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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMary Marston: A Novel - Chapter 54. The Next Night
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Mary Marston: A Novel - Chapter 54. The Next Night Post by :sbtrue100 Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :1914

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Mary Marston: A Novel - Chapter 54. The Next Night

CHAPTER LIV. THE NEXT NIGHT

Mr. Bratt found no difficulty in the way of the interview, for Mr. Redmain had given Mewks instructions he dared not disobey: his master had often ailed, and recovered again, and he must not venture too far! As soon as he had shown the visitor into the room he was dismissed, but not before he had satisfied himself that he was a lawyer. He carried the news at once to Sepia, and it wrought no little anxiety in the house. There was a will already in existence, and no ground for thinking a change in it boded anything good. Mr. Mortimer never deigned to share his thoughts, anxieties, or hopes with any of his people; but the ladies met in deep consultation, although of course there was nothing to be done. The only operative result was that it let Sepia know how, though for reasons somewhat different, her anxiety was shared by the others: unlike theirs, her sole desire was--_not to be mentioned in the will: that could only be for the sake of leaving her a substantial curse! Mr. Redmain's utter silence, after, as she well knew, having gathered damning facts to her discredit, had long convinced her he was but biding his time. Certain she was he would not depart this life without leaving his opinion of her and the proofs of its justice behind him, carrying weight as the affidavit of a dying man. Also she knew Hesper well enough to be certain that, however she might delight in oppostion to the desire of her husband, she would for the sake of no one carry that opposition to a point where it became injurious to her interests. Sepia's one thought therefore was: could not something be done to prevent the making of another will, or the leaving of any fresh document behind him? What he might already have done, she could nowise help; what he might yet do, it would be well to prevent. Once more, therefore, she impressed upon Mewks, and that in the names of Mrs. Redmain and Lady Margaret, as well as in her own person, the absolute necessity of learning as much as possible of what might pass between his master and the lawyer.

Mewks was driven to the end of his wits, and they were not a few, to find excuses for going into the room, and for delaying to go out again, while with all his ears he listened. But both client and lawyer were almost too careful for him; and he had learned positively nothing when the latter rose to depart. He instantly left the room, with the door a trifle ajar, and listening intently, heard his master say that Mr. Brett must come again the next morning; that he felt better, and would think over the suggestions he had made; and that he must leave the memoranda within his reach, on the table by his bedside. Ere the lawyer issued, Mewks was on his way with all this to his tempter.

Sepia concluded there had been some difference of opinion between Mr. Redmain and his adviser, and hoped that nothing had been finally settled. Was there any way to prevent the lawyer from seeing him again? Could she by any means get a peep at the memoranda mentioned? She dared not suggest the thing to Hesper or Lady Malice--of all people they were those in relation to whom she feared their possible contents--and she dared not show herself in Mr. Redmain's room. Was Mewks to be trusted to the point of such danger as grew in her thought?

The day wore on. Toward evening he had a dreadful attack. Any other man would have sent before now for what medical assistance the town could afford him, but Mr. Redmain hated having a stranger about him, and, as he knew how to treat himself, it was only when very ill that he would send for his own doctor to the country, fearing that otherwise he might give him up as a patient, such visits, however well remunerated, being seriously inconvenient to a man with a large London practice. But now Lady Margaret took upon herself to send a telegram.

An hour before her usual time for closing the shop, Mary set out for Durnmelling; and, at the appointed spot on the way, found her squire of low degree in waiting. At first sight, however, and although she was looking out for him, she did not certainly recognize him. I would not have my reader imagine Joseph one of those fools who delight in appearing something else than they are; but while every workman ought to look a workman, it ought not to be by looking less of a man, or of a _gentleman in the true sense; and Joseph, having, out of respect to her who would honor him with her company, dressed himself in a new suit of unpretending gray, with a wide-awake hat, looked at first sight more like a country gentleman having a stroll over his farm, than a man whose hands were hard with the labors of the forge. He took off his hat as she approached--if not with ease, yet with the clumsy grace peculiar to him; for, unlike many whose manners are unobjectionable, he had in his something that might be called his own. But the best of it was, that he knew nothing about his manners, beyond the desire to give honor where honor was due.

He walked with her to the door of the house; for they had agreed that, from whatever quarter had come the pursuit, and whatever might have been its object, it would be well to show that she was attended. They had also arranged at what hour, and at what spot close at hand, he was to be waiting to accompany her home. But, although he said nothing about it, Joseph was determined not to leave the place until she rejoined him.

It was nearly dark when he left her; and when he had wandered up and down the avenue awhile, it seemed dark enough to return to the house, and reconnoiter a little.

He had already made the acquaintance of the farmer who occupied a portion of the great square, behind the part where the family lived: he had had several of his horses to shoe, and had not only given satisfaction by the way in which he shod them, but had interested their owner with descriptions of more than one rare mode of shoeing to which he had given attention; he was, therefore, the less shy of being discovered about the place.

From the back he found his way into the roofless hall, and there paced quietly up and down, measuring the floor, and guessing at the height and thickness of the walls, and the sort of roof they had borne. He noted that the wall of the house rose higher than those of the ruin with which it was in contact; and that there was a window in it just over one of those walls. Thinking whether it had been there when the roof was on, he saw through it the flickering of a fire, and wondered whether it could be the window of Mr. Redmain's room.

Mary, having resolved not to give any notice of her arrival, if she could get in without it, and finding the hall-door on the latch, entered quietly, and walked straight to Mr. Redmain's bedroom. When she opened the door of it, Mewks came hurriedly to meet her, as if he would have made her go out again, but she scarcely looked at him, and advanced to the bed. Mr. Redmain was just waking from the sleep into which he had fallen after a severe paroxysm.

"Ah, there you are!" he said, smiling her a feeble welcome. "I am glad you are come. I have been looking out for you. I am very ill. If it comes again to-night, I think it will make an end of me."

She sat down by the bedside. He lay quite still for some time, breathing like one very weary. Then he seemed to grow easier, and said, with much gentleness:

"Can't you talk to me?"

"Would you like me to read to you?" she asked.

"No," he answered; "I can't bear the light; it makes my head furious."

"Shall I talk to you about my father?" she asked.

"I don't believe in fathers," he replied. "They're always after some notion of their own. It's not their children they care about."

"That may be true of some fathers," answered Mary; "but it is not the least true of mine."

"Where is he? Why don't you bring him to see me, if he is such a good man? He might be able to do something for me."

"There is none but your own father can do anything for you," said Mary. "My father is gone home to him, but if he were here, he would only tell you about _him_."

There was a moment's silence.

"Why don't you talk?" said Mr. Redmain, crossly. "What's the good of sitting there saying nothing! How am I to forget that the pain will be here again, if you don't say a word to help me?"

Mary lifted up her heart, and prayed for something to say to the sad human soul that had never known the Father. But she could think of nothing to talk about except the death of William Marston. So she began with the dropping of her watch, and, telling whatever seemed at the moment fit to tell, ended with the dream she had the night of his funeral. By that time the hidden fountain was flowing in her soul, and she was able to speak straight out of it.

"I can not tell you, sir," she said, closing the story of her dream, "what a feeling it was! The joy of it was beyond all expression."

"You're not surely going to offer me a dream in proof of anything!" muttered the sick man.

"Yes," answered Mary--"in proof of what it can prove. The joy of a child over a new toy, or a colored sweetmeat, shows of what bliss the human soul is made capable."

"Oh, capable, I dare say!"

"And more than that," Mary went on, adding instead of replying, "no one ever felt such gladness without believing in it. There must be somewhere the justification of such gladness. There must be the father of it somewhere."

"Well! I don't like to say, after your kindness in coming here to take care of me, that you talk the worst rubbish I ever heard; but just tell me of what use is it all to me, in the state I am in! What I want is to be free of pain, and have some pleasure in life--not to be told about a father."

"But what if the father you don't want is determined you shall not have what you do want? What if your desire is not worth keeping you alive for? And what if he is ready to help your smallest effort to be the thing he wants you to be--and in the end to give you your heart's desire?"

"It sounds very fine, but it's all so thin, so up in the clouds! It don't seem to have a leg to stand upon. Why, if that were true, everybody would be good! There would be none but saints in the world! What's in it, I'm sure I don't know."

"It will take ages to know what is in it; but, if you should die now, you will be glad to find, on the other side, that you have made a beginning. For my part, if I had everything my soul could desire, except God with me, I could but pray that he would come to me, or not let me live a moment longer; for it would be but the life of a devil."

"What do you mean by a devil?"

"A power that lives against its life," said Mary.

Mr. Redmain answered nothing. He did not perceive an atom of sense in the words. They gave him not a glimmer. Neither will they to many of my readers; while not a few will think they see all that is in them, and see nothing.

He was silent for a long time--whether he waked or slept she could not tell.

The annoyance was great in the home conclave when Mewks brought the next piece of news--namely, that there was that designing Marston in the master's room again, and however she got into the house he was sure _he didn't know.

"All the same thing over again, miss!--hard at it a-tryin' to convert 'im!--And where's the use, you know, miss? If a man like my master's to be converted and get off, I don't for my part see where's the good o' keepin' up a devil."

"I am quite of your opinion, Mewks," said Sepia.

But in her heart she was ill at ease.

All day long she had been haunted with an ever-recurring temptation, which, instead of dismissing it, she kept like a dog in a string. Different kinds of evil affect people differently. Ten thousand will do a dishonest thing, who would indignantly reject the dishonest thing favored by another ten thousand. They are not sufficiently used to its ugly face not to dislike it, though it may not be quite so ugly as their _protege_. A man will feel grandly honest against the dishonesties of another trade than his, and be eager to justify those of his own. Here was Sepia, who did not care the dust of a butterfly's wing for causing any amount of family misery, who would without a pang have sacrificed the genuine reputation of an innocent man to save her own false one--shuddering at an idea as yet bodiless in her brain--an idea which, however, she did not dismiss, and so grew able to endure!

I have kept this woman--so far as personal acquaintance with her is concerned--in the background of my history. For one thing, I am not fond of _post-mortem examinations; in other words, I do not like searching the decompositions of moral carrion. Analysis of such is, like the use of reagents on dirt, at least unpleasant. Nor was any true end to be furthered by a more vivid presentation of her. Nosology is a science doomed, thank God, to perish! Health alone will at last fill the earth. Or, if there should be always the ailing to help, a man will help them by being sound himself, not by knowing the ins and outs of disease. Diagnosis is not therapy.

Sepia was unnatural--as every one is unnatural who does not set his face in the direction of the true Nature; but she had gone further in the opposite direction than many people have yet reached. At the same time, whoever has not faced about is on the way to a capacity for worse things than even our enemies would believe of us.

Her very existence seemed to her now at stake. If by his dying act Mr. Redmain should drive her from under Hesper's roof, what was to become of her! Durnmelling, too, would then be as certainly closed against her, and she would be compelled to take a situation, and teach music, which she hated, and French and German, which gave her no pleasure apart from certain strata of their literature, to insolent girls whom she would be constantly wishing to strangle, or stupid little boys who would bore her to death. Her very soul sickened at the thought--as well it might; for to have to do such service with such a heart as hers, must indeed be torment. All hope of marrying Godfrey Wardour would be gone, of course. Did he but remain uncertain as to the truth or falsehood of a third part of what Mr. Redmain would record against her, he would never meet her again!

Since the commencement of this last attack of Mr. Redmain's malady, she had scarcely slept; and now what Mewks reported rendered her nigh crazy. For some time she had been generally awake half the night, and all the last night she had been wandering here and there about the house, not unfrequently couched where she could hear every motion in Mr. Redmain's room. Haunted by fear, she in turn haunted her fear. She could not keep from staring down the throat of the pit. She was a slave of the morrow, the undefined, awful morrow, ever about to bring forth no one knows what. That morrow could she but forestall!

If any should think that anxiety and watching must have so wrought on Sepia that she came to be no longer accountable for her actions, I will not oppose the kind conclusion. For my own part, until I shall have seen a man absolutely one with the source of his being, I do not believe I shall ever have seen a man absolutely sane. What many would point to as plainest proofs of sanity, I should regard as surest signs of the contrary.

A sign of my own insanity is it?

Your insanity may be worse than mine, for you are aware of none, and I with mine do battle. I believe all insanity has moral as well as physical roots. But enough of this. There are questions we can afford to leave.

Sepia had got very thin during these trying days. Her great eyes were larger yet, and filled with a troubled anxiety. Not paleness, for of that her complexion was incapable, but a dull pallor possessed her cheek. If one had met her as she roamed the house that night, he might well have taken her for some naughty ancestor, whose troubled conscience, not yet able to shake off the madness of some evil deed, made her wander still about the place where she had committed it.

She believed in no supreme power who cares that right should be done in his worlds. Here, it may be, some of my unbelieving acquaintances, foreseeing a lurid something on the horizon of my story, will be indignant that the capacity for crime should be thus associated with the denial of a Live Good. But it remains a mere fact that it is easier for a man to commit a crime when he does not fear a willed retribution. Tell me there is no merit in being prevented by fear; I answer, the talk is not of merit. As the world is, that is, as the race of men at present is, it is just as well that the man who has no merit, and never dreamed of any, should yet be a little hindered from cutting his neighbor's throat at his evil pleasure.--No; I do not mean hindered by a lie--I mean hindered by the poorest apprehension of the grandest truth.

Of those who do not believe, some have never had a noble picture of God presented to them; but whether their phantasm is of a mean God because they refuse him, or they refuse him because their phantasm of him is mean, who can tell? Anyhow, mean notions must come of meanness, and, uncharitable as it may appear, I can not but think there is a moral root to all chosen unbelief. But let God himself judge his own.

With Sepia, what was _best meant what was best for her, and _best for her meant _most after her liking_.

She had in her time heard a good deal about _euthanasia_, and had taken her share in advocating it. I do not assume this to be anything additional against her; one who does not believe in God, may in such an advocacy indulge a humanity pitiful over the irremediable ills of the race; and, being what she was, she was no worse necessarily for advocating that than for advocating cremation, which she did--occasionally, I must confess, a little coarsely. But the notion of _euthanasia might well work for evil in a mind that had not a thought for the case any more than for the betterment of humanity, or indeed for anything but its own consciousness of pleasure or comfort. Opinions, like drugs, work differently on different constitutions. Hence the man is foolish who goes scattering vague notions regardless of the soil on which they may fall.

She was used to asking the question, What's the good? but always in respect of something she wanted out of her way.

"What's the good of an hour or two more if you're not enjoying it?" she said to herself again and again that Monday. "What's the good of living when life is pain--or fear of death, from which no fear can save you?" But the question had no reference to her own life: she was judging for another--and for another not for his sake, or from his point of view, but for her own sake, and from where she stood.

All the day she wandered about the house, such thoughts as these in her heart, and in her pocket a bottle of that concentrated which Mr. Redmain was taking much diluted for medicine. But she _hoped not to have to use it_. If only Mr. Redmain would yield the conflict, and depart without another interview with the lawyer!

But if he would not, and two drops from the said bottle, not taken by herself, but by another, would save her, all her life to come, from endless anxiety and grinding care, from weariness and disgust, and indeed from want; nor that alone, but save likewise that other from an hour, or two hours, or perhaps a week, or possibly two weeks, or--who could tell?--it might be a month of pain and moaning and weariness, would it not be well?--must it not be more than well?

She had not learned to fear temptation; she feared poverty, dependence, humiliation, labor, _ennui_, misery. The thought of the life that must follow and wrap her round in the case of the dreaded disclosure was unendurable; the thought of the suggested frustration was not _so unendurable--was not absolutely unendurable--was to be borne--might be permitted to come--to return--was cogitated--now with imagined resistance, now with reluctant and partial acceptance, now with faint resolve, and now with determined resolution--now with the beaded drops pouring from the forehead, and now with a cold, scornful smile of triumphant foil and success.

Was she so very exceptionally bad, however? You who hate your brother or your sister--you do not think yourself at all bad! But you are a murderer, and she was only a murderer. You do not feel wicked? How do you know she did? Besides, you hate, and she did not hate; she only wanted to take care of herself. Lady Macbeth did not hate Duncan; she only wanted to give her husband his crown. You only hate your brother; you would not, you say, do him any harm; and I believe you would not do him mere bodily harm; but, were things changed, so that hate-action became absolutely safe, I should have no confidence what you might not come to do. No one can tell what wreck a gust of passion upon a sea of hate may work. There are men a man might well kill, if he were anything less than ready to die for them. The difference between the man that hates and the man that kills may be nowhere but in the courage. These are _grewsome thinkings: let us leave them--but hating with them.

All the afternoon Sepia hovered about Mr. Rcdmain's door, down upon Mewks every moment he appeared. Her head ached; she could hardly breathe. Rest she could not. Once when Mewks, coming from the room, told her his master was asleep, she crept in, and, softly approaching the head of the bed, looked at him from behind, then stole out again.

"He seems dying, Mewks," she said.

"Oh, no, miss! I've often seen him as bad. He's better."

"Who's that whispering?" murmured the patient, angrily, though half asleep.

Mewks went in, and answered:

"Only me and Jemima, sir."

"Where's Miss Marston?"

"She's not come yet, sir."

"I want to go to sleep again. You must wake me the moment she comes."

"Yes, sir."

Mewks went back to Sepia.

"His voice is much altered," she said.

"He most always speaks like that now, miss, when he wakes--very different from I used to know him! He'd always swear bad when he woke; but Miss Marston do seem t' 'ave got a good deal of that out of him. Anyhow, this last two days he's scarce swore enough to make it feel home-like."

"It's death has got it out of him," said Sepia. "I don't think he can last the night through. Fetch me at once if--And don't let that Marston into the room again, whatever you do."

She spoke with the utmost emphasis, plainly clinching instructions previously given, then went slowly up the stair to her own room. Surely he would die to-night, and she would not be led into temptation! She would then have but to get a hold of the paper! What a hateful and unjust thing it was that her life should be in the power of that man--a miserable creature, himself hanging between life and death!--that such as he should be able to determine her fate, and say whether she was to be comfortable or miserable all the rest of a life that was to outlast his so many years! It was absurd to talk of a Providence! She must be her own providence!

She stole again down the stair. Her cousin was in her own room safe with a novel, and there was Mewks fast asleep in an easy- chair in the study, with the doors of the dressing-room and chamber ajar! She crept into the sick-room. There was the tumbler with the medicine! and her fingers were on the vial in her pocket. The dying man slept.

She drew near the table by the bed. He stirred as if about to awake. Her limbs, her brain seemed to rebel against her will.-- But what folly it was! the man was not for this world a day longer; what could it matter whether he left it a few hours earlier or later? The drops on his brow rose from the pit of his agony; every breath was a torture; it were mercy to help him across the verge; if to more life, he would owe her thanks; if to endless rest, he would never accuse her.

She took the vial from her pocket. A hand was on the lock of the door! She turned and fled through the dressing-room and study, waking Mewks as she passed. He, hurrying into the chamber, saw Mary already entered.

When Sepia learned who it was that had scared her, she felt she could kill her with less compunction than Mr. Redmain. She hated her far worse.

"You _must get the viper out of-the house, Mewks," she said. "It is all your fault she got into the room."

"I'm sure I'm willing enough," he answered, "--even if it wasn't you as as't me, miss! But what am I to do? She's that brazen, you wouldn' believe, miss! It wouldn' be becomin' to tell you what I think that young woman fit to do."

"I don't doubt it," responded Sepia. "But surely," she went on, "the next time he has an attack, and he's certain to have one soon, you will be able to get her hustled out!"

"No, miss--least of all just then. She'll make that a pretense for not going a yard from the bed--as if me that's been about him so many years didn't know what ought to be done with him in his paroxes of pain better than the likes of her! Of all things I do loathe a row, miss--and the talk of it after; and sure I am that without a row we don't get her out of that room. The only way is to be quiet, and seem to trust her, and watch for the chance of her going out--then shut her out, and keep her out."

"I believe you are right," returned Sepia, almost with a hope that no such opportunity might arrive, but at the same time growing more determined to take advantage of it if it should.

Hence partly it came that Mary met with no interruption to her watching and ministering. Mewks kept coming and going--watching her, and awaiting his opportunity. Mr. Redmain scarcely heeded him, only once and again saying in sudden anger, "What can that idiot be about? He might know by this time I'm not likely to want _him so long as _you are in the room!"

And said Mary to herself: "Who knows what good the mere presence of one who trusts may be to him, even if he shouldn't seem to take much of what she says! Perhaps he may think of some of it after he is dead--who knows?" Patiently she sat and waited, full of help that would have flowed in a torrent, but which she felt only trickle from her heart like a stream that is lost on the face of the rock down which it flows.

All at once she bethought herself, and looked at her watch: Joseph had been waiting for her more than an hour, and would not, she knew, if he stopped all night, go away without her! And for her, she could not forsake the poor man her presence seemed to comfort! He was now lying very still: she would slip out and send Joseph away, and be back before the patient or any one else should miss her!

She went softly from the room, and glided down the stairs, and out of the house, seeing no one--but not unseen: hardly was she from the room, when the door of it was closed and locked behind her, and hardly from the house, when the house-door also was closed and locked behind her. But she heard nothing, and ran, without the least foreboding of mishap, to the corner where Joseph was to meet her.

There he was, waiting as patiently as if the hour had not yet come.

"I can't leave him, Joseph. My heart won't let me," she said. "I can not go back before the morning. I will look in upon you as I pass."

So saying, and without giving him time to answer, she bade him good night, and ran back to the house, hoping to get in as before without being seen. But to her dismay she found the door already fast, and concluded the hour had arrived when the house was shut up for the night. She rang the bell, but there was no answer--for there was Mewks himself standing close behind the door, grinning like his master an evil grin. As she knocked and rang in vain, the fact flashed upon her that she was intentionally excluded. She turned away, overwhelmed with a momentary despair. What was she to do? There stood Joseph! She ran back to him, and told him they had shut her out.

"It makes me miserable," she went on, "to think of the poor man calling me, and me nowhere to answer. The worst of it is, I seem the only person he has any faith in, and what I have been telling him about the father of us all, whose love never changes, will seem only the idler tale, when he finds I am gone, and nowhere to be found--as they're sure to tell him. There's no saying what lies they mayn't tell him about my going! Rather than go, I will sit on the door-step all night, just to be able to tell him in the morning that I never went home."

"Why have they done it, do you think? asked Joseph.

"I dare hardly allow myself to conjecture," answered Mary. "None of them like me but Jemima--not even Mrs. Redmain now, I am afraid; for you see I never got any of the good done her I wanted, and, till something of that was done, she could not know how I felt toward her. I shouldn't a bit wonder if they fancy I have a design on his money--as if anybody fit to call herself a woman would condescend to such a thing! But when a woman would marry for money, she may well think as badly of another woman."

"This is a serious affair," said Joseph. "To have a dying man believe you false to him would be dreadful! We must find some way in. Let us go to the kitchen-door."

"If Jemima happened to be near, then, perhaps!" rejoined Mary; "but if they want to keep me out, you may be sure Mewks has taken care of one door as well as another. He knows I'm not so easy to keep out."

"If you did get in," said Joseph, speaking in a whisper as they went, "would you feel quite safe after this?"

"I have no fear. I dare say they would lock me up somewhere if they could, before I got to Mr. Redmain's room: once in, they would not dare touch me."

"I shall not go out of hearing so long as you are in that house," said Joseph, with decision. "Not until I have you out again do I leave the premises. If anything should make you feel uncomfortable, you cry out, miss, and I'll make a noise at the door that everybody at Thornwick over there shall hear me."

"It is a large house, Joseph: one might call in many a part of it, and never be heard out of doors. I don't think you could hear me from Mr. Redmain's room," said Mary, with a little laugh, for she was amused as well as pleased at the protection Joseph would give her; "it is up two flights, and he chose it himself for the sake of being quiet when he was ill."

As she spoke, they reached the door they sought--the most likely of all to be still open: it was fast and dark as if it had not been unbolted for years. One or two more entrances they tried, but with no better success.

"Come this way," whispered Joseph. "I know a place where we shall at least be out of their sight, and where we can plan at our leisure."

He led her to the back entrance to the old hall. Alas! even that was closed.

"This _is disappointing," he said; "for, if we were only in there, I think something might be done."

"I believe I know a way," said Mary, and led him to a place near, used for a wood-shed.

At the top of a great heap of sticks and fagots was an opening in the wall, that had once been a window, or perhaps a door.

"That, I know, is the wall of the tower," she said; "and there can be no difficulty in getting through there. Once in, it will be easy to reach the hall--that is, if the door of the tower is not locked."

In an instant Joseph was at the top of the heap, and through the opening, hanging on, and feeling with his feet. He found footing at no great distance, and presently Mary was beside him. They descended softly, and found the door into the hall wide open.

"Can you tell me what window is that," whispered Joseph, "just above the top of the wall?"

"I can not," answered Mary. "I never could go about this house as I did about Mr. Redmain's; my lady always looked so fierce if she saw me trying to understand the place. But why do you ask?"

"You see the flickering of a fire? Could it be Mr. Redmain's room?"

"I can not tell. I do not think it. That has no window in this direction, so far as I know. But I could not be certain."

"Think how the stairs turn as you go up, and how the passages go to the room. Think in what direction you look every corner you turn. Then you will know better whether or not it might be."

Mary was silent, and thought. In her mind she followed every turn she had to take from the moment she entered the house till she got to the door of Mr. Redmain's room, and then thought how the windows lay when she entered it. Her conclusion was that one side of the room must be against the hall, but she could remember no window in it.

"But," she added, "I never was in that room when I was here before, and, the twice I have now been in it, I was too much occupied to take much notice of things about me. Two windows, I know, look down into a quiet little corner of the courtyard, where there is an old pump covered with ivy. I remember no other."

"Is there any way of getting on to the top of that wall from this tower?" asked Joseph.

"Certainly there is. People often walk round the top of those walls. They are more than thick enough for that."

"Are you able to do it?"

"Yes, quite. I have been round them more than once. But I don't like the idea of looking in at a window."

"No more do I, miss; but you must remember, if it is his room, it will only be your eyes going where the whole of you has a right to be; and, if it should not be that room, they have driven you to it: such a necessity will justify it."

"You must be right," answered Mary, and, turning, led the way up the stair of the tower, and through a gap in the wall out upon the top of the great walls.

It was a sultry night. A storm was brooding between heaven and earth. The moon was not yet up, and it was so dark that they had to feel their way along the wall, glad of the protection of a fence of thick ivy on the outer side. Looking down into the court on the one hand, and across the hall to the lawn on the other, they saw no living thing in the light from various windows, and there was little danger of being discovered. In the gable was only the one window for which they were making. Mary went first, as better knowing the path, also as having the better right to look in. Through the window, as she went, she could see the flicker, but not the fire. All at once came a great blaze. It lasted but a moment--long enough, however, to let them see plainly into a small closet, the door of which was partly open.

"That is the room, I do believe," whispered Mary. "There is a closet, but I never was in it."

"If only the window be not bolted!" returned Joseph.

The same instant Mary heard the voice of Mr. Redmain call in a tone of annoyance--"Mary! Mary Marston! I want you. Who is that in the room?--Damn you! who are you?"

"Let me pass you," said Joseph, and, making her hold to the ivy, here spread on to the gable, he got between Mary and the window. The blaze was gone, and the fire was at its old flicker. The window was not bolted. He lifted the sash. A moment and he was in. The next, Mary was beside him.

Something, known to her only as an impulse, induced Mary to go softly to the door of the closet, and peep into the room. She saw Hesper, as she thought, standing--sidewise to the closet--by a chest of drawers invisible from the bed. A candle stood on the farther side of her. She held in one hand the tumbler from which, repeatedly that evening, Mary had given the patient his medicine: into this she was pouring, with an appearance of care, something from a small dark bottle.

With a sudden suspicion of foul play, Mary glided swiftly into the room, and on to where she stood. It was Sepia! She started with a smothered shriek, turned white, and almost dropped the bottle; then, seeing who it was, recovered herself. But such a look as she cast on Mary! such a fire of hate as throbbed out of those great black eyes! Mary thought for a moment she would dart at her. But she turned away, and walked swiftly to the door. Joseph, however, peeping in behind Mary, had caught a glimpse of the bottle and tumbler, also of Sepia's face. Seeing her now retiring with the bottle in her hand, he sprang after her, and, thanks to the fact that she had locked the door, was in time to snatch it from her. She turned like a wild beast, and a terrible oath came hissing as from a feline throat. When, however, she saw, not Mary, but the unknown figure of a powerful man, she turned again to the door and fled. Joseph shut and locked it, and went back to the closet. Mary drew near the bed.

"Where have you been all this time?" asked the patient, querulously; "and who was that went out of the room just now? What's all the hurry about?"

Anxious he should be neither frightened nor annoyed, Mary replied to the first part of his question only.

"I had to go and tell a friend, who was waiting for me, that I shouldn't be home to-night. But here I am now, and I will not leave you again."

"How did the door come to be locked? And who was that went out of the room?"

While he was thus questioning, Joseph crept softly out of the window; and all the rest of the night he lay on the top of the wall under it.

"It was Miss Yolland," answered Mary.

"What business had she in my room?"

"She shall not enter it again while I am here."

"Don't let Mewks in either," he rejoined. "I heard the door unlock and lock again: what did it mean?"

"Wait till to-morrow. Perhaps we shall find out then."

He was silent a little.

"I must get out of this house, Mary," he sighed at length.

"When the doctor comes, we shall see," said Mary.

"What! is the doctor coming? I am glad of that. Who sent for him?" "I don't know; I only heard he was coming."

"But your lawyer, Mary--what's his name?--will be here first: we'll talk the thing over with him, and take his advice. I feel better, and shall go to sleep again."

All night long Mary sat by him and watched. Not a step, so far as she knew, came near the door; certainly not a hand was laid upon the lock. Mr. Redmain slept soundly, and in the morning was beyond a doubt better.

But Mary could not think of leaving him until Mr. Brett came. At Mr. Redmain's request she rang the bell. Mewks made his appearance, with the face of a ghost. His master told him to bring his breakfast.

"And see, Mewks," he added, in a tone of gentleness that terrified the man, so unaccustomed was he to such from the mouth of his master--"see that there is enough for Miss Marston as well. She has had nothing all night. Don't let my lady have any trouble with it.--Stop," he cried, as Mewks was going, "I won't have you touch it either; I am fastidious this morning. Tell the young woman they call Jemima to come here to Miss Marston."

Mewks slunk away. Jemima came, and Mr. Redmain ordered her to get breakfast for himself and Mary. It was done speedily, and Mary remained in the sick-chamber until the lawyer arrived.

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