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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMary Marston: A Novel - Chapter 38. Godfrey And Letty
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Mary Marston: A Novel - Chapter 38. Godfrey And Letty Post by :sbtrue100 Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :2518

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Mary Marston: A Novel - Chapter 38. Godfrey And Letty


It was a sad, gloomy, kindless November night, when Godfrey arrived in London. The wind was cold, the pavements were cold, the houses seemed to be not only cold but feeling it. The very dust that blow in his face was cold. Now cold is a powerful ally of the commonplace, and imagination therefore was not very busy in the bosom of Godfrey Wardour as he went to find Letty Helmer, which was just as well, in the circumstances. He was cool to the very heart when he walked up to the door indicated by Mary, and rung the bell: Mrs. Helmer was at home: would he walk up stairs?

It was not a house of ceremonies; he was shown up and up and into the room where she sat, without a word carried before to prepare her for his visit. It was so dark that he could see nothing but the figure of one at work by a table, on which stood a single candle. There was but a spark of fire in the dreary grate, and Letty was colder than any one could know, for she was at the moment making down the last woolly garment she had, in the vain hope of warming her baby.

She looked up. She had thought it was the landlady, and had waited for her to speak. She gazed for a moment in bewilderment, saw who it was, and jumped up half frightened, half ready to go wild with joy. All the memories of Godfrey rushed in a confused heap upon her, and overwhelmed her. She ran to him, and the same moment was in his arms, with her head on his shoulder, weeping tears of such gladness as she had not known since the first week of her marriage.

Neither spoke for some time; Letty could not because she was crying, and Godfrey would not because he did not want to cry. Those few moments were pure, simple happiness to both of them; to Letty, because she had loved him from childhood, and hoped that all was to be as of old between them; to Godfrey, because, for the moment, he had forgotten himself, and had neither thought of injury nor hope of love, remembering only the old days and the Letty that used to be. It may seem strange that, having never once embraced her all the time they lived together, he should do so now; but Letty's love would any time have responded to the least show of affection, and when, at the sight of his face, into which memory had called up all his tenderness, she rushed into his arms, how could he help kissing her? The pity was that he had not kissed her long before. Or was it a pity? I think not.

But the embrace could not be a long one. Godfrey was the first to relax its strain, and Letty responded with an instant collapse; for instantly she feared she had done it all, and disgusted Godfrey. But he led her gently to the sofa, and sat down beside her on the hard old slippery horsehair. Then first he perceived what a change had passed upon her. Pale was she, and thin, and sad, with such big eyes, and the bone tightening the skin upon her forehead! He felt as if she were a spectre-Letty, not the Letty he had loved. Glancing up, she caught his troubled gaze.

"I am not ill, Cousin Godfrey," she said. "Do not look at me so, or I shall cry again. You know you never liked to see me cry."

"My poor girl!" said Godfrey, in a voice which, if he had not kept it lower than natural, would have broken, "you are suffering."

"Oh, no, I'm not," replied Letty, with a pitiful effort at the cheerful; "I am only so glad to see you again, Cousin Godfrey."

She sat on the edge of the sofa, and had put her open hands, palm to palm, between her knees, in a childish way, looking like one chidden, who did not deserve it, but was ready to endure. For a moment Godfrey sat gazing at her, with troubled heart and troubled looks, then between his teeth muttered, "Damn the rascal!"

Letty sat straight up, and turned upon him eyes of appeal, scared, yet ready to defend. Her hands were now clinched, one on each side of her; she was poking the little fists into the squab of the sofa.

"Cousin Godfrey!" she cried, "if you mean Tom, you must not, you must not. I will go away if you speak a word against him. I will; I will.--I _must, you know!"

Godfrey made no reply--neither apologized nor sought to cover.

"Why, child!" he said at last, "you are half starved!"

The pity and tenderness of both word and tone were too much for her. She had not been at all pitying herself, but such an utterance from the man she loved like an elder brother so wrought upon her enfeebled condition that she broke into a cry. She strove to suppress her emotion; she fought with it; in her agony she would have rushed from the room, had not Godfrey caught her, drawn her down beside him, and kept her there. "You shall not leave me!" he said, in that voice Letty had always been used to obey. "Who has a right to know how things go with you, if I have not? Come, you must tell me all about it."

"I have nothing to tell, Cousin Godfrey," she replied with some calmness, for Godfrey's decision had enabled her to conquer herself, "except that baby is ill, and looks as if he would never get better, and it is like to break my heart. Oh, he is such a darling, Cousin Godfrey!"

"Let me see him," said Godfrey, in his heart detesting the child --the visible sign that another was nearer to Letty than he.

She jumped up, almost ran into the next room, and, coming back with her little one, laid him in Godfrey's arms. The moment he felt the weight of the little, sad-looking, sleeping thing, he grew human toward him, and saw in him Letty and not Tom.

"Good God! the child is starving, too," he exclaimed.

"Oh, no, Cousin Godfrey!" cried Letty; "he is not starving. He had a fresh-laid egg for breakfast this morning, and some arrowroot for dinner, and some bread and milk for tea--"

"London milk!" said Godfrey.

"Well, it is not like the milk in the dairy at Thornwick," admitted Letty. "If he had milk like that, he would soon be well!"

But Godfrey dared not say, "Bring him to Thornwick": he knew his mother too well for that!

"When were you anywhere in the country?" he asked. In a negative kind of way he was still nursing the baby.

"Not since we were married," she answered, sadly. "You see, poor Tom can't afford it."

Now Godfrey happened to have heard, "from the best authority," that Tom's mother was far from illiberal to him.

"Mrs. Helmer allows him so much a year--does she not?" he said.

"I know he gets money from her, but it can't be much," she answered.

Godfrey's suspicions against Tom increased every moment. He must learn the truth. He would have it, if by an even cruel experiment! He sat a moment silent--then said, with assumed cheerfulness:

"Well, Letty, I suppose, for the sake of old times, you will give me some dinner?"

Then, indeed, her courage gave way. She turned from him, laid her head on the end of the sofa, and sobbed so that the room seemed to shake with the convulsions of her grief. "Letty," said Godfrey, laying his hand on her head, "it is no use any more trying to hide the truth. I don't want any dinner; in fact, I dined long ago. But you would not be open with me, and I was forced to find out for myself: you have not enough to eat, and you know it. I will not say a word about who is to blame--for anything I know, it may be no one--I am sure it is not you. But this must not go on! See, I have brought you a little pocket- book. I will call again tomorrow, and you will tell me then how you like it."

He laid the pocket-book on the table. There was ten times as much in it as ever Letty had had at once. But she never knew what was in it. She rose with instant resolve. All the woman in her waked at once. She felt that a moment was come when she must be resolute, or lose her hold on life.

"Cousin Godfrey," she said, in a tone he scarcely recognized as hers--it frightened him as if it came from a sepulchre--"if you do not take that purse away, I will throw it in the fire without opening it! If my husband can not give me enough to eat, I can starve as well as another. If you loved Tom, it would be different, but you hate him, and I will have nothing from you. Take it away, Cousin Godfrey."

Mortified, hurt, miserable, Godfrey took the purse, and, without a word, walked from the room. Somewhere down in his secret heart was dawning an idea of Letty beyond anything he used to think of her, but in the mean time he was only blindly aware that his heart had been shot through and through. Nor was this the time for him to reflect that, under his training, Letty, even if he had married her, would never have grown to such dignity.

It was, indeed, only in that moment she had become capable of the action. She had been growing as none, not Mary, still less herself, knew, under the heavy snows of affliction, and this was her first blossom. Not many of my readers will mistake me, I trust. Had it been in Letty pride that refused help from such an old friend, that pride I should count no blossom, but one of the meanest rags that ever fluttered to scare the birds. But the dignity of her refusal was in this--that she would accept nothing in which her husband had and could have no human, that is, no spiritual share. She had married him because she loved him, and she would hold by him wherever that might lead her: not wittingly would she allow the finest edge, even of ancient kindness, to come between her Tom and herself! To accept from her cousin Godfrey the help her husband ought to provide her, would be to let him, however innocently, step into his place! There was no reasoning in her resolve: it was allied to that spiritual insight which, in simple natures, and in proportion to their simplicity, approaches or amounts to prophecy. As the presence of death will sometimes change even an ordinary man to a prophet, in times of sore need the childlike nature may well receive a vision sufficing to direct the doubtful step. Letty felt that the taking of that money would be the opening of a gulf to divide her and Tom for ever.

The moment Godfrey was out of the room she cast herself on the floor, and sobbed as if her heart must break. But her sobs were tearless. And, oh, agony of agonies! unsought came the conviction, and she could not send it away--to this had sunk her lofty idea of her Tom!--that he would have had her take the money! More than once or twice, in the ill-humors that followed a forced hilarity, he had forgotten his claims to being a gentleman so far as--not exactly to reproach her with having brought him to poverty--but to remind her that, if she was poor, she was no poorer than she had been when dependent on the charity of a distant relation!

The baby began to cry. She rose and took him from the sofa where Godfrey had laid him when he was getting out the pocket-book, held him fast to her bosom, as if by laying their two aching lives together they might both be healed, and, rocking him to and fro, said to herself, for the first time, that her trouble was greater than she could bear. "O baby! baby! baby!" she cried, and her tears streamed on the little wan face. But, as she sat with him in her arms, the blessed sleep came, and the storm sank to a calm.

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