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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMary Marston: A Novel - Chapter 36. A Change
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Mary Marston: A Novel - Chapter 36. A Change Post by :sbtrue100 Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :1013

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Mary Marston: A Novel - Chapter 36. A Change

CHAPTER XXXVI. A CHANGE

As soon as Letty had strength enough to attend to her baby without help, Mary, to the surprise of her mistress, and the destruction of her theory concerning her stay in London, presented herself at Durnmelling, found that she was more welcome than looked for, and the same hour resumed her duties about Hesper.

It was with curiously mingled feelings that she gazed from her window on the chimneys of Thornwick. How much had come to her since first, in the summer-seat at the end of the yew-hedge, Mr. Wardour opened to her the door of literature! It was now autumn, and the woods, to get young again, were dying their yearly death. For the moment she felt as if she, too, had begun to grow old. Ministration had tired her a little--but, oh! how different its weariness from that which came of labor amid obstruction and insult! Her heart beat a little slower, perhaps, but she could now be sad without losing a jot of hope. Nay, rather, the least approach of sadness would begin at once to wake her hope. She regretted nothing that had come, nothing that had gone. She believed more and more that not anything worth having is ever lost; that even the most evanescent shades of feeling are safe for those who grow after their true nature, toward that for which they were made--in other and higher words, after the will of God.

But she did for a moment taste some bitterness in her cup, when, one day, on the footpath of Testbridge, near the place where, that memorable Sunday, she met Mr. Wardour, she met him again, and, looking at her, and plainly recognizing her, he passed without salutation. Like a sudden wave the blood rose to her face, and then sank to the deeps of her heart; and from somewhere came the conviction that one day the destiny of Godfrey Wardour would be in her hands: he had done more for her than any but her father; and, when that day was come, he should not find her fail him!

She was then on her way to the shop. She did not at all relish entering it, but, as she had a large money-interest in the business; she ought at least, she said to herself, to pay the place a visit. When she went in, Turnbull did not at first recognize her, and, taking her for a customer, blossomed into repulsive suavity. The change that came over his countenance, when he knew her, was a shadow of such mingled and conflicting shades that she felt there was something peculiar in it which she must attempt to analyze. It remained hardly a moment to encounter question, but was almost immediately replaced with a politeness evidently false. Then, first, she began to be aware of distrusting the man.

Asking a few questions about the business, to which he gave answers most satisfactory, she kept casting her eyes about the shop, unable to account for the impression the look of it made upon her. Either her eyes had formed for themselves another scale, and could no more rightly judge between past and present, or the aspect of the place was different, and not so satisfactory. Was there less in it? she asked herself--or was it only not so well kept as when she left it? She could not tell. Neither could she understand the profound but distant consideration with which Mr. Turnbull endeavored to behave to her, treating her like a stranger to whom he must, against his inclination, manifest all possible respect, while he did not invite her even to call at _the villa. She bought a pair of gloves of the young woman who seemed to occupy her place, paid for them, and left the shop without speaking to any one else. All the time, George was standing behind the opposite counter, staring at her; but, much to her relief, he showed no other sign of recognition.

Before she went to find Beenie, who was still at Testbridge, in a cottage of her own, she felt she must think over these things, and come, if possible, to some conclusion about them. She left the town, therefore, and walked homeward.

What did it all mean? She knew very well they must look down on her ten times more than ever, because of the _menial position in which she had placed herself, sinking thereby beyond all pretense to be regarded as their equal. But, if that was what the man's behavior meant, why was he so studiously--not so much polite as respectful? That did not use to be Mr. Turnbull's way whore he looked down upon one. And, then, what did the shadow preceding this behavior mean? Was there not in it something more than annoyance at the sight of her? It was with an effort he dismissed it! She had never seen that look upon him!

Then there was the impression the shop made on her! Was there anything in that? Somehow it certainly seemed to have a shabby look! Was it possible anything was wrong or going wrong with the concern? Her father had always spoken with great respect of Mr. Turnbull's business faculties, but she knew he had never troubled himself to, look into the books or know how they stood with the bank. She knew also that Mr. Turnbull was greedy after money, and that his wife was ambitious, and hated the business. But, if he wanted to be out of it, would he not naturally keep it up to the best, at least in appearance, that he might part with his share in it to the better advantage?

She turned, and, walking back to the town, sought Beenie.

The old woman being naturally a gossip, Mary was hardly seated before she began to pour out the talk of the town, in which came presently certain rumors concerning Mr. Turnbull--mainly hints at speculation and loss.

The result was that Mary went from Beenie to the lawyer in whose care her father had left his affairs. Ho was an old man, and had been ill; had no suspicion of anything being wrong, but would look into the matter at once. She went home, and troubled herself no more.

She had been at Durnmelling but a few days, when Mr. Redmain, wishing to see how things were on his estate in Cornwall, and making up his mind to run down, carelessly asked his wife if she would accompany him: it would be only for a few days, he said; but a breeze or two from the Atlantic would improve her complexion. This was gracious; but he was always more polite in the company of Lady Margaret, who continued to show him the kindness no one else dared or was inclined to do. For some years he had suffered increasingly from recurrent attacks of the disease to which I have already referred; and, whatever might be the motive of his mother-in-law's behavior, certainly, in those attacks, it was a comfort to him to be near her. On such occasions in London, his sole attendant was his man Mewks.

Mary was delighted to see more of her country. She had traveled very little, but was capable of gathering ten times more from a journey to Cornwall than most travelers from one through Switzerland itself. The place to which they went was lonely and lovely, and Mary, for the first few days, enjoyed it unspeakably.

But then, suddenly, as was not unusual, Mr. Redmain was taken ill. For some reason or other, he had sent his man to London, and the only other they had with them, besides the coachman, was useless in such a need, while the housekeeper who lived at the place was nearly decrepit; so that of the household Mary alone was capable of fit attendance in the sickroom. Hesper shrunk, almost with horror, certainly with disgust, from the idea of having anything to do with her husband as an invalid. When she had the choice of her company, she said, she would not choose his. Mewks was sent for at once, but did not arrive before the patient had had some experience of Mary's tendance; nor, after he came, was she altogether without opportunity of ministering to him. The attack was a long and severe one, delaying for many weeks their return to London, where Mr. Redmain declared he must be, at any risk, before the end of November.

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