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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMary Marston: A Novel - Chapter 48. Dissolution
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Mary Marston: A Novel - Chapter 48. Dissolution Post by :sbtrue100 Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :3012

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Mary Marston: A Novel - Chapter 48. Dissolution


It was now Mary's turn to feel that she was, for the first time in her life, about to be cut adrift--adrift, that is, as a world is adrift, on the surest of paths, though without eyes to see. For ten days or so, she could form no idea of what she was likely or would like to do next. But, when we are in such perplexity, may not the fact be accepted as showing that decision is not required of us--perhaps just because our way is at the moment being made straight for us?

Joseph called once or twice, but, for Letty's sake, they had no music. As they met so seldom now, Mary, anxious to serve him as she could, offered him the loan of some of her favorite books. He accepted it with a gladness that surprised her, for she did not know how much he had of late been reading.

One day she received an unexpected visit--from Mr. Brett, her lawyer. He had been searching into the affairs of the shop, and had discovered enough to make him uneasy, and indeed fill him with self-reproach that he had not done so with more thoroughness immediately on her father's death. He had come to tell her all he knew, and talk the matter over with her, that they might agree what proceedings should be taken.

I will not weary myself or my readers with business detail, for which kind of thing I have no great aptitude, and a good deal of incapacitating ignorance; but content myself with the briefest statement of the condition in which Mr. Brett found the affairs of Mr. Turnbull.

He had been speculating in several companies, making haste to be rich, and had periled and lost what he had saved of the profits of the business, and all of Mary's as well that had not been elsewhere secured. He had even trenched on the original capital of the firm, by postponing the payment of moneys due, and allowing the stock to run down and to deteriorate, and things out of fashion to accumulate, so that the business had perceptibly fallen off. But what displeased Mary more than anything was, that he had used money of her father's to speculate with in more than one public-house; and she knew that, if in her father's lifetime he had so used even his own, it would have been enough to make him insist on dissolving partnership.

It was impossible to allow her money to remain any longer in the power of such a man, and she gave authority to Mr. Brett to make the necessary arrangements for putting an end to business relations between them.

It was a somewhat complicated, therefore tedious business; and things looked worse the further they were searched into. Unable to varnish the facts to the experience of a professional eye, Mr. Turnbull wrote Mary a letter almost cringing in its tone, begging her to remember the years her father and he had been as brothers; how she had grown up in the shop, and had been to him, until misunderstandings arose, into the causes of which he could not now enter, in the place of a daughter; and insisting that her withdrawal from it had had no small share in the ruin of the business. For these considerations, and, more than all, for the memory of her father, he entreated her to leave things as they were, to trust him to see after the interests of the daughter of his old friend, and not insist upon measures which must end in a forced sale, in the shutting up of the shop of Turnbull and Marston, and the disgracing of her father's name along with his.

Mary replied that she was acting by the advice of her father's lawyer, and with the regard she owed her father's memory, in severing all connection with a man in whom she no longer had confidence; and insisted that the business must be wound up as soon as possible.

She instructed Mr. Brett, at the same time, that, if it could be managed, she would prefer getting the shop, even at considerable loss, into her own hands, with what stock might be in it, when she would attempt to conduct the business on principles her father would have approved, whereby she did not doubt of soon restoring it to repute. While she had no intention, she said, of selling so _well as Mr. Turnbull would fain have done, she believed she would soon be able to buy to just as good advantage as he. It would be necessary, however, to keep her desire a secret, else Mr. Turnbull would be certain to frustrate it.

Mr. Brett approved of her plan, for he knew she was much respected, and had many friends. Mr. Turnbull would be glad, he said, to give up the whole to escape prosecution--that at least was how Mary interpreted his somewhat technical statement of affairs between them.

The swindler wrote again, begging for an interview--which she declined, except in the presence of her lawyer.

She made up her mind that she would not go near Testbridge till everything was settled, and the keys of the shop in Mr. Brett's hands; and remained, therefore, where she was--with Letty, who to keep her company delayed her departure as long as she could without giving offense at Thornwick.

A few days before Letty was at last compelled to leave, Jasper called, and heard about as much as they knew themselves of their plans. When Mary said to him she would miss her pupil, he smiled in a sort of abstracted way, as if not quite apprehending what she said, which seemed to Mary a little odd, his manners in essentials being those of a gentleman, as judged by one a little more than a lady; for there is an unnamed degree higher than the ordinary _lady_. So Mary was left alone--more alone than she had ever been in her life. But she did not feel lonely, for the best of reasons--that she never fancied herself alone, but knew that she was not. Also she had books at her command, being one of the few who can read; and there were picture-galleries to go to, and music-lessons to be had. Of these last she crowded in as many as her master could be persuaded to give her--for it would be long, she knew, before she was able to have such again.

Joseph Jasper never came near her. She could not imagine why, and was disappointed and puzzled. To know that Ann Byrom was in the house was not a great comfort to her--she regarded so much that Mary loved as of earth and not of heaven. God's world even she despised, because men called it nature, and spoke of its influences. But Mary did go up to see her now and then. Very different she seemed from the time when first they were at work together over Hesper's twilight dress! Ever since Mary had made the acquaintance of her brother, she seemed to have changed toward her. Perhaps she was jealous; perhaps she believed Mary was confirming him in his bad ways. Just where they were all three of one mind--just _there her rudimentary therefore self-sufficient religion shut them out from her sympathy and fellowship.

Alone, and with her time at her command, Mary was more inclined than she had ever been, except for her father's company, to go to church. The second Sunday after Letty left her, she went to the one nearest, and in the congregation thought she saw Joseph. A week before, she would have waited for him as he came out, but, now that he seemed to avoid her, she would not, and went home neither comforted by the sermon nor comfortable with herself. For the parson, instead of recognizing, through all defects of the actual, the pattern after which God had made man, would fain have him remade after the pattern of the middle-age monk--a being far superior, no doubt, to the most of his contemporaries, but as far from the beauty of the perfect man as the mule is from that of the horse; and she was annoyed with herself that she was annoyed with Joseph. It was the middle of summer before the affairs of the firm were wound up, and the shop in the hands of the London man whom Mr. Brett had employed in the purchase.

Lawyer as he was, however, Mr. Brett had not been sharp enough for Turnbull. The very next day, a shop in the same street, that had been to let for some time, displayed above its now open door the sign, _John Turnbull, late_--then a very small of-- _Turnbull and Marston; whereupon Mr. Brett saw the oversight of which he had been guilty. There was nothing in the shop when it was opened, but that Turnbull utilized for advertisement: he had so arranged, that within an hour the goods began to arrive, and kept arriving, by every train, for days and days after, while all the time he made public show of himself, fussing about, the most triumphant man in the town. It made people talk, and if not always as he would have liked to hear them talk, yet it was talk, and, in the matter of advertisement, that is the main thing.

When it was told Mary, it gave her not the smallest uneasiness. She only saw what had several times seemed on the point of arriving in her father's lifetime. She would not have moved a finger to prevent it. Let the two principles meet, with what result God pleased!

Whether he had suspected her design, and had determined to challenge her before the public, I can not tell; but his wife's aversion to shopkeeping was so great, that one who knew what sort of scene passed because of it between them, would have expected that, but for some very strong reason, he would have been glad enough to retire from that mode of gaining a livelihood. As it was, things appeared to go on with them just as before. They still inhabited the villa, the wife scornful of her surroundings, and the husband driving a good horse to his shop every morning. How he managed it all, nobody knew but himself, and whether he succeeded or not was a matter of small interest to any except his own family and his creditors. He was a man nowise beloved, although there was something about him that carried simple people with him--for his ends, not theirs. To those who alluded to the change, he represented it as entirely his own doing, to be rid of the interference of Miss Marston in matters of which she knew nothing. He knew well that a confident lie has all the look of truth, and, while fact and falsehood were disputing together in men's mouths, he would be selling his drapery. The country people were flattered by the confidence he seemed to put in them by this explanation, and those who liked him before sought the new shop as they had frequented the old one.

Unlike most men, not to say lawyers, Mr. Brett was fully recognizant to Mary of his oversight, and was not a little relieved to be assured she would not have had the thing otherwise: she would gladly meet Mr. Turnbull in a fair field-- not that she would in the least acknowledge or think of him as a rival; she would simply carry out her own ideas of right, without regard to him or any measures he might take; the result should be as God willed. Mr. Brett shook his head: he knew her father of old, and saw the daughter prepared to go beyond the father. Theirs were principles that did not come within the range of his practice! He said to himself and his wife that the world could not go on for a twelvemonth if such ways were to become universal: whether by the world he meant his own profession, I will not inquire. Certainly he did not make the reflection that the new ways are intended to throw out the old ways; and the worst argument against any way is that the world can not go on so; for that is just what is wanted--that the world should not go on so. Mr. Brett nevertheless admired not only Mary's pluck, but the business faculty which every moment she manifested: there is a holy way of doing business, and, little as business men may think it, that is the standard by which they must be tried; for their judge in business affairs is not their own trade or profession, but the man who came to convince the world concerning right and wrong and the choice between them; or, in the older speech-to reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.

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