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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMary Marston: A Novel - Chapter 18. Mary And Godfrey
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Mary Marston: A Novel - Chapter 18. Mary And Godfrey Post by :kmike Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :1287

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Mary Marston: A Novel - Chapter 18. Mary And Godfrey


Everything went very tolerably, so far as concerned the world of talk, in the matter of Letty's misfortunes. Rumors, it is true-- and more than one of them strange enough--did for a time go floating about the country; but none of them came to the ears of Tom or of Mary, and Letty was safe from hearing anything; and the engagement between her and Tom soon became generally known.

Mrs. Helmer was very angry, and did all she could to make Tom break it off--it was so much below him! But in nothing could the folly of the woman have been more apparent than in her fancying, with the experience of her life before her, that any opposition of hers could be effectual otherwise than to the confirmation of her son's will. So short-sighted was she as to originate most of the reports to Letty's disadvantage; but Tom's behavior, on the other hand, was strong to put them down; for the man is seldom found so faithful where such reports are facts.

Mrs. Wardour took care to say nothing unkind of Letty. She was of her own family; and, besides, not only was Tom a better match than she could have expected for her, but she was more than satisfied to have Godfrey's dangerous toy thus drawn away beyond his reach. As soon as ever the doctor gave his permission, she went to see her; but, although, dismayed at sight of her suffering face, she did not utter one unkind word, her visit was so plainly injurious in its effects, that it was long before Mary would consent to a repetition of it.

Letty's recovery was very slow. The spring was close at hand before the bloom began to reappear--and then it was but fitfully --in Letty's cheek. Neither her gayety nor her usual excess of timorousness returned. A certain sad seriousness had taken the place of both, and she seemed to look out from deeper eyes. I can not think that Letty had begun to perceive that there actually is a Nature shaping us to its own ends; but I think she had begun to feel that Mary lived in the conscious presence of such a power. To Tom she behaved very sweetly, but more like a tender sister than a lover, and Mary began to doubt whether her heart was altogether Tom's. From mention of approaching marriage, she turned with a nervous, uneasy haste. Had the insight which the enforced calmness of suffering sometimes brings opened her eyes to anything in Tom? The doubt filled Mary with anxiety. She thought and thought, until--delicate matter as it was to meddle with, and small encouragement as Godfrey Wardour had given her to expect sympathy--she yet made up her mind to speak to him on the subject--and the rather that she was troubled at the unworthiness of his behavior to Letty: gladly would she have him treat her with the generosity essential to the idea she had formed of him.

She went, therefore, one Sunday evening, to Thornwick, and requested to see Mr. Wardour.

It was plainly an unwilling interview he granted her, but she was not thereby deterred from opening her mind to him.

"I fear, Mr. Wardour," she said, "--I come altogether without authority--but I fear Letty has been rather hurried in her engagement with Mr. Helmer. I think she dreads being married--at least so soon."

"You would have her break it off?" said Godfrey, with cold restraint.

"No; certainly not," replied Mary; "that would be unjust to Mr. Helmer. But the thing was so hastened, indeed, hurried, by that unhappy accident, that she had scarcely time to know her own mind."

"Miss Marston," answered Godfrey, severely, "it is her own fault --all and entirely her own fault."

"But, surely," said Mary, "it will not do for us to insist upon desert. That is not how we are treated ourselves."

"Is it not?" returned Godfrey, angrily. "My experience is different. I am sure my faults have come back upon me pretty sharply.--She _must marry the fellow, or her character is gone."

"I am unwilling to grant that, Mr. Wardour. It was wrong in her to have anything to say to Mr. Helmer without your knowledge, and a foolish thing to meet him as she did; but Letty is a good girl, and you know country ways are old-fashioned, and in itself there is nothing wicked in having a talk with a young man after dark."

"You speak, I dare say, as such things arc regarded in--certain strata of society," returned Godfrey, coldly; "but such views do not hold in that to which either of them belongs."

"It seems to me a pity they should not, then," said Mary. "I know nothing of such matters, but, surely, young people should have opportunities of understanding each other. Anyhow, marriage is a heavy penalty to pay for such an indiscretion. A girl might like a young man well enough to enjoy a talk with him now and then, and yet find it hard to marry him."

"Did you come here to dispute social customs with me, Miss Marston?" said Godfrey. "I am not prepared, nor, indeed, sufficiently interested, to discuss them with you."

"I will come to the point at once," answered Mary; who, although speaking so collectedly, was much frightened at her own boldness: Godfrey seemed from his knowledge so far above her, and she owed him so much.--Would it not be possible for Letty to return here? Then the thing might take its natural course, and Tom and she know each other better that he did not hear the remarks which rose like the dust of his passage behind him. In the same little sitting-room, where for so many years Mary had listened to the slow, tender wisdom of her father, a clever young man was now making love to an ignorant girl, whom he did not half understand or half appreciate, all the time he feeling himself the greater and wiser and more valuable of the two. He was unaware, however, that he did feel so, for he had never yet become conscious of any _fact concerning himself.

The whole Turnbull family, from the beginnings of things self- constituted judges of the two Marstons, were not the less critical of the daughter, that the father had been taken from her. There was grumbling in the shop every time she ran up to see Letty, every one regarding her and speaking of her as a servant neglecting her duty. Yet all knew well enough that she was co- proprietor of business and stock, and the elder Turnbull knew besides that, if the lawyer to whose care William Marston had committed his daughter were at that moment to go into the affairs of the partnership, he would find that Mary had a much larger amount of money actually in the business than he.

Of all matters connected with the business, except those of her own department, Mary was ignorant. Her father had never neglected his duty, but he had so far neglected what the world calls a man's interests as to leave his affairs much too exclusively in the hands of his partner; he had been too much interested in life itself to look sharply after anything less than life. He acknowledged no _worldly interests at all: either God cared for his interests or he himself did not. Whether he might not have been more attentive to the state of his affairs without danger of deeper loss, I do not care to examine or determine; the result of his life in the world was a grand success. Now, Mary's feeling and judgment in regard to _things being identical with her father's, Turnbull, instructed by his greed, both natural and acquired, argued thus--unconsciously almost, but not the less argued--that what Mary valued so little, and he valued so much, must, by necessary deduction, be more his than hers--and _logically ought to be _legally_. So servants begin to steal, arguing that such and such things are only lying about, and nobody cares for them.

But Turnbull, knowing that, notwithstanding the reason on his side, it was not safe to act on such a conclusion, had for some time felt no little anxiety to secure himself from investigation and possible disaster by the marriage of Mary to his son George.

Tom Helmer had now to learn that, by his father's will, made doubtless under the influence of his mother, he was to have but a small annuity so long as she lived. Upon this he determined nevertheless to marry, confident in his literary faculty, which, he never doubted, would soon raise it to a very sufficient income. Nor did Mary attempt to dissuade him; for what could be better for a disposition like his than care for the things of this life, occasioned by the needs of others dependent upon him! Besides, there seemed to be nothing else now possible for Letty. So, in the early summer, they were married, no relative present except Mrs. Wardour, Mrs. Helmer and Godfrey having both declined their invitation; and no friend, except Mary for bridesmaid, and Mr. Pycroft, a school and college friend of Tom's, who was now making a bohemian livelihood in London by writing for the weekly press, as he called certain journals of no high standing, for groom's man. After the ceremony, and a breakfast provided by Mary, the young couple took the train for London.

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