George MacDonald.

Mary Marston. A novel online

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will be found."

*^No, thank you. I am sick of looking."

"Shall I go, then ?— What would you like me to do ? "

" Go to your room, and wait till I send for you."

"I must not be long away from my invalids," said Mary,
as cheerfully as she could.

"Oh, indeed! I thought you had come back to your
work ! "

"I did not understand from your letter you wished that,
ma'am— though, indeed, I could not have come just yet in any


"Then you mean to go, and leave things just as they are ?"

**I am afraid tliere is no \\q\\) for it. If I could do any-
thing — . But I will call again to-morrow, and every day till
tlie ring is found, if you like.''

*' Thank you," said llesper, dryly: '"I don't tliink that
would be of much use."

^' I will call anyhow," returned Mary, '' and inquire whether
you would like to see me. — 1 will go to my room now, and
while I wait will get some things I want.''

" As you please," said Ilesper.

Scarcely was Mary in her room, however, when slie lieard
tlie door, wliicli liad tlie trick of falling-to of itself, closed and
locked, and knew that she was a prisoner. For one moment a
frenzy of anger overcame lier ; the next, she remembered where
her life was liid, knew that notliing could toucli lier, and was
cahn. Wliilc she took from lier drawers the things she wanted,
and put them in her hand-bag, slie licard tlie door unlocked,
hut, as no one entered, she sat down to wait what would next

Mrs. Redmain, as soon as she was aware of her loss, had
gone in her distress to tell her husband, whose gift the ring
had been. Unlike his usual self, lie had showed interest in the
affair. She attributed this to the value of the jewel, and the
fact that he had himself chosen it : he was rather, and thougiit
himself very, knowing in stones ; and the sapphire was in truth
a most rare one : but it was for quite other reasons that Mr.
Kedmain cared about its loss : it would, he hoped, like the
famous carbuncle, cast a light all round it.

lie was as yet by no means mcII, and had not been from the
house since his return.

The moment Mary was out of the room, Ilesper rose.

'' I should be a fool to let her leave the house," she said.

*•' Ilesper, you will do nothing but mischief," cried Sepia.

Ilesper paid no attention, but, going after Mary, locked the
door of her room, and, running to her husband's, told him she
had made her a prisoner.

No sooner was she in her husband's room than Sejiia hast-
ened to unlock Mary's door ; but, just as she did so, she heard


some one on the stair above, and retreated without going in.
She would then have turned the key again, but now she heard
steps on the stair below, and once more withdrew.

Mary heard a knock at her door. Mewks entered. He
brought a request from his master that she would go to his

She rose and went, taking her bag with her.

^' You may go now, Mrs. Kedmain," said her husband when
Mary entered. '' Get out, Mewks," he added ; and both lady
and valet disappeared.

*^ So ! " he said, with a grin of pleasure. '' Here's a pretty
business ! You may sit down, though. You haven't got the
ring in that bag there ? "

^^ Nor anywhere else, sir," answered Mary. " Shall I shake
it out on the floor ? — or on the sofa would be better."

^' Nonsense ! You don't imagine me such a fool as to sup-
pose, if you had it, you would carry it about in your bag ! "

*^ You don't believe I have it, sir — do you ?" she returned,
in a tone of appeal.

^^How am I to know what to believe? There is some-
thing dubious about you — you have yourself all but admitted
that : how am I to know that robbery mayn't be your little
dodge ? All that rubbish you talked down at Lychford about
honesty, and taking no wages, and loving your mistress, and
all that rot, looks devilish like something off the square !
That ring, now, the stone of it alone, is worth seven hundred
pounds : one might let prettv good wages go for a chance like

Mary looked him in the face, and made him no answer.
He spied a danger : if he irritated her, he would get nothing
out of her !

*'My girl," he said, changing his tone, *^I believe you
know nothing about the ring ; I was only teasing you."

Mary could not help a sigh of relief, and her eyes fell, for
she felt them beginning to fill. She could not have believed
that the judgment of such a man would ever be of consequence
to her. But the unity of the race is a thing that can not be


Now, although Mr. Eedmain was by no means so suro of
her innocenco as he had pretended, he did at least wish and
hope to find her innocent — from no regard for her, but be-
cause there was another he would be more glad to find con-
cerned in the ugly affair.

^* Mrs. Redmain," he went on, "would have me hand you
over to the police ; but I won't. You may go homo when you
jilcase, and you need fear nothing.*'

lie liad the house where the llelmers lodged already
watched, and knew this much, that some one was ill there,
and that the doctor came almost every day.

**I certainly shall fear nothing," said Mary, not quite
trusting him ; ^' my fate is in God's hands.''

''Yv'e know all about that,'' said Mr. Kedmain ; ''I'm up
to most dodges. But look here, my girl : it wouldn't be pru-
dent in me, lest tlierc should be such a ])crsonagc as you have
just mentioned, to be liard ui)on any of my fellow-creatures :
I am one day pretty sure to be in misfortune myself. Y«)U
mightn't think it of me, but I am not quite a lieatben, and
do refiect a little at times. You may be as wicked as myself,
or as good as Josejib, for anything 1 know or care, for, as I
say, it ain't my business to judge you. Tell mc now wliat you
are up to, and I will nuike it the better for you."

Mary had been trying hard to get at what he was " up to,"
but found herself quite bewildered.

"I am sorr}', sir," she faltered, '*but 1 havt'u't the slight-
est idea what you mean."

''Then you go home,'' he said. '• 1 will send for you when
1 want you.''

The moment she was out of the room, he rang his b^ll vio-
lently. Afewks appeared.

"Go after that young woman — do you hear ? You know
her — Miss — damn it, what's her name ? — Ilarland or Cranston,
or — oh, hang it ! you know well enough, you rascal I "

'• Do you mean Miss Marston, sir ?"

" Of course I do ! Why didn't you say so before ? Go after
her, I tell you ; and make haste. If she goes straight home —
you know Avhere — come back as soon as she's inside the door."


"Yes, sir."

"Damn you, go, or you'll lose siglit of lier ! "

"Fm a-listenin' after the street-door, sir. It ain't gone yet.
There it is now ! "

And with the word he left the room.

Mary was too much absorbed in her own thoughts to
note that she was followed by a man with the collar of his
great-coat up to his eyes, and a woolen comforter round his
face. She walked on steadily for home, scarce seeing the peo-
ple that passed her. It was clear to Mewks that she had not
a suspicion of being kept in siglit. He saw her in at her own
door, and went back to his master.



ANOTHER fact Mewks carried to his master — namely, that,
as Mary came near the door of the house, she was met by "a
rough-looking man," who came walking slowly along, as if he
had been going up and down waiting for her. lie made ' her
an awkward bow as she drew near, and she sto2")pcd and had a
long conversation with him — such at least it seemed to Mewks,
annoyed that he could hear nothing of it, and fearful of attract-
ing their attention — after which the man went away, and Mary
went into the house. This report made his master grin, for,
through the description Mewks gave, he suspected a thief dis-
guised as a workman ; but, his hopes being against the suppo-
sition, he dwelt the less upon it.

The man who stopped Mary, and whom, indeed, she would
have stopped, was Joseph Jasper, the blacksmith. That he
was rough in appearance, no one who knew him would have
wished himself able to deny, and one less like a thief would
have been hard to find. His hands were very rough and in-
grained with black ; his fingers were long, but chopped off
square at the points, and had no resemblance to the long, taper-


mg fingers of an artist or pickpocket. His clothes were of
corduroy, not very grimy, because of the huge apron of thick
leather he wore at his work, but they looked none the better
that he had topped them with his tall Sunday hat. Ilis com-
plexion was a mixture of bro"v\^l and browner ; his black eye-
brows hung far over the blackest of eyes, the brightest flashing
of which was never seen, because all the time he played lie kept
them closed tight. His face wore its natural clotliing — a
mustache thick and well-.shaped, and a beard not too large, of
a color that looked like bhick burned brown. His hair was
black and curled all over his head. His whole appearance was
that of a workman ; a careless glance could never liave sus-
pected him a poet-musician ; as little could even such a glance
have failed to see in him an honest man. He was powerfully
Iniilt, over the middle height, but not tall. He spoke very fair
old-fashioned English, with the Yorkshire tone and turn. His
walk was rather plodding, and his movements slow and stilT;
but in communion with his violin they were free enough, and
the more delicate for the strength that was in them ; at the
anvil they were as supple a.s powerful. On his face dwelt
an expression that was not to be read by the indilTorent — a
waiting in the midst of work, as of a man to whom the sense
of the temj)orary was always present, but present with the
constant reminder that, just therefore, work must be as L'-ood
as work can be that things may last their duo time.

The following was the conversation concerning the j)urj)ort
of which >rewks was left to what conjecture was possible to a
serving-man of his stamp.

Mary held out her hand to Jasper, and it disappeared in
his. He held it for a moment with a great but gentle grasp,
and, as he let it go, said :

'• I took the liberty of watching for you, miss. I wanted
to ask a favor of you. It seemed to me you would take no of-

^' You might be sure of that," Mary answered. " Y^ou
have a right to anything I can do for you."

He fixed his gaze on her for a moment, as if he did not un-
derstand her.


" That's where it is," he said : ^' I've done nothing for your
people. It's all very well to go playing and playing, but that's
not doing anything ; and, if lie had done nothing, there would
ha' been no fiddling. You understand me, miss, I know :
work comes before music, and makes the soul of it ; it's not
the music that makes the doing. I'm a poor hand at saying
without my fiddle, miss : you'll excuse me."

Mary's heart was throbbing. She had not heard a word
like this — not since her father went to what people call the
*^long home " — as if a home could be too long ! What do we
want but an endless home ? — only it is not the grave ! She
felt as if the spirit of her father had descended on the strange
workman, and had sent him to her. She looked at him with
shining eyes, and did not speak. He resumed, as fearing he
had not conveyed his thought.

*^ What I think I mean is, miss, that, if the working of
miracles in his name wouldn't do it, it's not likely playing the
fiddle will."

^' Oh, I understand you so well ! " said Mary, in a voice
hardly her own, *^ — so well ! It makes me haj^py to hear
you ! Tell mo what I can do for you."

'' The poor gentleman in there must want all the help you
can give him, and more. There must be something left, surely,
for a man to do. He must want lifting at times, for instance,
and that's not fit for either of you ladies."

" Thank you," said Mary, heartily. '' I will mention it to
Mrs. Helmer, and I am sure she will be very glad of your help

'' Couldn't you ask her now, miss ? I should like to know
at what hour I might call. But perhaps the best way would
be to walk about here in the evening, after my day's work is
over, and then you could run down any time, and look out :
that would be enough ; I should be there. Saturday nights I
could just as well be there all night."

To Tom and Letty it seemed not a little peculiar that a
man so much a stranger should be ready to walk about the
street in order to be at hand with help for them ; but Mary
was only delighted, not surprised, for what tlie man had said


to her made the thing not merely intelligible, but absolutely

Joseph was not, however, allowed to wander the street.
The arrangement made was, that, as soon as his work was over,
he should come and see whether there was anything he could
do for them. And he never came but there was plenty to do.
He took a lodging close by, that he might be with them earlier,
and stay later ; and, when nothing else was wanted of him, he
was always ready to discourse on liis violin. Sometimes Tom
enjoyed his music much, though he found no little fault with
his mode of playing, for Tom knew something about every-
thing, and could render many a reason ; at other times, lie pre-
ferred having ]\Iary read to him.

On one of these latter occasions, Mary, occupied in cooking
something for the invalid, asked Jose])li to read for her. He
consented, but read very badly — as if lie had no understanding
of the words, but, on the other hand, stopping every few lines,
apparently to think and master what he had read. This was
not good reading anyway, least of all for an invalid who re-
quired the soothing of lialf-tliought, molten and diluted in
sweet, even, monotonous sound, and it was long before ^fary
asked him again.

Many things showed tiiat he had liad little education, and
therefore probably the more might be made of him. Mary
saw that he must be what men call a genius, for his external
history had been, l)v his own sliou in'/, of an altogether com-
monplace type.

His father, who wa> a bhieksniitli before him, and a local
l)reacher, had married a second time, and Joseph was the only
child of the second marriage. His father had brought him up
to his own trade, and, after his death, Joseph came to work
in London, whither his sister had preceded him. He was now
thirty, and had from the first been saving what he could of his
wages in the hope of one day having a smithy of his own, and
his time more at his ordering.

Mary saw too that in his violin he possessed a grand funda-
mental undeveloped education ; he was like a man going abotit
the world with a ten-thousand-pound-note in his pocket, and


not many sixpences to pay his way with. But there was an-
other education working in him far decider, and ah-eady more
developed, than that which divine music even was giving him ;
this also Mary thoroughly recognized ; this it was in him that
chiefly attracted her ; and the man himself knew it as under-
lying all his consciousness.

Though he could ill read aloud, he could read well for his
inward nourishment ; he could write tolerably, and, if he could
not spell, that mattered a straw, and no more ; he had never
read a play of Shakespeare — had never seen a play ; knew no-
thing of grammar or geography — or of history, except the one
history comprising all. He knew nothing of science ; but he
could shoe a horse as well as any man in the three Eidings, and
make his violin talk about things far beyond the ken of most
men of science.

So much of a change had passed ujion Tom in his illness,
that Mary saw it not unreasonable to try upon him now and
then a "poem of her favorite singer. Occasionally, of course,
the feeling was altogether beyond him, but even then he would
sometimes enter into the literary merit of the utterance.

'^ I had no idea there were such gems in George Herbert,
Mary! "he said once. '^I declare, some of them are even in
their structure finer than many things tliat have nothing in
them to admire except the structure."

'^ Tliat is not to be wondered at," replied Mary.

*^ No," said Joseph ; '^it is not to be wondered at ; for it's
clear to me the old gentleman plied a good bow. I can see
that plain enough."

*' Tell us how you see it," said Mary, more interested than
she would have liked to show.

" Easily," he answered. *' There was one poem " — he pro-
nounced it pome — ^' you read just now — "

"Which ? which ?" interrupted Mary, eagerly.

" That I can not tell you ; but, all the time you were read-
ing it, I heard the gentleman — Mr. George Herbert, you call
him — playing the tune to it."

•" If you heard him so well," ventured Mary, " you could, I
fancy, play the tune over again to us."


*^I think I could," he answered, and, rising, went for his
instrument, which he always brought, and hung on an old
nail in the wall the moment he came in.

He played a few bars of a prelude, as if to get himself into
harmony with the recollection of what he had heard the master
play, and then began a lively melody, in which he seemed as
usual to pour out his soul. Long before he reached the end of
it, Mary had reached the poem.

''This is the one you mean, is it not ?" she said, as soon as
he had finished — and read it again.

In his turn he did not speak till she had ended.

*' That's it, miss," he said then ; *' I can't mistake it ; for,
the minute you began, there was the old gentleman again with
his fiddle."

''And vou know now what it says, don't you?'' asked

"I beard notliing Ijut the old gentleman,'' answered tbo

Mary turned to Tom.

'• Would you mind if I tried to show Mr. Jasper wbat I see
in the poem ? He can't get a liold of it himself for the mas-
ter's violin in his ears ; it won't let him think about it."

" I should like myself to hear what you have got to say
about it, Mary ! (io on," said Tom.

Mary had now for a long time been a student of George
Herbert ; and anytliing of a similar life-experience goes in-
finitely further, to make one understand another, than any
amount of learning or art. Tlierefore, better than many a
poet, Mary was able to set forth the scope and design of this
one. Herself at the heart of the secret from which came all
his utterance, she could fit herself into most of the convolu-
tions of the shell of his expression, and was hence able also to
make others perceive in his verse not a little of what they were
of themselves unable to see.

"We shall have you lecturing at the Royal Institution yet,
^lary," said Tom ; ''only it will be long before its members
care for that sort of antique."

Tom's insight had always been ahead of his character, and


of late he had been growing. People do grow very fast in bed
sometimes. Also he had in him plenty of material, to which
a childlike desire now began to give shapes and sequences.

The musician's remark consisted in taking his violin, and
once more giving his idea of the '^ old gentleman's " music,
but this time with a richer expression and fuller harmonies.
Mary had every reason to be satisfied with her experiment.
From that time she talked a good deal more about her favorite
writers, and interested both the critical taste of Tom and the
artistic instinct of the blacksmith.

But Joseph's playing had great faults : how could it be
otherwise ? — and to Mary great seemed the pity that genius
should not be made perfect in faculty, that it should not have
that redemption of its body for which unwittingly it groaned.
And the man was one of those childlike natures which may
indeed go a long time without discovering this or that external
fault in themselves, patent to the eye of many an inferior on-
looker — for the simple soul is the last to see its own outside —
but, once they become aware of it, begin that moment to set
the thing right. At the same time - he had not enough of
knowledge to render it easy to show him by words wherein any
fault consisted — the nature, the being of the fault, that is —
what it simply was ; but Mary felt confident that, the moment
he saw a need, he would obey its law.

She had taken for herself the rooms below, formerly oc-
cupied by the Ilelmers, with the hope of seeing them before
long reinstated in them ; and there she had a piano, the best
she could afford to hire : with its aid she hoped to do some-
thing toward the breaking of the invisible bonds that tied the
wings of Jasper's genius.

His great fault lay in his time. Dare I suggest that he
contented himself with measuring it to his inner ear, and let
his fingers, like horses which he knew he had safe in hand,
play what pranks they pleased ? A reader may, I think, be
measuring verse correctly to himself, and yet make of it
nothing but rugged prose to his hearers. Perhaps this may be
how severe masters of quantity in the abstract are so careless
of it in the concrete — in the audible, namelv, where alone it is


of value. Shall I analogize yet a little further, and suggest
the many who admire righteousness and work iniquity ; who
say, '• Lord, Lord," and seldom or never obey ? Anyhow, a
man may have a good enough ear, with which he holds all the
time a secret understanding, and from carelessness offend
grievously the ears he ought to please ; and it was thus with
Joseph Jasper.

Mary was too wise to hurry anything. One evening when
he came as usual, and she knew he was not at the moment
wanted, she asked him to take a seat while she played some-
thing to him. But she was not a little disappointed in the
reception lie gave her offering — a delicate morsel from Beet-
hoven. She tried something else, but with no better result.
He showed little interest : he was not a man capable of show-
ing where nothing was, for he never meant to show anything ;
his expression was only the ripple of the unconscious })ool to
the sway and swirl of tlie llshes below. It seemed as if he had
only a narrow entrance for the admission of music into his
understanding — but a large outlet for the spring that rose
within him, and was, therefore, a somewhat remarkable excep-
tion to the common run of mortals : in such, the capacity for
reception far exceeds the caj)ability of production. His domi-
nant thoughts were in musical form, and easily found their
expression in music ; but, mainly no dou])t from want of prac-
lif'C in recei)tion, and exjierience of variety in embodiment,
the forms in which others gavo themselves utterance could not
with corresponding readiness find their way to the sympathetic
j)lace in him. But ])ride or repulsion had no share in this
defect. The man was opi-n and inspired, and stupid as a

The next time she made the attempt to open this channel
between them, something she played did find him, and for a
few minutes he seemed lost in listening.

*^ How nice it would be," she said, '-if we could play to-
gether sometimes ! "

''Do you mean both at once, miss ?" he asked.

** Yes — you on your violin, and I on the piano."

'•That could hardly be, I'm afraid, miss," he answered;


'^for, you see, I don't know always — not exactly — what I'm
going to play ; and if I don't know, and you don't know, how
are we to keep together ? "

*^ Nobody can play your own things but yourself, of course
— that is, until you are able to WTite them down ; but, if you
would learn something, we could play that together."

^'1 don't know how to learn. I've heard tell of the notes
and all that, but I don't know how to work them."

^^You have heard the choir in the church — all keeping
with the organ," said Mary.

"Scarcely since I was a child — and not very often then —
though my mother took me sometimes. But I was always
w^anting to get out again, and gave no heed."

"Do you never go to church now ?"

"No, miss — not for long. Time's too precious to waste."

" How do you spend it, then ?"

"As soon as I've had my breakfast — that's on a Sunday, I
mean — I get up and lock my door, and set myself to have a
day of it. Then I read the next thing where I stopped last —
whether it be a chapter or a verse — till I get the sense of it — if
I can't get that, it's no manner of use to me ; and I generally
know when I've got it by finding the bow in one hand and the
fiddle in the other. Then, with the two together, I go stirring
and stirring about at the story, and the music keeps coming
and coming ; and when it stops, which it does sometimes all at

Online LibraryGeorge MacDonaldMary Marston. A novel → online text (page 30 of 40)