'Ashamed! Why should he be ashamed after so long? Didn't you hear
Harry say that the same thing often happens to young men? Is he
never to come here again? Dear Linda, I know you know; do tell
'Well, I'm sure I do not know, if that's not the reason.'
'Oh! Linda, dear Linda, yes, you do,' said Katie, throwing
herself on her knees, resting her arms on her sister's lap, and
looking up wistfully into her sister's face. Her long hair was
streaming down her back; her white, naked feet peeped out from
beneath her bedroom dress, and large tears glistened in her eyes.
Who could have resisted the prayers of such a suppliant?
Certainly not Linda, the soft-hearted Linda.
'Do tell me,' continued Katie, 'do tell me - I am sure you know;
and, Linda, if it is wrong to ask mamma about it, I'll never,
never ask her again. I know mamma is unhappy about it. If my
asking is wrong, I'll not make her unhappy any more in that way.'
Linda, for a while, did not know what to answer. Her hesitating
manner immediately revealed to Katie that there was a secret, and
that her sister could tell it if she would.
'Oh! Linda, do tell me, do tell me, dear Linda; you ought to tell
me for mamma's sake.'
At last, with much hesitation, Linda told her the whole tale.
'Perhaps mamma thinks that you are too fond of Charley.'
An instant light flashed across Katie's heart - across her heart,
and brain, and senses. Not another word was necessary to explain
to her the whole mystery, to tell the whole tale, to reveal to
her the secret of her own love, of her mother's fears, and of his
assumed unwillingness. She got up slowly from her knees, kissed
her sister's cheek and neck, smiled at her so sweetly, so sadly,
and then sitting on her old seat, began playing with her long
hair, and gazing at vacancy.
'It is only what I guess, you know, Katie - you would make me tell
you, but I am sure there is nothing in it.'
'Dear Linda,' said she, 'you are so good; I am so much obliged to
After that Katie spoke no further of Charley. But it was evident
to them all, that though she said nothing, she had not ceased to
think of him. Nor did her cheek again become rosy, nor her arms
round, nor her voice happy. She got weaker than ever, and poor
Mrs. Woodward was overcome with sorrow.
Nor was this the only cause of grief at Surbiton Cottage. During
the last few weeks a bitter estrangement had taken place between
the Woodwards and the Tudors, Alaric Tudor, that is, and
Gertrude. Two years had now passed since Norman had chosen to
quarrel with Alaric, and during all that period the two had never
spoken amicably together, though they had met on business very
frequently; on all such occasions Alaric had been unperturbed and
indifferent, whereas Norman had been gloomy, and had carried a
hostile brow and angry eye. At their period of life, two years
generally does much to quiet feelings of ill-will and pacify
animosity; but Norman's feelings had by no means been quieted,
nor his animosity pacified. He had loved Alaric with a close and
manly love; now he hated him with a close and, I fear I may say,
a manly hatred. Alaric had, as he thought, answered his love by
treachery; and there was that in Norman's heart which would not
allow him to forgive one who had been a traitor to him. He had
that kind of selfishness so common to us, but of which we are so
unconscious, which will not allow us to pardon a sin against our
own _amour propre_. Alaric might have been forgiven, though
he had taken his friend's money, distanced him in his office,
though he had committed against him all offences which one friend
can commit against another, all but this. Norman had been proud
of his love, and yet ashamed of it - proud of loving such a girl
as Gertrude, and ashamed of being known to be in love at all. He
had confided his love to Alaric, and Alaric had robbed him of his
love, and wounded both his pride and his shame.
Norman lacked the charity which should have been capable of
forgiving even this. He now looked at all Alaric's doings through
a different glass from that which he had used when Alaric had
been dear to him. He saw, or thought that he saw, that his
successful rival was false, ambitious, treacherous, and
dishonest; he made no excuses for him, gave him no credit for his
industry, accorded no admiration to his talent. He never spoke
ill of Alaric Tudor, to others; but he fed his own heart with
speaking and thinking ill of him to himself.
Of Gertrude he thought very differently. He had taught himself to
disconnect her from the treachery of her husband - or rather her
memory; for, from the day on which he had learnt that she was
engaged to Alaric, he had never seen her. He still loved the
remembrance of her. In his solitary walks with Mrs. Woodward he
would still speak of her as he might of one in some distant
clime, for whose welfare he was deeply interested. He had seen
and caressed her baby at Hampton. She was still dear to him. Had
Alaric been called to his long account, it would have been his
dearest wish to have become at some future tune the husband of
To all these feelings on Norman's part Alaric was very
indifferent; but their existence operated as a drawback on his
wife's comfort, and, to a certain degree, on his own. Mrs.
Woodward would not banish Norman from the Cottage, even for her
daughter's sake, and it came by degrees to be understood that the
Tudors, man and wife, should not go there unless they were aware
that Norman was absent. Norman, on the other hand, did absent
himself when it was understood that Alaric and Gertrude were
coming; and thus the Woodwards kept up their intercourse with
But this was a bore. Alaric thought it most probable that Norman
would marry one of the younger sisters, and he knew that family
quarrels are uncomfortable and injudicious. When therefore he
became a Civil Service Commissioner, and was thus removed from
business intercourse with Norman, he conceived that it would be
wise to arrange a reconciliation. He discussed the matter with
Gertrude, and she, fully agreeing with him, undertook the task of
making the proposal through her mother. This she did with all the
kindness and delicacy of a woman. She desired her mother to tell
Harry how much she had valued his friendship, how greatly she
regretted the loss of it, how anxious her husband was to renew,
if possible, their former terms of affection. Mrs. Woodward, by
no means sanguine, undertook the commission. She undertook it,
and utterly failed; and when Gertrude, in her disappointment,
spoke bitterly of Norman's bitterness, both mother and sister,
both Mrs. Woodward and Linda, took Norman's part.
'I wish it could be otherwise,' said Mrs. Woodward, 'I wish it
for all our sakes; but he is a man not easily to be turned, and I
cannot blame him. He has suffered very much.'
Gertrude became very red. Her mother's words contained a reproach
against herself, tacit and unintended indeed, but not the less
'I am not aware that Mr. Norman has any cause of just complaint,'
she said, 'against any one, unless it be himself. For the sake of
charity and old associations we have wished that all ideas of
injury should be forgiven and forgotten. If he chooses still to
indulge his rancour, he must do so. I had taken him to be a
More words had sprung from these. Mrs. Woodward, who, in truth,
loved Norman the better for the continuance of his sorrow, would
not give up his part; and so the mother and child parted, and the
two sisters parted, not quarrelling indeed, not absolutely with
angry words, but in a tone of mind towards each other widely
differing from that of former years. Mrs. Woodward had lost none
of the love of the parent; but Gertrude had forgotten somewhat of
the reverence of the child.
All this had added much to the grief created by Katie's illness.
And then of a sudden Katie became silent, as well as sad and ill
- silent and sad, but so soft, so loving in her manner. Her gentle
little caresses, the tender love ever lying in her eye, the
constant pressure of her thin small hand, would all but break her
mother's heart. Katie would sit beside her on the sofa in the
drawing-room for hours; a book, taken up as an excuse, would be
in her lap, and she would sit there gazing listlessly into the
vacant daylight till the evening would come; and then, when the
room was shaded and sombre, when the light of the fire merely
served to make the objects indistinct, she would lean gently and
by degrees upon her mother's bosom, would coax her mother's arm
round her neck, and would thus creep as it were into her mother's
heart of hearts. And then slow tears would trickle down her
cheeks, very slow, one by one, till they would fall as telltales
on her mother's hand.
'Katie, my darling Katie,' the mother would say.
'I'm only tired, mamma,' would be her answer. 'Don't move, mamma;
pray don't move. I am so comfortable.'
And then at night she would put herself to rest close circled in
Linda's arms. She would twist up her little feet, and lie so
quiet there, that Linda would remain motionless that she might
not disturb her Katie's sleep; but soon warm tears would be
running on her bosom, and she would know that Katie was still
thinking of her love.
Linda, among all her virtues, had not that of reticence, and her
mother had soon learnt from her what had been said that night in
their bedroom about Charley. But this violation of confidence, if
it was a violation, was hardly necessary to make Mrs. Woodward
aware of what was passing in her daughter's bosom. When Katie
ceased to ask that Charley might be sent for, when she ceased to
plead for his pardon and to praise his virtues, Mrs. Woodward
knew well the cause of her silence. It was not that others
suspected her love, but that she had learned to suspect it
herself. It was not that she was ashamed of loving Charley, but
that she felt at once that such love would distress her mother's
As she sat there that night fingering her silken hair, she had
asked herself whether in truth this man was master of her heart;
she had probed her young bosom, which now, by a sudden growth,
became quick with a woman's impulse, and she had owned to herself
that she did love him. He was dearer to her, she found, than all
in the world beside. Fondly as she loved her sister, sweet to her
as were her mother's caresses, their love was not as precious to
her as his might be. And then she remembered what he was, what
was the manner of his life, what his character; how different he
was from Alaric or Harry Norman; she remembered this, and knew
that her love was an unhappy passion. Herself she would have
sacrificed: prisoner as he had been, debtor as he was, drunkard,
penniless, and a spendthrift, she would not have hesitated to
take him for her guide through life, and have done what a woman
might to guide him in return. But she would not sacrifice her
mother. She saw now why Charley was not asked, and silently
acquiesced in his banishment.
She was not yet quite seventeen. Not yet seventeen! the reader
will say. She was still such a child, and yet arguing to herself
about spendthrift debtors and self-sacrifice! All this bombast at
sixteen and a half. No, my ungentle reader, not all this bombast
at sixteen and a half. The bombast is mine. It is my fault if I
cannot put into fitting language the thoughts which God put into
her young heart. In her mind's soliloquy, Charley's vices were
probably all summed up in the one word, unsteady. Why is he so
unsteady? Why does he like these wicked things?' And then as
regarded Mrs. Woodward, she did but make a resolve that not even
for her love would she add to the unhappiness of that loving,
tenderest mother. There was no bombast in Katie, either expressed
After much consideration on the matter, Mrs. Woodward determined
that she should ask Charley down to the Cottage. In the first
place, she felt bitterly her apparent ingratitude to him. When
last they had been together, the day after Katie's escape at the
bridge, when his tale had just been read, she had told him, with
the warmth of somewhat more than friendly affection, that
henceforth they must be more than common friends. She had
promised him her love, she had almost promised him the affection
and care of a mother; and now how was she keeping her promise? He
had fallen into misfortune, and she had immediately deserted him.
Over and over again she said to herself that her first duty was
to her own child; but even with this reflection, she could hardly
reconcile herself to her neglect of him.
And then, moreover, she felt that it was impossible that all
their friendship, all their mutual regard, should die away
suddenly without any explanation. An attempt to bring about this
would not cure Katie's love. If this were done, would not Katie
always think of Charley's wrong?
And, lastly, it was quite clear that Katie had put a check on her
own heart. A meeting now might be the reverse of dangerous. It
would be well that Katie should use herself to be with him now
again; well, at any rate, that she should see him once before
their proposed journey to Torquay; for, alas, the journey to
Torquay was now insisted on by the London physician - insisted on,
although he opined with a nod, somewhat less authoritative than
his former nod, that the young lady was touched by no organic
'And then,' said Mrs. Woodward to herself, 'his heart is good,
and I will speak openly to him.' And so Charley was again invited
to the cottage. After some demurring between him and Norman, he
accepted the invitation.
Mrs. Val's dance had taken place in June, and it was now late in
October. Four months had intervened, and during that period
Charley had seen none of the Woodwards. He had over and over
again tried to convince himself that this was his own fault, and
that he had no right to accuse Mrs. Woodward of ingratitude. But
he was hardly successful. He did feel, in spite of himself, that
he had been dropped because of the disgrace attaching to his
arrest; that Mrs. Woodward had put him aside as being too bad to
associate with her and her daughters; and that it was intended
that henceforth they should be strangers.
He still had Katie's purse, and he made a sort of resolve that as
long as he kept that in his possession, as long as he had that
near his heart, he would not go near Norah Geraghty. This
resolution he had kept; but though he did not go to the 'Cat and
Whistle,' he frequented other places which were as discreditable,
or more so. He paid many very fruitless visits to Mr. M'Ruen;
contrived to run up a score with the proprietor of the dancing
saloon in Holborn; and was as negligent as ever in the matter of
the lock entries.
'It is no use now,' he would say to himself, when some
aspirations for higher things came across his heart; 'it is too
late now to go back. Those who once cared for me have thrown me
over.' And then he would again think of Waterloo Bridge, and the
Monument, and of what might be done for threepence or fourpence
in a pistol gallery.
And then at last came the invitation to Hampton. He was once more
to talk to Mrs. Woodward, and associate with Linda - to see Katie
once more. When he had last left the house he had almost been as
much at home as any one of the family; and now he was to return
to it as a perfect stranger. As he travelled down with Norman by
the railway, he could not help feeling that the journey was
passing over too quickly. He was like a prisoner going to his
doom. As he crossed the bridge, and remembered how Katie had
looked when she lay struggling in the water, how he had been
feted and caressed after pulling her out, he made a bitter
contrast between his present position and that which he then
enjoyed. Were it not for very shame, he would have found it in
his heart to return to London.
And then in a moment they were at the Cottage door. The road had
never been so short. Norman, who had not fathomed Charley's
feelings, was happy and light-hearted - more so than was usual
with him, for he was unaffectedly glad to witness Charley's
return to Hampton. He rang sharply at the door, and when it was
opened, walked with happy confidence into the drawing-room.
Charley was bound to follow him, and there he found himself again
in the presence of Mrs. Woodward and her daughters. Katie would
fain have absented herself, but Mrs. Woodward knew that the first
meeting could take place in no more favourable manner.
Mrs. Woodward bade him welcome with a collected voice, and
assured, if not easy manner. She shook hands with him cordially,
and said a few words as to her pleasure of seeing him again. Then
he next took Linda's hand, and she too made a little speech, more
awkwardly than her mother, saying something mal a propos about
the very long time he had been away; and then she laughed with a
little titter, trying to recover herself. And at last he came to
Katie. There was no getting over it. She also stretched out her
now thin hand, and Charley, as he touched it, perceived how
altered she was. Katie looked up into his face, and tried to
speak, but she could not articulate a word. She looked into his
face, and then at Mrs. Woodward, as though imploring her mother's
aid to tell her how to act or what to say; and then finding her
power of utterance impeded by rising sobs, she dropped back again
on her seat, and hid her face upon the arm of the sofa.
'Our Katie is not so well as when you last saw her - is she,
Charley?' said Mrs. Woodward. 'She is very weak just now; but
thank God she has, we believe, no dangerous symptoms about her.
You have heard, perhaps, that we are going to Torquay for the
And so they went on talking. The ice was broken and the worst was
over. They did not talk, it is true, as in former days; there was
no confidence between them now, and each of them felt that there
was none; but they nevertheless fell into a way of unembarrassed
conversation, and were all tolerably at their ease.
And then they went to dinner, and Charley was called on to
discuss Admiralty matters with Uncle Bat; and then he and Norman
sat after dinner a little longer than usual; and then they had a
short walk, during which Katie remained at home; but short as it
was, it was quite long enough, for it was very dull; and then
there was tea; and then more constrained conversation, in which
Katie took no part whatever; and then Mrs. Woodward and the girls
took their candles, and Charley went over to the inn on the other
side of the road. Oh! how different was this from the former
evenings at Surbiton Cottage.
Charley had made no plan for any special interview with Katie;
had, indeed, not specially thought about it at all; but he could
not but feel an intense desire to say one word to her in private,
and learn whether all her solicitude for him was over. 'Dear
Charley, you will be steady; won't you?' Those had been her last
words to him. Nothing could have been sweeter; although they
brought before his mind the remembrance of his own unworthy
career, they had been inexpressibly sweet, as testifying the
interest she felt in him. And was that all over now? Had it all
been talked away by Mrs. Woodward's cautious wisdom, because he
had lain for one night in a sponging-house?
But the next day came, and as it passed, it appeared to him that
no opportunity of speaking one word to her was to be allowed to
She did not, however, shun him. She was not up at breakfast, but
she sat next to him at lunch, and answered him when he spoke to
In the evening they again went out to walk, and then Charley
found that Linda and Norman went one way, and that he was alone
with Mrs. Woodward. It was manifest to him that this arrangement
had been made on purpose, and he felt that he was to undergo some
private conversation, the nature of which he dreaded. He dreaded
it very much; when he heard it, it made him very wretched; but it
was not the less full of womanly affection and regard for him.
'I cannot let you go from us, Charley,' began Mrs. Woodward,
'without telling you how deep a sorrow it has been to me to be so
long without seeing you. I know you have thought me very
'Ungrateful, Mrs. Woodward! 'O no! I have done nothing to make
'Yes, Charley, you have - you have done much, too much. You have
saved my child's life.'
'O no, I did not,' said he; 'besides, I hate gratitude. I don't
want any one to be grateful to me. Gratitude is almost as
offensive as pity. Of course I pulled Kate out of the water when
she fell in; and I would have done as much for your favourite
cat.' He said this with something of bitterness in his tone; it
was not much, for though he felt bitterly he did not intend to
show it; but Mrs. Woodward's ear did not fail to catch it.
'Don't be angry with us, Charley; don't make us more unhappy than
we already are.'
'Unhappy!' said he, as though he thought that all the unhappiness
in the world was at the present moment reserved for his own
'Yes, we are not so happy now as we were when you were last with
us. Poor Katie is very ill.'
'But you don't think there is any danger, Mrs. Woodward?'
There are many tones in which such a question may be asked - and
is asked from day to day - all differing widely from each other,
and giving evidence of various shades of feeling in the speaker.
Charley involuntarily put his whole heart into it. Mrs. Woodward
could not but love him for feeling for her child, though she
would have given so much that the two might have been indifferent
to each other.
'I do not know,' she said. 'We hope not. But I should not be sent
with her to Torquay if she were not very ill. She is very ill,
and it is absolutely essential that nothing should be allowed to
excite her painfully. I tell you this, Charley, to excuse our
apparent unkindness in not having you here sooner.'
Charley walked by her in silence. Why should his coming excite
her more than Norman's? What could there be painful to her in
seeing him? Did the fact of his having been arrested attach to
his visit any peculiar probability of excitement?
'Do not suppose that we have not thought of you,' continued Mrs.
Woodward.' We have all done so daily. Nay, I have done so myself
all but hourly. Ah, Charley, you will never know how truly I love
Charley's heart was as soft as it was inflammable. He was utterly
unable to resist such tenderness as Mrs. Woodward showed to him.
He had made a little resolution to be stiff and stern, to ask for
no favour and to receive none, not to palliate his own conduct,
or to allow Mrs. Woodward to condemn it. He had felt that as the
Woodwards had given him up, they had no longer any right to
criticize him. To them at least, one and all, to Mrs. Woodward
and her daughters, his conduct had been _sans reproche_. They
had no cause to upbraid him on their own account; and they had
now abandoned the right to do so on his own. With such assumed
sternness he began his walk; but now it had all melted before the
warmth of one tender word from a woman's mouth.
'I know I am not worth thinking about,' said he.
'Do not say so; pray do not say so. Do not think that we say so
to ourselves. I grieve for your faults. Charley; I know they are
grievous and wicked; but I know how much there is of good in you.
I know how clever you are, how excellent your heart is, how sweet
your disposition. I trust, I trust in God, you may reform, and be
the pride of your friends. I trust that I yet may be proud of
knowing you - - '
'No one will ever be proud of me,' said Charley.
'We shall all be proud of you, if you will resolve to turn away
from childish things now that you are no longer a child - your
faults are faults which as yet may be so easily relinquished.
But, oh, Charley - - ' and then Mrs. Woodward paused and looked
wistfully into his face. She had now come to the point at which
she had to make her prayer to him. She had resolved to tell him
the cause of her fears, and to trust to his honour to free her
from them. Now was the moment for her to speak out; but now that
the moment was come, the words were wanting.
She looked wistfully into his face, but he did not even guess
what was her meaning. He knew the secret of his own love; but he
did not know that Katie also had her secret. He had never dreamt
that his faults, among all their ill effects, had paled her
cheek, made wan her arm, silenced her voice, and dimmed her eye.