Copyright
George MacDonald.

Mary Marston. A novel online

. (page 36 of 40)
Online LibraryGeorge MacDonaldMary Marston. A novel → online text (page 36 of 40)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


^' I'm glad you're come," he said, Avith a feeble grin, all he
had for a smile. '' I want to have a little talk with you. But
I can't while that brute is sitting there. I have been sufferins:
horribly. Look at me, and tell me if you think I am going to
die — not that I take your opinion for worth anything. That's
not Avhat I wanted you for, though. I wasn't so ill then. But
I want you the more to talk to now. You have a bit of a heart,
even for people that don't deserve it — at least I'm going to be-
lieve you have ; and, if I am wrong, I almost think I would
rather not know it till I'm dead and gone ! — Good God ! where
shall I be then?"

I have already said that, whether in consequence of rem-
nants of mother-teaching or from the movements of a con-
science that had more vitality than any of his so-called friends
would have credited it with, Mr. Rcdmain, as often as his suf-
ferings reached a certain point, was subject to fits of terror —
horrible anguish it sometimes amounted to — at the thought of
hell. This, of course, was silly, seeing hell is out of fashion
in far wider circles than that of Mayfair ; but denial does not
alter fact, and not always fear. Mr. Redmain laughed when
he was well, and shook when he was suffering. In vain he
argued with himself that what he held by when in health was
much more likely to be true than a dread which might be but
the suggestion of the disease that was slowly gnawing him to
death : as often as the sickness returned, he received the sug-
gestion afresh, whatever might be its source, and trembled as
before. In vain he accused himself of cowardice — the thing
was there — 171 Mm — nothing could drive it out. And, verily,
even a madman may be wiser than the prudent of this world ;
and the courage of not a few would forsake them if they dared
but look the danger in the face. I pity the poor ostrich, and



A SFMMOyS, 413

must I admire the man of whose kind lie is the type, or take
him in any sense for a man of courage ? Wait till the thing
stares you in the face, and then, whetlier you be brave man or
coward, you will at all events care little about courage or cow-
ardice. The nearer a man is to being a true man, the sooner
will conscience of wrong make a coward of him ; and herein
Redmain had a far-off kindred with the just. ^Vfter the night
he had passed, he was now in one of his terror-fits ; and this
much may be said for his good sense — that, if there was any-
where a hell for the use of anybody, he was justified in antici-
pating a free entrance.

**Mewks !" he called, suddenly, ami his tone was loud and
angry.

Mewks was by his lx?dside instantly.

"Get out witli you! If I find you in this romn again,
without having been called, I will kill you ! I am strong
enough for that, even without this pain. They won't hang a
dying man, and where I am going they will rather like it."

Mewks vanished.

*' You need not mind, my girl," ho went on, (o Marv.
*' Everybody knows I am ill — very ill. Sit down there, on the
foot of the bed, only take care you don't shako it, and let me
talk to you. People, you know, say nowadays there ain't any
hell — or perhaps none to speak of ? "

** I should think the fornifi- more likdv than the latter,''
said Mary.

" You don't believe tiiere is any ? 1 a/n ghid of tliai I for
you are a good girl, and ought to know.''

*' You mistake mc, sir. How can I imagine there is no
hell, when he said there was ? ''

^' Who's //^?"

" Tiie man who knows all about it, and means to put a stop
to it some day."

'* Oh, yes ; I see I Ilm I— But I don't for the life of me see
what a fellow is to make of it all— don't you know ? Those
parsons I They will have it there's no way out of it but theirs,
and I never could see a handle anywhere to that door ! "

*' /don't see what the parsons have got to do with it, or, at



414 MARY MARSTON.

least, what you have got to do with the parsons. If a thing is
true, you have as much to do with it as any parson in England ;
if it is not true, neither you nor they have anything to do with
it."

"But, I tell you, if it he all as true as — as — that we are all
sinners, I don't know what to do with it ! "

** It seems to me a simple thing. Tliat man as much as said
he knew all about it, and came to find men that were lost, and
take them home ."

" He can't well find one more lost than I am ! But how
am I to belieye it ? How can it be true ? It's ages since he
v/as here, if ever he was at all, and there hasn't been a sign of
him ever since, all the time ! "

"There you may be quite wrong. I think I could find you
some who believe him just as near them now as ever he was to
his own brothers — believe that he hears them when they speak
to him, and heeds what they say."

"That's bosh. You would have me believe against the
evidence of my senses ! "

"You must have strange senses, Mr. Eedmain, that give
you evidence where they can't possibly know anything ! If
that man spoke the truth when he was in the world, he is near
us now ; if he is not near us, there is an end of it all."

" The nearer he is, the worse for me ! " sighed Mr. Red-
main.

"The nearer he is, the better for the worst man that ever
breathed. "

" That's queer doctrine ! Mind you, I don't say it mayn't
be all right. But it does seem a cowardly thing to go asking
him to save you, after you've been all your life doing what ought
to damn you — if there be a hell, mind you, that is."

"But think," said Mary, "if that should be your only
chance of being able to make up for the mischief you have
done ? No punishment you can have will do anything for
that. No suffering of yours will do anything for those you
have made suffer. But it is so much harder to leave the old
way than to go on and let things take their chance ! "

" There may be something in what you say ; but still I can't



A SUMMONS. 415

see it anything better than sneaking, to do a world of mischief,
and then slink away into hearen, leaving all the poor wretches
to look after themselves.''

^'1 don't think Jesus Christ is worse pleased with you for
feeling like that," said Mary.

'' Eh ? What ? What's that you say ?— Jesus Christ worse
pleased with me ? That's a good one ! As if he ever thought
about a fellow like me ! "

"li he did not, you would not be thinking about him just
this minute, I suspect. There's no sense in it, if he docs not
tliink about you. He said himself he didn't come to call tlic
righteous, but sinners to repentance.'*

*^ I wish I could rc'pt'ut.''

*' You can, if you will."

*' I can't make myself sorry for what's gone and done with."

"No; it wants him to do that. But you can turn from
your old ways, and ask him to take you for a i)upil. Aren't you
willing to learn, if he be willing to teach you ? ''

'' I don't know. It's all so dull ami stupid I I never could
bear going to church."

" It's not one bit like that ! It's like going to your motli-
er, and saying you're goinir (o try to be a good boy, and not vex
her any more."

''I sec. It's all right, 1 dare say I But Tve luid as much
of it as I can stand ! You see, I'm not used to such thiuirs.
You go away, and send Mewks. Don't be far off, though, and
mind you don't go home without letting me know. There !
Go along."

She had just reached the door, when he called her again.

*^I say ! Mind whom you trust in this house. There's no
harm in Mrs. Kedmain ; she only grows stupid directly she
don't like a thing. But that Miss Yulland I — that woman's the
devil. I know more about her than you or any one else. I
can't bear her to be about Hesper ; but, if I told her the half I
know, she would not believe the half of that. I shall find a
way, though. But I am forgetting ! you know her as well as I
do— that is, you would, if you were wicked enough to under-
stand. I will tell you one of these days what I am going to



416 MAEY MARSTON.

do. There ! don't say a word. I want no advice on such
things. Go along, and send Mewks."

With all his suspicion of the man, Mr. Eedmain did not sus-
pect lioiu false Mewks was : he did not know that Miss Yolland
had bewitched him for the sake of haying an ally in the enemy's
camp. All he could hear — and the dressing-room door was
handy — the fellow duly reported to her. Already, instructed
by her fears, she had almost divined what Mr. Eedmain meant
to do.

Mary went and sat on the lowest step of the stair just out-
side the room.

^MVhat are you doing there ?" said Lady Margaret, coming
from the corridor.

" Mr. Redmain will not have me go yet, my lady," answered
Mary, rising. " I must wait first till he sends for me."

Lady Margaret swept past her, murmuring, *^Most pecu-
liar ! " Mary sat down again.

In about an hour, Mewks came and said his master wanted
her.

He was very ill, and could not talk, but he would not let
her go. He made her sit where he could see her, and now and
then stretched out his hand to her. Even in his pain he showed
a quieter spirit. ^' Something may be working — who can tell ! "
thought Mary.

It was late in the afternoon when at length he sought fur-
ther conversation.

'' I have been thinking, Mary," he said, ^Hhat if I do wake
up in hell when I die, no matter how much I deserve it, no-
body will be the better for it, and I shall be all the worse."

He spoke with coolness, but it was by a powerful effort : he
had waked from a frightful dream, drenched from head to foot.
Coward ? No. He had reason to fear.

** Whereas," rejoined Mary, taking up his clew, *^ every-
body will be the better if you keep out of it — everybody," she
repeated, ^' — God, and Jesus Christ, and all their people."

" How do you make that out ? " he asked. ^' God has more
to do than look after such as me."

** You think he has so many worlds to look to — thousands



A SUMMOXS. 417

of them only making ? But why does he care about his worlds ?
Is it not because they are the schools of his souls ? And win-
should he care for the souls ? Is it not because he is making
them children — his own children to understand him, and be
happy with his happiness ?"

"I can't say I care for his happiness. I want my nwn.
And yet I don't know any that's worth the worry of it. Xo ;
I would rather be put out like a candle.''

'^ That's because you have been a disobedient child, taking
your own way, and turning God's good things to evil. You
don't know what a splendid thing life is. You actually and
truly don't know, never experienced in your being the very
thing you were made for."

**My father had no business to leave mo =0 miuli money."

** Y''ou had no business to misuse it."

*' I didn't quitr know what I was doing."

'* You do now."

Then came a pause.

" You think Hod hears praver — do vnu ? "

'*Ido."

"Then I wish you would a«k him to let me off — I mean, to
let me die right out when I do die. What's the good of mak-
ing a body miserable ? "

"That, I am sure it would be of no use to pray for. He
certainly will not throw away a thing he has made, because
that thing may be foolish enough to prefer the dust-hole to a
cabinet."

** Wouldn't you do it now, if I asked you ? ''

'' I would not. I would leave you in God's hands rather
than inside the gate of heaven,"

" I don't understand you. And you wouldn't say so if you
cared for me ! Only, why should you care for me ? "

" I would give my life for you."

** Come, now ! I don't believe that."

" Why, I couldn't be a Christian if I wouldn't ! "

*' Y^ou are getting absurd I '' he cried. But he did not look
exactly as if he thought it.

** Absurd ! " repeated Mary. "' Isn't that what makes him



4:18 MABY MARSTOK

our Saviour ? How could I be his disciple, if I wouldn't do as
he did ? "

'^ You are saying a good deal ! "

*^ Can't you see that I have no choice ? "

'* I wouldn't do that for anybody under the sun ! "

^' You are not his disciple. You have not been going about
with him. "

** And you have ? "

'' Yes — for many years. Besides, I can not help thinking
there is one for whom you would do it."

" If you mean my wife, you never were more mistaken. I
would do nothing of the sort."

^' I did not mean your wife. I mean Jesus Christ."

*^ Oh, I dare say ! Well, perhaps ; if I knew him as you do,
and if I were quite sure he wanted it done for him."

^^ He does want it done for him — always and every day —
not for his own sake, though it does make him very glad. To
give up your way for his is to die for him ; and, when any one
will do that, then he is able to do everything for him ; for then,
and not till then, he gets such a hold of him that he can lift
him up, and set him doAvn beside himself. That's how my
father used to teach me, and now I see it for myself to be
true."

*' It's all very grand, no doubt ; but it ain't nowhere, you
know. It's all in your own head, and nowhere else. You
don't, you ca7iH positively believe all that ! "

*^ So much, at least, that I live in the strength and hope it
gives me, and order my ways according to it."

*' Why didn't you teach my wife so ?"

*' I tried, but she didn't care to think. I could not get
any further with her. She has had no trouble yet to make her
listen."

'^By Jove ! I should have thought marrying a fellow like
me might have been trouble enough to make a saint of her. "

It was impossible to fix him to any line of thought, and
Mary did not attempt it. To move the child in him was more
than all argument.

A pause followed.



A SUMMOXS. 410

"I don't love God," he said.

" I dare say not," replied Mary. '' How should you, when
you don't know him ? "

'' Then what's to be done ? I can't very well show myself
wliere I hate the master of the house ! ''

"If you knew him, you would love liim."

*' You are judging by yourself. But there is as much dif-
ference between you and me a«s between light and dark-
ness."

"Not quite that," replied Mary, with one of those smiles
that used to make her father feel as if she were that moment
come fresh from (iod to him. ** If you knew Jesus Clirist,
you could not hel}) lovin.sr him, and to love him is to love
God."

*' You wear me out I Will you never come to the point ?
Know Jrsifs flirisf ! ITow am I to go back two thousand
years ? "

'' What he was liion ho is now," answered Marv. '* And
you may even know him better than they did at the time who
saw him ; for it was not until they understood him better, by
his being taken from them, that they wrote down his life."

"I suppose you mean I must read the New Testament ?"
said Mr. Redmain, pettishly.

**0f course !" answered Mary, a little surj)rised ; for she
was unaware how few have a notion what the Xew Testament
is, or is meant for.

'* Then why didn't you say so at first ? There 1 have you !
That's just where I learn that I must be damned for ever I "

" I don't mean the Epistles. Those vou can't understand

-yet."

*' Fm glad you don't mean them. I hate them."

*' I don't wonder. You have never seen a single shine of
what they are ; and what most people think them is hardly the
least like them. What I want you to read is the life and death
of the son of man, the master of men."

" I can't read. I should only make myself twice as ill. I
won't try."

** But I will read to you, if you will let me."



420 MAEY MARSTOK

*' How comes it you are such a theologian ? A woman is
not expected to know about that sort of thing."

^'1 am no theologian. There just comes one of the cases
in which those who call themselves his followers do not be-
lieve what the Master said : he said God hid these things from
the wise and prudent, and revealed them to babes. I had a
father who was child enough to know them, and I was child
enough to believe him, and so grew able to understand them
for myself. The whole secret is to do the thing the Master
tells you : then you will understand what he tells you. The
opinion of the wisest man, if he does not do the things he
reads, is not worth a rush. He may be partly right, but you
have no reason to trust him."

"AYell, you shall be my chaplain. To-morrow, if Pm able
to listen, you shall see what you can make of the old sinner."

Mary did not waste words : where would have been the use
of pulling up the poor spiritual clodpole at every lumbering
step, at any v/ord inconsistent with tlie holy manners of the
high countries ? Once get him to court, and the power of the
presence would subdue him, and make him over again from
the beginning, without which absolute renewal the best ob-
servance of religious etiquette is worse than worthless. Many
good people are such sticklers for the proprieties ! For my-
self, I take joyous refuge with the grand, simple, every-day
humanity of the man I find in the story — the man with the
heart like that of my father and my mother and my brothers
and sisters. If I may but see and help to show him a little as
he lived to show himself, and not as church talk and church
ways and church ceremonies and church theories and church
plans of salvation and church worldliness generally have ob-
scured him for hundreds of years, and will yet obscure him for
hundreds more !

Toward evening, when she had just rendered him one of
the many attentions he required, and which there was no one
that day but herself to render, for he would scarcely allow
Mewks to enter the room, he said to her :

" Tliank you ; you are very good to me. I shall remember
you. Not that I think I'm going to die just yet ; I've often



A SUMMONS. 421

been as bad as this, and got quite "well again. Besides, I want
to show that I have turned over a new leaf. Don't you think
God will give me one more chance, now that I really mean it ?
1 never did before."

*'God can tell whether you mean it without that,'' she
answered, not daring to encourage him where she knew no-
thing. "But you said you would remember me, Mr. Red-
main : I hope you didn't mean in your will.''

''I did mean in my will," he answered, but in a tone of
displeasure. '* I must say, however, I should have preferred
you had not shown quite such an anxiety about it. I sha'n't
be in my coffin to-morrow ; and I'm not in the way of forget-
ting things."

"I bey you," returned Mary, Hushing, '* to do nothing of
the sort. I have plenty of money, and don't care about more.
1 would much rather not have any from you."

"But think how much good you might do with it I " said
Mr. TJedmain, satirically. " — It was come by honestly — so far
as I know."

" Money can't do half tlic good people think. It is stub-
born stuff to turn to any good. And in this case it would be
directly against good."

" Xobody has a right to refuse what comes honestly in his
way. There's no end to the good that may be done with
money — to judge, at least, by the harm I've done with mine,"
said Mr. Kedmain, this time with seriousness.

'' It is not in it," j^ersisted Mary. ** If it had been, our
Lord would have used it, and he never did."

'* Oh, but he was all an exception ! ''

'*0n the contrary, he is the only man who is no exception.
We are the exceptions. Every one but him is more or less out
of the straight. Do you not see ? — he is the very one we must
aTl come to be the same as, or perish I No, Mr. Kedmain I
don't leave me any money, or I shall be altogether bewildered
what to do with it. Mrs. Redmain would not take it from
me. Miss Yolland might, but I dared not give it to her.
And for societies, I have small faith in them.''

** Well, well ! I'll think about it," said Mr. Redmain, who



422 MAET MARSTOK

had now got so far on the way of life as to be capable of be-
lieving that when Mary said a thing she meant it, though he
was quite incapable of understanding the true relations of
money. Few indeed are the Christians capable of that ! The
most of them are just where Peter was, when, the moment
after the Lord had honored him as the first to recognize him
as the Messiah, he took upon him to object altogether to his
Master's way of working salvation in the earth. The Roman
emperors took up Peter's plan, and the devil hab been in the
church ever since — Peter's Satan, whom the Master told to get
behind him. They are poor prophets, and no martyrs, who
honor money as an element of any importance in the salva-
tion of the world. Hunger itself does incomparably more to
make Christ's kingdom come than ever money did, or ever
will do while time lasts. Of course money has its part, for
everything has ; and whoever has money is bound to use it as
best he knows ; but his best is generally an attempt to do
saint-work by devil-proxy.

" I can't think where on earth you got such a sackful of
extravagant notions ! " Mr. Redmain added.

'^I told you before, sir, I had a father who set me think-
ing !" answered Mary.

^'1 wish I had had a father like yours," he rejoined.

*' There are not many such to be had."

*^I fear mine wasn't just what he ought to be, though he
can't have been such a rascal as liis son : he hadn't time ; he
had his money to make."

*'He had the temptation to make it, and you have the
temptation to spend it : which is the more dangerous, I don't
know. Each has led to many crimes."

"Oh, as to crimes — I don't know about that ! It depends
on what you call crimes."

" It doesn't matter whether men call a deed a crime or a
fault ; the thing is how God regards it, for that is the only
truth about it. What the world thinks, goes for nothing, be-
cause it is never right. It would be worse in me to do some
things the world counts perfectly honorable, than it would be
for this man to commit a burglary, or tliat a murder. I mean



A SUMMOXS, 423

my guilt might be greater in committing a respectable sin.
than theirs in committing a disreputable one.''

Had Mary known anything of science, she might have said
that, in morals as in chemistry, the qualitative analysis is easy,
but the quantitative another alTair.

The latter part of this conversation, Sepia listening heard,
and misunderstood utterly.

All the rest of the day Mary was with Mr. Kedmain, mostly
by his bedside, sitting in silent watchfulness when he was
unable to talk with her. Nobody entered the room except
Mewks, who, when he did, seemed to watch everything, and
try to hear everything, and once Lady Margaret. "When she
saw Mary seated by the bed, thougli she must have known
well enough she was there, she drew herself up with grand
English rej)elleiice, and looked scandalized. Mary rose, and
was aljout to re'tiiv. l>ut Mr. Kcdniain motioned her to sit
still.

''Tliis is my spiritual adviser, Lady Margari't," lie said.

Her ladyship cast a second look on Mary, sucli as few but
her could cast, and left the room.

On into the gloom of the evening Mary .su. No one
brouglit her anything to eat or drink, and Mr. Kedmain was
too much taken up with himself, soul and body, to think of
her. She was now past hunger, and growing faint, when,
through the settled darkness, the words came to her from the
bed:

"I should likf to liav." yoii near mo wlion 1 am dying,
Mary. "

The voice was a softer tlian she had yet heard from Mr.
Redmain, and its tone wont to her heart.

*'I will certainly bo witli you, if CJod please," she an-
swered.

''There is no fear of God," returned Mr. Redmain ; ''it's
the devil will try to keep you away. But never you heed what
any one may do or say to prevent you. Do your very best to be
with me. By that time I may not be having my own way any
more. Be sure, the first moment they can get the better of
me, they w^ill. And you mustn't place conlidence in a single



424 MARY MARSTOK

soul in this house. I don't say my wife would play me false so
long as I was able to swear at her, but I wouldn't trust her one
moment longer. You come and be with me in spite of the
whole posse of them."

*^I will try, Mr. Redmain," she answered, faintly. "But
indeed you must let me go now, else I may be unable to come
to-morrow. "

'' What's the matter ? " he asked hurriedly, half lifting his
head with a look of alarm. *^ There's no knowing," he went
on, muttering to himself, '^what may happen in this cursed
house."

"Nothing," replied Mar}', "but that I have not had any-
thing to eat since I left home. I feel rather faint." .

"They've given you nothing to eat !" cried Mr. Eedmain,
but in a tone that seemed rather of satisfaction than displea-
sure. "Ring — no, don't."

"Indeed, I would rather not liave anything now till I get
home," said Mary. "I don't feci inclined to eat wliere I am
not welcome."

"Right! right! right! "said Mr. Redmain. "Stick to
that. Never eat where you are not welcome. Go home di-



Online LibraryGeorge MacDonaldMary Marston. A novel → online text (page 36 of 40)