Read CHAPTER XLVIII. of Put Yourself in His Place , free online book, by Charles Reade, on ReadCentral.com.

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 moment.

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 for once.”

“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 turn pale.

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 her.”

“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.”

“Well, do.”

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.”

“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 ­marry 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 that way.”

“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 despair.

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 follows: 

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,

Henry.”

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 Christian purposes.

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 bore.

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 his person.

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 Gosshawk.

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 became interested.

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 occasion?”

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 husband 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 the wedding.”

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 spot.

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 husband.

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 game.”

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 its virtue.

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 England.

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.