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Put Yourself in His Place Part 51

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"Are all screws out?" whispered Cole, who was the leader.

"Ay," was the whispered reply.

"Then put in two more gimlets."

That was done.

"Now, men," whispered Cole. "Lay the door softly down outside: then, up sticks--into church--and DO HIM!"

CHAPTER XIII.

If Mr. Coventry, before he set all this mischief moving, could have seen the INSIDE of Grace Carden's letter to Henry Little!

"DEAR MR. LITTLE,--I do not know whether I ought to write to you at all, nor whether it is delicate of me to say what I am going; but you have saved my life, and I do so want to do all I can to atone for the pain I have given you, who have been so good to me. I am afraid you will never know happiness, if you waste your invaluable life longing after what is impossible. There is an impa.s.sable barrier between you and me. But you might be happy if you would condescend to take my advice, and let yourself see the beauty and the goodness of another. The person who bears this letter comes nearer to perfection than any other woman I ever saw. If you would trust my judgment (and, believe me, I am not to be mistaken in one of my own s.e.x), if you could turn your heart toward her, she would make you very happy. I am sure she could love you devotedly, if she only heard those words from your lips, which every woman requires to hear before she surrenders her affections. Pray do not be angry with me; pray do not think it cost me little to give this strange but honest advice to one I admire so. But I feel it would be so weak and selfish in me to cling to that, which, sooner or later, I must resign, and to make so many persons unhappy, when all might be happy, except perhaps myself.

"Once more, forgive me. Do not think me blind; do not think me heartless; but say, this is a poor girl, who is sadly perplexed, and is trying very hard to be good and wise, and not selfish.

"One line, to say you will consider my advice, and never hate nor despise your grateful and unhappy friend.

"GRACE CARDEN."

When she had dispatched this letter, she felt heroic.

The next day, she wished she had not written it, and awaited the reply with anxiety.

The next day, she began to wonder at Little's silence: and by-and-by she was offended at it. Surely what she had written with so great an effort was worth a reply.

Finally, she got it into her head that Little despised her. Upon this she was angry with him for not seeing what a sacrifice she had made, and for despising her, instead of admiring her a little, and pitying her ever so much. The old story in short--a girl vexed with a man for letting her throw dust in his eyes.

And, if she was vexed with Little for not appreciating her sacrifice, she was quite as angry with Coventry and Jael for being the causes of that unappreciated sacrifice. So then she was irritable and cross. But she could not be that long: so she fell into a languid, listless state: and then she let herself drift. She never sent Jael to the church again.

Mr. Coventry watched all her moods; and when she reached the listless stage, he came softly on again, and began to recover his lost ground.

On the fifth of January occurred a rather curious coincidence. In Hillsborough Dr. Amboyne offered his services to Mrs. Little to reconcile her and her brother. Mrs. Little feared the proposal came too late: but showed an inclination to be reconciled for Henry's sake. But Henry said he would never be reconciled to a man who had insulted his mother. He then reminded her she had sent him clandestinely into Raby Hall to see her picture. "And what did I see? Your picture was turned with its face to the wall, and insulting words written on the back--'Gone into trade.' I didn't mean to tell yell, mother; but you see I have. And, after that, you may be reconciled to the old scoundrel if you like; but don't ask me." Mrs. Little was deeply wounded by this revelation. She tried to make light of it, but failed. She had been a beauty, and the affront was too bitter. Said she, "You mustn't judge him like other people: he was always so very eccentric. Turn my picture to the wall! My poor picture! Oh, Guy, Guy, could one mother have borne you and me?" Amboyne had not a word more to say; he was indignant himself.

Now that very afternoon, as if by the influence of what they call a brain-wave, Grace Carden, who felt herself much stronger with Mr. Raby than when she first came, was moved to ask him, with many apologies, and no little inward tremor, whether she might see the other side of that very picture before she went.

"What for?"

"Don't be angry, uncle dear. Curiosity."

"I do not like to refuse you anything, Grace. But--Well, if I lend you the key, will you satisfy your curiosity, and then replace the picture as it is?"

"Yes, I will."

"And you shall do it when I am not in the room. It would only open wounds that time has skinned. I'll bring you down the key at dinner-time." Then, a.s.suming a lighter tone, "Your curiosity will be punished; you will see your rival in beauty. That will be new to you."

Grace was half frightened at her own success, and I doubt whether she would ever have asked for the key again; but Raby's word was his bond; he handed her the key at dinner-time.

Her eyes sparkled when she got it; but she was not to open it before him; so she fell thinking: and she determined to get the gentlemen into the drawing-room as soon as she could, and then slip back and see this famous picture.

Accordingly she left the table rather earlier than usual, and sat down to her piano in the drawing-room.

But, alas, her little maneuver was defeated. Instead of the gentlemen leaving the dining-room, a servant was sent to recall her.

It was old Christmas Eve, and the Mummers were come.

Now, of all the old customs Mr. Raby had promised her, this was the pearl.

Accordingly, her curiosity took for the time another turn, and she was soon seated in the dining-room, with Mr. Raby and Mr. Coventry, awaiting the Mummers.

The servants then came in, and, when all was ready, the sound of a fiddle was heard, and a fiddler, grotesquely dressed, entered along with two clowns, one called the Tommy, dressed in chintz and a fox's skin over his shoulders and a fox's head for a cap; and one, called the Bessy, in a woman's gown and beaver hat.

This pair introduced the true dramatis personae, to the drollest violin accompaniment, consisting of chords till the end of each verse, and then a few notes of melody.

"Now the first that I call on Is George, our n.o.ble king, Long time he has been at war, Good tidings back he'll bring.

Too-ral-loo."

Thereupon in came a man, with black breeches and red stripes at the side, a white shirt decked with ribbons over his waistcoat, and a little hat with streamers, and a sword.

The clown walked round in a ring, and King George followed him, holding his sword upright.

Meantime the female clown chanted,--

"The next that we call on, He is a squire's son; He's like to lose his love, Because he is so young.

Too-ral-loo."

The Squire's Son followed King George round the ring; and the clowns, marching and singing at the head, introduced another, and then another sword-dancer, all attired like the first, until there were five marching round and round, each with his sword upright.

Then Foxey sang, to a violin accompaniment,

"Now, fiddler, then, take up thy fiddle, Play the lads their hearts' desire, Or else we'll break thy fiddle, And fling thee a-back o' the fire."

On this the fiddler instantly played a dance-tune peculiar to this occasion, and the five sword-dancers danced by themselves in a ring, holding their swords out so as to form a cone.

Then a knot, prepared beforehand, was slipped over the swords, and all the swords so knotted were held aloft by the first dancer; he danced in the center awhile, under the connected swords, then deftly drew his own sword out and handed it to the second dancer; the second gave the third dancer his sword, and so on, in rotation, till all the swords were resumed.

Raby's eyes sparkled with delight at all this, and he whispered his comments on the verses and the dance.

"King George!" said he. "Bosh! This is the old story of St. George and the Dragon, overburdened with modern additions." As to the dance, he a.s.sured her that, though danced in honor of old Christmas, it was older than Christianity, and came from the ancient Goths and Swedes.

These comments were interrupted by a man, with a white face, who burst into the a.s.sembly crying, "Will ye believe me now? Cairnhope old church is all afire!"

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Put Yourself in His Place Part 51 summary

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