Copyright
George MacDonald.

Mary Marston. A novel online

. (page 37 of 40)
Online LibraryGeorge MacDonaldMary Marston. A novel → online text (page 37 of 40)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


rectly. Only say when you will come to-morrow."

" I can't very well during the day," answered Mary.
" There is so much to be done, and I have so little help. But,
if you should want me, I would rather shut up the shop than
not come."

"There is no need for that ! Indeed, I would much rather
have you in the evening. The first of the night is worst of all.
It's then the devils are out. — Look here," he added, after a
short pause, during which Mary, for as unfit as she felt, hesi-
tated to leave him, " — being in business, you've got a lawyer,
I suppose ? "

"Yes," she answered.

"Then you go to him to-night the first thing, and tell him
to come to me to-morrow, about noon. Tell him I am ill, and
in bed, and particularly want to see him ; and he mustn't let
anything they say keep him from me, not even if they tell him
I am dead."



A FRIEND ly NEED. 425

*'I will/' said Mary, and, stroking the thin hand that lay
outside the counterpane, turned and left hira.

*' Don't tell any one you are gone," he called after her, with
a voice far from feeble. ''I don't want any of their damned
company.''



CHAPTEl? Llll.
A F R 1 1: x I) I x X i: i: n .

Mary left the house, and saw no one on her way. But it
was better, she said to herself, that he should lie there un-
tcnded, than be waited on by unloving hands.

The night was very dark. There was no moon, and the
stars were liiddcn by thick clouds. She must walk all the way
to Testbridge. Slie felt weak, but the fresh air was reviving.
She did not knf)W the way so familiarly as that between Thorn-
wick and the town, but she would rnt.r the latter b.-foro arriv-
ing at the common.

She had not gone far when the moon ro.n', and fn>ni behind
the clouds diminished the darkness a little. The first part of
her journey lay along a narrow lane, with a small ditch, a ris-
ing bank, and a hedge on each side. About the middle of the
lane was a farmyard, and a little way farther a cottage. Soon
after passing the gate of the farmyard, she thought she heard
steps behind her, seemingly soft and swift, and naturally felt a
little ai)prehension ; but her thoughts flew to the one hiding-
place for thoughts and hearts and lives, and she felt no terror.
At the same time something moved her to quicken her pace.
As she drew near the common, she heard the steps more plainly,
still soft and swift, and almost wished she had sought refuge
in the cottage she had just passed — only it bore no very good
character in the neighborhood. When she reached the spot
where the paths united, feeling a little at home, she stopped to
listen, liehind her were the footsteps plain enough I The same
moment the clouds thinned about the moon, and a pale light
came filtering through upon the common in front of her. She



426 MAEY MARSTOK

cast one look over her shoulder, saw something turn a corner
in the lane, and sped on again. She would have run, but there
was no place of refuge now nearer than the corner of the turn-
pike-road, and she knew her breath would fail her long before
that. How lonely and shelterless the common looked ! The
soft, swift steps came nearer and nearer.

Was that music she heard ? She dared not stop to listen.
But immediately, thereupon, was poured forth on the dim air
such a stream of pearly sounds as if all the necklaces of some
heavenly choir of v^oman-angels were broken, and the beads
came pelting down in a cataract of hurtless hail. From no
source could they come save the bow and violin of Joseph Jas-
per ! Where could he be ? She was so rejoiced to know that
he must be somewhere near, that, for very delight of unsecured
safety, she held her peace, and had almost stopped. But she
ran on again.

She was now nigh the ruined hut with which my narrative
has made the reader acquainted. In the mean time the moon
had been growing out of the clouds, clearer and clearer. Tho
hut came in sight. But the look of it was somehow altered
— with an undefinable change, such as might appear on a fa-
miliar object in a dream ; and leaning against the side of the
door stood a figure she could not mistake for another than her
musician. Absorbed in his music, he did not see her. She
called out, '^Joseph ! Joseph!'' He started, threw his bow
from him, tucked his violin under his arm, and bounded to
meet her. She tried to stop, and tlie same moment to look
behind her. The consequence was tliat she fell — but safe in
the smith's arms. That instant appeared a man running. He
half stopped, and, turning from the path, took to the common.
Jasper handed his violin to Mary, and darted after him. The
chase did not last a minute ; the man was nearly spent. Jo-
seph seized him by the wrist, saw something glitter in his
other hand, and turned sick. The fellow had stabbed him.
With indignation, as if it were a snake that had bit him, the
blacksmith flung from him the hand he held. The man gave
a cry, staggered, recovered himself, and ran. Joseph would
have followed again, but fell, and for a minute or two lost con-



A FRIEJSD IX NEED. 407

sciousness. When he came to himself, Mary was binding up
his arm.

"What a fool I am I " he said, trying to get up, but yield-
ing at once to Mary's prevention. "Ain't it ridic'lous now,
miss, that a man of my size, and ready to work a sledge with
any smith in Yorkshire, should turn sick for a little bit of a
job with a knife ? But my father was just the same, and he
was a stronger man than I'm like to be, I fancy.''

"It is no such wonder as you think," said Mary: ••you
have lost a good deal of blood.''

Iler voice faltered. She had been greatly alarmed — and the
more that she had not light enough to get the edges of the
wound properly together.

"You've stoi)]X'd it — ain't vdu. miss?"

"I think so."

"Then I'll be after ilic fellow."

" Xo, no; you must not attempt it. You must lie still
awhile. But I don't undenstand it at all ! That cottage used
to be a mere hovel, without door or window I It can't be you
live in it ? "

"Ay, that I do I and it's not a bad place cither," answered
Joseph. " That's wluit I went to Yorksliire to get my money
for. It's mine — bought and paid for.''

•' But what made you think of coming here ? ''

" Let's go into the smithy — house I won't presume to call
it,'' said Joseph, " tliough it ha.s a lean-to for the smith — and
rU tell you everything about it. But really, miss, you ouglitn't
to be out like this after dark. There's too many vatrabonds
about."

With but little need of the help Mary yet gave him, Josej)!!
got up, and led her to what was now a respectable little smithy,
with forge and bellows and anvil and bucket. Opening a door
where had been none, he brought a chair, and making her sit
down, began to blow the covered fire on the hearth, where he
had not long before "boiled his kettle" for his tea. Then
closing the door, he lighted a candle, and Mary looking about
her could scarcely believe the change that had come upon
the miserable vacuity. Joseph sat down ui)on his anvil, and



4:28 MARY MARSTOK

begged to know where she had just been, and how far she had
run from the rascal. When he had learned something of the
peculiar relations in which Mary stood to the family at Durn-
melling, he began to think there might have been something
more in the pursuit than a chance ruffianly assault, and the
greater were his regrets that he had not secured the miscreant.

*^ Anyhow, miss," he said, ^^ you'll never come from there
alone in the dark again ! "

*^I understand you, Joseph," answered Mary, ^'for I know
you would not have me leave doing what I can for the poor
man up there, because of a little danger in the way."

^^No, that I wouldn't, miss. That would be as much as
to say you would do the will of God when the devil would let
you. What I mean is, that here am I — your slave, or servant,
or soldier, or whatever you may please to call me, ready at your
word."

*^ I must not take you from your v/ork, you know, Joseph."

^* Work's not everything, miss," he answered; *^and it's
seldom so pressing but that — except I be shoeing a horse — I
can leave it when I choose. Any time you want to go any-
where, don't forget as you've got enemies about, and just send
for me. You won't have long to wait till I come. But I am
main sorry the rascal didn't have something to keep him in
mind of his manners."

Part of this conversation, and a good deal more, passed on
their way to Testbridge, whither, as soon as Joseph seemed all
right, Mary, who had forgotten her hunger and faintness, in-
sisted on setting out at once. In her turn she questioned
Joseph, and learned that, as soon as he knew she was going to
settle at Testbridge, he started off to find if possible a place in
the neighborhood humble enough to be within his reach, and
near enough for the hope of seeing her sometimes, and having
what help slie might please to give him. The explanation
afforded Mary more pleasure than she cared to show. She had
a real friend near her — one ready to help her on her own ground
— one w^ho understood her because he understood the things
she loved ! He told her that already he had work enough to
keep him going ; that the horses he once shod v/cre always



THE XEXT XIGHT. 409

brought to him again ; that he was at no expense such as in a
town ; and that he had plenty of time botli for his violin and
his books.

When they came to the suburbs, she sent him home, and
went straight to Mr. Brett with Mr. Redmain's message. He
undertook to be at Durnmelling at the time appointed, and to
let nothing prevent liim from seeing his new client.



CnAlTilK LIV.

THE XKXT NKillT.

Mr. Brett found no dilliculty in the way of the interview,
for Mr. Kt'dmain had given Mewks instructions he dared not
disobty : liis master had often ailed, and recovered again, and
he must not venture too far ! As soon as he had sliown the
visitor into the room, he was dismissed, but not before he liad
satisfied himself that he was a lawyer. He carried tlic news at
once to Sepia, and it wrought no little anxiety in the liouse.
There was a will already in existence, and no ground f(jr think-
ing a change in it boded anything good. Mr. !kIortimer never
deigned to share his thouglits, anxieties, or hopes with anv of
liis peoi)le ; but the ladies met in deep consultation, although
of course there was nothiug to be done. The only operative
result was that it let Se])ia know how, though for reasons
somewhat dilTercnt, her anxiety was shared by the others :
unlike theirs, her sole desire was — not to be mentioned in the
will : that could only be for the sake of leaving her a substan-
tial curse ! Mr. Bedmain's utter silence, after, as she well
knew, having gathered damning facts to her discredit, had
long convinced her he was but biding his time. Certain she
was he would not depart this life without leaving his opinion
of her and the proofs of its justice behind him, carrying
weight as the ailidavit of a dying man. Also she knew Hesper
well enough to be certain that, however she might delight in
opposition to the desire of her husband, she would for the sake



4:30 MAEY MARSTON.

of no one carry that opposition to a point where it became in-
jurious to her interests. Sepia's one thought therefore was :
could not something be done to prevent the making of another
will, or the leaving of any fresh document behind him ? YVhat
he might already have done, she could nowise help ; what he
might yet do, it would be well to prevent. Once more, there-
fore, she impressed upon Mewks, and that in the names of
Mrs. Redmain and Lady Margaret, as well as in her own per-
son, the absolute necessity of learning as much as possible of
what might pass between his master and the lawyer.

Mewks was driven to the end of his wits, and they were not
a few, to find excuses for going into the room, and for delay-
ing to go out again, while with all his ears he listened. But
both client and lawyer were almost too careful for him ; and
he had learned positively nothing when the latter rose to de-
part. He instantly left the room, with the door a trifle ajar,
and listening intently, lieard his master say that Mr. Brett
must come again the next morning ; that he felt better, and
would think over the suggestions he had made ; and that he
must leave the memoranda within his reach, on the table by
his bedside. Ere the lawyer issued, Mewks was on his way
witii all this to his tempter.

Sepia concluded there had been some difference of opinion
between Mr. Eedmain and his adviser, and hoped that no-
thing had been finally settled. Was there any way to prevent
the lawyer from seeing him again ? Could she by any means
get a peep at the memoranda mentioned ? She dared not sug-
gest the thing to Hesper or Lady Malice — of all people they
were those in relation to whom she feared their possible con-
tents — and she dared not show herself in Mr. Redmain's room.
Was Mewks to be trusted to the point of such danger as grew
in her thought ?

The day wore on. Toward evening he had a dreadful at-
tack. Any other man would have sent before now for what
medical assistance the town could afford him, but Mr. Red-
main hated having a stranger about him, and, as he knew how
to treat himself, it was only when very ill that he would send
for his own doctor to the country, fearing that otherwise he



THE NEXT XIGHT. 431

mio^ht give him up as a patient, such visits, however well re-
munerated, being seriously inconvenient to a man with a large
London practice. But now Lady Margaret took upon herself
to send a telegram.

An hour before her usual time for closing the shop, Mary
set out for Durnmelling ; and, at the appointed spot on the
wav, found lier squire of low degree in waiting. At first sight,
liowever, and although she was looking out for him, she did
not certainly recognize him. I would not have my reader im-
agine Joseph one of tliose fools who delight in appearing some-
thing else than tliey are ; but while every workman ought to
look a workman, it ouglit not to be by looking less of a man,
or of a fjentleman in the true sense ; and Josej)h, liaving, out
of respect to her who would honor him with her company,
dressed himself in a new suit of unpretending gray, with a
wide-awake hat, looked at first sight more like a country gen-
tleman having a stroll ovtT his farm. iIkiii a iikui whose hands
were hard with the hibors of the forge, lie took oil* his hat as
she api)roached — if not with ea.se, yet with the clumsy grace
peculiar to him ; for, unlike many whose manners are unobjec-
tionable, he had in his something that might be called his own.
But the best of it was, that he knew nothing about his man-
ners, beyond the desire to give honor where honor was due.

lie walked with her to the door of the house ; for they had
agreed that, from whatever ([uarter had come the pursuit, and
whatever might have been its object, it would be well to show
tliat she Wiis attended. They had also arranged at what hour,
and tit what spot close at hand, he was to be waiting to accom-
pany her home. But, although he said nothing about it, Jo-
soph was determined not to leave the ])lace until she rejoined
him.

It was nearly dark wiien he left her; and when he had
wandered up and down the avenue awhile, it seemed dark
enough to return to the house, and reconnoiter a little.

lie had already made the acquaintance of the farmer who
occupied a portion of the great square, behind the part wliere
the family lived : he had had several of his horses to shoe, and
had not only given satisfaction by the way in which he shod



432 MABY MARSTOK

them, but had interested their owner with descriptions of more
than one rare mode of shoeing to which he had given atten-
tion ; he was, therefore, the less shy of being discovered about
the place.

From the back he found his way into the roofless hall, and
there paced quietly up and down, measuring the floor, and
guessing at the height and thickness of the walls, and the sort
of roof they had borne. He noted that the v^^all of the house
rose higher than those of the ruin with which it was in con-
tact ; and that there was a window in it just over one of those
walls. Thinking whether it had been there when the roof was
on, he savv^ through it the flickering of a fire, and wondered
whether it could be the Avindow of Mr. Redmain's room.

Mary, having resolved not to give any notice of her arrival,
if she could get in without it, and finding the hall-door on the
latch, entered quietly, and walked straight to Mr. Redmain's
bedroom. When she opened the door of it, Mewks came hur-
riedly to meet her, as if he would have made her go out again,
but she scarcely looked at him, and advanced to the bed. Mr.
Redmain was just waking from the sleep into which he had
fallen after a severe paroxysm.

*' Ah, there you are ! " he said, smiling her a feeble welcome.
" I am glad you are come. I have been looking out for you.
I am very ill. If it comes again to-night, I think it will make
an end of me."

She sat down by the bedside. He lay quite still for some
time, breathing like one very weary. Then he seemed to grow
easier, and said, with much gentleness :

^^Can'tyoutalktome?"

*^ Would you like me to read to you ?" she asked.

^^No," he answered ; ^' I can't bear the light ; it makes my
head furious."

** Shall I talk to you about my father ? " she asked.

^^I don't believe in fathers," he replied. *' They're always
after some notion of their own. It's not their children they
care about."

'*That maybe true of some fathers, "answered Mary; *^but
it is not the least true of mine."



THE XEXT XIGHT. 433

'* Where is he ? Why don't you bring him to see me, if he
is such a good man ? He might be able to do something for
me.''

^* There is none bnt your own father can do anvthinir for
you,'' said Mary. *' My father is gone home to him, but if he
were here, he would only tell you about him.-^

There was a moment's silence.

"Why don't you talk?" said Mr. Kedmain, crossly.
** What's the good of sitting there saying nothing ! How am
I to forget that the pain will be here again, if you don't say a
word to help me ? "

Mary lifted up her heart, and prayed for sometliing to say
to the sad human soul that had never known the Father. I5ut
she could think of nothing to talk about except the death of
William Marston. So slu' began with the dropping of her
watch, and, telling whatever seemed at the moment lit to tell,
cndi'd with the dream she had the niglit of liis funeral. Uy
that time the hidden fountain was llowiug in her soul, and she
was able to speak straight out of it.

**I can not tell you, sir," she said, closing the story of her
dream, "what a feeling it was ! The joy oi it was beyond all
exjiressioM."

'* You're not surely going to otTer me a dream in proof of
anytiiiiig I" muttered the sick man.

** Ye-," u!iswered Mary — ''in proof of what it can prove.
The joy of a child over u new toy, or a colored sweetmeat,
shows of what bliss the liuman soul is made capable."

**0h, capable, I dare say ! "

•*And more than that," Mary went on, adding instead of
replying, "no one ever felt such gladness without believing in
it. There must be somewhere the justitication of such glad-
ness. There must be the father of it somewhere.''

" Well I I don't like to say, after your kindness in coming
here to take care of me, that you talk the worst rubbish I ever
heard ; but just tell me of what use is it all to me, in the state
I am in ! What I want is to be free of pain, and have some
pleasure in life — not to be told about a father.''

" But what if the father you don't want is determined you

19



^U MARY MARSTOK

shall not have what jou do want ? What if your desire is not
worth keeping you aliye for ? And what if he is ready to help
your smallest effort to be the thing he wants you to be — and in
the end to give you jour heart's desire ? "

*^It sounds very fine, but it's all so thin, so up in the
clouds ! It don't seem to have a leg to stand upon. Why, if
that were true, everybody would be good ! there would be none
but saints in the world ! What's in it, I'm sure I don't know."

"It will take ages to know what is in it ; but, if you should
die now, you will be glad to find, on the other side, that you
have made a beginning. For my part, if I had everything my
soul could desire, except God with me, I could but pray that
he would come to me, or not let me live a moment longer ; for
it would be but the life of a devil. "

" What do you mean by a devil ? "

" A pov/er that lives against its life," said Mary.

Mr. Eedmai^i answered nothing. He did not perceive an
atom of sense in the words. They gave him not a glimmer.
Neither will they to many of my readers ; while not a few will
think they see all that is in them, and see nothing.

He was silent for a long time — whether he waked or slept
she could not tell.

The annoyance wasgi'eat in the home conclave when Mewks
brought the next piece of news — namely, that there was that
designing Marston in the master's room again, and however
she got into the house he was sure he didn't know.

" All the same thing over again, miss ! — hard at it a-tryin'
to convert 'im ! — And where's the use, you know, miss ? If a
man like my master's to be converted and get off, I don't for
my part see where's the good o' keepin' up a devil."

*' I am quite of your opinion, Mewks," said Sepia.

But in her heart she was ill at ease.

All day long she had been haunted Avith an ever-recurring
temptation, which, instead of dismissing it, she kept like a dog
in a string. Different kinds of evil affect people differently.
Ten thousand will do a dishonest thing, who would indignantly
reject the dishonest thing favored by another ten thousand.
They are not sufficiently used to its ugly face not to dislike it.



THE XEXT NIGHT. 435

though it may not be quite so ugly as their protege. A man
will feel grandly honest against the dishonesties of another
trade than his, and be eager to justify those of his own. Here
was Sepia, who did not care the dust of a buttcrtly's wing for
causing any amount of family misery, who would without a
pang have sacrificed the genuine reputation of an innocent man
to save her own false one — shuddering at an idea as yet bodi-
less in her brain — an idea which, however, she did not dismiss,
and so grew able to endure I

I have kept this woman— 7S0 far as personal acquaintance
with her is concerned — in the background of my history. For
one thing, I am not fond of post-moricm examinations ; in
other words, I do not like searching the decompositions of
moral carrion. Analysis of such is, like the use of reagents on
dirt, at least unpleasant. Xor was any true end to be fur-
thered by a more vivid presentation of her. Nosology is a sci-
ence doomed, thank (lod, to perish ! Health alone will at last
fdl the earth. Or, if there should be always the ailing to help,
a man will help them l)y being sound himself, not by knowing
the ins and outs of disease. Diagnosis is not therapy.

Sepia was unnatural — tw every one is unnatural who does
not set his face in the direction of the true Nature ; but she had
gone further in the opposite direction than many jjcople have
yet reached. At the same time, whoever luis not faced about
is on the way to a capacity for worse things than even our ene-
mies would believe of us.

Her very existence seemed to her now at stake. If by his
dying act Mr. Redmain should drive her from under Ilesper's
roof, what was to become of her I Durnmelling, too, would
then be as certainly closed against lur, and she v»ould be com-
pelled to take a situation, and teach music, which she hated,
and French aiul Cerman, which gave her no pleasure apart
from certain strata of their literature, to insolent girls whom
she would be constantly wishing to strangle, or stujiid little
boys who would bore her to death. Her very soul sickened at
the thought — as well it might ; for to have to do such service
with such a heart as hers, must indeed be torment. All hope
of marrying Godfrey Wardour would be gone, of course. Did



436 MARY MAR8T0K

he but remain uncertain as to the truth or falsehood of a third
part of what Mr. Redmain would record against her, he would
never meet her again !

Since the commencement of this last attack of Mr. Red-
main's malady, she had scarcely slept ; and now what Mewks
reported rendered her nigh crazy. For some time she had
been generally awake half the night, and all the last night she
had been wandering here and there about the house, not un-



Online LibraryGeorge MacDonaldMary Marston. A novel → online text (page 37 of 40)