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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMary Marston: A Novel - Chapter 34. A Stray Sound
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Mary Marston: A Novel - Chapter 34. A Stray Sound Post by :sbtrue100 Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :2188

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Mary Marston: A Novel - Chapter 34. A Stray Sound

CHAPTER XXXIV. A STRAY SOUND

Mary went to see Letty as often as she could, and that was not seldom; but she had scarcely a chance of seeing Tom; either he was not up, or had gone--to the office, Letty supposed: she had no more idea of where the office was, or of the other localities haunted by Tom, than he himself had of what spirit he was of.

One day, when Mary could not help remarking upon her pale, weary looks, Letty burst into tears, and confided to her a secret of which she was not the less proud that it caused her anxiety and fear. As soon as she began to talk about it, the joy of its hope began to predominate, and before Mary left her she might have seemed to a stranger the most blessed little creature in the world. The greatness of her delight made Mary sad for her. To any thoughtful heart it must be sad to think what a little time the joy of so many mothers lasts--not because their babies die, but because they live; but Mary's mournfulness was caused by the fear that the splendid dawn of mother-hope would soon be swallowed in dismal clouds of father-fault. For mothers and for wives there is no redemption, no unchaining of love, save by the coming of the kingdom--_in themselves_. Oh! why do not mothers, sore- hearted mothers at least, if none else on the face of the earth, rush to the feet of the Son of Mary?

Yet every birth is but another link in the golden chain by which the world shall be lifted to the feet of God. It is only by the birth of new children, ever fresh material for the creative Spirit of the Son of Man to work upon, that the world can finally be redeemed. Letty had no _ideas about children, only the usual instincts of appropriation and indulgence; Mary had a few, for she recalled with delight some of her father's ways with herself. Him she knew as, next to God, the source of her life, so well had he fulfilled that first duty of all parents--the transmission of life. About such things she tried to talk to Letty, but soon perceived that not a particle of her thought found its way into Letty's mind: she cared nothing for any duty concerned--only for the joy of being a mother.

She grew paler yet and thinner; dark hollows came about her eyes; she was parting with life to give it to her child; she lost the girlish gayety Tom used to admire, and the something more lovely that was taking its place he was not capable of seeing. He gave her less and less of his company. His countenance did not shine on her; in her heart she grew aware that she feared him, and, ever as she shrunk, he withdrew. Had it not now been for Mary, she would likely have died. She did all for her that friend could. As often as she seemed able, she would take her for a drive, or on the river, that the wind, like a sensible presence of God, might blow upon her, and give her fresh life to take home with her. So little progress did she make with Hesper, that she could not help thinking it must have been for Letty's sake she was allowed to go to London.

Mr. and Mrs. Redmain went again to Durnmelling, but Mary begged Hesper to leave her behind. She told her the reason, without mentioning the name of the friend she desired to tend. Hesper shrugged her shoulders, as much as to say she wondered at her taste; but she did not believe that was in reality the cause of her wish, and, setting herself to find another, concluded she did not choose to show herself at Testbridge in her new position, and, afraid of losing if she opposed her, let her have her way. Nor, indeed, was she so necessary to her at Durnmelling, where there were few visitors, and comparatively little dressing was required: for the mere routine of such ordinary days, Jemima was enough, who, now and then called by Mary to her aid, had proved herself handy and capable, and had learned much. So, all through the hottest of the late summer and autumn weather, Mary remained in London, where every pavement seemed like the floor of a baker's oven, and, for all the life with which the city swarmed, the little winds that wandered through it seemed to have lost their vitality. How she longed for the common and the fields and the woods, where the very essence of life seemed to dwell in the atmosphere even when stillest, and the joy that came pouring from the throats of the birds seemed to flow first from her own soul into them! The very streets and lanes of Testbridge looked like paradise to Mary in Lon-don. But she never wished herself in the shop again, although almost every night she dreamed of the glad old time when her father was in it with her, and when, although they might not speak from morning to night, their souls kept talking across crowd and counters, and each was always aware of the other's supporting presence.

Longing, however, is not necessarily pain--it may, indeed, be intensest bliss; and, if Mary longed for the freedom of the country, it was not to be miserable that she could not have it. Her mere thought of it was to her a greater delight than the presence of all its joys is to many who desire them the most. That such things, and the possibility of such sensations from them, should be in the world, was enough to make Mary jubilant. But, then, she was at peace with her conscience, and had her heart full of loving duty. Besides, an active patience is a heavenly power. Mary could not only walk along a pavement dry and lifeless as the Sahara, enjoying the summer that brooded all about and beyond the city, but she bore the re-freshment of blowing winds and running waters into Letty's hot room, with the clanging street in front, and the little yard behind, where, from a cord stretched across between the walls, hung a few pieces of ill-washed linen, motionless in the glare, two plump sparrows picking up crumbs in their shadow--into this live death Mary would carry a tone of breeze, and sailing cloud, and swaying tree-top. In her the life was so concentrated and active that she was capable of communicating life--the highest of human endowments.

One evening, as Letty was telling her how the dressmaker up stairs had been for some time unwell, and Mary was feeling reproachful that she had not told her before, that she might have seen what she could do for her, they became aware, it seemed gradually, of one softest, sweetest, faintest music-tone coming from somewhere--but not seeming sufficiently of this world to disclose whence. Mary went to the window: there was nothing capable of music within sight. It came again; and intermittingly came and came. For some time they would hear nothing at all, and then again the most delicate of tones would creep into their ears, bringing with it more, it seemed to Mary in the surprise of its sweetness, than she could have believed single tone capable of carrying. Once or twice a few consecutive sounds made a division strangely sweet; and then again, for a time, nothing would reach them but a note here and a note there of what she was fain to imagine a wonderful melody. The visitation lasted for about an hour, then ceased. Letty went to bed, and all night long dreamed she heard the angels calling her. She woke weeping that her time was come so early, while as yet she had tasted so little of the pleasure of life. But the truth was, she had as yet, poor child, got so little of the _good of life, that it was not at all time for her to go.

When her hour drew near, Tom condescended--unwillingly, I am sorry to say, for he did not take the trouble to understand her feelings--to leave word where he might be found if he should be wanted. Even this assuagement of her fears Letty had to plead for; Mary's being so much with her was to him reason, and he made it excuse, for absence; he had begun to dread Mary. Nor, when at length he was sent for, was he in any great haste; all was well over ere he arrived. But he was a little touched when, drawing his face down to hers, she feebly whispered," He's as like to you, Tom, as ever small thing was to great!" She saw the slight emotion, and fell asleep comforted.

It was night when she woke. Mary was sitting by her.

"O Mary!" she cried, "the angels have been calling me again. Did you hear them?"

"No," answered Mary, a little coldly, for, if ever she was inclined to be hard, it was toward self-sentiment. "Why do you think the angels should call you? Do you suppose them very desirous of your company?"

"They do call people," returned Letty, almost crying; "and I don't know why they mightn't call me. I'm not such a very wicked person!"

Mary's heart smote her; she was refusing Letty the time God was giving her! She could not wake her up, and, while God was waking her, she was impatient!

"I heard the call, too, Letty," she said; "but it was not the angels. It was the same instrument we heard the other night. Who can there be in the house to play like that? It was clearer this time. I thought I could listen to it a whole year."

"Why didn't you wake me?" said Letty.

"Because the more you sleep the better. And the doctor says I mustn't let you talk. I will get you something, and then you must go to sleep again."

Tom did not appear any more that night; and, if they had wanted him now, they would not have known where to find him. He was about nothing very bad--only supping with some friends--such friends as he did not even care to tell that he had a son.

He was ashamed of being in London at this time of the year, and, but that he had not money enough to go anywhere except to his mother's, he would have gone, and left Letty to shift for herself.

With his child he was pleased, and would not seldom take him for a few moments; but, when he cried, he was cross with him, and showed himself the unreasonable baby of the two.

The angels did not want Letty just yet, and she slowly recovered.

For Mary it was a peaceful time. She was able to read a good deal, and, although there were no books in Mr. Redmain's house, she generally succeeded in getting such as she wanted. She was able also to practice as much as she pleased, for now the grand piano was entirely at her service, and she took the opportunity of having a lesson every day.

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