'Oh, Mrs. Woodward!'
'To me, Harry, you should have been the dearest, the most welcome
son. But you are so still. No son could be dearer. Oh, that she
could have seen you as I see you!'
'There is no hope,' said he. He did not put it as a question; but
Mrs. Woodward saw that it was intended that she should take it as
such if she pleased. What could she say to him? She knew that
there was no hope. Had it been Linda, Linda might have been
moulded to her will. But with Gertrude there could now be no
hope. What could she say? She knelt down and kissed his brow, and
mingled her tears with his.
'Oh, Harry - oh, Harry! my dearest, dearest son!'
'Oh, Mrs. Woodward, I have loved her so truly.'
What could Mrs. Woodward do but cry also? what but that, and
throw such blame as she could upon her own shoulders? She was
bound to defend her daughter.
'It has been my fault, Harry,' she said; 'it is I whom you must
blame, not poor Gertrude.'
'I blame no one,' said he.
'I know you do not; but it is I whom you should blame. I should
have learnt how her heart stood, and have prevented this - but I
thought, I thought it would have been otherwise.'
Norman looked up at her, and took her hand, and pressed it. 'I
will go now,' he said, 'and don't expect me here to-morrow. I
could not come in. Say that I thought it best to go to town
because I am unwell. Good-bye, Mrs. Woodward; pray write to me. I
can't come to the Cottage now for a while, but pray write to me:
do not you forget me, Mrs. Woodward.'
Mrs. Woodward fell upon his breast and wept, and bade God bless
him, and called him her son and her dearest friend, and sobbed
till her heart was nigh to break. 'What,' she thought, 'what
could her daughter wish for, when she repulsed from her feet such
a suitor as Harry Norman?'
He then went quietly down the stairs, quietly out of the house,
and having packed up his bag at the inn, started off through the
pouring rain, and walked away through the dark stormy night,
through the dirt and mud and wet, to his London lodgings; nor was
he again seen at Surbiton Cottage for some months after this
A COMMUNICATION OF IMPORTANCE
Norman's dark wet walk did him physically no harm, and morally
some good. He started on it in that frame of mind which induces a
man to look with indifference on all coming evils under the
impression that the evils already come are too heavy to admit of
any increase. But by the time that he was thoroughly wet through,
well splashed with mud, and considerably fatigued by his first
five or six miles' walk, he began to reflect that life was not
over with him, and that he must think of future things as well as
those that were past.
He got home about two o'clock, and having knocked up his
landlady, Mrs. Richards, betook himself to bed. Alaric had been
in his room for the last two hours, but of Charley and his latch-
key Mrs. Richards knew nothing. She stated her belief, however,
that two a.m. seldom saw that erratic gentleman in his bed.
On the following morning, Alaric, when he got his hot water,
heard that Norman returned during the night from Hampton, and he
immediately guessed what had brought him back. He knew that
nothing short of some great trouble would have induced Harry to
leave the Cottage so abruptly, and that that trouble must have
been of such a nature as to make his remaining with the Woodwards
an aggravation of it. No such trouble could have come on him but
As Charley seldom made his appearance at the breakfast table on
Sunday mornings, Alaric foresaw that he must undergo a _tete-a-
tete_ which would not be agreeable to himself, and which must
be much more disagreeable to his companion; but for this there
was no help. Harry had, however, prepared himself for what he had
to go through, and immediately that the two were alone, he told
his tale in a very few words.
'Alaric,' said he, 'I proposed to Gertrude last night, and she
Alaric Tudor was deeply grieved for his friend. There was
something in the rejected suitor's countenance - something in the
tone of voice, which would have touched any heart softer than
stone; and Alaric's heart had not as yet been so hardened by the
world as to render him callous to the sight of such grief as
'Take my word for it, Harry, she'll think better of it in a month
or two,' he said.
'Never-never; I am sure of it. Not only from her own manner, but
from her mother's,' said Harry. And yet, during half his walk
home, he had been trying to console himself with the reflection
that most young ladies reject their husbands once or twice before
they accept them.
There is no offering a man comfort in such a sorrow as this;
unless, indeed, he be one to whom the worship of Bacchus may be
made a fitting substitute for that of the Paphian goddess.
There is a sort of disgrace often felt, if never acknowledged,
which attaches itself to a man for having put himself into
Norman's present position, and this generally prevents him from
confessing his defeat in such matters. The misfortune in question
is one which doubtless occurs not unfrequently to mankind; but as
mankind generally bear their special disappointments in silence,
and as the vanity of women is generally exceeded by their good-
nature, the secret, we believe, in most cases remains a secret.
Shall I, wasting in despair,
Die because a woman's fair?
If she be not fair for me,
What care I how fair she be?
This was the upshot of the consideration which Withers, the poet,
gave to the matter, and Withers was doubtless right. 'Tis thus
that rejected lovers should think, thus that they should demean
themselves; but they seldom come to this philosophy till a few
days have passed by, and talking of their grievance does not
assist them in doing so.
When, therefore, Harry had declared what had happened to him, and
had declared also that he had no further hope, he did not at
first find himself much the better for what he had confessed. He
was lackadaisical and piteous, and Alaric, though he had
endeavoured to be friendly, soon found that he had no power of
imparting any comfort. Early in the day they parted, and did not
see each other again till the following morning.
'I was going down to Normansgrove on Thursday,' said Harry.
'Yes, I know,' said Alaric.
'I think I shall ask leave to go to-day. It can't make much
difference, and the sooner I get away the better.'
And so it was settled. Norman left town the same afternoon, and
Alaric, with his blushing honours thick upon him, was left alone.
London was now very empty, and he was constrained to enjoy his
glory very much by himself. He had never associated much with the
Minusexes and Uppinalls, nor yet with the Joneses and Robinsons
of his own office, and it could not be expected that there should
be any specially confidential intercourse between them just at
the present moment. Undy was of course out of town with the rest
of the fashionable world, and Alaric, during the next week, was
left very much on his own hands.
'And so,' said he to himself, as he walked solitary along the
lone paths of Rotten Row, and across the huge desert to the
Marble Arch, 'and so poor Harry's hopes have been all in vain; he
has lost his promotion, and now he has lost his bride - poor
Harry!' - and then it occurred to him that as he had acquired the
promotion it might be his destiny to win the bride also. He had
never told himself that he loved Gertrude; he had looked on her
as Norman's own, and he, at any rate, was not the man to sigh in
despair after anything that was out of his reach. But now, now
that Harry's chance was over, and that no bond of friendship
could interfere with such a passion, why should he not tell
himself that he loved Gertrude? 'If, as Harry had himself said,
there was no longer any hope for him, why,' said Alaric to
himself, 'why should not I try my chance?' Of Linda, of 'dear,
dearest Linda,' at this moment he thought very little, or,
perhaps, not at all. Of what Mrs. Woodward might say, of that he
did think a good deal.
The week was melancholy and dull, and it passed very slowly at
Hampton. On the Sunday morning it became known to them all that
Norman was gone, but the subject, by tacit consent, was allowed
to pass all but unnoticed. Even Katie, even Uncle Bat, were aware
that something had occurred which ought to prevent them from
inquiring too particularly why Harry had started back to town in
so sudden a manner; and so they said nothing. To Linda, Gertrude
had told what had happened; and Linda, as she heard it, asked
herself whether she was prepared to be equally obdurate with her
lover. He had now the means of supporting a wife, and why should
she be obdurate?
Nothing was said on the subject between Gertrude and her mother.
What more could Mrs. Woodward say? It would have been totally
opposed to the whole principle of her life to endeavour, by any
means, to persuade her daughter to the match, or to have used her
maternal influence in Norman's favour. And she was well aware
that it would have been impossible to do so successfully.
Gertrude was not a girl to be talked into a marriage by any
parent, and certainly not by such a parent as her mother. There
was, therefore, nothing further to be said about it.
On. Saturday Alaric went down, but his arrival hardly made things
more pleasant. Mrs. Woodward could not bring herself to be
cordial with him, and the girls were restrained by a certain
feeling that it would not be right to show too much outward joy
at Alaric's success. Linda said one little word of affectionate
encouragement, but it produced no apparent return from Alaric.
His immediate object was to recover Mrs. Woodward's good graces;
and he thought before he went that he had reason to hope that he
might do so.
Of all the household, Captain Cuttwater was the most emphatic in
his congratulations. 'He had no doubt,' he said, 'that the best
man had won. He had always hoped that the best man might win. He
had not had the same luck when he was young, but he was very glad
to see such an excellent rule brought into the service. It would
soon work great changes, he was quite sure, at the Board of
On the Sunday afternoon Captain Cuttwater asked him into his own
bedroom, and told him with a solemn, serious manner that he had a
communication of importance to make to him. Alaric followed the
captain into the well-known room in which Norman used to sleep,
wondering what could be the nature of Uncle Bat's important
communication. It might, probably, be some tidings of Sir Jib
'Mr. Alaric,' said the old man, as soon as they were both seated
on opposite sides of a little Pembroke table that stood in the
middle of the room, 'I was heartily glad to hear of your success
at the Weights and Measures; not that I ever doubted it if they
made a fair sailing match of it.'
'I am sure I am much obliged to you, Captain Cuttwater.'
'That is as may be, by and by. But the fact is, I have taken a
fancy to you. I like fellows that know how to push themselves.'
Alaric had nothing for it but to repeat again that he felt
himself grateful for Captain Cuttwater's good opinion.
'Not that I have anything to say against Mr. Norman - a very nice
young man, indeed, he is, very nice, though perhaps not quite so
cheerful in his manners as he might be.'
Alaric began to take his friend's part, and declared what a very
worthy fellow Harry was.
'I am sure of it - I am sure of it,' said Uncle Bat; 'but
everybody can't be A1; and a man can't make everybody his heir.'
Alaric pricked up his ears. So after all Captain Cuttwater was
right in calling his communication important. But what business
had Captain Cuttwater to talk of making new heirs? - had he not
declared that the Woodwards were his heirs?
'I have got a little money, Mr. Alaric,' he went on saying in a
low modest tone, very different from that he ordinarily used; 'I
have got a little money - not much - and it will of course go to my
'Of course,' said Alaric.
'That is to say - it will go to her children, which is all the
'Quite the same thing,' said Alaric.
'But my idea is this: if a man has saved a few pounds himself, I
think he has a right to give it to those he loves best. Now I
have no children of my own.'
Alaric declared himself aware of the fact.
'And I suppose I shan't have any now.'
'Not if you don't marry,' said Alaric, who felt rather at a loss
for a proper answer. He could not, however, have made a better
'No; that's what I mean; but I don't think I shall marry. I am
very well contented here, and I like Surbiton Cottage amazingly.'
'It's a charming place,' said Alaric.
'No, I don't suppose I shall ever have any children of my own,' -
and then Uncle Bat sighed gently - 'and so I have been considering
whom I should like to adopt.'
'Quite right, Captain Cuttwater.'
'Whom I should like to adopt. I should like to have one whom I
could call in a special manner my own. Now, Mr. Alaric, I have
made up my mind, and who do you think it is?'
'Oh! Captain Cuttwater, I couldn't guess on such a matter. I
shouldn't like to guess wrong.'
'Perhaps not - no; that's right; - well then, I'll tell you; it's
Alaric was well aware that it was Gertrude before her name had
'Yes, it's Gertrude; of course I couldn't go out of Bessie's
family - of course it must be either Gertrude, or Linda, or Katie.
Now Linda and Katie are very well, but they haven't half the
gumption that Gertrude has.'
'No, they have not,' said Alaric.
'I like gumption,' said Captain Cuttwater. 'You've a great deal
of gumption - that's why I like you.'
Alaric laughed, and muttered something.
'Now I have been thinking of something;' and Uncle Bat looked
strangely mysterious - 'I wonder what you think of Gertrude?'
'Who - I?' said Alaric.
'I can see through a millstone as well as another,' said the
captain; 'and I used to think that Norman and Gertrude meant to
hit it off together.'
Alaric said nothing. He did not feel inclined to tell Norman's
secret, and yet he could not belie Gertrude by contradicting the
justice of Captain Cuttwater's opinion.
'I used to think so - but now I find there's nothing in it. I am
sure Gertrude wouldn't have him, and I think she's right. He
hasn't gumption enough.'
'Harry Norman is no fool.'
'I dare say not,' said the captain; 'but take my word, she'll
never have him - Lord bless you, Norman knows that as well as I
Alaric knew it very well himself also; but he did not say so.
'Now, the long and the short of it is this - why don't you make up
to her? If you'll make up to her and carry the day, all I can say
is, I will do all I can to keep the pot a-boiling; and if you
think it will help you, you may tell Gertrude that I say so.'
This was certainly an important communication, and one to which
Alaric found it very difficult to give any immediate answer. He
said a great deal about his affection for Mrs. Woodward, of his
admiration for Miss Woodward, of his strong sense of Captain
Cuttwater's kindness, and of his own unworthiness; but he left
the captain with an impression that he was not prepared at the
present moment to put himself forward as a candidate for
'I don't know what the deuce he would have,' said the captain to
himself. 'She's as fine a girl as he's likely to find; and two or
three thousand pounds isn't so easily got every day by a fellow
that hasn't a shilling of his own.'
When Alaric took his departure the next morning, he thought he
perceived, from Mrs. Woodward's manner, that there was less than
her usual cordiality in the tone in which she said that of course
he would return at the end of the week.
'I will if possible,' he said, 'and I need not say that I hope to
do so; but I fear I may be kept in town - at any rate I'll write.'
When the end of the week came he wrote to say that unfortunately
he was kept in town. He thoroughly understood that people are
most valued when they make themselves scarce. He got in reply a
note from Gertrude, saying that her mother begged that on the
following Saturday he would come and bring Charley with him.
On his return to town, Alaric, by appointment, called on Sir
Gregory. He had not seen his patron yet since his great report on
Wheal Mary Jane had been sent in. That report had been written
exclusively by himself, and poor Neverbend had been obliged to
content himself with putting all his voluminous notes into
Tudor's hands. He afterwards obediently signed the report, and
received his reward for doing so. Alaric never divulged to
official ears how Neverbend had halted in the course of his
descent to the infernal gods.
'I thoroughly congratulate you,' said Sir Gregory. 'You have
justified my choice, and done your duty with credit to yourself
and benefit to the public. I hope you may go on and prosper. As
long as you remember that your own interests should always be
kept in subservience to those of the public service, you will not
fail to receive the praise which such conduct deserves.'
Alaric thanked Sir Gregory for his good opinion, and as he did
so, he thought of his new banker's account, and of the L300 which
was lying there. After all, which of them was right, Sir Gregory
Hardlines or Undy Scott? Or was it that Sir Gregory's opinions
were such as should control the outward conduct, and Undy's those
which should rule the inner man?
Norman prolonged his visit to his father considerably beyond the
month. At first he applied for and received permission to stay
away another fortnight, and at the end of that fortnight he sent
up a medical certificate in which the doctor alleged that he
would be unable to attend to business for some considerable
additional period. It was not till after Christmas Day that he
reappeared at the Weights and Measures.
Alaric kept his appointment at Hampton, and took Charley with
him. And on the two following Saturdays he also went there, and
on both occasions Charley accompanied him. During these visits,
he devoted himself, as closely as he could, to Mrs. Woodward. He
talked to her of Norman, and of Norman's prospects in the office;
he told her how he had intended to abstain from offering himself
as a competitor, till he had, as it were, been forced by Norman
to do so; he declared over and over again that Norman would have
been victorious had he stood his ground to the end, and assured
her that such was the general opinion through the whole
establishment. And this he did without talking much about
himself, or praising himself in any way when he did so. His
speech was wholly of his friend, and of the sorrow that he felt
that his friend should have been disappointed in his hopes.
All this had its effects. Of Norman's rejected love they neither
of them spoke. Each knew that the other must be aware of it, but
the subject was far too tender to be touched, at any rate as yet.
And so matters went on, and Alaric regained the footing of favour
which he had for a while lost with the mistress of the house.
But there was one inmate of Surbiton Cottage who saw that though
Alaric spent so much of his tune with Mrs. Woodward, he found
opportunity also for other private conversation; and this was
Linda. Why was it that in the moments before they dressed for
dinner Alaric was whispering with Gertrude, and not with her? Why
was it that Alaric had felt it necessary to stay from church that
Sunday evening when Gertrude also had been prevented from going
by a headache? He had remained, he said, in order that Captain
Cuttwater might have company; but Linda was not slow to learn
that Uncle Bat had been left to doze away the time by himself.
Why, on the following Monday, had Gertrude been down so early,
and why had Alaric been over from the inn full half an hour
before his usual time? Linda saw and knew all this, and was
disgusted. But even then she did not, could not think that Alaric
could be untrue to her; that her own sister would rob her of her
lover. It could not be that there should be such baseness in
And yet, though she did not believe that such falseness could
exist in this world of hers at Surbiton Cottage, she could not
restrain herself from complaining rather petulantly to her
sister, as they were going to bed on that Sunday evening.
'I hope your headache is better,' she said, in a tone of voice as
near to irony as her soft nature could produce.
'Yes, it is quite well now,' said Gertrude, disdaining to notice
'I dare say Alaric had a headache too. I suppose one was about as
bad as the other.'
'Linda,' said Gertrude, answering rather with dignity than with
anger, 'you ought to know by this time that it is not likely that
I should plead false excuses. Alaric never said he had a
'He said he stayed from church to be with Uncle Bat; but when we
came back we found him with you.'
'Uncle Bat went to sleep, and then he came into the drawing-
The two girls said nothing more about it. Linda should have
remembered that she had never breathed a word to her sister of
Alaric's passion for herself. Gertrude's solemn propriety had
deterred her, just as she was about to do so. How very little of
that passion had Alaric breathed himself! and yet, alas! enough
to fill the fond girl's heart with dreams of love, which occupied
all her waking, all her sleeping thoughts. Oh! ye ruthless
swains, from whose unhallowed lips fall words full of poisoned
honey, do ye never think of the bitter agony of many months, of
the dull misery of many years, of the cold monotony of an
uncheered life, which follow so often as the consequence of your
short hour of pastime?
On the Monday morning, as soon as Alaric and Charley had started
for town - it was the morning on which Linda had been provoked to
find that both Gertrude and Alaric had been up half an hour
before they should have been - Gertrude followed her mother to her
dressing-room, and with palpitating heart closed the door behind
Linda remained downstairs, putting away her tea and sugar, not in
the best of humours; but Katie, according to her wont, ran up
after her mother.
'Katie,' said Gertrude, as Katie bounced into the room, 'dearest
Katie, I want to speak a word to mamma - alone. Will you mind
going down just for a few minutes?' and she put her arm round her
sister, and kissed her with almost unwonted tenderness.
'Go, Katie, dear,' said Mrs. Woodward; and Katie, speechless,
'Gertrude has got something particular to tell mamma; something
that I may not hear. I wonder what it is about,' said Katie to
her second sister.
Linda's heart sank within her. 'Could it be? No, it could not,
could not be, that the sweet voice which had whispered in her
ears those well-remembered words, could have again whispered the
same into other ears - that the very Gertrude who had warned her
not to listen to such words from such lips, should have listened
to them herself, and have adopted them and made them her own! It
could not, could not be!' and yet Linda's heart sank low within
* * * * *
'If you really love him,' said the mother, again caressing her
eldest daughter as she acknowledged her love, but hardly with
such tenderness as when that daughter had repudiated that other
love - 'if you really love him, dearest, of course I do not, of
course I cannot, object.'
'I do, mamma; I do.'
'Well, then, Gertrude, so be it. I have not a word to say against
your choice. Had I not believed him to be an excellent young man,
I should not have allowed him to be here with you so much as he
has been. We cannot all see with the same eyes, dearest, can we?'
'No, mamma; but pray don't think I dislike poor Harry; and, oh!
mamma, pray don't set him against Alaric because of this - - '
'Set him against Alaric! No, Gertrude. I certainly shall not do
that. But whether I can reconcile Harry to it, that is another
'At any rate he has no right to be angry at it,' said Gertrude,
assuming her air of dignity.
'Certainly not with you, Gertrude.'
'No, nor with Alaric,' said she, almost with indignation.
'That depends on what has passed between them. It is very hard to
say how men so situated regard each other.'
'I know everything that has passed between them,' said Gertrude.
'I never gave Harry any encouragement. As soon as I understood my
own feelings I endeavoured to make him understand them also.'