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George MacDonald.

Mary Marston. A novel online

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her to the heart ; those had no longer any existence. They
were swallowed in the gulf of forgetful love — dismissed even a.s
(fod casts the sins of his children behind his back : beliind (hkI's
back is just nowhere. She did not answer, and again there
was silence for a time, during which Mary kej^t walking about
the room, her hands claspt-d bcliind her, the lingers interhiL-ed,
and twisted with a strain almost fierce.

*' There's no time I there's no time ! " slie cried at length.
" How are we to find out ? And if we knew all about it, what
could we do ? O Ijoiiy ! what (un I to do ?"

'SVnyhow, Mary dear, you can't be to blanu' I One would
think you fancied yourself accountiiblc for Cousin Godfrey !"

'• 1 mn accountable for him. lie has done more for mc
llian any man but my father ; and I know what he docs not
know, and what the ignorance of will be his ruin. I know
that one of the best men in the world" — so in her agony she
called him — ** is in danger of being married by one of the worst
wonun ; and I can't bear it — I can't bear it I"

'* But what can you do, Mary ?"

''That's what I want to know,'' returned Mary, with irrita-
tion. '' What ajn I to do ? What aju I to do ? "

*'If he's in love with her, he wouldn't believe a word any
one — even you — told him against her.''

''That is true, I suppose ; but it won't clear me. I must
do something."

She threw herself on the couch with a groan.

''' It's horrid ! " she cried, and buried her face in the pillow.

All this time Letty had been so bewildered by Mary's agita-



400 MARY MARSTOK

tion, and the cause of it was to lier so vague, that apprehension
for her cousin did not wake. But when Mary was silent, then
came the thought that, if she had not so repulsed him — but
she could not help it, and would not think in that direction.

Mary started from the couch, and began again to pace the
room, wringing her hands, and walking up and down like a
wild beast in its cage. It was so unlike her to be thus seri-
ously discomposed, that Letty began to be frightened. She sat
silent and looked at her. Then spoke the spirit of truth in the
scholar, for the teacher was too troubled to hear. She rose, and
going up to Mary from behind, put her arm round her, and
whispered in her ear : '

^^Mary, why don't you ask Jesus ?"

Mary stopped short, and looked at Letty. But she was not
thinking about her ; she was questioning herself : why had she
not done as Letty said ? Something was wrong with her : that
was clear, if nothing else was ! She threw herself again on the
couch, and Letty saw her body heaving with her sobs. Then
Letty was more frightened, and feared she had done wrong.
Was it her part to remind Mary of what she knew so much
better than she ?

" But, then, I was only referring her to herself ! " she
thought.

A few minutes, and Mary rose. Her face was wet and
white, but i:)erplexity had vanished from it, and resolution had
taken its place. She threw her arms round Letty, and kissed
her, and held her face against hers. Letty had never seen in
her such an expression of emotion and tenderness.

"I have found out, Lett}^, dear," she said. ''Thank you,
thank you, Letty ! You arc a true sister."

"What have you found out, Mary ? "

*' I have found out why I did not go at once to asl Him
what I ought to do. It was just because I was afraid o[ what
he would tell me to do."

And with that the tears ran down her cheeks afresh.

'' Then you know now what to do ? " asked Letty.

*' Yes," answered Mary, and sat down.



A HARD TASK. 401

CHAPTER LI.

A ir A K D T A S K .

The next morning, leaving the sliop to Letty, Marv set out
immediately after breakfast to go to Thornwick. But the duty
she had there to perform was so distasteful, that she felt her
very limbs refuse the otlice required of them. They trembled
so under her that she could scarcely walk. She sent, therefore,
to the neighboring inn for a fly. All the way, as she went,
she was hoping she might be sj)ared an encounter with ^Irs.
AVardour ; but the old lady heard the ily, saw her get out, and,
imagining she had brought Letty back in some fresh tn)iil)K',
hastened to i)revent either of them from entering tlio lK)U^e.
'JMie door stood open, and tht'y met on the broad step.

*^Good morning, Mrs. Wardour," said Mary, trying to speak
without betraying emotion.

"(Jood morning. Miss Marston," rt'turiu^d Mrs. Wardour,
grimly.

*' is Mr. Wardour at home ?" askid Marv.

*' What is your business with him ? ' ' rejoined the mother.

'* Yes ; it is with him," returned Mary, as if she had mis-
taken her question, and there had been a point of exclamation
after the What.

''About that hussy?"

*' I do not know whom you call by the nanu'," replied Mary,
Avho would have been glad indeed to find a fellow-protector of
Godfrey in his mother.

'* You know well enough whom I nu'an. Whom should it
be, but Letty Lovel ! "

'* My business has nothing to do with her," answered Mary.

" Whom has it to do with, then ? "

'' With Mr. AVardour."

^'What is it?"

''Only Mr. Wardour himself must hear it. It is his busi-
ness, not mine."

''I will have nothing to do with it."



402 MARY MARSTON.

^'I haye no desire to give you the least trouble about it,"
rejoined Mary.

''You can't see Mr. Wardour. He's not one to be at the
beck and call of every silly woman that wants him."

'^ Then I will write, and tell him I called, but you would
not allow me to see him."

"I will give him a message, if you like."

"Then tell him what I have just said. I am going home
to write to him. Good morning."

She was getting into the fly again, Avhen Mrs. Wardour, re-
flecting that it must needs be something of consequence that
brought her there so early in a fly, and made her show such a
determined front to so great a personage as herself, spoke again.

*' I will tell him you are here ; but you must not blame me
if he does not choose to see you. We don't feel you have be-
haved well about that girl."

'' Letty is my friend. I have behaved to her as if she wore
my sister."

*' You had no business to behave to her as if she were your
sister. You had no right to tempt her down to your level."

*'Is it degradation to earn one's own living ?"

'* You had nothing to do with her. Slie would have done
very well if you had but let her alone."

"Excuse me, ma'am, but I have some right in Letty. I
am sorry to have to assert it, but she would have been dead
long ago if I had behaved to her as you would have me."

" That was all her own fault."

"I will not talk with you about it : you do not know the
circumstances to which I refer. I request to see Mr. Wardour.
I have no time to waste in useless altercation."

Mary was angry, and it did her good ; it made her fitter to
face the harder task before her.

That moment they heard the step of Godfrey approaching
through a long passage in the rear. His mother went into the
parlor, leaving the door, which was close to where Mary stood,
ajar. Godfrey, reaching the hall, saw Mary, and came up to
her with a formal bow, and a face flushed with displeasure.

"May I speak to you alone, Mr. Wardour ?" said Mary.



A HARD TASK. 403

**Can you not say what you have to say here ?"

*^It is impossible."

"Then I am curious to know — "

**Let your curiosity plead for me, then.''

With a sigh of impatience lie yielded, and led tlie wav to
the drawing-room, which was at the other end of the hall.
Mary turned and shut the door he left open.

'^"\Vhy all this mystery, Miss Marston ?" he said. '' I am
not aware of anything between you and me that can require
secrecy."

lie spoke with unconcealed sconi.

"When 1 have made my communication, you will at least
allow secrecy to have been necessary."

"Some objects may require it I" said Wanloiir, m a tone
itself an insult.

" ^Ir. Wardour," returned Mary, '* 1 am here for voiir sake,
not my own. May I beg you will not render a painful duty yet
more difficult ?"

"May / beg, then, that you will be as brief as possible ? I
Mill more than doubtful whether what you have to say will seem
to me of so much con



Online LibraryGeorge MacDonaldMary Marston. A novel → online text (page 35 of 40)