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George MacDonald.

Mary Marston. A novel online

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science, and are not at odds with their work, can take their
pleasure any time — as well before their work as after it. Only
where the work of the day is a burden grievous to be borne, is
there cause to fear being unfitted for duty by antecedent plea-
sure. But the joy of the sunrise would linger about Mary all
the day long in the gloomy shop ; and for Joseph, he had but
to lift his head to sec the sun hastening on to the softer and
yet more hopeful si)lendors of the evening. The wife, ^\\\(\
had not to begin so early, was walking with her husband, as
was her custom, even when the weather was not of the best, to
see him fairly started on his day's work. It was with some-
thing very like pride, yet surely nothing evil, that she would
watch the quick blows of his brawny arm, as he beat the cold
iron on the anvil till it was all aglow like the sun that lighted
the world — then stuck it into the middle of his coals, and blew



460 MAEY MARSTOK

softly with his bellows till the flame on the altar of his work-
offering was awake and keen. The sun might shine or forbear,
the wind might blow or be still, the path might be crisp with
frost or soft with mire, but the lighting of her husband's forge-
fire, Mary, without some forceful reason, never omitted to turn
by her presence into a holy ceremony. It was to her the
" Come let us worship and bow down" of the daily service of
God-given labor. That done, she would kiss him, and leave
him : she had her own work to do. Filled with prayer she
Avould w^alk steadily back the well-known way to the shop,
where, all day long, ministering with gracious service to the
wants of her people, she would know the evening and its ser-
vice drawing nearer and nearer, when Joseph would come, and
the delights of heaven v/ould begin afresh at home, in music,
and verse, and trustful talk. Every day was a life, and every
evening a blessed death — type of that larger evening rounding
our day with larger hope. But many Christians are such aw-
ful pagans that they will hardly believe it possible a young
loving pair should think of that evening, except with misery
and by rare compulsion !

That morning, as they went, they talked — thus, or some-
thing like this :

*^0 Mary !" said Josej^h, ^Miear the larks ! They are all
saying : ' Jo-seph ! Jo-seph ! Ilearkentome, Joseph ! What-
wouldyouhavebeenbutforMa-ry, Jo-seph ? ' That's what they
keep on singing, singing in the cars of my heart, Mary ! "

" You would have been a true man, Joseph, v.diatever the
larks may say."

" A solitary melody, joraising without an upholding har-
mony, at best, Mary ! "

^ '^ And what should I have been, Josci")!! ? An inarticulate
harmony — sweetly mumbling, with never a thread of soaring



sons: I



\ "



A pause followed.

"I shall be rather shy of your father, Mary," said Joseph.
** Perhaps he won't be content with me."

'^ Even if you weren't what you are, my father would love
you because I love you. But I knov*^ my father as well as I



THE EXD OF THE BEGIXNIXG. 461

know you ; and I know you are just the man it must make him
happy afresli, even in heaven, to think of his Mary marrying.
You two can hardly be of two minds in anything !''

*'That was a curious speech of Letty's yesterday ! You i
heard lier say, did you not, that, if everybody was to be ^o very
good in heaven, slie was afraid it would be rather dull?"

''We mustn't make too much of what Letty says, either
■when she's merry or when she's miserable. She speaks both
times only out of half-way down."

'* Yes, yes ! I wasn't meaning to lind any fault with her ; 1
was only wishing to hear what you would say. For nobody
can make a story without somebody wicked enough to set things
wrong in it, and then all the work lies in setting them riglit
again, and, as soon as they are set right, then the story stops."

''There's nothing of the sort in music, Joseph, and that
makes one hapj)y enough."

"Yes, there is, Mary. There's strife and ditlt riiicc and
compensation and atonement and reconciliation."

"But tliere's nothing wicked."

'* No, that tliere is not."

'* Well ! " said Mary, " perhaj)s it may only be because we
know so little about good, that it seems to us not enough. We
know only the beginnings and the liglitings, and so write and
talk only about tliem. For my part, I don't feel that strife of
any sort is necessary to make me enjoy life ; of all things it is
what makes me miserable. I grant you that effort and strug-
gle add immeasurably to the enjoyment of life, but those I look
upon as labor, not strife. There may be whole worlds for us to
help bring into order and obedience. And I suspect there must
be no end of work in which is strife enough — and that of a kind
hard to bear. There must be millions of spirits in prison that
want preaching to ; and whoever goes among them will have
that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ to fill up. Any-
liow there will be plenty to do, and that's the main thing.
Seeing we are made in the image of God, and lie is always
working, we could not be happy without work."

''Do you think we shall get into any company wc like up
there ? " said Joseph .



462 MARY MARSTOK

** I must think a minute. When I want to understand, I
find myself listening for what my father would say. Yes, I
think I know what he would say to that : ' Yes ; but not till
you are fit for it ; and then the difficulty would be to keep out
of it. For all that is fit must come to pass in the land of fit-
nesses — that is, the land where all is just as it ought to be.' —
That's hov/ 1 could fancy I heard my father answer you."

'' With that answer I am well content," said Joseph. —
'' But you don't want to die, do you, Mary ? "

''No ; I want to live. And I've got such a blessed plenty
of life while waiting for more, that I am quite content to wait.
But I do wonder that some people I know, should cling to what
they call life as they do. It is not that they are comfortable,
for they are constantly complaining of their sufferings ; neither
is it from submission to the will of God, for to hear them talk
you must think they imagine themselves hardly dealt with ;
they profess to believe the Gospel, and that it is their only con-
solation ; and yet they speak of death as the one paramount
evil. In the utmost v/eariness, they yet seem incapable of un-
derstanding the apostle's desire to depart and be with Christ,
or of imagining that to be with him can be at all so good as
remaining where they are. One is driven to ask whether they
can be Christians any further than anxiety to secure whatever
the profession may be worth to them will make them such."

^* Don't you think, though," said Joseph, "that some peo-
ple have a trick of putting on their clothes wrong side out,
and so making themselves appear less respectable than they
are ? There was my sister Ann : she used to go on scolding at
people for not believing, all the time she said they could not
believe till God made them-^if she had said except God made
them, I should have been with her there ! — and then talking
about God so, that I don't see how, even if they could, any
one would have believed in such a monster as she made of
him ; and then, if you objected to believe in such a God, she
would tell you it was all from the depravity of your own heart
you could not believe in him ; and yet this sister Ann of
mine, I knov/, once went for months without enough to eat —
without more than just kept body and soul together, that she



THE EXD OF THE BEGINNING. 463

miglit feed the cliildren of a neighbor, of whom she knew next
to nothing, when their father lay ill of a fever, and could not
provide for them. And she didn't look for any thanks nei-
ther, except it was from that same God she woukl have to be
a tyrant from the beginning — one who wotild calmly behold
the unspeakable misery of creatures whom he had compelled to
exist, whom he would not permit to cease, and for whom he
would do a good deal, but not all tliat he could. Such })eop]e,
1 think, arc nearly as unfair to themselves as they are to (Jod.*'

''You're right, Joseph," said Mary. 'Mf we won't take
the testimony of such against God, neither must we take it
against themselves. Only, why is it they are ahvays so certain
tliey arc in the right ? "

" For the perfecting of the saints," suggested Josepli, with
a curious smile.

''Perhaps," answered Mary. "Anyhow, we may get tiiat
gooil out of them, wliether they be liero for the purpose or not.
1 remember Mr. Turnbull once accusing my father of irrev-
erence, because lie sj)oke about (iod in the sliop. Saitl my
fatlier, 'Our I^rd called the old temple liis father's house and
a den of thieves in the same breath.' Mr. Turnl)nll saw no-
thing but nonsense in the answer. Said my father then, ' You
will allow that God is everywhere ?' * Of course,' replied Mr.
Turnbull. 'Except in this shop, I suppose you mean ?' said
my father. 'Xo, I ^lon't. That's just why I wouldn't have
you do it.' ''i'hen you wouldn't have me think a))oiit him
either!''' 'Weill there's a time for everything.' Then said
my father, very solemnly, ' I came from God, and I'm going
back to God, and I won't have any gaps of death in the middle
of my life.' And that was nothing to Mr. Turnbull either."

To one in ten of my readers it may be something.

Just ere they came in sight of the smithy, they saw a lady
and gentleman on horseback Hying across the common.

"There go Mrs. Eedmain and Mr. Wardour I " said Joseph.
" They're to be married next month, they say. Well, it's a
handsome couple they'll make I And the two properties to-
gether'll make a line estate I "

"I ho])e she'll learn to like the books he does," said ^lary.



^Q4: MARY MARSTOK

*'I never could get her to listen to anything for more than
three minutes."

Though Joseph generally dropped work long before Mary
shut the shop, she yet not unfrequently contriyed to meet him
on his way home ; and Joseph always kept looking out for her
as he walked.

That very evening they were gradually nearing each other
— the one from the smithy, the other from the shop — with
another pair between them, however, going toward Testbridge
—Godfrey Wardour and Hesper Redmain.

"How strange," said Hesper, "that after all its chances
and breakings, old Thornwick should be joined up again at
last!"

Partly by a death in the family, partly through the securi-
ties her husband had taken on the property, partly by the will
of her father, the whole of Durnmelling now belonged to
Hesper.

"It is strange," answered Godfrey, with an involuntary
sigh.

Hesper turned and looked at him.

It was not merely sadness she saw on his face. There was
something there almost like humility, though Hesper was not
able to read it as such. He lifted his head, and did not avoid
her gaze.

"You are wondering, Hesper," he said, "' that I do not re-
spond Avith more pleasure. To tell you the truth, I have come
through so much that I am almost afraid to expect the fruition
of any good. Please do not imagine, you beautiful creature ! it
is of the property I am thinking. In )^our presence that would
be impossible. Nor, indeed, have I begun to think of it. I
shall, one day, come to care for it, I do not doubt — that is,
when once I have you safe ; but I keep looking for the next
slip that is to come — between my lip and this full cup of hap-
piness. I have told you all, Hesper, and I thank you that you
do not despise me. But 'it may well make me solemn and fear-
ful, to think, after all the waves and billows that have gone
over me, such a splendor should be mine ! — But, do you really
love me, Hesper — or am I walking in my sleep ? I had thought,



THE EXD OF TEE BEGIXXIXG. 465

'Surely now at last I shall never love again !' — and instead of
that, here I am loving, as I never loved before I — and doubt-
ing whether I ever did love before I "

^^I never loved before," said Ile-pcr. "Surely to love
must be a good thing, when it has made you so good ! I am
a poor creature beside you, Godfrey, but I am glad to think
wliatever I know of love you have taught me. It is onlv I wlio
have to be ashamed I ''

** That is all your goodness I " iiiterruirted Godfrey. ** Yet,
at this moment, I can not quite be sorry for some things I
ouglit to be sorry for : but for them I should not be at your
side now — hai)i)ier tlian 1 dare allow myself to feel. I dare
hardly think of tho.-e things, lest I should be glad I had done
wnjiiLT. "

'•Tliere are tilings I am compelled to know of myself,
Godfrey, which I shall never speak to you about, for even to
think of them by your side would blast all my joy. How })laiidy
Mary used to tell me what I was I I scorned her words ! It
seemed, then, too late to rej)ent. And now I am repenting!
I little thought ever to give in like this I Hut of one thing I
am sure — that, if I had known you, not all the terrors of mv
father would have nmde me marry the man.''

Was this all the feeling she had f.»r her di-ad hus})and ?
Although Godfrey could luirdly at the nionieiit feel regret she
had not loved him, it yet made him shiver to hear her speak of
him thus. In the perfected grandeur of her external woman-
hood, she seemed to him the very ideal of his imagination,
and he felt at moments the proudest man in the great world ;
but at night he would lie in torture, brooding over the horrors
a woman such as she must have encountered, to whom those
mysteries of our nature, which the true heart clothes in abun-
dant honor, had been first })resented in the distortions of a
devilish caricature. There had been a time in Godfrey's life
when, had she stood before him in all her splendor, he would
have turned from her, because of her history, with a sad dis-
gust. Was he less pure now ? lie was more ])ure, for he was
humbler. When those terrible thoughts would come, and the
darkness about him grow billowy vrith black flame, "iGrod help



4:QQ MARY MARSTOK

me," he would cry, ^^to make the buffeted angel forget the
past!"

They had talked of Mary more than once, and Godfrey, in
part through what Hesper told him of her, had come to see
that he was unjust to her. I do not mean he had come to
know the depth and extent of his injustice — that would imply
a full understanding of Mary herself, which was yet far beyond
him. A thousand things had to grow, a thousand things to
shift and shake themselves together in Godfrey's mind, before
he could begin to understand one who cared only for the highest.

Godfrey and Hesper made a glorious pair to look at — but
would theirs be a happy union ? — Happy, I dare say — and not
too happy. He who sees to our affairs will see that the too is
not in them. There were fine elements in both, and, if indeed
they loved, and now I think, from very necessity of their two
hearts, they must have loved, then all would, by degrees, by
slow degrees, most likely, come right with them.

If they had been born again both, before they began, so to
start fresh, then like two children hand in hand they might
have run in through the gates into the city. But what is love,
what is loss, what defilement even, what are pains, and hopes,
and disappointments, what sorrow, and death, and all the ills
that flesh is heir to, but means to this very end, to this waking
of the soul to seek the home of our being — the life eternal ?
Verily we must be born from above, and be good children, or
become, even to our self-loving selves, a scorn, a hissing, and
an endless reproach.

If they had had but Mary to talk to them ! But they did
not want her : she was a good sort of creature, who, with all
her disagreeableness, meant them well, and whom they had
misjudged a little and made cry ! They had no suspicion that
she was one of the lights of the world — one of the wells of
truth, whose springs are fed by the rains on the eternal hills.

Turning a clump of furze-bushes on the common, they met
Mary. She stepped from the path. Mr. Wardour took off his
hat. Then Mary knew that his wrath was past, and she was
glad.

They«stopped.



THE EN'D OF THE BEGIXXIXG. 467

"Well, Mary," said Hesper, holding out her hand, and
speaking in a tone from which both haughtiness and conde-
scension had vanished, '* where are you going ?'^

"To meet my husband," answered ^lary. "I see liim
coming."

With a deep, loving look at Ilespcr, and a bow and a smile
to Godfrey, she left them, and hastened to meet her working-
man.

Behind Godfrey Wardour and ilespcr Redmain walked Jo-
seph Jasper and Mary Marston, a procession of love toward a
far-off, eternal goal. Hut wliich of tlum was to be first in tlie
kingdom of heaven, Mary or Joseph or Hesper or Godfrey, is
not to be told : they had yet a long way to walk, and there are
lirst that shall be last, and last that shall bo lirst.



Tin: EXD.



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