Part 11 out of 13
she will not believe he is dead until months and months have passed
without his writing to Jael Dence."
"Well, but, sir," said Coventry, "could you not convince her?"
"How can I, when I am myself convinced he is alive, and will give us
a great deal of trouble yet? for it is clear to me the poor girl
loves him more than she knows. Look here, Coventry, there's no man
I so desire for a son-in-law as yourself; you have shown a patience,
a fidelity!--but as a just man, and a man of honor, I must now
advise you to give up all thoughts of her. You are not doing
yourself justice; she will never marry you while that man is alive
and unmarried. I am provoked with her: she will not leave her room
while you are in the house. Shall I tell you what she said? 'I
respect him, I admire him, but I can't bear the sight of him now.'
That is all because I let out last night that I thought Little was
alive. I told her, alive or not, he was dead to her."
"And what did she say to that?"
"Not a word. She wrung her hands, and burst out crying terribly.
Ah! my friend, may you never know what it is to be a father, and see
your child wring her hands, and cry her heart out, as I have seen
His own tears flowed, and his voice was choked. He faltered out,
"We are two miserable creatures; forgive us, and leave us to our
Coventry rose, sick at heart, and said, "Tell her I will not intrude
He telegraphed to Lally, and went back to Hillsborough as miserable
as those he left behind; but with this difference, he deserved his
misery, deserved it richly.
Ere he had been two days in Hillsborough a telegram came from him to
"Re Little. Important discovery. Pray come here at once.
Mr. Carden had the prudence to withhold from Grace the nature of
this communication. He merely told her business called him suddenly
to Hillsborough. He started by the next train and found Mr.
Coventry awaiting him at "Woodbine Villa" with strange news: it was
not conjecture, nor a matter of deduction, but a piece of undeniable
evidence; and it knocked both Mr. Carden's theory and his daughter's
to atoms at one blow.
Meantime the history of Raby House was the history of what French
dramatists call "a pious lie."
Its indirect effect in keeping Grace Carden apart both from Mrs.
Little and Jael Dence was unforeseen and disastrous; its immediate
and direct effect on Mrs. Little was encouraging to those concerned;
what with the reconciliation to her brother, the return to native
air and beloved scenes, the tenderness and firmness of Jael Dence,
and the conviction that her son was safe out of the clutches of the
dreaded Unions, she picked up flesh and color and spirit weekly.
By-and-by she turned round upon Jael Dence, and the nurse became the
pupil. Mrs. Little taught her grammar, pronunciation, dancing,
carriage, and deportment. Jael could already sing from notes; Mrs.
Little taught her to accompany herself on the pianoforte. The
teacher was so vigilant, and the pupil so apt and attentive, that
surprising progress was made. To be sure, they were together night
This labor of love occupied Mrs. Little's mind agreeably, and, as
the pupil was equally resolute in making the teacher walk or ride on
horseback with her every day, the hours glided swiftly, and, to Mrs.
Her brother rather avoided her, by order of Jael Dence; but so many
probable reasons were given for his absences that she suspected
nothing. Only she said one day, "What a gad-about he is now. This
comes of not marrying. We must find him a wife."
When he was at home they breakfasted together, all three, and then
Mrs. Little sometimes spoke of Henry, and so hopefully and
cheerfully that a great qualm ran through her hearers, and Raby, who
could not command his features so well as Jael could, looked gloomy,
and sometimes retired behind his newspaper.
Mrs. Little observed this one day, and pointed it out to Jael.
"Oh," said Jael, "take no notice. You know he wanted Mr. Henry to
stay quietly here and be his heir."
"And so did I. But his very name seems to--"
"He likes him well, for all that, ma'am; only he won't own it yet.
You know what Squire is."
"THE Squire you should say, dear. But, 'Mr. Raby' is better still.
As a rule, avoid all small titles: the doctor, the squire, the
baronet, the mayor."
Jael seized this handle, and, by putting questions to her teacher,
got her away from the dangerous topic.
Ever on the watch, and occupied in many ways with Mrs. Little, Jael
began to recover resignation; but this could not be without an
occasional paroxysm of grief.
These she managed to hide from Mrs. Little.
But one day that lady surprised her crying. She stood and looked at
her a moment, then sat down quietly beside her and took her hand.
Jael started, and feared discovery.
"My child," said Mrs. Little, "if you have lost a father, you have
gained a mother; and then, as to your sister, why my Henry is gone
to the very same country; yet, you see, I do not give way to sorrow.
As soon as he writes, I will beg him to make inquiries for Patty,
and send them home if they are not doing well." Then Mrs. Little
kissed Jael, and coaxed her and rocked with her, and Jael's tears
began to flow, no longer for her own great grief, but for this
mother, who was innocently consoling her, unconscious of the blow
that must one day fall upon herself.
So matters went on pretty smoothly; only one morning, speaking of
Henry, Mrs. Little surprised a look of secret intelligence between
her brother and Jael Dence. She made no remark at the time, but she
puzzled in secret over it, and began at last to watch the pair.
She asked Raby at dinner, one day, when she might hope to hear from
"I don't know," said he, and looked at Jael Dence like a person
watching for orders.
Mrs. Little observed this, and turned keenly round to Jael.
"Oh," said Jael, "the doctor--I beg pardon, Dr. Amboyne--can tell
you that better than I can. It is a long way to Australia."
"How you send me from one to another," said Mrs. Little, speaking
They made no reply to that, and Mrs. Little said no more. But she
pondered all this. She wrote to Dr. Amboyne, and asked him why no
letter had come from Henry.
Dr. Amboyne wrote back that, even if he had gone in a steamboat,
there was hardly time for a letter to come back: but he had gone in
a sailing-vessel. "Give him three months and a half to get there,
and two months for his letters to come back."
In this same letter he told her he was glad to hear she was renewing
her youth like an eagle, but reminded her it would entail some
consequences more agreeable to him than to her.
She laid down the letter with a blush and fell into a reverie.
Dr. Amboyne followed up this letter with a visit or two, and urged
her to keep her promise and marry him.
She had no excuse for declining, but she procrastinated: she did not
like to marry without consulting Henry, or, at least, telling him by
And whilst she was thus temporizing, events took place at Eastbank
which ended by rudely disturbing the pious falsehood at Raby Hall.
That sequence of events began with the interview between Mr. Carden
and Mr. Coventry at Woodbine Villa.
"Little had made a will. My own solicitor drew it, and holds it at
this moment." This was the intelligence Coventry had to communicate.
"Very well; then now I shall know who is coming to the 'Gosshawk'
for the five thousand pounds. That will be the next act of the
comedy, you will see."
"Wait a moment. He leaves to Mrs. Little his own reversion to a sum
of nineteen hundred pounds, in which she has already the life
interest; he gives a hundred pounds to his sweetheart Dence: all the
rest of his estate, in possession or expectation, he bequeaths to--
"Good heavens! Why then--" Mr. Carden could say no more, for
"So," said Coventry, "If he is alive, she is the confederate who is
to profit by the fraud; those five thousand pounds belong to her at
"Are you sure? Who is your authority?"
"A communicative clerk, who happens to be the son of a tenant of
mine. The solicitor himself, I believe, chooses to doubt his
client's decease. It is at his private request that horrible object
is refused Christian burial."
"On what grounds, pray?"
"Legal grounds, I suppose; the man did not die regularly, and
according to precedent. He omitted to provide himself with two
witnesses previously to being blown up. In a case of this kind we
may safely put an old-fashioned attorney's opinion out of the
question. What do YOU think? That is all I care to know."
"I don't know what to think now. But I foresee one thing: I shall
be placed in rather an awkward position. I ought to defend the
'Gosshawk;' but I am not going to rob my own daughter of five
thousand pounds, if it belongs to her honestly."
"Will you permit me to advise you?"
"Certainly, I shall be very much obliged: for really I don't see my
"Well, then, I think you ought to look into the matter carefully,
but without prejudice. I have made some inquiries myself: I went
down to the works, and begged the workmen, who knew Little, to
examine the remains, and then come here and tell us their real
"Oh, to my mind, it all depends on the will. If that answers the
description you give--hum!" Next morning they breakfasted together,
and during breakfast two workmen called, and, at Coventry's request,
were ushered into the room. They came to say they knew Mr. Little
well, and felt sure that was his dead hand they had seen at the Town
Hall. Coventry cross-examined them severely, but they stuck to
their conviction; and this will hardly surprise the reader when I
tell him the workmen in question were Cole and another, suborned by
Coventry himself to go through this performance.
Mr. Carden received the testimony readily, for the best of all
reasons--he wanted to believe it.
But, when they were gone, he recurred to the difficulty of his
position. Director of the "Gosshawk," and father to a young lady
who had a claim of five thousand pounds on it, and that claim
debatable, though, to his own mind, no longer doubtful.
Now Mr. Coventry had a great advantage over Mr. Carden here: he had
studied this very situation profoundly for several hours, and at
last had seen how much might be done with it.
He began by artfully complimenting Mr. Carden on his delicacy, but
said Miss Carden must not be a loser by it. "Convince her, on other
grounds, that the man is dead; encourage her to reward my devotion
with her hand, and I will relieve you of everything disagreeable.
Let us settle on Miss Carden, for her separate use, the five
thousand pounds, and anything else derivable from Mr. Little's
estate; but we must also settle my farm of Hindhope: for it shall
never be said she took as much from that man as she did from me.
Well, in due course I apply to the 'Gosshawk' for my wife's money.
I am not bound to tell your Company it is not mine but hers; that is
between you and me. But you really ought to write to London at once
and withdraw the charge of fraud; you owe that piece of justice to
Miss Carden, and to the memory of the deceased."
"That is true; and it will pave the way for the demand you propose
to make on Mrs. Coventry's behalf. Well, you really are a true
friend, as well as a true lover."
In short, he went back to Hillsborough resolved to marry his
daughter to Coventry as soon as possible. Still, following that
gentleman's instructions, he withheld from Grace that Little had
made a will in her favor. He knew her to be quite capable of
refusing to touch a farthing of it, or to act as executrix. But he
told her the workmen had identified the remains, and that other
circumstances had also convinced him he had been unjust to a
deceased person, which he regretted.
When her father thus retracted his own words, away went Grace's last
faint hope that Henry lived; and now she must die for him, or live
She thought of Jael Dance, and chose the latter.
Another burst or two of agony, and then her great aim and study
appeared to be to forget herself altogether. She was full of
attention for her father, and, whenever Mr. Coventry came, she
labored to reward him with kind words, and even with smiles; but
they were sad ones.
As for Coventry, he saw, with secret exultation, that she was now
too languid and hopeless to resist the joint efforts of her father
and himself, and, that some day or other, she must fall lifeless
into his arms.
He said to himself, "It is only a question of time."
He was now oftener at the villa than at Hillsborough, and, with
remarkable self-denial, adhered steadily to the line of soothing and
One morning at breakfast the post brought him a large envelope from
Hillsborough. He examined it, and found a capital "L" in the corner
of the envelope, which "L" was written by his man Lally, in
compliance with secret instructions from his master.
Coventry instantly put the envelope into his pocket, and his hand
began to shake so that he could hardly hold his cup to his lips.
His agitation, however, was not noticed.
Directly after breakfast he strolled, with affected composure, into
the garden, and sat down in a bower where he was safe from surprise,
as the tangled leaves were not so thick but he could peep through
He undid his inclosure, and found three letters; two were of no
importance; the third bore a foreign postmark, and was addressed to
Miss Carden in a hand writing which he recognized at a glance as
But as this was not the first letter from Henry to Grace which he
had intercepted and read, perhaps I had better begin by saying a few
words about the first.
Well, then, the letters with which Coventry swam the river on the
night of the explosion were six, viz., to Mr. Bolt, to Doctor
Amboyne, to Mr. Baynes, to Jael Dence, to Mrs. Little, and to Grace
Carden. The letter to Grace Carden was short but touching, full of
devotion, hope, resolution, and grief at parting. He told her he
had come to take leave that afternoon, but she had been out,
luckily; for he felt he ought to go, and must go, but how could he
look at her and then leave her? This was the general purport, and
expressed with such anguish and fortitude as might have melted a
heart of marble.
The reader may have observed that, upon his rival's disappearance,
Coventry was no happier. This letter was the secret cause. First
it showed him his rival was alive, and he had wasted a crime;
secondly, it struck him with remorse, yet not with penitence; and to
be full of remorse, yet empty of that true penitence which confesses
or undoes the wrong, this is to be miserable.
But, as time rolled on, bringing the various events I have related,
but no news of Little, Coventry began to think that young man must
really have come to some untimely end.
From this pleasant dream he was now awakened by the second
intercepted letter. It ran thus:
"BOSTON, U. S., June 20th.
MY OWN DEAR LOVE,--It is now nine weeks since I left England, and
this will be a fortnight more getting to you; that is a long time
for you to be without news from me, and I sadly fear I have caused
you great anxiety. Dearest, it all happened thus: Our train was
delayed by an accident, and I reached Liverpool just in time to see
the steam-packet move down the Mersey. My first impulse, of course,
was to go back to Hillsborough; but a seaman, who saw my vexation,
told me a fast schooner was on the point of sailing for Boston, U.S.
My heart told me if I went back to Hillsborough, I should never
make the start again. I summoned all my manhood to do the right
thing for us both; and I got into the schooner, heaven knows how;
and, when I got there, I hid my face for ever so many hours, till,
by the pitching and tossing, I knew that I was at sea. Then I began
to cry and blubber. I couldn't hold it any longer.
"At such a time a kind word keeps the heart from breaking
altogether; and I got some comfort from an old gentleman, a native
of Boston: a grave old man he was, and pretty reserved with all the
rest; but seeing me in the depths of misery, he talked to me like a
father, and I told him all my own history, and a little about you
too--at least, how I loved you, and why I had left England with a
"We had a very long passage, not downright tempestuous, but contrary
winds, and a stiff gale or two. Instead of twenty days, as they
promised, we were six weeks at sea, and what with all the fighting
and the threats--I had another letter signed with a coffin just
before I left that beautiful town--and the irritation at losing so
much time on the ocean, it all brought on a fever, and I have no
recollection of leaving the boat. When I came to myself, I was in a
house near Boston, belonging to the old gentleman I spoke of. He
and his nieces nursed me, and now I am as well as ever, only rather
"Mr. Ironside, that is his name, but it should be Mr. Goldheart, if
I had the christening of him--he has been my good Samaritan. Dear
Grace, please pray for him and his family every night. He tells me
he comes of the pilgrim fathers, so he is bound to feel for pilgrims
and wanderers from home. Well, he has been in patents a little,
and, before I lost my little wits with the fever, he and I had many
a talk. So now he is sketching out a plan of operation for me, and
I shall have to travel many a hundred miles in this vast country.
But they won't let me move till I am a little stronger, he and his
nieces. If he is gold, they are pearls.
"Dearest, it has taken me two days to write this: but I am very
happy and hopeful, and do not regret coming. I am sure it was the
right thing for us both.
"Please say something kind for me to the good doctor, and tell him I
have got over this one trouble already.
"Dearest, I agreed to take so much a year from Bolt, and he must
fight the trades alone. Such a life is not worth having. Bayne
won't wrong me of a shilling. Whatever he makes, over his salary
and the men's wages, there it will be for me when I come home; so I
write to no one at Hillsborough but you. Indeed, you are my all in
this world. I travel, and fight, and work, and breathe, and live
for you, my own beloved; and if any harm came to you, I wouldn't
care to live another moment."
At this point in the letter the reader stopped, and something cold
seemed to pass all through his frame. It struck him that all good
men would pity the writer of this letter, and abhor him who kept it
from that pale, heart-broken girl inside the cottage.
He sat freezing, with the letter in his hand, and began to doubt
whether he could wade any deeper in crime.
After a minute or two he raised his head, and was about to finish
reading the letter.
But, in the meantime, Grace Carden had resumed her accustomed place
in the veranda. She lay upon the couch, and her pale face, and
hollow, but still beautiful eyes, were turned seaward. Out of those
great sad eyes the sad soul looked across the waste of waters--
gazed, and searched, and pined in vain. Oh, it was a look to make
angels weep, and hover close over her head with restless, loving
pinions, longing to shadow, caress, and heal her!
Coventry, with Henry Little's letter in his hand, peered through the
leaves, and saw the woman he loved fix this look of despair upon the
sea--despair of which he was the sole cause, and could dispel it
with a gesture.
"And this brings me back to what is my only great trouble now. I
told you, in the letter I left behind me, you would hear from me in
a month at furthest. It will be not a month, but eleven weeks.
Good heavens! when I think what anxiety you may have suffered on my
account! You know I am a pupil of the good doctor, and so I put
myself in your place, and I say to myself, 'If my Grace had promised
to write in a month, and eleven weeks had passed without a word,
what would my feelings be?' Why, I think I should go mad; I should
make sure you were ill; I should fear you were dead; I should fancy
every terrible thing on earth, except that you were false to your
poor Henry. That I should never fear: I judge you by myself. Fly,
steamboat, with this letter to my love, and set her mind at ease.
Fly back with a precious word from her dear hand, and with that in
my bosom, nothing will ever daunt me.
"God bless you! angel of my life, darling of my heart, star on which
all my hopes are fixed! Oh, what miserable bad tools words are!
When I look at them, and compare them with how I love you, I seem to
be writing that I love you no more than other people love. What I
feel is so much greater than words.
"Must I say farewell? Even on paper, it is like tearing myself away
from heaven again. But that was to be: and now this is to be.
Good-by, my own beloved.
"Yours till death, HENRY."
Coventry read this sentence by sentence, still looking up, nearly
every sentence, at her to whom it was addressed.
The letter pleaded on his knee, the pale face pleaded a few yards
off; he sat between the two bleeding lovers, their sole barrier and
His heart began to fail him. The mountain of crime looked high.
Now remorse stung him deeper than ever; jealousy spurred him harder
than ever; a storm arose within his breast, a tempest of conflicting
passion, as grand and wild as ever distracted the heart; as grand
and wild as any poet has ever tried to describe, and, half
succeeding, won immortal fame.
"See what I can do?" whispered conscience. "With one bound I can
give her the letter, and bring the color back to that cheek and joy
to that heart. She will adore me for it, she will be my true and
tender friend till death. She will weep upon my neck and bless me."
"Ay," whispered jealousy, "and then she will marry Henry Little."
"And am I sure to succeed if I persist in crime? Deserve her hatred
and contempt, and is it certain they will not both fall on me?"
"The fault began with them. He supplanted me--she jilted me. I
hate him--I love her. I can't give her up now; I have gone too far.
What is intercepting a letter? I have been too near murder to stop
"But her pale face! her pale face!"
"Once married, supplant him as he has supplanted you. Away to Italy
with her. Fresh scenes--constant love--the joys of wedlock! What
will this Henry Little be to her then?--a dream."
"Eternal punishment; if it is not a fable, who has ever earned it
better than I am earning it if I go on?"
"It IS a fable; it must be. Philosophers always said so, and now
even divines have given it up."
"Her pale face! her pale face! Never mind HIM, look at her. What
sort of love is this that shows no pity? Oh, my poor girl, don't
look so sad--so pale! What shall I do? Would to God I had never
been born, to torture myself and her!"
His good angel fought hard for him that day; fought and struggled
and hoped, until the miserable man, torn this way and that, ended
the struggle with a blasphemous yell by tearing the letter to atoms.
That fatal act turned the scale.
The next moment he wished he had not done it.
But it was too late. He could not go to her with the fragments.
She would see he had intercepted it purposely.
Well, all the better. It was decided. He would not look at her
face any more. He could not bear it.
He rushed away from the bower and made for the seaside; but he soon
returned another way, gained his own room, and there burnt the
fragments of the letter to ashes.
But, though he was impenitent, remorse was not subdued. He could
not look Grace Carden in the face now. So he sent word he must go
back to Hillsborough directly.
He packed his bag and went down-stairs with it.
On the last landing he met Grace Carden. She started a little.
"What! going away?"
"Yes, Miss Carden."
"No bad news, I hope?" said she, kindly.
The kindly tone coming from her, to whom he had shown no mercy, went
through that obdurate heart.
"No--no," he faltered; "but the sight of your unhappiness-- Let me
go. I am a miserable man!"
And with this he actually burst out crying and ran past her.
Grace told her father, and asked him to find out what was the matter
with Mr. Coventry.
Mr. Carden followed Coventry to the station, and Coventry, who had
now recovered his self-possession and his cunning, told him that for
some time Miss Carden had worn a cheerful air, which had given him
hopes; but this morning, watching her from a bower in the garden, he
had seen such misery in her face that it had quite upset him; and he
was going away to try and recover that composure, without which he
felt he would be no use to her in any way.
This tale Carden brought back to his daughter, and she was touched
by it. "Poor Mr. Coventry!" said she. "Why does he waste so much
love on me?"
Her father, finding her thus softened, pleaded hard for his friend,
and reminded Grace that she had not used him well. She admitted
that at once, and went so far as to say that she felt bound never to
marry any one but Mr. Coventry, unless time should cure him, as she
hoped it would, of his unfortunate attachment.
From this concession Mr. Carden urged her daily to another, viz.,
that Mr. Coventry might be permitted to try and win her affection.
Her answer was, "He had much better content himself with what I can
and do give him--my esteem and gratitude and sincere pity."
Mr. Carden, however, persisted, and the deep affection he had shown
his daughter gave him great power. It was two against one; and the
Mr. Coventry began to spend his whole time at Eastbank Cottage.
He followed Grace about with a devotion to which no female heart
could be entirely insensible; and, at last, she got used to him, and
rather liked to have him about her. He broke her solitude as a dog
does, and he fetched and carried for her, and talked when she was
inclined to listen, and was silent when he saw his voice jarred upon
her bereaved heart.
Without her father, matters might have gone on so for years; but Mr.
Carden had now so many motives for marrying his daughter to
Coventry, that he used all his judgment and all his influence. He
worked on his daughter's pride, her affection, her sense of honor,
and her sense of duty.
She struggled, she sighed, she wept; but, by little and little, she
submitted. And, since three months more passed with no striking
event, I will deviate from my usual custom and speak a little of
what passed in her mind.
First of all, then, she was so completely deceived by appearances,
that she believed the exact opposite of the truth in each
particular. To her not only did black seem white, but white black.
Her dead lover had given her but half his heart. Her living lover
was the soul of honor and true devotion. It was her duty, though
not her pleasure, to try and love him; to marry him would be a good
and self-denying action.
And what could she lose by it? Her own chance of happiness was
gone. All she could hope for hereafter was the gentle satisfaction
that arises from making others happy. She had but a choice of
evils: never to marry at all, or to marry Frederick Coventry.
Thus far she was conscious of her own feelings, and could, perhaps,
have put them into words; but here she drifted out of her depth.
Nature implants in women a genuine love of offspring that governs
them unconsciously. It governs the unconscious child; it governs
the half-conscious mother who comes home from the toyshop with a
waxen child for her girl, and a drum for her boy.
Men desire offspring---when they desire it at all--from vanity
alone. Women desire it from pure love of it.
This instinct had probably its share in withholding Grace from
making up her mind never to marry; and so operated negatively,
though not positively, in Coventry's favor.
And so, by degrees and in course of time, after saying "no" a dozen
times, she said "yes" once in a moment of utter lassitude, and
afterward she cried and wished to withdraw her consent, but they
were two to one, and had right on their side, she thought.
They got her to say she would marry him some day or other.
Coventry intercepted several letters, but he took care not to read
them with Grace's sad face in sight. He would not give conscience
such a power to torment him. The earlier letters gave him a cruel
satisfaction. They were written each from a different city in the
United States, and all tended to show that the writer had a year or
two to travel yet, before he could hope to return home in triumph
and marry his Grace.
In all these letters she was requested to send her answers to New
York (and, now I think of it, there was a postscript to that effect
in the very letter I have given in extenso).
But at last came a letter that disturbed this delightful dream. It
was written from the western extremity of the States, but the writer
was in high spirits; he had sold his patents in two great cities,
and had established them in two more on a royalty; he had also met
with an unexpected piece of good fortune: his railway clip had been
appreciated, a man of large capital and enterprise had taken it up
with spirit, and was about to purchase the American and Canadian
right for a large sum down and a percentage. As soon as this
contract should be signed he should come home and claim Mr. Carden's
promise. He complained a little that he got no letters, but
concluded the post-office authorities were in fault, for he had
written to New York to have them forwarded. However, he soon should
be in that city and revel in them.
This troubled Coventry, and drove him to extremities. He went on
his knees to Grace, and implored her to name the day.
She drew back with horror and repugnance; said, with a burst of
tears, she was a widow, and would not marry till a decent time had
elapsed since--; then, with sudden doggedness, "I will never marry
And so she left him to repent his precipitation.
He was at his wits' end, and could do nothing but look unhappy, and
temporize, and hope the wind might change.
The wind did not change, and he passed a week or two of outward
sorrow, but inward rage.
He fell ill, and Mr. Carden pitied him openly.
Grace maintained a sullen silence.
One day, as he was in bed, an envelope was brought him, with a large
"L." He opened it slowly, fearing the worst.
The letter was full of love, and joy, and triumph that made the
reader's heart faint within him till he came to this sentence:
"The gentleman who treats with me for the railway clip makes it an
express stipulation that I shall spend a month in his works at
Chicago, superintending the forging and perfecting of the clip. As
he intends to be there himself, and to buy it out-and-out if it
answers his expectations, I shall certainly go, and wear a smith's
apron once more for your sake. He is even half inclined to go into
another of my projects--the forging of large axes by machinery. It
was tried at Hillsborough two years ago, but the Union sent a bullet
through the manufacturer's hat, and he dropped it."
The letter from which I give this extract was a reprieve. He had
five or six weeks before him still.
Soon after this, his faithful ally, Mr. Carden, worked on Grace's
pity; and as Coventry never complained, nor irritated her in any
way, she softened to him. Then all the battery of imploring looks
was brought to bear on her by Coventry, and of kind admonition and
entreaty by her father; and so, between them, they gently thrust her
down the slope.
"Stop all their tongues," said Mr. Carden. "Come back to
Hillsborough a wife. I gave up my choice to yours once. Now give
me my way. I am touched to the heart by this young man's devotion:
he invites me to live with him when you are married. What other
young fellow would show me so much mercy?"
"Does he?" said Grace. "I will try and reward him for that, and for
speaking well of one who could not defend himself. But give me a
Mr. Carden conveyed this to Coventry with delight, and told him he
should only have another month or so to wait. Coventry received
this at first with unmixed exultation, but by-and-by he began to
feel superstitious. Matters were now drawing to such a point that
Little might very well arrive before the wedding-day, and just
before it. Perhaps Heaven had that punishment in store for him; the
cup was to be in his very grasp, and then struck out of it.
Only a question of time! But what is every race? The space between
winner and loser strikes the senses more obviously; but the race is
just as much a question of time as of space. Buridan runs second
for the Derby, defeated by a length. But give Buridan a start of
one second, and he shall beat the winner--by two lengths.
Little now wrote from Chicago that every thing was going on
favorably, and he believed it would end in a sale of the patent clip
in the United States and Canada for fifty thousand dollars, but no
This letter was much shorter than any of the others; and, from that
alone, his guilty reader could see that the writer intended to
follow it in person almost immediately.
Coventry began almost to watch the sun in his course. When it was
morning he wished it was evening, and when it was evening he wished
it was morning.
Sometimes he half wondered to see how calmly the sun rose and set,
and Nature pursued her course, whilst he writhed in the agony of
suspense, and would gladly have given a year out of his life for a
At last, by Mr. Carden's influence, the wedding-day was fixed. But
soon after this great triumph came another intercepted letter. He
went to his room and his hands trembled violently as he opened it.
His eye soon fixed on this passage:
"I thought to be in New York by this time, and looking homeward; but
I am detained by another piece of good-fortune, if any thing can be
called good-fortune that keeps me a day from you. Oh, my dear
Grace, I am dying to see your handwriting at new York, and then fly
home and see your dear self, and never, never quit you more. I have
been wonderfully lucky; I have made my fortune, our fortune. But it
hardly pays me for losing the sight of you so many months. But what
I was going to tell you is, that my method of forging large axes by
machinery is wonderfully praised, and a great firm takes it up on
fair terms. This firm has branches in various parts of the world,
and, once my machines are in full work, Hillsborough will never
forge another ax. Man can not suppress machinery; the world is too
big. That bullet sent through Mr. Tyler's hat loses Great Britain a
whole trade. I profit in money by their short-sighted violence, but
I must pay the price; for this will keep me another week at Chicago,
perhaps ten days. Then home I come, with lots of money to please
your father, and an ocean of love for you, who don't care about the
filthy dross; no more do I, except as the paving-stones on the road
to you and heaven, my adored one."
The effect of this letter was prodigious. So fearful had been the
suspense, so great was now the relief, that Coventry felt exultant,
buoyant. He went down to the sea-side, and walked, light as air, by
the sands, and his brain teemed with delightful schemes. Little
would come to Hillsborough soon after the marriage, but what of
On the wedding-night he would be at Dover. Next day at Paris, on
his way to Rome, Athens, Constantinople. The inevitable exposure
should never reach his wife until he had so won her, soul and body,
that she should adore him for the crimes he had committed to win
her--he knew the female heart to be capable of that.
He came back from his walk another man, color in his cheek and fire
in his eye.
He walked into the drawing-room, and found Mr. Raby, with his hat
on, just leaving Grace, whose eyes showed signs of weeping.
"I wish you joy, sir," said Raby. "I am to have the honor of being
at your wedding."
"It will add to my happiness, if possible," said Coventry.
To be as polite in deed as in word, he saw Mr. Raby into the fly.
"Curious creatures, these girls," said Raby, shrugging his
"She was engaged to me long ago," said Coventry, parrying the blow.
"Ah! I forgot that. Still--well, well; I wish you joy."
He went off, and Coventry returned to Grace. She was seated by the
window looking at the sea.
"What did godpapa say to you?"
"Oh, he congratulated me. He reminded me you and I were first
engaged at his house."
"Did he tell you it is to be at Woodbine Villa?"
"The wedding." And Grace blushed to the forehead at having to
"No, indeed, he did not mention any such thing, or I should have
shown him how unadvisable--"
"You mistake me. It is I who wish to be married from my father's
house by good old Dr. Fynes. He married my parents, and he
christened me, and now he shall marry me."
"I approve that, of course, since you wish it; but, my own dearest
Grace, Woodbine Villa is associated with so many painful memories--
let me advise, let me earnestly entreat you, not to select it as the
place to be married from. Dr. Fynes can be invited here."
"I have set my heart on it," said Grace. "Pray do not thwart me in
"I should be very sorry to thwart you in any thing. But, before you
finally decide, pray let me try and convince your better judgment."
"I HAVE decided; and I have written to Dr. Fynes, and to the few
persons I mean to invite. They can't all come here; and I have
asked Mr. Raby; and it is my own desire; and it is one of those
things the lady and her family always decide. I have no wish to be
married at all. I only marry to please my father and you. There,
let us say no more about it, please. I will not be married at
Woodbine Villa, nor anywhere else. I wish papa and you would show
your love by burying me instead."
These words, and the wild panting way they were uttered in, brought
Coventry to his knees in a moment. He promised her, with abject
submission, that she should have her own way in this and every
thing. He petted her, and soothed her, and she forgave him, but so
little graciously, that he saw she would fly out in a moment again,
if the least attempt were made to shake her resolution.
Grace talked the matter over with Mr. Carden, and that same evening
he begged Coventry to leave the Villa as soon as he conveniently
could, for he and his daughter must be there a week before the
wedding, and invite some relations, whom it was his interest to
treat with respect.
"You will spare me a corner," said Coventry, in his most insinuating
tone. "Dear Woodbine! I could not bear to leave it."
"Oh, of course you can stay there till we actually come; but we
can't have the bride and bridegroom under one roof. Why, my dear
fellow, you know better than that."
There was no help for it. It sickened him with fears of what might
happen in those few fatal days, during which Mr. Carden, Grace
herself, and a household over which he had no control, would occupy
the house, and would receive the Postman, whose very face showed him
He stayed till the last moment; stopped a letter of five lines from
Little, in which he said he should be in New York very soon, en
route for England; and the very next day he received the Cardens,
with a smiling countenance and a fainting heart, and then vacated
the premises. He ordered Lally to hang about the Villa at certain
hours when the post came in, and do his best. But his was catching
at a straw. His real hope was that neither Little himself, nor a
letter in his handwriting, might come in that short interval.
It wanted but five days to the wedding.
Hitherto it had been a game of skill, now it was a game of chance;
and every morning he wished it was evening, every evening he wished
it was morning.
The day Raby came back from Eastbank he dined at home, and, in an
unguarded moment, said something or other, on which Mrs. Little
cross-examined him so swiftly and so keenly that he stammered, and
let out Grace Carden was on the point of marriage.
"Marriage, while my son is alive!" said Mrs. Little, and looked from
him to Jael Dence, at first with amazement, and afterward with a
strange expression that showed her mind was working.
A sort of vague alarm fell upon the other two, and they waited, in
utter confusion, for what might follow.
But the mother was not ready to suspect so horrible a thing as her
son's death. She took a more obvious view, and inveighed bitterly
against Grace Carden.
She questioned Raby as to the cause, but it was Jael who answered
her. "I believe nobody knows the rights of it but Miss Carden
"The cause is her utter fickleness; but she never really loved him.
My poor Henry!"
"Oh yes, she did," said Raby. "She was at death's door a few months
"At death's door for one man, and now going to marry another!"
"Why not?" said Raby, hard pushed; "she is a woman."
"And why did you not tell me till now?" asked Mrs. Little, loftily
ignoring her brother's pitiable attempt at a sneer.
Raby's reply to this was happier.
"Why, what the better are you for knowing it now? We had orders not
to worry you unnecessarily. Had we not, Jael?"
"That is all very well, in some things. But, where my son is
concerned, pray never keep the truth from me again. When did she
break off with Henry--or did he quarrel with her?"
"I have no idea. I was not in the country."
"Do YOU know, dear?"
"No, Mrs. Little. But I am of your mind. I think she could not
have loved Mr. Henry as she ought."
"When did you see her last?"
"I could not say justly, but it was a long while ago."
Mrs. Little interpreted this that Jael had quarreled with Grace for
her fickleness, and gave her a look of beaming affection; then fell
into a dead silence, and soon tears were seen stealing down her
"But I shall write to her," said she, after a long and painful
Mr. Raby hoped she would do nothing of the kind.
"Oh, I shall not say much. I shall put her one question. Of course
SHE knows why they part."
Next morning Jael Dence asked Mr. Raby whether the threatened letter
must be allowed to go.
"Of course it must," said Raby. "I have gone as far off the
straight path as a gentleman can. And I wish we may not repent our
ingenuity. Deceive a mother about her son! what can justify it,
Mrs. Little wrote her letter, and showed it to Jael:
"DEAR MISS CARDEN,--They tell me you are about to be married. Can
this be true, and Henry Little alive?"
An answer came back, in due course.
"DEAR MRS. LITTLE,--It is true, and I am miserable. Forgive me, and
Mrs. Little discovered the marks of tears upon the paper, and was
She sat silent a long time: then looking up, she saw Jael Dence
gazing at her with moist eyes, and an angelic look of anxiety and
She caught her round the neck, and kissed her, almost passionately.
"All the better," she cried, struggling with a sob. "I shall have
my own way for once. You shall be my daughter instead."
Jael returned her embrace with ardor, but in silence, and with
When Jael Dence heard that Grace Carden was in Hillsborough, she
felt very much drawn to go and see her: but she knew the meeting
must be a sad one to them both; and that made her put it off till
the very day before the wedding. Then, thinking it would be too
unkind if she held entirely aloof, and being, in truth, rather
curious to know whether Grace had really been able to transfer her
affections in so short a time, she asked Mr. Raby's leave, and drove
one of the ponies in to Woodbine Villa.
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
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
"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
"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
"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!"
"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
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
"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
"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
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
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.
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 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
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
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,"
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
(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
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
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
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,
"Excuse me," said the doctor, faintly. "It was a foolish question
"I think I have the honor of speaking to Dr. Amboyne?"
Dr. Amboyne bowed mechanically.
"You will be at the wedding-breakfast, of course?"
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
"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
"I forget whether I told you I had made my fortune. Your devoted
and most unhappy lover,
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
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
"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.
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
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."