Part 13 out of 13
Ransome seized on the information, and rode on directly to the
village inn. He called the landlord out, and asked him what he had
been telling the villagers. Was there any thing seriously amiss up
at the reservoir?
"Nay, I hope not," said the man; "but we got a bit of a fright this
afternoon. A young man rode through, going down to Hillsborough,
and stopped here to have his girth mended; he had broke it coming
down our hill. While he was taking a glass he let out his errand;
they had found a crack in the embankment, and sent him down to
Hillsborough to tell Mr. Tucker, the engineer. Bless your heart, we
should never have known aught about it if his girth hadn't broke."
He added, as a reason for thinking it was not serious that Mr.
Tucker had himself inspected the dam just before tea-time, and
hadn't even seen the crack. It was a laboring man who had
discovered it, through crossing the embankment lower down than
usual. "But you see, sir," said he, in conclusion, "we lie very low
here, and right in the track; and so we mustn't make light of a
warning. And, of course, many of the workmen stop here and have
their say; and, to tell you the truth, one or two of them have
always misliked the foundation that embankment is built on: too many
old landslips to be seen about. But, after all, I suppose they can
empty the dam, if need be; and, of course, they will, if there is
any danger. I expect Mr. Tucker up every minute."
Ransome thanked him for his information and pushed on to Lower
Hatfield: there he found lights in the houses and the inhabitants
astir; but he passed through the village in silence, and came to the
great corn-mill, a massive stone structure with granite pillars, the
pride of the place. The building was full of lights, and the cranes
were all at work hoisting the sacks of flour from the lower floors
to the top story. The faces of the men reflected in the flaring
gas, and the black cranes with their gaunt arms, and the dark bodies
rising by the snake-like cords, formed a curious picture in the
fluctuating moonlight, and an interesting one too; for it showed the
miller did not feel his flour quite safe.
The next place Ransome came to was Fox Farm.
Farmer Emden was standing at the door of his house, and, in reply to
Ransome, told him he had just come down from the reservoir. He had
seen the crack and believed it to be a mere frost crack. He
apprehended no danger, and had sent his people to bed; however, he
should sit up for an hour or two just to hear what Tucker the
engineer had to say about it; he had been sent for.
Ransome left him, and a smart canter brought him in sight of what
seemed a long black hill, with great glow-worms dotted here and
That hill was the embankment, and the glow-worms were the lanterns
of workmen examining the outer side of the embankment and prying
into every part.
The enormous size and double slope of the bank, its apparent
similarity in form and thickness to those natural barriers with
which nature hems in lakes of large dimensions, acted on Ransome's
senses, and set him wondering at the timidity and credulity of the
people in Hatfield and Damflask. This sentiment was uppermost in
his mind when he rode up to the south side of the embankment.
He gave his horse to a boy, and got upon the embankment and looked
The first glance at the water somewhat shook that impression of
absolute security the outer side of the barrier had given him.
In nature a lake lies at the knees of the restraining hills, or else
has a sufficient outlet.
But here was a lake nearly full to the brim on one side of the
barrier and an open descent on the other.
He had encountered a little wind coming up, but not much; here,
however, the place being entirely exposed, the wind was powerful and
blew right down the valley ruffling the artificial lake.
Altogether it was a solemn scene, and, even at first glance, one
that could not be surveyed, after all those comments and reports,
without some awe and anxiety. The surface of the lake shone like a
mirror, and waves of some size dashed against the embankment with a
louder roar than one would have thought possible, and tossed some
spray clean over all; while, overhead, clouds, less fleecy now, and
more dark and sullen, drifted so swiftly across the crescent moon
that she seemed flying across the sky.
Having now realized that the embankment, huge as it was, was not so
high by several hundred feet as nature builds in parallel cases, and
that, besides the natural pressure of the whole water, the upper
surface of the lake was being driven by the wind against the upper
or thin part of the embankment, Ransome turned and went down the
embankment to look at the crack and hear opinions.
There were several workmen, an intelligent farmer called Ives, and
Mr. Mountain, one of the contractors who had built the dam, all
examining the crack.
Mr. Mountain was remarking that the crack was perfectly dry, a plain
proof there was no danger.
"Ay, but," said Ives, "it has got larger since tea-time; see, I can
get my hand in now."
"Can you account for that?" asked Ransome of the contractor.
Mountain said it was caused by the embankment settling. "Everything
settles down a little--houses and embankments and all. There's no
danger, Mr. Ransome, believe me."
"Well, sir," said Ransome, "I am not a man of science, but I have
got eyes, and I see the water is very high, and driving against your
weak part. Ah!" Then he remembered Little's advice. "Would you
mind opening the sluice-pipes?"
"Not in the least, but I think it is the engineer's business to give
an order of that kind."
"But he is not here, and professional etiquette must give way where
property and lives, perhaps, are at stake. To tell you the truth,
Mr. Mountain, I have got the advice of an abler man than Mr. Tucker.
His word to me was, 'If the water is as high as they say, don't
waste time, but open the sluices and relieve the dam.'"
The workmen who had said scarcely a word till then, raised an
assenting murmur at the voice of common sense.
Mountain admitted it could do no harm, and gave an order
accordingly; screws wore applied and the valves of the double set of
sluice-pipes were forced open, but with infinite difficulty, owing
to the tremendous pressure of the water.
This operation showed all concerned what a giant they were dealing
with; while the sluices were being lifted, the noise and tremor of
the pipes were beyond experience and conception. When, after vast
efforts, they were at last got open, the ground trembled violently,
and the water, as it rushed out of the pipes, roared like discharges
of artillery. So hard is it to resist the mere effect of the
senses, that nearly every body ran back appalled, although the
effect of all this roaring could only be to relieve the pressure;
and, in fact, now that those sluices were opened, the dam was safe,
provided it could last a day or two.
Lights were seen approaching, and Mr. Tucker, the resident engineer,
drove up; he had Mr. Carter, one of the contractors, in the gig with
He came on the embankment, and signified a cold approval of the
sluices being opened.
Then Ransome sounded him about blowing up the waste-wear.
Tucker did not reply, but put some questions to a workman or two.
Their answers showed that they considered the enlargement of the
crack a fatal sign.
Upon this Mr. Tucker ordered them all to stand clear of the
"Now, then," said he, "I built this embankment, and I'll tell you
whether it is going to burst or not."
Then he took a lantern, and was going to inspect the crack himself;
but Mr. Carter, respecting his courage and coolness, would accompany
him. They went to the crack, examined it carefully with their
lanterns, and then crossed over to the waste-wear; no water was
running into it in the ordinary way, which showed the dam was not
full to its utmost capacity.
They returned, and consulted with Mountain.
Ransome put in his word, and once more remembering Little's advice,
begged them to blow up the waste-wear.
Tucker thought that was a stronger measure than the occasion
required; there was no immediate danger; and the sluice-pipes would
lower the water considerably in twenty-four hours.
Farmer Ives put in his word. "I can't learn from any of you that an
enlarging crack in a new embankment is a common thing. I shall go
home, but my boots won't come off this night."
Encouraged by this, Mr. Mountain, the contractor, spoke out.
"Mr. Tucker," said he, "don't deceive yourself; the sluice-pipes are
too slow; if we don't relieve the dam, there'll be a blow-up in half
an hour; mark my words."
"Well," said Mr. Tucker, "no precaution has been neglected in
building this dam: provision has been made even for blowing up the
waste-wear; a hole has been built in the masonry, and there's dry
powder and a fuse kept at the valve-house. I'll blow up the waste-
wear, though I think it needless. I am convinced that crack is
above the level of the water in the reservoir."
This observation struck Ransome, and he asked if it could not be
ascertained by measurement.
"Of course it can," said Tucker, "and I'll measure it as I come
He then started for the wear, and Carter accompanied him.
They crossed the embankment, and got to the wear.
Ives went home, and the workmen withdrew to the side, not knowing
exactly what might be the effect of the explosion.
By-and-by Ransome looked up, and observed a thin sheet of water
beginning to stream over the center of the embankment and trickle
down: the quantity was nothing; but it alarmed him. Having no
special knowledge on these matters, he was driven to comparisons;
and it flashed across him that, when he was a boy, and used to make
little mud-dams in April, they would resist the tiny stream until it
trickled over them, and from that moment their fate was sealed.
Nature, he had observed, operates alike in small things and great,
and that sheet of water, though thin as a wafer, alarmed him.
He thought it was better to give a false warning than withhold a
true one; he ran to his horse, jumped on him, and spurred away.
His horse was fast and powerful, and carried him in three minutes
back to Emden's farm. The farmer had gone to bed. Ransome knocked
him up, and told him he feared the dam was going; then galloped on
to Hatfield Mill. Here he found the miller and his family all
gathered outside, ready for a start; one workman had run down from
"The embankment is not safe."
"So I hear. I'll take care of my flour and my folk. The mill will
take care of itself." And he pointed with pride to the solid
structure and granite pillars.
Ransome galloped on, shouting as he went.
The shout was taken up ahead, and he heard a voice crying in the
night, "IT'S COMING! IT'S COMING!" This weird cry, which, perhaps,
his own galloping and shouting had excited, seemed like an
independent warning, and thrilled him to the bone. He galloped
through Hatfield, shouting, "Save yourselves! Save yourselves!" and
the people poured out, and ran for high ground, shrieking wildly;
looking back, he saw the hill dotted with what he took for sheep at
first, but it was the folk in their night-clothes.
He galloped on to Damflask, still shouting as he went.
At the edge of the hamlet, he found a cottage with no light in it;
he dismounted and thundered at the door: "Escape for your lives! for
A man called Hillsbro' Harry opened the window.
"The embankrncnt is going. Fly for your lives!"
"Nay," said the man, coolly, "Ouseley dam will brust noane this
week," and turned to go to bed again.
He found Joseph Galton and another man carrying Mrs. Galton and her
new-born child away in a blanket. This poor woman, who had sent her
five children away on the faith of a dream, was now objecting, in a
faint voice, to be saved herself from evident danger. "Oh, dear,
dear! you might as well let me go down with the flood as kill me
with taking me away."
Such was the sapient discourse of Mrs. Galton, who, half an hour
ago, had been supernaturally wise and prudent. Go to, wise mother
and silly woman; men will love thee none the less for the
inequalities of thine intellect; and honest Joe will save thy life,
and heed thy twaddle no more than the bleating of a lamb.
Ransome had not left the Galtons many yards behind him, when there
was a sharp explosion heard up in the hills.
Ransome pulled up and said aloud, "It will be all right now, thank
goodness! they have blown up the wear."
The words were scarcely out of his mouth when he heard a loud sullen
roar, speedily followed by a tremendous hiss, and a rumbling
thunder, that shook the very earth where he stood, two miles
This is what had taken place since he left the reservoir, but ten
Mr. Tucker and Mr. Carter laid the gunpowder and the train, and
lighted the latter, and came back across the middle of the
Being quite safe here from the effect of the explosion, Mr. Tucker
was desirous to establish by measurement that the water in the
reservoir had not risen so high as the crack in the embankment.
With this view he took out a measure, and, at some risk of being
swept into eternity, began coolly to measure the crack downward.
At this very time water was trickling over; and that alarmed Carter,
and he told Tucker they were trifling with their own lives.
"Oh," said Tucker, "that is only the spray from the waves."
They actually measured the crack, stooping over it with their
When they had done that, Carter raised his head, and suddenly
clutched Tucker by the arm and pointed upward. The water was
pouring over the top, still in a thin sheet, but then that sheet was
gradually widening. The water came down to their feet, and some of
it disappeared in the crack; and the crack itself looked a little
larger than when last inspected. Tucker said, gravely, "I don't
like that: but let me examine the valve-house at once." He got down
to the valve-house, but before he could ascertain what quantity of
water was escaping Carter called to him, "Come out, for God's sake,
or you are lost."
He came running out, and saw an opening thirty feet wide and nearly
a foot deep, and a powerful stream rushing over it.
The moment Tucker saw that, he cried, "It's all up, the embankment
must go!" And, the feeling of the architect overpowering the
instincts of the man, he stood aghast. But Carter laid hold of him,
and dragged him away.
Then he came to himself, and they ran across the embankment.
As they started, the powder, which had hung fire unaccountably, went
off, and blew up the waste-wear; but they scarcely heard it; for, as
they ran, the rent above kept enlarging and deepening at a fearful
rate, and the furious stream kept rushing past their flying heels,
and threatened to sweep them sideways to destruction.
They were safe at last; but even as they stood panting, the rent in
the top of the embankment spread--deepened--yawned terrifically--and
the pent-up lake plunged through, and sweeping away at once the
center of the embankment, rushed, roaring and hissing, down the
valley, an avalanche of water, whirling great trees up by the roots,
and sweeping huge rocks away, and driving them, like corks, for
At that appalling sound, that hissing thunder, the like of which he
had never heard before, and hopes never to hear again, Ransome
spurred away at all his speed, and warned the rest of the village
with loud inarticulate cries: he could not wait to speak, nor was it
At the top of the hill he turned a moment, and looked up the valley;
soon he saw a lofty white wall running down on Hatfield Mill: it
struck the mill, and left nothing visible but the roof, surrounded
by white foam.
Another moment, and he distinctly saw the mill swim a yard or two,
then disappear and leave no trace, and on came the white wall,
hissing and thundering.
Ransome uttered a cry of horror, and galloped madly forward, to save
what lives he might.
Whenever he passed a house he shrieked his warning, but he never
As he galloped along his mind worked. He observed the valley widen
in places, and he hoped the flying lake would spread, and so lose
some of that tremendous volume and force before which he had seen
Hatfield stone mill go down.
With this hope he galloped on, and reached Poma Bridge, five miles
and a half from the reservoir.
Here, to his dismay, he heard the hissing thunder sound as near to
him as it was when he halted on the hill above Damflask; but he
could see nothing, owing to a turn in the valley.
At the bridge itself he found a man standing without his hat,
staring wildly up the valley.
He yelled to this man, "Dam is burst. Warn the village--for their
lives--run on to Hillsborough--when you are winded, send another on.
You'll all be paid at the Town Hall."
Then he dashed across the bridge.
As he crossed it, he caught sight of the flying lake once more: he
had gone over more ground, but he had gone no further. He saw the
white wall strike Dolman's farm; there was a light in one window
now. He saw the farm-house, with its one light, swim bodily, then
melt and disappear, with all the poor souls in it.
He galloped on: his hat flew off; he came under the coiners' house,
and yelled a warning. A window was opened, and a man looked out;
the light was behind him, and, even in that terrible moment, he
"The flood! the flood! Fly! Get on high ground, for your lives!"
He galloped furiously, and made for Little's house.
Little took a book, and tried to while away the time till Ransome's
return; but he could not command his attention. The conversation
about Grace had excited a topic which excluded every other.
He opened his window, a French casement, and looked out upon the
Then he observed that Grace, too, was keeping vigil; for a faint
light shot from her window and sparkled on the branches of the
plane-tree in her little front garden.
"And that," thought Henry, sadly, "is all I can see of her. Close
to her, yet far off--further than ever now."
A deep sadness fell on him, sadness and doubt. Suppose he were to
lay a trap for her to-morrow, and catch her at her own door! What
good would it do? He put himself in her place. That process showed
him at once she would come no more. He should destroy her little
bit of patient, quiet happiness, the one daily sunbeam of her
By-and-by, feeling rather drowsy, he lay down in his clothes to wait
for Ransome's return. He put out his light.
From his bed he could see Grace's light kiss the plane-tree.
He lay and fixed his eyes on it, and thought of all that had passed
between them; and, by-and-by, love and grief made his eyes misty,
and that pale light seemed to dance and flicker before him.
About midnight, he was nearly dozing off, when his ear caught a
muttering outside; he listened, and thought he heard some instrument
He rose very softly, and crept to the window, and looked keenly
through his casement.
He saw nothing at first; but presently a dark object emerged from
behind the plane-tree I have mentioned, and began to go slowly, but
surely up it.
Little feared it was a burglar about to attack that house which held
He stepped softly to his rifle and loaded both barrels. It was a
breech-loader. Then he crawled softly to the window, and peered
out, rifle in hand.
The man had climbed the tree, and was looking earnestly in at one of
the windows in Grace's house. His attention was so fixed that he
never saw the gleaming eye which now watched him.
Presently the drifting clouds left the moon clear a minute, and
Henry Little recognized the face of Frederick Coventry.
He looked at him, and began to tremble.
Why did he tremble? Because--after the first rush of surprise--
rage, hate, and bloody thoughts crossed his mind. Here was his
enemy, the barrier to his happiness, come, of his own accord, to
court his death. Why not take him for a burglar, and shoot him
dead? Such an act might be blamed, but it could not be punished
The temptation was so great, that the rifle shook in his hands, and
a cold perspiration poured down his back.
He prayed to God in agony to relieve him from this temptation; he
felt that it was more than he could bear.
He looked up. Coventry was drawing up a short iron ladder from
below. He then got hold of it and fixed it on the sill of Grace's
Little burst his own window open. "You villain!" he cried, and
leveled his rifle at him.
Coventry uttered a yell of dismay. Grace opened her window, and
looked out, with a face full of terror.
At sight of her, Coventry cried to her in abject terror, "Mercy!
mercy! Don't let him shoot me!"
Grace looked round, and saw Henry aiming at Coventry.
She screamed, and Little lowered the rifle directly.
Coventry crouched directly in the fork of the tree.
Grace looked bewildered from one to the other; but it was to Henry
she spoke, and asked him in trembling tones what it "all meant?"
But, ere either could make a reply, a dire sound was heard of
hissing thunder: so appalling that the three actors in this strange
scene were all frozen and rooted where they stood.
Then came a fierce galloping, and Ransome, with his black hair and
beard flying, and his face like a ghost, reined up, and shouted
wildly, "Dam burst! Coming down here! Fly for your lives! Fly!"
He turned and galloped up the hill.
Cole and his mate emerged, and followed him, howling; but before the
other poor creatures, half paralyzed, could do any thing, the
hissing thunder was upon them. What seemed a mountain of snow came
rolling, and burst on them with terrific violence, whirling great
trees and fragments of houses past with incredible velocity.
At the first blow, the house that stood nearest to the flying lake
was shattered and went to pieces soon after: all the houses quivered
as the water rushed round them two stories high.
Little never expected to live another minute; yet, in that awful
moment, his love stood firm. He screamed to Grace, "The houses must
go!--the tree!--the tree!--get to the tree!"
But Grace, so weak at times, was more than mortal strong at that
"What! live with him," she cried, "when I can die with you!"
She folded her arms, and her pale face was radiant, no hope, no
Now came a higher wave, and the water reached above the window-sills
of the bedroom floor and swept away the ladder; yet, driven forward
like a cannon-bullet, did not yet pour into the bed-rooms from the
main stream; but by degrees the furious flood broke, melted, and
swept away the intervening houses, and then hacked off the gable-end
of Grace's house, as if Leviathan had bitten a piece out. Through
that aperture the flood came straight in, leveled the partitions at
a blow, rushed into the upper rooms with fearful roar, and then,
rushing out again to rejoin the greater body of water, blew the
front wall clean away, and swept Grace out into the raging current.
The water pouring out of the house carried her, at first, toward the
tree, and Little cried wildly to Coventry to save her. He awoke
from his stupor of horror, and made an attempt to clutch her; but
then the main force of the mighty water drove her away from him
toward the house; her helpless body was whirled round and round
three times, by the struggling eddies, and then hurried away like a
feather by the overwhelming torrent.
The mighty reflux, which, after a short struggle, overpowered the
rush of water from the windows, and carried Grace Carden's helpless
body away from the tree, drove her of course back toward the houses,
and she was whirled past Little's window with fearful velocity, just
as he was going to leap into the flood, and perish in an insane
attempt to save her. With a loud cry he seized her by her long
floating hair, and tried to draw her in at the window; but the
mighty water pulled her from him fiercely, and all but dragged him
in after her; he was only saved by clutching the side of the wall
with his left hand: the flood was like some vast solid body drawing
against him; and terror began to seize on his heart. He ground his
teeth; he set his knee against the horizontal projection of the
window; and that freed his left hand; he suddenly seized her arm
with it, and, clutching it violently, ground his teeth together,
and, throwing himself backward with a jerk, tore her out of the
water by an effort almost superhuman. Such was the force exerted by
the torrent on one side, and the desperate lover on the other, that
not her shoes only, but her stockings, though gartered, were torn
off her in that fierce struggle.
He had her in his arms, and cried aloud, and sobbed over her, and
kissed her wet cheeks, her lank hair, and her wet clothes, in a wild
rapture. He went on kissing her and sobbing over her so wildly and
so long, that Coventry, who had at first exulted with him at her
rescue, began to rage with jealousy.
"Please remember she is my wife," he shrieked: "don't take advantage
of her condition, villain!"
"Your wife, you scoundrel! You stole her from me once; now come and
take her from me again. Why didn't you save her? She was near to
you. You let her die: she lives by me, and for me, and I for her."
With this he kissed her again, and held her to his bosom. "D'ye see
that?--liar! coward! villain!"
Even across that tremendous body of rushing death, from which
neither was really safe, both rivals' eyes gleamed hate at each
The wild beasts that a flood drives together on to some little
eminence, lay down their natures, and the panther crouches and
whimpers beside the antelope; but these were men, and could
entertain the fiercest of human passions in the very jaws of death.
To be sure it was but for a moment; a new danger soon brought them
both to their senses; an elm-tree whirling past grazed Coventry's
plane-tree; it was but a graze, yet it nearly shook him off into the
flood, and he yelled with fear: almost at the same moment a higher
wave swept into Little's room, and the rising water set every thing
awash, and burst over him as he kneeled with grace. He got up,
drenched and half-blinded with the turbid water, and, taking Grace
in his arms, waded waist-high to his bed, and laid her down on it.
It was a moment of despair. Death had entered that chamber in a
new, unforeseen, and inevitable form. The ceiling was low, the
water was rising steadily; the bedstead floated; his chest of
drawers floated, though his rifle and pistols lay on it, and the top
drawers were full of the tools he always had about him: in a few
minutes the rising water must inevitably jam Grace and him against
the ceiling, and drown them like rats in a hole.
Fearful as the situation was, a sickening horror was added to it by
the horrible smell of the water; it had a foul and appalling odor, a
compound of earthiness and putrescence; it smelt like a newly-opened
grave; it paralyzed like a serpent's breath.
Stout as young Little's heart was, it fainted now when he saw his
bedstead, and his drawers, and his chairs, all slowly rising toward
the ceiling, lifted by that cold, putrescent, liquid death.
But all men, and even animals, possess greater powers of mind, as
well as of body, than they ever exert, unless compelled by dire
necessity: and it would have been strange indeed if a heart so
stanch, and a brain so inventive, as Little's, had let his darling
die like a rat drowned in a hole, without some new and masterly
attempt first made to save her.
To that moment of horror and paralysis succeeded an activity of mind
and body almost incredible. He waded to the drawers, took his rifle
and fired both barrels at one place in the ceiling bursting a hole,
and cutting a narrow joist almost in two. Then he opened a drawer,
got an ax and a saw out, and tried to wade to the bed; but the water
now took him off his feet, and he had to swim to it instead; he got
on it, and with his axe and his saw he contrived to paddle the
floating bed under the hole in the ceiling, and then with a few
swift and powerful blows of his ax soon enlarged that aperture
sufficiently; but at that moment the water carried the bedstead away
from the place.
He set to work with his saw and ax, and paddled back again.
Grace, by this time, was up on her knees, and in a voice, the sudden
firmness of which surprised and delighted him, asked if she could
"Yes," said he, "you can. On with my coat."
It lay on the bed. She helped him on with it, and then he put his
ax and saw into the pockets, and told her to take hold of his skirt.
He drew himself up through the aperture, and Grace, holding his
skirts with her hands and the bed with her feet, climbed adroitly on
to the head of the bed--a French bed made of mahogany--and Henry
drew her through the aperture.
They were now on the false ceiling, and nearly jammed against the
roof: Little soon hacked a great hole in that just above the
parapet, and they crawled out upon the gutter.
They were now nearly as high as Coventry on his tree; but their
house was rocking, and his tree was firm.
In the next house were heard the despairing shrieks of poor
creatures who saw no way of evading their fate; yet the way was as
open to them as to this brave pair.
"Oh, my angel," said Grace, "save them. Then, if you die, you go to
"All right," said Henry. "Come on."
They darted down the gutter to the next house. Little hacked a hole
in the slates, and then in the wood-work, and was about to jump in,
when the house he had just left tumbled all to pieces, like a house
of sugar, and the debris went floating by, including the bedstead
that had helped to save them.
"O God!" cried Little, "this house will go next; run on to the last
"No, Henry, I would rather die with you than live alone. Don't be
frightened for me, my angel. Save lives, and trust to Jesus."
"All right," said Little; but his voice trembled now.
He jumped in, hacked a hole in the ceiling, and yelled to the
inmates to give him their hands.
There was a loud cry of male and female voices.
"My child first," cried a woman, and threw up an infant, which
Little caught and handed to Grace. She held it, wailing to her
Little dragged five more souls up. Grace helped them out, and they
ran along the gutter to the last house without saying "Thank you."
The house was rocking. Little and Grace went on to the next, and he
smashed the roof in, and then the ceiling, and Grace and he were
getting the people out, when the house they had just left melted
away, all but a chimney-stack, which adhered in jagged dilapidation
to the house they were now upon.
They were now upon the last. Little hacked furiously through the
roof and ceiling, and got the people out; and now twenty-seven souls
crouched in the gutter, or hung about the roof of this one house;
some praying, but most of them whining and wailing.
"What is the use of howling?" groaned Little.
He then drew his Grace to his panting bosom, and his face was full
of mortal agony.
She consoled him. "Never mind, my angel. God has seen you. He is
good to us, and lets us die together."
At this moment the house gave a rock, and there was a fresh burst of
This, connected with his own fears, enraged Henry.
"Be quiet," said he, sternly. "Why can't you die decently, like
Then he bent his head in noble silence over his beloved, and
devoured her features as those he might never see again.
At this moment was heard a sound like the report of a gun: a large
tree whirled down by the flood, struck the plane-tree just below the
fork, and cut it in two as promptly as a scythe would go through a
It drove the upper part along, and, going with it, kept it
perpendicular for some time; the white face and glaring eyes of
Frederick Coventry sailed past these despairing lovers; he made a
wild clutch at them, then sank in the boiling current, and was
This appalling incident silenced all who saw it for a moment. Then
they began to wail louder than ever.
But Little started to his feet, and cried "Hurrah!"
There was a general groan.
"Hold your tongues," he roared. "I've got good news for you. The
water was over the top windows; now it is an inch lower. The
reservoir must be empty by now. The water will go down as fast as
it rose. Keep quiet for two minutes, and you will see."
Then no more was heard but the whimpering of the women, and, every
now and then, the voice of Little; he hung over the parapet, and
reported every half-minute the decline of the water; it subsided
with strange rapidity, as he had foreseen.
In three minutes after he had noticed the first decline, he took
Grace down through the roof, on the second floor.
When Grace and Henry got there, they started with dismay: the danger
was not over: the front wall was blown clean out by the water; all
but a jagged piece shaped like a crescent, and it seemed a miracle
that the roof, thus weakened and crowded with human beings, had not
"We must get out of this," said Little. "It all hangs together by a
He called the others down from the roof, and tried to get down by
the staircase, but it was broken into sections and floating about.
Then he cut into the floor near the wall, and, to his infinite
surprise, found the first floor within four feet of him. The flood
had lifted it bodily more than six feet.
He dropped on to it, and made Grace let herself down to him, he
holding her round the waist, and landing her light as a feather.
Henry then hacked through the door, which was jammed tight; and, the
water subsiding, presently the wrecks of the staircase left off
floating, and stuck in the mud and water: by this means they managed
to get down, and found themselves in a layer of mud, and stones, and
debris, alive and dead, such as no imagination had hitherto
Dreading, however, to remain in a house so disemboweled within, and
so shattered without, that it seemed to survive by mere cohesion of
mortar, he begged Grace to put her arm round his neck, and then
lifted her and carried her out into the night.
"Take me home to papa, my angel," said she.
He said he would; and tried to find his way to the road which he
knew led up the hill to Woodbine Villa. But all landmarks were
gone; houses, trees, hedges, all swept away; roads covered three
feet thick with rocks, and stones, and bricks, and carcasses. The
pleasant valley was one horrid quagmire, in which he could take few
steps, burdened as he was, without sticking, or stumbling against
some sure sign of destruction and death: within the compass of fifty
yards he found a steam-boiler and its appurtenances (they must have
weighed some tons, yet they had been driven more than a mile), and a
dead cow, and the body of a wagon turned upside down: [the wheels of
this same wagon were afterward found fifteen miles from the body].
He began to stagger and pant.
"Let me walk, my angel," said Grace. "I'm not a baby."
She held his hand tight, and tried to walk with him step by step.
Her white feet shone in the pale moonlight.
They made for rising ground, and were rewarded by finding the debris
"The flood must have been narrow hereabouts," said Henry. "We shall
soon be clear of it, I hope."
Soon after this, they came under a short but sturdy oak that had
survived; and, entangled in its close and crooked branches, was
something white. They came nearer; it was a dead body: some poor
man or woman hurried from sleep to Eternity.
They shuddered and crawled on, still making for higher ground, but
Presently they heard a sort of sigh. They went toward it, and found
a poor horse stuck at an angle; his efforts to escape being marred
by a heavy stone to which he was haltered.
Henry patted him, and encouraged him, and sawed through his halter;
then he struggled up, but Henry held him, and put Grace on him. She
sat across him and held on by the mane.
The horse, being left to himself, turned back a little, and crossed
the quagmire till he got into a bridle-road, and this landed them
high and dry on the turnpike.
Here they stopped, and, by one impulse, embraced each other, and
thanked God for their wonderful escape.
But soon Henry's exultation took a turn that shocked Grace's
religious sentiments, which recent acquaintance had strengthened.
"Yes," he cried, "now I believe that God really does interpose in
earthly things; I believe every thing; yesterday I believed nothing.
The one villain is swept away, and we two are miraculously saved.
Now we can marry to-morrow--no, to-day, for it is past midnight.
Oh, how good He is, especially for killing that scoundrel out of our
way. Without his death, what was life worth to me? But now--oh,
Heavens! is it all a dream? Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah!"
"Oh, Henry, my love!" said Grace imploringly; "pray, pray do not
offend Him, by rejoicing at such a moment over the death, perhaps
the everlasting death, of a poor, sinful fellow-creature."
"All right, dearest. Only don't let us descend to hypocrisy. I
thank Heaven he is dead, and so do you."
"Pray don't SAY so."
"Well, I won't: let him go. Death settles all accounts. Did you
see me stretch out my hand to save him?"
"I did, my angel, and it was like you: you are the noblest and the
greatest creature that ever was, or ever will be."
"The silliest, you mean. I wondered at myself next minute. Fancy
me being such an idiot as to hold out a hand to save him, and so
wither both our lives--yours and mine; but I suppose it is against
nature not to hold out a hand. Well, no harm came of it, thank
"Let us talk of ourselves," said Grace, lovingly. "My darling, let
no harsh thought mar the joy of this hour. You have saved my life
again. Well, then, it is doubly yours. Here, looking on that death
we have just escaped, I devote myself to you. You don't know how I
love you; but you shall. I adore you."
"I love you better still."
"You do not: you can't. It is the one thing I can beat you at and I
"Try. When will you be mine?"
"I am yours. But if you mean when will I marry you, why, whenever
you please. We have suffered too cruelly, and loved too dearly, for
me to put you off a single day for affectations and vanities. When
you please, my own."
At this Henry kissed her little white feet with rapture, and kept
kissing them, at intervals, all the rest of the way: and the horrors
of the night ended, to these two, in unutterable rapture, as they
paced slowly along to Woodbine Villa with hearts full of wonder,
gratitude, and joy.
Here they found lights burning, and learned from a servant that Mr.
Carden was gone down to the scene of the flood in great agitation.
Henry told Grace not to worry herself, for that he would find him
and relieve his fears.
He then made Grace promise to go to bed at once, and to lie within
blankets. She didn't like that idea, but consented. "It is my duty
to obey you now in every thing," said she.
Henry left her, and ran down to the Town Hall.
He was in that glorious state of bliss in which noble minds long to
do good actions; and the obvious thing to do was to go and comfort
the living survivors of the terrible disaster he had so narrowly
He found but one policeman there; the rest, and Ransome at their
head, were doing their best; all but two, drowned on their beat in
the very town of Hillsborough.
Round a great fire in the Town Hall were huddled a number of half-
naked creatures, who had been driven out of their dilapidated homes;
some of them had seen children or relatives perish in the flood they
had themselves so narrowly escaped, and were bemoaning them with
Little spoke them a word of comfort, promised them all clothes as
soon as the shops should open, and hurried off to the lower part of
the town in search of Ransome.
He soon found the line the flood had taken. Between Poma Bridge and
Hillsborough it had wasted itself considerably in a broad valley,
but still it had gone clean through Hillsborough twelve feet high,
demolishing and drowning. Its terrible progress was marked by a
layer of mud a foot thick, dotted with rocks, trees, wrecks of
houses, machinery, furniture, barrels, mattresses, carcasses of
animals, and dead bodies, most of them stark naked, the raging flood
having torn their clothes off their backs.
Four corpses and two dead horses were lying in a lake of mud about
the very door of the railway station; three of them were females in
absolute nudity. The fourth was a male, with one stocking on. This
proved to be Hillsbro' Harry, warned in vain up at Damflask. When
he actually heard the flood come hissing, he had decided, on the
whole, to dress, and had got the length of that one stocking, when
the flying lake cut short his vegetation.
Not far from this, Little found Ransome, working like a horse, with
the tear in his eyes.
He uttered a shout of delight and surprise, and, taking Little by
both shoulders, gazed earnestly at him, and said, "Can this be a
living man I see?"
"Yes, I am alive," said Little, "but I had to work for it: feel my
"Why, the are dryer than mine."
"Ay; yet have been in water to the throat; the heat of my body and
my great exertions dried them. I'll tell you all another day: now
show me how to do a bit of good; for it is not one nor two thousand
pounds I'll stick at, this night."
Strange sights they saw that night.
They found a dead body curled round the top frame of a lamppost,
and, in the suburbs, another jammed between a beam and the wall of a
They found some houses with the front wall carried clean away, and,
on the second floor, such of the inmates as had survived huddled
together in their night-clothes, unable to get down. These, Ransome
and his men speedily relieved from their situation.
And now came in word that the whole village of Poma Bridge had been
Little, with Ransome and his men, hurried on at these sad tidings as
fast as the mud and ruins would allow, and, on the way, one of the
policemen trod on something soft. It was the body of a woman
imbedded in the mud.
A little further they saw, at some distance, two cottages in a row,
both gutted and emptied. An old man was alone in one, seated on the
ground-floor in the deep mud.
They went to him, and asked what they could do for him.
"Do? Why let me die," be said.
They tried to encourage him; but he answered them in words that
showed how deeply old Shylock's speech is founded in nature:
"Let the water take me--it has taken all I had."
When they asked after his neighbors, he said he believed they were
all drowned. Unluckily for HIM, he had been out when the flood
Little clambered into the other cottage, and found a little boy and
girl placidly asleep in a cupboard upstairs.
Little yelled with delight, and kissed them, and cuddled them, as if
they had been his own, so sweet was it to see their pretty innocent
faces, spared by death. The boy kissed him in return, and told him
the room had been full of water, and dada and mamma had gone out at
the window, and they themselves had floated in the bed so high he
had put his little sister on the top shelf, and got on it himself,
and then they had both felt very sleepy.
"You are a dear good boy, and I take you into custody," said
Ransome, in a broken voice.
Judge if this pair were petted, up at the Town Hall.
At Poma Bridge the devastation was horrible. The flood had
bombarded a row of fifty houses, and demolished them so utterly that
only one arch of one cellar remained; the very foundations were torn
up, and huge holes of incredible breadth and depth bored by the
Where were the inhabitants?
Ransome stood and looked and shook like a man in an ague.
"Little," said he, "this is awful. Nobody in Hillsborough dreams
the extent of this calamity. I DREAD THE DAWN OF DAY. There must
be scores of dead bodies hidden in this thick mud, or perhaps swept
through Hillsborough into the very sea."
A little further, and they came to the "Reindeer," where he had
heard the boon-companions singing--over their graves; for that
night, long before the "cock did craw, or the day daw," their mouths
were full of water and mud, and not the "barley bree."
To know their fate needed but a glance at the miserable, shattered,
gutted fragment of the inn that stood. There was a chimney, a
triangular piece of roof, a quarter of the inside of one second-
floor room, with all the boards gone and half the joists gone, and
the others either hanging down perpendicular or sticking up at an
angle of forty-five. Even on the side furthest from the flood the
water had hacked and plowed away the wall so deeply, that the
miserable wreck had a jagged waist, no bigger in proportion than a
Not far from this amazing ruin was a little two-storied house, whose
four rooms looked exactly, as four rooms are represented in section
on the stage, the front wall having been blown clean away, and the
furniture and inmates swept out; the very fender and fire-irons had
been carried away: a bird-cage, a clock, and a grate were left
hanging to the three walls.
As a part of this village stood on high ground, the survivors were
within reach of relief; and Little gave a policeman orders to buy
clothes at the shop, and have them charged to him.
This done, he begged Ransome to cross the water, and relieve the
poor wretches who had escaped so narrowly with him. Ransome
consented at once; but then came a difficulty--the bridge, like
every bridge that the flying lake had struck, was swept away.
However, the stream was narrow, and, as they were already muddy to
the knee, they found a place where the miscellaneous ruin made
stepping-stones, and by passing first on to a piece of masonry, and
from that to a broken water-wheel, and then on to a rock, they got
They passed the coiner's house. It stood on rather high ground, and
had got off cheap. The water had merely carried away the door and
windows, and washed every movable out of it.
Ransome sighed. "Poor Shifty!" said he; "you'll never play us
another trick. What an end for a man of your abilities!"
And now the day began to dawn, and that was fortunate, for otherwise
they could hardly have found the house they were going to.
On the way to it they came on two dead bodies, an old man of eighty
and a child scarce a week old. One fate had united these extremes
of human life, the ripe sheaf and the spring bud. It transpired
afterward that they had been drowned in different parishes. Death,
that brought these together, disunited hundreds. Poor Dolman's body
was found scarce a mile from his house, but his wife's eleven miles
on the other side of Hillsborough; and this wide separation of those
who died in one place by one death, was constant, and a pitiable
feature of the tragedy.
At last they got to the house, and Little shuddered at the sight of
it; here not only was the whole front wall taken out, but a part of
the back wall; the jagged chimneys of the next house still clung to
this miserable shell, whose upper floors were slanting sieves, and
on its lower was a deep layer of mud, with the carcass of a huge sow
lying on it, washed in there all the way from Hatfield village.
The people had all run away from the house, and no wonder, for it
seemed incredible that it could stand a single moment longer; never
had ruin come so close to demolition and then stopped.
There was nothing to be done here, and Ransome went back to
Hillsborough, keeping this side the water.
Daybreak realized his worst fears: between Poma Bridge and the first
suburb of Hillsborough the place was like a battle-field; not that
many had been drowned on the spot, but that, drowned all up the
valley by the flood at its highest, they had been brought down and
deposited in the thick layer of mud left by the abating waters.
Some were cruelly gashed and mangled by the hard objects with which
they had come in contact. Others wore a peaceful expression and had
color in their cheeks. One drew tears from both these valiant men.
It was a lovely little girl, with her little hands before her face
to keep out the sight of death.
Here and there, a hand or a ghastly face appearing above the mud
showed how many must be hidden altogether, and Ransome hurried home
to get more assistance to disinter the dead.
Just before the suburb of Allerton the ground is a dead flat, and
here the flying lake had covered a space a mile broad, doing
frightful damage to property but not much to life, because wherever
it expanded it shallowed in proportion.
In part of this flat a gentleman had a beautiful garden and
pleasure-grounds overnight: they were now under water, and their
appearance was incredible; the flood expanding here and then
contracting, had grounded large objects and left small ones
floating. In one part of the garden it had landed a large wheat-
rick, which now stood as if it belonged there, though it had been
built five miles off.
In another part was an inverted summer-house and a huge water-wheel,
both of them great travelers that night.
In the large fish-pond, now much fuller than usual, floated a wheel-
barrow, a hair mattress, an old wooden cradle, and an enormous box
Little went splashing through the water to examine the cradle: he
was richly rewarded. He found a little child in it awake but
perfectly happy, and enjoying the fluttering birds above and the
buoyant bed below, whose treacherous nature was unknown to him.
This incident the genius of my friend Mr. Millais is about to render
Little's shout of delight brought Ransome splashing over directly.
They took up the cradle and contents to carry it home, when all of a
sudden Ransome's eye detected a finger protruding through a hole in
"Hallo!" said he. "Why, there's a body inside that box."
"Good heavens!" said Little, "he may be alive."
With that he made a rush and went in over head and ears.
"Confound it" said he as soon as he got his breath. But, being in
for it now, he swam to the box, and getting behind it, shoved it
before him to Ransome's feet.
Ransome tried to open it, but it shut with a spring. However, there
were air-holes, and still this finger sticking out of one--for a
signal no doubt.
"Are ye alive or dead?" shouted Ransome to the box. "Let me out and
you'll see," replied the box; and the sound seemed to issue from the
bowels of the earth.
Little had his hatchet in his pocket and set to work to try and open
it. The occupant assisted him with advice how to proceed, all of
which sounded subterraneous.
"Hold your jaw!" said Little. "Do you think you can teach me?"
By a considerable exertion of strength as well as skill, he at last
got the box open, and discovered the occupant seated pale and
chattering, with knees tucked up.
The two men lent him a hand to help him up; Ransome gave a slight
start, and then expressed the warmest satisfaction.
"Thank Heaven!" said he. "Shake hands, old fellow. I'm downright
glad. I've been groaning over you: but I might have known you'd
find some way to slip out of trouble. Mr. Little, this is Shifty
himself. Please put your arm under his; he is as strong as iron,
and as slippery as an eel."
The Shifty, hearing this account given of himself, instantly
collapsed, and made himself weak as water, and tottered from one of
his guards to the other in turn.
"I was all that once, Mr. Ransome," said he, in a voice that became
suddenly as feeble as his body, "but this fearful night has changed
me. Miraculously preserved from destruction, I have renounced my
errors, and vowed to lead a new life. Conduct me at once to a
clergyman, that I may confess and repent, and disown my past life
with horror; then swear me in a special constable, and let me have
the honor of acting under your orders, and of co-operating with you,
sir" (to Little), "in your Christian and charitable acts. Let me go
about with you, gentlemen, and relieve the sufferings of others, as
you have relieved mine."
"There," said Ransome, proudly; "there's a man for you. He knows
every move of the game--can patter like an archbishop." So saying,
he handcuffed the Shifty with such enthusiasm that the convert swore
a horrible oath at him.
Ransome apologized, and beckoning a constable, handed him the
"Take him to the Town Hall, and give him every comfort. He is
This man's escape was not so strange as it appeared. The flood
never bombarded his house--he was only on the hem of it. It rose
and filled his house, whereupon he bored three holes in his great
chest, and got in. He washed about the room till the abating flood
contracted, and then it sucked him and his box out of the window.
He got frightened, and let the lid down, and so drifted about till
at last he floated into the hands of justice.
Little and Ransome carried the child away, and it was conveyed to
the hospital and a healthy nurse assigned it.
Ransome prevailed on Little to go home, change his wet clothes and
lie down for an hour or two. He consented, but first gave Ransome
an order to lay out a thousand pounds, at his expense, in relief of
Then he went home, sent a message to Raby Hall, that he was all
right, took off his clothes, rolled exhausted into bed, and slept
till the afternoon.
At four o'clock he rose, got into a hansom, and drove up to Woodbine
Villa, the happiest man in England.
He inquired for Miss Carden. The man said he believed she was not
up, but would inquire.
"Do," said Little. "Tell her who it is. I'll wait in the dining-
He walked into the dining-room before the man could object, and
there he found a sick gentleman, with Dr. Amboyne and a surgeon
examining him. The patient lay on a sofa, extremely pale, and
groaning with pain.
One glance sufficed. It was Frederick Coventry.
"What! you alive?" said Little, staring.
"Alive, and that is all," said Coventry. "Pray excuse me for not
dying to please you."
Ere Little could reply, Mr. Carden, who had heard of his arrival,
looked in from the library, and beckoned him in.
When they were alone, he began by giving the young man his hand, and
then thanked him warmly for his daughter. "You have shown yourself
a hero in courage. Now go one step further; be a hero in fortitude
and self-denial; that unhappy man in the next room is her husband;
like you, he risked his life to save her. He tells me he heard the
dam was going to burst, and came instantly with a ladder to rescue
her. He was less fortunate than you, and failed to rescue her; less
fortunate than you again, he has received a mortal injury in that
attempt. It was I who found him; I went down distracted with
anxiety, to look for my daughter; I found this poor creature jammed
tight between the tree he was upon and a quantity of heavy timber
that had accumulated and rested against a bank. We released him
with great difficulty. It was a long time before he could speak;
and then, his first inquiry was after HER. Show some pity for an
erring man, Mr. Little; some consideration for my daughter's
reputation. Let him die in peace: his spine is broken; he can't
live many days."
Little heard all this and looked down on the ground for some time in
silence. At last he said firmly, "Mr. Carden, I would not be
inhuman to a dying man; but you were always his friend, and never
mine. Let me see HER, and I'll tell her what you say, and take her
"You shall see her, of course; but not just now. She is in bed,
attended by a Sister of Charity, whom she telegraphed for."
"Can I see that lady?"
Sister Gratiosa was sent for, and, in reply to Little's anxious
inquiries, told him that Sister Amata had been very much shaken by
the terrible events of the night, and absolute repose was necessary
to her. In further conversation she told him she was aware of
Sister Amata's unhappy story, and had approved her retirement from
Hillsborough, under all the circumstances; but that now, after much
prayer to God for enlightenment, she could not but think it was the
Sister's duty, as a Christian woman, to stay at home and nurse the
afflicted man whose name she bore, and above all devote herself to
his spiritual welfare.
"Oh, that is your notion, is it?" said Henry. "Then you are no
friend of mine."
"I am no enemy of yours, nor of any man, I hope. May I ask you one
question, without offense?"
"Have you prayed to God to guide you in this difficulty?"
"Then seek his throne without delay; and, until you have done so, do
not rashly condemn my views of this matter, since I have sought for
wisdom where alone it is to be found."
Henry chafed under this; but he commanded his temper, though with
difficulty, and said, "Will you take a line to her from me?"
The Sister hesitated. "I don't know whether I ought," said she.
"Oh, then the old game of intercepting letters is to be played."
"Not by me: after prayer I shall be able to say Yes or No to your
request. At present, being at a distance from my Superior, I must
"Right and wrong must have made very little impression on your mind,
if you don't know whether you ought to take a letter to a woman from
a man who has just saved her life--or not."
The lady colored highly, courtesied, and retired without a word.
Little knew enough of human nature to see that the Sister would not
pray against feminine spite; he had now a dangerous enemy in the
house, and foresaw that Grace would be steadily worked on through
her religious sentiments.
He went away, sick with disappointment, jealousy, and misgivings,
hired a carriage, and drove at once to Raby Hall.
Mrs. Little saw her son arrive, met him in the hall, and embraced
him, with a great cry of maternal joy, that did his heart good for a
He had to tell her all; and, during the recital, she often clasped
him to her bosom.
When he had told her all, she said: "Much as I love you, darling, I
am ready to part with you for good: there is a cure for all your
griefs; there is a better woman in this house than ever Grace Carden
was or will be. Be a man; shake off these miserable trammels; leave
that vacillating girl to nurse her villain, and marry the one I have
chosen for you."
Henry shook his head. "What! when a few months perhaps will free my
Grace from her incumbrance. Mother, you are giving me bad advice
"Unwelcome advice, dear, not bad. Will you consult Dr. Amboyne? he
sleeps here to-night. He often comes here now, you know." Then the
widow colored just a little.
"Oh yes, I know; and I approve."
Dr. Amboyne came to dinner. In the course of the evening he
mentioned his patient Coventry, and said he would never walk again,
his spine was too seriously injured.
"How soon will he die? that is what I want to know," said Henry,
with that excessive candor which the polite reader has long ago
discovered in him, and been shocked.
"Oh, he may live for years. But what a life! An inert mass below
the waist, and, above it, a sick heart, and a brain as sensitive as
ever to realize the horrid calamity. Even I, who know and abhor the
man's crimes, shudder at the punishment Heaven inflicts on him."
There was dead silence round the table, and Little was observed to
He was gloomy and silent all the evening.
Next morning, directly after breakfast, his mother got him, and
implored him not to waste his youth any longer.
"The man will never die," said she: "he will wear you out. You have
great energy and courage; but you have not a woman's humble
patience, to go on, year after year, waiting for an event you can
not hasten by a single moment. Do you not see it is hopeless? End
your misery by one brave plunge. Speak to dear Jael."
"I can't--I can't!"
"Then let me."
"Will it make you happy?"
"Very happy. Nothing else can."
"Will it make her happy?"
"As happy as a queen."
"She deserves a better fate."
"She asks no better. There, unless you stop me, I shall speak to
"Well, well," said Henry, very wearily.
Mrs. Little went to the door.
"Wait a moment," said he. "How about Uncle Raby? He has been a
good friend to me. I have offended him once, and it was the worst
job I ever did. I won't offend him again."
"How can you offend him by marrying Jael?"
"What, have you forgotten how angry he was when Mr. Richard Raby
proposed to her? There, I'll go and speak to him."
He was no sooner gone than Mrs. Little stepped into Jael's room, and
told her how matters stood.
Jael looked dismayed, and begged her on no account to proceed:
"For," said she, "if Mr. Henry was to ask me, I should say No. He
would always be hankering after Miss Carden: and, pray don't be
angry with me, but I think I'm worth a man's whole heart; for I
could love one very dearly, if he loved me."
Mrs. Little was deeply mortified. "This I did NOT expect," said
she. "Well, if you are all determined to be miserable--BE."
Henry hunted up Mr. Raby, and asked him bluntly whether he would
like him to marry Jael Dence.
Raby made no reply for some time, and his features worked strangely.
"Has she consented to be your wife?"
"I have never asked her. But I will, if you wish it."
"Why, sir, if you don't wish it, please forbid it, and let us say no
more at all about it."
"Excuse me," said Raby, with his grandest air: "a gentleman may
dislike a thing, yet not condescend to forbid it."
"That is true, sir; and an ex-workman may appreciate his delicacy,
and give the thing up at once. I will die a bachelor."
"Henry, my boy, give me your hand--I'll tell you the truth. I love
her myself. She is a pattern of all I admire in woman."
"Uncle, I suspected this, to tell the truth. Well, if you love her--
"What, without her consent?"
"Oh, she will consent. Order her to marry you: she will never
disobey the Lord of the Manor."
"That is what I fear: and it is base to take advantage of her in
"You are right, sir," said Henry, and ran off directly.
He found Jael, and said, "Jael, dear, couldn't you like Uncle Raby?
he loves you dearly."
He then appealed to her heart, and spoke of his uncle's nobleness in
fearing to obtain an unfair advantage over her.
To his surprise, Jael blushed deeply, and her face softened
angelically, and presently a tear ran down it.
"Hallo!" said Henry. "That is the game, is it? You stay here."
He ran back to Mr. Raby, and said: "I've made a discovery. She
loves you, sir. I'll take my oath of it. You go and ask her."
"I will," said Raby; and he went to Jael, like a man, and said,
"Jael, he has found me out; I love you dearly. I'm old, but I'm not
cold. Do you think you could be happy as my wife, with all the
young fellows admiring you?"
"Sir" said Jael, "I wouldn't give your little finger for all the
young men in Christendom. Once I thought a little too much of Mr.
Henry, but that was over long ago. And since you saved my life, and
cried over me in this very room, you have been in my head and in my
heart; but I wouldn't show it; for I had vowed I never would let any
man know my heart till he showed me his."
In short, this pair were soon afterward seen walking arm in arm,
radiant with happiness.
That sight was too much for Henry Little. The excitement of doing a
kind thing, and making two benefactors happy, had borne him up till
now; but the reaction came: the contrast of their happiness with his
misery was too poignant. He had not even courage to bid them good-
by, but fled back to Hillsborough, in anguish of spirit and deep
When he got home, there was a note from Grace Carden.
"MY OWN DEAREST HENRY,--I find that you have called, and been denied
me; and that Mr. Coventry has been admitted into the house.
"I have therefore left Woodbine Villa, and taken lodgings opposite.
Sister Gratiosa has convinced me I ought to labor for the eternal
welfare of the guilty, unhappy man whose name it is my misfortune to
bear. I will try to do so: but nobody shall either compel, or
persuade me, to be cruel to my dear Henry, to whom I owe my life
once more, and who is all the world to me. I shall now be employed
nearly all the day, but I reserve two hours, from three till five,
when you will always find me at home. Our course is clear. We must
pray for patience.
"Yours to eternity, GRACE."
After reading this letter, and pondering it well, Henry Little's
fortitude revived, and, as he could not speak his mind to Grace at
that moment, he wrote to her, after some hours of reflection, as
"MY OWN DEAREST GRACE,--I approve, I bless you. Our case is hard,
but not desperate. We have been worse off than we are now. I agree
with you that our course is clear; what we have got to do, as I
understand it, is to outlive a crippled scoundrel. Well, love and a
clear conscience will surely enable us to outlive a villain, whose
spine is injured, and whose conscience must gnaw him, and who has no
creature's love to nourish him.
"Yours in this world, and, I hope, in the next,
Sister Gratiosa, to oblige Grace stayed at Woodbine Villa. She was
always present at any interview of Coventry and Grace.
Little softened her, by giving her money whenever she mentioned a
case of distress. She had but this one pleasure in life, a pure
one, and her poverty had always curbed it hard. She began to pity
this poor sinner, who was ready to pour his income into her lap for
And so the days rolled on. Raby took into his head to repair the
old church, and be married in it. This crotchet postponed his
happiness for some months.
But the days and weeks rolled on.
Raby became Sheriff of the county.
Coventry got a little better, and moved to the next villa.
Then Grace returned at once to Woodbine Villa; but she still paid
charitable visits with Sister Gratiosa to the wreck whose name she
She was patient.
But Little, the man of action, began to faint.
He decided to return to the United States for a year or two, and
distract his mind.
When he communicated this resolve, Grace sighed.
"The last visit there was disastrous," said she. "But," recovering
herself, "we can not be deceived again, nor doubt each other's
constancy again." So she sighed, but consented.
Coventry heard of it, and chuckled inwardly. He felt sure that in
time he should wear out his rival's patience.
A week or two more, and Little named the very day for sailing.
The Assizes came on. The Sheriff met the Judges with great pomp,
and certain observances which had gone out. This pleased the Chief
Justice; he had felt a little nervous; Raby's predecessor had met
him in a carriage and pair and no outriders, and he had felt it his
duty to fine the said Sheriff L100 for so disrespecting the Crown in
So now, alluding to this, he said, "Mr. Sheriff, I am glad to find
you hold by old customs, and do not grudge outward observances to
the Queen's justices."
"My lord," said the Sheriff, "I can hardly show enough respect to
justice and learning, when they visit in the name of my sovereign."
"That is very well said, Mr. Sheriff," said my lord.
The Sheriff bowed.
The Chief Justice was so pleased with his appearance, and his
respectful yet dignified manner, that he conversed with him
repeatedly during the pauses of the trials.
Little was cording his boxes for America when Ransome burst in on
him, and said, "Come into court; come into court. Shifty Dick will
be up directly."
Little objected that he was busy; but Ransome looked so mortified
that he consented, and was just in in time to see Richard Martin,
alias Lord Daventree, alias Tom Paine, alias Sir Harry Gulstone,
alias the Quaker, alias Shifty Dick, etc., etc., appear at the bar.
The indictment was large, and charged the prisoner with various
frauds of a felonious character, including his two frauds on the
Counsel made a brief exposition of the facts, and then went into the
evidence. But here the strict, or, as some think, pedantic rules of
English evidence, befriended the prisoner, and the Judge objected to
certain testimony on which the prosecution had mainly relied. As
for the evidence of coining, the flood had swept all that away.
Ransome, who was eager for a conviction, began to look blue.
But presently a policeman, who had been watching the prisoner, came
and whispered in his ear.
Up started Ransome, wrote the Crown solicitor a line, begging him to
keep the case on its legs anyhow for half an hour, and giving his
reason. He then dashed off in a cab.
The case proceeded, under discouraging remarks from the Judge, most
of them addressed to the evidence; but he also hinted that the
indictment was rather loosely drawn.
At last the Attorney-General, who led, began to consult with his
junior whether they could hope for a conviction.
But now there was a commotion; then heads were put together, and, to
the inexpressible surprise of young Little and of the Sheriff, Grace
Coventry was put into the witness-box.
At the sight of her the learned Judge, who was, like most really
great lawyers, a keen admirer of beautiful women, woke up, and
After the usual preliminaries, counsel requested her to look at that
man, and say whether she knew him.
Grace looked, and recognized him. "Yes," said she, "it is Mr.
Beresford; he is a clergyman."
Whereupon there was a loud laugh.
Counsel. "What makes you think he is a clergyman?"
Witness. "I have seen him officiate. It was he who married me to
Mr.--" Here she caught sight of Henry, and stopped, blushing.
"What is that?" said the Judge, keenly. "Did you say that man
performed the marriage ceremony over you?"
"Yes, my lord."
"When and where was that?"
She gave the time and place.
"I should like to see the register of that parish."
"Let me save you the trouble," said the prisoner. "Your lordship's
time has been wasted enough with falsehoods; I will not waste it
further by denying the truth. The fact is, my lord, I was always a
great churchgoer (a laugh), and I was disgusted with the way in
which the clergy deliver the Liturgy, and with their hollow
discourses, that don't go home to men's bosoms. Vanity whispered,
'You could do better.' I applied for the curacy of St. Peter's. I
obtained it. I gave universal satisfaction; and no wonder; my heart
was in the work; I trembled at the responsibility I had undertaken.
Yes, my lord, I united that young lady in holy matrimony to one
Frederick Coventry. I had no sooner done it, than I began to
realize that a clergyman is something more than a reader and a
preacher. Remorse seized me. My penitence, once awakened, was
sincere. I retired from the sacred office I had usurped--with much
levity, I own, but, as heaven is my witness, with no guilty intent."
The Judge, to Grace. "Did you ever see the prisoner on any other
Grace. "Only once. He called on me after my marriage. He left the
town soon after."
The Judge then turned to Grace, and said, with considerable feeling,
"It would be unkind to disguise the truth from you. You must
petition Parliament to sanction this marriage by a distinct
enactment; it is the invariable course, and Parliament has never
refused to make these marriages binding. Until then, pray
understand that you are Miss Carden, and not Mrs. Coventry."
The witness clasped her hands above her bead, uttered a loud scream
of joy, and was removed all but insensible from the box.
The Judge looked amazed. The Sheriff whispered, "Her hushand is a
greater scoundrel than this prisoner."
Soon after this the Judge withdrew to luncheon, and took the Sheriff
along with him. "Mr. Sheriff," said he, "you said something to me
in court I hardly understood."
Then Raby gave the Judge a brief outline of the whole story, and, in
a voice full of emotion, asked his advice.
The Judge smiled at this bit of simplicity; but his heart had been
touched, and he had taken a fancy to Raby. "Mr. Sheriff," said he,
"etiquette forbids me to advise you--"
"I am sorry for that, my lord."
"But humanity suggests-- Tell me, now, does this Coventry hold to
her? Will he petition Parliament?"
"It is very possible, my lord."
"Humph! Get a special license, and marry Grace Carden to Henry
Little, and have the marriage consummated. Don't lose a day, nor an
hour. I will not detain you, Mr. Sheriff."
Raby took the hint, and soon found Henry, and told him the advice he
had got. He set him to work to get the license, and, being resolved
to stand no nonsense, he drove to Grace, and invited her to Raby
Hall. "I am to be married this week," said he, "and you must be at
Grace thought he would be hurt if she refused, so she colored a
little, but consented.
She packed up, with many a deep sigh, things fit for a wedding, and
Raby drove her home. He saw her to her room, and then had a
conversation with Mrs. Little, the result of which was that Henry's
mother received her with well-feigned cordiality.
Next day Henry came to dinner, and, after dinner, the lovers were
left alone. This, too, had been arranged beforehand.
Henry told her he was going to ask her a great favor; would she
consider all they had suffered, and, laying aside childish delays,
be married to him in the old church to-morrow, along with Mr. Raby
and Jael Dence?
Oh, then she trembled, and blushed, and hesitated; and faltered out,
"What! all in a moment like that? what would your mother think of me?"
Henry ran for his mother, and brought her into the room.
"Mother," said he, "Grace wants to know what you will think of her,
if she should lay aside humbug and marry me to-morrow?"
Mrs. Little replied, "I shall say, here is a dear child, who has
seen what misery may spring from delay, and so now she will not
coquet with her own happiness, nor trifle with yours."
"No, no," said Grace; "only tell me you will forgive my folly, and
love me as your child."
Mrs. Little caught her in her arms, and, in that attitude, Grace
gave her hand to Henry, and whispered "Yes."
Next day, at eleven o'clock, the two couples went to the old church,
and walked up the aisle to the altar. Grace looked all around.
Raby had effaced every trace of Henry's sacrilege from the building;
but not from the heart of her whose life he had saved on that very
She stood at the altar, weeping at the recollections the place
revived, but they were tears of joy. The parson of the parish, a
white-haired old man, the model of a pastor, married the two couples
according to the law of England.
Raby took his wife home, more majorum.
Little whirled his prize off to Scotland, and human felicity has
seldom equaled his and his bride's.
Yet in the rapture of conjugal bliss, she did not forget duty and
filial affection. She wrote a long and tender letter to her father,
telling him how it all happened, and hoping that she should soon be
settled, and then he would come and live with her and her adored
Mr. Carden was delighted with this letter, which, indeed, was one
gush of love and happiness. He told Coventry what had taken place,
and counseled patience.
Coventry broke out into curses. He made wonderful efforts for a man
in his condition; he got lawyers to prepare a petition to
Parliament; he had the register inspected, and found that the Shifty
had married two poor couples; he bribed them to join in his
petition, and inserted in it that, in consideration of this
marriage, he had settled a certain farm and buildings on his wife
for her separate use, and on her heirs forever.
The petition was read in Parliament, and no objection taken. It was
considered a matter of course.
But, a few days afterward, one of the lawyers in the House, primed
by a person whose name I am not free to mention, recurred to the
subject, and said that, as regarded one of these couples, too
partial a statement had been laid before the House; he was credibly
informed that the parties had separated immediately after the
ceremony, and that the bride had since been married, according to
law, to a gentleman who possessed her affections, and had lived with
him ever since the said marriage.
On this another lawyer got up, and said that "if that was so, the
petition must be abandoned. Parliament was humane, and would
protect an illegal marriage per se, but not an illegal marriage
competing with a legal one, that would be to tamper with the law of
England, and, indeed, with morality; would compel a woman to
adultery in her own despite."
This proved a knock-down blow; and the petition was dropped, as
respected Frederick Coventry and Grace Little.
Coventry's farm was returned to him, and the settlement canceled.
Little sent Ransome to him with certain memoranda, and warned him to
keep quiet, or he would be indicted for felony.
He groaned and submitted.
He lives still to expiate his crimes.
While I write these lines, there still stands at Poma Bridge one
disemboweled house, to mark that terrible flood: and even so, this
human survivor lives a wreck. "Below the waist an inert mass; above
it, a raging, impotent, despairing criminal." He often prays for
death. Since he can pray for any thing let us hope he will one day
pray for penitence and life everlasting.
Little built a house in the suburbs leading to Raby Hall. There is
a forge in the yard, in which the inventor perfects his inventions
with his own hand. He is a wealthy man, and will be wealthier for
he lives prudently and is never idle.
Mr. Carden lives with him. Little is too happy with Grace to bear
malice against her father.
Grace is lovelier than ever, and blissfully happy in the husband she
adores, and two lovely children.
Guy Raby no longer calls life one disappointment: he has a loving
and prudent wife, and loves her as she deserves; his olive branches
are rising fast around him; and as sometimes happens to a benedict
of his age, who has lived soberly, he looks younger, feels younger,
talks younger, behaves younger than he did ten years before he
married. He is quite unconscious that he has departed from his
favorite theories, in wedding a yeoman's daughter. On the contrary,
he believes he has acted on a system, and crossed the breed so
judiciously as to attain greater physical perfection by means of a
herculean dam, yet retain that avitam fidem, or traditional loyalty,
which (to use his own words) "is born both in Rabys and Dences, as
surely as a high-bred setter comes into the world with a nose for
Mrs. Little has rewarded Dr. Amboyne's patience and constancy. They
have no children of their own, so they claim all the young Littles
and Rabys, present and to come; and the doctor has bound both the
young women by a solemn vow to teach them, at an early age, the art
of putting themselves into his place, her place, their place. He
has convinced these young mothers that the "great transmigratory
art," although it comes of itself only to a few superior minds, can
be taught to vast numbers; and he declares that, were it to be
taught as generally as reading and writing, that teaching alone
would quadruple the intelligence of mankind, and go far to double
But time flies, and space contracts: the words and the deeds of
Amboyne, are they not written in the Amboyniana?
One foggy night, the house of a non-Union fender-grinder was blown
up with gunpowder, and not the workman only--the mildest and most
inoffensive man I ever talked with--but certain harmless women and
innocent children, who had done nothing to offend the Union, were
all but destroyed. The same barbarous act had been committed more
than once before, and with more bloody results, but had led to no
large consequences--carebat quai vate sacro; but this time there
happened to be a vates in the place, to wit, an honest, intrepid
journalist, with a mind in advance of his age. He came, he looked,
he spoke to the poor shaken creatures--one of them shaken for life,
and doomed now to start from sleep at every little sound till she
sleeps forever--and the blood in his heart boiled. The felony was
publicly reprobated, and with horror, by the Union, which had,
nevertheless, hired the assassins; but this well-worn lie did not
impose on the vates, or chronicler ahead of his time. He went round
to all the manufacturers, and asked them to speak out. They durst
not, for their lives; but closed all doors, and then, with bated
breath, and all the mien of slaves well trodden down, hinted where
information might be had. Thereupon the vates aforesaid--Holdfast
yclept--went from scent to scent, till he dropped on a discontented
grinder, with fish-like eyes, who had been in "many a night job."
This man agreed to split, on two conditions; he was to receive a sum
of money, and to be sent into another hemisphere, since his life
would not be worth a straw, if he told the truth about the Trades in
this one. His terms were accepted, and then he made some tremendous
revelations and, with these in his possession, Holdfast wrote leader
upon leader, to prove that the Unions must have been guilty of every
Trade outrage that had taken place for years in the district; but
adroitly concealing that he had positive information.
Grotait replied incautiously, and got worsted before the public.
The ablest men, if not writers, are unwise to fence writers.
Holdfast received phonetic letters threatening his life: he
acknowledged them in his journal and invited the writers to call.
He loaded a revolver and went on writing the leaders with a finger
on the trigger. CALIFORNIA! Oh, dear, no: the very center of
Ransome co-operated with him and collected further evidence, and
then Holdfast communicated privately with a portion of the London
press, and begged them to assist him to obtain a Royal commission of
inquiry, in which case he pledged himself to prove that a whole
string of murders and outrages had been ordered and paid for by the
very Unions which had publicly repudiated them in eloquent terms,
and been believed.
The London press took this up; two or three members of the House of
Commons, wild, eccentric men, who would not betray their country to
secure their re-election to some dirty borough, sided with outraged
law; and by these united efforts a Commission was obtained. The
Commission sat, and, being conducted with rare skill and
determination, squeezed out of an incredible mass of perjury some
terrible truths, whose discovery drew eloquent leaders from the
journals; these filled simple men, who love their country, with a
hope that the Government of this nation would shake off its
lethargy, and take stringent measures to defend the liberty of the
subject against so cruel and cowardly a conspiracy, and to deprive
the workmen, in their differences with the masters, of an unfair and
sanguinary weapon, which the masters could use, but never have as
YET; and, by using which, the workmen do themselves no lasting good,
and, indeed, have driven whole trades and much capital out of the
oppressed districts, to their own great loss.
That hope, though not extinct, is fainter now than it was. Matters
seem going all the other way. An honest, independent man, who did
honor to the senate, has lost his seat solely for not conniving at
these Trades outrages, which the hypocrites, who have voted him out,
pretend to denounce. Foul play is still rampant and triumphant.
Its victims were sympathized with for one short day, when they bared
their wounds to the Royal Commissioners; but that sympathy has
deserted them; they are now hidden in holes and corners from their
oppressors, and have to go by false names, and are kept out of work;
for odisse quem loeseris is the fundamental maxim of their
oppressors. Not so the assassins: they flourish. I have seen with
these eyes one savage murderer employed at high wages, while a man
he all but destroyed is refused work on all hands, and was separated
by dire poverty from another scarred victim, his wife, till I
brought them together. Again, I have seen a wholesale murderer
employed on the very machine he had been concerned in blowing up,
employed on it at the wages of three innoxious curates. And I find
this is the rule, not the exception. "No punishment but for already
punished innocence; no safety but for triumphant crime."
The Executive is fast asleep in the matter--or it would long ago
have planted the Manchester district with a hundred thousand special
constables--and the globule of LEGISLATION now prescribed to
Parliament, though excellent in certain respects, is null in others,
would, if passed into law, rather encourage the intimidation of one
man by twenty, and make him starve his family to save his skin--
cruel alternative--and would not seriously check the darker and more
bloody outrages, nor prevent their spreading from their present
populous centers all over the land. Seeing these things, I have
drawn my pen against cowardly assassination and sordid tyranny; I
have taken a few undeniable truths, out of many, and have labored to
make my readers realize those appalling facts of the day which most
men know, but not one in a thousand comprehends, and not one in a
hundred thousand REALIZES, until Fiction--which, whatever you may
have been told to the contrary, is the highest, widest, noblest, and
greatest of all the arts--comes to his aid, studies, penetrates,
digests the hard facts of chronicles and blue-books, and makes their
dry bones live.