain ; and he, thinking she must have time to get over the
offense he had given her, made for the present no fresh attempt


to come, by her own aid, at a bird's-eye view of her character
and scheme of life. His curiosity, however, being in no degree
assuaged concerning the odd human animal whose spoor he
had for the moment failed to track, he meditated how best to
renew the attempt in London. Not small, therefore, was his
annoyance to find, a few days after his arrival, that she was no
longer in the house. He questioned his wife as to the cause of
her absence, and told her she was utterly heartless in refusing
her leave to go and nurse her friend ; whereupon Hesper,
neither from desire to do right nor from regard to her hus-
band's opinion, but because she either saw or fancied she saw
that, now Mary did not dress her, she no longer caused the
same sensation on entering a room, resolved to write to her — as
if taking it for granted she had meant to return as soon as she
was able. And to prick the sides of this intent came another
spur, as will be seen from the letter she wrote :

"Dear Mary, can you tell me what is become of my large
sapphire ring ? I have never seen it since you brought my
case up with you from Cornwall. I have been looking for it
all the morning, but in vain. You must have it. I shall be
lost without it, for you know it has not its equal for color and
brilliance. I do not believe you intended for a moment to keep
it, but only to punish me for thinking I could do without you.
If so, you have your revenge, for I find I can not do without
either of you — you or the ring — so you will not carry the joke
further than I can bear. If you can not come at once, write
and tell me it is safe, and I shall love you more than ever. I
am dying to see you again. Yours faithfully, H. E."

By this time, Letty was much better, and Tom no longer
required such continuous attention ; Mary, therefore, betook
herself at once to Mr. Redmain's. Hesper was out shopping,
and Mary went to her own room to wait for her, where she was
glad of the opportunity of getting at some of the things she
had left behind her.

AVhile she was looking for what she wanted, Sepia entered,
and was, or pretended to be, astonished to see her. In a
strange, sarcastic tone :

"Ah, you there ! " she said. " I hope you will find it."


*^ If you mean the ring, that is not likely. Miss Yolland/'
Mary answered.

8epia was silent a moment or two, then said :

" How is your cousin ? "

'^I have no cousin," replied Mary.

"The person, I mean, you have been staying witli ? "

*' Better, thank you."

*' Almost a pity, is it not — if there should come trouble
about this ring ? "

"I do not understand y(ju. The rinir will, of course, ))e
f(jund," returned Mary.

'' In any case the blame will come on you : it was in your

*'The ring wa.s in tlie ca.-e wlien I left."

" You will have to prove that."

** I remember quite well."

"That no one will question."

Beginning at last to understand her insinuations, Mary wa.s
so angry that she dared not Kj)eak.

'* But it will hardly go to clear you," Sipia went on.
" Don't imagine I mean you liave taken it; I am only warning
you how the matter will look, that you may be i)repared. Mr.
Redmain is one to believe the worst things of the lx?st peo})le."

*• I am obliged to you," said ^fary, " but I am not anxious."

"It is necessary you should know also," continued Sepia,
" that there is some suspicion attaching to a female friend of
yours as well, a young Avoman who used to visit you — the wife
of the other, it is sup})osed. She was here, I remember, one
night there was a party ; I saw you together in my cousin's bed-
room. She had just dressed and gone down."

" I remember," said ^fary. '* It was Mrs. IlelnuT. Well ? "

"It is very unfortunate, certainly ; but the truth must be
told : a few days before you left, one of the servants, hearing
some one in the house in the middle of the night, got up and
went down, but only in time to hear the front door open and
shut. In the morning a hat was found in the drawing-room,
with the name Thomas Hehner in it : that is the name of your
friend's husband, I believe ?"


" I am aware Mr. Helmer was a frequent "vdsitor/' said Mary,
trying to keep cool for what was to come.

This that Sepia told her was true enough, though she was
not accurate as to the time of its occurrence. I will relate
briefly how it came about.

Upon a certain evening, a few days before Mary's return
from Cornwall, Tom would have gone to see Miss Yolland had
he not known that she meant to go to the play with a Mr. Em-
met, a cousin of the Eedmains. Before the hour arrived, how-
ever. Count Galofta called, and Sejoia went out with him, tell-
ing the man who opened the door to ask Mr. Emmet to wait.
The man was rather deaf, and did not catch with certainty the
name she gave. Mr. Emmet did not appear, and it was late
before Sepia returned.

Tom, jealous even to hatred, spent the greater part of his
evening in a tavern on the borders of the city — in gloomy soli-
tude, drinking brandy-and- water, and building castles of the
most foolish type — for castles are as different as the men that
build them. Through all the rooms of them glided the form
of Sepia, his evil genius. He grew more and more excited as
he built, and as he drank. He rose at last, paid his bill, and,
a little suspicious of his equilibrium, stalked into the street.
There, almost unconsciously, he turned and walked westward.
It was getting late ; before long the theatres would be empty-
ing : he might have a peep of Sepia as she came out ! — but
where was the good when that fellow was with her ! ''But,"
thought Tom, growing more and more daring as in an adven-
turous dream, " why should I not go to the house, and see her
after he has left her at the door ? "

He went to the house and rang the bell. The man came,
and said immediately that Miss Yolland was out, but had de-
sired him to ask Mr. Helmer to wait ; whereupon Tom walked
in, and iTp the stair to the drawing-room, thence into a second
and a third drawing-room, and from the last into the con-
servatory. The man went down and finished his second
pint of ale. From the conservatory, Tom, finding himself
in danger of havoc among the flower-pots, turned back into


the third room, threw himself on a couch, and fell fa

Online LibraryGeorge MacDonaldMary Marston. A novel → online text (page 29 of 40)