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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMary Marston: A Novel - Chapter 45. The Sapphire
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Mary Marston: A Novel - Chapter 45. The Sapphire Post by :sbtrue100 Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :1321

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Mary Marston: A Novel - Chapter 45. The Sapphire

CHAPTER XLV. THE SAPPHIRE

One morning, as Mary sat at her piano, Mewks was shown into the room. He brought the request from his master that she would go to him; he wanted particularly to see her. She did not much like it, neither did she hesitate.

She was shown into the room Mr. Redmain called his study, which communicated by a dressing-room with his bedroom. He was seated, evidently waiting for her.

"Ah, Miss Marston!" he said; "I have a piece of good news for you--so good that I thought I should like to give it you myself."

"You are very kind, sir," Mary answered.

"There!" he went on, holding out what she saw at once was the lost ring.

"I am so glad!" she said, and took it in her hand. "Where was it found?"

"There's the point!" he returned. "That is just why I sent for you! Can you suggest any explanation of the fact that it was found, after all, in a corner of my wife's jewel-box? Who searched the box last?"

"I do not know, sir."

"Did you search it?"

"No, sir. I offered to help Mrs. Redmain to look for the ring, but she said it was no use. Who found it, sir?"

"I will tell you who found it, if you will tell me who put it there."

"I don't know what you mean, sir. It must have been there all the time."

"That's the point again! Mrs. Redmain swears it was not, and could not have been, there when she looked for it. It is not like a small thing, you see. There is something mysterious about it."

He looked hard at Mary.

Now, Mary had very much admired the ring, as any one must who had an eye for stones; and had often looked at it--into the heart of it--almost loving it; and while they were talking now, she kept gazing at it. When Mr. Redmain ended, she stood silent. In her silence, her attention concentrated itself upon the sapphire. She stood long, looking closely at it, moving it about a little, and changing the direction of the light; and, while her gaze was on the ring, Mr. Redmain's gaze was on her, watching her with equal attention. At last, with a sigh, as if she waked from a reverie, she laid the ring on the table. But Mr. Redmain still stared in her face.

"Now what is it you've got in your head?" he said at last. "I have been watching you think for three minutes and a half, I do believe. Come, out with it!"

"Hardly _think_, sir," answered Mary. "I was only plaguing myself between my recollection of the stone and the actual look of it. It is so annoying to find what seemed a clear recollection prove a deceitful one! It may appear a presumptuous thing to say, but my recollection seems of a finer color."

While she spoke, she had again taken the ring, and was looking at it. Mr. Redmain snatched it from her hand.

"The devil!" he cried. "You haven't the face to hint that the stone has been changed?"

Mary laughed.

"Such a thing never came into my head, sir; but now that you have put it there, I could almost believe it."

"Go along with you!" he cried, casting at her a strange look which she could not understand, and the same moment pulling the bell hard.

That done, he began to examine the ring intently, as Mary had been doing, and did not speak a word. Mewks came.

"Show Miss Marston out," said his master; "and tell my coachman to bring the hansom round directly."

"For Miss Marston?" inquired Mewks, who had learned not a little cunning in the service.

"No!" roared Mr. Redmain; and Mewks darted from the room, followed more leisurely by Mary.

"I don't know what's come to master!" ventured Mewks, as he led the way down the stair.

But Mary took no notice, and left the house.

For about a week she heard nothing.

In the meantime Mr. Redmain had been prosecuting certain inquiries he had some time ago begun, and another quite new one besides. He was acquainted with many people of many different sorts, and had been to jewelers and pawnbrokers, gamblers and lodging-house keepers, and had learned some things to his purpose.

Once more Mary received from him a summons, and once more, considerably against her liking, obeyed. She was less disinclined to go this time, however, for she felt not a little curious about the ring.

"I want you to come back to the house," he said, abruptly, the moment she entered his room.

For such a request Mary was not prepared. Even since the ring was found, so long a time had passed that she never expected to hear from the house again. But Tom was now so much better, and Letty so much like her former self, that, if Mrs. Redmain had asked her, she might perhaps have consented.

"Mr. Redmain," she answered, "you must see that I can not do so at your desire."

"Oh, rubbish! humbug!" he returned, with annoyance. "Don't fancy I am asking you to go fiddle-faddling about my wife again: I don't see how you _can do that, after the way she has used you! But I have reasons for wanting to have you within call. Go to Mrs. Perkin. I won't take a refusal."

"I can not do it, Mr. Redmain," said Mary; "the thing is impossible." And she turned to leave the room.

"Stop, stop!" cried Mr. Redmain, and jumped from his chair to prevent her.

He would not have succeeded had not Mewks met her in the doorway full in the face. She had to draw back to avoid him, and the man, perceiving at once how things were, closed the door the moment he entered, and stood with his back against it.

"He's in the drawing-room, sir," said Mewks.

A scarcely perceptible sign of question was made by the master, and answered in kind by the man.

"Show him here directly," said Mr. Redmain. Then turning to Mary, "Go out that way, Miss Marston, if you will go," he said, and pointed to the dressing-room.

Mary, without a suspicion, obeyed; but, just as she discovered that the door into the bedroom beyond was locked, she heard the door behind her locked also. She turned, and knocked.

"Stay where you are," said Mr. Redmain, in a low but imperative voice. "I can not let you out till this gentleman is gone. You must hear what passes: I want you for a witness."

Bewildered and annoyed, Mary stood motionless in the middle of the room, and presently heard a man, whose voice seemed not quite strange to her, greet Mr. Redmain like an old friend. The latter made a slight apology for having sent for him to his study-- claiming the privilege, he said, of an invalid, who could not for a time have the pleasure of meeting him either at the club or at his wife's parties. The visitor answered agreeably, with a touch of merriment that seemed to indicate a soul at ease with itself and with the world.

But here Mary all at once came to herself, and was aware that she was in quite a false position. She withdrew therefore to the farthest corner, sat down, closed her ears with the palms of her hands, and waited.

She had sat thus for a long time, not weary, but occupied with such thoughts as could hardly for a century or two cross the horizon line of such a soul as Mr. Redmain's, even if he were at once to repent, when she heard a loud voice calling her name from a distance. She raised her head, and saw the white, skin-drawn face of Mr. Redmain grinning at her from the open door. When he spoke again, his words sounded like thunder, for she had removed her hands from her ears.

"I fancy you've had a dose of it!" he said.

As he spoke, she rose to her feet, her countenance illumined both with righteous anger and the tender shine of prayer. Her look went to what he had of a heart, and the slightest possible color rose to his face.

"Gone a step too far, damn it!" he murmured to himself. "There's no knowing one woman by another!"

"I see!" he said; "it's been a trifle too much for you, and I don't wonder! You needn't believe a word I said about myself. It was all hum to make the villain show his game."

"I have not heard a word, Mr. Redmain," she said with indignation.

"Oh, you needn't trouble yourself!" he returned. "I meant you to hear it all. What did I put you there for, but to get your oath to what I drew from the fellow? A fine thing if your pretended squeamishness ruin my plot! What do you think of yourself, hey?-- But I don't believe it."

He looked at her keenly, expecting a response, but Mary made him none. For some moments he regarded her curiously, then turned away into the study, saying:

"Come along. By Jove! I'm ashamed to say it, but I half begin to believe in you. I did think I was past being taken in, but it seems possible for once again. Of course, you will return to Mrs. Redmain now that all is cleared up."

"It is impossible," Mary answered. "I can not live in a house where the lady mistrusts and the gentleman insults me."

She left the room, and Mr. Redmain did not try to prevent her. As she left the house she burst into tears; and the fact Mewks carried to his master.

The man was the more careful to report everything about Mary, that there was one in the house of whom he never reported anything, but to whom, on the contrary, he told everything he thought she would care to know. Till Sepia came, he had been conventionally faithful--faithful with the faith of a lackey, that is--but she had found no difficulty in making of him, in respect of her, a spy upon his master.

I will now relate what passed while Mary sat deaf in the corner.

Mr. Redmain asked his visitor what he would have, as if, although it was quite early, he must, as a matter of course, stand in need of refreshment. He made choice of brandy and soda-water, and the bell was rung. A good deal of conversation followed about a disputed point in a late game of cards at one of the clubs.

The talk then veered in another direction--that of personal adventure, so guided by Mr. Redmain. He told extravagant stories about himself and his doings, in particular various _ruses by which he had contrived to lay his hands on money. And whatever he told, his guest capped, narrating trick upon trick to which on different occasions he had had recourse. At all of them Mr. Redmain laughed heartily, and applauded their cleverness extravagantly, though some of them were downright swindling.

At last Mr. Redmain told how he had once got money out of a lady. I do not believe there was a word of truth in it. But it was capped by the other with a narrative that seemed specially pleasing to the listener. In the midst of a burst of laughter, he rose and rang the bell. Count Galofta thought it was to order something more in the way of "refreshment," and was not a little surprised when he heard his host desire the man to request the favor of Miss Yolland's presence. But the Count had not studied non-expression in vain, and had brought it to a degree of perfection not easily disturbed. Casting a glance at him as he gave the message, Mr. Redmain could read nothing; but this was in itself suspicious to him--and justly, for the man ought to have been surprised at such a close to the conversation they had been having.

Sepia had been told that Galofta was in the study, and therefore received the summons thither--a thing that had never happened before--with the greater alarm. She made, consequently, what preparation she could against surprise. Thoroughly capable of managing her features, her anxiety was sufficient nevertheless to deprive her of power over her complexion, and she entered the room with the pallor peculiar to the dark-skinned. Having greeted the Count with the greatest composure, she turned to Mr. Redmain with question in her eyes.

"Count Galofta," said Mr. Redmain in reply, "has just been telling me a curious story of how a certain rascal got possession of a valuable jewel from a lady with whom he pretended to be in love, and I thought the opportunity a good one for showing you a strange discovery I have made with regard to the sapphire Mrs. Redmain missed for so long. Very odd tricks are played with gems --such gems, that is, as are of value enough to make it worth a rogue's while."

So saying, he took the ring from one drawer, and from another a bottle, from which he poured something into a crystal cup. Then he took a file, and, looking at Galofta, in whose well-drilled features he believed he read something that was not mere curiosity, said, "I am going to show you something very curious," and began to file asunder that part of the ring which immediately clasped the sapphire, the setting of which was open.

"What a pity!" cried Sepia; "you are destroying the ring! What will Cousin Hesper say?"

Mr. Redmain filed away, heedless; then with the help of a pair of pincers freed the stone, and held it up in his hand.

"You see this?" he said.

"A splendid sapphire!" answered Count Galofta, taking it in his fingers, but, as Mr. Redmain saw, not looking at it closely.

"I have always heard it called a splendid stone," said Sepia, whose complexion, though not her features, passed through several changes while all this was going on: she was anxious.

Nor did her inquisitor fail to surprise the uneasy glances she threw, furtively though involuntarily, in the face of the Count-- who never once looked in hers: tolerably sure of himself, he was not sure of her.

"That ring, when I bought it--the stone of it," said Mr. Redmain, "was a star sapphire, and worth seven hundred pounds; now, the whole affair is worth about ten."

As he spoke, he threw the stone into the cup, let it lie a few moments, and took it out again; when, almost with a touch, he divided it in two, the one a mere scale.

"There!" he said, holding out the thin part on the tip of a finger, "that is a slice of sapphire; and there!" holding out the rest of the seeming stone, "that is glass."

"What a shame!" cried Sepia.

"Of course," said the Count, "you will prosecute the jeweler."

"I will not prosecute the jeweler," answered Mr. Redmain; "but I have taken some trouble to find out who changed the stones."

With that he threw both the bits of blue into a drawer, and the contents of the cup into the fire. A great flame flew up the chimney, and, as if struck at the sight of it, he stood gazing for a moment after it had vanished.

When he turned, the Count was gone, as he had expected, and Sepia stood with eyes full of anger and fear. Her face was set and colorless, and strange to look upon.

"Very odd--ain't it?" said Mr. Redmain, and, opening the door of his dressing-room, called out:

"Miss Marston!"

When he turned, Sepia too was gone.

I would not have my reader take Sepia for an accomplice in the robbery. Even Mr. Redmain did not believe that: she was much too prudent! His idea was, that she had been wearing the ring--Hesper did not mind what she wore of hers--and that (I need not give his conjecture in detail), with or without her knowledge, the fellow had got hold of it and carried it away, then brought it back, treating the thing as a joke, when she was only too glad to restore it to the jewel-case, hoping the loss of it would then pass for an oversight on the part of Hesper. If he was right in this theory of the affair, then the Count had certainly a hold upon her, and she dared not or would not expose him! He had before discovered that, about the time when the ring disappeared, the Count had had losses, and was supposed unable to meet them, but had suddenly showed himself again "flush of money," and from that time had had an extraordinary run of luck.

When he went out of the door of Mr. Redmain's study, he vanished from the house and from London. Turning the first corner he came to, and the next and the next, he stepped into a mews, the court of which seemed empty, and slipped behind the gate. He wore a new hat, and was clean shaved except his upper lip. Presently a man came out of the mews in a Scotch cap and a full beard.

What had become of him Mr. Redmain did not care. He had no desire to punish him. It was enough he had found him out, proved his suspicion correct, and obtained evidence against Sepia. He did not at once make up his mind how he would act on this last; while he lived, it did not matter so much; and he had besides a certain pleasure in watching his victim. But Hesper, free, rich, and beautiful, and far from wise, with Sepia for counselor, was not an idea to be contemplated with equanimity. Still he shrank from the outcry and scandal of sending her away; for certainly his wife, if it were but to oppose him, would refuse to believe a word against her cousin.

For the present, therefore, the thing seemed to blow over. Mr. Redmain, who had pleasure in behaving handsomely so far as money was concerned, bought his wife the best sapphire he could find, and, for once, really pleased her.

But Sepia knew that Mr. Redmain had now to himself justified his dislike of her; and, as he said nothing, she was the more certain he meant something. She lived, therefore, in constant dread of his sudden vengeance, against which she could take no precaution, for she had not even a conjecture as to what form it might assume. From that hour she was never at peace in his presence, and hardly out of it; from every possible _tete-a-tete with him she fled as from a judgment.

Nor was it a small addition to her misery that she imagined Mary cognizant of Mr. Redmain's opinion and intention with regard to her, and holding the worst possible opinion of her. For, whatever had passed first between the Count and Mr. Redmain, she did not doubt Mary had heard, and was prepared to bring against her when the determined moment should arrive. How much the Count might or might not have said, she could not tell; but, seeing their common enemy had permitted him to escape, she more than dreaded he had sold her secret for his own impunity, and had laid upon her a burden of lies as well.

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