Put Yourself in His Place

Contents:
Author: Charles Reade

Chapter XXI.

Henry Little, at this moment, was in very low spirits. His forge was in the yard, and a faithful body-guard at his service; but his right arm was in a sling, and so he was brought to a stand-still; and Coventry was with Grace at the house; and he, like her, was tortured with jealousies; and neither knew what the other suffered.

But everything vanished in a flood of joy when the carriage stopped and that enchanting face looked out at him, covered with blushes, that told him he could not be indifferent to her.

"Oh, Mr. Little, are you better?"

"I’m all right. But, you see, I can’t work."

"Ah, poor arm. But why should you work? Why not accept Mr. Raby’s offer? How proud you are!"

"Should you have thought any better of me if I had?"

"No. I don’t want you altered. It would spoil you. You will come and see us at Woodbine Villa! Only think how many things we have to talk of now."

"May I?"

"Why, of course."

"And will you wait two years for me?"

"Two years!" (blushing like a rose.) "Why, I hope it will not be two days before you come and see us."

"Ah, you mock me."

"No; no. But suppose you should take the advice I gave you in my mad letter?"

"There’s no fear of that."

"Are you sure?" (with a glance at Jael.)

"Quite sure."

"Then—good-by. Please drive on."

She wouldn’t answer his question; but her blushes and her radiant satisfaction, and her modest but eloquent looks of love, fully compensated her silence on that head, and the carriage left him standing there, a figure of rapture.

Next day Dr. Amboyne rode up to the farm with a long envelope, and waved it over his head in triumph. It contained a communication from the Secretary of the Philanthropic Society. The committee were much struck with Mr. Little’s report, but feared that no manufacturer would act on his suggestions. They were willing to advance L500 toward setting Mr. Little himself up as a manufacturer, if he would bind himself to adopt and carry out the improvements suggested in his report. The loan to bear no interest, and the return of the capital to depend upon the success of the scheme. Dr. Amboyne for the society, to have the right of inspecting Mr. Little’s books, if any doubt should arise on that head. An agreement was inclosed, and this was more full, particular, and stringent in form than the above, but the purport substantially the same.

Little could not believe his good fortune at first. But there was no disbelieving it; the terms were so cold, precise, and businesslike.

"Ah, doctor," said he, "you have made a man of me; for this is your doing, I know."

"Of course I used my influence. I was stimulated by two spurs, friendship and my hobby. Now shake hands over it, and no fine speeches, but tell me when you can begin. ’My soul’s in arms, and eager for the fray.’"

"Begin? Why as soon as I get the money."

"That will come down directly, if I telegraph that you accept the terms. Call in a witness, and sign the agreement."

Jael Dence was called in, and the agreement signed and witnessed, and away went the doctor in high spirits, after making an appointment with Henry in Hillsborough for the next day.

Henry and Jael Dence talked eagerly over his new prospects. But though they were great friends, there was nothing to excite Grace’s jealousy. No sooner was Little proved to be Raby’s nephew than Jael Dence, in her humility, shrank back, and was inwardly ashamed of herself. She became respectful as well as kind; called him "the young master" behind his back, and tried to call him "Sir" to his face, only he would not let her.

Next day Little went to his mother and told her all. She was deeply interested, but bitterly disappointed at Henry’s refusal of Raby’s offer. "He will never forgive us now," she said. "And oh, Henry, if you love Grace Carden, that was the way to marry her." This staggered him; but he said he had every reason to hope she would marry him without his sacrificing his independence, and waiting with his hands in his pockets for dead men’s shoes.

Then he went to Dr. Amboyne, and there were the five hundred pounds waiting for him; but, never having possessed such a sum before, he begged the doctor to give him only L100 at a time. To finish for the present with this branch of the story, he was lucky enough to make an excellent bargain, bought the plant and stock of a small master-grinder recently deceased. He then confined the grinding to saws and razors; and this enabled him to set up his own forge on the premises, and to employ a few file-cutters. It was all he could do at starting. Then came the important question, What would the Trades say? He was not long in suspense; Grotait called on him, expressed his regret at the attack that had been made on him, and his satisfaction that now the matter could be happily arranged. "This," said he, "is the very proposal I was going to make to you (but you wouldn’t hear me), to set up as a small master, and sell your carving-tools to London instead of to Hillsboro’."

"What! will that make me right with the trade?"

"Pretty near. We protect the workmen from unfair competition, not the masters. However, if you wish to cure the sore altogether, let your own hands grind the tools, and send them out to be handled by Parkin: he has got men on the box; trade is dull."

"Well, I don’t object to that."

"Then, I say, let by-gones be gone-byes."

They shook hands over this, and in a very few hours it was known that Mr. Little was right with the trade.

His early experiences as a philanthropic master were rather curious; but I shall ask leave to relate them in a series of their own, and to deal at present with matters of more common interest.

He called twice on Grace Carden; but she was out. The third time he found her at home; but there was a lady with her, talking about the ball Mr. and Miss Carden were about to give. It was a subject calculated to excite volubility, and Henry could not get in a word edgewise. But he received some kind glances that made his heart beat.

The young lady sat there and gabbled; for she felt sure that no topic imported by a male creature could compete in interest with "the ball." So, at last, Henry rose in despair. But Grace, to whom her own ball had been a bore for the last half hour, went with him to the door; and he seized the opportunity to tell her he was a workmen no longer, but a master, having workmen under him.

Grace saw he was jubilant, so she was glad directly, and said so.

But then she shook her pretty head, and hoped he would not have to regret Mr. Raby’s offer.

"Never," said he, firmly; "unless I lose you. Now I’m a master, instead of a man, won’t you wait two years for me?"

"No," said Grace, archly. Then, with a look that sent him to heaven, "Not two, but TWENTY, sooner than you should be unhappy, after all you and I—"

The sentence was never completed. She clapped one hand swiftly before her scarlet face, and ran away to hide, and think of what she had done. It was full five minutes before she would bring her face under the eye of that young gossip in the drawing-room.

As for Henry, he received the blow full in his heart, and it quite staggered him. He couldn’t believe it at first; but when he realized it, waves and waves of joy seemed to rise inside him, and he went off in such a rapture he hardly trod the earth.

He went home, and kissed his mother, and told her, and she sympathized with him perforce, though she was jealous at bottom, poor thing.

The next day Grace received an unexpected visitor—Jael Dence.

Grace stared at sight of her, and received her very coldly.

"Oh, miss," said Jael, "don’t look so at me that love you dearly;" and with this threw her arms round her neck, and kissed her.

Grace was moved by this; but felt uncomfortable, and even struggled a little, but in vain. Jael was gentle, but mighty. "It’s about your letter, miss."

"Then let me go," cried Grace. "I wish I had never written it."

"Nay; don’t say so. I should never have known how good you are."

"What a fool I am, you mean. How dare you read my letter? Oh! did he show it you? That was very cruel, if he did."

"No, miss, he never showed it me; and I never read it. I call it mean to read another body’s letter. But, you know, ’tisn’t every woman thinks so: and a poor lass that is very fond of me—and I scold her bitterly—she took the letter out of his pocket, and told me what was in it."

"Very well, then," said Grace, coldly, "it is right you should also read his answer. I’ll bring it you."

"Not to-day, miss, if you please. There is no need. I know him: he is too much of a man to marry one girl when he loves another; and ’tis you he loves, and I hope you will be happy together."

A few quiet tears followed these brave words, and Grace looked at her askant, and began to do her justice.

"Ah!" said she, with a twinge of jealousy. "you know him better than I. You have answered for him, in his very words. Yet you can’t love him as I do. I hope you are not come to ask me to give him up again, for I can’t." Then she said, with quick defiance, "Take him from me, if you can." Then, piteously, "And if you do, you will kill me."

"Dear heart, I came of no such errand. I came to tell you I know how generous you have been to me, and made me your friend till death; and, when a Dence says that, she means it. I have been a little imprudent: but not so very. First word I said to him, in this very house, was, ’Are you really a workman?’ I had the sense to put that question; for, the first moment I clapped eyes on him, I saw my danger like. Well, he might have answered me true; but you see he didn’t. I think I am not so much to blame. Well, he is the young squire now, and no mate for me; and he loves you, that are of his own sort. That is sure to cure me—after a while. Simple folk like me aren’t used to get their way, like the gentry. It takes a deal of patience to go through the world. If you think I’ll let my heart cling to another woman’s sweetheart—nay, but I’d tear it out of my breast first. Yes, I dare say, it will be a year or two before I can listen to another man’s voice without hating him for wooing of me; but time cures all that don’t fight against the cure. And YOU’LL love me a little, miss, now, won’t you? You used to do, before I deserved it half as well as I do to-day."

"Of course I shall love you, my poor Jael. But what is my love, compared with that you are now giving up so nobly?"

"It is not much," said Jael, frankly; "but ’a little breaks a high fall.’ And I’m one that can only enjoy my own. Better a penny roll with a clear conscience, than my neighbor’s loaf. I’d liever take your love, and deserve it, than try to steal his."

All this time Grace was silently watching her, to see if there was any deceit, or self-deceit, in all this; and, had there been, it could not have escaped so keen and jealous an eye. But no, the limpid eye, the modest, sober voice, that trembled now and then, but always recovered its resolution, repelled doubt or suspicion.

Grace started to her feet, and said, with great enthusiasm. "I give you the love and respect you deserve so well; and I thank God for creating such a character now and then—to embellish this vile world."

Then she flung herself upon Jael, with wonderful abandon and grace, and kissed her so eagerly that she made poor Jael’s tears flow very fast indeed.

She would not let her go back to Cairnhope.

Henry remembered about the ball, and made up his mind to go and stand in the road: he might catch a glimpse of her somehow. He told his mother he should not be home to supper; and to get rid of the time before the ball, he went to the theater: thence, at ten o’clock, to "Woodbine Villa," and soon found himself one of a motley group. Men, women, and children were there to see the company arrive; and as, among working-people, the idle and the curious are seldom well-to-do, they were rather a scurvy lot, and each satin or muslin belle, brave with flowers and sparkling with gems, had to pass through a little avenue of human beings in soiled fustian, dislocated bonnets, rags, and unwashed faces.

Henry got away from this class of spectators, and took up his station right across the road. He leaned against the lamp-post, and watched the drawing-room windows for Grace.

The windows were large, and, being French, came down to the balcony. Little saw many a lady’s head and white shoulders, but not the one he sought.

Presently a bedroom window was opened, and a fair face looked out into the night for a moment. It was Jael Dence.

She had assisted Miss Carden to dress, and had then, at her request, prepared the room, and decked it with flowers, to receive a few of the young lady’s more favored friends. This done, she opened the window, and Henry Little saw her.

Nor was it long before she saw him; for the light of the lamp was full on him.

But he was now looking intently in at the drawing-room windows, and with a ghastly expression.

The fact is, that in the short interval between his seeing Jael and her seeing him, the quadrilles had been succeeded by a waltz, and Grace Carden’s head and shoulders were now flitting at intervals, past the window in close proximity to the head of her partner. What with her snowy, glossy shoulders, her lovely face, and her exquisite head and brow encircled with a coronet of pearls, her beauty seemed half-regal, half-angelic; yet that very beauty, after the first thrill of joy which the sudden appearance of a beloved one always causes, was now passing cold iron through her lover’s heart. For why? A man’s arm was round the supple waist, a man’s hand held that delicate palm, a man’s head seemed wedded to that lovely head, so close were the two together. And the encircling arm, the passing hand, the head that came and went, and rose and sank, with her, like twin cherries on a stalk, were the arm, the hand, and the head of Mr. Frederick Coventry.

Every time those two heads flitted past the window together, they inflicted a spasm of agony on Henry Little, and, between the spasms, his thoughts were bitter beyond expression. An icy barrier still between them, and none between his rival and her! Coventry could dance voluptuously with her before all the world; but he could only stand at the door of that Paradise, and groan and sicken with jealous anguish at the sight.

Now and then he looked up, and saw Jael Dence. She was alone. Like him, she was excluded from that brilliant crowd. He and she were born to work; these butterflies on the first floor, to enjoy.

Their eyes met; he saw soft pity in hers. He cast a mute, but touching appeal. She nodded, and withdrew from the window. Then he knew the faithful girl would try and do something or other for him.

But he never moved from his pillar of torture. Jealous agony is the one torment men can not fly from; it fascinates, it holds, it maddens.

Jael came to the drawing-room door just as the waltz ended, and tried to get to Miss Carden; but there were too many ladies and gentlemen, especially about the door.

At last she caught Grace’s eye, but only for a moment; and the young lady was in the very act of going out on the balcony for air, with her partner.

She did go out, accompanied by Mr. Coventry, and took two or three turns. Her cheek was flushed, her eye kindled, and the poor jealous wretch over the way saw it, and ascribed all that to the company of his rival.

While she walked to and fro with fawn-like grace, conversing with Mr. Coventry, yet secretly wondering what that strange look Jael had given her could mean, Henry leaned, sick at heart, against the lamppost over the way; and, at last, a groan forced its way out of him.

Faint as the sound was, Grace’s quick ear caught it, and she turned her head. She saw him directly, and blushed high, and turned pale, all in a moment; for, in that single moment, her swift woman’s heart told her why he was so ghastly, and why that sigh of distress.

She stopped short in her walk, and began to quiver from head to foot.

But, after a few moments of alarm, distress, and perplexity, love and high spirit supplied the place of tact, and she did the best and most characteristic thing she could. Just as Mr. Coventry, who had observed her shiver, was asking her if she found it too cold, she drew herself up to her full height, and, turning round, kissed her hand over the balcony to Henry Little with a sort of princely grandeur, and an ardor of recognition and esteem that set his heart leaping, and his pale cheek blushing, and made Coventry jealous in his turn. Yes, one eloquent gesture did that in a moment.

But the brave girl was too sensitive to prolong such a situation: the music recommenced at that moment, and she seized the opportunity, and retired to the room; she courtesied to Little at the window, and this time he had the sense to lift his hat to her.

The moment she entered the room Grace Carden slipped away from Mr. Coventry, and wound her way like a serpent through the crowd, and found Jael Dence at the door. She caught her by the arm, and pinched her. She was all trembling. Jael drew her up the stairs a little way.

"You have seen him out there?"

"Yes; and I—oh!"

"There! there. Think of the folk. Fight it down."

"I will. Go to him, and say I can’t bear it. Him to stand there— while those I don’t care a pin for—oh, Jael, for pity’s sake get him home to his mother."

"There, don’t you fret. I know what to say."

Jael went down; borrowed the first shawl she could lay her hand on; hooded herself with it, and was across the road in a moment.

"You are to go home directly."

"Who says so?"

"She does."

"What, does she tell me to go away, and leave her to him?"

"What does that matter? her heart goes with you."

"No, no."

"Won’t you take my word for it? I’m not given to lying."

"I know that. Oh, Jael, sweet, pretty, good-hearted Jael, have pity on me, and tell me the truth: is it me she loves, or that Coventry?"

"It is you."

"Oh, bless you! bless you! Ah, if I could only be sure of that, what wouldn’t I do for her? But, if she loves me, why, why send me away? It is very cruel that so many should be in the same room with her, and HE should dance with her, and I must not even look on and catch a glimpse of her now and then. I won’t go home."

"Ah!" said Jael, "you are like all the young men: you think only of yourself. And you call yourself a scholar of the good doctor’s."

"And so I am."

"Then why don’t you go by his rule, and put yourself in a body’s place? Suppose you was in her place, master of this house like, and dancing with a pack of girls you didn’t care for, and SHE stood out here, pale and sighing; and suppose things were so that you couldn’t come out to her, nor she come in to you, wouldn’t it cut you to the heart to see her stand in the street and look so unhappy—poor lad? Be good, now, and go home to thy mother. Why stand here and poison the poor young lady’s pleasure—such as ’tis—and torment thyself." Jael’s own eyes filled, and that proof of sympathy inclined Henry all the more to listen to her reason.

"You are wise, and good, and kind," he said. "But oh, Jael, I adore her so, I’d rather be in hell with her than in heaven without her. Half a loaf is better than no bread. I can’t go home and turn my back on the place where she is. Yes, I’m in torments; but I see. They can’t rob my EYES of her."

"To oblige HER!"

"Yes; I’ll do anything to oblige HER. If I could only believe she loves me."

"Put it to the proof, if you don’t believe me."

"I will. Tell her I’d much rather stay all night, and catch a glimpse of her now and then; but yet, tell her I’ll go home, if she will promise me not to dance with that Coventry again."

"There is a condition!" said Jael.

"It is a fair one," said Henry, doggedly, "and I won’t go from it."

Jael looked at him, and saw it was no use arguing the matter. So she went in to the house with his ultimatum.

She soon returned, and told him that Miss Grace, instead of being angry, as she expected, had smiled and looked pleased, and promised not to dance with Mr. Coventry nor any body else any more that night, "if he would go straight home and consult his beautiful mother." "Those were her words," said the loyal Dence. "She did say them twice over to make sure."

"God bless her!" cried Henry, warmly; "and bless you too, my best friend. I’ll go this moment."

He cast a long, lingering look at the window, and went slowly down the street.

When he got home, his mother was still up and secretly anxious.

He sat down beside her, and told her where he had been and how it had all ended. "I’m to consult my beautiful mother," said he, kissing her.

"What, does she think I am like my picture now?"

"I suppose so. And you are as beautiful as ever in my eyes, mother. And I do consult you."

Mrs. Little’s black eyes flashed; but she said, calmly,

"What about, dearest?"

"I really don’t know. I suppose it was about what happened tonight. Perhaps about it all."

Mrs. Little leaned her head upon her hand and thought.

After a moment’s reflection, she said to Henry, rather coldly, "If she is not a very good girl, she must be a very clever one."

"She is both," said Henry, warmly.

"Of that I shall be the best judge," said Mrs. Little, very coldly indeed.

Poor Henry felt quite chilled. He said no more; nor did his mother return to the subject till they parted for the night, and then it was only to ask him what church Miss Carden went to—a question that seemed to be rather frivolous, but he said he thought St. Margaret’s.

Next Sunday evening, Mrs. Little and he being at tea together, she said to him quietly—"Well, Harry, I have seen her."

"Oh mother! where?"

"At St. Margaret’s Church."

"But how did you know her? By her beauty?"

Mrs. Little smiled, and took a roll of paper out of her muff, that lay on the sofa. She unfolded it, and displayed a drawing. It represented Grace Carden in her bonnet, and was a very good likeness.

The lover bounced on it, and devoured it with astonishment and delight.

"Taken from the bust, and retouched from nature," said Mrs. Little. "Yes, dear, I went to St. Margaret’s, and asked a pew-opener where she sat. I placed myself where I could command her features; and you may be sure, I read her very closely. Well, dear, she bears examination. It is a bright face, a handsome face, and a good face; and almost as much in love as you are."

"What makes you fancy that? Oh, you spoke to her?"

"Certainly not. But I observed her. Restless and listless by turns—her body in one place, her mind in another. She was so taken up with her own thoughts she could not follow the service. I saw the poor girl try very hard several times, but at last she gave it up in despair. Sometimes she knitted her brow and a young girl seldom does that unless she is thwarted in her love. And I’ll tell you a surer sign still: sometimes tears came for no visible reason, and stood in her eyes. She is in love; and it can not be with Mr. Coventry of Bollinghope; for, if she loved him, she would have nothing to brood on but her wedding-dress; and they never knit their brows, nor bedew their eyes, thinking of that; that’s a smiling subject. No, it is true love on both sides, I do believe; and that makes my woman’s heart yearn. Harry, dear, I’ll make you a confession. You have heard that a mother’s love is purer and more unselfish than any other love: and so it is. But even mothers are not quite angels always. Sometimes they are just a little jealous: not, I think, where they are blessed with many children; but you are my one child, my playmate, my companion, my friend, my only love. That sweet girl has come, and I must be dethroned. I felt this, and—no, nothing could ever make me downright thwart your happiness; but a mother’s jealousy made me passive, where I might have assisted you if I had been all a mother should be."

"No, no, mother; I am the one to blame. You see, it looked so hopeless at first, I used to be ashamed to talk freely to you. It’s only of late I have opened my heart to you as I ought."

"Well, dear, I am glad you think the blame is not all with me. But what I see is my own fault, and mean to correct it. She gave you good advice, dear—to consult your mother. But you shall have my assistance as well; and I shall begin at once, like a zealous ally. When I say at once—this is Sunday—I shall begin to-morrow at one o’clock."

Then Henry sat down at her knee, and took her white hand in his brown ones.

"And what shall you do at one o’clock, my beautiful mother?"

"I shall return to society."

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Chicago: Charles Reade, "Chapter XXI.," 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 October 1, 2022, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=L1HZPFBM236BYQM.

MLA: Reade, Charles. "Chapter XXI." 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. 1 Oct. 2022. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=L1HZPFBM236BYQM.

Harvard: Reade, C, 'Chapter XXI.' in Put Yourself in His Place, ed. and trans. . cited in , Put Yourself in His Place. Original Sources, retrieved 1 October 2022, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=L1HZPFBM236BYQM.