George MacDonald.

Mary Marston. A novel online

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I would not have my reader take Sepia for an accomplice in
the robbery. Even Mr. Redmain did not believe that : she
was much too prudent ! His idea was, that she had been
wearing the ring — Hesper did not mind what she wore of
hers — and that (I need not give his conjecture in detail), with
or without her knowledge, the fellow had got hold of it and
carried it awa}^, then brought it back, treating the tiling as a
joke, when she was only too glad to restore it to the jewel-case,
hoping the loss of it would then pass for an oversiglit on the
part of Hesper. If he was right in this theory of tlie affair,
then the Count had certainly a hold upon her, and she dared
not or would not expose him !


He had before discovered that, about the time "svhen tlie
ring disapj)eared, the Count had luid losse>, and was supposed
unable to meet them, but had suddenly showed himself again
*' flush of money," and from that time had had an extraordi-
nary run of luck.

When he went out of the door of ^Ir. Kedmain's study, he
vanished from the house and from London. Turning the first
corner he came to, and the next and the next, he stepped into
a mew;^ the court of which seemed emi)ty, and slipped behind
the gate. lie wore a new hat, and was clean shaved cxcei)t his
upper lip. Presently a man came out of the mews in a Scotch
cap and a full beard.

AVhat had become of him Mr. Kedmain did not care. He
had no de-ire to punish him. It was enough lie had found
liini out, proved his suspicion correct, and obtained evidence
against Sei)ia. lie did not at once make up his mind how he
would act on this last ; while he lived, it did not matter so
much ; and he had besides a certain pleasure in watching his
victim. But Ilesper, free, rich, and beautiful, and far from
wise, with Sepia for counselor, wa.s not an idea to bo contem-
])lated with equanimity. Still he shrank from the outcry and
scandal of sending her away ; for certainly his wife, if it were
but to oppose him, would refuse to believe a word against her

For till' presi'nt. tlicrefore, the tiling seemeil to blow over.
Mr. liedmaiii, who had pleasure in behaving handsomely so
far as money was concerned, bought his wife the best sapphire
he could find, and, for once, really ])lea>t'd her.

But Sepia knew that Mr. Kedmain had now to himself jus-
tified his dislike of her; and, as he said nothing, she was the
more certain he meant something. She lived, tlierefore, in
constant dread of his sudden vengeance, against which she
could take no precaution, for she had not even a conjecture as
to what form it might assume. From that hour she was never
at peace in his presence, and hardly out of it ; from every pos-
sible tctc-a-tetc with him she fled as from a judgment.

Nor was it a small addition to her misery that she imagined
Mary cognizant of Mr. Redmain's opinion and intention with


regard to her, and holding the worst possible opinion of her.
For, whatever had passed first between the Count and Mr. Eed-
main, she did not doubt Mary had heard, and was prepared to
bring against her when the determined moment sliould arrive.
How much the Count might or might not have said, she could
not tell ; but, seeing their common enemy had permitted him
to escape, she more than dreaded he had sold her secret for his
own impunity, and had laid upon her a burden of lies as well.



With all Mr. Redmain's faults, there was a certain love of
justice in the man ; only, as is the case with most of us, it
had ten times the reference to the action of other people that
it had to his own : I mean, he made far greater demand for
justice upon other people than upon himself ; and was much
more indignant at any shortcoming of theirs which crossed any
desire or purpose of his than he was anxious in his own per-
son to fulfill justice when that fulfillment in its turn would
cross any wish he cherished. Badly as he had himself behaved
to Mary, he was now furious with his wife for having treated
her so heartlessly that she could not return to her service ; for
he began to think she might be one to depend upon, and to
desire her alliance in the matter of ousting Sepia from the con-
fidence of his wife.

However indifferent a woman may be to the opinion of her
husband, he can nevertheless in general manage to make her
uncomfortable enough if lie chooses ; and Mr. Redmain did
choose now, in the event of her opposition to his wishes : when
he set himself to do a thing, he hated defeat even more than
he loved success.

The moment Mary was out of the study, he walked into
his wife's boudoir, and shut the door behind him. His pres-


ence there was enough to make lier angry, but she took no
notice of it.

*' I understand, Mrs. Redmain," he began, ** tliat you wisli
to bring the fate of Sodom upon the house."

'•'I do not know what you mean," she answered, scarcely
raising her eyes from her novel — and spoke the truth, for she
knew next to nothing of the Bible, while the Old Testament
was all the literature Mr. Redmain Avas "up in.''

"You have turned out of it the only just person in it, and
we shall all be in hell soon I ''

" How dare you come to my room with such liorrid lan-
guage ! "

"You'll hear worse before long, if you keep on at this rate.
My language is not so bad as your actions. If you don't have
that girl back, and in double-quick time, too, I shall know liow
to make you ! "

"You have taught me to ])elieve you capable of anything."

"You shall at least tind me capable of a good deal. Do
you imagine, madam, I have found you a hair worse than I

"I never took the trouble to imagine anytliing aljuut you."

"Then I need not ask you whether I married you to please
you or to please myself ? "

"You need not. You can best answer that ([uestion vour-

'•Then we understand cacli other."

"We do not, Mr. Rcdnuiin ; and, if this occurs again, I
shall go to Durnmelling. "

She spoke with a vague idea that he also stood in some awe
of the father and mother whose dread, however well she hid it,
she would never, while she lived, succeed in shaking off. But
to the husband it was a rare delight to speak with conscious
rectitude in the moral chastisement of his wife. lie burst into
a loud and almost merry laugh.

"][ap})y they will be to see you there, madam I Why, you
goose, if I send a telegi*am before you, they won't so much as
open the door to you ! They know better which side their
bread is buttered."


Hesper started up in a rage. This was too much — and the
more too much, that she belicYcd it would be as he said.

*^Mr. Kedmain, if you do not leave the room, I will."

^^Oh, don't ! " he cried, in a tone of pretended alarm. His
pleasure was great, for he had succeeded in stinging the im-
penetrable. " You really ought to consider before you utter
such an awful threat! I will go myself a thousand times
rather ! — But will you not feel the want of pocket-money when
you come to pay a rough cabman ? The check I gave you yes-
terday will not last you long."

"The money is my own, Mr. Kedmain."

"But you have not yet opened a banking-account in your
own name."

" I suppose you have a meaning, Mr. Eedmain; but I am
not in the habit of using cabs."

"Then you had better get into the habit; for I swear to
you, madam, if you don't fetch that girl home within the
week, I will, next Monday, discharge your coachman, and send
every horse in the stable to Tattersall's ! Good morning."

She had no doubt he would do as he said ; she knew Mr.
Redmain would just enjoy selling her horses. But she could
not at once give in, I say " could not," because hers was the
weak will that can hardly bring itself to do what it knows it
must, and is continually mistaken for the strong will that defies
and endures. She had a week to think about it, and she would
see !

During the interval, he took care not once to refer to his
threat, for that would but weaken the impression of it, he knew.

On the Sunday, after service, she knocked at his door, and,
being admitted, bade liim good morning, but with no very
gracious air — as, indeed, he would have been the last to expect.

"We have had a sermon on the forgiveness of injuries, Mr.
Redmain," she said.

"By Jove!" interrupted her husband, "it would have
been more to the purpose if I, or poor Mary Marston, had had
it ; for I swear you put our souls in peril ! "

"The ring was no common one, Mr. Redmain; and the
young woman had, by leaving the house, placed herself in a


false position : every one suspected her as much as I did. Be-
sides, she lost her temper, and talked about forgiving 7nc, when
I was in despair about my ring I "

'^ And what, pray, was your foolish ring compared to tlie
girl's character ? "

*^A foolish ring, indeed I — Yes, it was foolish to let you
ever have the right to give it me ! But, as to her character,
that of persons in her position is in constant peril. They have
to lay their account with that, and must get used to it. How
was I to know ? "We can not read each other's hearts."

"Not where there is no heart in tlie reader."

liesjier's face flushed, but she did her best not to lose her
temper. Not that it would have been any great loss if she
had, for there is as much difference in the values of tempers as
in those who lose them. She said notliing. and her husband
resumed :

"So you came to forgive me ?" he said.

"And Mar.ston,'' slie answered.

"Well, I will accept the condescension — that is, if the
terms of it are to my mind."'

"I will mako no terms. .Mar-ti>n may return when slic

" You must write and ask her."

"Of course, Mr. Redmain. It would hardly hv suitable
that you should ask her."

"You must write so a> to make it j)ossilde to accept your

"I am not deceitful, Mr. Rt'dniain."

"You are not. A man must be fair, even to his wife."

"I will show you the letter I write."

"If you please."

She had to show him half a score ere he was satisfied, de-
claring he would do it himself, if she could not make a better
job of it.

At length one was dispatched, received, and answered :
^lary would not return. She had lost all hope of being of any
true service to Mrs. Redmain, and she knew that, with Tom
and Letty, she was really of use for the present.


Mrs. Eedmain carried the letter, with ill-concealed triumph,
to her husband ; nor did he conceal his annoyance.

''You must have behaved to her very cruelly," he said.
'^ But you have done your best now — short of a Christian apol-
ogy, which it would be folly to demand of 3'Ou. I fear we
have seen the last of her." — ''And there was I," he said to
himself, "for the first time in my life, actually beginning to
fancy I had perhaps thrown salt upon the tail of that rare bird,
an honest woman ! The devil has had quite as much to do
with my history as with my character ! Perhaps that will be
taken into the account one day."

But Mary lay awake at night, and thought of many things
she might have said and done better when she was with Hes-
per, and would gladly have given herself another chance ; but
she could no longer flatter herself she would ever be of any real
good to her. She believed there was more hope of Mr. Eed-
main even. For had she not once, for one brief moment, seen
him look a trifle ashamed of himself ? while Hesper was and
remained, so far as she could judge, altogether satisfied with
herself. Equal to her own demands upon herself, there was
nothing in her to begin with — no soil to work upon.



For some time Tom made progress toward health, and was
able to read a good part of the day. Most evenings he asked
Joseph to play to him for a while ; he was fond of music, and
fonder still of criticism — upon anything. When he had done
with Joseph, or when he did not want him, Mary was always
ready to give the latter a lesson ; and, had he been a less gifted
man than he was, he could not have failed to make progress
with sucli a teacher.

The large-hearted, delicate - souled woman felt nothing
strange in the presence of the workingman, but, on the con-


trary, was comfortably aware of a being like her own, less
privileged but more gifted, whose nearness was strength. And
no teacher, not to say no woman, could have failed to be
pleased at the thorough painstaking with which he followed
the slightest of her hints, and the delight his flushed face
would reveal when she praised the success he had achieved.

It was not long before he began to write some of the things
that came into his mind. For the period of quiescence as to
production, which followed the initiation of more orderly study,
was, after all, but of short duration, and the return tide of
musical utterance was stronger than ever. Mary's delight was
great Avhcn first he brought her one of his compositions very
fairly written out — after which others followed with a rapidity
that astonished her. They enabled lier also to understand the
man better and better ; for to have a thing to brood over which
we are capable of understanding must bo more to us than even
the masters playing of it. She could not be sure tliis or that
was correct, according to the sweet inexorability of musical or-
dainment, but tbc more she pondered them, the more she felt
that the man was original, that the material was there, ami the
law at hand, that he brought his music from the only bottom-
less well of utterance, the truth, namely, by which alone tlie
soul most glorious in gladness, or any other tlie stupidest of
souls, can live.

To the first he brouglit her she contrived to ])ut a ])oor
little faulty accomiianiment ; and when slic jdayed his air to
him so accompanied, his delight was touching, and not a little
amusing. Plainly he thought the accompaniment a triumph
of human faculty, and beyond anything he could ever develop.
Never pupil was more humble, never pupil more obedient ;
thinking nothing of himself or of anything he had done or
could do, his path was open to the swiftest and highest gi'owth.
It matters little where a man may be at this moment ; the
point is whether he is growing. The next point will be,
whether he is growing at the ratio given him. The key to the
whole thing is obedience, and nothing else.

What the gift of such an instructor was to Joseph, my
reader may be requested to imagine. He was like a man seated


on the grass outside the heavenly gate, from which, slow-open-
ing every evening as the sun went down, came an angel to
teach, and teach, until he too should be fit to enter in : an
hour would arrive when she would no longer have to come out
to him where he sat. Under such an influence all that was
gentlest and sweetest in his nature might well develop with
ra^Didity, and every accidental roughness — and in him there
was no other — by swift degrees vanish from both speech and
manners. The angels do not want tailors to make their clothes :
their habits come out of themselves. But we are often too
hard upon our fellows ; for many of those in the higher ranks
of life — no, no, I mean of society — whose insolence wakens
ours, as growl wakes growl in the forest, are not yet so far re-
moved from the savage — I mean in their personal history — as
some in the lowest ranks. When a nobleman mistakes the
love of right in another for a hatred of refinement, he can not
be far from mistaking insolence for good manners. Of such a
nobility, good Lord, deliver us from all envy !

As to falling in love with a lady like Mar}^, such a thing
was as far from Jasper's consciousness as if she had been a
duchess. She belonged to another world from his, a world
which his world worshiped, v/aiting. He might miss her even
to death ; her absence miglit, for him, darken the universe as
if the sun had withdrawn his brightness ; but who thinks of
falling in love with the sun, or dreams of climbing nearer to
his radiance ?

The day will one day come — or what of the long-promised
kingdom of heaven ? — when a woman, instead of spending
anxious thought on the adornment of her own outward i)erson,
will seek with might the adornment of the inward soul of
another, and will make that her crown of rejoicing. Nay, are
there none such even now ? The day will come when a man,
rather than build a great house for the overflow of a mighty
hospitality, will give himself, in the personal labor of outgoing
love, to build spiritutil houses like St. Paul — a higher art than
any of man's invention. my brotlier, what were it not for
thee to have a hand in making thy brotlier beautiful !

Be not indignant, my reader : not for a moment did I


imagine thee capable of such a mean calling ! It is left to
a certain school of weak enthusiasts, who believe that such
growth, such embellishment, such creation, is all God cares
about ; these enthusiasts can not indeed see, so blind have they
become with their fixed idea, how God could care for any-
thing else. They actually believe that the very Son of the
life-making God lived and died for that, and for nothing else.
That sucli men and women are fools, is and has been so widely
believed, that, to men of the stamp of my indignant reader, it
lias become a fact ! But the end alone will reveal the bejrin-
iiing. Such a fool was Prumetlieus, with the vulture at his
heart — but greater than Jupiter with his gods around him.

There soon came a cliange, liowevcr, and tlie lessons ceased

Tom liad come down to liis old quarters, and, in the arro-
gance of convalescence, had presumed on his imagined strengtli,
and so caught cold. An alarming relai)se was the consequence,
and tliere was no more j>laying ; for now his condition began
to draw to a change, of which, for some time, none of them
had even thought, the patient liad seemed so certainly recovi r-
ing. Tlie cold settled on his lungs, and he sank rapidly.

Joseph, whose violin was useless now, was not the less in
attendance. Every evening, when his work was over, he came
knocking gently at the door of the parlor, and never left until
Tom was settled for the night. The most silently helpful,
undemonstrative being he was, that doctor could desire to wait
upon patient. "When it was his turn to watch, he never
closed an eye, init at daybreak — for it was now spring — would
rouse Mary, and go off straight to his work, nor taste UunX
until the hour for the mid-day meal arrived.

Tom speedily became aware that his days were numbered —
]ihrase of unbelief, for are they not numbered from the begin-
ning? Are our hairs numbered, and our days forgotten — till
death gives a hint to the doctor ? lie wtis sorry for his past
life, and thoroughly ashamed of much of it, saying in all hon-
esty he would rather die than fall for one solitary Aveek into
the old ways — not that he wished to die, for, with the confi-
dence of youth, he did not believe he could fall into the old


ways again. For my part, I think he was taken away to hare
a little more of that care and nursing which neither his
mother nor his wife had been woman enough to give the great
baby. After all, he had not been one of the worst of babies.

Is it strange that one so used to bad company and bad ways
should have so altered, in so short a time, and without any
great struggle ? The assurance of death at the door, and a
wholesome shame of things that are past, m.ay, I think, lead
up to such a swift change, even in a much worse man than
Tom. For there is the Life itself, all-surrounding, and ever
pressing in upon the human soul, wherever that soul will af-
ford a chink of entrance ; and Tom had not yet sealed up all
his doors.

When he lay there dead — for what excuse could we have
for foolish lamentation, if we did not speak of the loved as
lying dead? — Letty had him already enshrined in her heart as
the best of husbands — as her own Tom, who had never said a
hard word to her — as the cleverest as well as kindest of men,
who had written j^oetry that would never die while the English
language was spoken. Nor did '^ The Firefly " spare its dole of
homage to the memory of one of its gayest writers. Indeed,
all about its office had loved him, each after his faculty. Even
the boy cried when he heard he was gone, for to him too he had
always given a kind word, coming and going. A certain lit-
tle runnel of verse flowed no more through the pages of ^^The
Firefly," and in a month there was not the shadow of Tom upon
his ago. But the print of him was deep in the heart of Letty,
and not shallow in the affection of Mary ; nor were such as
these, insignificant records for any one to leave behind him, as
records go. Happy was he to have left behind him any love,
especially such a love as Letty bore him ! For what is the
loudest praise of posterity to the quietest love of one's own
generation ? For his mother, her memory was mostly in her
temper. She had never understood her wayward child, just
because she had given him her wayrvardness, and not parted
with it herself, so that between them the two made havoc of
love. But she who gives her child all he desires, in the hope
of thus binding his love to herself, no less than she who


thwarts liim in cvcr\i:hmg, may rest assured of the neglect she
has richly earned. When she heard of his death, she howled
and cursed her fate, and the woman, meaning poor Letty, who
had parted her and her Tom, swearing she would never set
eyes upon her, never let lier touch a farthing of Tom's money.
She would not hear of paying his debts until Mary told lier
she then would, upon which the fear of public disapprobation
wrought for right if not righteousness.

But wliat was Mary to do now with Letty ? Slie was little
more than a baby yet, not silly from youth, but young from
silliness. Children must learn to walk, but not bv beins:
turned out alone in Cheapside.

She was relieved from some perplexity for the present, how-
ever, by the arrival of a letter from Mrs. Wardour to Letty,
written in a tone of stiffly condescendcnt compassion — not so
unpleasant to Ix»tty as to her friend, because from childhood
she had been used to the nature that produced it, and ha

Online LibraryGeorge MacDonaldMary Marston. A novel → online text (page 32 of 40)