Part 10 out of 13
"Will you?" And Coventry took out a pistol and cocked it. Cole
"Look here," said Coventry; "there are one hundred and fifty
sovereigns in this bag. The moment I receive proof you have not
deceived me, I give you the bag."
"Here, where we stand?"
"Here, on this spot."
"Hush! not so loud. Didn't I hear a step?"
They both listened keenly. The fog was thick by this time.
Cole whispered, "Look down the river. I wonder which will go off
first? It is very cold; very." And he shook like a man in an ague.
Both men listened, numbed with cold, and quivering with the
expectation of crime.
A clock struck twelve.
At the first stroke the confederates started and uttered a cry.
They were in that state when everything sudden shakes men like
All still again, and they listened and shook again with fog and
Sudden a lurid flash, and a report, dull and heavy, and something
tall seemed to lean toward them from the sky, and there was a mighty
rushing sound, and a cold wind in their faces, and an awful fall of
masonry on the water, and the water spurted under the stroke. The
great chimney had fallen in the river. At this very moment came a
sharp, tremendous report like a clap of thunder close at hand. It
was so awful, that both bag and pistol fell out of Coventry's hand
and rung upon the pavement, and he fled, terror-stricken.
Cole, though frightened, went down on his knees, and got the bag,
and started to run the other way.
But almost at the first step he ran against a man, who was running
Both were staggered by the shock, and almost knocked down.
But the man recovered himself first, and seized Cole with a grip of
When Coventry had run a few steps he recovered his judgment so far
as to recollect that this would lay him open to suspicion. He left
off running, and walked briskly instead.
Presently the great door of the works was opened, and the porter
appeared crying wildly for help, and that the place was on fire.
The few people that were about made a rush, and Coventry, driven by
an awful curiosity, went in with them; for why should he be
suspected any more than they?
He had not gone in half a minute when Mr. Ransome arrived with
several policemen, and closed the doors at once against all comers.
Strange to say, the last explosion had rung the bell in the police-
office; hence this prompt appearance of the police.
The five or six persons who got in with Coventry knew nothing, and
ran hither and thither. Coventry, better informed, darted at once
to Little's quarters, and there beheld an awful sight; the roof
presented the appearance of a sieve: of the second floor little
remained but a few of the joists, and these were most of them broken
and stood on and across each other, like a hedgehog's bristles.
In Little's room, a single beam in the center, with a fragment of
board, kept its place, but the joists were all dislocated or broken
in two, and sticking up here and there in all directions: huge holes
had been blown in the walls of both rooms and much of the contents
of the rooms blown out by them; so vast were these apertures, that
it seemed wonderful how the structure hung together; the fog was as
thick in the dismembered and torn building as outside, but a large
gas-pipe in Little's room was wrenched into the form of a snake and
broken, and the gas set on fire and flaring, so that the devastation
was visible; the fireplace also hung on, heaven knows how.
Coventry cast his eyes round, and recoiled with horror at what he
had done: his foot struck something; it was the letter-box, full of
letters, still attached to the broken door. By some instinct of
curiosity he stooped and peered. There was one letter addressed
"He tried to open the box: he could not: he gave it a wrench, it was
a latticed box, and came to pieces. He went down the stairs with
the fragments and the letters in his hand; feet approached, and he
heard a voice close to him say, "This way, Mr. Ransome, for God's
sake!" A sort of panic seized him; he ran back, and in his
desperation jumped on to the one beam that was standing, and from
that through the open wall, and fell on the soft mud by the river
bank. Though the ground was soft, the descent shook him and
imbedded him so deeply he could not extricate himself for some time.
But terror lends energy, and he was now thoroughly terrified: he
thrust the letters in his pocket, and, being an excellent swimmer,
dashed at once into the river; but he soon found it choked up with
masonry and debris of every kind: he coasted this, got into the
stream, and swam across to the other side. Then taking the lowest
and darkest streets, contrived at last to get home, wet and filthy,
Ransome and his men examined the shattered building within and
without; but no trace could be found of any human being, alive or
Then they got to the river-side with lights, and here they found
foot-marks. Ransome set men to guard these from being walked over.
Attention was soon diverted from these. Several yards from the torn
building, a woman was found lying all huddled together on a heap of
broken masonry. She was in her night-dress, and a counterpane half
over her. Her forehead and head were bleeding, and she was quite
insensible. The police recognized her directly. It was Jael Dence.
She was alive, though insensible, and Ransome had her conveyed at
once to the infirmary.
"Bring more lights to the water-side," said he: "the explosion has
acted in that direction."
Many torches were brought. Keen eyes scanned the water. One or two
policemen got out upon the ruins of the chimney, and went ankle-deep
in water. But what they sought could not be found. Ransome said he
was glad of it. Everybody knew what he meant.
He went back to Little's room, and examined it minutely. In the
passage he found a card-case. It was lying on the door. Ransome
took it up mechanically, and put it in his pocket. He did not
examine it at this time: he took for granted it was Little's. He
asked one of his men whether a man had not been seen in that room.
The officer said, "Yes."
"Did he come down?"
"No; and I can't think how he got out."
"It is plain how he got out; and that accounts for something I
observed in the mud. Now, Williams, you go to my place for that
stuff I use to take the mold of footprints. Bring plenty. Four of
you scour the town, and try and find out who has gone home with
river-mud on his shoes or trousers. Send me the porter."
When the porter came, he asked him whether Mr. Little had slept in
The porter could not say for certain.
"Well, but what was his habit?"
"He always slept here of late."
"Where did you see him last?"
"I let him into the works."
"I should think about seven o'clock."
"Did you let him out again?"
"No, Mr. Ransome."
"Perhaps you might, and not recollect. Pray think."
The porter shook his head.
"Are you sure you did not let him out?"
"I am quite sure of that."
"Then the Lord have mercy on his soul!"
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
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
Her first feminine impulse was to try and find out the truth without
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
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
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,
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
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
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
"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
"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.
When this was so repeated, Jael moved a little, and her lips began
Jael's lips opened feebly, and some inarticulate sounds issued from
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
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
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
"Not that I know of; but I will go at once and see. Shall he drive
"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
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 second-
floor 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
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
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
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
Coventry drew back dismayed. His guilty conscience misinterpreted
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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.
Coventry passed a night of agony and remorse. He got up broken and
despondent, and went straight to Woodbine Villa to do a good action.
He inquired for Miss Carden. They told him she was very ill. He
expressed an earnest wish to see her. The servants told him that
was impossible. Nobody was allowed to see her but Dr. Amboyne. He
went next day to Dr. Amboyne, and the doctor told him that Miss
Carden was dangerously ill. Brain fever appeared inevitable.
"But, sir," said Coventry, eagerly, "if one could prove to her that
those were not the remains of Henry Little?"
"How could you prove that? Besides, it would be no use now. She is
delirious. Even should she live, I should forbid the subject for
many a day. Indeed, none but the man himself could make her believe
those remains are not his; and even he could not save her now. If
he stood by her bedside, she would not know him."
The doctor's lip trembled a little, and his words were so grave and
solemn that they struck to the miserable man's marrow. He staggered
away, like a drunken man, to his lodgings, and there flung himself
on the floor, and groveled in an agony of terror and remorse.
One day it occurred to Raby he could play the misanthrope just as
well at home as abroad, so he returned home.
He found old Dence dead and buried, and Patty Dence gone to
Australia with her husband.
He heard Jael was in the hospital. He called at Woodbine villa, and
they told him Grace was lying between life and death.
He called on Dr. Amboyne, and found him as sad as he used to be gay.
The doctor told him all, and even took him to the town hall, and
showed him an arm and part of the trunk of a man preserved in
spirits, and a piece of tweed cloth, and a plain gold ring.
"There," said he, "is all that remains to us of your nephew, and my
friend. Genius, beauty, courage--all come to this!" He could say
The tears filled Raby's eyes, and all his bitterness melted away.
With respect to his sister, he said he was quite willing to be
reconciled, and even to own himself in the wrong, if Dr. Amboyne, on
reading the correspondence, should think so. Dr. Amboyne said he
would come to Raby Hall for that purpose. He communicated this at
once to Mrs. Little.
Grace had a favorable crisis, and in a few days more she was out of
danger, but in a deplorable state of weakness. Dr. Amboyne ordered
her to the sea-side. A carriage was prepared expressly for her, and
her father took her there.
Woodbine Villa was put up to let furnished, and it was taken by--Mr.
Jael Dence began to recover strength rapidly, but she wore at times
a confused look. The very day Grace left for Eastbank she was
discharged as cured, and left the hospital. This was in the
In the afternoon Dr. Amboyne, being now relieved of his anxiety as
to Grace, remembered he had not been to see this poor girl for some
time; so he went to the hospital.
When he heard she was discharged, he felt annoyed with himself for
not having paid her closer attention. And besides, Grace had
repeatedly told him Jael Dence could make a revelation if she chose.
And now, occupied with Grace herself, he had neglected her wishes.
"Where is she gone? do you know?"
One of the nurses said she was gone home.
Another said the patient had told her she should go down to the
"And that is the very last place you should have let her go to,"
said the doctor. "A fine shock the poor creature will get there.
You want her back here again, I suppose!" He felt uneasy, and drove
down to the works. There he made some inquiries among the women,
and elicited that Jael Dence had turned faint at sight of the place,
and they had shown her, at her request, where she had been picked
up, and had told her about the discovery of Little's remains, and
she had persuaded a little girl to go to the town hall with her.
"Oh, the tongue! the tongue!" groaned Amboyne.
He asked to see the little girl, and she came forward of her own
accord, and told him she had gone to the town hall with the lass,
"but" (regretfully) "that the man would not show them it without an
order from the Mayor."
Dr. Amboyne said he was very glad that common sense had not quite
deserted the earth. "And where did you go next?"
"I came back here."
"So I see; but the lass?"
"She said she should go home. 'My dear,' says she, 'there's nobody
left me here; I'll go and die among my own folk.' That was her
"Poor thing! poor thing! Why--"
He stopped short, for that moment he remembered Raby had said old
Dence was dead, and Patty gone to Australia. If so, here was
another blow in store for poor Jael, and she weakened by a long
He instantly resolved to drive after her, and see whether she was
really in a fit state to encounter so many terrible shocks. If not,
he should take her back to the infirmary, or into his own house; for
he had a great respect for her, and indeed for all her family.
He drove fast, but he could see nothing of her on the road. So then
he went on to Cairnhope.
He stopped at the farm-house. It was sadly deteriorated in
appearance. Inside he found only an old carter and his daughter.
The place was in their charge.
The old man told him apathetically Jael had come home two hours ago
and asked for her father and Patty, and they had told her the old
farmer was dead and buried, and Patty gone to foreign parts.
"What, you blurted it out like that! You couldn't put yourself in
that poor creature's place, and think what a blow it would be? How,
in Heaven's name, did she take it?"
"Well, sir, she stared a bit, and looked stupid-like; and then she
sat down. She sat crowded all together like in yon corner best part
of an hour, and then she got up and said she must go and see his
"You hadn't the sense to make her eat, of course?"
"My girl here set meat afore her, but she couldn't taste it."
Dr. Amboyne drove to Raby Hall and told Raby. Raby said he would
have Jael up to the hall. It would be a better place for her now
than the farm. He ordered a room to be got ready for her, and a
large fire lighted, and at the same time ordered the best bedroom
for Dr. Amboyne. "You must dine and sleep here," said he, "and talk
of old times."
Dr. Amboyne thanked him--it was dusk by this time--and was soon
seated at that hospitable table, with a huge wood fire blazing
Meantime Jael Dence sat crouched upon her father's grave, stupefied
with grief. When she had crouched there a long time she got up, and
muttered, "Dead and gone! dead and gone!"
Then she crept up to the old church, and sat down in the porch,
benumbed with grief, and still a little confused in her poor head.
She sat there for nearly two hours, and then she got up, and
muttered, "Dead and gone--he is dead and gone!" and wandered on the
Her feet wandered, her brain wandered. She found herself at last in
a place she recognized. It was Squire Raby's lawn. The moon had
just risen, and shone on the turf, and on the little river that went
curling round with here and there a deep pool.
She crept nearer, and saw the great bay-window, and a blaze of light
There she had sung the great Noel with her father; and now he was
dead and gone.
There she had been with Henry Little, and seen him recognize his
mother's picture; and now he was dead and gone. She had saved his
life in vain; he was dead and gone. Every body was dead and gone.
She looked up at the glowing window. She looked down at the pool,
with the moon kissing it.
She flung her arms up with a scream of agony, and sunk into the deep
pool, where the moon seemed most to smile on it.
Directly after dinner Dr. Amboyne asked to see the unhappy
correspondence of which he was to be the judge.
Raby went for the letters, and laid them before him. He took up the
fatal letter. "Why, this is not written by Mrs. Little. I know her
neat Italian hand too well. See how the letters slant and straggle."
"Oh! but you must allow for the writer's agitation."
"Why should I allow for it? YOU DIDN'T. Who can look at this
scrawl, and not see that the poor heart-broken creature was not
herself when she wrote it? This is not a letter, it is a mere
scream of agony. Put yourself in her place. Imagine yourself a
woman--a creature in whom the feelings overpower the judgment.
Consider the shock, the wound, the frenzy; and, besides, she had no
idea that you left this house to get her husband the money from your
"She never shall know it either."
"She does know it. I have told her. And, poor thing, she thinks
she was the only one to blame. She seeks your forgiveness. She
pines for it. This is the true cause of her illness; and I believe,
if you could forgive her and love her, it might yet save her life."
"Then tell her I blame myself as much as her. Tell her my house, my
arms, and my heart are open to her. Amboyne, you are a true friend,
and a worthy man. God bless you. How shall we get her here, poor
soul? Will you go for her, or shall I?"
"Let me sleep on that," said Dr. Amboyne.
In the course of the evening, Dr. Amboyne told Raby all the reports
about Jael Dence and Henry Little.
"What does that matter now?" said Raby, with a sigh.
Whenever a servant came into the room, Amboyne asked him if Jael had
Raby shared his curiosity, but not his anxiety. "The girl knows her
friends," said he. "She will have her cry out, you may depend; but
after that she will find her way here, and, when she has got over it
a little, I shall be sure to learn from her whether he was her
lover, and where he was when the place was blown up. A Dence never
lies to a Raby."
But when nine o'clock struck, and there were no tidings of her, Raby
began to share the doctor's uneasiness, and also to be rather angry
"Confound the girl!" said he. "Her grandfathers have stood by mine,
in their danger and trouble, for two hundred years; and now, in her
trouble, she slinks away from me."
"Put yourself in her place," said Amboyne. "Ten to one she thinks
you are offended about her and Henry. She is afraid to come near
"What, when I ask her?"
"Through your stupid lazy servants, who, to save themselves trouble,
have very likely told somebody else to tell her; and we know what
comes of that process. Ten to one the invitation has either missed
her altogether, or come to her divested of all that is kind and
soothing. And remember, she is not a man. She is a poor girl, full
of shame and apprehension, and needs a gentle encouraging hand to
draw her here. Do, for once, put yourself in a woman's place--you
were born of a woman."
"You are right," said Raby. "I will send down a carriage for her,
with a line in my own hand."
He did so.
At eleven the servant came back with the news that Jael Dence was
not at home. She had been seen wandering about the country, and was
believed to be wrong in her head. George, the blacksmith, and
others, were gone up to the old church after her.
"Turn out with torches, every man Jack of you, and find her," said
As for Raby and Amboyne, they sat by the fireside and conversed
together--principally about poor Mrs. Little; but the conversation
A few minutes after midnight a terrible scream was heard. It was
uttered out of doors, yet it seemed to penetrate the very room where
Raby and Amboyne were seated. Both men started to their feet. The
scream was not repeated. They looked at each other.
"It was in my garden," said Raby; and, with some little difficulty,
he opened the window and ran out, followed by Amboyne.
They looked, but could see nothing.
But, with that death-shriek ringing in their ears, they wasted no
time. Raby waved Amboyne to the left, and himself dashed off to the
right, and they scoured the lawn in less than a minute.
A cry of horror from Raby! He had found the body of a woman
floating in a pool of the river, head downward.
He dashed into the water directly and drew it to the bank; Dr.
Amboyne helped him, and they got it out on dry land. The face was
ghastly, the body still.
"Turn her face downward," said Amboyne, "give her every chance.
Carry her gently."
One took the shoulders, the other the feet; they carried her slowly
in and laid her gently down before the fire.
She lay like dripping marble.
Her clothes clinging tightly round her, revealed her marvelous form
and limbs of antique mold--but all so deadly still.
Amboyne kneeled over her, searching, in vain, for some sign of life.
"Oh!" said he, "is it possible that such a creature as this can be
cut off in its prime?"
"Dead!" cried Raby, trembling all over. "Oh, God forbid! One of
her ancestors saved a Raby's life in battle, another saved a Raby in
a foaming flood; and I couldn't save her in a dead pool! She is the
last of that loyal race, and I'm the last Raby. Farewell, Dence!
While he bemoaned her thus, and his tears actually dripped upon her
pale face, Amboyne detected a slight quivering in the drowned
"Hush?" said he to Raby.
There was a pair of old-fashioned bellows by the side of the fire;
Amboyne seized them, and opened Jael's mouth with more ease than he
expected. "That is a good sign," said he.
He inflated the bellows, and inserted the tube very carefully; then
he discharged the air, then gently sucked it back again. When he
had done this several times something like a sigh escaped from
Jael's breast. The doctor removed the bellows, and felt her heart
and examined her eyes. "Curious!" said he. "Give me some brandy.
It is more like syncope than drowning."
Acting on this notion, he laid her flat on her back, and applied
neat brandy to her nostrils and ears.
After a while she moved her whole body like a wounded snake, and
Raby uttered a loud shout of joy. "She is saved!" he cried. "She is
saved!" He jumped about the room like a boy, and, anxious to do
something or other, was for ringing up the female servants. But
Amboyne would not hear of it. "On the contrary," said he, "lock the
door, and let only you and I see the poor girl's distress when she
comes back to this bitter world. Raby, don't you shut your eyes to
the truth. This was no accident."
"I am afraid not," said Raby. "She knows the water as well as I do,
and she picked out the deepest hole: poor girl! poor girl"
He then asked Amboyne in a whisper what he thought she would do when
she came to her senses.
"Impossible to say. She may be violent, and if so we shall have
enough to do to hold her. They tell me she threw that workman like
At this moment Jael stretched her great arms and sighed. The
movement, though gentle and feminine, had a grandeur and freedom
that only goes with power.
The doctor lowered his voice to a whisper. "She is a good
Christian, and most likely she will be penitent, and then she will
cry her heart out. Any way, she is pretty sure to be hysterical, so
mind and be firm as well as kind. There, her color is coming back.
Now put yourself in her place. You and I must call this an
accident. Stick to that through thick and thin. Ah, she is coming
round safe. She shall see you first. You take her right hand, and
look at her with all the pity and kindness I am sure you feel."
Mr. Raby took Jael's hand in both his, and fixed his eyes on her
with pity and anxiety.
She came to her senses, and stared at him a long time.
Then she looked down at her wet clothes. Then she snatched her hand
away, and covered her face with both hands, and began to rock and
moan, and finally turned round and hid her face against the very
floor as if she would grovel and burrow into it.
"Are you better, my dear?" said the doctor, quietly.
No reply. And the face still crushed against the floor.
"The next time you faint away, don't let it be on the banks of a
river. You have been going too long without food; and you fainted
away and fell into the river. Luckily it was not very deep or it
might have been serious. You have given us a fine fright, I can
While these words were being uttered, Jael, who did not miss a
syllable, began to look very, very slowly round with scared and
troubled eyes, and to defend herself. "I remember naught," said
she, doggedly. Who took me out?"
She looked timidly at him, and saw his wet clothes.
"Oh, squire, why did you spoil your clothes for me?" and she laid
her head on his knee and began to cry.
"My clothes!" said Raby. "The girl wants to break my heart."
"Eh, dear! and I've spoiled the beautiful carpet," said Jael,
"D--n the carpet!" said Raby, nearly blubbering.
All this time Amboyne was putting himself in Jael's Dence's place.
"Is there a good fire in her room?" asked he, with a significant
Raby took the hint, and said he would go and see.
As soon as he was out of the room, the transmigrator began to talk
very fast to Jael. "Now look here, Jael, that poor man is alone in
the world now, and very sad; he wants you to keep his house for him.
He has been sending messages all day after you, and your room has
been ready ever so long."
"My room in this house?"
"Yes. But we could not find you. However, here you are. Now you
must not go back to the farm. The poor squire won't be quite so sad
if he sees you about him. You know he was always fond of you
Dences. You should have seen him cry over you just now when he
thought you were dead."
"I am more cared for than I thought," said Jael, softly.
"Yes, but not more than you deserve, my dear." He dipped a sponge-
cake in wine. "Oblige me by eating that."
She took it submissively.
She ate another, and a third.
"It's a very wicked lass you are so good to," said she, softly, and
some gentle tears began to flow.
"Stuff and nonsense!" said the doctor. "What do you know about
wickedness? I'm a better judge of that than you, and I say you are
the best girl and the most unselfish girl in the world; and the
proof is that, instead of sitting down and nursing your own griefs,
you are going to pluck up courage, and be a comfort to poor Mr. Raby
in his lonely condition."
These words appeared to sink into Jael's mind: she put her hands to
her head, and pondered them. Perhaps she might have replied to
them, but Raby came down, and ordered her to her apartment.
She took a step or two in that direction, but presently drew back
and would not move. "The women-folk! They'll see me on the stair,
"Not they. They are all in bed."
"Are they so? Then please let me go to the kitchen for a dry cloth
"What to do?"
"To dry the rug a bit. Just look--what a mess I've made!"
"I'll say it was the dog."
"Will you, though? Oh, but you are a good friend to me this night.
Then I'll go. Let me wring my gown a bit, not to mess the stairs as
"No, no; I'll take all the blame. Will you go, or must the doctor
and I carry you?"
"Nay, nay, there's no need. Your will is my pleasure, sir."
So Mr. Raby showed Jael to her room, and opened a great wardrobe,
and took out several armfuls of antique female habiliments, and
flung them on the floor; rich velvets, more or less faded, old
brocades, lace scarves, chemises with lace borders; in short, an
accumulation of centuries. He soon erected a mound of these things
in the middle of the floor, and told her to wear what she liked, but
to be sure and air the things well first; "for," said he, "it is a
hundred years or so since they went on any woman's back. Now, say
your prayers like a good girl, and go to bed."
"Ay," said Jael, solemnly, "I shall say my prayers, you may be
As he left the room she said, in a sort of patient way, "Good
squire, I am willing to live, since you are so lonely."
Early next morning Mr. Raby was disturbed by female voices in a high
key. He opened his window quietly, intending to throw in his bass
with startling effect, when, to his surprise, he found the
disputants were his dairymaid and Jael Dence.
"And who are you that interferes with me in my work? Where do you
come from? Did ye get in over the wall? for ye never came in at no
door. Who are you?"
"I am one who won't see the good squire wronged. Aren't ye ashamed?
What, eat his bread, and take his wage, and then steal his butter!"
"If ye call me a thief, I'll law ye. Thief yourself! you don't
belong to the house; whose gown have you got on your back? Here,
James! Tom! here's a strange woman making off with the squire's
lady's clothes, and two pounds of butter to boot."
Jael was taken aback for a moment by this audacious attack, and
surveyed her borrowed habiliments with a blush of confusion.
Several servants came about at the noise, and her situation bade
fair to be a very unpleasant one: but Mr. Raby put in his word;
"Hold your tongues, all of ye. Now, Jael Dence, what is the
Instantly all eyes were turned up to the window with a start, and
Jael told her tale: "Sir," said she, "I did see this young woman
take out something from under her apron and give it to a little
girl. I thought there was something amiss, and I stopped the girl
at the gate, and questioned her what she was carrying off so sly.
She gives a squeak and drops it directly, and takes to her heels. I
took it up and brought it in, and here it is, two beautiful pounds
of butter, fresh churned; look else!"--here she undid a linen wrap,
and displayed the butter--"so I challenged the dairymaid here. She
says I'm a thief--and that I leave to you, Squire; you know whether
I come of thieves or honest folk; but what I want to know from her
is, why her lass dropped the butter and took to her heels at a
"Now, my good Jael," said the Squire, "if you are going to interfere
every time you catch my servants pilfering, you will have a hard
time of it. However, zeal is too rare a thing for me to discourage
it. I must make an example. Hy, you young woman: I dare say you
are no worse than the rest, but you are the one that is found out;
so you must pack up your clothes and begone."
"Not without a month's warning, or a month's wage, sir, it you
please," said the dairymaid, pertly.
"If I catch you in the house when I come down, I'll send you to
prison on my own warrant, with the butter tied round your neck."
At this direful threat the offender began to blubber, and speedily
disappeared to pack her box.
Mr. Raby then told the other servants that Jael Dence was the new
housekeeper, and that a person of her character was evidently
required in the house; they must all treat her with respect, or
leave his service. Thereupon two gave warning, and Mr. Raby, who
never kept a servant a day after that servant had given him warning,
had them up to his room, and paid them a month's wages. "And now,"
said he, "for the honor of the house, don't leave us fasting, but
eat a good breakfast, and then go to the devil."
At his own breakfast he related the incident to Dr. Amboyne, with a
characteristic comment: "And the fools say there is nothing in race.
So likely, that of all animals man alone should be exempt from the
law of nature! Take a drowning watch-dog out of the water and put
him in a strange house, he is scarcely dry before he sets to work to
protect it. Take a drowning Dence into your house, and she is up
with the lark to look after your interests. That girl connive and
let the man be robbed whose roof shelters her? She COULDN'T; it is
not in her blood. I'm afraid there's to be a crusade against petty
larceny in this house, and more row about it than it is worth. No
matter; I shall support the crusader, on principle. It is not for
me to check honest impulses, nor to fight against nature in almost
the only thing where she commands my respect."
"Very well," said the doctor, "that is settled: so now let us talk
of something more important. How are we to get your sister, in her
delicate state, from Wales to this place?"
"Why, I will go for her myself, to be sure."
"Raby, your heart is in the right place, after all. But when she is
here, how are we to conceal her unhappy son's fate from her? It
will be more difficult than ever, now Jael Dence is in the house."
"Why so? We must take the girl into our confidence--that is all."
"The sooner the better then. Let us have her in here."
Jael was sent for, and Mr. Raby requested her to take a seat, and
give all her attention to something Dr. Amboyne had to say.
Dr. Amboyne then told her, with quiet earnestness, that Mrs. Little
was at present so ill and weak he felt sure the news of Henry's
death would kill her.
"Ay, poor soul!" said Jael, and began to cry bitterly.
The doctor held his peace, and cast a disconsolate look on Raby, as
much as to say, "We shall get no efficient aid in this quarter."
After a little while Jael dried her eyes, and said, "Go on, sir. I
must needs cry before you now and then: 'tisn't to say I shall ever
cry before HER."
"Well, then, if we CAN get her safe to this place, and keep her in
the dark for a few months, I think we may save her life. Every
thing else will be in her favor here: her native air, cherished
memories, her brother's love--and, after all, it was fretting about
her quarrel with him that first undermined her health and spirits.
Well, we shall remove the cause, and then perhaps the effect may go.
But how are we to keep the sad truth from her?"
"Let me think," said Jael Dence. "My head is a deal clearer since
She leaned her chin upon her hand, and her face and brow showed
signs of intellectual power no one had ever observed in them before.
"Who is to go for her?" said she at last.
"I am going myself."
"That is a mistake at starting, begging your worship's pardon. Why,
the very sight of you might startle her into her grave. Nay, you'll
give me the money--for mine is all in the savings bank--and I shall
go for her myself. I shall tell her squire is longing for her, and
that I'm to be here for fear she might feel strange. She always
liked me, poor soul. I shall get her safe here, you needn't fear
for that. But when she is here"--the chin rested on the hand again--
"well, the doctor must forbid visitors. Miss Grace must be told
not to write. Every newspaper must be read before she is allowed to
see it. And, squire, you will be very kind to her when you are in
her company; but we must manage, somehow or other, so that you can
keep out of her way."
"What for, in heaven's name?"
"Sir, we shall have to lie from morn to night; and you will be a
bungler at that, saving your presence. If there's a servant left in
the house who knows, I'd give that servant a present, and part with
her before Mrs. Little sets her foot in the house."
"This sounds very sensible," said Raby. "I am a novice at lying.
But I shall cultivate the art for poor Edith's sake. I'm not a
fanatic: there is justifiable homicide, so why not justifiable
"Raby," said the doctor, "this young woman has said enough to show
me that she is more fit to conduct this delicate undertaking than
either you or I. Let us profit by the discovery, put our vanity in
our pocket, and give her the command. My dear, you see the
importance, you see the difficulty; now will you undertake it?"
"I will, sir," said Jael, firmly; "and I look to succeed, God
willing. I shall be in Wales this afternoon."
"Well, but would you not be the better yourself for one day's rest?"
"No, sir. I've learned, with a sad heart, what one day may bring
forth. After that, I'm sworn never to throw away a day. And, as
for sitting down and thinking, 'tis the worst thing I can do. I do
thank God that in this, my own heavy trouble, I'm not tied to my sad
thoughts, but can get about, and do a little of good for Raby House.
Do what I will, 'tis but giving them back one pig out of their own
farrow; for we owe all we have to them."
With this she retired to prepare for her journey, leaving both the
gentlemen lost in admiration of her simple virtues, and the clear
intelligence she had shown them in few words.
She traveled into Wales that very day, and many a burst of bitter
grief she had all by herself in the train.
At six P.M. she stood before Mrs. Little with a smiling countenance.
Mrs. Little welcomed her with some little pleasure and much
"Good news, madam," said Jael. "Squire Raby has sent me to bring
you to Raby Hall. He wanted to come himself, but I would not let
"That is good news," said Mrs. Little languidly. "Now I shall die
at peace with my brother--at peace with all mankind, I hope."
"You'll die when your time comes," said Jael. But you have got a
shorter journey before you at present, and that is to Raby Hall."
"Raby Hall! I shall never see it again. I have no strength to
move. I am worn out with the battle of life. Stay with me here,
and close my eyes."
"Of course I shall stay with you," said Jael, and began to gossip
with every appearance of carelessness.
Next morning, with infinite difficulty, she persuaded the poor
jaundiced lady to show her Aberystwith. She took the tickets
herself, and got her patient half-way to Hillsborough; next day,
with less difficulty, to Raby Hall. All had been settled before.
Edith little was shown into her old bedroom, adorned with pyramids
of flowers in her honor; and there she found a loving line from Guy,
begging her pardon for his past harshness, and telling her she was
to send for him as soon as she felt strong enough to meet.
That evening brother and sister were clasped in each other's arms,
and wept tears of affection and regret over each other.
Jael Dence slept on a camp-bed in Mrs. Little's room, which was very
spacious, and watched her, and was always about her. Under private
advice from Dr. Amboyne, she superintended her patient's diet, and,
by soft, indomitable perseverance, compelled her to walk every day,
and fight against her fatal lassitude.
Heaven rewarded her by giving her a warm and tender affection for
her poor patient that did something to fill her own yearning and
Here I must leave them both for the present, and show how these
events affected the main characters of my story.
Just outside the little sea-side town of Eastbank is a house which,
being very old, contrasts agreeably with the pretentious villas
fashion has raised. It is gloomy inside, yet outside it looks like
a cottage: low, rambling, gabled, and picturesque. It stands on a
slope just above the sea, and its front garden runs down almost to
the sea-shore. The aspect is southerly. The placid sea looks like
a beautiful lake; for, about two miles out, a great tongue of land
runs across and keeps the tempests out.
The cottage itself was now closed deep with green creepers, and its
veranda with jessamine; and the low white walls of the garden were
beautiful with vine-leaves and huge fig-leaves, that ran up them and
about them, and waved over them in tropical luxuriance. In short,
the house was a very bower, and looked the abode of bliss; and this
time last year a young couple had spent their honeymoon there, and
left it with a sigh. But one place sees many minds; and now this
sweet place was the bed on which dropped the broken lily of this
tale, Grace Carden.
She lay in the warm air of the veranda, and turned her hollow eyes
upon the sea; and every day life crept slowly back to her young
body, but not to her desolate heart.
A brain fever either kills or blunts, and Grace's agony was blunted.
Her mind was in a strange state. She was beginning to look two
things in the face: that the man she loved was dead; that the man
she loved, and had nearly died for, had loved another as well as
herself: and this last grief, strange to say, was the saving of her.
She forgave him with all her heart, for he was dead; she made
excuses for him, for she loved him; but since his whole heart had
not been hers, her pride and modesty rebelled against dying for him,
and she resolved to live; she fought hard to live and get well.
Finally, being a very woman, though a noble one, she hated Jael
She was not alone in the world. Her danger, her illness, and her
misery had shown her the treasure of a father's love. He had found
this sweet bower for her; and here he sat for hours by her side, and
his hand in hers, gazing on her with touching anxiety and affection.
Business compelled him to run into Hillsborough now and then, but he
dispatched it with feverish haste, and came back to her: it drove
him to London; but he telegraphed to her twice a day, and was
miserable till he got back. She saw the man of business turned into
a man of love for her, and she felt it. "Ah, papa," she said one
day, "I little thought you loved your poor Grace so much. You don't
love any other child but me, do you, papa?" and with this question
she clung weeping round his neck.
"My darling child, there's nothing on earth I love but you. When
shall I see you smile again?"
"In a few hours, years. God knows."
One evening--he had been in Hillsborough that day--he said, "My
dear, I have seen an old friend of yours to-day, Mr. Coventry. He
asked very kindly after you."
Grace made no reply.
"He is almost as pale as you are. He has been very ill, he tells
me. And, really, I believe it was your illness upset him."
"Poor Mr. Coventry!" said Grace, but with a leaden air of
"I hope I didn't do wrong, but when he asked after you so anxiously,
I said, 'Come, and see for yourself.' Oh, you need not look
frightened; he is not coming. He says you are offended with him."
"Not I. What is Mr. Coventry to me?"
"Well, he thinks so. He says he was betrayed into speaking ill to
you of some one who, he thought, was living; and now that weighs
upon his conscience."
"I can't understand that. I am miserable, but let me try and be
just. Papa, Mr. Coventry was trying to comfort me, in his clumsy
way; and what he said he did not invent--he heard it; and so many
people say so that I--I--oh, papa! papa!"
Mr. Carden dropped the whole subject directly.
However, she returned to it herself, and said, listlessly, that Mr.
Coventry, in her opinion, had shown more generosity than most people
would in his case. She had no feeling against him; he was of no
more importance in her eyes than that stool, and he might visit her
if he pleased, but on one condition--that he should forget all the
past, and never presume to speak to her of love. "Love! Men are
all incapable of it." She was thinking of Henry, even while she was
speaking of his rival.
The permission, thus limited, was conveyed to Mr. Coventry by his
friend Carden; but he showed no hurry to take advantage of it; and,
as for Grace, she forgot she had given it.
But this coolness of Coventry's was merely apparent. He was only
awaiting the arrival of Patrick Lally from Ireland. This Lally was
an old and confidential servant, who had served him formerly in many
intrigues, and with whom he had parted reluctantly some months ago,
and allowed him a small pension for past services. He dared not
leave the villa in charge of any person less devoted to him than
The man arrived at last, received minute instructions, and then Mr.
Coventry went to Eastbank.
He found what seemed the ghost of Grace Carden lying on the sofa,
looking on the sea.
At the sight of her he started back in dismay.
"What have I done?"
Those strange words fell from him before he knew what he was saying.
Grace heard them, but did not take the trouble to inquire into their
meaning. She said, doggedly, "I am alive, you see. Nothing kills.
It is wonderful: we die of a fall, of a blow, of swallowing a pin;
yet I am alive. But never mind me; you look unwell yourself. What
is the matter?"
"Can you ask me?"
At this, which implied that her illness was the cause of his, she
turned her head away from him with weariness and disgust, and looked
at the sea, and thought of the dead.
Coventry sat speechless, and eyed her silent figure with miserable
devotion. He was by her side once more, and no rival near. He set
himself to study all her moods, and began by being inoffensive to
her; in time he might be something more.
He spent four days in Eastbank, and never uttered a word of love;
but his soft soothing voice was ever in her ear, and won her
attention now and then; not often.
When he left her, she did not ask him to come again.
Her father did, though, and told him to be patient; better days were
in store. "Give her time," said he, "and, a month or two hence, if
you have the same feeling for her you used to have--"
"I love her more than ever. I worship her--"
"Then you will have me on your side, stronger than ever. But you
must give her time."
And now Coventry had an ally far more powerful than himself--an ally
at once zealous and judicious. Mr. Carden contented himself at
first with praising him in general terms; next he affected to laugh
at him for renting the villa, merely to be in the place which Grace
had occupied. Then Grace defended him. "Don't laugh at an honest
love. Pity it. It is all we can do, and the least we can do."
But when he advanced further, and began to remind his daughter she
had once given this gentleman hopes, and all but engaged herself to
him, she drew back with fear and repugnance, and said, "If he can
not forget that, pray let him never come near me again."
"Oh," said Mr. Carden, "I believe he has no hopes of the kind; it is
of you I am thinking, not of him. It has got about that poor Little
had a connection with some girl in humble life, and that he was in
love with her, and you in love with him. That wounds a father's
pride, and makes me grateful to Coventry for his unshaken devotion,
whilst others are sneering at my poor child for her innocent love."
Grace writhed, and the tears ran down her cheeks at this. "Oh,
spare the dead!" she faltered.
Then her father kissed her, and begged her to forgive him; he would
avoid all these topics in future: and so he did, for some time; but
what he had said rankled.
A few days after this Coventry came again, and did nothing but
soothe Grace with words; only he managed so that Grace should detect
him looking very sad when he was not actually employed in cheering
She began to pity him a little, and wonder at his devotion.
He had not been gone many hours when another visitor arrived quite
unexpectedly--Mr. Raby. He came to tell her his own news, and warn
her of the difficult game they were now playing at Raby Hall, that
she might not thwart it inadvertently.
Grace was much agitated, and shed tears of sympathy. She promised,
with a sigh, to hold no communication with Mrs. Little. She thought
it very hard, but she promised.
In the course of his narrative Mr. Raby spoke very highly of Jael
Dence, and of her conduct in the matter.
To this Grace did not respond. She waited her opportunity, and
said, keenly and coldly, "How did she come to be in your house?"
"Well, that is a secret."
"Can you not trust me with a secret?"
"Oh yes," said Raby, "provided you will promise faithfully to tell
Grace promised, and he then told her that Jael Dence, in a moment of
desperation, had thrown herself into the river at the back of his
house. "Poor girl!" said he, "her brain was not right at the time.
Heaven keep us all from those moments of despair. She has got over
it now, and nurses and watches my poor sister more like a mother
watching her child than a young woman taking care of an old one.
She is the mainspring of the house."
At all this Grace turned from pale to white, but said nothing; and
Raby ran on in praise of Jael, little dreaming what pain his words
When he left her, she rose and walked down to the sea; for her
tortured spirit gave her body energy. Hitherto she found she had
only suspected; now she was sure. Hitherto she had feared Henry
Little had loved Jael Dence a little; now she was sure he had loved
her best. Jael Dence would not have attempted self-destruction for
any man unless he loved her. The very act proved her claim to him
more eloquently than words could do. Now she believed all--the
anonymous letter--Mr. Coventry's report--the woman's words who
worked in the same factory, and could not be deceived. And her
godfather accepted Jael Dence and her claim to sympathy: she was
taken into his house, and set to nurse Henry Little's mother: poor
Grace was slighted on all sides; she must not even write to Mrs.
Little, nor take part in the pious falsehood they were concocting
together, Raby and his Jael Dence, whom everybody loved best--
everybody except this poor faithful ill-used wretch, Frederick
Coventry; and him she hated for loving her better than the man she
loved had loved her.
Tender, but very proud, this sensitive creature saw herself
dethroned from her love. Jael Dence had eclipsed her in every way;
had saved his life with her strong arm, had almost perished with
him; and had tried to kill herself when he was dead. SHE was far
behind this rival in every thing. She had only loved, and suffered,
and nearly died. "No, no," she said to herself, "she could not love
him better than I did: but HE loved HER best; and she knew it, and
that made her arm strong to fight, and her heart strong to die for
him. I am nobody--nothing." Then the scalding tears ran down her
cheeks. But soon her pride got the upper hand, and dried her
cheeks, and nearly maddened her.
She began to blush for her love, to blush for her illness. She rose
into that state of exasperation in which persons of her sex do
things they look back upon with wonder, and, strange to say, all
this without one unkind thought of him whose faults she saw, but
excused--he was dead.
She now began to struggle visibly, and violently, against her deadly
sorrow. She forced herself to take walks and rides, and to talk,
with nothing to say. She even tried to laugh now and then. She
made violent efforts to be gracious and pitiful to Mr. Coventry, and
the next minute made him suffer for it by treating him like a
He loved her madly, yet sometimes he felt tempted to kill her, and
end both her torture and his own.
Such was the inner life of Grace Carden for many days; devoid of
striking incident, yet well worthy of study by those who care to
pierce below the surface, and see what passes in the hearts of the
unhappy, and to learn how things come gradually about that sound
incredible when not so traced, yet are natural and almost inevitable
results of certain conflicting passions in a virgin heart.
One day Mr. Carden telegraphed from London to Mr. Coventry at
Hillsborough that he was coming down to Eastbank by the midday
express, and would be glad to meet him there at four o'clock. He
also telegraphed to Grace, and said, "Dinner at five."
Both gentlemen arrived about the same time, a little before dinner.
Soon after dinner was over, Grace observed a restlessness in her
father's manner, which convinced her he had something private to say
to Mr. Coventry. Her suspicions were aroused: she fancied he was
going to encourage Mr. Coventry to court her. Instantly the whole
woman was in arms, and her love for the deceased came rushing back
tenfold. She rose, soon after dinner, and retired to the drawing-
room; but, as soon as she got there, she slipped quietly into the
veranda, and lay softly down upon her couch. The dining-room window
was open, and with her quick ears, she could hear nearly every word.
She soon found that all her bitterness and her preparation for
hostilities were wasted. Her father was telling Mr. Coventry the
story of Richard Martin; only he carried it a step further than I
"Well, sir," said he, "the money had not been paid more than a
month, when an insurance office down at Liverpool communicated with
us. The same game had been played with them; but, somehow, their
suspicions were excited. We compared notes with them, and set
detectives to work. They traced Martin's confederates, and found
one of them was in prison awaiting his trial for some minor offense.
They worked on him to tell the truth (I am afraid they compounded),
and he let out the whole truth. Every one of those villains could
swim like ducks, and Richard Martin like a fish. Drowned? not he:
he had floated down to Greenwich or somewhere--the blackguard! and
hid himself. And what do you think the miscreants did next? Bought
a dead marine; and took him down in a box to some low public-house
by the water-side. They had a supper, and dressed their marine in
Richard Martin's clothes, and shaved its whiskers, and broke its
tooth, and set it up in a chair, with a table before it, and a pot
of ale, and fastened a pipe in its mouth; and they kept toasting
this ghastly corpse as the thing that was to make all their
fortunes." At this grotesque and horrible picture, a sigh of horror
was uttered in the veranda. Mr. Carden, occupied with his
narrative, did not hear it, but Coventry did. "Then, when it was
pitch dark, they staggered down to the water with it, and planted it
in the weeds. And, mark the cunning! when they had gone through
their farce of recognizing it publicly for Richard Martin, they
bribed a churchwarden and buried it under our very noses: it was all
done in a way to take in the very devil. There's no Richard Martin;
there never was a Richard Martin; there never will be: all this was
contrived and executed by a swindler well known to the police, only
they can't catch him; he is here, and there and everywhere; they
call him 'Shifty Dick.' He and his myrmidons have bled the
'Gosshawk' to the tune of nine hundred pounds."
He drew his breath and proceeded more calmly. "However, a lesson of
this kind is never thrown away upon a public man, and it has given
me some very curious ideas about another matter. You know what I
Coventry stared, and looked quite taken aback by this sudden turn.
However he stammered out, "I suppose you mean--but, really, I can't
imagine what similarity--"he paused, and, inadvertently, his eye
glanced uneasily toward the veranda.
"Oh," said Mr. Carden, "these diabolical frauds are not done upon
one pattern, or, of course, there would soon be an end of their
success. But come now, what proof have we got that what they found
in the river at Hillsborough was the remains of Henry Little?"
"I don't know, I am sure. But nobody seems to doubt it. The
situation, the clothes, the ring--so many coincidences."
"That is all very well, if there were no rogues in the world. But
there are; and I know it, to my cost. The 'Gosshawk' has just lost
nine hundred pounds by not suspecting. It shall not lose five
thousand by the same weakness; I'll take care of that."
He paused a moment, and then proceeded to argue the matter:
"The very idea of an imposture has never occurred to any body; in
Little's case, it did not occur to me until this business of Shifty
Dick enlightened me. But, come now, just admit the idea of
imposture into that honest, unsuspicious mind of yours, and you'll
find the whole thing wears a very doubtful appearance directly. A
common workman--he was no more at the time--insures his life, for
how much? three hundred pounds? no; five thousand. Within one year
after that he disappears, under cover of an explosion. Some weeks
afterward--about as many as the Martin swindle--there is found in
the river a fragment of humanity; an arm, and a hand, and a piece of
a human trunk; but no face, mind you: arms are pretty much alike,
faces differ. The fragment is clad in brown tweed, and Little wore
brown tweed: that is all very well; but the marine was found dressed
from head to foot in Shifty Dick's very clothes. But let us go on.
There was a plain gold ring found on the hand in Hillsborough river,
and my poor daughter had given Little a plain gold ring. But what
was there to hinder an impostor from buying some pauper's body, and
putting a plain gold ring on the hand? Why, paupers' bodies are
constantly sold, and the funeral services gabbled over a coffin full
of stones. If I had paper and ink here, and could put Little's case
and Martin's in two columns, I should soon show you that Martin and
his gang faced and overcame more and greater difficulties in the way
of imposture than any that have been overcome in Little's case. The
Martin gang dealt with the face; here, that is shirked. The Martin
gang planted a body, not a fragment. Does it not strike you as very
odd that the rest of Henry Little is not to be found? It may be all
right; but, of the two, I incline to think it is a plan, and that
some person, calling himself the heir or assign of Little, will soon
apply to the 'Gosshawk' for five thousand pounds. Well, let him. I
shall look on that person as the agent of a living man, not the heir
of a dead one; and I shall tell him I don't believe in arms, and
shoulders, and tweed suits, and plain gold rings--(why, wedding-
rings are the very things conjurors take from the public at random
to play hanky-panky with; they are so like one another). I shall
demand to see the man's face; and the mother who bore him must
identify that face before I will pay one shilling to his heirs or
assigns. I am waiting to see who will come forward and claim.
Nobody moves; and that is curious. Well, when they do, I shall be
ready for them. You look pale! But no wonder: it is really no
subject for an after-dinner conversation."
Coventry was pale indeed, and his mind all in a whirl as to what he
should say; for Mr. Carden's sagacity terrified him, and the worst
of it was, he felt sure that Grace Carden heard every word.
At last, however, his natural cunning came to his aid, and he made a
very artful speech, directed principally to his unseen hearer.
"Mr. Carden," said he, "this seems to me very shrewd; but surely it
fails in one respect: you leave the man's character out of the
account. Mr. Little came between me and one I love, and inflicted
great misery on me; but I will try and be just to him. I don't
believe he was an impostor of that kind. He was false in love; he
had been reared amongst workmen, and every body says he loved a
working-girl more than he did your daughter; but as for his cheating
you or any other person out of five thousand pounds, I can't believe
it. They all say he was as honest a man in money matters as ever
"You judge him by yourself. Besides, men begin by deceiving women,
but they go on to-- Why, Grace, my poor child-- Good heavens! have
Grace was leaning against the open window, ghastly and terrible.
"Yes," said she haughtily, "I have been guilty of the meanness of
listening, and I suffer for it. It is but one pang more to a broken
heart. Mr. Coventry, you are just, you are generous; and I will try
and reward you for those words. No, papa, no impostor, but a man
sore tried, sore tempted. If he is alive, we shall soon know."
"He will write--TO JAEL DENCE."
Having uttered this strange speech, she rushed away with a wild cry
of agony, and nobody saw her face again that night.
She did not come down-stairs next day. Mr. Carden went up to her.
He stayed with her an hour, and came down looking much dejected; he
asked Mr. Coventry to take a turn in the garden with him. When they
were alone, he said, gravely, "Mr. Coventry, that unfortunate
conversation of ours has quite upset my poor girl. She tells me now