Part 12 out of 13
Here the reading of the letter was interrupted by an incident.
There was on the toilet-table a stiletto, with a pearl handle. It
was a small thing, but the steel rather long, and very bright and
The unfortunate bride, without lifting her head from the table, had
reached out her hand, and was fingering this stiletto. Jael Dence
went and took it gently away, and put it out of reach. The bride
went on fingering, as if she had still got hold of it.
Amboyne exchanged an approving glance with Jael, and Raby concluded
"I shall be home in a few days after this; and, if I find my darling
well and happy, there's no great harm done. I don't mind my own
trouble and anxiety, great as they are, but if any scoundrel has
made her unhappy, or made her believe I am dead, or false to my
darling, by God, I'll kill him, though I hang for it next day!"
Crushed, benumbed, and broken as Grace Coventry was, this sentence
seemed to act on her like an electric shock.
She started wildly up. "What! my Henry die like a felon--for a
villain like him, and an idiot like me! You won't allow that; nor
A soft step came to the door, and a gentle tap.
"Who is that?" said Dr. Amboyne.
"The bridegroom," replied a soft voice.
"You can't come in here," said Raby, roughly.
"Open the door," said the bride.
Jael went to the door, but looked uncertain.
"Don't keep the bridegroom out," said Grace, reproachfully. Then,
in a voice as sweet as his own, "I want to see him; I want to speak
Jael opened the door slowly, for she felt uneasy. Raby shrugged his
shoulders contemptuously at Grace's condescending to speak to the
man, and in so amiable a tone.
Coventry entered, and began, "My dear Grace, the carriage is ready--"
No sooner had she got him fairly into the room, than the bride
snatched up the stiletto, and flew at the bridegroom with gleaming
eyes, uplifted weapon, the yell of a furious wild beast, and hair
flying out behind her head like a lion's mane.
Dr. Amboyne and Raby cried out, and tried to interfere; but Grace's
movement was too swift, furious, and sudden; she was upon the man,
with her stiletto high in the air, before they could get to her, and
indeed the blow descended, and, inspired as it was by love, and
hate, and fury, would doubtless have buried the weapon in a rascal's
body; but Jael Dence caught Grace's arm: that weakened, and also
diverted the blow; yet the slight, keen weapon pierced Coventry's
cheek, and even inflicted a slight wound upon the tongue. That very
moment Jael Dence dragged her away, and held her round the waist,
writhing and striking the air; her white hand and bridal sleeve
sprinkled with her bridegroom's blood.
As for him, his love, criminal as it was, supplied the place of
heroism: he never put up a finger in defense. "No," said he,
despairingly, "let me die by her hand; it is all I hope for now."
He even drew near her to enable her to carry out her wish: but, on
that, Jael Dence wrenched her round directly, and Dr. Amboyne
disarmed her, and Raby marched between the bride and the bridegroom,
and kept them apart: then they all drew their breath, for the first
time, and looked aghast at each other.
Not a face in that room had an atom of color left in it; yet it was
not until the worst was over that they realized the savage scene.
The bridegroom leaned against the wardrobe, a picture of despair,
with blood trickling from his cheek, and channeling his white waist-
coat and linen; the bride, her white and bridal sleeve spotted with
blood, writhed feebly in Jael Dence's arms, and her teeth clicked
together, and her eyes shone wildly. At that moment she was on the
brink of frenzy.
Raby, a man by nature, and equal to great situations, was the first
to recover self-possession and see his way. "Silence!" said he,
sternly. "Amboyne, here's a wounded man; attend to him."
He had no need to say that twice; the doctor examined his patient
zealously, and found him bleeding from the tongue as well as the
cheek; he made him fill his mouth with a constant supply of cold
water, and applied cold water to the nape of his neck.
And now there was a knock at the door, and a voice inquired rather
impatiently, what they were about all this time. It was Mr. Carden's
They let him in, but instantly closed the door. "Now, hush!" said
Raby, "and let me tell him." He then, in a very few hurried words,
told him the matter. Coventry hung his head lower and lower.
Mr. Carden was terribly shaken. He could hardly speak for some
time. When he did, it was in the way of feeble expostulation. "Oh,
my child! my child! what, would you commit murder?"
"Don't you see I would," cried she, contemptuously, "sooner than HE
should do it, and suffer for it like a felon? You are all blind,
and no friends of mine. I should have rid the earth of a monster,
and they would never have hanged ME. I hate you all, you worst of
all, that call yourself my father, and drove me to marry this
villain. One thing--you won't be always at hand to protect him."
"I'll give you every opportunity," said Coventry, doggedly. "You
shall kill me for loving you so madly."
"She shall do no such thing," said Mr. Carden. "Opportunity? do you
know her so little as to think she will ever live with you. Get out
of my house, and never presume to set foot in at again. My good
friends, have pity on a miserable father and help me to hide this
monstrous thing from the world."
This appeal was not lost: the gentlemen put their heads together and
led Coventry into another room. There Dr. Amboyne attended to him,
while Mr. Carden went down and told his guests the bridegroom had
been taken ill, so seriously indeed that anxiety and alarm had taken
the place of joy.
The guests took the hint and dispersed, wondering and curious.
Meantime, on one side of a plaster wall Amboyne was attending the
bridegroom, and stanching the effusion of blood; on the other, Raby
and Jael Dence were bringing the bride to reason.
She listened to nothing they could say until they promised her most
solemnly that she should never be compelled to pass a night under
the same roof as Frederick Coventry. That pacified her not a
Dr. Amboyne had also great trouble with his patient: the wound in
the cheek was not serious; but, by a sort of physical retribution--
of which, by-the-bye, I have encountered many curious examples--the
tongue, that guilty part of Frederick Coventry, though slightly
punctured, bled so persistently that Amboyne was obliged to fill his
mouth with ice, and at last support him with stimulants. He
peremptorily refused to let him be moved from Woodbine Villa.
When this was communicated to Grace, she instantly exacted Raby's
promise; and as he was a man who never went from his word, he drove
her and Jael to Raby Hall that very night, and they left Coventry in
the villa, attended by a surgeon, under whose care Amboyne had left
him with strict injunctions. Mr. Carden was secretly mortified at
his daughter's retreat, but raised no objection.
Next morning, however, he told Coventry; and then Coventry insisted
on leaving the house. "I am unfortunate enough," said he: "do not
let me separate my only friend from his daughter."
Mr. Carden sent a carriage off to Raby Hall, with a note, telling
Grace Mr. Coventry was gone of his own accord, and appeared truly
penitent, and much shocked at having inadvertently driven her out of
the house. He promised also to protect her, should Coventry break
his word and attempted to assume marital rights without her
This letter found Grace in a most uncomfortable position. Mrs.
Little had returned late to Raby Hall; but in the morning she heard
from Jael Dence that Grace was in the house, and why.
The mother's feathers were up, and she could neither pity nor
excuse. She would not give the unhappy girl a word of comfort.
Indeed, she sternly refused to see her. "No," said she: "Mrs.
Coventry is unhappy; so this is no time to show her how thoroughly
Henry Little's mother despises her."
These bitter words never reached poor Grace, but the bare fact of
Mrs. Little not coming down-stairs by one o'clock, nor sending a
civil message, spoke volumes, and Grace was sighing over it when her
father's letter came. She went home directly, and so heartbroken,
that Jael Dence pitied her deeply, and went with her, intending to
stay a day or two only.
But every day something or other occurred, which combined with
Grace's prayers to keep her at Woodbine Villa.
Mr. Coventry remained quiet for some days, by which means he
pacified Grace's terrors.
On the fourth day Mr. Beresford called at Woodbine Villa, and Grace
received him, he being the curate of the parish.
He spoke to her in a sympathetic tone, which let her know at once he
was partly in the secret. He said he had just visited a very
guilty, but penitent man; that we all need forgiveness, and that a
woman, once married, has no chance of happiness but with her
Grace maintained a dead silence, only her eye began to glitter.
Mr. Beresford, who had learned to watch the countenance of all those
he spoke to changed his tone immediately, from a spiritual to a
"If I were you," said he, in rather an offhand way, "I would either
forgive this man the sin into which his love has betrayed him, or I
would try to get a divorce. This would cost money: but, if you
don't mind expense, I think I could suggest a way--"
Grace interrupted him. "From whom did you learn my misery, and his
villainy? I let you in, because I thought you came from God; but
you come from a villain. Go back, sir, and say that an angel, sent
by him, becomes a devil in my eyes." And she rang the bell with a
look that spoke volumes.
Mr. Beresford bowed, smiled bitterly, and went back to Coventry,
with whom he had a curious interview, that ended in Coventry lending
him two hundred pounds on his personal security. To dispose of Mr.
Beresford for the present I will add that, soon after this, his zeal
for the poor subjected him to an affront. He was a man of soup-
kitchens and subscriptions. One of the old fogies, who disliked
him, wrote letters to The Liberal, and demanded an account of his
receipts and expenditure in these worthy objects, and repeated the
demand with a pertinacity that implied suspicion. Then Mr.
Beresford called upon Dr. Fynes, and showed him the letters, and
confessed to him that he never kept any accounts, either of public
or private expenditure. "I can construe Apollonius Rhodius--with
your assistance, sir," said he, "but I never could add up pounds,
shillings, and pence; far less divide them except amongst the
afflicted." "Take no notice of the cads," said Dr. Fynes. But
Beresford represented meekly that a clergyman's value and usefulness
were gone when once a slur was thrown upon him. Then Dr. Fynes gave
him high testimonials, and they parted with mutual regret.
It took Grace a day to get over her interview with Mr. Beresford;
and when with Jael's help she was calm again, she received a letter
from Coventry, indited in tones of the deepest penitence, but
reminding her that he had offered her his life, had made no
resistance when she offered to take it, and never would.
There was nothing in the letter that irritated her, but she saw in
it an attempt to open a correspondence. She wrote back:
"If you really repent your crimes, and have any true pity for the
poor creature whose happiness you have wrecked, show it by leaving
this place, and ceasing all communication with her."
This galled Coventry, and he wrote back:
"What! leave the coast clear to Mr. Little? No, Mrs. Coventry; no."
Grace made no reply, but a great terror seized her, and from that
hour preyed constantly on her mind--the fear that Coventry and
Little would meet, and the man she loved would do some rash act, and
perhaps perish on the scaffold for it.
This was the dominant sentiment of her distracted heart, when one
day, at eleven A.M., came a telegram from Liverpool:
"Just landed. Will be with you by four.
Jael found her shaking all over, with this telegram in her hand.
"Thank God you are with me!" she gasped. "Let me see him once more,
This was her first thought; but all that day she was never in the
same mind for long together. She would burst out into joy that he
was really alive, and she should see his face once more. Then she
would cower with terror, and say she dared not look him in the face;
she was not worthy. Then she would ask wildly, who was to tell him?
What would become of him?
"It would break his heart, or destroy his reason. After all he had
done and suffered for her!"
Oh! why could she not die before he came? Seeing her dead body he
would forgive her. She should tell him she loved him still, should
always love him. She would withhold no comfort. Perhaps he would
kill her, if so, Jael must manage so that he should not be taken up
or tormented any more, for such a wretch as she was.
But I might as well try to dissect a storm, and write the gusts of a
tempest, as to describe all the waves of passion in that fluctuating
and agonized heart: the feelings and the agitation of a life were
crowded into those few hours, during which she awaited the lover she
At last, Jael Dence, though she was also much agitated and
perplexed, decided on a course of action. Just before four o'clock
she took Grace upstairs and told her she might see him arrive, but
she must not come down until she was sent for. "I shall see him
first, and tell him all; and, when he is fit to see you, I will let
Grace submitted, and even consented to lie down for half an hour.
She was now, in truth, scarcely able to stand, being worn out with
the mental struggle. She lay passive, with Jael Dence's hand in
When she had lain so about an hour, she started up suddenly, and the
next moment a fly stopped at the door. Henry Little got out at the
gate, and walked up the gravel to the house.
Grace looked at him from behind the curtain, gazed at him till he
disappeared, and then turned round, with seraphic joy on her
countenance. "My darling!" she murmured; "more beautiful than ever!
Oh misery! misery!"
One moment her heart was warm with rapture, the next it was cold
with despair. But the joy was blind love; the despair was reason.
She waited, and waited, but no summons came.
She could not deny herself the sound of his voice. She crept down
the stairs, and into her father's library, separated only by thin
folding-doors from the room where Henry Little was with Jael Dence.
Meantime Jael Dence opened the door to Henry Little, and, putting
her fingers to her lips, led him into the dining-room and shut the
Now, as his suspicions were already excited, this reception alarmed
him seriously. As soon as ever they were alone, he seized both
Jael's hands, and, looking her full in the face, said:
"One word--is she alive?"
"Thank god! Bless the tongue that tells me that. My good Jael! my
best friend!" And, with that, kissed her heartily on both cheeks.
She received this embrace like a woman of wood; a faint color rose,
but retired directly, and left her cheek as pale as before.
He noticed her strange coldness, and his heart began to quake.
"There is something the matter?" he whispered.
"Something you don't like to tell me?"
"Like to tell you! I need all my courage, and you yours."
Say she is alive, once more."
"She is alive, and not likely to die; but she does not care to live
now. They told her you were dead; they told her you were false;
appearances were such she had no chance not to be deceived. She
held out for a long time; but they got the better of her--her father
is much to blame--she is--married."
"Married!" He leaned, sick as death, against the mantel-piece, and
gasped so terribly that Jael's fortitude gave way, and she began to
After a long time he got a word or two out in a broken voice.
"The false--inconstant--wretch! Oh Heaven! what I have done and
suffered for her--and now married!--married! And the earth doesn't
swallow her, nor the thunder strike her! Curse her, curse her
husband, curse her children! may her name be a by-word for shame and
"Hush! hush! or you will curse your own mad tongue. Hear all,
before you judge her."
"I have heard all; she is a wife; she shall soon be a widow.
Thought I was false! What business had she to think I was false?
It is only false hearts that suspect true ones. She thought me
dead? Why? Because I was out of sight. She heard there was a dead
hand found in the river. Why didn't she go and see it? Could all
creation pass another hand off on me for hers? No; for I loved her.
She never loved me."
"She loved you, and loves you still. When that dead hand was found,
she fell swooning, and lay at death's door for you, and now she has
stained her hands with blood for you. She tried to kill her
husband, the moment she found you were alive and true, and he had
made a fool of her."
"TRIED to kill him! Why didn't she do it? I should not have failed
at such work. I love her."
"Blame me for that; I stopped her arm, and I am stronger than she
is. I say she is no more to blame than you. You have acted like a
madman, and she suffers for it. Why did you slip away at night like
that, and not tell me?"
"I left letters to you and her, and other people besides."
"Yes, left them, and hadn't the sense to post them. Why didn't you
TELL me? Had ever any young man as faithful and true a friend in
any young woman as you had in me? Many a man has saved a woman's
life, but it isn't often that a woman fights for a man, and gets the
upper hand: yet you gave me nothing in return; not even your
confidence. Look the truth in the face, my lad; all your trouble,
and all hers, comes of your sneaking out of Hillsborough in that
daft way, without a word to me, the true friend, that was next door
to you; which I nearly lost my life by your fault; for, if you had
told me, I should have seen you off, and so escaped a month's
hospital, and other troubles that almost drove me crazy. Don't you
abuse that poor young lady before me, or I sha'n't spare you. She
is more to be pitied than you are. Folk should look at home for the
cause of their troubles; her misery, and yours, it is all owing to
your own folly and ingratitude; ay, you may look; I mean what I say--
The attack was so sudden and powerful that Henry Little was
staggered and silenced; but an unexpected defender appeared on the
scene; one of the folding-doors was torn open, and Grace darted in.
"How dare you say it is his fault, poor ill-used angel! No, no, no,
no, I am the only one to blame. I didn't love you as you deserved.
I tried to die for you, and FAILED. I tried to kill that monster
for you, and FAILED. I am too weak and silly; I shall only make you
more unhapppy. Give me one kiss, my own darling, and then kill me
out of the way." With this she was over his knees and round his
neck in a moment, weeping, and clutching him with a passionate
despair that melted all his anger away, and soon his own tears tell
on her like rain.
"Ah, Grace! Grace!" he sobbed, "how could you? how could you?"
"Don't speak unkindly to her," cried Jael, "or she won't be alive a
day. She is worse off than you are; and so is he too."
"You mock me; he is her husband. He can make her live with him. He
can--" Here he broke out cursing and blaspheming, and called Grace
a viper, and half thrust her away from him with horror, and his face
filled with jealous anguish: he looked like a man dying of poison.
Then he rose to his feet, and said, with a sort of deadly calm,
"Where can I find the man?"
"Not in this house, you may be sure," said Jael; "nor in any house
where she is."
Henry sank into his seat again, and looked amazed.
"Tell him all," said Grace. "Don't let him think I do not love him
"I will," said Jael. "Well, the wedding was at eleven; your letter
came at half-past twelve, and I took it her. Soon after that the
villain came to her, and she stabbed him directly with this
stiletto. Look at it; there's his blood up on it; I kept it to show
you. I caught her arm, or she would have killed him, I believe. He
lost so much blood, the doctor would not let him be moved. Then she
thought of you still, and would not pass a night under the same roof
with him; at two o'clock she was on the way to Raby; but Mr.
Coventry was too much of a man to stay in the house and drive her
out; so he went off next morning, and, as soon as she heard that,
she came home. She is wife and no wife, as the saying is, and how
it is all to end Heaven only knows."
"It will end the moment I meet the man; and that won't be long."
"There! there!" cried Grace, "that is what I feared. Ah, Jael!
Jael! why did you hold my hand? They would not have hung ME. I
told you so at the time: I knew what I was about."
"Jael," said the young man, "of all the kind things you have done
for me, that was the kindest. You saved my poor girl from worse
trouble than she is now in. No, Grace; you shall not dirty your
hand with such scum as that: it is my business, and mine only."
In vain did Jael expostulate, and Grace implore. In vain did Jael
assure him that Coventry was in a worse position than himself, and
try to make him see that any rash act of his would make Grace even
more miserable than she was at present. He replied that he had no
intention of running his neck into a halter; he should act warily,
like the Hillsborough Trades, and strike his blow so cunningly that
the criminal should never know whence it came. "I've been in a good
school for homicide," said he; "and I am an inventor. No man has
ever played the executioner so ingeniously as I will play it. Think
of all this scoundrel has done to me: he owes me a dozen lives, and
I'll take one. Man shall never detect me: God knows all, and will
forgive me, I hope. If He doesn't, I can't help it."
He kissed Grace again and again, and comforted her; said she was not
to blame; honest people were no match for villains: if she had been
twice as simple, he would have forgiven her at sight of the
stiletto; that cleared her, in his mind, better than words.
He was now soft and gentle as a lamb. He begged Jael's pardon
humbly for leaving Hillsborough without telling her. He said he had
gone up to her room; but all was still; and he was a working man,
and the sleep of a working-woman was sacred to him--(he would have
awakened a fine lady without ceremony). Be assured her he had left
a note for her in his box, thanking and blessing her for all her
goodness. He said that he hoped he might yet live to prove by acts,
and not by idle words, how deeply he felt all she had done and
suffered for him.
Jael received these excuses in hard silence. "That is enough about
me," said she, coldly. "If you are grateful to me, show it by
taking my advice. Leave vengeance to Him who has said that
vengeance is His."
The man's whole manner changed directly, and he said doggedly:
"Well, I will be His instrument."
"He will choose His own."
"I'll lend my humble co-operation."
"Oh, do not argue with him," said Grace, piteously. "When did a man
ever yield to our arguments? Dearest, I can't argue: but I am full
of misery, and full of fears. You see my love; you forgive my
folly. Have pity on me; think of my condition: do not doom me to
live in terror by night and day: have I not enough to endure, my own
darling? There, promise me you will do nothing rash to-night, and
that you will come to me the first thing to-morrow. Why, you have
not seen your mother yet; she is at Raby Hall."
"My dear mother!" said he: "it would be a poor return for all your
love if I couldn't put off looking for that scum till I have taken
you in my arms."
And so Grace got a reprieve.
They parted in deep sorrow, but almost as lovingly as ever, and
Little went at once to Raby Hall, and Grace, exhausted by so many
emotions, lay helpless on a couch in her own room all the rest of
For some time she lay in utter prostration, and only the tears that
trickled at intervals down her pale cheeks showed that she was
conscious of her miserable situation.
Jael begged and coaxed her to take some nourishment: but she shook
her head with disgust at the very idea.
For all that at nine o'clock, her faithful friend almost forced a
few spoonfuls of tea down her throat, feeding her like a child: and,
when she had taken it, she tried to thank her, but choked in the
middle, and, flinging her arm round Jael's neck, burst into a
passion of weeping, and incoherent cries of love, and pity, and
despair. "Oh, my darling! so great! so noble! so brave! so gentle!
And I have destroyed us both! he forgave me as soon as he SAW me!
So terrible, so gentle! What will be the next calamity? Ah, Jael!
save him from that rash act, and I shall never complain; for he was
dead, and is alive again."
"We will find some way to do that between us--you, and I, and his
"Ah, yes: she will be on my side in that. But she will be hard upon
me. She will point out all my faults, my execrable folly. Ah, if I
could but live my time over again, I'd pray night and day for
selfishness. They teach us girls to pray for this and that virtue,
which we have too much of already; and what we ought to pray for is
selfishness. But no! I must think of my father, and think of that
hypocrite: but the one person whose feelings I was too mean, and
base, and silly to consult, was myself. I always abhorred this
marriage. I feared it, and loathed it; yet I yielded step by step,
for want of a little selfishness; we are slaves without it--mean,
pitiful, contemptible slaves. O God, in mercy give me selfishness!
Ah me, it is too late now. I am a lost creature; nothing is left me
but to die."
Jael got her to bed, and sleep came at last to her exhausted body;
but, even when her eyes were closed, tears found their way through
the lids, and wetted her pillow.
So can great hearts and loving natures suffer.
Can they enjoy in proportion?
Let us hope so. But I have my doubts.
Henry Little kept his word, and came early next morning. He looked
hopeful and excited: he said he had thought the matter over, and was
quite content to let that scoundrel live, and even to dismiss all
thought of him, if Grace really loved him.
"If I love you!" said Grace. "Oh, Henry, why did I ask you to do
nothing rash, but that I love you? Why did I attempt his life
myself? because you said in your letter-- It was not to revenge
myself, but to save you from more calamity. Cruel, cruel! Do I
"I know you love me, Grace: but do you love me enough? Will you
give up the world for me, and let us be happy together, the only way
we can? My darling Grace, I have made our fortune; all the world
lies before us; I left England alone, for you; now leave it with me,
and let us roam the world together."
"Henry!--what!--when I can not be your wife!"
"You can be my wife; my wife in reality, as you are his in name and
nothing else. It is idle to talk as if we were in some ordinary
situation. There are plenty of countries that would disown such a
marriage as yours, a mere ceremony obtained by fraud, and canceled
by a stroke with a dagger and instant separation. Oh, my darling,
don't sacrifice both our lives to a scruple that is out of place
here. Don't hesitate; don't delay. I have a carriage waiting
outside; end all our misery by one act of courage, and trust
yourself to me; did I ever fail you?"
"For shame, Henry! for shame!"
"It is the only way to happiness. You were quite right; if I kill
that wretch we shall be parted in another way, always parted; now we
can be together for life. Remember, dearest, how I begged you in
this very room to go to the United States with me: you refused:
well, have you never been sorry you refused? Now I once more
implore you to be wise and brave, and love me as I love you. What
is the world to us? You are all the world to me."
"Answer him, Jael; oh, answer him!"
"Nay, these are things every woman must answer for herself."
"And I'll take no answer but yours." Then he threw himself at her
feet, and clasping her in his arms implored her, with all the sighs
and tears and eloquence of passion, to have pity on them both, and
fly at once with him.
She writhed and struggled faintly, and turned away from him, and
fell tenderly toward him, by turns, and still he held her tight, and
grew stronger, more passionate, more persuasive, as she got weaker
and almost faint. Her body seemed on the point of sinking, and her
mind of yielding.
But all of a sudden she made a desperate effort. "Let me go!" she
cried. "So this is your love! With all my faults and follies, I am
truer than you. Shame on your love, that would dishonor the
creature you love! Let me go, sir, I say, or I shall hate you worse
than I do the wretch whose name I bear."
He let her go directly, and then her fiery glance turned to one long
lingering look of deep but tender reproach, and she fled sobbing.
He sank into a chair, and buried his face in his hands.
After a while he raised his head, and saw Jael Dence looking gravely
"Oh, speak your mind," said he, bitterly.
"You are like the world. You think only of yourself; that's all I
have to say."
"You are very unkind to say so. I think for us both: and she will
think with me, in time. I shall come again to-morrow."
He said this with an iron resolution that promised a long and steady
struggle, to which Grace, even in this first encounter, had shown
herself hardly equal.
Jael went to her room, expecting to find her as much broken down as
she was by Henry's first visit; but, instead of that, the young lady
was walking rapidly to and fro.
At sight of Jael, she caught her by the hand, and said, "Well!"
"He is coming again to-morrow."
"Is he sorry?"
"Who would have thought he was so wicked?"
This seemed rather exaggerated to Jael; for with all Mrs. Little's
teaching she was not quite a lady yet in all respects, though in
many things she was always one by nature. "Let it pass," said she.
"'It is a man's part to try,
And a woman's to deny.'"
"And how often shall I have to deny him I love so dearly?"
"As often as he asks you to be his mistress; for, call it what you
like, that is all he has to offer you."
Grace hid her face in her hands.
Jael colored. "Excuse my blunt speaking; but sometimes the worst
word is the best; fine words are just words with a veil on."
"Will he dare to tempt me again, after what I said?"
"Of course he will: don't you know him? he never gives in. But,
suppose he does, you have your answer ready."
"Jael," said Grace, "you are so strong, it blinds you to my
weakness. I resist him, day after day! I, who pity him so, and
blame myself! Why, his very look, his touch, his voice, overpower
me so that my whole frame seems dissolving: feel how I tremble at
him, even now. No, no; let those resist who are sure of their
strength. Virtue, weakened by love and pity, has but one resource--
to fly. Jael Dence, if you are a woman, help me to save the one
thing I have got left to save."
"I will," said Jael Dence.
In one hour from that time they had packed a box and a carpetbag,
and were on their way to a railway station. They left Hillsborough.
In three days Jael returned, but Grace Coventry did not come back
The day after that trying scene, Henry Little called, not to urge
Grace again, as she presumed he would, but to ask pardon: at the
same time we may be sure of this--that, after a day or two spent in
obtaining pardon, the temptation would have been renewed, and so on
forever. Of this, however, Little was not conscious: he came to ask
pardon, and offer a pure and patient love, till such time as Heaven
should have pity on them both. He was informed that Mrs. Coventry
had quitted Hillsborough, and left a letter for him. It was offered
him; he snatched it and read it.
"MY OWN DEAR HENRY,--You have given me something to forgive, and I
forgive you without asking, as I hope you will one day forgive me.
I have left Hillsborough to avoid a situation that was intolerable
and solicitations which I blushed to hear, and for which you would
one day have blushed too. This parting is not forever, I hope; but
that rests with yourself. Forego your idea of vengeance on that
man, whose chastisement you would best alleviate by ending his
miserable existence; and learn to love me honorably and patiently,
as I love you. Should you obtain this great victory over yourself,
you will see me again. Meantime, think of her who loves you to
distraction, and whose soul hovers about you unseen. Pray for me,
dear one, at midnight, and at eight o'clock every morning; for those
are two of the hours I shall pray for you. Do you remember the old
church, and how you cried over me? I can write no more: my tears
blind me so. Farewell. Your unhappy
Little read this piteous letter, and it was a heavy blow to him; a
blow that all the tenderness shown in it could not at first soften.
She had fled from him; she shunned him. It was not from Coventry
she fled; it was from him.
He went home cold and sick at heart, and gave himself up to grief
and deep regrets for several days.
But soon his powerful and elastic mind, impatient of impotent
sorrow, and burning for some kind of action, seized upon vengeance
as the only thing left to do.
At this period he looked on Coventry as a beast in human shape, whom
he had a moral right to extinguish; only, as he had not a legal
right, it must be done with consummate art. He trusted nobody;
spoke to nobody; but set himself quietly to find out where Coventry
lived, and what were his habits. He did this with little
difficulty. Coventry lodged in a principal street, but always dined
at a club, and returned home late, walking through a retired street
or two; one of these passed by the mouth of a narrow court that was
Little, disguised as a workman, made a complete reconnaissance of
this locality, and soon saw that his enemy was at his mercy.
But, while he debated within himself what measure of vengeance he
should take, and what noiseless weapon he should use, an unseen
antagonist baffled him. That antagonist was Grace Carden. Still
foreboding mischief, she wrote to Mr. Coventry, from a town two
hundred miles distant:
"Whatever you are now, you were born a gentleman, and will, I think,
respect a request from a lady you have wronged. Mr. Little has
returned, and I have left Hillsborough; if he encounters you in his
despair, he will do you some mortal injury. This will only make
matters worse, and I dread the scandal that will follow, and to hear
my sad story in a court of law as a justification for his violence.
Oblige me, then, by leaving Hillsborough for a time, as I have
On receipt of this, Coventry packed up his portmanteau directly,
and, leaving Lally behind to watch the town, and see whether this
was a ruse, he went directly to the town whence Grace's letter was
dated, and to the very hotel.
This she had foreseen and intended.
He found she had been there, and had left for a neighboring
watering-place: he followed her thither, and there she withdrew the
clew; she left word she was gone to Stirling; but doubled on him,
and soon put hundreds of miles between them. He remained in
Scotland, hunting her.
Thus she played the gray plover with him she hated, and kept the
beloved hands from crime.
When Little found that Coventry had left Hillsborough, he pretended
to himself that he was glad of it. "My darling is right," said he.
"I will obey her, and do nothing contrary to law. I will throw him
into prison, that is all." With these moderated views, he called
upon his friend Ransome, whom of course he had, as yet, carefully
avoided, to ask his aid in collecting the materials for an
indictment. He felt sure that Coventry had earned penal servitude,
if the facts could only be put in evidence. He found Ransome in low
spirits, and that excellent public servant being informed what he
was wanted for, said dryly, "Well, but this will require some
ability: don't you think your friend Silly Billy would be more
likely to do it effectually than John Ransome?"
"Why, Ransome, are you mad?"
"No, I merely do myself justice. Silly Billy smelt that faulty
grindstone; and I can't smell a rat a yard from my nose, it seems.
You shall judge for yourself. There have been several burglaries in
this town of late, and planned by a master. This put me on my
mettle, and I have done all I could, with my small force, and even
pryed about in person, night after night, and that is not exactly my
business, but I felt it my duty. Well, sir, two nights ago, no
more, I had the luck to come round a corner right upon a job:
Alderman Dick's house, full of valuables, and the windows well
guarded; but one of his cellars is only covered with a heavy wooden
shutter, bolted within. I found this open, and a board wedged in,
to keep it ajar: down I went on my knees, saw a light inside, and
heard two words of thieves' latin; that was enough, you know; I
whipped out the board, jumped on the heavy shutter, and called for
"Did you expect them to come?"
"Not much. These jobs are timed so as not to secure the attendance
of the police. But assistance of another kind came; a gentleman
full dressed, in a white tie and gloves, ran up, and asked me what
it was. 'Thieves in the cellar,' said I, and shouted police, and
gave my whistle. The gentleman jumped on the shutter. 'I can keep
that down,' said he. 'I'm sure I saw two policemen in acorn Street:
run quick!' and he showed me his sword-cane, and seemed so hearty in
it, and confident, I ran round the corner, and gave my whistle. Two
policemen came up; but, in that moment, the swell accomplice had
pulled all his pals out of the cellar, and all I saw of the lot,
when I came back, was the swell's swallow-tail coat flying like the
wind toward a back slum, where I and my bobbies should have been
knocked on the head, if we had tried to follow him; but indeed he
was too fleet to give us the chance."
"Well," said Henry, "that was provoking: but who can foresee every
thing all in a moment? I have been worse duped than that a good
Ransome shook his head. "An old officer of police, like me, not to
smell a swell accomplice. I had only to handcuff that man, and set
him down with me on the shutter, till, in the dispensation of
Providence, a bobby came by."
He added by way of corollary, "You should send to London for a
"Not I," said Henry. "I know you for a sagacious man, and a worthy
man, and my friend. I'll have no one to help me in it but you."
"Won't you?" said Ransome. "Then I'll go in. You have done me
good, Mr. Little, by sticking to a defeated friend like this. Now
for your case; tell me all you know, and how you know it."
Henry complied, and Ransome took his notes. Then he said, he had
got some old memoranda by him, that might prove valuable: he would
call in two days.
He did call, and showed Henry Coventry's card, and told him he had
picked it up close by his letter-box, on the very night of the
explosion. "Mark my words, this will expand into something," said
the experienced officer.
Before he left, he told Henry that he had now every reason to
believe the swell accomplice was Shifty Dick, the most successful
and distinguished criminal in England. "I have just got word from
London that he has been working here, and has collared a heavy swag;
he says he will go into trade: one of his old pals let that out in
jail. Trade! then heaven help his customers, that is all."
"You may catch him yet."
"When I catch Jack-a-lantern. He is not so green as to stay a day
in Hillsborough, now his face has been close to mine; they all know
I never forget a face. No, no; I shall never see him again, till I
am telegraphed for, to inspect his mug and his wild-cat eyes in some
jail or other. I must try and not think of him; it disturbs my
mind, and takes off my attention from my duties."
Ransome adhered to this resolution for more than a month, during
which time he followed out every indication with the patience of a
beagle; and, at last, he called one day and told Little Hill had
forfeited his bail, and gone to Canada at the expense of the trade;
but had let out strange things before he left. There was a swell
concerned in his attempt with the bow and arrow: there was a swell
concerned in the explosion, with some workman, whose name he
concealed; he had seen them on the bridge, and had seen the workman
receive a bag of gold, and had collared him, and demanded his share;
this had been given him, but not until he threatened to call the
bobbies. "Now, if we could find Hill, and get him to turn Queen's
evidence, this, coupled with what you and I could furnish, would
secure your man ten years of penal servitude. I know an able
officer at Quebec. Is it worth while going to the expense?"
Little, who had received the whole communication in a sort of
despondent, apathetic way, replied that he didn't think it was worth
while. "My good friend," said he, "I am miserable. Vengeance, I
find, will not fill a yearning heart. And the truth is, that all
this time I have been secretly hoping she would return, and that has
enabled me to bear up, and chatter about revenge. Who could believe
a young creature like that would leave her father and all her
friends for good? I made sure she would come back in a week or two.
And to think that it is I who have driven her away, and darkened my
own life. I thought I had sounded the depths of misery. I was a
fool to think so. No, no; life would be endurable if I could only
see her face once a day, and hear her voice, though it was not even
speaking to me. Oh! oh!"
Now this was the first time Little had broken down before Ransome.
Hitherto he had spoken of Coventry, but not of Grace; he had avoided
speaking of her, partly from manly delicacy, partly because he
foresaw his fortitude would give way if he mentioned her.
But now the strong man's breast seemed as if it would burst, and his
gasping breath, and restless body, betrayed what a price he must
have paid for the dogged fortitude he had displayed for several
weeks, love-sick all the time.
Ransome was affected: he rose and walked about the room, ashamed to
look at a Spartan broken down.
When he had given Little time to recover some little composure, he
said, "Mr. Little, you were always too much of a gentleman to gossip
about the lady you love; and it was not my business to intrude upon
that subject; it was too delicate. But, of course, with what I have
picked up here and there, and what you have let drop, without the
least intending it, I know pretty well how the land lies. And, sir,
a man does not come to my time of life without a sore and heavy
heart; if I was to tell you how I came to be a bachelor--but, no;
even after ten years I could not answer for myself. All I can say
is that, if you should do me the honor to consult me on something
that is nearer your heart than revenge, you would have all my
sympathy and all my zeal."
"Give me your hand, old fellow," said Little, and broke down again.
But, this time, he shook it off quickly, and, to encourage him, Mr.
Ransome said, "To begin, you may take my word Mr. Carden knows, by
this time, where his daughter is. Why not sound him on the matter?"
Henry acted on this advice, and called on Mr. Carden.
He was received very coldly by that gentleman.
After some hesitation, he asked Mr. Carden if he had any news of his
The young man's face was irradiated with joy directly.
"Is she well, sir?"
"Is she happier than she was?"
"She is content."
"Has she friends about her? Kind, good people; any persons of her
own sex, whom she can love?"
"She is among people she takes for angels, at present. She will
find them to be petty, mean, malicious devils. She is in a
"In a convent? Where?"
"Where? Where neither the fool nor the villain, who have wrecked
her happiness between them, and robbed me of her, will ever find
her. I expected this visit, sir; the only thing I doubted was which
would come first, the villain or the fool. The fool has come first,
and being a fool, expects ME to tell him where to find his victim,
and torture her again. Begone, fool, from the house you have made
desolate by your execrable folly in slipping away by night like a
thief, or rather like that far more dangerous animal, a fool."
The old man delivered these insults with a purple face, and a loud
fury, that in former days would have awakened corresponding rage in
the fiery young fellow. But affliction had tempered him, and his
insulter's hairs were gray.
He said, quietly, "You are her father. I forgive you these cruel
words." Then he took his hat and went away.
Mr. Carden followed him to the passage, and cried after him, "The
villain will meet a worse reception than the fool. I promise you
Little went home despondent, and found a long letter from his
mother, telling him he must dine and sleep at Raby Hall that day.
She gave him such potent reasons, and showed him so plainly his
refusal would infuriate his uncle, and make her miserable, that he
had no choice. He packed up his dress suit, and drove to Raby Hall,
with a heavy heart and bitter reluctance.
O caeca mens hominum.
It was the great anniversary. On that day Sir Richard Raby had lost
for the Stuarts all the head he possessed. His faithful descendent
seized the present opportunity to celebrate the event with more pomp
than ever. A month before the fatal day he came in from
Hillsborough with sixty yards of violet-colored velvet, the richest
that could be got from Lyons; he put this down on a table, and told
his sister that was for her and Jael to wear on the coming
anniversary. "Don't tell me there's not enough," said he; "for I
inquired how much it would take to carpet two small rooms, and
bought it; now what will carpet two little libraries will clothe two
large ladies; and you are neither of you shrimps."
While he was thus doing the cynical, nobody heeded him; quick and
skillful fingers were undoing the parcel, and the ladies' cheeks
flushed and their eyes glistened, and their fingers felt the stuff
inside and out: in which occupation Raby left them, saying, "Full
dress, mind! We Rabys are not beheaded every day."
Mrs. Little undertook to cut both dresses, and Jael was to help sew
But, when they came to be tried on, Jael was dismayed. "Why, I
shall be half naked," said she. "Oh, Mrs. Little, I couldn't: I
should sink with shame."
Mrs. Little pooh-poohed that, and an amusing dialogue followed
between these two women, both of them equally modest, but one
hardened, and perhaps a little blinded, by custom.
Neither could convince the other, but Mrs. Little overpowered Jael
by saying, "I shall wear mine low, and you will mortally offend my
brother if you don't."
Then Jael succumbed, but looked forward to the day with a simple
terror one would hardly have expected from the general strength of
Little arrived, and saw his mother for a minute or two before
dinner. She seemed happy and excited, and said, "Cheer up, darling;
we will find a way to make you happy. Mark my words, a new era in
your life dates from to-day: I mean to open your eyes tonight.
There, don't question me, but give me one kiss, and let us go and
make ourselves splendid for poor Sir Richard."
When Little came down-stairs he found his uncle and a distinguished-
looking young gentleman standing before the fire; both were in full
dress. Raby had the Stuart orders on his breast and looked a
prince. He introduced Little to Mr. Richard Raby with high
formality; but, before they had time to make acquaintance, two
ladies glided into the room, and literally dazzled the young men,
especially Dissolute Dick, who knew neither of them.
Mrs. Little, with her oval face, black brow and hair, and stately
but supple form, was a picture of matronly beauty and grace; her
rich brunette skin, still glossy and firm, showed no signs of age,
but under her glorious eyes were the marks of trouble; and though
her face was still striking and lovely, yet it revealed what her
person concealed, that she was no longer young. That night she
looked about eight-and-thirty.
The other lady was blonde, and had a face less perfect in contour,
but beautiful in its way, and exquisite in color and peach-like
bloom; but the marvel was her form; her comely head, dignified on
this occasion with a coronet of pearls, perched on a throat long yet
white and massive, and smooth as alabaster; and that majestic throat
sat enthroned on a snowy bust and shoulders of magnificent breadth,
depth, grandeur, and beauty. Altogether it approached the gigantic;
but so lovely was the swell of the broad white bosom, and so
exquisite the white and polished skin of the mighty shoulders
adorned with two deep dimples, that the awe this grand physique
excited was mingled with profound admiration.
Raby and Henry Little both started at the sudden grandeur and
brilliance of the woman they thought they knew, but in reality had
never seen; and Raby, dazzled himself, presented her, quite
respectfully, to Dissolute Dick.
"This is Miss Dence, a lady descended, like the rest of us, from
poor Sir Richard; Miss Dence; Mr. Richard Raby."
Jael blushed more deeply than ladies with white and antique busts
are in the habit of doing, and it was curious to see the rosy tint
come on her white neck, and then die quietly away again. Yet she
courtesied with grace and composure. (Mrs. Little had trained her
at all points; and grace comes pretty readily, where nature has
given perfect symmetry.)
Dinner was announced, and Raby placed the Dissolute between his
sister and the magnificent Beauty dead Sir Richard had developed.
He even gave a reason for this arrangement.
"All you ladies like a rake: you PRAISE sober fellows like me; but
what you PREFER is a Rake."
As they were rustling into their places, Mrs. Little said to Dick,
with a delicious air of indifference, "ARE you a rake, Mr. Raby?"
"I am anything you like," replied the shameless fellow.
All the old plate was out, and blazing in the light of candles
There was one vacant chair.
Dick asked if there was anybody expected.
"Not much," said Raby dryly. "That is Sir Richard's chair, on these
occasions. However, he may be sitting in it now, for aught I know.
I sincerely hope he is."
"If I thought that, I'd soon leave mine," said Jael, in a tremulous
"Then stay where you are, Sir Richard," said the Rake, making an
affected motion with his handkerchief, as if to keep the good Knight
In short, this personage, being young, audacious, witty, and
animated by the vicinity of the most beautiful creature he had ever
seen, soon deprived the anniversary of that solemn character Mr.
Raby desired to give it. Yet his volubility, his gayety, and his
chaff were combined with a certain gentlemanlike tact and dexterity;
and he made Raby laugh in spite of himself, and often made the
ladies smile. But Henry Little sat opposite, and wondered at them
all, and his sad heart became very bitter.
When they joined the ladies in the drawing-room, Henry made an
effort to speak to Jael Dence. He was most anxious to know whether
she had heard from Grace Carden. But Jael did not meet him very
promptly, and while he was faltering out his inquiries, up came
Richard Raby and resumed his attentions to her--attentions that very
soon took the form of downright love-making. In fact he stayed an
hour after his carriage was announced, and being a young man of
great resolution, and accustomed to please himself, he fell over
head and ears in love with Miss Dence, and showed it then and
It did not disturb her composure. She had often been made love to,
and could parry as well as Dick could fence.
She behaved with admirable good sense; treated it all as a polite
jest, but not a disagreeable one.
Mrs. Little lost patience with them both. She drew Henry aside, and
asked him why he allowed Mr. Richard Raby to monopolize her.
"How can I help it?" said Henry. "He is in love with her; and no
wonder: see how beautiful she is, and her skin like white satin.
She is ever so much bigger than I thought. But her heart is bigger
than all. Who'd think she had ever condescended to grind saws with
"Who indeed? And with those superb arms!"
"Why, that is it, mother; they are up to anything; it was one of
those superb arms she flung round a blackguard's neck for me, and
threw him like a sack, or I should not be here. Poor girl! Do you
think that chatterbox would make her happy?"
"Heaven forbid! He is not worthy of her. No man is worthy of her,
except the one I mean her to have, and that is yourself."
"Me, mother! are you mad?"
"No; you are mad, if you reject her. Where can you hope to find her
equal? In what does she fail? In face? why it is comeliness,
goodness, and modesty personified. In person? why she is the only
perfect figure I ever saw. Such an arm, hand, foot, neck, and bust
I never saw all in the same woman. Is it sense? why she is wise
beyond her years, and beyond her sex. Think of her great self-
denial; she always loved you, yet aided you, and advised you to get
that mad young thing you preferred to her--men are so blind in
choosing women! Then think of her saving your life: and then how
nearly she lost her own, through her love for you. Oh, Henry, if
you cling to a married woman, and still turn away from that angelic
creature there, and disappoint your poor mother again, whose life
has been one long disappointment, I shall begin to fear you were
born without a heart."
"Better for me if I had; then I could chop and change from one to
another as you would have me. No, mother; I dare say if I had never
seen Grace I should have loved Jael. As it is, I have a great
affection and respect for her, but that is all."
"And those would ripen into love if once you were married."
"They might. If it came to her flinging that great arm round my
neck in kindness she once saved my life with by brute force, I
suppose a man's heart could not resist her. But it will never come
to that while my darling lives. She is my lover, and Jael my sister
and my dear friend. God bless her, and may she be as happy as she
deserves. I wish I could get a word with her, but that seems out of
the question to-night. I shall slip away to bed and my own sad
With this he retired unobserved.
In the morning he asked Jael if she would speak to him alone.
"Why not?" said she calmly.
They took a walk in the shrubbery.
"I tried hard to get a word with you yesterday, but you were so
taken up with that puppy."
"He is very good company."
"I have seen the time when I was as good; but it is not so easy to
chatter with a broken heart."
"That is true. Please come to the point, and tell me what you want
of me now."
This was said in such a curious tone, that Henry felt quite
He hesitated a moment and then said, "What is the matter with you?
You are a changed girl to me. There's something about you so cold
and severe; it makes me fear I have worn out my friend as well as
lost my love; if it is so, tell me, and I will not intrude my sorrow
any more on you."
There was a noble and manly sadness in the way he said this, and
Jael seemed touched a little by it.
"Mr. Henry," said she, "I'll be frank with you. I can't forgive you
leaving the factory that night without saying a word to me; and if
you consider what I had done before you used me so, and what I
suffered in consequence of your using me so--not that you will ever
know all I suffered, at least I hope not--no, I have tried to
forgive you; for, if you are a sinner, you are a sufferer--but it is
no use, I can't. I never shall forgive you to my dying day."
Henry Little hung his head dejectedly. "That is bad news," he
faltered. "I told you why I did not bid you good-by except by
letter: it was out of kindness. I have begged your pardon for it
all the same. I thought you were an angel; but I see you are only a
woman; you think the time to hit a man is when he is down. Well, I
can but submit. Good-by. Stay one moment, let me take your hand,
you won't refuse me that." She did not deign a word; he took her
hand and held it. "This is the hand and arm that worked with me
like a good master: this is the hand and arm that overpowered a
blackguard and saved me: this is the hand and arm that saved my
Grace from a prison and public shame. I must give them both one
kiss, if they knock me down for it. There--there--good-by, dear
Jael, good-by! I seem to be letting go the last thing I have to
cling to in the deep waters of trouble."
Melted by this sad thought, he held his best friend's hand till a
warm tear dropped on it. That softened her; the hand to which he
owed so much closed on his and detained him.
"Stay where you are. I have told you my mind, but I shall ACT just
as I used to do. I'm not proud of this spite I have taken against
you, don't you fancy that. There--there, don't let us fret about
what can't be helped; but just tell me what I can DO for you."
Young Little felt rather humiliated at assistance being offered on
these terms. He did not disguise his mortification.
"Well," said he, rather sullenly, "beggars must not be choosers. Of
course I wanted you to tell me where I am likely to find her."
"I don't know."
"But you left Hillsborough with her?"
"Yes, and went to York. But there I left her, and she told me she
should travel hundreds of miles from York. I have no notion where
Little sighed. "She could not trust even you."
"The fewer one trusts with a secret the better."
"Will she never return? Will she give up her father as well as me?
Did she fix no time? Did she give you no hint?"
"No, not that I remember. She said that depended on you."
Here was an enigma.
They puzzled over it a long time. At last Jael said, "She wrote a
letter to you before she left: did she say nothing in that? Have
you got the letter?"
"Have I got it?--the last letter my darling ever wrote to me! Do
you think it ever leaves me night or day?"
He undid one of his studs, put his hand inside, and drew the letter
out warm from his breast. He kissed it and gave it to Jael. She
read it carefully and looked surprised. "Why, you are making your
own difficulties. You have only got to do what you are told.
Promise not to fall foul of that Coventry, and not to tempt her
again, and you will hear of her. You have her own word for it."
"But how am I to let her know I promise?"
"I don't know; how does everybody let everybody know things
nowadays? They advertise."
"Of course they do--in the second column of 'The Times.'"
"You know best." Then, after a moment's reflection, "Wherever she
is, she takes in the Hillsborough papers to see if there's anything
about you in them."
"Oh, do you think so?"
"Think so? I am sure of it. I put myself in her place."
"Then I will advertise in 'The Times' and the Hillsborough papers."
He went into the library and wrote several advertisements. This is
the one Jael preferred:
"H. L. to G. C. I see you are right. There shall be no vengeance
except what the law may give me, nor will I ever renew that request
which offended you so justly. I will be patient."
He had added an entreaty that she would communicate with him, but
this Jael made him strike out. She thought that might make Grace
suspect his sincerity. "Time enough to put that in a month hence,
if you don't hear from her."
This was all I think worth recording in the interview between Jael
and Henry, except that at parting he thanked her warmly, and said,
"May I give you one piece of advice in return? Mr. Richard Raby has
fallen in love with you, and no wonder. If my heart was not full of
Grace I should have fallen in love with you myself, you are so good
and so beautiful; but he bears a bad character. You are wise in
other people's affairs, pray don't be foolish in your own."
"Thank you," said Jael, a little dryly. "I shall think twice before
I give my affections to any young man."
Henry had a word with his mother before he went, and begged her not
to prepare disappointment for herself by trying to bring Jael and
him together. "Besides, she has taken a spite against me. To be
sure it is not very deep; for she gave me good advice; and I advised
her not to throw herself away on Dissolute Dick."
Mrs. Little smiled knowingly and looked very much pleased, but she
said nothing more just then. Henry Little returned to Hillsborough,
and put his advertisement in "The Times" and the Hillsborough
Two days afterward Ransome called on him with the "Hillsborough
Liberal." "Is this yours?" said Ransome.
"Yes. I have reason to think she will write to me, if she sees it."
"Would you mind giving me your reason?"
Little gave it, but with so much reticence, that no other man in
Hillsborough but Ransome would have understood.
"Hum!" said he, "I think I can do something with this." A period of
expectation succeeded, hopeful at first, and full of excitement; but
weeks rolled on without a word from the fugitive, and Little's heart
sickened with hope deferred. He often wished to consult Jael Dence
again; he had a superstitious belief in her sagacity. But the
recollection of her cold manner deterred him. At last, however,
impatience and the sense of desolation conquered, and he rode over
to Raby Hall.
He found his uncle and his mother in the dining-room. Mr. Raby was
walking about looking vexed, and even irritable.
The cause soon transpired. Dissolute Dick was at that moment in the
drawing-room, making hot love to Jael Dence. He had wooed her ever
since that fatal evening when she burst on society full-blown.
Raby, too proud and generous to forbid his addresses, had
nevertheless been always bitterly averse to them, and was now in a
downright rage; for Mrs. Little had just told him she felt sure he
was actually proposing.
"Confound him!" said Henry, "and I wanted so to speak to her."
Raby gave him a most singular look, that struck him as odd at the
time, and recurred to him afterward.
At last steps were heard overhead, and Dissolute Dick came down-
Mrs. Little slipped out, and soon after put her head into the
dining-room to the gentlemen, and whispered to them "YES." Then she
retired to talk it all over with Jael.
At that monosyllable Mr. Raby was very much discomposed.
"There goes a friend out of this house; more fools we. You have
lost her by your confounded folly. What is the use spooning all
your days after another man's wife? I wouldn't have had this happen
for ten thousand pounds. Dissolute Dick! he will break her heart in
"Then why, in heaven's name, didn't you marry her yourself?"
"Me! at my age? No; why didn't YOU marry her? You know she fancies
you. The moment you found Grace married, you ought to have secured
this girl, and lived with me; the house is big enough for you all."
"It is not so big as your heart, sir," said Henry. "But pray don't
speak to me of love or marriage either."
"Why should I? The milk is spilt; it is no use crying now. Let us
go and dress for dinner. Curse the world--it is one disappointment."
Little himself was vexed, but he determined to put a good face on
it, and to be very kind to his good friend Jael.
She did not appear at dinner, and when the servants had retired, he
said, "Come now, let us make the best of it. Mother, if you don't
mind, I will settle five thousand pounds upon her and her children.
He is a spendthrift, I hear, and as poor as Job."
Mrs. Little stared at her son. "Why, she has refused him!"
Loud exclamations of surprise and satisfaction.
"A fine fright you have given us. You said 'Yes.'"
"Well, that meant he had proposed. You know, Guy, I had told you he
would: I saw it in his eye. So I observed, in a moment, he HAD, and
I said 'Yes.'"
"Then why doesn't she come down to dinner?"
"He has upset her. It is the old story: he cried to her, and told
her he had been wild, and misconducted himself, all because he had
never met a woman he could really love and respect; and then he
begged her, and implored her, and said his fate depended on her."
"But she was not caught with that chaff; so why does she not come
and receive the congratulations of the company on her escape?"
"Because she is far too delicate;" then, turning to her son, "and
perhaps, because she can't help comparing the manly warmth and
loving appreciation of Mr. Richard Raby, with the cold indifference
and ingratitude of others."
"Oh," said Henry, coloring, "if that is her feeling, she will accept
him next time."
"Next time!" roared Raby. "There shall be no next time. I have
given the scamp fair play, quite against my own judgment. He has
got his answer now, and I won't have the girl tormented with him any
more. I trust that to you, Edith."
Mrs. Little promised him Dick and Jael should not meet again, in
Raby Hall at least.
That evening she drew her son apart and made an earnest appeal to
"So much for her spite against you, Henry. You told her to decline
Richard Raby, and so she declined him. Spite, indeed! The gentle
pique of a lovely, good girl, who knows her value, though she is too
modest to show it openly. Well, Henry, you have lost her a husband,
and she has given you one more proof of affection. Don't build the
mountain of ingratitude any higher: do pray take the cure that
offers, and make your mother happy, as well as yourself, my son."
In this strain she continued, and used all her art, her influence,
her affection, till at last, with a weary, heart-broken sigh, he
yielded as far as this: he said that, if it could once be made clear
to him there was no hope of his ever marrying Grace Carden he would
wed Jael Dence at once.
Then he ordered his trap, and drove sullenly home, while Mrs.
Little, full of delight, communicated her triumph to Jael Dence, and
told her about the five thousand pounds, and was as enthusiastic in
praise of Henry to Jael, as she had been of Jael to Henry.
Meantime he drove back to Hillsborough, more unhappy than ever, and
bitter against himself for yielding, even so far, to gratitude and
It was late when he reached home. He let himself in with a latch-
key, and went into his room for a moment.
A letter lay on the table, with no stamp on it: he took it up. It
contained but one line; that line made his heart leap:
"News of G. C. RANSOME."
Late as it was, Little went to the Town-hall directly. But there,
to his bitter disappointment, he learned that Mr. Ransome had been
called to Manchester by telegram. Little had nothing to do but to
wait, and eat his heart with impatience. However, next day, toward
afternoon, Ransome called on him at the works, in considerable
excitement, and told him a new firm had rented large business
premises in Manchester, obtained goods, insured them in the
"Gosshawk," and then the premises had caught fire and the goods been
burned to ashes; suspicions had been excited; Mr. Carden had gone to
the spot and telegraphed for him. He had met a London detective
there, and, between them, they had soon discovered that full cases
had come in by day, but full sacks gone out by night: the ashes also
revealed no trace of certain goods the firm had insured. "And now
comes the clew to it all. Amongst the few things that survived the
fire was a photograph--of whom do you think? Shifty Dick. The dog
had kept his word, and gone into trade."
"Confound him!" said Little; "he is always crossing my path, that
fellow. You seem quite to forget that all this time I am in agonies
of suspense. What do I care about Shifty Dick? He is nothing to
"Of course not. I am full of the fellow; a little more, and he'll
make a monomaniac of me. Mr. Carden offers L200 for his capture;
and we got an inkling he was coming this way again. There, there, I
won't mention his name to you again. Let us talk of what WILL
interest you. Well, sir, have you observed that you are followed
"I am glad of it; then it has been done skillfully. You have been
closely watched this month past by my orders."
This made young Little feel queer. Suppose he had attempted
anything unlawful, his good friend here would have collared him.
"You'll wonder that a good citizen like you should be put under
surveillance; but I thought it likely your advertisement would
either make the lady write to you, or else draw her back to the
town. She didn't write, so I had you watched, to see if any body
took a sly peep at you. Well, this went on for weeks, and nothing
turned up. But the other night a young woman walked several times
by your house, and went away with a sigh. She had a sort of
Protestant nun's dress on, and a thick veil. Now you know Mr Carden
told you she was gone into a convent. I am almost sure it is the
Little thanked him with all his soul, and then inquired eagerly
where the nun lived.
"Ah, my man didn't know that. Unfortunately, he was on duty in the
street, and had no authority to follow anybody. However, if you can
keep yourself calm, and obey orders--"
"I will do anything you tell me."
"Well, then, this evening, as soon as it is quite dark, you do what
I have seen you do in happier times. Light your reading-lamp, and
sit reading close to the window; only you must not pull down the
blind. Lower the venetians, but don't turn them so as to hide your
face from the outside. You must promise me faithfully not to move
under any circumstances, or you would be sure to spoil all."
Little gave the promise, and performed it to the letter. He lighted
his lamp, and tried to read book after book; but, of course, he was
too agitated to fix his attention on them. He got all Grace's
letters, and read them; and it was only by a stern effort he kept
still at all.
The night wore on, and heart-sickness was beginning to succeed to
feverish impatience, when there was a loud knock at the door.
Little ran to it himself, and found a sergeant of police, who told
him in a low voice he brought a message from the chief-constable.
"I was to tell you it is all right; he is following the party
himself. He will call on you at twelve to-morrow morning."
"Not before that?" said Little. However, he gave the sergeant a
sovereign for good news, and then, taking his hat, walked twenty
miles out of Hillsborough, and back, for he knew it was useless his
going to bed, or trying to settle to any thing.
He got back at ten o'clock, washed, breakfasted, and dozed on two
chairs, till Ransome came, with a carpet-bag in his hand.
"Tell me all about it: don't omit any thing." This was Little's
"Well, sir, she passed the house about nine o'clock, walking
quickly; and took just one glance in at your window, but did not
stop. She came back in half an hour, and stood on the opposite side
of the way, and then passed on. I hid in a court, where she
couldn't see me. By-and-by she comes back, on your side the way
this time, gliding like a cat, and she crouched and curled round the
angle of the house, and took a good look at you. Then she went
slowly away, and I passed her. She was crying bitterly, poor girl!
I never lost sight of her, and she led me a dance, I can tell you.
I'll take you to the place; but you had better let me disguise you;
for I can see she is very timid, and would fly away in a moment if
she knew she was detected."
Little acquiesced, and Ransome disguised him in a beard and a loose
set of clothes, and a billy-cock hat, and said that would do, as
long as he kept at a prudent distance from the lady's eye. They
then took a cab and drove out of Hillsborough. When they had
proceeded about two miles up the valley, Ransome stopped the cab,
and directed the driver to wait for them.
He then walked on, and soon came to a row of houses, in two blocks
of four houses each.
The last house of the first block had a bill in the window, "To be
He then knocked at the door, and a woman in charge of the house
"I am the chief-constable of Hillsborough; and this is my friend Mr.
Park; he is looking out for a furnished house. Can he see this
The woman said, "Certainly, gentlemen," and showed them over the
Ransome opened the second-story window, and looked out on the back
"Ah," said he, "these houses have nice long gardens in the rear,
where one can walk and be private."
He then nudged Henry, and asked the woman who lived in the first
house of the next block--"the house that garden belongs to?"
"Why, the bill was in the window the other day; but it is just took.
She is a kind of a nun, I suppose: keeps no servant: only a girl
comes in and does for her, and goes home at night. I saw her
yesterday, walking in the garden there. She seems rather young to
be all alone like that; but perhaps there's some more of 'em coming.
They sort o' cattle mostly goes in bands."
Henry asked what was the rent of the house. The woman did not know,
but told him the proprietor lived a few doors off. "I shall take
this house," said Little. "I think you are right," observed
Ransome: "it will just answer your purpose." They went together,
and took the house directly; and Henry, by advice of Ransome,
engaged a woman to come into the house in the morning, and go away
at dusk. Ransome also advised him to make arrangements for watching
Grace's garden unseen. "That will be a great comfort to you," said
he: "I know by experience. Above all things," said this sagacious
officer, "don't you let her know she is discovered. Remember this:
when she wants you to know she is here, she'll be sure to let you
know. At present she is here on the sly: so if you thwart her,
she'll be off again, as sure as fate."
Little was forced to see the truth of this, and promised to restrain
himself, hard as the task was. He took the house; and used to let
himself into it with a latch-key at about ten o clock every night.
There he used to stay and watch till past noon; and nearly every day
he was rewarded by seeing the Protestant nun walk in her garden.
He was restless and miserable till she came out; when she appeared
his heart bounded and thrilled; and when once he had feasted his
eyes upon her, he would go about the vulgar affairs of life pretty
By advice of Ransome, he used to sit in his other house from seven
till nine, and read at the window, to afford his beloved a joy
similar to that he stole himself.
And such is the power of true love that these furtive glances
soothed two lives. Little's spirits revived, and some color came
back to Grace's cheek.
One night there was a house broken into in the row.
Instantly Little took the alarm on Grace's account, and bought
powder and bullets, and a double-barreled rifle, and a revolver; and
now at the slightest sound he would be out of bed in a moment ready
to defend her, if necessary.
Thus they both kept their hearts above water, and Grace visited the
sick, and employed her days in charity; and then, for a reward,
crept, with soft foot, to Henry's window, and devoured him with her
eyes, and fed on that look for hours afterward.
When this had gone on for nearly a month, Lally, who had orders to
keep his eye on Mr. Little, happened to come and see Grace looking
in at him.
He watched her at a distance, but had not the intelligence to follow
her home. He had no idea it was Grace Carden.
However, in his next letter to his master, who was then in London,
he told him Little always read at night by the window, and, one
night, a kind of nun had come and taken a very long look at him, and
gone away crying. "I suspect," said Lally, "she has played the fool
with him some time or other, before she was a nun."
He was not a little surprised when his master telegraphed in reply
that he would be down by the first train; but the fact is, that
Coventry had already called on Mr. Carden, and been told that his
wife was in a convent, and he would never see her again. I must add
that Mr. Carden received him as roughly as he had Little, but the
interview terminated differently. Coventry, with his winning
tongue, and penitence and plausibility, softened the indignant
father, and then, appealing to his good sense, extorted from him the
admission that his daughter's only chance of happiness lay in
forgiving him, and allowing him to atone his faults by a long life
of humble devotion. But when Coventry, presuming on this, implored
him to reveal where she was, the old man stood stanch, and said that
was told him under a solemn assurance of secrecy, and nothing should
induce him to deceive his daughter. "I will not lose her love and
confidence for any of you," said he.
So now Coventry put that word "convent" and this word "nun"
together, and came to Hillsborough full of suspicions.
He took lodgings nearly opposite Little's house, and watched in a
dark room so persistently, that, at last, he saw the nun appear, saw
her stealthy, cat-like approaches, her affected retreat, her cunning
advance, her long lingering look.
A close observer of women, he saw in every movement of her supple
body that she was animated by love.
He raged and sickened with jealousy, and when, at last, she retired,
he followed her, with hell in his heart, and never lost sight of her
till she entered her house in the valley.
If there had been a house to let in the terrace, he would certainly
have taken it; but Little had anticipated him.
He took a very humble lodging in the neighborhood; and by dint of
watching, he at last saw the nun speaking to a poor woman with her
veil up. It revealed to him nothing but what he knew already. It
was the woman he loved, and she hated him; the woman who had married
him under a delusion, and stabbed him on his bridal day. He loved
her all the more passionately for that.
Until he received Lally's note, he had been content to wait
patiently until his rival should lose hope, and carry himself and
his affections elsewhere; he felt sure that must be the end of it.
But now jealousy stung him, wild passion became too strong for
reason, and he resolved to play a bold and lawless game to possess
his lawful wife. Should it fail, what could they do to him? A man
may take his own by force. Not only his passions, but the
circumstances tempted him. She was actually living alone, in a
thinly-peopled district, and close to a road. It was only to cover
her head and stifle her cries, and fly with her to some place
beforehand prepared, where she would be brought to submission by
kindness of manner combined with firmness of purpose.
Coventry possessed every qualification to carry out such a scheme as
this. He was not very courageous; yet he was not a coward: and no
great courage was required. Cunning, forethought, and
unscrupulousness were the principal things, and these he had to
He provided a place to keep her; it was a shooting-box of his own,
on a heathery hill, that nobody visited except for shooting, and the
season for shooting was past.
He armed himself with false certificates of lunacy, to show on an
emergency, and also a copy of his marriage certificate: he knew how
unwilling strangers are to interfere between man and wife.
The only great difficulty was to get resolute men to help him in
He sounded Cole; but that worthy objected to it, as being out of his
Coventry talked him over, and offered a sum that made him tremble
with cupidity. He assented on one condition--that he should not be
expected to break into the house, nor do any act that should be
"construed burglarious." He actually used that phrase, which I
should hardly have expected from him.
Coventry assented to this condition. He undertook to get into the
house, and open the door to Cole and his myrmidons: he stipulated,
however, that Cole should make a short iron ladder with four sharp
prongs. By means of this he could enter Grace's house at a certain
unguarded part and then run down and unbar the front door. He had
thoroughly reconnoitered the premises, and was sure of success.
First one day was appointed for the enterprise, then another, and,
at last, it was their luck to settle on a certain night, of which I
will only say at present, that it was a night Hillsborough and its
suburbs will not soon forget.
Midnight was the hour agreed on.
Now at nine o'clock of this very night the chief-constable of
Hillsborough was drinking tea with Little scarcely twenty yards from
the scene of the proposed abduction. Not that either he or Little
had the least notion of the conspiracy. The fact is, Hillsborough
had lately been deluged with false coin, neatly executed, and passed
with great dexterity. The police had received many complaints, but
had been unable to trace it. Lately, however, an old bachelor,
living in this suburban valley, had complained to the police that
his neighbors kept such enormous fires all night, as to make his
wall red-hot and blister his paint.
This, and one or two other indications, made Ransome suspect the
existence of a furnace, and he had got a search-warrant in his
pocket, on which, however, he did not think it safe to act till he
had watched the suspected house late at night, and made certain
observations for himself. So he had invited himself to tea with his
friend Little--for he was sure of a hearty welcome at any hour--and,
over their tea, he now told him his suspicions, and invited him to
come in and take a look at the suspected house with him.
Little consented. But there was no hurry; the later they went to
the house in question the better. So they talked of other matters,
and the conversation soon fell on that which was far more
interesting to Little than the capture of all the coiners in
He asked Ransome how long he was to go on like this, contenting
himself with the mere sight of her.
"Why;" said Ransome, "even that has made another man of you. Your
eye is twice as bright as it was a month ago, and your color is
coming back. That is a wise proverb, 'Let well alone.' I hear she
visits the sick, and some of them swear by her. If think I'd give
her time to take root here; and then she will not be so ready to fly
off in a tangent."
Little objected that it was more than flesh and blood could bear.
"Well, then," said Ransome, "promise me just one thing: that, if you
speak to her, it shall be in Hillsborough, and not down here."
Little saw the wisdom of this, and consented, but said he was
resolved to catch her at his own window the next time she came.
He was about to give his reasons, but they were interrupted by a man
and horse clattering up to the door.
"That will be for me," said Ransome. "I thought I should not get
leave to drink my tea in peace."
He was right; a mounted policeman brought him a note from the mayor,
telling him word had come into the town that there was something
wrong with Ousely dam. He was to take the mayor's horse, and ride
up at once to the reservoir, and, if there was any danger, to warn
"This looks serious," said Ransome. "I must wish you good-by."
"Take a piece of advice with you. I hear that dam is too full; if
so, don't listen to advice from anybody, but open the sluices of the
waste-pipes, and relieve the pressure; but if you find a flaw in the
embankment, don't trifle, blow up the waste-wear at once with
gunpowder. I wish I had a horse, I'd go with you. By the way, if
there is the least danger of that dam bursting, of course you will
give me warning in time, and I'll get her out of the house at once."
"What, do you think the water would get as far as this, to do any
harm? It is six miles."
"It might. Look at the form of the ground; it is a regular trough
from that dam to Hillsborough. My opinion is, it would sweep
everything before it, and flood Hillsborough itself--the lower town.
I shall not go to bed, old fellow, till you come back and tell me it
is all right."
With this understanding Ransome galloped off. On his way he passed
by the house where he suspected coining. The shutters were closed,
but his experienced eye detected a bright light behind one of them,
and a peculiar smoke from the chimney.
Adding this to his other evidence, he now felt sure the inmates were
coiners, and he felt annoyed. "Fine I look," said he, "walking
tamely past criminals at work, and going to a mayor's nest six miles
However he touched the horse with his heel, and cantered forward on
John Ransome rode up to the Ousely Reservoir, and down again in less
than an hour and a half; and every incident of those two rides is
imprinted on his memory for life.
He first crossed the water at Poma bridge. The village of that name
lay on his right, toward Hillsborough, and all the lights were out
except in the two public houses. One of these, "The Reindeer," was
near the bridge, and from it a ruddy glare shot across the road, and
some boon companions were singing, in very good harmony, a trite
"We are no that fou, we are no that fou,
But just a drappie in our ee;
The cock may craw, the day may daw,
But still we'll taste the barley bree."
Ransome could hear the very words; he listened, he laughed, and then
rode up the valley till he got opposite a crinoline-wire factory
called the "Kildare Wheel." Here he observed a single candle
burning; a watcher, no doubt.
The next place he saw was also on the other side the stream;
Dolman's farm-house, the prettiest residence in the valley. It was
built of stone, and beautifully situated on a promontory between two
streams. It had a lawn in front, which went down to the very edge
of the water, and was much admired for its close turf and flowers.
The farm buildings lay behind the house.
There was no light whatever in Dolman's; but they were early people.
The house and lawn slept peacefully in the night: the windows were
now shining, now dark, for small fleecy clouds kept drifting at
short intervals across the crescent moon.
Ransome pushed on across the open ground, and for a mile or two saw
few signs of life, except here and there a flickering light in some
water-wheel, for now one picturesque dam and wheel succeeded another
as rapidly as Nature permitted; and indeed the size of these dams,
now shining in the fitful moonlight, seemed remarkable, compared
with the mere thread of water which fed them, and connected them
together for miles like pearls on a silver string.
Ransome pushed rapidly on, up hill and down dale, till he reached
the high hill, at whose foot lay the hamlet of Damflask, distant two
miles from Ousely Reservoir.
He looked down and saw a few lights in this hamlet, some stationary,
but two moving.
"Hum," thought Ransome, "they don't seem to be quite so easy in
their minds up here."
He dashed into the place, and drew up at the house where several
persons were collected.
As he came up, a singular group issued forth: a man with a pig-whip,
driving four children--the eldest not above seven years old--and
carrying an infant in his arms. The little imps were clad in shoes,
night-gowns, night-caps, and a blanket apiece, and were shivering
and whining at being turned out of bed into the night air.
Ransome asked the man what was the matter
One of the by-standers laughed, and said, satirically, Ousely dam
was to burst that night, so all the pigs and children were making
for the hill.
The man himself, whose name was Joseph Galton, explained more fully.
"Sir," said he, "my wife is groaning, and I am bound to obey her.
She had a dream last night she was in a flood, and had to cross a
plank or summut. I quieted her till supper; but then landlord came
round and warned all of us of a crack or summut up at dam. And so
now I am taking this little lot up to my brother's. It's the
foolishest job I ever done: but needs must when the devil drives,
and it is better so than to have my old gal sour her milk, and pine
her suckling, and maybe fret herself to death into the bargain."