roads and poachers, parish rates and other all-absorbing topics,
to be a rural magistrate, and fill a place among perhaps the most
fortunate of the world's inhabitants. Gertrude was the wife of a
convicted felon, who was about to come forth from his prison in
utter poverty, a man who, in such a catalogue as the world makes
of its inhabitants, would be ranked among the very lowest.
And did Gertrude even now regret her choice? No, not for a
moment! She still felt certain in her heart of hearts that she
had loved the one who was the most worthy of a woman's love. We
cannot, probably, all agree in her opinion; but we will agree in
this, at least, that she was now right to hold such opinion. Had
Normansgrove stretched from one boundary of the county to the
other, it would have weighed as nothing. Had Harry's virtues been
as bright as burnished gold - and indeed they had been bright -
they would have weighed as nothing. A nobler stamp of manhood was
on her husband - so at least Gertrude felt; - and manhood is the
one virtue which in a woman's breast outweighs all others.
They had not met since the evening on which Gertrude had declared
to him that she never could love him; and Norman, as he got out
of the cab with Mrs. Woodward, at No. 5, Paradise Row, Millbank,
felt his heart beat within him almost as strongly as he had done
when he was about to propose to her. He followed Mrs. Woodward
into the dingy little house, and immediately found himself in
I should exaggerate the fact were I to say that he would not have
known her; but had he met her elsewhere, met her where he did not
expect to meet her, he would have looked at her more than once
before he felt assured that he was looking at Gertrude Woodward.
It was not that she had grown pale, or worn, or haggard; though,
indeed, her face had on it that weighty look of endurance which
care will always give; it was not that she had lost her beauty,
and become unattractive in his eyes; but that the whole nature of
her mien and form, the very trick of her gait was changed. Her
eye was as bright as ever, but it was steady, composed, and
resolved; her lips were set and compressed, and there was no
playfulness round her mouth. Her hair was still smooth and
bright, but it was more brushed off from her temples than it had
been of yore, and was partly covered by a bit of black lace,
which we presume we must call a cap; here and there, too, through
it, Norman's quick eye detected a few grey hairs. She was stouter
too than she had been, or else she seemed to be so from the
changes in her dress. Her step fell heavier on the floor than it
used to do, and her voice was quicker and more decisive in its
tones. When she spoke to her mother, she did so as one sister
might do to another; and, indeed, Mrs. Woodward seemed to
exercise over her very little of the authority of a parent. The
truth was that Gertrude had altogether ceased to be a girl, had
altogether become a woman. Linda, with whom Norman at once
compared her, though but one year younger, was still a child in
comparison with her elder sister. Happy, happy Linda!
Gertrude had certainly proved herself to be an excellent wife;
but perhaps she might have made herself more pleasing to others
if she had not so entirely thrown off from herself all traces of
juvenility. Could she, in this respect, have taken a lesson from
her mother, she would have been a wiser woman. We have said that
she consorted with Mrs. Woodward as though they had been sisters;
but one might have said that Gertrude took on herself the manners
of the elder sister. It is true that she had hard duties to
perform, a stern world to overcome, an uphill fight before her
with poverty, distress, and almost, nay, absolutely, with
degradation. It was well for her and Alaric that she could face
it all with the true courage of an honest woman. But yet those
who had known her in her radiant early beauty could not but
regret that the young freshness of early years should all have
been laid aside so soon.
'Linda, at any rate, far exceeds her in beauty,' was Norman's
first thought, as he stood for a moment to look at her - 'and then
Linda too is so much more feminine.' 'Twas thus that Harry Norman
consoled himself in the first moment of his first interview with
Alaric's wife. And he was right in his thoughts. The world would
now have called Linda the more lovely of the two, and certainly
the more feminine in the ladylike sense of the word. If, however,
devotion be feminine, and truth to one selected life's companion,
if motherly care be so, and an indomitable sense of the duties
due to one's own household, then Gertrude was not deficient in
'You find me greatly altered, Harry, do you not?' said she,
taking his hand frankly, and perceiving immediately the effect
which she had made upon him. 'I am a steady old matron, am I
not? - with a bairn on each side of me,' and she pointed to her
baby in the cradle, and to her other boy sitting on his
Harry said he did find her altered. It was her dress, he said,
and the cap on her head.
'Yes, Harry; and some care and trouble too. To you, you know, to
a friend such as you are, I must own that care and trouble do
tell upon one. Not, thank God, that I have more than I can bear;
not that I have not blessings for which I cannot but be too
'And so these are your boys, Gertrude?'
'Yes,' said she, cheerfully; 'these are the little men, that in
the good times coming will be managing vast kingdoms, and giving
orders to this worn-out old island of yours. Alley, my boy, sing
your new song about the 'good and happy land.' But Alley, who
had got hold of his grandmother's watch, and was staring with all
his eyes at the stranger, did not seem much inclined to be
musical at the present moment.
'And this is Charley's godson,' continued Gertrude, taking up the
baby. 'Dear Charley! he has been such a comfort to me.'
'I have heard all about you daily from him,' said Harry.
'I know you have - and he is daily talking of you, Harry. And so
he should do; so we all should do. What a glorious change this is
for him! is it not, Harry?'
Charley by this time had torn himself away from Mr. Snape and the
navvies, and transferred the whole of his official zeal and
energies to the Weights and Measures. The manner and reason of
this must, however, be explained in a subsequent chapter.
'Yes,' said Harry, 'he has certainly got into a better office.'
'And he will do well there?'
'I am sure he will. It was impossible he should do well at that
other place. No man could do so. He is quite an altered man now.
The only fault I find with him is that he is so full of his
heroes and heroines.'
'So he is, Harry; he is always asking me what he is to do with
some forlorn lady or gentleman, 'Oh, smother her!' I said the
other day. 'Well,' said he, with a melancholy gravity, 'I'll try
it; but I fear it won't answer.' Poor Charley! what a friend you
have been to him, Harry!'
'A friend!' said Mrs. Woodward, who was still true to her
adoration of Norman. 'Indeed he has been a friend - a friend to us
all. Who is there like him?'
Gertrude could have found it in her heart to go back to the
subject of old days, and tell her mother that there was somebody
much better even than Harry Norman. But the present was hardly a
time for such an assertion of her own peculiar opinion.
'Yes, Harry,' she said, 'we have all much, too much, to thank you
for. I have to thank you on his account.'
'Oh no,' said he, ungraciously; 'there is nothing to thank me
for, - not on his account. Your mother and Captain Cuttwater - - '
and then he stopped himself. What he meant was that he had
sacrificed his little fortune - for at the time his elder brother
had still been living - not to rescue, or in attempting to
rescue, his old friend from misfortune - not, at least, because
that man had been his friend; but because he was the husband of
Gertrude Woodward, and of Mrs. Woodward's daughter. Could he have
laid bare his heart, he would have declared that Alaric Tudor
owed him nothing; that he had never forgiven, never could
forgive, the wrongs he had received from him; but that he had
forgiven Alaric's wife; and that having done so in the tenderness
of his heart, he had been ready to give up all that he possessed
for her protection. He would have spared Gertrude what pain he
could; but he would not lie, and speak of Alaric Tudor with
'But there is, Harry; there is,' said Gertrude; 'much - too much
- greatly too much. It is that now weighs me down more than
anything. Oh! Harry, how are we to pay to you all this money?'
'It is with Mrs. Woodward,' said he coldly, 'and Captain
Cuttwater, not with me, that you should speak of that. Mr. Tudor
owes me nothing.'
'Oh, Harry, Harry,' said she, 'do not call him Mr. Tudor - pray,
pray; now that we are going - now that we shall never wound your
sight again! do not call him Mr. Tudor.
He has done wrong; I do not deny it; but which of us is there
that has not?'
'It was not on that account,' said he; 'I could forgive all
Gertrude understood him, and her cheeks and brow became tinged
with red. It was not from shame, nor yet wholly from a sense of
anger, but mingled feelings filled her heart; feelings which she
could in nowise explain. 'If you have forgiven him that' - she
would have said, had she thought it right to speak out her mind -
'if you have forgiven him that, then there is nothing left for
Gertrude had twice a better knowledge of the world than he had,
twice a quicker perception of how things were going, and should
be made to go. She saw that it was useless to refer further to
her husband. Norman had come there at her request to say adieu to
her; that she and he, who had been friends since she was a child,
might see each other before they were separated for ever by half
a world, and that they might part in love and charity. She would
be his sister-in-law, he would be son to her mother, husband to
her Linda; he had been, though he now denied it, her husband's
staunchest friend in his extremity; and it would have added
greatly to the bitterness of her departure had she been forced to
go without speaking to him one kindly word. The opportunity was
given to her, and she would not utterly mar its sweetness by
insisting on his injustice to her husband.
They all remained silent for a while, during which Gertrude
fondled her baby, and Norman produced before the elder boy some
present that he had brought for him.
'Now, Alley,' said Mrs. Woodward, 'you're a made man; won't that
do beautifully to play with on board the big ship?'
'And so, Harry, you have given up official life altogether,' said
'Yes,' said he - 'the last day of the last year saw my finale at
the Weights and Measures. I did not live long - officially - to
enjoy my promotion. I almost wish myself back again.'
'You'll go in on melting days, like the retired tallow-chandler,'
said Gertrude; 'but, joking apart, I wish you joy on your freedom
from thraldom; a government office in England is thraldom. If a
man were to give his work only, it would be well. All men who
have to live by labour must do that; but a man has to give himself
as well as his work; to sacrifice his individuality; to become body
and soul a part of a lumbering old machine.'
This hardly came well from Gertrude, seeing that Alaric at any
rate had never been required to sacrifice any of his individuality.
But she was determined to hate all the antecedents of his life,
as though those antecedents, and not the laxity of his own
principles, had brought about his ruin. She was prepared
to live entirely for the future, and to look back on her London
life as bad, tasteless, and demoralizing. England to her was no
longer a glorious country; for England's laws had made a felon of
her husband. She would go to a new land, new hopes, new ideas,
new freedom, new work, new life, and new ambition. 'Excelsior!'
there was no longer an excelsior left for talent and perseverance
in this effete country. She and hers would soon find room for
their energies in a younger land; and as she went she could not
but pity those whom she left behind. Her reasoning was hardly
logical, but, perhaps, it was not unfortunate.
'For myself,' said Norman, not quite following all this - 'I
always liked the Civil Service, and now I leave it with a sort of
regret. I am quite glad that Charley has my old desk; it will
keep up a sort of tie between me and the place.'
'What does Linda say about it, mamma?'
'Linda and I are both of Harry's way of thinking,' said Mrs.
Woodward, 'because Normansgrove is such a distance.'
'Distance!' repeated Gertrude, with something of sorrow, but more
of scorn in her tone. 'Distance, mamma! why you can get to her
between breakfast and dinner. Think where Melbourne is, mamma!'
'It has nearly broken my heart to think of it,' said Mrs.
'And you will still have Linda, mamma, and our darling Katie, and
Harry, and dear Charley. If the idea of distance should frighten
anyone it is me. But nothing shall frighten me while I have my
husband and children. Harry, you must not let mamma be too often
alone when some other knight shall have come and taken away
'We will take her to Normansgrove for good and all, if she will
let us,' said Harry.
And now the time came for them to part. Harry was to say good-bye
to her, and then to see her no more. Early on the following
morning Gertrude was to go to Hampton and see Katie for the last
time; to see Katie for the last time, and the Cottage, and the
shining river, and all the well-known objects among which she had
passed her life. To Mrs. Woodward, to Linda, and Katie, all this
was subject of inexpressible melancholy; but with Gertrude every
feeling of romance seemed to have been absorbed by the realities
of life. She would, of course, go to Katie and give her a
farewell embrace, since Katie was still too weak to come to her;
she would say farewell to Uncle Bat, to whom she and Alaric owed
so much; she would doubtless shed a tear or two, and feel some
emotion at parting, even from the inanimate associations of her
youth; but all this would now impress no lasting sorrow on her.
She was eager to be off, eager for her new career, eager that he
should stand on a soil where he could once more face his fellow-
creatures without shame. She panted to put thousands of leagues
of ocean between him and his disgrace.
On the following morning Gertrude was to go to Hampton for two
hours, and then to return to Millbank, with her mother and
sister, for whose accommodation a bed had been hired in the
neighbourhood. On that evening Alaric would be released from his
prison; and then before daybreak on the following day they were
to take their way to the far-off docks, and place themselves on
board the vessel which was to carry them to their distant home.
'God bless you, Gertrude,' said Norman, whose eyes were not dry.
'God Almighty bless you, Harry, you and Linda - and make you
happy. If Linda does not write constantly very constantly, you
must do it for her. We have delayed the happiness of your
marriage, Harry - you must forgive us that, as well as all our
other trespasses. I fear Linda will never forgive that.'
'You won't find her unmerciful on that score,' said he. 'Dear
She put up her face to him, and he kissed her, for the first time
in his life. 'He bade me give you his love,' said she, in her
last whisper; 'I must, you know, do his bidding.'
Norman's heart palpitated so that he could hardly compose his
voice for his last answer; but even then he would not be untrue
to his inexorable obstinacy; he could not send his love to a man
he did not love. 'Tell him,' said he, 'that he has my sincerest
wishes for success wherever he may be; and Gertrude, I need
hardly say - - ' but he could get no further.
And so they parted.
THE CRIMINAL POPULATION IS DISPOSED OF
Before we put Alaric on board the ship which is to take him away
from the land in which he might have run so exalted a career, we
must say one word as to the fate and fortunes of his old friend
Undy Scott. This gentleman has not been represented in our pages
as an amiable or high-minded person. He has indeed been the bad
spirit of the tale, the Siva of our mythology, the devil that has
led our hero into temptation, the incarnation of evil, which it
is always necessary that the novelist should have personified in
one of his characters to enable him to bring about his misfortunes,
his tragedies, and various requisite catastrophes. Scott had his
Varney and such-like; Dickens his Bill Sykes and such-like; all
of whom are properly disposed of before the end of those
volumes in which are described their respective careers.
I have ventured to introduce to my readers, as my devil, Mr. Undy
Scott, M.P. for the Tillietudlem district burghs; and I also feel
myself bound to dispose of him, though of him I regret I cannot
make so decent an end as was done with Sir Richard Varney and
He deserves, however, as severe a fate as either of those heroes.
With the former we will not attempt to compare him, as the vices
and devilry of the days of Queen Elizabeth are in no way similar
to those in which we indulge; but with Bill Sykes we may contrast
him, as they flourished in the same era, and had their points of
similitude, as well as their points of difference.
They were both apparently born to prey on their own species; they
both resolutely adhered to a fixed rule that they would in nowise
earn their bread, and to a rule equally fixed that, though they
would earn no bread, they would consume much. They were both of
them blessed with a total absence of sensibility and an utter
disregard to the pain of others, and had no other use for a heart
than that of a machine for maintaining the circulation of the
blood. It is but little to say that neither of them ever acted on
principle, on a knowledge, that is, of right and wrong, and a
selection of the right; in their studies of the science of evil
they had progressed much further than this, and had taught
themselves to believe that that which other men called virtue
was, on its own account, to be regarded as mawkish, insipid, and
useless for such purposes as the acquisition of money or
pleasure; whereas vice was, on its own account, to be preferred,
as offering the only road to those things which they were
desirous of possessing.
So far there was a great resemblance between Bill Sykes and Mr.
Scott; but then came the points of difference, which must give to
the latter a great pre-eminence in the eyes of that master whom
they had both so worthily served. Bill could not boast the merit
of selecting the course which he had run; he had served the
Devil, having had, as it were, no choice in the matter; he was
born and bred and educated an evil-doer, and could hardly have
deserted from the colours of his great Captain, without some
spiritual interposition to enable him to do so. To Undy a warmer
reward must surely be due: he had been placed fairly on the
world's surface, with power to choose between good and bad, and
had deliberately taken the latter; to him had, at any rate, been
explained the theory of _meum_ and _tuum_, and he had resolved
that he liked _tuum_ better than _meum_; he had learnt that
there is a God ruling over us, and a Devil hankering after us, and
had made up his mind that he would belong to the latter. Bread
and water would have come to him naturally without any villany
on his part, aye, and meat and milk, and wine and oil, the fat
things of the world; but he elected to be a villain; he liked to do
the Devil's bidding. - Surely he was the better servant; surely he
shall have the richer reward.
And yet poor Bill Sykes, for whom here I would willingly say a
word or two, could I, by so saying, mitigate the wrath against
him, is always held as the more detestable scoundrel. Lady, you
now know them both. Is it not the fact, that, knowing him as you
do, you could spend a pleasant hour enough with Mr. Scott,
sitting next to him at dinner; whereas your blood would creep
within you, your hair would stand on end, your voice would stick
in your throat, if you were suddenly told that Bill Sykes was in
Poor Bill! I have a sort of love for him, as he walks about
wretched with that dog of his, though I know that it is necessary
to hang him. Yes, Bill; I, your friend, cannot gainsay that, must
acknowledge that. Hard as the case may be, you must be hung; hung
out of the way of further mischief; my spoons, my wife's throat,
my children's brains, demand that. You, Bill, and polecats, and
such-like, must be squelched when we can come across you, seeing
that you make yourself so universally disagreeable. It is your
ordained nature to be disagreeable; you plead silently. I know
it; I admit the hardship of your case; but still, my Bill, self-
preservation is the first law of nature. You must be hung. But,
while hanging you, I admit that you are more sinned against than
sinning. There is another, Bill, another, who will surely take
account of this in some way, though it is not for me to tell you
Yes, I hang Bill Sykes with soft regret; but with what a savage
joy, with what exultation of heart, with what alacrity of eager
soul, with what aptitude of mind to the deed, would I hang my
friend, Undy Scott, the member of Parliament for the Tillietudlem
burghs, if I could but get at his throat for such a purpose! Hang
him! aye, as high as Haman! In this there would be no regret, no
vacillation of purpose, no doubt as to the propriety of the
sacrifice, no feeling that I was so treating him, not for his own
desert, but for my advantage.
We hang men, I believe, with this object only, that we should
deter others from crime; but in hanging Bill we shall hardly
deter his brother. Bill Sykes must look to crime for his bread,
seeing that he has been so educated, seeing that we have not yet
taught him another trade.
But if I could hang Undy Scott, I think I should deter some
others. The figure of Undy swinging from a gibbet at the broad
end of Lombard Street would have an effect. Ah! my fingers itch
to be at the rope.
Fate, however, and the laws are averse. To gibbet him, in one
sense, would have been my privilege, had I drunk deeper from that
Castalian rill whose dark waters are tinged with the gall of
poetic indignation; but as in other sense I may not hang him, I
will tell how he was driven from his club, and how he ceased to
number himself among the legislators of his country.
Undy Scott, among his other good qualities, possessed an enormous
quantity of that which schoolboys in these days call 'cheek.' He
was not easily browbeaten, and was generally prepared to browbeat
others. Mr. Chaffanbrass certainly did get the better of him; but
then Mr. Chaffanbrass was on his own dunghill. Could Undy Scott
have had Mr. Chaffanbrass down at the clubs, there would have
been, perhaps, another tale to tell.
Give me the cock that can crow in any yard; such cocks, however,
we know are scarce. Undy Scott, as he left the Old Bailey, was
aware that he had cut a sorry figure, and felt that he must
immediately do something to put himself right again, at any rate
before his portion of the world. He must perform some exploit
uncommonly cheeky in order to cover his late discomfiture. To get
the better of Mr. Chaffanbrass at the Old Bailey had been beyond
him; but he might yet do something at the clubs to set aside the
unanimous verdict which had been given against him in the city.
Nay, he must do something, unless he was prepared to go to the
wall utterly, and at once.
Going to the wall with Undy would mean absolute ruin; he lived
but on the cheekiness of his gait and habits; he had become
member of Parliament, Government official, railway director, and
club aristocrat, merely by dint of cheek. He had now received a
great blow; he had stood before a crowd, and been annihilated by
the better cheek of Mr. Chaffanbrass, and, therefore, it behoved
him at once to do something. When the perfume of the rose grows
stale, the flower is at once thrown aside, and carried off as
foul refuse. It behoved Undy to see that his perfume was
maintained in its purity, or he, too, would be carried off.
The club to which Undy more especially belonged was called the
Downing; and of this Alaric was also a member, having been
introduced into it by his friend. Here had Alaric spent by far