Put Yourself in His Place Part 131

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Coventry broke out into curses. He made wonderful efforts for a man in his condition; he got lawyers to prepare a pet.i.tion to Parliament; he had the register inspected, and found that the Shifty had married two poor couples; he bribed them to join in his pet.i.tion, 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 pet.i.tion 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 pet.i.tion 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 pet.i.tion 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 ma.s.s; 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 s.p.a.ce 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 b.l.o.o.d.y 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 a.s.sa.s.sins; 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 a.s.sist 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 ma.s.s 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 a.s.sa.s.sins: 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 pa.s.sed 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 b.l.o.o.d.y outrages, nor prevent their spreading from their present populous centers all over the land. Seeing these things, I have drawn my pen against cowardly a.s.sa.s.sination 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, n.o.blest, 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.

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Put Yourself in His Place Part 131 summary

You're reading Put Yourself in His Place. This manga has been translated by Updating. Author(s): Charles Reade. Already has 538 views.

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