Put Yourself in His Place

Contents:
Author: Charles Reade

Chapter XXXIX.

The short interval previous to the wedding-day passed, to all appearance, as that period generally does. Settlements were drawn, and only awaited signature. The bride seemed occupied with dress, and receiving visits and presents, and reading and writing letters of that sort which ought to be done by machinery.

The bridegroom hovered about the house, running in and out on this or that pretext.

She received his presence graciously, read him the letters of her female friends, and forced herself to wear a look of languid complacency, especially before others.

Under all this routine she had paroxysms of secret misery, and he was in tortures.

These continued until the eve of the wedding, and then he breathed freely. No letter had come from the United States, and to-morrow was the wedding-day. The chances were six to one no letter came that day, and, even if one should, he had now an excuse ready for keeping Lally on the premises that particular morning. At one o’clock he would be flying south with his bride.

He left the villa to dress for dinner. During this interval Jael Dence called.

The housemaid knocked at Grace’s door—she was dressing—and told her Jael wished to see her.

Grace was surprised, and much disturbed. It flashed on her in a moment that this true and constant lover of Henry Little had come to enjoy her superiority. She herself had greatly desired this meeting once, but now it could only serve to mortify her. The very thought that this young woman was near her set her trembling; but she forced herself to appear calm, and, turning to her maid, said, "Tell her I can see no one to-day."

The lady’s maid gave this message to the other servant, and she went down-stairs with it.

The message, however, had not been gone long when the desire to put a question to Jael Dence returned strongly upon Grace Carden.

She yielded to an uncontrollable impulse, and sent her maid down to say that she would speak to Jael Dence, in her bedroom, the last thing at night.

"The last thing at night!" said Jael, coloring with indignation; "and where am I to find a bed after that?"

"Oh," said the late footman, now butler, "you shall not leave the house. I’ll manage that for you with the housekeeper."

At half-past eleven o’clock that night Grace dismissed her maid, and told her to bring Jael Dence to her.

Jael came, and they confronted each other once more.

"You can go," said Grace to the maid.

They were alone, and eyed each other strangely.

"Sit down," said Grace, coldly.

"No, thank you," said Jael, firmly. "I shall not stay long after the way I have been received."

"And how do you expect to be received?"

"As I used to be. As a poor girl who once saved HIS life, and nearly lost her own, through being his true and faithful servant."

"Faithful to him, but not to me."

Jael’s face showed she did not understand this.

"Yes," said Grace, bitterly, "you are the real cause of my marrying Mr. Coventry, whom I don’t love, and never can love. There, read that. I can’t speak to you. You look all candor and truth, but I know what you are: all the women in that factory knew about you and him—read that." She handed her the anonymous letter, and watched her like an eagle.

Jael read the poison, and colored a little, but was not confounded.

"Do you believe this, Miss Carden?"

"I did not believe it at first, but too many people have confirmed it. Your own conduct has confirmed it, my poor girl. This is cruel of me."

"Never mind," said Jael, resolutely. "We have gone too far to stop. My conduct! What conduct, if you please?"

"They all say that, when you found he was no more, you attempted self-destruction."

"Ah," cried Jael, like a wounded hare; "they must tell you that!" and she buried her face in her hands.

Now this was a young woman endowed by nature with great composure, and a certain sobriety and weight; so, when she gave way like that, it produced a great effect on those who knew her.

Grace sighed, and was distressed. But there was no help for it now. She awaited Jael’s reply, and Jael could not speak for some time. She conquered her agitation, however, at last, and said, in a low voice, "Suppose you had a sister, whom you loved dearly—and then you had a quarrel with her, and neither of you much to blame, the fault lay with a third person; and suppose you came home suddenly and found that sister had left England in trouble, and gone to the other end of the world—would not that cut you to the heart?"

"Indeed it would. How correctly you speak. Now who has been teaching you?"

"Mrs. Little."

"Ah!"

"You HAVE a father. Suppose you left him for a month, and then came back and found him dead and buried—think of that—buried!"

"Poor girl!"

"And all this to fall on a poor creature just off a sick-bed, and scarcely right in her head. When I found poor Mr. Henry was dead, and you at death’s door, I crawled home for comfort, and there I found desolation: my sister gone across the sea, my father in the churchyard. I wandered about all night, with my heavy heart and distraught brain, and at last they found me in the river. They may say I threw myself in, but it is my belief I swooned away and fell in. I wouldn’t swear, though, for I remember nothing of it. What does it prove against me?"

"Not much, indeed, by itself. But they all say you were shut up with him for hours."

"And that is true; ten hours, every day. He was at war with these trades, and his own workmen had betrayed him. He knew I was as strong as a man at some kinds of work—of course I can’t strike blows, and hurt people like a man—so he asked me, would I help him grind saws with his machine on the sly—clandestinely, I mean. Well, I did, and very easy work it was—child’s play to me that had wrought on a farm. He gave me six pounds a week for it. That’s all the harm we did together; and, as for what we said, let me tell you a first-rate workman, like poor Mr. Henry, works very silently; that is where they beat us women. I am sure we often ground a dozen saws, and not a word, except upon the business. When we did talk, it was sure to be about you. Poor lad, the very last time we wrought together, I mind he said, ’Well done, Jael, that’s good work; it brings me an inch nearer HER.’ And I said, All the better, and I’d give him another hour or two every day if he liked. That very evening I took him his tea at seven o’clock. He was writing letters; one was to you. He was just addressing it. ’Good-night, Jael,’ said he. ’You have been a good friend to her and me.’"

"Oh! did he say that? What became of that letter?"

"Upon my soul, he did; ay, and it was his last word to me in this world. But you are not of his mind, it seems. The people in the factory! I know they used to say we were sweethearts. You can’t wonder at that; they didn’t know about you, nor any of our secrets; and, of course, vulgar folk like them could not guess the sort of affection I had for poor Mr. Henry; but a lady like you should not go by their lights. Besides, I was always open with you. Once I had a different feeling for him: did I hide it from you? When I found he loved you, I set to work to cure myself. I did cure myself before your very eyes; and, after that, you ought to be ashamed of yourself to go and doubt me. There, now, I have made her cry."

Her own voice faltered a moment, and she said, with gentle dignity, "Well, I forgive you, for old kindness past; but I shall not sleep under this roof now. God bless you, and give you many happy days yet with this gentleman you are going to marry. Farewell."

She was actually going; but Grace caught her by the arm. "No, no, you shall not leave me so."

"Ay, but I will." And Jael’s eyes, so mild in general, began to sparkle with anger, at being detained against her will; but, generous to the last, she made no use of her great strength to get clear from Grace.

"You will not go, if you are the woman you were. I believe your words, I believe your honest face, I implore your forgiveness. I am the most miserable creature in this world. Pray do not abandon me."

This appeal, made with piteous gestures and streaming eyes, overpowered Jael Dence, and soon they were seated, rocking together, and Grace pouring out her heart.

Jael then learned, to her dismay, that Grace’s belief in Henry’s falsehood was a main cause of this sudden marriage. Had she believed her Henry true, she would have mourned him, as a widow, two years at least.

The unhappy young lady lamented her precipitation, and the idea of marrying Mr. Coventry to-morrow became odious to her. She asked Jael wildly whether she should not be justified in putting an end to her life.

Jael consoled her all she could; and, at her request, slept in the same bed with her. Indeed she was afraid to leave her; for she was wild at times, and said she would prefer to be married to that dead hand people said was at the Town hall, and then thrown into one grave with it. "That’s the bridal I long for," said she.

In the morning she was calmer, and told Jael she thought she was doing right.

"I shall be neither more nor less wretched for marrying this poor man," said she: "and I shall make two people happy; two people that deserve the sacrifice I make."

So, after all, the victim went calmly.

Early in the morning came a letter from Dr. Fynes. He was confined by gout, and sorry to say the ceremony he had hoped to perform must be done by his curate.

Now this curate was quite a stranger to Grace, and indeed to most people in Hillsborough. Dr. Fynes himself knew nothing about him except that he had come in answer to his inquiry for a curate, had brought good letters of recommendation, and had shown himself acquainted with the learned doctor’s notes to Apollonius Rhodius; on which several grounds the doctor, who was himself a better scholar than a priest, had made him his curate, and had heard no complaints, except from a few puritanical souls. These he looked on as barbarians, and had calmly ignored them and their prejudices ever since he transferred his library from St. John’s College, Cambridge, to St. Peter’s Rectory, and that was thirty years ago.

This sudden substitute of an utter stranger for Dr. Fynes afflicted Grace Carden not a little, and her wedding-day began with a tear or two on that account. But, strange as it may appear, she lived to alter her mind, and to thank and bless Mr. Beresford for taking her old friend’s place on that great occasion.

But while the bride dressed for church, and her bridemaids and friends drove up, events were taking place to deal with which I must retrograde a step.

Jael Dence having gone to Woodbine Villa, Mrs. Little and her brother dined tete-a-tete; and the first question she asked was, "Why where is Jael?"

"Don’t you know? gone to Woodbine Villa. The wedding is to-morrow."

"What, my Jael gone to that girl’s wedding!" And her eyes flashed with fire.

"Why not? I am going to it myself."

"I am sorry to hear you say so—very sorry."

"Why, she is my godchild. Would you have me affront her?"

"If she is your godchild, Henry is your nephew."

"Of course, and I did all I could to marry him to Grace; but, you see, he would he wiser than me."

"Dear Guy, my poor Henry was to blame for not accepting your generous offer; but that does not excuse this heartless, fickle girl."

Raby’s sense of justice began to revolt. "My dear Edith, I can’t bear to hear you speak so contemptuously of this poor girl, who has so nearly died for love of your son. She is one of the noblest, purest, most unselfish creatures I ever knew. Why judge so hastily? But that is the way with you ladies; it must be the woman who is in the wrong. Men are gods, and women devils; that is your creed."

"Is HENRY going to marry another?"

"Not that I know of."

"Then what excuse can there be for her conduct? Does wrong become right, when this young lady does it? It is you who are prejudiced, not I. Her conduct is without excuse. I have written to her: she has replied, and has offered me no excuse. ’Forgive me,’ she says, ’and forget me.’ I shall never forgive her; and you must permit me to despise her for a few years before I forget her."

"Well, don’t excite yourself so. My poor Edith, some day or other you will be sorry you ever said a word against that amiable and most unfortunate girl."

He said this so sadly and solemnly that Mrs. Little’s anger fell directly, and they both sat silent a long time.

"Guy," said Mrs. Little, "tell me the truth. Has my son done anything wrong—anything rash? It was strange he should leave England without telling me. He told Dr. Amboyne. Oh, there is some mystery here. If I did not know you so well, I should say there is some deceit going on in this house. There IS— You hang your head. I cannot bear to give you pain, so I will ask you no more questions. But—"

There was a world of determination in that "but."

She retired early to bed; to bed, but not to rest.

In the silence of the night she recalled every thing, every look, every word that had seemed a little strange to her, and put them all together. She could not sleep; vague misgivings crawled over her agitated mind. At length she slumbered from sheer exhaustion. She rose early; yet, when she came down-stairs, Raby was just starting for Woodbine Villa.

Mrs. Little asked him to take her into Hillsborough. He looked uneasy, but complied, and, at her desire, set her down in the market-place of Hillsborough. As soon as he was out of sight she took a fly, and directed the driver to take her to Mr. Little’s works. "I mean," said she, "the works where Mr. Bayne is."

She found Mr. Bayne in his counting-house, dressed in deep mourning.

He started at sight of her, and then she saw his eye fall with surprise on her gray dress.

"Mr. Bayne," said she, "I am come to ask you a question or two."

"Be seated, madam," said Bayne, reverently. "I expected a visit from you or from your agent, and the accounts are all ready for your inspection. I keep them as clear as possible."

"I do not come here about accounts. My son has perfect confidence in you, and so have I."

"Thank you, madam; thank you kindly. He did indeed honor me with his confidence, and with his friendship. I am sure he was more like a brother to me than an employer. Ah, madam! I shall never, never, see his fellow again." And honest Bayne turned away with his hand to his eyes.

This seemed to Mrs. Little to be more than the occasion required, and did not tend to lessen her misgivings. However, she said gravely, "Mr. Bayne, I suppose you have heard there is to be a wedding in the town to-day—Miss Carden?"

"That is sudden! No, madam, I didn’t know it. I can hardly believe it."

"It is so. She marries a Mr. Coventry. Now I think you were in my son’s confidence; can you tell me whether there was any quarrel between him and Miss Carden before he left us?"

"Well, madam, I didn’t see so much of him lately, he was always at the other works. Would to heaven he had never seen them! But I don’t believe he ever gave that lady an unkind word. He was not that sort. He was ready of his hand against a man, but a very lamb with women he was. And so she is going to marry? Well, well; the world, it must go round. She loved him dearly, too. She was down at Bolt and Little’s works day after day searching for him. She spent money like water, poor thing! I have seen her with her white face and great eyes watching the men drag the river for him; and, when that horrible thing was found at last, they say she was on the bridge and swooned dead away, and lay at death’s door. But you will know all this, madam; and it is sad for me to speak of, let alone you that are his mother."

The color died out of Mrs. Little’s cheek as he spoke; but, catching now a glimpse of the truth, she drew Bayne on with terrible cunning, and so learned that there had been a tremendous explosion, and Jael Dence taken up for dead; and that, some time after, an arm and a hand had been found in the river and recognized for the remains of Henry Little.

When she had got this out of the unwary Bayne she uttered a piercing scream, and her head hung over the chair, and her limbs writhed, and the whole creature seemed to wither up.

Then Bayne saw with dismay what he had done, and began to falter out expressions of regret. She paid no attention.

He begged her to let him fetch her some salts or a cordial.

She shook her head and lay weak as water and white as a sheet.

At last she rose, and, supporting herself for a moment by the back of the chair, she said, "you will take me to see my son’s remains."

"Oh, for heaven’s sake, don’t think of it!"

"I must; I cannot keep away from them an instant. And how else can I know they are his? Do you think I will believe any eye but my own? Come."

He had no power to disobey her. He trembled in every limb at what was coming, but he handed her into her carriage, and went with her to the Town Hall.

When they brought her the tweed sleeves, she trembled like an aspen leaf. When they brought her the glass receptacle, she seized Bayne by the shoulder and turned her head away. By degrees she looked round, and seemed to stiffen all of a sudden. "It is not my son," said she.

She rushed out of the place, bade Mr. Bayne good-morning, and drove directly to Dr. Amboyne. She attacked him at once. "You have been deceiving me all this time about my son; and what am I the better? What is anybody the better? Now tell me the truth. You think him dead?"

(Dr. Amboyne hung his head in alarm and confusion.)

"Why do you think so? Do you go by those remains? I have seen them. My child was vaccinated on the left arm, and carried the mark. He had specks on two of his finger-nails; he had a small wart on his little finger; and his fingers were not blunt and uncouth, like that; they were as taper as any lady’s in England; that hand is nothing like my son’s; you are all blind; yet you must go and blind the only one who had eyes, the only one who really loved him, and whose opinion is worth a straw."

Dr. Amboyne was too delighted at the news to feel these reproaches very deeply. "Thank God!" said he. "Scold me, for I deserve it. But I did for the best; but, unfortunately, we have still to account for his writing to no one all this time. No matter. I begin to hope. THAT was the worst evidence. Edith, I must go to Woodbine Villa. That poor girl must not marry in ignorance of this. Believe me, she will never marry Coventry, if HE is alive. Excuse my leaving you at such a time, but there is not a moment to be lost."

He placed her on a sofa, and opened the window; for, by a natural reaction, she was beginning to feel rather faint. He gave his housekeeper strict orders to take care of her, then snatching his hat, went hastily out.

At the door he met the footman with several letters (he had a large correspondence), shoved them pell-mell into his breast-pocket, shouted to a cabman stationed near, and drove off to Woodbine Villa.

It was rather up-hill, but he put his head out of the window and offered the driver a sovereign to go fast. The man lashed his horse up the hill, and did go very fast, though it seemed slow to Dr. Amboyne, because his wishes flew so much faster.

At last he got to the villa, and rang furiously.

After a delay that set the doctor stamping, Lally appeared.

"I must see Miss Carden directly."

"Step in, sir; she won’t be long now."

Dr. Amboyne walked into the dining-room, and saw it adorned with a wealth of flowers, and the wedding-breakfast set out with the usual splendor; but there was nobody there; and immediately an uneasy suspicion crossed his mind.

He came out into the passage, and found Lally there.

"Are they gone to the church?"

"They are," said Lally, with consummate coolness.

"You Irish idiot!" roared the doctor, "why couldn’t you tell me that before?" And, notwithstanding his ungainly figure, he ran down the road, shouting, like a Stentor, to his receding cabman.

"Bekase I saw that every minute was goold," said Lally, as soon as he was out of hearing.

The cabman, like most of his race, was rather deaf and a little blind, and Dr. Amboyne was much heated and out of breath before he captured him. He gasped out, "To St. Peter’s Church, for your life!"

It was rather down-hill this time, and about a mile off.

In little more than five minutes the cab rattled up to the church door.

Dr. Amboyne got out, told the man to wait, and entered the church with a rapid step.

Before he had gone far up the center aisle, he stopped.

Mr. Coventry and Grace Carden were coming down the aisle together in wedding costume, the lady in her bridal veil.

They were followed by the bridemaids.

Dr. Amboyne stared, and stepped aside into an open pew to let them pass.

They swept by; he looked after them, and remained glued to his seat till the church was clear of the procession.

He went into the vestry, and found the curate there.

"Are that couple really married, sir?" said he.

The curate looked amazed. "As fast as I can make them," said he, rather flippantly.

"Excuse me," said the doctor, faintly. "It was a foolish question to ask."

"I think I have the honor of speaking to Dr. Amboyne?"

Dr. Amboyne bowed mechanically.

"You will be at the wedding-breakfast, of course?"

"Humph!"

"Why, surely, you are invited?"

"Yes" (with an equally absent air).

Finding him thus confused, the sprightly curate laughed and bade him good-morning, jumped into a hansom, and away to Woodbine Villa.

Dr. Amboyne followed him slowly.

"Drive me to Woodbine Villa. There’s no hurry now."

On the way, he turned the matter calmly over, and put this question to himself: Suppose he had reached the villa in time to tell Grace Carden the news! Certainly he would have disturbed the wedding; but would it have been put off any the more? The bride’s friends and advisers would have replied, "But that is no positive proof that he is alive; and, if he is alive, he has clearly abandoned her. Not a line for all these months."

This view of the matter appeared to him unanswerable, and reconciled him, in a great degree, to what seemed inevitable.

He uttered one deep sigh of regret, and proceeded now to read his letters; for he was not likely to have another opportunity for an hour or two at least, since he must be at the wedding breakfast. His absence would afflict the bride.

The third letter he took out of his breast-pocket bore an American postmark. At the first word of it he uttered an ejaculation, and his eye darted to the signature.

Then he gave a roar of delight. It was signed "Henry Little," and the date only twelve days old.

His first thought was the poor lady who, at this moment, lay on a sofa in his house, a prey to doubts and fears he could now cure in a moment.

But no sooner had he cast his eyes over the contents, than his very flesh began to creep with dire misgivings and suspicions.

To these succeeded the gravest doubts as to the course he ought to pursue at Woodbine Villa.

He felt pretty sure that Grace Carden had been entrapped into marrying a villain, and his first impulse was to denounce the bridegroom before the assembled guests.

But his cooler judgment warned him against acting in hot blood, and suggested it would be better to try and tell her privately.

And then he asked himself what would be the consequence of telling her.

She was a lady of great spirit, fire, and nobility. She would never live with this husband of hers.

And then came the question, What would be her life?

She might be maid, wife, and widow all her days.

Horrible as it was, he began almost to fear her one miserable chance of happiness might lie in ignorance.

But then how long could she be in ignorance?

Little was coming home; he would certainly speak out.

Dr. Amboyne was more tormented with doubts than a man of inferior intellect would have been. His was an academic mind, accustomed to look at every side of a question; and, when he reached Woodbine Villa, he was almost distracted with doubt and perplexity. However, there was one person from whom the news must not be kept a moment. He took an envelope out of his pocket-book, and sent the cabman to Mrs. Little with this line:

"Thank God, I have a letter from Henry Little by this day’s post. He is well. Wait an hour or two for me. I can not leave Woodbine Villa at present."

He sent this off by his cabman, and went into the breakfast-room in a state of mind easier to imagine than to describe.

The party were all seated, and his the only vacant place.

It was like a hundred other weddings at which he had been; and, seeing the bride and bridegroom seated together as usual, and the pretty bridemaids tittering, as usual, and the gentle dullness lighted up with here and there a feeble jest, as usual, he could hardly realize that horrible things lay beneath the surface of all this snowy bride-cake, and flowers, and white veils, and weak jocoseness.

He stared, bowed, and sunk into his place like a man in a dream.

Bridemaids became magnetically conscious that an incongruous element had entered; so they tittered. At what does sweet silly seventeen not titter?

Knives and forks clattered, champagne popped, and Dr. Amboyne was more perplexed and miserable than he had ever been. He had never encountered a more hopeless situation.

Presently Lally came and touched the bridegroom. He apologized, and left the room a moment.

Lally then told him to be on his guard, for the fat doctor knew something. He had come tearing up in a fly, and had been dreadfully put out when he found Miss Carden was gone to the church.

"Well, but he might merely wish to accompany her to the church: he is an old friend."

Lally shook his head and said there was much more in it than that; he could tell by the man’s eye, and his uneasy way. "Master, dear, get out of this, for heaven’s sake, as fast as ye can."

"You are right; go and order the carriage round, as soon as the horses can be put to."

Coventry then went hastily back to the bridal guests, and Lally ran to the neighboring inn which furnished the four post-horses.

Coventry had hardly settled down in his chair before he cast a keen but furtive glance at Dr. Amboyne’s face.

Then he saw directly that the doctor’s mind was working, and that he was secretly and profoundly agitated.

But, after all, he thought, what could the man know? And if he had known any thing, would he have kept it to himself?

Still he judged it prudent to propitiate Dr. Amboyne; so, when the time came for the usual folly of drinking healths, he leaned over to him, and, in the sweetest possible voice, asked him if he would do them both the honor to propose the bride’s health.

At this unexpected call from Mr. Coventry, Dr. Amboyne stared in the bridegroom’s face. He stared at him so that other people began to stare. Recovering himself a little, he rose mechanically, and surprised every body who knew him.

Instead of the easy gayety natural to himself and proper to the occasion, he delivered a few faltering words of affection for the bride; then suddenly stopped, and, after a pause, said, "But some younger man must foretell her the bright career she deserves. I am unfit. We don’t know what an hour may bring forth." With this he sunk into his chair.

An uneasy grin, and then a gloom, fell on the bright company at these strange words, and all looked at one another uncomfortably.

But this situation was unexpectedly relieved. The young curate rose, and said, "I accept the honor Dr. Amboyne is generous enough to transfer to the younger gentlemen of the party—accept it with pride."

Starting from this exordium, he pronounced, with easy volubility, a charming panegyric on the bride, congratulated her friends, and then congratulated himself on being the instrument to unite her in holy wedlock with a gentleman worthy of her affection. Then, assuming for one moment the pastor, he pronounced a blessing on the pair, and sat down, casting glances all round out of a pair of singularly restless eyes.

The loud applause that followed left him in no doubt as to the favorable effect he had produced. Coventry, in particular, looked most expressively grateful.

The bridegroom’s health followed, and Coventry returned thanks in a speech so neat and well delivered that Grace felt proud of his performance.

Then the carriage and four came round, and Coventry gave Grace an imploring glance on which she acted at once, being herself anxious to escape from so much publicity. She made her courtesies, and retired to put on her traveling-dress.

Then Dr. Amboyne cursed his own indecision, but still could not make up his mind, except to tell Raby, and make him the judge what course was best.

The gayety, never very boisterous, began to flag altogether; when suddenly a noise was heard outside, and one or two young people, who darted unceremoniously to the window, were rewarded by the sight of a man and a woman struggling and quarreling at the gate. The disturbance in question arose thus: Jael Dence, looking out of Grace’s window, saw the postman coming, and ran to get Grace her letters (if any) before she went.

The postman, knowing her well, gave her the one letter there was.

Lally, returning from the inn, where he had stopped one unlucky minute to drain a glass, saw this, and ran after Jael and caught her just inside the gate.

"That is for me," said he, rudely.

"Nay, it’s for thy betters, young man; ’tis for Miss Grace Carden."

"She is Mrs. Coventry now, so give it me."

"I’ll take her orders first."

On this Lally grabbed at it and caught Jael’s right hand, which closed directly on the letter like a vise.

"Are these your manners?" said she. "Give over now."

"I tell you I will have it!" said he, fiercely, for he had caught sight of the handwriting.

He seized her hand and applied his knuckles to the back of it with all his force. That hurt her, and she gave a cry, and twisted away from him and drew back; then, putting her left hand to his breast, she gave a great yaw, and then a forward rush with her mighty loins, and a contemporaneous shove with her amazing left arm, that would have pushed down some brick walls, and the weight and strength so suddenly applied sent Lally flying like a feather. His head struck the stone gate-post, and he measured his length under it.

Jael did not know how completely she had conquered him, and she ran in with a face as red as fire, and took the letter up to Grace, and was telling her, all in a heat, about the insolence of her new husband’s Irish servant, when suddenly she half recognized the handwriting, and stood staring at it, and began to tremble.

"Why, what is the matter?" said Grace.

"Oh, nothing, miss. I’m foolish. The writing seems to me like a writing we shall never see again." And she stood and trembled still more, for the handwriting struck her more and more.

Grace ran to her, and at the very first glance uttered a shriek of recognition. She caught it from Jael, tore it open, saw the signature, and sunk into a chair, half fainting, with the letter pressed convulsively to her breast

Jael, trembling, but comparatively self-possessed, ran to the door directly and locked it.

"My darling! my darling! he is alive! The dear words, they swim before my eyes. Read! read! tell me what he says. Why has he abandoned me? He has not abandoned me! O God! what have I done? what have I done?"

Before that letter was half read, or rather sobbed, out to her, Grace tore off all her bridal ornaments and trampled them under her feet, and moaned, and twisted, and writhed as if her body was being tortured as well as her heart; for Henry was true as ever, and she had married a villain.

She took the letter from Jael, and devoured every word; though she was groaning and sobbing with the wildest agony all the time.

"NEW YORK, July 18th.

"MY OWN DEAREST GRACE,—I write you these few lines in wonder and pain. I have sent you at least fifteen letters, and in most of them I have begged you to write to me at the Post-office, New York; yet not one line is here to greet me in your dear handwriting. Yet my letters must have all reached Woodbine Villa, or why are they not sent back? Of three letters I sent to my mother, two have been returned from Aberystwith, marked, ’Gone away, and not left her address.’

"I have turned this horrible thing every way in my mind, and even prayed God to assist my understanding; and I come back always to the same idea that some scoundrel has intercepted my letters.

"The first of these I wrote at the works on the evening I left Hillsborough; the next I wrote from Boston, after my long illness, in great distress of mind on your account; for I put myself in your place, and thought what agony it would be to me if nine weeks passed, and no word from you. The rest were written from various cities, telling you I was making our fortune, and should soon be home. Oh, I can not write of such trifles now!

"My own darling, let me find you alive; that is all I ask. I know I shall find you true to me, if you are alive.

"Perhaps it would have been better if my heart had not been so entirely filled by you. God has tried me hard in some things, but He has blessed me with true friends. It was ungrateful of me not to write to such true friends as Dr. Amboyne and Jael Dence. But, whenever I thought of England, I saw only you.

"By this post I write to Dr. Amboyne, Mr. Bolt, Mr. Bayne, and Jael Dence.

"This will surely baffle the enemy who has stopped all my letters to you, and will stop this one, I dare say.

"I say no more, beloved one. What is the use? You will perhaps never see this letter, and you know more than I can say, for you know how I love you: and that is a great deal more than ever I can put on paper.

"I sail for England in four days. God help me to get over the interval.

"I forget whether I told you I had made my fortune. Your devoted and most unhappy lover,

"Henry."

Grace managed to read this, in spite of the sobs and moans that shook her, and the film that half blinded her; and, when she had read it, sank heavily down, and sat all crushed together, with hands working like frenzy.

Jael kneeled beside her, and kissed and wept over her, unheeded.

Then Jael prayed aloud beside her, unheeded.

At last she spoke, looking straight before her, as if she was speaking to the wall.

"Bring my godfather here."

"Won’t you see your father first?" said Jael, timidly.

"I have no father. I want something I can lean on over the gulf—a man of honor. Fetch Mr. Raby to me."

Jael kissed her tenderly, and wept over her once more a minute, then went softly down-stairs and straight into the breakfast-room.

Here, in the meantime, considerable amusement had been created by the contest between Lally and Jael Dence, the more so on account of the triumph achieved by the weaker vessel.

When Lally got up, and looked about him ruefully, great was the delight of the younger gentlemen.

When he walked in-doors, they chaffed him through an open window, and none of them noticed that the man was paler than even the rough usage he had received could account for.

This jocund spirit, however, was doomed to be short-lived.

Lally came into the room, looking pale and troubled, and whispered a word in his master’s ear; then retired, but left his master as pale as himself.

Coventry, seated at a distance from the window, had not seen the scrimmage outside, and Lally’s whispered information fell on him like a thunderbolt.

Mr. Beresford saw at once that something was wrong, and hinted as much to his neighbor. It went like magic round the table, and there was an uneasy silence.

In the midst of this silence, mysterious sounds began to be heard in the bride’s chamber: a faint scream; feet rushing across the floor; a sound as of some one sinking heavily on to a chair or couch.

Presently came a swift stamping that told a tale of female passion; and after that confused sounds that could not be interpreted through the ceiling, yet somehow the listeners felt they were unusual. One or two attempted conversation, out of politeness; but it died away— curiosity and uneasiness prevailed.

Lally put his head in at the door, and asked if the carriage was to be packed.

"Of course," said Coventry; and soon the servants, male and female, were seen taking boxes out from the hall to the carriage.

Jael Dence walked into the room, and went to Mr. Raby.

"The bride desires to see you immediately, sir."

Raby rose, and followed Jael out.

The next minute a lady’s maid came, with a similar message to Dr. Amboyne.

He rose with great alacrity, and followed her.

There was nothing remarkable in the bride’s taking private leave of these two valued friends. But somehow the mysterious things that had preceded made the guests look with half-suspicious eyes into every thing; and Coventry’s manifest discomfiture, when Dr. Amboyne was sent for, justified this vague sense that there was something strange going on beneath the surface.

Neither Raby nor Amboyne came down again, and Mr. Beresford remarked aloud that the bride’s room was like the lion’s den in the fable, "’Vestigia nulla retrorsum.’"

At last the situation became intolerable to Coventry. He rose, in desperation, and said, with a ghastly attempt at a smile, that he must, nevertheless, face the dangers of the place himself, as the carriage was now packed, and Mrs. Coventry and he, though loath to leave their kind friends, had a longish journey before them. "Do not move, I pray; I shall be back directly."

As soon as he had got out of the room, he held a whispered consultation with Lally, and then, collecting all his courage, and summoning all his presence of mind, he went slowly up the stairs, determined to disown Lally’s acts (Lally himself had suggested this), and pacify Grace’s friends, if he could; but, failing that, to turn round, and stand haughtily on his legal rights, ay, and enforce them too.

But, meantime, what had passed in the bride’s chamber?

Raby found Grace Carden, with her head buried on her toilet-table, and her hair all streaming down her back.

The floor was strewn with pearls and broken ornaments, and fragments of the bridal veil. On the table lay Henry Little’s letter.

Jael took it without a word, and gave it to Raby.

He took it, and, after a loud ejaculation of surprise, began to read it.

He had not quite finished it when Dr. Amboyne tapped at the door, and Jael let him in.

The crushed figure with disheveled hair, and Raby’s eye gleaming over the letter in his hand, told him at once what was going on.

He ceased to doubt, or vacillate, directly; he whispered Jael Dence to stand near Grace, and watch her closely.

He had seen a woman start up and throw herself, in one moment, out of a window, for less than this—a woman crushed apparently, and more dead than alive, as Grace Carden was.

Then he took out his own letter, and read it in a low voice to Mr. Raby; but it afterward appeared the bride heard every word.

"MY BEST FRIEND,—Forgive me for neglecting you so long, and writing only to her I love with all my soul. Forgive me, for I smart for it. I have written fifteen letters to my darling Grace, and received no reply. I wrote her one yesterday, but have now no hope she will ever get it. This is terrible, but there is worse behind. This very day I have learned that my premises were blown up within a few hours of my leaving, and poor, faithful Jael Dence nearly killed; and then a report of my own death was raised, and some remains found in the ruins that fools said were mine. I suppose the letters I left in the box were all destroyed by the fire.

"Now, mark my words, one and the same villain has put that dead man’s hand and arm in the river, and has stopped my letters to Grace; I am sure of it. So what I want you to do is, first of all, to see my darling, and tell her I am alive and well, and then put her on her guard against deceivers.

"I suspect the postman has been tampered with. I write to Mr. Ransome to look into that. But what you might learn for me is, whether any body lately has had any opportunity to stop letters addressed to ’Woodbine Villa.’ That seems to point to Mr. Carden, and he was never a friend of mine. But, somehow, I don’t think he would do it.

"You see, I ask myself two questions. Is there any man in the world who has a motive strong enough to set him tampering with my letters? and, again, is there any man base enough to do such an act? And the answer to both questions is the same. I have a rival, and he is base enough for any thing. Judge for yourself. I as good as saved that Coventry’s life one snowy night, and all I asked in return was that he wouldn’t blow me to the Trades, and so put my life in jeopardy. He gave his word of honor he wouldn’t. But he broke his word. One day, when Grotait and I were fast friends, and never thought to differ again, Grotait told me this Coventry was the very man that came to him and told him where I was working. Such a lump of human dirt as that—for you can’t call him a man—must be capable of any thing."

Here the reading of the letter was interrupted by an incident.

There was on the toilet-table a stiletto, with a pearl handle. It was a small thing, but the steel rather long, and very bright and pointed.

The unfortunate bride, without lifting her head from the table, had reached out her hand, and was fingering this stiletto. Jael Dence went and took it gently away, and put it out of reach. The bride went on fingering, as if she had still got hold of it.

Amboyne exchanged an approving glance with Jael, and Raby concluded the letter.

"I shall be home in a few days after this; and, if I find my darling well and happy, there’s no great harm done. I don’t mind my own trouble and anxiety, great as they are, but if any scoundrel has made her unhappy, or made her believe I am dead, or false to my darling, by God, I’ll kill him, though I hang for it next day!"

Crushed, benumbed, and broken as Grace Coventry was, this sentence seemed to act on her like an electric shock.

She started wildly up. "What! my Henry die like a felon—for a villain like him, and an idiot like me! You won’t allow that; nor you—nor I."

A soft step came to the door, and a gentle tap.

"Who is that?" said Dr. Amboyne.

"The bridegroom," replied a soft voice.

"You can’t come in here," said Raby, roughly.

"Open the door," said the bride.

Jael went to the door, but looked uncertain.

"Don’t keep the bridegroom out," said Grace, reproachfully. Then, in a voice as sweet as his own, "I want to see him; I want to speak to him."

Jael opened the door slowly, for she felt uneasy. Raby shrugged his shoulders contemptuously at Grace’s condescending to speak to the man, and in so amiable a tone.

Coventry entered, and began, "My dear Grace, the carriage is ready—"

No sooner had she got him fairly into the room, than the bride snatched up the stiletto, and flew at the bridegroom with gleaming eyes, uplifted weapon, the yell of a furious wild beast, and hair flying out behind her head like a lion’s mane.

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Chicago: Charles Reade, "Chapter XXXIX.," 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 September 30, 2022, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=L8MFN6WC2KCLBHE.

MLA: Reade, Charles. "Chapter XXXIX." 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. 30 Sep. 2022. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=L8MFN6WC2KCLBHE.

Harvard: Reade, C, 'Chapter XXXIX.' in Put Yourself in His Place, ed. and trans. . cited in , Put Yourself in His Place. Original Sources, retrieved 30 September 2022, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=L8MFN6WC2KCLBHE.