'But, my dearest, no one is blaming you.'
'But you are blaming Alaric.'
'Indeed I am not, Gertrude.'
'No man could have behaved more honourably to his friend,' said
Gertrude; 'no man more nobly; and if Harry does not feel it so,
he has not the good heart for which I always gave him credit.'
'Poor fellow! his friendship for Alaric will be greatly tried.'
'And, mamma, has not Alaric's friendship been tried? and has it
not borne the trial nobly? Harry told him of - of - of his
intentions; Harry told him long, long, long ago - - '
'Ah me! - poor Harry!' sighed Mrs. Woodward.
'But you think nothing of Alaric!'
'Alaric is successful, my dear, and can - - ' Think sufficiently
of himself, Mrs. Woodward was going to say, but she stopped
'Harry told him all,' continued Gertrude, 'and Alaric - Alaric
said nothing of his own feelings. Alaric never said a word to me
that he might not have said before his friend - till - till - You
must own, mamma, that no one can have behaved more nobly than
Alaric has done.'
Mrs. Woodward, nevertheless, had her own sentiments on the
matter, which were not quite in unison with those of her
daughter. But then she was not in love with Alaric, and her
daughter was. She thought that Alaric's love was a passion that
had but lately come to the birth, and that had he been true to
his friend - nobly true as Gertrude had described him - it would
never have been born at all, or at any rate not till Harry had
had a more prolonged chance of being successful with his suit.
Mrs. Woodward understood human nature better than her daughter,
or, at least, flattered herself that she did so, and she felt
well assured that Alaric had not been dying for love during the
period of Harry's unsuccessful courtship. He might, she thought,
have waited a little longer before he chose for his wife the girl
whom his friend had loved, seeing that he had been made the
confidant of that love.
Such were the feelings which Mrs. Woodward felt herself unable to
repress; but she could not refuse her consent to the marriage.
After all, she had some slight twinge of conscience, some inward
conviction that she was prejudiced in Harry's favour, as her
daughter was in Alaric's. Then she had lost all right to object
to Alaric, by allowing him to be so constantly at the Cottage;
and then again, there was nothing to which in reason she could
object. In point of immediate income, Alaric was now the better
match of the two. She kissed her daughter, therefore, and
promised that she would do her best to take Alaric to her heart
as her son-in-law.
'You will tell Uncle Bat, mamma?' said Gertrude.
'O yes - certainly, my dear; of course he'll be told. But I
suppose it does not make much matter, immediately?'
'I think he should be told, mamma; I should not like him to think
that he was treated with anything like disrespect.'
'Very well, my dear, I'll tell him,' said Mrs. Woodward, who was
somewhat surprised at her daughter's punctilious feelings about
Uncle Bat. However, it was all very proper; and she was glad to
think that her children were inclined to treat their grand-uncle
with respect, in spite of his long nose.
And then Gertrude was preparing to leave the room, but her mother
stopped her. 'Gertrude, dear,' said she.
'Come here, dearest; shut the door. Gertrude, have you told Linda
'No, mamma, not yet.'
As Mrs. Woodward asked the question, there was an indescribable
look of painful emotion on her brow. It did not escape Gertrude's
eye, and was not to her perfectly unintelligible. She had
conceived an idea - why, she did not know - that these recent
tidings of hers would not be altogether agreeable to her sister.
'No, mamma, I have not told her; of course I told you first. But
now I shall do so immediately.'
'Let me tell her,' said Mrs. Woodward, 'will you, Gertrude?'
'Oh! certainly, mamma, if you wish it.'
Things were going wrong with Mrs. Woodward. She had perceived,
with a mother's anxious eye, that her second daughter was not
indifferent to Alaric Tudor. While she yet thought that Norman
and Gertrude would have suited each other, this had caused her no
disquietude. She herself had entertained none of those grand
ideas to which Gertrude had given utterance with so much
sententiousness, when she silenced Linda's tale of love before
the telling of it had been commenced. Mrs. Woodward had always
felt sufficiently confident that Alaric would push himself in the
world, and she would have made no objection to him as a son-in-
law had he been contented to take the second instead of the first
of her flock.
She had never spoken to Linda on the matter, and Linda had
offered to her no confidence; but she felt all but sure that her
second child would not have entertained the affection which she
had been unable altogether to conceal, had no lover's plea been
poured into her ears. Mrs. Woodward questioned her daughters but
little, but she understood well the nature of each, and could
nearly read their thoughts. Linda's thoughts it was not difficult
'Linda, pet,' she said, as soon as she could get Linda into her
room without absolutely sending for her, 'you have not yet heard
'No,' said Linda, turning very pale, and feeling that her heart
was like to burst.
'I would let no one tell you but myself, Linda. Come here,
dearest; don't stand there away from me. Can you guess what it
Linda, for a moment, could not speak. 'No, mamma,' she said at
last, 'I don't know what it is.'
Mrs. Woodward twined her arm round her daughter's waist, as they
sat on the sofa close to each other. Linda tried to compose
herself, but she felt that she was trembling in her mother's
arms. She would have given anything to be calm; anything to hide
her secret. She little guessed then how well her mother knew it.
Her eyes were turned down, and she found that she could not raise
them to her mother's face.
'No, mamma,' she said. 'I don't know - what is it?'
'Gertrude is to be married, Linda. She is engaged.'
'I thought she refused Harry,' said Linda, through whose mind a
faint idea was passing of the cruelty of nature's arrangements,
which gave all the lovers to her sister.
'Yes, dearest, she did; and now another has made an offer - she
has accepted him.' Mrs. Woodward could hardly bring herself to
speak out that which she had to say, and yet she felt that she
was only prolonging the torture for which she was so anxious to
find a remedy.
'Has she?' said Linda, on whom the full certainty of her misery
had now all but come.
'She has accepted our dear Alaric.'
Our dear Alaric! what words for Linda's ears! They did reach her
ears, but they did not dwell there - her soft gentle nature sank
beneath the sound. Her mother, when she looked to her for a
reply, found that she was sinking through her arms. Linda had
Mrs. Woodward neither screamed, nor rang for assistance, nor
emptied the water-jug over her daughter, nor did anything else
which would have the effect of revealing to the whole household
the fact that Linda had fainted. She had seen girls faint before,
and was not frightened. But how, when Linda recovered, was she to
Mrs. Woodward laid her gently on the sofa, undid her dress,
loosened her stays, and then sat by her chafing her hands, and
moistening her lips and temples, till gradually the poor girl's
eyes reopened. The recovery from a fainting fit, a real fainting
fit I beg young ladies to understand, brings with it a most
unpleasant sensation, and for some minutes Linda's sorrow was
quelled by her sufferings; but as she recovered her strength she
remembered where she was and what had happened, and sobbing
violently she burst into an hysterical storm of tears.
Her most poignant feeling now was one of fear lest her mother
should have guessed her secret; and this Mrs. Woodward well
understood. She could do nothing towards comforting her child
till there was perfect confidence between them. It was easy to
arrive at this with Linda, nor would it afterwards be difficult
to persuade her as to the course she ought to take. The two girls
were so essentially different; the one so eager to stand alone
and guide herself, the other so prone to lean on the nearest
support that came to her hand.
It was not long before Linda had told her mother everything.
Either by words, or tears, or little signs of mute confession,
she made her mother understand, with all but exactness, what had
passed between Alaric and herself, and quite exactly what had
been the state of her own heart. She sobbed, and wept, and looked
up to her mother for forgiveness as though she had been guilty of
a great sin; and when her mother caressed her with all a mother's
tenderness, and told her that she was absolved from all fault,
free of all blame, she was to a certain degree comforted.
Whatever might now happen, her mother would be on her side. But
Mrs. Woodward, when she looked into the matter, found that it was
she that should have demanded pardon of her daughter, not her
daughter of her! Why had this tender lamb been allowed to wander
out of the fold, while a wolf in sheep's clothing was invited
into the pasture-ground?
Gertrude, with her talent, her beauty, and dignity of demeanour,
had hitherto been, perhaps, the closest to the mother's heart -
had been, if not the most cherished, yet the most valued;
Gertrude had been the apple of her eye. This should be altered
now. If a mother's love could atone for a mother's negligence,
Mrs. Woodward would atone to her child for this hour of misery!
And Katie - her sweet bonny Katie - she, at least, should be
protected from the wolves. Those were the thoughts that passed
through Mrs. Woodward's heart as she sat there caressing Linda.
But how were things to be managed now at the present moment? It
was quite clear that the wolf in sheep's clothing must be
admitted into the pastoral family; either that, or the fairest
lamb of the flock must be turned out altogether, to take upon
herself lupine nature, and roam the woods a beast of prey. As
matters stood it behoved them to make such a sheep of Alaric as
might be found practicable.
And so Mrs. Woodward set to work to teach her daughter how best
she might conduct herself in her present state of wretchedness.
She had to bear with her sister's success, to listen to her
sister's joy, to enter into all her future plans, to assist at
her toilet, to prepare her wedding garments, to hear the
congratulations of friends, and take a sister's share in a
sister's triumph, and to do this without once giving vent to a
reproach. And she had worse than this to do; she had to encounter
Alaric, and to wish him joy of his bride; she had to protect her
female pride from the disgrace which a hopeless but acknowledged
love would throw on it; she had to live in the house with Alaric
as though he were her brother, and as though she had never
thought to live with him in any nearer tie. She would have to
stand at the altar as her sister's bridesmaid, and see them
married, and she would have to smile and be cheerful as she did
This was the lesson which Mrs. Woodward had now to teach
her daughter; and she so taught it that Linda did all that
circumstances and her mother required of her. Late on that
afternoon she went to Gertrude, and, kissing her, wished her joy.
At that moment Gertrude was the more embarrassed of the two.
'Linda, dear Linda,' she said, embracing her sister convulsively.
'I hope you will be happy, Gertrude, with all my heart,' said
Linda; and so she relinquished her lover.
We talk about the weakness of women - and Linda Woodward was, in
many a way, weak enough - but what man, what giant, has strength
equal to this? It was not that her love was feeble. Her heart was
capable of truest love, and she had loved Alaric truly. But she
had that within her which enabled her to overcome herself, and
put her own heart, and hopes, and happiness - all but her maiden
pride - into the background, when the hopes and happiness of
another required it.
She still shared the same room with her sister; and those who
know how completely absorbed a girl is by her first acknowledged
love, may imagine how many questions she had to answer, to how
many propositions she was called to assent, for how many schemes
she had to vouchsafe a sister's interest, while her heart was
telling her that she should have been the questioner, she should
have been the proposer, that the schemes should all have been her
But she bore it bravely. When Alaric first came down, which he
did in the middle of the week, she was, as she told her mother,
too weak to stand in his presence. Her mother strongly advised
her not to absent herself; so she sat gently by, while he kissed
Mrs. Woodward and Katie. She sat and trembled, for her turn she
knew must come. It did come; Alaric, with an assurance which told
more for his courage than for his heart, came up to her, and with
a smiling face offered her his hand. She rose up and muttered
some words which she had prepared for the occasion, and he, still
holding her by the hand, stooped down and kissed her cheek. Mrs.
Woodward looked on with an angry flush on her brow, and hated him
for his cold-hearted propriety of demeanour.
Linda went up to her mother's room, and, sitting on her mother's
bed, sobbed herself into tranquillity.
It was very grievous to Mrs. Woodward to have to welcome Alaric
to her house. For Alaric's own sake she would no longer have
troubled herself to do so; but Gertrude was still her daughter,
her dear child. Gertrude had done nothing to disentitle her to a
child's part, and a child's protection; and even had she done so,
Mrs. Woodward was not a woman to be unforgiving to her child. For
Gertrude's sake she had to make Alaric welcome; she forced
herself to smile on him and call him her son; to make him more at
home in her house even than Harry had ever been; to give him
privileges which he, wolf as he was, had so little deserved.
But Captain Cuttwater made up by the warmth of his
congratulations for any involuntary coolness which Alaric might
have detected in those of Mrs. Woodward. It had become a strong
wish of the old man's heart that he might make Alaric, at any
rate in part, his heir, without doing an injustice to his niece
or her family. He had soon seen and appreciated what he had
called the 'gumption' both of Gertrude and Alaric. Had Harry
married Gertrude, and Alaric Linda, he would have regarded either
of those matches with disfavour. But now he was quite satisfied -
now he could look on Alaric as his son and Gertrude as his
daughter, and use his money according to his fancy, without
incurring the reproaches of his conscience.
'Quite right, my boy, 'he said to Alaric, slapping him on the
back at the same time with pretty nearly all his power - 'quite
right. Didn't I know you were the winning horse? - didn't I tell
you how it would be? Do you think I don't know what gumption
means? If I had not had my own weather-eye open, aye, and d - -
wide open, the most of my time, I shouldn't have two or three
thousand pounds to give away now to any young fellow that I take
a fancy to.'
Alaric was, of course, all smiles and good humour, and Gertrude
not less so. The day after he heard of the engagement Uncle Bat
went to town, and, on his return, he gave Gertrude L100 to buy
her wedding-clothes, and half that sum to her mother, in order
that the thing might go off, as he expressed himself, 'slip-slap,
and no mistake.' To Linda he gave nothing, but promised her that
he would not forget her when her time came.
All this time Norman was at Normansgrove; but there were three of
the party who felt that it behoved them to let him know what was
going on. Mrs. Woodward wrote first, and on the following day
both Gertrude and Alaric wrote to him, the former from Hampton,
and the latter from his office in London.
All these letters were much laboured, but, with all this labour,
not one of them contained within it a grain of comfort. That from
Mrs. Woodward came first and told the tale. Strange to say,
though Harry had studiously rejected from his mind all idea of
hope as regarded Gertrude, nevertheless the first tidings of her
betrothal with Alaric struck him as though he had still fancied
himself a favoured lover. He felt as though, in his absence, he
had been robbed of a prize which was all his own, as though a
chattel had been taken from him to which he had a full right; as
though all the Hampton party, Mrs. Woodward included, were in a
conspiracy to defraud him the moment his back was turned.
The blow was so severe that it laid him prostrate at once. He
could not sob away his sorrow on his mother's bosom; no one could
teach him how to bear his grief with meek resignation. He had
never spoken of his love to his friends at Normansgrove. They had
all been witnesses to his deep disappointment, but that had been
attributed to his failure at his office. He was not a man to seek
for sympathy in the sorrows of his heart. He had told Alaric of
his rejection, because he had already told him of his love, but
he had whispered no word of it to anyone besides. On the day on
which he received Mrs. Woodward's letter, he appeared at dinner
ghastly pale, and evidently so ill as to be all but unable to sit
at table; but he would say nothing to anybody; he sat brooding
over his grief till he was unable to sit any longer.
And yet Mrs. Woodward had written with all her skill, with all
her heart striving to pluck the sting away from the tidings which
she had to communicate. She had felt, however, that she owed as
much, at least, to her daughter as she did to him, and she failed
to call Alaric perjured, false, dishonoured, unjust, disgraced,
and treacherous. Nothing short of her doing so would have been
deemed by Norman fitting mention of Tudor's sin; nothing else
would have satisfied the fury of his wrath.
On the next morning he received Gertrude's letter and Alaric's.
The latter he never read - he opened it, saw that it began as
usual, 'My dear Harry,' and then crammed it into his pocket. By
return of post it went back under a blank cover, addressed to
Alaric at the Weights and Measures. The days of duelling were
gone by - unfortunately, as Norman now thought, but nothing, he
determined, should ever induce him again to hold friendly
intercourse with the traitor. He abstained from making any such
oath as to the Woodwards; but determined that his conduct in that
respect should be governed by the manner in which Alaric was
received by them.
But Gertrude's letter he read over and over again, and each time
he did so he indulged in a fresh burst of hatred against the man
who had deceived him. 'A dishonest villain!' he said to himself
over and over again; 'what right had I to suppose he would be
true to me when I found that he had been so false to others?'
'Dearest Harry,' the letter began. Dearest Harry! - Why should she
begin with a lie? He was not dearest! 'You must not, must not,
must not be angry with Alaric,' she went on to say, as soon as
she had told her tale. Oh, must he not? Not be angry with Alaric!
Not angry with the man who had forgotten every law of honour,
every principle of honesty, every tie of friendship! Not angry
with the man whom he had trusted with the key of his treasure,
and who had then robbed him; who had stolen from him all his
contentment, all his joy, his very heart's blood; not angry with
'Our happiness will never be perfect unless you will consent to
share it.' Thus simply, in the affection of her heart, had
Gertrude concluded the letter by which she intended to pour balm
into the wounds of her rejected lover, and pave the way for the
smoothing of such difficulties as might still lie in the way of
'Their happiness would not be perfect unless he would consent to
share it.' Every word in the sentence was gall to him. It must
have been written with the object of lacerating his wounds, and
torturing his spirit; so at least said Norman to himself. He read
the letter over and over again. At one time he resolved to keep
it till he could thrust it back into her hand, and prove to her
of what cruelty she had been guilty. Then he thought of sending
it to Mrs. Woodward, and asking her how, after that, could she
think that he should ever again enter her doors at Hampton.
Finally he tore it into a thousand bits, and threw them behind
'Share their happiness!' and as he repeated the words he gave the
last tear to the fragments of paper which he still held in his
hand. Could he at that moment as easily have torn to shreds all
hope of earthly joys for those two lovers, he would then have
done it, and cast the ruins to the flames.
Oh! what a lesson he might have learnt from Linda! And yet what
were his injuries to hers? He in fact had not been injured, at
least not by him against whom the strength of his wrath most
fiercely raged. The two men had both admired Gertrude, but Norman
had started on the race first. Before Alaric had had time to know
his own mind, he had learnt that Norman claimed the beauty as his
own. He had acknowledged to himself that Norman had a right to do
so, and had scrupulously abstained from interfering with him. Why
should Norman, like a dog in the manger, begrudge to his friend
the fodder which he himself could not enjoy? To him, at any rate,
Alaric had in this been no traitor. 'Twas thus at least that
Gertrude argued in her heart, and 'twas thus that Mrs. Woodward
tried to argue also.
But who could excuse Alaric's falseness to Linda? And yet Linda
had forgiven him.
NORMAN RETURNS TO TOWN
Harry Norman made no answer to either of his three letters beyond
that of sending Alaric's back unread; but this, without other
reply, was sufficient to let them all guess, nearly with
accuracy, what was the state of his mind. Alaric told Gertrude
how his missive had been treated, and Gertrude, of course, told
There was very little of that joy at Surbiton Cottage which
should have been the forerunner of a wedding. None of the
Woodward circle were content thus to lose their friend. And then
their unhappiness on this score was augmented by hearing that
Harry had sent up a medical certificate, instead of returning to
his duties when his prolonged leave of absence was expired.
To Alaric this, at the moment, was a relief. He had dreaded the
return of Norman to London. There were so many things to cause
infinite pain to them both. All Norman's things, his books and
clothes, his desks and papers and pictures, his whips and sticks,
and all those sundry belongings which even a bachelor collects
around him - were strewing the rooms in which Alaric still lived.
He had of course felt that it was impossible that they should
ever again reside together. Not only must they quarrel, but all
the men at their office must know that they had quarrelled. And
yet some intercourse must be maintained between them; they must
daily meet in the rooms at the Weights and Measures; and it would
now in their altered position become necessary that in some
things Norman should receive instructions from Alaric as his
superior officer. But if Alaric thought of this often, so did
Norman; and before the last fortnight had expired, the thinking
of it had made him so ill that his immediate return to London was
out of the question.
Mrs. Woodward's heart melted within her when she heard that Harry
was really ill. She had gone on waiting day after day for an
answer to her letter, but no answer came. No answer came, but in
lieu thereof she heard that Harry was laid up at Normansgrove.
She heard it, and Gertrude heard it, and in spite of the coming
wedding there was very little joy at Surbiton Cottage.
And then Mrs. Woodward wrote again; and a man must have had a
heart of stone not to be moved by such a letter. She had 'heard,'
she said, 'that he was ill, and the tidings had made her
wretched - the more so inasmuch as he had sent no answer to her
last letter. Was he very ill? was he dangerously ill? She hoped,
she would fain hope, that his illness had not arisen from any
mental grief. If he did not reply to this, or get some of his
family to do so, there would be nothing for her but to go,
herself, to Normansgrove. She could not remain quiet while she
was left in such painful doubt about her dearest, well-loved
Harry Norman.' How to speak of Gertrude, or how not to speak of
her, Mrs. Woodward knew not - at last she added: 'The three girls
send their kindest love; they are all as wretchedly anxious as I