Put Yourself in His Place

Author: Charles Reade

Chapter XXXIII.

That was Grace Carden’s first anonymous letter. Its contents curdled her veins with poison. The poor girl sat pale and benumbed, turning the letter in her hand, and reading the fatal words over and over again.

There was a time when she would have entirely disbelieved this slander; but now she remembered, with dismay, how many things had combined to attach Henry to Jael Dence. And then the letter stated such hard facts; facts unknown to her, but advanced positively.

But what terrified her most was that Henry had so lately told her Jael Dence loved him best.

Yet her tossed and tortured mind laid hold of this comfort, that not the man only, but the woman too, were loyal, faithful spirits. Could they both have changed? Appearances are deceitful, and might have deceived this anonymous writer.

After hours of mere suffering, she began to ask herself what she should do?

Her first feminine impulse was to try and find out the truth without Henry’s aid.

But no; on second thoughts she would be open and loyal, show Henry the letter, and ask him to tell her how much truth, if any, there was in it.

The agony she endured was a lesson to her. Now she knew what jealousy was; and saw at once she could not endure its torments. She thought to herself he was quite right to make her dismiss Mr. Coventry, and he must dismiss Jael; she should insist on it.

This resolution formed, she lived on thorns, awaiting Henry Little’s next visit.

He came next day, but she was out.

She asked the servant if he had said anything.

The servant said, "He seemed a good deal put out at first, miss, but afterward he said, ’No, it was all for the best.’"

This was another blow. Grace connected these words of Henry in some mysterious way with the anonymous letter, and spent the night crying: but in the morning, being a brave, high-spirited girl, she resolved to take a direct course; she would go down to the works, and request an explanation on the premises. She would see the room where Henry was said to pass so many hours with Jael, and she would show him that the man she loved, and lived for, must place himself above suspicion, or lose her forever. "And if he quarrels with me for that," she thought, "why, I can die." She actually carried out her resolution, and went early next morning to the works to demand an explanation. She took the letter with her. As she went along she discussed in her own mind how she should proceed, and at last she resolved to just hand him the letter and fix her eye on him. His face would tell her the truth.

She drove up to the great gate; there were a good many people about, talking, in excited groups.

The porter came out to her. She said she wished to see Mr. Little.

The porter stared: the people within hearing left off talking, and stared too, at her, and then at one another.

At last the porter found his voice. "Mr. Little! why, we can’t find him anywhere, dead or alive."

Just then Ransome came out, and, seeing Miss Carden, gave a start, and looked much concerned.

Grace noticed this look, and her own face began to fill with surprise, and then with alarm. "Not to be found!" she faltered.

She did not know Mr. Ransome, but he knew her; and he came to the carriage-window and said, in a low voice, "Miss Carden, I am the chief-constable. I would advise you to return home. The fact is, there has been an explosion here, and a young woman nearly killed."

"Poor creature! But Mr. Little! Oh, sir! Oh, sir!"

"We can’t find him," said Ransome, solemnly: "and we fear—we sadly fear—"

Grace uttered a low cry, and then sat trembling.

Ransome tried to console her; said it was just possible he might have not slept in the works.

The porter shook his head.

Grace sprung from the carriage. "Show me the place," said she, hoarsely.

Ransome demurred. "It is an ugly sight for any one to see."

"Who has a better right to see it than I? I shall find him if he is there. Give me your arm: I have heard him speak of you."

Then Ransome yielded reluctantly, and took her to the place.

He showed her Henry’s room, all rent and mutilated.

She shuddered, and, covering her face with her hands, leaned half fainting against her conductor; but soon she shook this off, and became inspired with strange energy, though her face was like marble.

She drew him, indeed almost dragged him, hither and thither, questioning him, and listening to everybody’s conjectures; for there were loud groups here of work-people and towns-people.

Some thought he was buried under the great chimney in the river, others intimated plainly their fear that he was blown to atoms.

At each suggestion Grace Carden’s whole body winced and quivered as if the words were sword cuts, but she would not be persuaded to retire. "No, no," she cried, "amongst so many, some one will guess right. I’ll hear all they think, if I die on the spot: die! What is life to me now? Ah! what is that woman saying?" And she hurried Ransome toward a work-woman who was haranguing several of her comrades.

The woman saw Ransome coming toward her with a strange lady.

"Ah!" said she, "here’s the constable. Mr. Ransome, will ye tell me where you found the lass, yesternight?"

"She was lying on that heap of bricks: I marked the place with two pieces of chalk; ay, here they are; her head lay here, and her feet here."

"Well, then," said the woman, "he will not be far from that place. You clear away those bricks and rubbish, and you will find him underneath. She was his sweetheart, that is well known here; and he was safe to be beside her when the place was blown up."

"No such thing," said Ransome, angrily, and casting a side-look at Grace. "She lay on the second floor, and Mr. Little on the first floor."

"Thou simple body," said the woman. "What’s a stair to a young man when a bonny lass lies awaiting him, and not a soul about? They were a deal too close together all day, to be distant at night."

A murmur of assent burst at once from all the women.

Grace’s body winced and quivered, but her marble face never stirred, nor did her lips utter a sound.

"Come away from their scandalous tongues," said Ransome, eagerly.

"No," said Grace; and such a "No." It was like a statue uttering a chip of its own marble.

Then she stood quivering a moment; then, leaving Ransome’s arm, she darted up to the place where Jael Dence had been found.

She stood like a bird on the broken masonry, and opened her beautiful eyes in a strange way, and demanded of all her senses whether the body of him she loved lay beneath her feet.

After a minute, during which every eye was riveted on her, she said, "I don’t believe it; I don’t feel him near me. But I will know."

She took out her purse full of gold, and held it up to the women. "This for you, if you will help me." Then, kneeling down, she began to tear up the bricks and throw them, one after another, as far as her strength permitted. The effect on the work-women was electrical: they swarmed on the broken masonry, and began to clear it away brick by brick. They worked with sympathetic fury, led by this fair creature, whose white hands were soon soiled and bloody, but never tired. In less than an hour they had cleared away several wagon-loads of debris.

The body of Henry Little was not there.

Grace gave her purse to the women, and leaned heavily on Mr. Ransome’s arm again. He supported her out of the works.

As soon as they were alone, she said, "Is Jael Dence alive or dead?"

"She was alive half an hour ago."

"Where is she?"

"At the hospital."

"Take me to the hospital."

He took her to the hospital, and soon they stood beside a clean little bed, in which lay the white but still comely face of Jael Dence: her luxuriant hair was cut close, and her head bandaged; but for her majestic form, she looked a fair, dying boy.

"Stand back," said Grace, "and let me speak to her." Then she leaned over Jael, where she lay.

Gentle women are not all gentleness. Watch them, especially in contact with their own sex, and you shall see now and then a trait of the wild animal. Grace Carden at this moment was any thing but dove-like; it was more like a falcon the way she clutched the bedclothes, and towered over that prostrate figure, and then, descending slowly nearer and nearer, plunged her eyes into those fixed and staring orbs of Jael Dence.

So she remained riveted. Had Jael been conscious, and culpable, nothing could have escaped a scrutiny so penetrating.

Even unconscious as she was, Jael’s brain and body began to show some signs they were not quite impervious to the strange magnetic power which besieged them so closely. When Grace’s eyes had been close to hers about a minute, Jael Dence moved her head slightly to the left, as if those eyes scorched her.

But Grace moved her own head to the right, rapid as a snake, and fixed her again directly.

Jael Dence’s bosom gave a heave.

"Where—is—Henry Little?" said Grace, still holding her tight by the eye, and speaking very slowly, and in such a tone, low, but solemn and commanding; a tone that compelled reply.

"Where—is—Henry Little?"

When this was so repeated, Jael moved a little, and her lips began to quiver.

"Where—is—Henry Little?"

Jael’s lips opened feebly, and some inarticulate sounds issued from them.

"Where—is—Henry Little?"

Jael Dence, though unconscious, writhed and moaned so that the head nurse interfered, and said she could not have the patient tormented.

Ransome waved her aside, but taking Grace Carden’s hand drew her gently away.

She made no positive resistance; but, while her body yielded and retired, her eye remained riveted on Jael Dence, and her hand clutched the air like a hawk’s talons, unwilling to lose her prey, and then she turned so weak, Ransome had to support her to her carriage.

As Grace’s head sunk on Ransome’s shoulder, Jael Dence’s eyes closed for the first time.

As Ransome was lifting Grace Carden into the carriage, she said, in a sort of sleepy voice, "Is there no way out of these works but one?"

"Not that I know of; but I will go at once and see. Shall he drive you home?"

"Yes. No—to Dr. Amboyne."

Dr. Amboyne was gone to Woodbine Villa.

She waited in his study, moving about the room all the time, with her face of marble, and her poor restless hands.

At last the doctor returned: they told him at the door Miss Carden was there; he came in to her with both hands extended, and his face working with emotion.

She fell sobbing into his arms; sobbing, but not a tear.

"Is there any hope?"

"I have one. May he not have left the country in a fit of despair? He often threatened. He talked of going to the United States."

"So he did. Ah, he called on me yesterday afternoon. Might not that have been to bid me good-by?"

She looked so imploringly in Dr. Amboyne’s face that he assented, though full of doubt.

And now there was a ring at the bell, and Mr. Ransome came to say there was a little postern gate by which Mr. Little might possibly have gone out and the porter not seen him; and, what was more, this gate, by all accounts, had been recently opened: it was closed before Bolt and Little took the premises.

Mr. Ransome added that he should now make it his business to learn, if possible, whether it had been opened by Mr. Little’s orders.

Grace thanked him earnestly, and looked hopeful; so did Dr. Amboyne.

"But, doctor," said Grace, "if he has gone away at all, he must have told somebody. Even if there was nobody he loved, he would tell— ah! Mr. Bolt!!"

"You are right. Let us go to him at once."

They found Mr. Bolt in quite a different frame of mind from their own; he was breathing vengeance. However, he showed some feeling for Grace, and told the doctor plainly he feared the worst. Little had been downhearted for some time, and at last he (Bolt) had lost patience with him, and had proposed to him to take an annual payment of nine hundred pounds instead of a share, and leave the concern. Little had asked two days to consider this proposal. "Now," argued Bolt, "if he meant to leave England, he could not do better than take my offer: and he would have taken it before he left. He would have called, or else sent me a letter. But no; not a word! It’s a bad job: I’m fond of money, but I’d give a few thousands to see him alive again. But I don’t think I ever shall. There are five hundred thousand bricks of ours in that river, and a foot and a half of mud."

While they were both shuddering at this dark allusion, he went off into idle threats, and Grace left him, sick and cold, and clinging to Dr. Amboyne like a drowning woman.

"Have courage," said Dr. Amboyne. "There is one chance left us. His mother! I will telegraph to Aberystwith."

They drove together to the telegraph-office, and sent a telegram. The doctor would not consent to frighten Mrs. Little to death. He simply asked whether her son had just visited or written to her. The answer was paid for; but four hours elapsed, and no answer came.

Then Grace implored the doctor to go with her to Aberystwith. He looked grave, and said she was undertaking too much. She replied, almost fiercely, that she must do all that could be done, or she should go mad.

"But your father, my dear!"

"He is in London. I will tell him all when he returns. He would let me go anywhere with you. I must go; I will!"

At four o’clock they were in the train. They spoke to each other but little on the way; their hearts were too full of dire forebodings to talk about nothings. But, when they were in the fly at Aberystwith, going from the station to Mrs. Little’s lodgings, Grace laid her head on her friend’s shoulder and said, "Oh, doctor, it has come to this; I hope he loved his mother better than me." Then came a flood of tears—the first.

They went to Mrs. Little’s lodgings. The landlady had retired to bed, and, on hearing their errand, told them, out of the secondfloor window, that Mrs. Little had left her some days ago, and gone to a neighboring village for change of air.

Grace and Dr. Amboyne drove next morning to that village, and soon learned where Mrs. Little was. Dr. Amboyne left Grace at the inn, for he knew the sight of her would at once alarm Mrs. Little; and in a matter so uncertain as this, he thought the greatest caution necessary. Grace waited for him at the inn in an agony of suspense. She watched at the window for him, and at last she saw him coming toward her. His head was down, and she could not read his face, or she could have told in a moment whether he brought good news or bad.

She waited for him, erect but trembling. He opened the door, and stood before her, pale and agitated—so pale and agitated she had never seen him before.

He faltered out, "She knows nothing. She must know nothing. She is too ill and weak, and, indeed, in such a condition that to tell her the fatal news would probably have killed her on the spot. All I dared do was to ask her with assumed indifference if she had heard from Henry lately. No, Grace, not for these three days."

He sat down and groaned aloud.

"You love the son," said he, "but I love the mother: loved her years before you were born."

At this unexpected revelation Grace Carden kissed him, and wept on his shoulder. Then they went sadly home again.

Doctor Amboyne now gave up all hopes of Henry, and his anxiety was concentrated on Mrs. Little. How on earth was he to save her from a shock likely to prove fatal in her weak condition? To bring her to Hillsborough in her present state would be fatal. He was compelled to leave her in Wales, and that looked so like abandoning her. He suffered torture, the torture that only noble minds can know. At midnight, as he lay in bed, and revolved in his mind all the difficulties and perils of this pitiable situation, an idea struck him. He would try and persuade Mrs. Little to marry him. Should she consent, he could then take her on a wedding-tour, and that tour he could easily extend from place to place, putting off the evil time until, strong in health and conjugal affection, she might be able to endure the terrible, the inevitable blow. The very next morning he wrote her an eloquent letter; he told her that Henry had gone suddenly off to Australia to sell his patents; that almost his last word had been, "My mother! I leave her to you." This, said the doctor, is a sacred commission; and how can I execute it? I cannot invite you to Hillsborough, for the air is fatal to you. Think of your half-promise, and my many years of devotion, and give me the right to carry out your son’s wishes to the full.

Mrs. Little replied to this letter, and the result of the correspondence was this: she said she would marry him if she could recover her health, but THAT she feared she never should until she was reconciled to her brother.

Meantime Grace Carden fell into a strange state: fits of feverish energy; fits of death-like stupor. She could do nothing, yet it maddened her to be idle. With Bolt’s permission, she set workmen to remove all the remains of the chimney that could be got at—the water was high just then: she had a barge and workmen, and often watched them, and urged them by her presence. Not that she ever spoke; but she hovered about with her marble face and staring eyes, and the sight of her touched their hearts and spurred them to exertion.

Sometimes she used to stand on a heap of bricks hard by, and peer, with dilated eyes into the dark stream, and watch each bucket, or basket, as it came up with bricks, and rubbish, and mud, from the bottom.

At other times she would stand on the bridge and lean over the battlements so far as if she would fly down and search for her dead lover.

One day as she hung thus, glaring into the water, she heard a deep sigh. She looked up, and there was a face almost as pale as her own, and even more haggard, looking at her with a strange mixture of pain and pity. This ghastly spectator of her agony was himself a miserable man, it was Frederick Coventry. His crime had brought him no happiness, no hope of happiness.

At sight of him Grace Carden groaned, and covered her face with her hands.

Coventry drew back dismayed. His guilty conscience misinterpreted this.

"You can forgive us now," said Grace, with a deep sob: then turned away with sullen listlessness, and continued her sad scrutiny.

Coventry loved her, after his fashion, and her mute but eloquent misery moved him.

He drew nearer to her, and said softly, "Do not look so; I can’t bear it. He is not there."

"Ah! How do you know?"

Coventry was silent for a moment, and seemed uneasy; but at last he replied thus: "There were two explosions. The chimney fell into the river a moment before the explosion that blew up the works. So how can he be buried under the ruins of the chimney? I know this from a workman who was standing on the bridge when the explosions took place."

Bless the tongue that tells me that! Oh, how much wiser you are than the rest of us! Mr. Coventry, pity and forgive a poor girl who has used you ill. Tell me—tell me—what can have become of him?"

Coventry was much agitated, and could not speak for some time, and when he did, it was in a faint voice as of one exhausted by a mental struggle. "Would you rather he was—dead—or—false?"

"Oh false—a thousand times! Prove to me he is not dead, but only false to his poor Grace, and I will bless you on my knees."

Coventry’s eye flashed. "Well, then, he was the lover of Jael Dence, the girl who fought for him, and shed her blood for him, and saved his life. The connection was open and notorious."

Grace was silent.

"Many a man has fled from two women, who could have been happy with either of them. I believe that this man found himself unable to play the double game any longer, and that he has fled the country—"

"I pray God it may be so," sobbed Grace.

"—Through remorse, or from dread of exposure. Have patience. Do not kill yourself, and break all our hearts. Take my word for it, you will hear from him in a few days, and he will give your reasons for his strange disappearance—excellent, business-like reasons, but not the true ones: there will not be a word about Jael Dence." This last with a sneer.

Grace turned on him with eyes that literally gleamed: "You hated him living, you slander him dead. Falsehood was not in him: his affection for Jael Dence was no secret. I knew it, and approved it. It was as pure as heaven. His poor mutilated body will soon contradict these vile calumnies. I hate you! I hate you!"

Coventry drew back at first from this burst of ire, but soon he met her glance with one of fiendish bitterness. "You hate me for pitying you, and saying that man is not dead. Well, have your own way, then; he is not false, but dead."

He turned on his heel, and went away.

As for Mr. Carden, he declined to admit that Little was dead, and said his conduct was unpardonable, and, indeed, so nearly resembled madness, that, considering the young man’s father had committed suicide, he was determined never to admit him into his house again— at all events as a suitor to Grace.

Mr. Coventry had now taken spacious apartments, and furnished them. He resumed his visits to the club. Mr. Carden met him there, and spoke more confidentially to him than he did to his daughter, and admitted he had grave doubts, but said he was a director of the Gosshawk, and would never, either in public or private, allow that Little was dead unless his body should be found and properly identified.

All this time there was a hot discussion in the journals, and the Saw-grinders’ Union repudiated the outrage with horror, and offered a considerable reward.

Outsiders were taken in by this, but not a single manufacturer or workman.

Mr. Holdfast denounced it as a Trade outrage, and Ransome groped the town for evidence.

The latter, however, was rather puzzled one day by an anonymous letter telling him he was all on the wrong tack; it was not a Trade job, but contrived by a gentleman for his private ends. Advantage had been taken of Little being wrong with the Trade; "but," said the letter, "you should look to the head for the motive, not to the hands. One or two saw them together a good many times before the deed was done, and the swell was seen on the very bridge when the explosion took place."

This set Ransome thinking very seriously and comparing notes.

Week after week went by and left the mystery unsolved.

Mr. Coventry saw Mr. Carden nearly every day, and asked him was there no news of Little? The answer was always in the negative, and this surprised Coventry more and more.

When a whole month had elapsed, even he began to fancy strange things, and to nurse wild projects that had never entered his head before. He studied books of medical jurisprudence, and made all manner of experiments. He resumed his intimacy with Cole, and they were often closeted together.

Five weeks had elapsed, and Grace Carden had lost all her feverish energy, and remained passive, lethargic, fearing every thing, hoping nothing, but quivering all day with expectation of the next blow; for what had she left to expect now but sorrow in some form or other?

She often wished to visit Jael Dence again at the hospital; but for some time an invincible repugnance withheld her.

She asked Dr. Amboyne to go instead, and question the unhappy girl.

Dr. Amboyne did so; but Jael was now in a half-stupid condition, and her poor brain not clear enough to remember what she was wanted to remember. Her memory was full of gaps, and, unluckily, one of these gaps embraced the whole period between her battle with Hill and the present time.

At last Grace was irritated, and blamed the doctor for his failure.

She reminded him she had herself magnetized Jael, and had almost made her speak. She resolved to go to the hospital herself. "I’ll make her tell me one thing," said she, "though I tear her heart out, and my own too."

She dressed plainly, and walked rapidly down toward the hospital. There were two ways to it, but she chose the one that was sure to give her pain. She could not help it; her very feet dragged her to that fatal spot.

When she drew near the fatal bridge, she observed a number of persons collected on it, looking down in the river at some distance.

At the same time people began to hurry past her, making for the bridge.

She asked one of them what it was.

"Summut in the river," was the reply, but in a tone so full of meaning, that at these simple words she ran forward, though her knees almost gave way under her.

The bridge was not so crowded yet, but that she contrived to push in between two women, and look.

All the people were speaking in low murmurs. The hot weather had dried the river up to a stream in the middle, and, in midstream, about fifty yards from the foot of the bridge, was a pile of broken masonry, which had once been the upper part of Bolt and Little’s chimney. It had fallen into water twelve feet deep; but now the water was not above five feet, and a portion of the broken bricks and tiles were visible, some just above, some just under the water.

At one side of this wreck jutted out the object on which all eyes were now fastened. At first sight it looked a crooked log of wood sticking out from among the bricks. Thousands, indeed, had passed the bridge, and noticed nothing particular about it; but one, more observant or less hurried, had peered, and then pointed, and collected the crowd.

It needed but a second look to show that this was not a log of wood but the sleeve of a man’s coat. A closer inspection revealed that the sleeve was not empty.

There was an arm inside that sleeve, and a little more under the water one could see distinctly a hand white and sodden by the water.

The dark stream just rippled over this hand, half veiling it at times, though never hiding it.

"The body will be jammed among the bricks," said a by-stander; and all assented with awe.

"Eh! to think of its sticking out an arm like that!" said a young girl.

"Dead folk have done more than that, sooner than want Christian burial," replied an old woman.

"I warrant ye they have. I can’t look at it."

"Is it cloth, or what?" inquired another.

"It’s a kind of tweed, I think."

"What’s that glittering on its finger?"

"It’s a ring—a gold ring."

At this last revelation there was a fearful scream, and Grace Carden fell senseless on the pavement.

A gentleman who had been hanging about and listening to the comments now darted forward, with a face almost as white as her own, and raised her up, and implored the people to get her a carriage.

It was Mr. Coventry. Little had he counted on this meeting. Horror-stricken, he conveyed the insensible girl to her father’s house.

He handed her over to the women, and fled, and the women brought her round; but she had scarcely recovered her senses, when she uttered another piercing scream, and swooned again.


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Chicago: Charles Reade, "Chapter XXXIII.," Put Yourself in His Place, ed. Macaulay, G. C. (George Campbell), 1852-1915 and trans. Evans, Sebastian in Put Yourself in His Place Original Sources, accessed June 6, 2023, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=CN9AA4APW2NFCXX.

MLA: Reade, Charles. "Chapter XXXIII." Put Yourself in His Place, edited by Macaulay, G. C. (George Campbell), 1852-1915, and translated by Evans, Sebastian, in Put Yourself in His Place, Original Sources. 6 Jun. 2023. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=CN9AA4APW2NFCXX.

Harvard: Reade, C, 'Chapter XXXIII.' in Put Yourself in His Place, ed. and trans. . cited in , Put Yourself in His Place. Original Sources, retrieved 6 June 2023, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=CN9AA4APW2NFCXX.