Put Yourself in His Place - novelonlinefull.com
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"I suspect the postman has been tampered with. I write to Mr. Ransome to look into that. But what you might learn for me is, whether any body lately has had any opportunity to stop letters addressed to 'Woodbine Villa.' That seems to point to Mr. Carden, and he was never a friend of mine. But, somehow, I don't think he would do it.
"You see, I ask myself two questions. Is there any man in the world who has a motive strong enough to set him tampering with my letters? and, again, is there any man base enough to do such an act? And the answer to both questions is the same. I have a rival, and he is base enough for any thing. Judge for yourself. I as good as saved that Coventry's life one snowy night, and all I asked in return was that he wouldn't blow me to the Trades, and so put my life in jeopardy. He gave his word of honor he wouldn't. But he broke his word. One day, when Grotait and I were fast friends, and never thought to differ again, Grotait told me this Coventry was the very man that came to him and told him where I was working. Such a lump of human dirt as that--for you can't call him a man--must be capable of any thing."
Here the reading of the letter was interrupted by an incident.
There was on the toilet-table a stiletto, with a pearl handle. It was a small thing, but the steel rather long, and very bright and pointed.
The unfortunate bride, without lifting her head from the table, had reached out her hand, and was fingering this stiletto. Jael Dence went and took it gently away, and put it out of reach. The bride went on fingering, as if she had still got hold of it.
Amboyne exchanged an approving glance with Jael, and Raby concluded the letter.
"I shall be home in a few days after this; and, if I find my darling well and happy, there's no great harm done. I don't mind my own trouble and anxiety, great as they are, but if any scoundrel has made her unhappy, or made her believe I am dead, or false to my darling, by G.o.d, I'll kill him, though I hang for it next day!"
Crushed, benumbed, and broken as Grace Coventry was, this sentence seemed to act on her like an electric shock.
She started wildly up. "What! my Henry die like a felon--for a villain like him, and an idiot like me! You won't allow that; nor you--nor I."
A soft step came to the door, and a gentle tap.
"Who is that?" said Dr. Amboyne.
"The bridegroom," replied a soft voice.
"You can't come in here," said Raby, roughly.
"Open the door," said the bride.
Jael went to the door, but looked uncertain.
"Don't keep the bridegroom out," said Grace, reproachfully. Then, in a voice as sweet as his own, "I want to see him; I want to speak to him."
Jael opened the door slowly, for she felt uneasy. Raby shrugged his shoulders contemptuously at Grace's condescending to speak to the man, and in so amiable a tone.
Coventry entered, and began, "My dear Grace, the carriage is ready--"
No sooner had she got him fairly into the room, than the bride s.n.a.t.c.hed up the stiletto, and flew at the bridegroom with gleaming eyes, uplifted weapon, the yell of a furious wild beast, and hair flying out behind her head like a lion's mane.
Dr. Amboyne and Raby cried out, and tried to interfere; but Grace's movement was too swift, furious, and sudden; she was upon the man, with her stiletto high in the air, before they could get to her, and indeed the blow descended, and, inspired as it was by love, and hate, and fury, would doubtless have buried the weapon in a rascal's body; but Jael Dence caught Grace's arm: that weakened, and also diverted the blow; yet the slight, keen weapon pierced Coventry's cheek, and even inflicted a slight wound upon the tongue. That very moment Jael Dence dragged her away, and held her round the waist, writhing and striking the air; her white hand and bridal sleeve sprinkled with her bridegroom's blood.
As for him, his love, criminal as it was, supplied the place of heroism: he never put up a finger in defense. "No," said he, despairingly, "let me die by her hand; it is all I hope for now." He even drew near her to enable her to carry out her wish: but, on that, Jael Dence wrenched her round directly, and Dr. Amboyne disarmed her, and Raby marched between the bride and the bridegroom, and kept them apart: then they all drew their breath, for the first time, and looked aghast at each other.
Not a face in that room had an atom of color left in it; yet it was not until the worst was over that they realized the savage scene.
The bridegroom leaned against the wardrobe, a picture of despair, with blood trickling from his cheek, and channeling his white waist-coat and linen; the bride, her white and bridal sleeve spotted with blood, writhed feebly in Jael Dence's arms, and her teeth clicked together, and her eyes shone wildly. At that moment she was on the brink of frenzy.
Raby, a man by nature, and equal to great situations, was the first to recover self-possession and see his way. "Silence!" said he, sternly.
"Amboyne, here's a wounded man; attend to him."
He had no need to say that twice; the doctor examined his patient zealously, and found him bleeding from the tongue as well as the cheek; he made him fill his mouth with a constant supply of cold water, and applied cold water to the nape of his neck.
And now there was a knock at the door, and a voice inquired rather impatiently, what they were about all this time. It was Mr. Carden's voice.
They let him in, but instantly closed the door. "Now, hush!" said Raby, "and let me tell him." He then, in a very few hurried words, told him the matter. Coventry hung his head lower and lower.
Mr. Carden was terribly shaken. He could hardly speak for some time.
When he did, it was in the way of feeble expostulation. "Oh, my child!
my child! what, would you commit murder?"
"Don't you see I would," cried she, contemptuously, "sooner than HE should do it, and suffer for it like a felon? You are all blind, and no friends of mine. I should have rid the earth of a monster, and they would never have hanged ME. I hate you all, you worst of all, that call yourself my father, and drove me to marry this villain. One thing--you won't be always at hand to protect him."
"I'll give you every opportunity," said Coventry, doggedly. "You shall kill me for loving you so madly."
"She shall do no such thing," said Mr. Carden. "Opportunity? do you know her so little as to think she will ever live with you. Get out of my house, and never presume to set foot in at again. My good friends, have pity on a miserable father and help me to hide this monstrous thing from the world."
This appeal was not lost: the gentlemen put their heads together and led Coventry into another room. There Dr. Amboyne attended to him, while Mr.
Carden went down and told his guests the bridegroom had been taken ill, so seriously indeed that anxiety and alarm had taken the place of joy.
The guests took the hint and dispersed, wondering and curious.
Meantime, on one side of a plaster wall Amboyne was attending the bridegroom, and stanching the effusion of blood; on the other, Raby and Jael Dence were bringing the bride to reason.
She listened to nothing they could say until they promised her most solemnly that she should never be compelled to pa.s.s a night under the same roof as Frederick Coventry. That pacified her not a little.
Dr. Amboyne had also great trouble with his patient: the wound in the cheek was not serious; but, by a sort of physical retribution--of which, by-the-bye, I have encountered many curious examples--the tongue, that guilty part of Frederick Coventry, though slightly punctured, bled so persistently that Amboyne was obliged to fill his mouth with ice, and at last support him with stimulants. He peremptorily refused to let him be moved from Woodbine Villa.
When this was communicated to Grace, she instantly exacted Raby's promise; and as he was a man who never went from his word, he drove her and Jael to Raby Hall that very night, and they left Coventry in the villa, attended by a surgeon, under whose care Amboyne had left him with strict injunctions. Mr. Carden was secretly mortified at his daughter's retreat, but raised no objection.
Next morning, however, he told Coventry; and then Coventry insisted on leaving the house. "I am unfortunate enough," said he: "do not let me separate my only friend from his daughter."
Mr. Carden sent a carriage off to Raby Hall, with a note, telling Grace Mr. Coventry was gone of his own accord, and appeared truly penitent, and much shocked at having inadvertently driven her out of the house.
He promised also to protect her, should Coventry break his word and attempted to a.s.sume marital rights without her concurrence.
This letter found Grace in a most uncomfortable position. Mrs. Little had returned late to Raby Hall; but in the morning she heard from Jael Dence that Grace was in the house, and why.
The mother's feathers were up, and she could neither pity nor excuse.
She would not give the unhappy girl a word of comfort. Indeed, she sternly refused to see her. "No," said she: "Mrs. Coventry is unhappy; so this is no time to show her how thoroughly Henry Little's mother despises her."
These bitter words never reached poor Grace, but the bare fact of Mrs. Little not coming down-stairs by one o'clock, nor sending a civil message, spoke volumes, and Grace was sighing over it when her father's letter came. She went home directly, and so heartbroken, that Jael Dence pitied her deeply, and went with her, intending to stay a day or two only.