Part 4 out of 13
This piteous appeal set Jael's wits working. "Eh, father, it will
be the first of her bans!"
"Is it me you are asking such a question?" cried Patty, and turned
her head away with absurd mock-modesty.
"And so 'tis," said Dence; "ah, that is a different thing."
Henry thought that was no reason for Patty's staying at home; she
ought rather to go and hear the bans were cried all right.
At this proposal both sisters lifted up their hands, and he was
remonstrated with, and lectured, and at last informed that, if a
girl was in church when her bans were cried, her children would be
all born deaf and dumb.
"Oh, indeed!" said Little, satirically. "That's a fact in natural
history I was not aware of. Well, farmer, then let's you and I go
So Patty stayed at home, in obedience to rural superstition, and
Jael stayed to keep her company, and Farmer Dence went to church out
of piety; and as for Henry, to tell the truth, he went to church to
escape the girls' tongues, and to be in a quiet, somniferous place,
where he could think out his plans undisturbed.
The men were no sooner gone than the sisters began to gossip hard.
"Eh, Jael, thou's gotten a prize."
"Not as I know of."
"I do adore a dark young man."
"So do I; but this one is not mine."
"I'll take his word before thine. Why, he calls thee his lass in
his very letter."
"Not he. Show me his letter."
"What will ye give me?"
"Nay, Patty, pray show it me."
"Well, and so I will."
She brought her the letter. Jael read it and changed color, and was
delighted for a moment or two; but soon her good sense and humility
prevailed. "'Twas to surprise you, like. I do know he looks higher
"More fool he. But I don't believe it."
"You may," said Jael, and turned the conversation to Patty's
approaching marriage; once launched in that direction, it flowed
without intermission till the men returned, and dinner smoked upon
After dinner Henry watched an opportunity, and slipped out into the
yard, got the tools out, put his great-coat over them, and away to
Cairnhope Church. He knew better than go past Raby Hall to it: he
went back toward Hillsborough, full three miles, and then turned off
the road and got on the heather. He skirted the base of a heathery
mound, and at last saw the church on an elevation before him, made
for it incautiously over some boggy ground, and sank in up to his
He extricated himself with considerable difficulty, and cast a woful
look at his clothes.
Then he turned to, and piled up a heap of stones to mark the
dangerous spot; for he foresaw he must often travel that way in all
weathers. At last he reached the church, removed the lock, and
fastened the door with screws. He then went back to the farm as
fast as he could. But all this had taken a long time, and the sun
was sinking as he got into the yard. He was in the very act of
concealing the lock in the gig, when Martha Dence came out at him,
as red as a turkey-cock.
"You thought but little of my sister, young man, to leave her all
these hours, and you come out to spend the day with her."
"Stuff and nonsense! I came out on my own business."
"So it seems. And it have taken you into worse company. A fine
figure she has made you."
"The hussy you have been after this while."
"That's so like you girls. You think a man has nothing to do but to
run after women."
"What business can you have on the Sabbath-day, I'd like to know."
"Would you? Well, I'll tell you--when I tell the bellman."
"You are quite right, Mr. Little. Trust none but your friends."
This was a bitter remark. Henry could not reply to it, and that
moved his bile. Patty pursued her advantage, and let him know that,
when a young man brought a young woman out for the day, he did not
leave her for three hours at a stretch, unless he meant to affront
her. She raised her voice in saying this, and so did he in
replying, "Tell you I came out on my own business, not Jael's; but I
am a good-natured fellow, considering all I endure, so I took that
opportunity to bring your sister out to see you. Could I guess you
two couldn't make yourselves happy for one afternoon without
flirting? So much for sisterly affection! Well, next time I'll
come alone--if I come at all."
Jael came out at the raised voices, and received this last sentence
full in the face. She turned pale.
"Oh, Patty, Patty, what have you been saying?"
"I've been speaking my mind, that is all."
"Ay, and you've made him say the only unkind word I ever heard from
"I'm very sorry, Jael," said the young man, penitently.
"Oh, then I'm to blame, because he is so ill-tempered." And Patty
"Partly. You should not interfere between friends." Having
delivered this admonition, Jael softened it by kissing her, and
whispered, "Father's asking for his tea."
Patty went in as meek as Moses.
Then Jael turned to Henry, and laid her hand on his arm, while her
gray eyes searched his face.
"There's something amiss. You are never cross, except when you are
unhappy. What is it?"
"Oh, Jael, my heart is broken. She is going to be married."
"Who says so?"
"Mr. Cheetham told me she was engaged to a Mr. Coventry."
"What can Mr. Cheetham know? To be sure the gentleman is a good
deal with her, and I hear he has courted her this two years; and she
likes his company, that's certain. But she is used to be admired,
and she is very hard to please."
"What, then, you think it is not quite hopeless?"
"While there's life there's hope."
"What had I better do?"
"Nay, you shouldn't ask me."
"Oh, yes: you advised me so wisely about the insurance."
"Ay, but then I saw it clear. He is purse-proud, and I knew he'd
think a deal more of you if you insured your life for a vast o'
money. But now I don't see clear; and I'm loath to advise. Happen
you'd hate me afterward if it went wrong."
"No, no, I wouldn't be so ungrateful."
Jael shook her head, doubtfully.
"Well, then," said Henry, "don't advise me; but put yourself in my
place. (I'll tell you a secret I daren't trust to Patty. I have
found a way to beat the Trades, and make my fortune in a year or
two.) Now what would you do, if you were me?"
This question raised a tumult in Jael's heart. But her strong will,
her loyalty, and, above all, her patience, conquered, though not
without signs of the struggle, a bosom that heaved somewhat higher,
and a low voice that trembled a little. "If I was a young man, I
wouldn't shilly-shally, nor wait till I was rich, before I spoke.
I'd have it out with her. I'd get her alone, and tell her all.
Then, if she showed any sign of liking, I'd beg her to wait a bit,
and say I'd soon be a gentleman for her sake. And if she cares
naught for you, better know it, and leave her, than fare in heaven
one hour and in hell the next, as I have seen thee do this while, my
"It is wise and good advice, and I'll take it. I've kept all my
courage for the Trades; I'd better have shown her a little. But
there's one thing more I want to ask you."
This was too much. Jael's courage and patience failed her for once.
"Keep it," she cried almost wildly. "I can't bear no more. There's
not one lass in a hundred would do what I have done for you: yet you
want more. D'ye think I'm not flesh and blood, as well as her?"
And she began to cry bitterly.
This took Henry quite by surprise, and grieved him. He consoled
her, and coaxed her, in vague terms, that did not produce any
effect. So then he kissed her cheek, and dried her eyes with his
own handkerchief, and that was not quite so ineffectual. She gave a
final sob, and said, with some slight remains of passion, "There,
there; never heed me. It takes a deal of patience to go through the
world." And so she left him.
He was not sorry to be alone a minute, and think. This short
dialogue with Jael gave him some insight into female character. It
made him suspect that he had been too timid with Grace Carden, and
also that there were two women in the game instead of one.
When the time came to return he asked leave to borrow a horse-cloth.
He aired it by the fire, and remarked that it had turned very cold.
"Why," said Patty, "you have got your top-coat. Well, you are a
"And you are a sharp one," said Henry, ironically.
When Jael came to the gig, Henry put the cloth over her shoulders.
"'Twasn't for me, ye see," said he: "'twas for my betters."
"I like you for that," said Patty.
Then there was much kissing, and shaking of hands, and promising to
come again, and away they drove to Hillsborough.
On the road Henry, for the first time, was very respectful, as well
as kind, to Jael. She was soft and gentle, but rather silent and
reserved. They parted at the door of "Woodbine Villa."
Next day, Henry called early, and found Miss Carden alone. His
heart beat tumultuously. She was very gracious, and hoped he had
spent a pleasant day yesterday.
"Is that all? Why I quite envied you your ride, and your companion."
"She is a very good girl."
"She is something more than that: but one does not find her out all
Now it was Henry's turn. But he was flustered, and thinking how he
should begin. And, while he hesitated, the lady asked him was he
come to finish the bust.
"No. I didn't come for that. I will finish it though." And thus
he was diverted from his purpose, for the moment.
He took a carving tool, and eyed his model, but soon laid down the
tool, and said: "I haven't thanked you yet. And I don't know how to
"For what you sent to Mr. Cheetham."
"Oh!" said Grace, and blushed. Then she turned it off, and said she
thought if any body ought to thank her for that, it was Mr. Cheetham.
"Ay, for the order. But the sweet words that came with it? Do you
think I don't prize them above all the orders in the world?"
She colored high again. "What! did he show you my note?"
"He did: and that has made me his friend. Shall I tell you the
effect of those words on me?"
"No; never mind. But I'm glad I put them in, if they did you any
"Any good? They made me a new man. I was defeated by the Trades: I
was broken-hearted: and I hated every body. Good Dr. Amboyne had
set me work to do; to save the lives of my fellow-creatures. But I
couldn't; I hated them so. The world had been too unjust to me, I
could not return it good for evil. My heart was full of rage and
"That's a great pity--at your age. But really it is no wonder.
Yes; you have been cruelly used." And the water stood in Grace's
"Ay, but it is all over; those sweet words of yours made a man of me
again. They showed me you cared a little for me. Now I have found
a way to outwit the Trades. Now I'm on the road to fortune. I
won't be a workman this time next year. I'll be a master, and a
"Ay, do, do. Beat them, defeat them; make them scream with envy.
But I am afraid you are too sanguine."
"No; I can do it, if you will only give me another word of hope to
keep me going; and oh, I need it, if you knew all."
Grace began to look uneasy. "Mr. Little, can you doubt that you
have my best wishes?" said she, guardedly, and much less warmly than
she had spoken just before.
"No, I don't doubt that; but what I fear is, that, when I have
gained the hard battle, and risen in the world, it will be too late.
Grace turned more and more uncomfortable.
"Oh, pray wait a few months, and see what I can do, before you--"
Will it be believed that Mr. Carden, who seldom came into this room
at all, must walk in just at this moment, and interrupt them. He
was too occupied with his own affairs, to pay much attention to
their faces, or perhaps he might have asked himself why the young
man was so pale, and his daughter so red.
"I heard you were here, Little, and I want to speak to you on a
matter of some importance."
Grace took this opportunity, and made her escape from the room
Henry, burning inwardly, had to listen politely to a matter he
thought pitiably unimportant compared with that which had been
broken off. But the "Gosshawk" had got him in its clutches; and was
resolved to make him a decoy duck. He was to open a new vein of
Insurances. Workmen had hitherto acted with great folly and
imprudence in this respect, and he was to cure them, by precept as
well as example.
Henry assented, to gratify a person whose good-will he might
require, and to get rid of a bore. But that was not so easy; the
"Gosshawk" was full of this new project, and had a great deal to
say, before he came to the point, and offered Henry a percentage on
the yearly premium of every workman that should be insured in the
This little bargain struck, Henry was left alone; and waited for the
return of Miss Carden.
He was simple enough to hope she would come back, and have it out
She kept carefully out of his way, and, at last, he went sadly home.
"Ah," said he, "Jael gave me bad advice. I have been premature, and
He would go to work his own way again.
In forty-eight hours he moved into his new house, furnished it
partly: bought a quantity of mediocre wood-carving, and improved it;
put specimens in his window, and painted his name over the door.
This, at his mother's request and tearful entreaties, he painted out
again, and substituted "Rowbotham."
Nor was Rowbotham a mere nom de plume. It was the real name of
Silly Billy. The boy had some turn for carving, but was quite
uncultivated: Henry took him into his employ, fed him, and made free
with his name. With all this he found time to get a key made to fit
the lock of Cairnhope old Church.
At one o'clock on Thursday morning he came to Cheetham's works, and
scratched at the gate. A big workman opened it. It turned out to
be Cheetham himself, in a moleskin suit, and a long beard.
The forge on wheels was all ready, also a cart containing anvil,
bellows, hammers, pincers, leathern buckets, and a quantity of steel
laths. They attached the forge to the tail of the cart, and went on
their silent expedition. Cheetham drove the cart. Henry followed
afar off until they had cleared the suburbs.
They passed "Woodbine Villa." A single light was burning. Henry
eyed it wistfully, and loitered long to look at it. Something told
him that light was in her bedroom. He could hardly tear himself
away from contemplating it: it was his pole-star.
There was only one great difficulty in their way; a man on a horse
might cross the moor, but a cart must go by "Raby Hall" to reach the
church: and, before they got within a furlong of the Hall, a watch-
dog began to bark.
"Stop, sir," whispered Henry. "I expected this." He then produced
some pieces of thick felt, and tied them with strings round the
They then drove by the house as fast as they could. They did not
deceive the dogs; but no man heard them, nor saw them.
They got to the church, opened the door, and drew the forge into the
As soon as they got inside, Cheetham cast his eyes round and gave a
shudder. "You must have a stout heart: no money should tempt me to
work here by myself. Lord! What's that?"
For a low musical moan was heard.
Cheetham darted back, and got to the church-door.
Henry's heart beast faster: but he lighted his lantern, and went up
the aisle. The place was solemn, grim, gaunt, and moldering, and
echoed strangely; but it was empty. He halloed to his companion
that it was all right. Then they set the forge up near a pillar at
the entrance into the chancel. When they had done this, and brought
in the steel laths, the sacks of coals, etc., Cheetham produced a
flask, and took a pull of neat brandy. This gave him courage, and
he proposed to have a look round before they went. Accordingly they
inspected the building.
When they came round to the chancel, suddenly there was a rattle,
and a tremendous rush of some huge thing that made a cold wind, and
blew out the light.
Henry was appalled, and Cheetham dropped the lantern, and ran,
yelling. And soon Henry heard his voice in the churchyard calling
on him to come out.
He did go out, and felt very much puzzled and alarmed. However, he
got matches from Cheetham, and went back, and lighted the lantern,
quaking a little, and then he found that the great moldering picture
over the altar had rotted away from some of its supports, and one
half of it was now drooping, like a monstrous wing, over the altar.
He returned with the lantern, and told Cheetham what it was. Then
he screwed on the lock, locked the church, and they went back to
Hillsborough in good spirits.
But, as he lay in bed, Henry thought the matter over, and, for the
first time in his life, felt superstitious.
"It is very odd," he said, "that old picture my forefathers have
worshiped under, and prayed to, no doubt, should flap out in my face
like that, the moment I offered to set up my forge among their dead
Daylight dispersed these superstitious feelings, and the battle
As usual, the first step toward making money was to part with it.
He could do nothing without a horse and a light cart. In
Hillsborough they drive magnificent horses in public cabs: Henry
knew one in particular, that had often spun up the steepest hills
with him; a brute of prodigious bone and spirit. He bought this
animal for a moderate price, considering his value: and then the
next thing was--and indeed with some of us it precedes the purchase
of the animal--to learn to ride.
He had only two days to acquire this accomplishment in: so he took a
compendious method. He went to the circus, at noon, and asked to
see the clown. A gloomy fellow was fished out of the nearest
public, and inquired what he wanted.
"Well, I am the clown."
"What! you the merry chap that makes the fun?" said Henry,
"I make the fun at night," replied the man, dolefully. "If you want
fun out of me, come and pay your shilling, like a man."
"But it isn't fun I'm come for. I want to learn to ride."
"Then you are too old. Why, we begin as soon as we can stand on a
"Oh, I don't mean to ride standing. I want to sit a horse, rearing,
or plunging, or blundering over rough ground."
"What will you stand?"
The clown dived into the public-house, and told a dark seedy man,
with his black hair plastered and rolled effeminately, that he had
got a bloke who would stand a quid for a mount. The two came out,
and the plastered Italian went to the stables: the melancholy
punster conducted Henry into the arena, and stood beside him like
Patience on a monument. Presently a quiet mare ran in, and stuck.
Henry was mounted, and cantered her round, the two men instinctively
following in a smaller circle, with jaws as long as your arm.
"This is delightful," said Henry; "but I might as well be sitting in
a chair. What I want is a Prancer."
Then they brought him another horse, just as docile as the mare.
The obedient creature, at a signal, reared suddenly, and seated Mr.
Little on the sawdust behind him. A similar result was attained
several times, by various means. But Henry showed himself so tough,
courageous, and persistent, that he made great progress, and his
good-humor won his preceptors. They invited him to come tomorrow,
at an earlier hour, and bring half a quid with him. He did so, and
this time there was an American rider rehearsing, who showed Henry
what to do, and what not to do; and gave him a most humorous and
instructive lesson. Indeed, his imitations of bad riding were so
truthful and funny, that even the clown was surprised into one
laugh; he who rarely smiled, unless in the way of business.
"Well, sir," said Henry, "you have given me a good lesson; now take
a hint from me; just you go and do all this before the public; for I
never saw you do any thing half as droll."
They all three shook their heads with one accord. Go out of the
beaten track, before an audience? Never. Such vagaries were only
admissible in private.
After this second day the fee was reduced to a gallon of ale.
But, on the third day, the pupil combined theory with practice. He
told his mother he was going to Cairnhope for the night. He then
rode off to Cairnhope Church. He had two large saddle-bags,
containing provisions, and tools of all sorts. He got safe across
the moor just before sunset. He entered the church, led the horse
in with him, and put him into the Squire's pew. He then struck a
light, went into the chancel, and looked at the picture. It was as
he had left it; half on the wall, half drooping over the altar-
place. The walls were dank, and streaked here and there with green.
His footsteps echoed, and the edifice was all dark, except within
the rays of his lantern; it also sang and moaned in a way to be
accounted for by the action of the wind on a number of small
apertures; but, nevertheless, it was a most weird and ghostly sound.
He was glad of the companionship of his very horse.
He took his buckets to the mountain stream, and, in due course,
filled his trough, and left one bucket full for other uses. He then
prepared and lighted his forge. As he plied the bellows, and the
coals gleamed brighter and brighter, monumental figures came out and
glared at him; mutilated inscriptions wavered on the walls; portions
of the dark walls themselves gleamed in the full light, and showed
the streaks and stains of age and weather, and the shadow of a
gigantic horse's head; and, as the illuminated part seemed on fire
by contrast, so the dark part of the church was horribly black and
mysterious, and a place out of which a ghost or phantom might be
expected, at any moment, to come forth into that brilliant patch of
Young Little, who had entered on this business in all the skepticism
of the nineteenth century, felt awed, and began to wish he had
selected any other building in the world but this. He seemed to be
desecrating a tomb.
However, he mustered up his manly resolution. He looked up at a
small aperture in the roof, and saw a star glittering above: it
seemed close, and a type of that omniscient eye "from which no
secrets are hid."
He clasped his hands together, and said, "I hope God, who has seen
me driven from the haunts of men, will forgive me for taking refuge
here; and, if he does, I don't care who else is offended, alive or
dead." And, with this, he drew the white-hot strip of steel from
the forge on to the anvil, and down came his hammer with a blow that
sent the fiery steel flying all round, and rang and echoed through
the desolate building, instantly there was a tremendous plunge and
clatter, followed by a shaking sound, and, whiz, the church was
fanned by black wings going zigzag.
"Ten thousand devils!" yelled Henry, and heaved the hammer high, in
his own defense.
But it was only the horse plunging and quivering with fear, and a
score of bats the blow of the hammer had frightened out of the
He resumed work with a beating heart, and the building rang and
echoed and re-echoed with the rapid blows; and no more interruption
came. The nineteenth century conquered.
After four hours of earnest work, he fed his horse, ate a slice of
bread and meat, drank water from the bucket, gave his horse some,
and went to sleep in a pew beside that useful animal.
Back to Hillsborough, at peep of day, with the blades he had forged.
He now took his mother, in a great measure, into his confidence,
under a strict promise to tell nobody, not even Dr. Amboyne. Mrs.
Little received the communication in a way that both surprised and
encouraged him. She was as willing to outwit the Unions, as she was
willing to resist them openly; and Henry found her an admirable
Had she known where Henry had set up his forge, she would have been
very unhappy. But he merely told her it was in a secluded place,
near Cairnhope, where he could never be detected.
The carving business, being merely a blind, was not pushed. But
Henry gave his apprentice, Billy, instruction, and the youth began
to show an aptitude which contrasted remarkably with his general
Mrs. Little paid one or two visits to factories, to see what women
could do in this sort of work; and, one day, she told Henry she was
sure she could sharpen and finish the blades.
"No, mother," said Henry. "You are a lady. I can't have you made a
slave of, and your beautiful white hands spoiled."
"I shall be happier, helping you, dear; and I won't spoil my hands,
since you care about them."
She insisted on a trial, and soon acquired a remarkable knack: she
had a fine light hand: and it is an art easily learned by an
attentive and careful woman. Indeed they can beat the men at it, if
they will only make up their minds.
And so the enterprise was launched, and conducted thus: in the day
time, Henry showed himself in the town, and talked big about
carving; and, in the afternoon, he rode out, and did the real work
of his life, over the dead bodies of his ancestors.
His saddle-bags were always full, and, gradually, he collected some
comforts about him in the deserted church.
He called, more than once, at "Woodbine Villa," but Miss Carden was
on a visit.
He was in the full career of fortune again, and sanguine of success,
before they met. One day, having ascertained from Jael what day she
would be at home, he called and was admitted. The room was empty,
but Miss Carden soon came into it, accompanied by Jael carrying the
"Ah, Mr. Little," said she, before he could possibly utter a word,
"this is fortunate. There is a party here on Thursday, and I want
to show the bust complete, if you don't mind."
Henry said he would finish it for her. He accordingly set to work,
and waited quietly till Jael should leave the room, to have it out
She, for her part, seemed to have forgotten his strange manner to
her the other day; perhaps she chose to forget it, or overlook it.
But Henry observed that Jael was not allowed to quit the room.
Whatever Miss Carden wanted she fetched herself, and came back
softly, and rather suddenly, as if she had a mind to surprise Jeel
and the other too. Female subtlety was clearly at work.
"What do you advise me?" said Henry to Jael, during one of these
Jael never lifted her eyes from her work, and spoke under her
breath, "I think I'd be patient to-day. She must give you a chance
to speak some day. Talk to me, when she comes back--about the
Cairnhope folk, or anything."
Henry followed this advice, and Grace, for the first time, found
herself a little ignored in the conversation. She was astonished at
this and I don't think she quite liked it.
Henry was still going on with warmth and volubility about the
Cairnhope folk, their good hearts, and their superstitions, when a
visitor was announced.
Henry stopped in the middle of a sentence.
Grace brightened up, and said she was at home.
Mr. Coventry entered the room; a tall, well-made man, with an
aquiline nose, and handsome face, only perhaps there were more lines
in it than he was entitled to at his age, for he was barely thirty.
He greeted Miss Carden with easy grace, and took no more notice of
the other two, than if they were chairs and tables.
Mr. Frederick Coventry had studied the great art of pleasing, and
had mastered it wonderfully; but he was not the man to waste it
He was there to please a young lady, to whom he was attached, not to
diffuse his sunshine indiscriminately.
He courted her openly, not indelicately, but with a happy air of
respect and self-assurance.
Henry sat, sick with jealousy, and tried to work and watch; but he
could only watch: his hand trembled too much to work.
What may be called oblique flattery is very pleasing to those quick-
witted girls, who have had a surfeit of direct compliments: and it
is oblique flattery, when a man is supercilious and distant to
others, as well as tender and a little obsequious to her he would
Grace Carden enjoyed this oblique flattery of Mr. Coventry's all the
more that it came to her just at a moment when her companions seemed
disposed to ignore her. She rewarded Mr. Coventry accordingly, and
made Henry Little's heart die within him. His agony became
intolerable. What a position was his! Set there, with a chisel in
his hand, to copy the woman he loved, while another wooed her before
his face, and she smiled at his wooing!
At last his chisel fell out of his hand, and startled everybody: and
then he rose up with pale cheek, and glittering eyes, and Heaven
only knows what he was going to do or say. But at that moment
another visitor was announced, to whom indeed the door was never
closed. He entered the next moment, and Grace ran to meet him,
crying, "Oh, Mr. Raby! this IS a surprise."
Mr. Raby kissed her, and shook hands with Mr. Coventry. He then
said a kind word to Jael Dence, who got up and courtesied to him.
He cast a careless glance on Henry and the bust, but said nothing.
He was in a hurry, and soon came to the object of his visit.
"My dear," said he, "the last time I saw you, you said you were
sorry that Christmas was no longer kept in Hillsborough as it used
"And so I am."
"Well, it is kept in Cairnhope, thank Heaven, pretty much as it was
three centuries ago. Your father will be in London, I hear; will
you honor my place and me with a visit during the Christmas
Grace opened her eyes with astonishment. "Oh, that I will," said
"You will take your chance of being snowed up?"
"I am afraid I shall not be so fortunate," was the charming reply.
The Squire turned to Coventry, and said slyly, "I would ask you to
join us, sir; but it is rather a dull place for a gentleman who
keeps such good company."
"I never heard it spoken of as a dull place before," said the young
man; "and, if it was, you have taken a sure means to make it
"That is true. Well, then, I have no scruple in asking you to join
us;" and he gave Grace a look, as much as to say, "Am I not a
"I am infinitely obliged to you, Mr. Raby," said Coventry,
seriously; "I will come."
"You will stay to luncheon, godpapa?"
"Never touch it. Good-by. Well, then, Christmas-eve I shall expect
you both. Dinner at six. But come an hour or two before it, if you
can: and Jael, my girl, you know you must dine at the hall on
Christmas-eve, and old Christmas-eve as usual, you and your sister
and the old man."
Jael courtesied, and said with homely cordiality, "We shall be
there, sir, please God we are alive."
"Bring your gun, Coventry. There's a good sprinkling of pheasants
left. By-the-bye, what about that pedigree of yours; does it prove
"Completely. Dorothy Raby, Sir Richard's youngest sister, married
Thomas Coventry, who was out in the forty-five. I'm having the
pedigree copied for you, at a stationer's near."
"I should like to see it."
"I'll go with you, and show it to you, if you like."
Mr. Raby was evidently pleased at this attention, and they went off
Grace accompanied them to the door. On her return she was startled
by the condition of young Little.
This sudden appearance of his uncle, whom he hated, had agitated him
not a little, and that uncle's interference had blasted his last
hope. He recognized this lover, and had sided with him: was going
to shut the pair up, in a country house, together. It was too much.
He groaned, and sank back in his chair, almost fainting, and his
hands began to shake in the air, as if he was in an ague.
Both the women darted simultaneously toward him. "Oh! he's
fainting!" cried Grace. "Wine! wine! Fly." Jael ran out to fetch
some, in spite of a despairing gesture, by which the young man tried
to convey to her it was no use.
"Wine can do me no good, nor death no harm. Why did I ever enter
"Oh, Mr. Little, don't look so; don't talk so," said Grace, turning
pale, in her turn. "Are you ill? What is the matter?"
"Oh, nothing. What should ail me? I'm only a workman. What
business have I with a heart? I loved you dearly. I was working
for you, fighting for you, thinking for you, living for you. And
you love that Coventry, and never showed it."
Jael came in with a glass of wine for him, but he waved her off with
all the grandeur of despair.
"You tell me this to my face!" said Grace, haughtily; but her bosom
"Yes; I tell you so to your face. I love you, with all my soul."
"How dare you? What have I ever done, to justify-- Oh, if you
weren't so pale, I'd give you a lesson. What could possess you?
It's not my fault, thank heaven. You have insulted me, sir. No;
why should I? You must be unhappy enough. There, I'll say but one
word, and that, of course, is 'good morning.'"
And she marched out of the room, trembling secretly in every limb.
Henry sat down, and hid his face, and all his frame shook.
Then Jael was all pity. She threw herself on her knees, and kissed
his trembling hands with canine fidelity, and wept on his shoulder.
He took her hand, and tried hard to thank her, but the words were
Grace Carden opened the door, and put her head cautiously in, for
she wanted to say a word to Jael without attracting Henry's
attention. But, when she saw Jael and Henry in so loving an
attitude, she started, and then turned as red as fire; and presently
burst out laughing.
Jael and Henry separated directly.
Grace laughed again, an unpleasant laugh. "I beg pardon, good
people. I only wanted Mr. Little's address. I thought you could
get it for me, Jael. And now I'm sure you can. Ha! ha! ha!"
And she was heard laughing after the door closed.
Now there was a world of contempt and insolence in this laugh. It
conveyed, as plainly as words, "I was going to be so absurd as to
believe in your love, and pity it, at all events, though I can't
approve it: but now you have just set my mind at ease. Ha! ha! ha!"
"Let me go," cried Henry, wildly.
"Nay, tell me your address."
"What for? To tell that cruel--laughing--"
"Nay then, for myself."
"That's a different thing. I respect you. But her, I mean to hate,
as much as I loved her."
He gave Jael his address, and then got out of the house as fast as
That evening Grace Carden surprised her father, by coming into his
study. "Papa, " said she, "I am come to ask a favor. You must not
refuse me. But I don't know that you ever did. Dearest, I want
"Well, my child; just tell me what it is for."
"It is for Mr. Little; for his lessons."
"Well, but L50!"
"He has given me a good many. And to tell you the truth, papa, I
dismissed him rather unceremoniously; and now I should be glad to
soften the blow a little, if I can. Do be very good and obedient,
dear papa, and write what I shall dictate. PLEASE."
"Well, spoiled child: who can resist you?"
Then Grace dictated, and Mr. Carden wrote:
"DEAR SIR,--My daughter informs me that, as yet, you have received
no remuneration for the lessons you have given her. I beg your
acceptance of the inclosed check, and, at the same time, should be
glad if you would put a price on the admirable bust you have
executed of her.
The reply to this letter surprised Mr. Carden, so that he brought it
to Grace, and showed it her.
"DEAR SIR,--The lessons are not worth speaking of. I have learned
more in your house than I taught. I beg to return the check with
thanks. Price of the bust, five hundred guineas.
Grace colored up, and her eyes sparkled. "That young man wants
"I don't see that, really. He is very civil, and I presume this
five hundred guineas is just a polite way of saying that he means to
keep it. Wants it for an advertisement, eh?"
Grace smiled and bit her lip. "Oh, what a man of business you are!"
And a little while after the tears came into her eyes. "Madman!"
said she to herself. "He won't let me be his friend. Well, I can't
After the brief excitement of this correspondence, Little soon
relapsed into dull misery. His mother was alarmed, and could
restrain herself no longer. She implored his confidence. "Make me
the partner of your grief, dear," she said; "not that you can tell
me anything I have not guessed already; but, dearest, it will do you
good to open your heart; and, who knows, I may assist you. I know
my sex much better than you do."
Henry kissed her sadly, and said it was too late now. "It is all
over. She is going to marry another man."
"Has she told you so?"
"Not in words; but I have seen it. She has burned it into my
"I wish I knew her," said Mrs. Little, very earnestly, and almost in
"Some day, mother, some day; but not now. Oh, the tortures one
heart can suffer, and yet not break."
Mrs. Little sighed. "What, not even tell me her name?"
"I can't, I can't. Oh, mother, you mean well, but you will drive me
Mrs. Little forebore to press him further just then. She sat silent
at her work, and he at his, till they were aroused by a fly drawing
up at the door.
A fine young woman got out with something heavy, and holding it like
a child in one arm, rapped at the door with the hand that was
Mrs. Little opened the door to her, and she and Jael Dence surveyed
each other with calm but searching eyes.
"If you please, ma'am, does Mr. Little bide here?"
Mrs. Little said yes, with a smile: for Jael's face and modesty
pleased her at first sight.
"I have something for him."
"I'll give it to him."
"If you please, ma'am, I was to give it him myself."
Henry recognized the voice, opened the door, and invited her in.
Mrs. Little followed her, full of suppressed curiosity.
This put Jael out, but she was too patient to show it.
"It is the bust," said she; and put it softly down on the table with
her strong arms.
Henry groaned. "She despises even that; she flings it at my head
without a word."
"Nay; I have got a note for you."
"Then why didn't you give it me at once?" cried Henry impatiently.
She handed him the note without a word.
It ran thus:
"Miss Carden presents her compliments to Mr. Little, and sends him
his beautiful bust. She is grieved that he will accept no
remuneration for his lessons; and begs permission to offer her best
wishes for his happiness and prosperity."
The gentleness of this disarmed Henry, and at the same time the
firmness crushed him. "It is all over!" he cried, despairingly:
"and yet I can't hate her."
He ran from the room, unable to restrain his tears, and too proud
and fiery to endure two spectators of his grief.
Mrs. Little felt as mothers feel toward those who wound their young.
"Is it the woman's likeness?" said she bitterly, and then trembled
"May I see it?"
"Surely, ma'am." And Jael began to undo the paper.
But Mrs. Little stopped her. "No, not yet. I couldn't bear the
sight of a face that has brought misery upon him. I would rather
look at yours. It is a very honest one. May I inquire your name?"
"Jael Dence--at your service."
"Dence! ah, then no wonder you have a good face: a Cairnhope face.
My child, you remind me of days gone by. Come and see me again,
will you? Then I shall be more able to talk to you quietly."
"Ay, that I will, ma'am." And Jael colored all over with surprise,
and such undisguised pleasure that Mrs. Little kissed her at
She had been gone a considerable time, when Henry came back; he
found his mother seated at the table, eying his masterpiece with
stern and bitter scrutiny.
It was a picture, those two rare faces in such close opposition.
The carved face seemed alive; but the living face seemed inspired,
and to explore the other to the bottom with merciless severity. At
such work the great female eye is almost terrible in its power.
"It is lovely," said she. "It seems noble. I can not find what I
know must be there. Oh, why does God give such a face as this to a
"Not a word against her," said Henry. "She is as wise, and as
noble, and as good, as she is beautiful. She has but one fault; she
loves another man. Put her sweet face away; hide it from me till I
am an old man, and can bring it out to show young folks why I lived
and die a bachelor. Good-by, dear mother, I must saddle Black
Harry, and away to my night's work."
The days were very short now, and Henry spent two-thirds of his time
in Cairnhope Church. The joyous stimulus of his labor was gone but
the habit remained, and carried him on in a sort of leaden way.
Sometimes he wondered at himself for the hardships he underwent
merely to make money, since money had no longer the same charm for
him; but a good workman is a patient, enduring creature, and self-
indulgence, our habit, is after all, his exception. Henry worked
heavily on, with his sore, sad heart, as many a workman had done
before him. Unfortunately his sleep began to be broken a good deal.
I am not quite clear whether it was the after-clap of the explosion,
or the prolonged agitation of his young heart, but at this time,
instead of the profound sleep that generally rewards the sons of
toil, he had fitful slumbers, and used to dream strange dreams, in
that old church, so full of gaunt sights and strange sounds. And,
generally speaking, however these dreams began, the figure of Grace
Carden would steal in ere he awoke. His senses, being only half
asleep, colored his dreams; he heard her light footstep in the
pattering rain, and her sweet voice in the musical moan of the
desolate building; desolate as his heart when he awoke, and behold
it was a dream.
The day after Christmas-day began brightly, but was dark and
lowering toward afternoon. Mrs. Little advised Henry to stay at
home. But he shook his head. "How could I get through the night?
Work is my salvation. But for my forge, I should perhaps end like--"
he was going to say "my poor father." But he had the sense to
Unable to keep him at home, the tender mother got his saddlebags,
and filled his flask with brandy, and packed up a huge piece of
Yorkshire pie, and even stuffed in a plaid shawl. And she strained
her anxious eyes after him as he rode off.
When he got among the hills, he found it was snowing there very
hard; and then, somehow, notwithstanding all the speed he made, it
was nearly dark when he got on the moor, and the tracks he used to
go by, over the dangerous ground, were effaced.
He went a snail's pace, and at last dismounted, and groped his way.
He got more than one fall in the snow, and thought himself very
fortunate, when, at last, something black towered before him, and it
was the old church.
The scene was truly dismal: the church was already overburdened with
snow, and still the huge flakes fell fast and silently, and the
little mountain stream, now swollen to a broad and foaming torrent,
went roaring by, behind the churchyard wall.
Henry shivered, and made for the shelter.
The horse, to whom this church was merely a well-ventilated stable,
went in and clattered up the aisle, saddle-bags and all.
Henry locked the door inside, and soon blew the coals to a white
heat. The bellows seemed to pant unnaturally loud, all was so
The windows were curtained with snow, that increased the general
gloom, though some of the layers shone ghostly white and
crystalline, in the light of the forge, and of two little grates he
had set in a monument.
Two heaps of snow lay in the center aisle, just under two open
places in the roof, and, on these, flakes as big as a pennypiece
kept falling through the air, and glittered like diamonds as they
passed through the weird light of the white coals.
Oh! it was an appalling place, that night; youth and life seemed
intruders. Henry found it more than he could bear. He took a
couple of candles, placed them in bottles, and carried them to the
western window, and there lighted them. This one window was
protected by the remains of iron-work outside, and the whole figure
of one female saint in colored glass survived.
This expedient broke the devilish blackness, and the saint shone out
The horrid spell thus broken in some degree, Henry plied his hammer,
and made the church ring, and the flaming metal fly.
But by-and-by, as often happened to him now, a drowsiness overcame
him at the wrong time. In vain he battled against it. It conquered
him even as he worked; and, at last, he leaned with his arms against
the handle of the bellows, and dozed as he stood.
He had a dream of that kind which we call a vision, because the
dream seems to come to the dreamer where he is.
He dreamed he was there at his forge, and a soft voice called to
him. He turned, and lo! between him and the western window stood
six female figures, all dressed in beautiful dresses, but of another
age, and of many colors, yet transparent; and their faces fair, but
white as snow: and the ladies courtesied to him, with a certain
respectful majesty beyond description: and, somehow, by their faces,
and their way of courtesying to him, he knew they were women of his
own race, and themselves aware of the relationship.
Then several more such figures came rustling softly through the wall
from the churchyard, and others rose from the vaults and took their
places quietly, till there was an avenue of dead beauties; and they
stood in an ascending line up to the west window. Some stood on the
ground, some on the air; that made no difference to them.
Another moment, and then a figure more lovely than them all shone in
the window, at the end of that vista of fair white faces.
It was Grace Carden. She smiled on him and said, "I am going where
I can love you. There the world will not divide us. Follow me:
Then she melted away; then all melted: and he awoke with a loud cry
that echoed through the edifice, now dark and cold as the grave; and
a great white owl went whirling, and with his wings made the only
air that stirred.
The fire was out, and the place a grave. Yet, cold as it was, the
dreamer was bathed in perspiration, so clear had been that unearthly
vision, so ghostly was now that flitting owl.
Shuddering all over, he lighted his fire again, and plied his
bellows with fury, till the fire glowed brighter than ever; and even
then he prayed aloud that he might never see the like again, even in
He worked like mad, and his hand trembled as he struck. Ere he had
thoroughly recovered the shock, a wild cry arose outside.
He started back, awe-struck.
What with the time, the place, and that strange vision, the
boundaries of the natural and the supernatural were a little
confused in his mind.
"Help, help!" cried a voice; and now the familiar tone of that voice
made him utter a loud cry in return.
He searched for the key, and made his way to the door; but, just as
he began to insert the key, the voice was at the door outside.
"Oh, save me! A dying girl! Save me!"
The cry was now a moan, and the next moment an inert mass fell like
lead against the door in a vain attempt to knock at it.
The voice was Grace Carden's, and it was Grace Carden's body that
fell so inert and powerless against the church-door, within a yard
of Henry Little's hand.
On the twenty-fourth of December Miss Carden and Jael Dence drove to
Cairnhope village, and stopped at the farm: but Nathan and his
eldest daughter had already gone up to the Hall; so they waited
there but a minute or two to light the carriage lamps, and then went
on up the hill. It was pitch dark when they reached the house.
Inside, one of Mr. Raby's servants was on the look-out for the sound
of wheels, and the visitors had no need to knock or ring; this was a
point of honor with the master of the mansion; when he did invite
people, the house opened its arms; even as they drove up, open flew
the great hall-door, and an enormous fire inside blazed in their
faces, and shot its flame beyond them out into the night.
Grace alighted, and was about to enter the house, when Jael stopped
her, and said, "Oh, miss, you will be going in left foot foremost.
Pray don't do that: it is so unlucky."
Grace laughed, but changed her foot, and entered a lofty hall, hung
with helmets, pikes, breast-plates, bows, cross-bows, antlers etc.,
etc. Opposite her was the ancient chimneypiece and ingle-nook, with
no grate but two huge iron dogs, set five feet apart; and on them
lay a birch log and root, the size of a man, with a dozen beech
billets burning briskly and crackling underneath and aside it. This
genial furnace warmed the staircase and passages, and cast a fiery
glow out on the carriage, and glorified the steep helmets and
breast-plates of the dead Rabys on the wall, and the sparkling eyes
of the two beautiful women who now stood opposite it in the pride of
their youth, and were warmed to the heart by its crackle and glow.
"Oh! what a glorious fire, this bitter night. Why, I never saw such
"It is the yule log, miss. Ay, and you might go all round England,
and not find its fellow, I trow. But our Squire he don't go to the
chandler's shop for his yule log, but to his own woods, and fells a
A housemaid now came forward with bed candles, to show Miss Carden
to her room. Grace was going up, as a matter of course, when Jael,
busy helping the footman with her boxes, called after her: "The
stocking, miss! the stocking!"
Grace looked down at her feet in surprise.
"There it is, hung up by the door. We must put our presents into it
before we go upstairs."
"Must we? what on earth am I to give?"
"Oh, any thing will do. See, I shall put in this crooked sixpence."
Grace examined her purse, and complained that all her stupid
sixpences were straight.
"Never mind, miss; put in a hairpin, sooner than pass the stocking
o' Christmas Eve."
Grace had come prepared to encounter old customs. She offered her
shawl-pin: and Jael, who had modestly inserted her own gift, pinned
Grace's offering on the outside of the stocking with a flush of
pride. Then they went upstairs with the servant, and Grace was
ushered into a bedroom of vast size, with two huge fires burning at
each end; each fireplace was flanked with a coal-scuttle full of
kennel coal in large lumps, and also with an enormous basket of
beech billets. She admired the old-fashioned furniture, and said,
"Oh, what a palace of a bedroom! This will spoil me for my little
poky room. Here one can roam about and have great thoughts.
Hillsborough, good-by! I end my days in the country."
Presently her quick ears caught the rattle of swift wheels upon the
hard road: she ran to the window, and peeped behind the curtain.
Two brilliant lamps were in sight, and drew nearer and nearer, like
great goggling eyes, and soon a neat dog-cart came up to the door.
Before it had well-stopped, the hospitable door flew open, and the
yule fire shone on Mr. Coventry, and his natty groom, and his dog
cart with plated axles; it illumined the silver harness, and the
roan horse himself, and the breath that poured into the keen air
from his nostrils red inside.
Mr. Coventry dropped from his shoulders, with easy grace, something
between a coat and a cloak, lined throughout with foxes' skin; and,
alighting, left his groom to do the rest. The fur was reddish,
relieved with occasional white; and Grace gloated over it, as it lay
glowing in the fire-light. "Ah," said she, "I should never do for a
poor man's wife: I'm so fond of soft furs and things, and I don't
like poky rooms." With that she fell into a reverie, which was only
interrupted by the arrival of Jael and her boxes.
Jael helped her unpack, and dress. There was no lack of conversation
between these two, but most of it turned upon nothings. One topic,
that might have been interesting to the readers of this tale, was
avoided by them both. They had now come to have a high opinion of
each other's penetration, and it made them rather timid and reserved
on that subject.
Grace was dressed, and just going down, when she found she wanted a
pin. She asked Jael for one.
Jael looked aghast. "Oh, miss, I'd rather you would take one, in
spite of me."
"Well, so I will. There!" And she whipped one away from the bosom
of Jael's dress.
"Mind, I never gave it you."
"No. I took it by brute force."
"I like you too well to give you a pin."
"May I venture to inquire what would be the consequence?"
"Ill luck, you may be sure. Heart-trouble, they do say."
"Well, I'm glad to escape that so easily. Why, this is the temple
of superstition, and you are the high-Priestess. How shall I ever
get on at dinner, without you? I know I shall do something to shock
Mr. Raby. Perhaps spill the very salt. I generally do."
"Ay, miss, at home. But, dear heart, you won't see any of them
nasty little salt-cellars here, that some crazy creature have
invented to bring down bad luck. You won't spill the salt here, no
fear: but don't ye let any body help you to it neither, if he helps
you to salt, he helps you to sorrow."
"Oh, does he? Then it is fortunate nobody ever does help anybody to
salt. Well, yours is a nice creed. Why, we are all at the mercy of
other people, according to you. Say I have a rival: she smiles in
my face, and says, 'My sweet friend, accept this tribute of my
esteem;' and gives me a pinch of salt, before I know where I am. I
wither on the spot; and she sails off with the prize. Or, if there
is no salt about, she comes behind me with a pin, and pins it to my
skirt, and that pierces my heart. Don't you see what abominable
nonsense it all is?"
The argument was cut short by the ringing of a tremendous bell.
Grace gave the last, swift, searching, all-comprehensive look of her
sex into the glass, and went down to the drawing-room. There she
found Mr. Raby and Mr. Coventry, who both greeted her cordially; and
the next moment dinner was announced.
"Raby Hall" was a square house, with two large low wings. The left
wing contained the kitchen, pantry, scullery, bakehouse, brew-house,
etc.; and servants' bedrooms above. The right wing the stables,
coach-houses, cattle-sheds, and several bedrooms. The main building
of the hall, the best bedrooms, and the double staircase, leading up
to them in horse-shoe form from the hall: and, behind the hall, on
the ground-floor, there was a morning-room, in which several of the
Squire's small tenants were even now preparing for supper by
drinking tea, and eating cakes made in rude imitation of the infant
Saviour. On the right of the hall were the two drawing-rooms en
suite, and on the left was the remarkable room into which the host
now handed Miss Carden, and Mr. Coventry followed. This room had
been, originally, the banqueting-hall. It was about twenty feet
high, twenty-eight feet wide, and fifty feet long, and ended in an
enormous bay window, that opened upon the lawn. It was entirely
paneled with oak, carved by old Flemish workmen, and adorned here
and there with bold devices. The oak, having grown old in a pure
atmosphere, and in a district where wood and roots were generally
burned in dining-rooms, had acquired a very rich and beautiful
color, a pure and healthy reddish brown, with no tinge whatever of
black; a mighty different hue from any you can find in Wardour
Street. Plaster ceiling there was none, and never had been. The
original joists, and beams, and boards, were still there, only not
quite so rudely fashioned as of old; for Mr. Raby's grandfather had
caused them to be planed and varnished, and gilded a little in
serpentine lines. This woodwork above gave nobility to the room,
and its gilding, though worn, relieved the eye agreeably.
The further end was used as a study, and one side of it graced with
books, all handsomely bound: the other side, with a very beautiful
organ that had an oval mirror in the midst of its gilt dummy-pipes.
All this made a cozy nook in the grand room.
What might be called the dining-room part, though rich, was rather
somber on ordinary occasions; but this night it was decorated
gloriously. The materials were simple--wax-candles and holly; the
effect was produced by a magnificent use of these materials. There
were eighty candles, of the largest size sold in shops, and twelve
wax pillars, five feet high, and the size of a man's calf; of these,
four only were lighted at present. The holly was not in sprigs, but
in enormous branches, that filled the eye with glistening green and
red: and, in the embrasure of the front window stood a young holly-
tree entire, eighteen feet high, and gorgeous with five hundred
branches of red berries. The tree had been dug up, and planted here
in an enormous bucket, used for that purpose, and filled with mold.
Close behind this tree were placed two of the wax pillars, lighted,
and their flame shone through the leaves and berries magically.
As Miss Carden entered, on Mr. Raby's arm, her eye swept the room
with complacency, and settled on the holly-tree. At sight of that
she pinched Mr. Raby's arm, and cried "Oh!" three times. Then,
ignoring the dinner-table altogether, she pulled her host away to
the tree, and stood before it, with clasped hands. "Oh, how
Mr. Raby was gratified. "So then our forefathers were not quite
such fools as some people say."
"They were angels, they were ducks. It is beautiful, it is divine."
Mr. Raby looked at the glowing cheek, and deep, sparkling, sapphire
eye. "Come," said he; "after all, there's nothing here so beautiful
as the young lady who now honors the place with her presence."
With this he handed her ceremoniously to a place at his right hand;
said a short grace, and sat down between his two guests.
"But, Mr. Raby," said Grace, ruefully, "I'm with my back to the
"You can ask Coventry to change places."
Mr. Coventry rose, and the change was effected.
"Well, it is your doing, Coventry. Now she'll overlook YOU."
"All the better for me, perhaps. I'm content: Miss Carden will look
at the holly, and I shall look at Miss Carden."
"Faute de mieux."
"And I shall fine you both a bumper of champagne, for going out of
the English language."
"I shall take my punishment like a man."
"Then take mine as well. Champagne with me means frenzy."
But, in the midst of the easy banter and jocose airy nothings of the
modern dining-room, an object attracted Grace's eye. It was a
picture, with its face turned to the wall, and some large letters on
the back of the canvas.
This excited Grace's curiosity directly, and, whenever she could,
without being observed, she peeped, and tried to read the
inscription; but, what with Mr. Raby's head, and a monster candle
that stood before it, she could not decipher it unobserved. She was
inclined to ask Mr. Raby; but she was very quick, and, observing
that the other portraits were of his family, she suspected at once
that the original of this picture had offended her host, and that it
would be in bad taste, and might be offensive, to question him.
Still the subject took possession of her.
At about eight o'clock a servant announced candles in the drawing-
Upon this Mr. Raby rose, and, without giving her any option on the
matter, handed her to the door with obsolete deference.
In the drawing-room she found a harpsichord, a spinet, and a piano,
all tuned expressly for her. This amused her, as she had never seen
either of the two older instruments in her life. She played on them
Mr. Raby had the doors thrown open to hear her.
She played some pretty little things from Mendelssohn, Spohr, and
The gentlemen smoked and praised.
Then she found an old music-book, and played Hamlet's overture to
Otho, and the minuet.
The gentlemen left off praising directly, and came silently into the
room to hear the immortal melodist. But this is the rule in music;
the lips praise the delicate gelatinous, the heart beats in silence
at the mighty melodious.
Tea and coffee came directly afterward, and ere they were disposed
of, a servant announced "The Wassailers."
"Well, let them come in," said Mr. Raby.
The school-children and young people of the village trooped in, and
made their obeisances, and sang the Christmas Carol--
"God rest you, merry gentlemen,
Let nothing you dismay."
Then one of the party produced an image of the Virgin and Child, and
another offered comfits in a box; a third presented the wassail-cup,
into which Raby immediately poured some silver, and Coventry
followed his example. Grace fumbled for her purse, and, when she
had found it, began to fumble in it for her silver.
But Raby lost all patience, and said, "There, I give this for the
lady, and she'll pay me NEXT CHRISTMAS."
The wassailers departed, and the Squire went to say a kind word to
his humbler guests.
Miss Carden took that opportunity to ask Mr. Coventry if he had
noticed the picture with its face to the wall. He said he had.
"Do you know who it is?"
"Did you read the inscription?"
"No. But, if you are curious, I'll go back to the dining-room, and
"I'm afraid he might be angry. There is no excuse for going there
"Send me for your pocket-handkerchief."
"Please see whether I have left my pocket-handkerchief in the
dining-room, Mr. Coventry," said Grace, demurely.
Mr. Coventry smiled, and hurried away. But he soon came back to say
that the candles were all out, the windows open, and the servants
laying the cloth for supper.
"Oh, never mind, then," said Grace; "when we go in to supper I'll
But a considerable time elapsed before supper, and Mr. Coventry
spent this time in making love rather ardently, and Grace in
defending herself rather feebly.
It was nearly eleven o'clock when Mr. Raby rejoined them, and they
all went in to supper. There were candles lighted on the table and
a few here and there upon the walls; but the room was very somber:
and Mr. Raby informed them this was to remind them of the moral
darkness, in which the world lay before that great event they were
about to celebrate.
He then helped each of them to a ladleful of frumety, remarking at
the same time, with a grim smile, that they were not obliged to eat
it; there would be a very different supper after midnight. Then a
black-letter Bible was brought him, and he read it all to himself at
After an interval of silence so passed there was a gentle tap at the
bay window. Mr. Raby went and threw it open, and immediately a
woman's voice, full, clear, and ringing, sang outside:
"The first Noel the angels did say,
Was to three poor shepherds, in fields as they lay,
In fields where they were keeping their sheep,
On a cold winter's night that was so deep.
Chorus.--Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel,
Born is the King of Israel."
The chorus also was sung outside.
During the chorus one of the doors opened, and Jael Dence came in by
it; and the treble singer, who was the blacksmith's sister, came in
at the window, and so the two women met in the room, and sang the
second verse in sweetest harmony. These two did not sing like
invalids, as their more refined sisters too often do; from their
broad chests, and healthy lungs, and noble throats, and above all,
their musical hearts, they poured out the harmony so clear and full,
that every glass in the room rang like a harp, and a bolt of ice
seemed to shoot down Grace Carden's backbone; and, in the chorus,
gentle George's bass was like a diapason.
"They looked up and saw a star
That shone in the East beyond them far,
And unto the earth it gave a great light,
And so it continued both day and night.
Chorus--Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel,
Born is the King of Israel."
As the Noel proceeded, some came in at the window, others at the
doors, and the lower part of the room began to fill with singers and
The Noel ended: there was a silence, during which the organ was
opened, the bellows blown, and a number of servants and others came
into the room with little lighted tapers, and stood, in a long row,
awaiting a signal from the Squire.
He took out his watch, and, finding it was close on twelve o'clock,
directed the doors to be flung open, that he might hear the great
clock in the hall strike the quarters.
There was a solemn hush of expectation, that made the sensitive
heart of Grace Carden thrill with anticipation.
The clock struck the first quarter--dead silence; the second--the
But, at the fourth, and with the first stroke of midnight, out burst
the full organ and fifty voices, with the "Gloria in excelsis Deo;"
and, as that divine hymn surged on, the lighters ran along the walls
and lighted the eighty candles, and, for the first time, the twelve
waxen pillars, so that, as the hymn concluded, the room was in a
blaze, and it was Christmas Day.
Instantly an enormous punch-bowl was brought to the host. He put
his lips to it, and said, "Friends, neighbors, I wish you all a
merry Christmas." Then there was a cheer that made the whole house
echo; and, by this time, the tears were running down Grace Carden's
She turned aside, to hide her pious emotion, and found herself right
opposite the picture, with this inscription, large and plain, in the
blaze of light--
"GONE INTO TRADE"
If, in the middle of the pious harmony that had stirred her soul,
some blaring trumpet had played a polka, in another key, it could
hardly have jarred more upon her devotional frame, than did this
earthly line, that glared out between two gigantic yule candles,
just lighted in honor of Him, whose mother was in trade when he was
She turned from it with deep repugnance, and seated herself in
silence at the table.
Very early in the supper she made an excuse, and retired to her
room: and, as she went out, her last glance was at the mysterious
She saw it again next morning at breakfast-time; but, it must be
owned, with different eyes. It was no longer contrasted with a
religious ceremony, and with the sentiments of gratitude and
humility proper to that great occasion, when we commemorate His
birth, whose mother had gone into trade. The world, and society,
whose child she was, seemed now to speak with authority from the
canvas, and to warn her how vain and hopeless were certain regrets,
which lay secretly, I might say clandestinely, at her heart.
She revered her godfather, and it was no small nor irrelevant
discovery to find that he had actually turned a picture in disgrace
to the wall, because its owner had descended to the level, or
probably not quite to the level, of Henry Little.
Jael Dence came up from the farm on Christmas afternoon, and almost
the first word Grace spoke was to ask her if she knew whose picture
that was in the dining-room. This vague description was enough for
Jael. She said she could not tell for certain, but she had once
heard her father say it was the Squire's own sister; but, when she
had pressed him on the subject, the old man had rebuked her--told
her not to meddle too much with other folks' business. "And, to be
sure, Squire has his reasons, no doubt," said Jael, rather dryly.
"The reason that is written on the back?"
"Ay: and a very poor reason too, to my mind."
"You are not the best judge of that--excuse me for saying so. Oh
dear, I wish I could see it."
"Don't think of such a thing, miss. You can't, however, for it's
padlocked down that way you could never loose it without being found
out. No longer agone than last Yule-time 'twas only turned, and not
fastened. But they say in the kitchen, that one day last month
Squire had them all up, and said the picture had been tampered with
while he was at Hillsboro'; and he scolded, and had it strapped and
padlocked down as 'tis."
The reader can imagine the effect of these fresh revelations. And a
lover was at hand, of good birth, good manners, and approved by her
godfather. That lover saw her inclining toward him, and omitted
nothing to compliment and please her. To be sure, that was no
uphill work, for he loved her better than he had ever loved a woman
in his life, which was a good deal to say, in his case.
They spent Christmas Day very happily together. Church in the
morning; then luncheon; then thick boots, a warmer shawl, and a
little walk all together; for Mr. Raby took a middle course; since
no positive engagement existed, he would not allow his fair guest to
go about with Mr. Coventry alone, and so he compromised, even in
village eyes; but, on the other hand, by stopping now and then to
give an order, or exchange a word, he gave Coventry many
opportunities, and that gentleman availed himself of them with his
In the evening they sat round the great fire, and Mr. Raby mulled
and spiced red wine by a family receipt, in a large silver saucepan;
and they sipped the hot and generous beverage, and told stories and
legends, the custom of the house on Christmas night. Mr. Raby was
an inexhaustible repertory of ghost-stories and popular legends.
But I select one that was told by Mr. Coventry, and told with a
certain easy grace that gave it no little interest.
MR. COVENTRY'S TALE.
"When I was quite a child, there was a very old woman living in our
village, that used to frighten me with her goggle eyes, and
muttering. She passed for a witch, I think; and when she died--I
was eight years old then--old people put their heads together, and
told strange stories about her early life. It seems that this Molly
Slater was away in service at Bollington, a village half way between
our place and Hillsborough, and her fellow-servants used to quiz her
because she had no sweetheart. At last, she told them to wait till
next Hilisboro' fair, and they should see. And just before the
fair, she reminded them of their sneers, and said she would not come
home without a sweetheart, though she took the Evil one himself.
For all that, she did leave the fair alone. But, as she trudged
home in the dark, a man overtook her, and made acquaintance with
her. He was a pleasant fellow, and told her his name was William
Easton. Of course she could not see his face very well, but he had
a wonderfully sweet voice. After that night, he used to court her,
and sing to her, but always in the dark. He never would face a
candle, though he was challenged to more than once. One night there
was a terrible noise heard--it is described as if a number of men
were threshing out corn upon the roof--and Molly Slater was found
wedged in between the bed and the wall, in a place where there was
scarcely room to put your hand. Several strong men tried to
extricate her by force; but both the bed and the woman's body
resisted so strangely that, at last, they thought it best to send
for the parson. He was a great scholar, and himself under some
suspicion of knowing more than it would be good for any less pious
person to know. Well, the parson came, and took a candle that was
burning, and held it to the place where poor Molly was imprisoned,
and moaning; and they say he turned pale, and shivered, for all his
learning. I forget what he said or did next; but by-and-by there
was a colloquy in a whisper between him and some person unseen, and
they say that this unseen whisper was very sweet, and something like
the chords of a harp, only low and very articulate. The parson
whispered, 'God gives a sinner time.' The sweet voice answered, 'He
can afford to; he is the stronger.' Then the parson adjured the
unseen one to wait a year and a day. But he refused, still in the
gentlest voice. Then the parson said these words: 'By all we love
and fear, by all you fear and hate, I adjure you to loose her, or
wait till next Christmas Eve.'
"I suppose the Evil Spirit saw some trap in that proposal, for he is
said to have laughed most musically. He answered, 'By all I fear
and hate, I'll loose her never; but, but I'll wait for her--till the
candle's burnt out;' and he chuckled most musically again.
"'Then wait to all eternity,' the parson roared; and blew the candle
out directly, and held it, with his hands crossed over it."
Grace Carden's eyes sparkled in the firelight. "Go on," she cried,
"The girl was loosed easily enough after that; but she was found to
be in a swoon; and not the least bruised, though ten villagers had
been pulling at her one after another."
"And what became of her afterward?"
"She lived to be ninety-six, and died in my time. I think she had
money left her. But she never married; and when she was old she
wandered about the lanes, muttering, and frightening little boys,
myself among the number. But now my little story follows another
actor of the tale."
"Oh, I'm so glad it is not over."
"No. The parson took the candle away, and it was never seen again.
But, somehow, it got wind that he had built it into the wall of the
church; perhaps he didn't say so, but was only understood to say so.
However, people used to look round the church for the place. And
now comes the most remarkable thing of all; three years ago the
present rector repaired the floor of the chancel, intending to put
down encaustic tiles. Much to his surprise, the workmen found
plenty of old encaustic tiles; they had been interred as rubbish at
some period, when antiquity and beauty were less respected than they
are now, I suppose."
Mr. Raby broke in, "The Puritans. Barbarians! beasts! It was just
like them. Well, sir--?"
"When the rector found that, he excavated more than was absolutely
necessary for his purpose, and the deeper he went the more encaustic
tiles. In one place they got down to the foundation, and they found
an oak chest fast in the rock--a sort of channel had been cut in the
rock for this chest, or rather box (for it was only about eighteen
inches long), to lie in. The master mason was there luckily, and
would not move it till the rector had seen it. He was sent for, but
half the parish was there before him; and he tells me there were
three theories firmly established and proved, before he could finish
his breakfast and get to the spot. Theory of Wilder, the village
grocer: 'It is treasure hidden by them there sly old monks.' Mr.
Wilder is a miser, and is known to lay up money. He is, I believe,
the only man left in the North Country who can show you a hundred
Mr. Raby replied, energetically, "I respect him. Wilder forever!
What was the next theory?"
"The skeleton of a child. I forget who propounded this; but I
believe it carried the majority. But the old sexton gave it a blow.
'Nay, nay,' said he; 'them's the notions of strangers. I was born
here, and my father afore me. It will be Molly Slater's candle, and
naught else.' Then poor Molly's whole story came up again over the
suspected box. But I am very tedious."
"Tedious! You are delightful, and thrilling, and pray go on. The
rector had the box opened?"
"On the spot."
"The box went to pieces, in spite of all their care. But there was
no doubt as to its contents."
Grace exclaimed, enthusiastically, "A candle. Oh, do say a candle!"
Mr. Coventry responded, "It's awfully tempting; but I suspect the
traditional part of my story is SLIGHTLY EMBELLISHED, so the
historical part must be accurate. What the box did really contain,
to my knowledge, was a rush-wick, much thicker than they are made
nowadays: and this rush-wick was impregnated with grease, and even
lightly coated with a sort of brown wafer-like paste. The rector
thinks it was a combination of fine dust from the box with the
original grease. He shall show it you, if you are curious to see
"Of course we are curious. Oh, Mr. Raby, what a strange story. And
how well he told it."
"Admirably. We must drink his health."
"I'll wish it him instead, because I require all my reason just now
to understand his story. And I don't understand it, after all.
There: you found the candle, and so it is all true. But what does
the rector think?"
"Well, he says there is no connection whatever between the rush-wick
"Don't tell her what HE says," cried Raby, with a sudden fury that
made Grace start and open her eyes. "I know the puppy. He is what
is called a divine nowadays; but used to be called a skeptic. There
never was so infidel an age. Socinus was content to prove Jesus
Christ a man; but Renan has gone and proved him a Frenchman.
Nothing is so gullible as an unbeliever. The right reverend father
in God, Cocker, has gnawed away the Old Testament: the Oxford
doctors are nibbling away the New: nothing escapes but the
apocrypha: yet these same skeptics believe the impudent lies, and
monstrous arithmetic of geology, which babbles about a million
years, a period actually beyond the comprehension of the human
intellect; and takes up a jaw-bone, that some sly navvy has
transplanted over-night from the churchyard into Lord knows what
stratum, fees the navvy, gloats over the bone, and knocks the Bible
down with it. No, Mr. Coventry, your story is a good one, and well
told; don't let us defile it with the comments of a skeptical
credulous pedant. Fill your glass, sir. Here's to old religion,
old stories, old songs, old houses, old wine, old friends, or"
(recovering himself with admirable grace) "to new friends that are
to be old ones ere we die. Come, let the stronger vessel drink, and
the weaker vessel sip, and all say together, after me--
"Well may we all be,
Ill may we never see,
That make good company,
Beneath the roof of Raby."
When this rude rhyme had been repeated in chorus, there was a little
silence, and the conversation took a somewhat deeper tone. It began
through Grace asking Mr. Raby, with all the simplicity of youth,
whether he had ever seen anything supernatural with his own eyes.
"For instance," said she, "this deserted church of yours, that you
say the shepherd said he saw on fire--did YOU see that?"
"Not I. Indeed, the church is not in sight from here. No, Grace, I
never saw any thing supernatural: and I am sorry for it, for I laugh
at people's notion that a dead man has any power to injure the
living; how can a cold wind come from a disembodied spirit? I am
all that a ghost is, and something more; and I only wish I COULD
call the dead from their graves; I'd soon have a dozen gentlemen and
ladies out of that old church-yard into this very room. And, if
they would only come, you would see me converse with them as civilly
and as calmly as I am doing with you. The fact is, I have some
questions to put, which only the dead can answer--passages in the
family correspondence, referring to things I can't make out for the
life of me."
"Oh, Mr. Raby, pray don't talk in this dreadful way, for fear they
should be angry and come." And Grace looked fearfully round over
Mr. Raby shook his head; and there was a dead silence.
Mr. Raby broke it rather unexpectedly. "But," said he, gravely, "if
I have seen nothing, I've heard something. Whether it was
supernatural, I can't say; but, at least, it was unaccountable and
terrible. I have heard THE GABRIEL HOUNDS."
Mr. Coventry and Grace looked at one another, and then inquired,
almost in a breath, what the Gabriel hounds were.
"A strange thing in the air that is said, in these parts, to
"Oh dear!" said Grace, "this is thrilling again; pray tell us."
"Well, one night I was at Hillsborough on business, and, as I walked
by the old parish church, a great pack of beagles, in full cry,
passed close over my head."
"Yes; they startled me, as I never was startled in my life before.
I had never heard of the Gabriel hounds then, and I was stupefied.
I think I leaned against the wall there full five minutes, before I
recovered myself, and went on."
"Oh dear! But did any thing come of it?"
"You shall judge for yourself. I had left a certain house about an
hour and a half: there was trouble in that house, but only of a
pecuniary kind. To tell the truth, I came back with some money for
them, or rather, I should say, with the promise of it. I found the
wife in a swoon: and, upstairs, her husband lay dead by his own
"Oh, my poor godpapa!" cried Grace, flinging her arm tenderly round
"Ay, my child, and the trouble did not end there. Insult followed;
ingratitude; and a family feud, which is not healed yet, and never
will be--till she and her brat come on their knees to me."
Mr. Raby had no sooner uttered these last words with great heat,
than he was angry with himself. "Ah!" said he, "the older a man
gets, the weaker. To think of my mentioning that to you young
people!" And he rose and walked about the room in considerable
agitation and vexation. "Curse the Gabriel hounds! It is the first
time I have spoken of them since that awful night; it is the last I
ever will speak of them. What they are, God, who made them, knows.
Only I pray I may never hear them again, nor any friend of mine."
Next morning Jael Dence came up to the hall, and almost the first
question Grace asked her was, whether she had ever heard of the
Jael looked rather puzzled. Grace described them after Mr. Raby.
"Why, that will be Gabble Retchet," said Jael. "I wouldn't talk
much about the like, if I was you, miss."
But Grace persisted, and, at last, extracted from her that sounds
had repeatedly been heard in the air at night, as of a pack of
hounds in full cry, and that these hounds ran before trouble.
"But," said Jael, solemnly, "they are not hounds at all; they are
the souls of unbaptized children, wandering in the air till the day
This description, however probable, had the effect of making Grace
disbelieve the phenomenon altogether, and she showed her incredulity
by humming a little air.
But Jael soon stopped that. "Oh, miss, pray don't do so. If you
sing before breakfast, you'll cry before supper."
At breakfast, Mr. Coventry invited Miss Carden to go to the top of
Cairnhope Peak, and look over four counties. He also told her she
could see Bollinghope house, his own place, very well from the Peak.
Grace assented: and, immediately after breakfast, begged Jael to be
in the way to accompany her. She divined, with feminine quickness,
that Mr. Coventry would be very apt, if he pointed out Bollinghope
House to her from the top of a mountain, to say, "Will you be its
mistress?" but, possibly, she did not wish to be hurried, or it may
have been only a mere instinct, an irrational impulse of self-
defense, with which the judgment had nothing to do; or perhaps it
was simple modesty. Any way, she engaged Jael to be of the party.
It was talked of again at luncheon, and then Mr. Raby put in a word.
"I have one stipulation to make, young people, and that is that you
go up the east side, and down the same way. It is all safe walking
on that side. I shall send you in my four-wheel to the foot of the
hill, and George will wait for you there at the 'Colley Dog' public-
house, and bring you home again."
This was, of course, accepted with thanks, and the four-wheel came
round at two o'clock. Jael was seated in front by the side of
George, who drove; Mr. Coventry and Grace, behind. He had his fur-
cloak to keep his companion warm on returning from the hill; but Mr.
Raby, who did nothing by halves, threw in some more wraps, and gave
a warm one to Jael; she was a favorite with him, as indeed were all
They started gayly, and rattled off at a good pace. Before they had
got many yards on the high-road, they passed a fir-plantation,
belonging to Mr. Raby, and a magpie fluttered out of this, and flew
across the road before them.
Jael seized the reins, and pulled them so powerfully, she stopped
the pony directly. "Oh, the foul bird!" she cried, "turn back! turn
"What for?" inquired Mr. Coventry.
"We shall meet with trouble else. One magpie! and right athwart us
"What nonsense!" said Grace.
"Nay, nay, it is not; Squire knows better. Wait just one minute,
till I speak to Squire." She sprang from the carriage with one
bound, and, holding up her dress with one hand, ran into the house
like a lapwing.
"The good, kind, silly thing!" said Grace Carden.