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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMary Marston: A Novel - Chapter 30. A Scolding
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Mary Marston: A Novel - Chapter 30. A Scolding Post by :kmike Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :2387

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Mary Marston: A Novel - Chapter 30. A Scolding

CHAPTER XXX. A SCOLDING

The Evening Star found herself a success--that is, much followed by the men and much complimented by the women. Her triumph, however, did not culminate until the next appearance of "The Firefly," containing a song "To the Evening Star," which _everybody knew to stand for Mrs. Redmain. The chaos of the uninitiated, indeed, exoteric and despicable, remained in ignorance, nor dreamed that the verses meant anybody of note; to them they seemed but the calf-sigh of some young writer so deep in his first devotion that he jumbled up his lady-love, Hesper, and Aphrodite, in the same poetic bundle--of which he left the string-ends hanging a little loose, while, upon the whole, it remained a not altogether unsightly bit of prentice-work. Tom had not been at the party, but had gathered fire enough from what he heard of Hesper's appearance there to write the verses. Here they are, as nearly as I can recall them. They are in themselves not worth writing out for the printers, but, in their surroundings, they serve to show Tom, and are the last with which I shall trouble the readers of this narrative.


"TO THE EVENING STAR.

"From the buried sunlight springing,
Through flame-darkened, rosy loud,
Native sea-hues with thee bringing,
In the sky thou reignest proud!

"Who is like thee, lordly lady,
Star-choragus of the night!
Color worships, fainting fady,
Night grows darker with delight!

"Dusky-radiant, far, and somber,
In the coolness of thy state,
From my eyelids chasing slumber,
Thou dost smile upon my fate;

"Calmly shinest; not a whisper
Of my songs can reach thine ear;
What is it to thee, O Hesper,
That a heart should long or fear?"


Tom did not care to show Letty this poem--not that there was anything more in his mind than an artistic admiration of Hesper, and a desire to make himself agreeable in her eyes; but, when Letty, having read it, betrayed no shadow of annoyance with its folly, he was a little relieved. The fact was, the simple creature took it as a pardon to herself.

"I am glad you have forgiven me, Tom," she said.

"What do you mean?" asked Tom.

"For working for Mrs. Redmain with _your hands," she said, and, breaking into a little laugh, caught his cheeks between those same hands, and reaching up gave him a kiss that made him ashamed of himself--a little, that is, and for the moment, that is: Tom was used to being this or that a little for the moment.

For this same dress, which Tom had thus glorified in song, had been the cause of bitter tears to Letty. He came home _too late the day of Mary's visit, but the next morning she told him all about both the first and the second surprise she had had --not, however, with much success in interesting the lordly youth.

"And then," she went on, "what do you think we were doing all the afternoon, Tom?"

"How should I know?" said Tom, indifferently.

"We were working hard at a dress--a dress for a fancy-ball!"

"A fancy-ball, Letty? What do you mean? You going to a fancy- ball!"

"Me!" cried Letty, with merry laugh; "no, not quite me. Who do you think it was for?"

"How should I know?" said Tom again, but not quite so indifferently; he was prepared to be annoyed.

"For Mrs. Redmain!" said Letty, triumphantly, clapping her hands with delight at what she thought the fun of the thing, for was not Mrs. Redmain Tom's friend?--then stooping a little--it was an unconscious, pretty trick she had--and holding them out, palm pressed to palm, with the fingers toward his face.

"Letty," said Tom, frowning--and the frown deepened and deepened; for had he not from the first, if in nothing else, taken trouble to instruct her in what became the wife of Thomas Helmer, Esq.?-- "Letty, this won't do!"

Letty was frightened, but tried to think he was only pretending to be displeased.

"Ah! don't frighten me, Tom," she said, with her merry hands now changed to pleading ones, though their position and attitude remained the same.

But he caught them by the wrists in both of his, and held them tight.

"Letty," he said once more, and with increased severity, "this won't do. I tell you, it won't do."

"What won't do, Tom?" she returned, growing white. "There's no harm done."

"Yes, there is," said Tom, with solemnity; "there _is harm done, when _my wife goes and does like that. What would people say of _me, if they were to come to know--God forbid they should!--that your husband was talking all the evening to ladies at whose dresses his wife had been working all the afternoon!--You don't know what you are doing, Letty. What do you suppose the ladies would think if they were to hear of it?"

Poor, foolish Tom, ignorant in his folly, did not know how little those grand ladies would have cared if his wife had been a char- woman: the eyes of such are not discerning of fine social distinctions in women who are not of their set, neither are the family relations of the bohemians they invite of the smallest consequence to them.

"But, Tom," pleaded his wife, "such a grand lady as that! one you go and read your poetry to! What harm can there be in your poor little wife helping to make a dress for a lady like that?"

"I tell you, Letty, I don't choose _my wife to do such a thing for the greatest lady in the land! Good Heavens! if it _were to come to the ears of the staff! It would be the ruin of me! I should never hold up my head again!"

By this time Letty's head was hanging low, like a flower half broken from its stem, and two big tears were slowly rolling down her cheeks. But there was a gleam of satisfaction in her heart notwithstanding. Tom thought so much of his little wife that he would not have her work for the greatest lady in the land! She did not see that it was not pride in her, but pride in himself, that made him indignant at the idea. It was not "my _wife," but "_my wife" with Tom. She looked again up timidly in his face, and said, her voice trembling, and her cheeks wet, for she could not wipe away the tears, because Tom still held her hands as one might those of a naughty child:

"But, Tom! I don't exactly see how you can make so much of it, when you don't think me--when you know I am not fit to go among such people."

To this Tom had no reply at hand: he was not yet far enough down the devil's turnpike to be able to tell his wife that he had spoken the truth--that he did not think her fit for such company; that he would be ashamed of her in it; that she had no style; that, instead of carrying herself as if she knew herself somebody--as good as anybody there, indeed, being the wife of Tom Helmer--she had the meek look of one who knew herself nobody, and did not know her husband to be anybody. He did not think how little he had done to give the unassuming creature that quiet confidence which a woman ought to gather from the assurance of her husband's satisfaction in her, and the consciousness of being, in dress and everything else, pleasing in his eyes, therefore of occupying the only place in the world she desires to have. But he did think that Letty's next question might naturally be, "Why do you not take me with you?" No doubt he could have answered, no one had ever asked her; but then she might rejoin, had he ever put it in any one's way to ask her? It might even occur to her to in-quire whether he had told Mrs. Redmain that he had a wife! and he had heart enough left to imagine it might mortally hurt her to find he lived a life so utterly apart from hers--that she had so little of the relations though all the rights of wifehood. It was no wonder, therefore, if he was more than willing to change the subject. He let the poor, imprisoned hands drop so abruptly that, in their abandonment, they fell straight from her shoulders to her sides.

"Well, well, child!" he said; "put on your bonnet, and we shall be in time for the first piece at the Lyceum."

Letty flew, and was ready in five minutes. She could dress the more quickly that she was delayed by little doubt as to what she had better wear: she had scarcely a choice. Tom, looking after his own comforts, left her to look after her necessities; and she, having a conscience, and not much spirit, went even shabbier than she yet needed.

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CHAPTER XXIX. THE EVENING STARNotwithstanding her headache, however, Mrs. Redmain was going in the evening to a small fancy-ball, meant for a sort of rehearsal to a great one when the season should arrive. The part and costume she had chosen were the suggestion of her own name: she would represent the Evening Star, clothed in the early twilight; and neither was she unfit for the part, nor was the dress she had designed altogether unsuitable either to herself or to the part. But she had sufficient confidence neither in herself nor her maid to forestall a desire for Mary's opinion.
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