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No thoroughfare

NoThoroughfare,byCharlesDickensandWilkie
Collins
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Title:NoThoroughfare

Author:CharlesDickensandWilkieCollins
ReleaseDate:April4,2005[eBook#1423]
Language:English
Charactersetencoding:ISO-646-US(US-ASCII)

***STARTOFTHEPROJECTGUTENBERGEBOOKNOTHOROUGHFARE***

Transcribedfromthe1894ChapmanandHall“ChristmasStories”editionby
DavidPrice,emailccx074@coventry.ac.uk



NOTHOROUGHFARE


THEOVERTURE.
Dayofthemonthandyear,Novemberthethirtieth,onethousandeighthundred
andthirty-five.LondonTimebythegreatclockofSaintPaul’s,tenatnight.All
thelesserLondonchurchesstraintheirmetallicthroats.Some,flippantlybegin
beforetheheavybellofthegreatcathedral;some,tardilybeginthree,four,halfa
dozen,strokesbehindit;allareinsufficientlynearaccord,toleavearesonance
intheair,asifthewingedfatherwhodevourshischildren,hadmadeasounding
sweepwithhisgiganticscytheinflyingoverthecity.
Whatisthisclocklowerthanmostoftherest,andnearertotheear,thatlagsso
farbehindto-nightastostrikeintothevibrationalone?Thisistheclockofthe
HospitalforFoundlingChildren.Timewas,whentheFoundlingswerereceived
withoutquestioninacradleatthegate.Timeis,wheninquiriesaremade
respectingthem,andtheyaretakenasbyfavourfromthemotherswho
relinquishallnaturalknowledgeofthemandclaimtothemforevermore.
Themoonisatthefull,andthenightisfairwithlightclouds.Thedayhasbeen
otherwisethanfair,forslushandmud,thickenedwiththedroppingsofheavy
fog,lieblackinthestreets.Theveiledladywhofluttersupanddownnearthe
postern-gateoftheHospitalforFoundlingChildrenhasneedtobewellshodtonight.
Sheflutterstoandfro,avoidingthestandofhackney-coaches,andoftenpausing
intheshadowofthewesternendofthegreatquadranglewall,withherface
turnedtowardsthegate.Asaboveherthereisthepurityofthemoonlitsky,and
belowhertherearethedefilementsofthepavement,somayshe,haply,be
dividedinhermindbetweentwovistasofreflectionorexperience.Asher
footprintscrossingandrecrossingoneanotherhavemadealabyrinthinthemire,
somayhertrackinlifehaveinvolveditselfinanintricateandunravellable
tangle.
Thepostern-gateoftheHospitalforFoundlingChildrenopens,andayoung
womancomesout.Theladystandsaside,observesclosely,seesthatthegateis


quietlyclosedagainfromwithin,andfollowstheyoungwoman.
Twoorthreestreetshavebeentraversedinsilencebeforeshe,followingclose
behindtheobjectofherattention,stretchesoutherhandandtouchesher.Then
theyoungwomanstopsandlooksround,startled.
“Youtouchedmelastnight,and,whenIturnedmyhead,youwouldnotspeak.
Whydoyoufollowmelikeasilentghost?”


“Itwasnot,”returnedthelady,inalowvoice,“thatIwouldnotspeak,butthatI
couldnotwhenItried.”
“Whatdoyouwantofme?Ihaveneverdoneyouanyharm?”
“Never.”
“DoIknowyou?”
“No.”
“Thenwhatcanyouwantofme?”
“Herearetwoguineasinthispaper.Takemypoorlittlepresent,andIwilltell
you.”
Intotheyoungwoman’sface,whichishonestandcomely,comesaflushasshe
replies:“Thereisneithergrownpersonnorchildinallthelargeestablishment
thatIbelongto,whohasn’tagoodwordforSally.IamSally.CouldIbeso
wellthoughtof,ifIwastobebought?”
“Idonotmeantobuyyou;Imeanonlytorewardyouveryslightly.”
Sallyfirmly,butnotungently,closesandputsbacktheofferinghand.“Ifthere
isanythingIcandoforyou,ma’am,thatIwillnotdoforitsownsake,youare
muchmistakeninmeifyouthinkthatIwilldoitformoney.Whatisityou
want?”
“YouareoneofthenursesorattendantsattheHospital;Isawyouleaveto-night
andlastnight.”
“Yes,Iam.IamSally.”
“Thereisapleasantpatienceinyourfacewhichmakesmebelievethatvery
youngchildrenwouldtakereadilytoyou.”


“Godbless‘em!Sotheydo.”
Theladyliftsherveil,andshowsafacenoolderthanthenurse’s.Afacefar
morerefinedandcapablethanhers,butwildandwornwithsorrow.
“Iamthemiserablemotherofababylatelyreceivedunderyourcare.Ihavea
prayertomaketoyou.”
Instinctivelyrespectingtheconfidencewhichhasdrawnasidetheveil,Sally—
whosewaysareallwaysofsimplicityandspontaneity—replacesit,andbegins
tocry.
“Youwilllistentomyprayer?”theladyurges.“Youwillnotbedeaftothe
agonisedentreatyofsuchabrokensuppliantasIam?”
“Odear,dear,dear!”criesSally.“WhatshallIsay,orcansay!Don’ttalkof
prayers.PrayersaretobeputuptotheGoodFatherofAll,andnottonurses
andsuch.Andthere!Iamonlytoholdmyplaceforhalfayearlonger,till
anotheryoungwomancanbetraineduptoit.Iamgoingtobemarried.I
shouldn’thavebeenoutlastnight,andIshouldn’thavebeenoutto-night,but
thatmyDick(heistheyoungmanIamgoingtobemarriedto)liesill,andI
helphismotherandsistertowatchhim.Don’ttakeonso,don’ttakeonso!”
“OgoodSally,dearSally,”moansthelady,catchingatherdressentreatingly.
“Asyouarehopeful,andIamhopeless;asafairwayinlifeisbeforeyou,which
cannever,never,bebeforeme;asyoucanaspiretobecomearespectedwife,
andasyoucanaspiretobecomeaproudmother,asyouarealivingloving
woman,andmustdie;forGOD’Ssakehearmydistractedpetition!”
“Deary,deary,dearyME!”criesSally,herdesperationculminatinginthe
pronoun,“whatamIevertodo?Andthere!Seehowyouturnmyownwords
backuponme.ItellyouIamgoingtobemarried,onpurposetomakeitclearer
toyouthatIamgoingtoleave,andthereforecouldn’thelpyouifIwould,Poor
Thing,andyoumakeitseemtomyownselfasifIwascruelingoingtobe
marriedandnothelpingyou.Itain’tkind.Now,isitkind,PoorThing?”
“Sally!Hearme,mydear.Myentreatyisfornohelpinthefuture.Itappliesto
whatispast.Itisonlytobetoldintwowords.”
“There!Thisisworseandworse,”criesSally,“supposingthatIunderstandwhat
twowordsyoumean.”


“Youdounderstand.Whatarethenamestheyhavegivenmypoorbaby?Iask
nomorethanthat.Ihavereadofthecustomsoftheplace.Hehasbeen
christenedinthechapel,andregisteredbysomesurnameinthebook.Hewas
receivedlastMondayevening.Whathavetheycalledhim?”
Downuponherkneesinthefoulmudoftheby-wayintowhichtheyhave
strayed—anemptystreetwithoutathoroughfaregivingonthedarkgardensof
theHospital—theladywoulddropinherpassionateentreaty,butthatSally
preventsher.
“Don’t!Don’t!YoumakemefeelasifIwassettingmyselfuptobegood.Let
melookinyourprettyfaceagain.Putyourtwohandsinmine.Now,promise.
Youwillneveraskmeanythingmorethanthetwowords?”
“Never!Never!”
“Youwillneverputthemtoabaduse,ifIsaythem?”
“Never!Never!”
“WalterWilding.”
Theladylaysherfaceuponthenurse’sbreast,drawshercloseinherembrace
withbotharms,murmursablessingandthewords,“Kisshimforme!”andis
gone.
*****
Dayofthemonthandyear,thefirstSundayinOctober,onethousandeight
hundredandforty-seven.LondonTimebythegreatclockofSaintPaul’s,halfpastoneintheafternoon.TheclockoftheHospitalforFoundlingChildrenis
wellupwiththeCathedralto-day.Serviceinthechapelisover,andthe
Foundlingchildrenareatdinner.
Therearenumerouslookers-onatthedinner,asthecustomis.Therearetwoor
threegovernors,wholefamiliesfromthecongregation,smallergroupsofboth
sexes,individualstragglersofvariousdegrees.Thebrightautumnalsunstrikes
freshlyintothewards;andtheheavy-framedwindowsthroughwhichitshines,
andthepanelledwallsonwhichitstrikes,aresuchwindowsandsuchwallsas
pervadeHogarth’spictures.Thegirls’refectory(includingthatoftheyounger
children)istheprincipalattraction.Neatattendantssilentlyglideaboutthe
orderlyandsilenttables;thelookers-onmoveorstopasthefancytakesthem;


commentsinwhispersonfacesuchanumberfromsuchawindowarenot
unfrequent;manyofthefacesareofacharactertofixattention.Someofthe
visitorsfromtheoutsidepublicareaccustomedvisitors.Theyhaveestablisheda
speakingacquaintancewiththeoccupantsofparticularseatsatthetables,and
haltatthosepointstobenddownandsayawordortwo.Itisnodisparagement
totheirkindnessthatthosepointsaregenerallypointswherepersonalattractions
are.Themonotonyofthelongspaciousroomsandthedoublelinesoffacesis
agreeablyrelievedbytheseincidents,althoughsoslight.
Aveiledlady,whohasnocompanion,goesamongthecompany.Itwouldseem
thatcuriosityandopportunityhaveneverbroughthertherebefore.Shehasthe
airofbeingalittletroubledbythesight,and,asshegoesthelengthofthetables,
itiswithahesitatingstepandanuneasymanner.Atlengthshecomestothe
refectoryoftheboys.Theyaresomuchlesspopularthanthegirlsthatitisbare
ofvisitorswhenshelooksinatthedoorway.
Butjustwithinthedoorway,chancestostand,inspecting,anelderlyfemale
attendant:someorderofmatronorhousekeeper.Towhomtheladyaddresses
naturalquestions:As,howmanyboys?Atwhatagearetheyusuallyputoutin
life?Dotheyoftentakeafancytothesea?So,lowerandlowerintoneuntilthe
ladyputsthequestion:“WhichisWalterWilding?”
Attendant’sheadshaken.Againsttherules.
“YouknowwhichisWalterWilding?”
Sokeenlydoestheattendantfeeltheclosenesswithwhichthelady’seyes
examineherface,thatshekeepsherowneyesfastuponthefloor,lestby
wanderingintherightdirectiontheyshouldbetrayher.
“IknowwhichisWalterWilding,butitisnotmyplace,ma’am,totellnamesto
visitors.”
“Butyoucanshowmewithouttellingme.”
Thelady’shandmovesquietlytotheattendant’shand.Pauseandsilence.
“Iamgoingtopassroundthetables,”saysthelady’sinterlocutor,without
seemingtoaddressher.“Followmewithyoureyes.TheboythatIstopatand
speakto,willnotmattertoyou.ButtheboythatItouch,willbeWalter
Wilding.Saynothingmoretome,andmovealittleaway.”


Quicklyactingonthehint,theladypassesonintotheroom,andlooksabout
her.Afterafewmoments,theattendant,inastaidofficialway,walksdown
outsidethelineoftablescommencingonherlefthand.Shegoesthewhole
lengthoftheline,turns,andcomesbackontheinside.Veryslightlyglancingin
thelady’sdirection,shestops,bendsforward,andspeaks.Theboywhomshe
addresses,liftshisheadandreplies.Goodhumouredlyandeasily,asshelistens
towhathesays,shelaysherhandupontheshoulderofthenextboyonhis
right.Thattheactionmaybewellnoted,shekeepsherhandontheshoulder
whilespeakinginreturn,andpatsittwiceorthricebeforemovingaway.She
completeshertourofthetables,touchingnooneelse,andpassesoutbyadoor
attheoppositeendofthelongroom.
Dinnerisdone,andthelady,too,walksdownoutsidethelineoftables
commencingonherlefthand,goesthewholelengthoftheline,turns,and
comesbackontheinside.Otherpeoplehavestrolledin,fortunatelyforher,and
standsprinkledabout.Sheliftsherveil,and,stoppingatthetouchedboy,asks
howoldheis?
“Iamtwelve,ma’am,”heanswers,withhisbrighteyesfixedonhers.
“Areyouwellandhappy?”
“Yes,ma’am.”
“Mayyoutakethesesweetmeatsfrommyhand?”
“Ifyoupleasetogivethemtome.”
Instoopinglowforthepurpose,theladytouchestheboy’sfacewithher
foreheadandwithherhair.Then,loweringherveilagain,shepasseson,and
passesoutwithoutlookingback.


ACTI.
THECURTAINRISES
Inacourt-yardintheCityofLondon,whichwasNoThoroughfareeitherfor
vehiclesorfoot-passengers;acourt-yarddivergingfromasteep,aslippery,and
awindingstreetconnectingTowerStreetwiththeMiddlesexshoreofthe
Thames;stoodtheplaceofbusinessofWilding&Co.,WineMerchants.
Probablyasajocoseacknowledgmentoftheobstructivecharacterofthismain
approach,thepointnearesttoitsbaseatwhichonecouldtaketheriver(ifso
inodorouslyminded)boretheappellationBreak-Neck-Stairs.Thecourt-yard
itselfhadlikewisebeendescriptivelyentitledinoldtime,CrippleCorner.
Yearsbeforetheyearonethousandeighthundredandsixty-one,peoplehadleft
offtakingboatatBreak-Neck-Stairs,andwatermenhadceasedtoplythere.The
slimylittlecausewayhaddroppedintotheriverbyaslowprocessofsuicide,
andtwoorthreestumpsofpilesandarustyironmooring-ringwereallthat
remainedofthedepartedBreak-Neckglories.Sometimes,indeed,aladencoal
bargewouldbumpitselfintotheplace,andcertainlaboriousheavers,seemingly
mud-engendered,wouldarise,deliverthecargointheneighbourhood,shoveoff,
andvanish;butatmosttimestheonlycommerceofBreak-Neck-Stairsaroseout
oftheconveyanceofcasksandbottles,bothfullandempty,bothtoandfromthe
cellarsofWilding&Co.,WineMerchants.Eventhatcommercewasbut
occasional,andthroughthree-fourthsofitsrisingtidesthedirtyindecorousdrab
ofariverwouldcomesolitarilyoozingandlappingattherustyring,asifithad
heardoftheDogeandtheAdriatic,andwantedtobemarriedtothegreat
conserverofitsfilthiness,theRightHonourabletheLordMayor.
Sometwohundredandfiftyyardsontheright,uptheoppositehill(approaching
itfromthelowgroundofBreak-Neck-Stairs)wasCrippleCorner.Therewasa
pumpinCrippleCorner,therewasatreeinCrippleCorner.AllCrippleCorner
belongedtoWildingandCo.,WineMerchants.Theircellarsburrowedunderit,
theirmansiontoweredoverit.Itreallyhadbeenamansioninthedayswhen
merchantsinhabitedtheCity,andhadaceremonioussheltertothedoorway


withoutvisiblesupport,likethesounding-boardoveranoldpulpit.Ithadalsoa
numberoflongnarrowstripsofwindow,sodisposedinitsgravebrickfrontas
torenderitsymmetricallyugly.Ithadalso,onitsroof,acupolawithabellinit.
“Whenamanatfive-and-twentycanputhishaton,andcansay‘thishatcovers
theownerofthispropertyandofthebusinesswhichistransactedonthis
property,’Iconsider,Mr.Bintrey,that,withoutbeingboastful,hemaybe
allowedtobedeeplythankful.Idon’tknowhowitmayappeartoyou,butsoit
appearstome.”
ThusMr.WalterWildingtohismanoflaw,inhisowncounting-house;taking
hishatdownfromitspegtosuittheactiontotheword,andhangingitupagain
whenhehaddoneso,nottooverstepthemodestyofnature.
Aninnocent,open-speaking,unused-lookingman,Mr.WalterWilding,witha
remarkablypinkandwhitecomplexion,andafiguremuchtoobulkyforso
youngaman,thoughofagoodstature.Withcrispycurlingbrownhair,and
amiablebrightblueeyes.Anextremelycommunicativeman:amanwithwhom
loquacitywastheirrestrainableoutpouringofcontentmentandgratitude.Mr.
Bintrey,ontheotherhand,acautiousman,withtwinklingbeadsofeyesina
largeoverhangingbaldhead,whoinwardlybutintenselyenjoyedthecomicality
ofopennessofspeech,orhand,orheart.
“Yes,”saidMr.Bintrey.“Yes.Ha,ha!”
Adecanter,twowine-glasses,andaplateofbiscuits,stoodonthedesk.
“Youlikethisforty-fiveyearoldport-wine?”saidMr.Wilding.
“Likeit?”repeatedMr.Bintrey.“Rather,sir!”
“It’sfromthebestcornerofourbestforty-fiveyearoldbin,”saidMr.Wilding.
“Thankyou,sir,”saidMr.Bintrey.“It’smostexcellent.”
Helaughedagain,ashehelduphisglassandogledit,atthehighlyludicrous
ideaofgivingawaysuchwine.
“Andnow,”saidWilding,withachildishenjoymentinthediscussionofaffairs,
“Ithinkwehavegoteverythingstraight,Mr.Bintrey.”
“Everythingstraight,”saidBintrey.


“Apartnersecured—”
“Partnersecured,”saidBintrey.
“Ahousekeeperadvertisedfor—”
“Housekeeperadvertisedfor,”saidBintrey,“‘applypersonallyatCrippleCorner,
GreatTowerStreet,fromtentotwelve’—to-morrow,bythebye.”
“Mylatedearmother’saffairswoundup—”
“Woundup,”saidBintrey.
“Andallchargespaid.”
“Andallchargespaid,”saidBintrey,withachuckle:probablyoccasionedbythe
drollcircumstancethattheyhadbeenpaidwithoutahaggle.
“Thementionofmylatedearmother,”Mr.Wildingcontinued,hiseyesfilling
withtearsandhispocket-handkerchiefdryingthem,“unmansmestill,Mr.
Bintrey.YouknowhowIlovedher;you(herlawyer)knowhowshelovedme.
Theutmostloveofmotherandchildwascherishedbetweenus,andwenever
experiencedonemoment’sdivisionorunhappinessfromthetimewhenshetook
meunderhercare.Thirteenyearsinall!Thirteenyearsundermylatedear
mother’scare,Mr.Bintrey,andeightofthemherconfidentiallyacknowledged
son!Youknowthestory,Mr.Bintrey,whobutyou,sir!”Mr.Wildingsobbed
anddriedhiseyes,withoutattemptatconcealment,duringtheseremarks.
Mr.Bintreyenjoyedhiscomicalport,andsaid,afterrollingitinhismouth:“I
knowthestory.”
“Mylatedearmother,Mr.Bintrey,”pursuedthewine-merchant,“hadbeen
deeplydeceived,andhadcruellysuffered.Butonthatsubjectmylatedear
mother’slipswereforeversealed.Bywhomdeceived,orunderwhat
circumstances,Heavenonlyknows.Mylatedearmotherneverbetrayedher
betrayer.”
“Shehadmadeuphermind,”saidMr.Bintrey,againturninghiswineonhis
palate,“andshecouldholdherpeace.”Anamusedtwinkleinhiseyespretty
plainlyadded—“Adevilishdealbetterthanyoueverwill!”
“‘Honour,’”saidMr.Wilding,sobbingashequotedfromtheCommandments,
“‘thyfatherandthymother,thatthydaysmaybelongintheland.’WhenIwas


intheFoundling,Mr.Bintrey,Iwasatsuchalosshowtodoit,thatI
apprehendedmydayswouldbeshortintheland.ButIafterwardscameto
honourmymotherdeeply,profoundly.AndIhonourandreverehermemory.
Forsevenhappyyears,Mr.Bintrey,”pursuedWilding,stillwiththesame
innocentcatchinginhisbreath,andthesameunabashedtears,“didmyexcellent
motherarticlemetomypredecessorsinthisbusiness,PebblesonNephew.Her
affectionateforethoughtlikewiseapprenticedmetotheVintners’Company,and
mademeintimeafreeVintner,and—and—everythingelsethatthebestof
motherscoulddesire.WhenIcameofage,shebestowedherinheritedsharein
thisbusinessuponme;itwashermoneythatafterwardsboughtoutPebbleson
Nephew,andpaintedinWildingandCo.;itwasshewholeftmeeverythingshe
possessed,butthemourningringyouwear.Andyet,Mr.Bintrey,”withafresh
burstofhonestaffection,“sheisnomore.Itislittleoverhalfayearsinceshe
cameintotheCornertoreadonthatdoor-postwithherowneyes,WILDING
ANDCO.,WINEMERCHANTS.Andyetsheisnomore!”
“Sad.Butthecommonlot,Mr.Wilding,”observedBintrey.“Atsometimeor
otherwemustallbenomore.”Heplacedtheforty-fiveyearoldport-winein
theuniversalcondition,witharelishingsigh.
“Sonow,Mr.Bintrey,”pursuedWilding,puttingawayhispocket-handkerchief,
andsmoothinghiseyelidswithhisfingers,“nowthatIcannolongershowmy
loveandhonourforthedearparenttowhommyheartwasmysteriouslyturned
byNaturewhenshefirstspoketome,astrangelady,IsittingatourSunday
dinner-tableintheFoundling,IcanatleastshowthatIamnotashamedof
havingbeenaFoundling,andthatI,whoneverknewafatherofmyown,wish
tobeafathertoallinmyemployment.Therefore,”continuedWilding,
becomingenthusiasticinhisloquacity,“therefore,Iwantathoroughlygood
housekeepertoundertakethisdwelling-houseofWildingandCo.,Wine
Merchants,CrippleCorner,sothatImayrestoreinitsomeoftheoldrelations
betwixtemployerandemployed!SothatImayliveinitonthespotwheremy
moneyismade!SothatImaydailysitattheheadofthetableatwhichthe
peopleinmyemploymenteattogether,andmayeatofthesameroastandboiled,
anddrinkofthesamebeer!Sothatthepeopleinmyemploymentmaylodge
underthesameroofwithme!Sothatwemayoneandall—Ibegyourpardon,
Mr.Bintrey,butthatoldsinginginmyheadhassuddenlycomeon,andIshall
feelobligedifyouwillleadmetothepump.”
Alarmedbytheexcessivepinknessofhisclient,Mr.Bintreylostnotamoment
inleadinghimforthintothecourt-yard.Itwaseasilydone;forthecounting-


houseinwhichtheytalkedtogetheropenedontoit,atonesideofthedwellinghouse.Theretheattorneypumpedwithawill,obedienttoasignfromtheclient,
andtheclientlavedhisheadandfacewithbothhands,andtookaheartydrink.
Aftertheseremedies,hedeclaredhimselfmuchbetter.
“Don’tletyourgoodfeelingsexciteyou,”saidBintrey,astheyreturnedtothe
counting-house,andMr.Wildingdriedhimselfonajack-towelbehindaninner
door.
“No,no.Iwon’t,”hereturned,lookingoutofthetowel.“Iwon’t.Ihavenot
beenconfused,haveI?”
“Notatall.Perfectlyclear.”
“WheredidIleaveoff,Mr.Bintrey?”
“Well,youleftoff—butIwouldn’texcitemyself,ifIwasyou,bytakingitup
againjustyet.”
“I’lltakecare.I’lltakecare.Thesinginginmyheadcameonatwhere,Mr.
Bintrey?”
“Atroast,andboiled,andbeer,”answeredthelawyer,—“promptinglodging
underthesameroof—andoneandall—”
“Ah!Andoneandallsingingintheheadtogether—”
“Doyouknow,Ireallywouldnotletmygoodfeelingsexciteme,ifIwasyou,”
hintedthelawyeragain,anxiously.“Trysomemorepump.”
“Nooccasion,nooccasion.Allright,Mr.Bintrey.Andoneandallforminga
kindoffamily!Yousee,Mr.Bintrey,Iwasnotusedinmychildhoodtothatsort
ofindividualexistencewhichmostindividualshaveled,moreorless,intheir
childhood.AfterthattimeIbecameabsorbedinmylatedearmother.Having
losther,IfindthatIammorefitforbeingoneofabodythanonebymyself
one.Tobethat,andatthesametimetodomydutytothosedependentonme,
andattachthemtome,hasapatriarchalandpleasantairaboutit.Idon’tknow
howitmayappeartoyou,MrBintrey,butsoitappearstome.”
“ItisnotIwhoamall-importantinthecase,butyou,”returnedBintrey.
“Consequently,howitmayappeartomeisofverysmallimportance.”
“Itappearstome,”saidMr.Wilding,inaglow,“hopeful,useful,delightful!”


“Doyouknow,”hintedthelawyeragain,“Ireallywouldnotex—”
“Iamnotgoingto.Thenthere’sHandel.”
“There’swho?”askedBintrey.
“Handel,Mozart,Haydn,Kent,Purcell,DoctorArne,Greene,Mendelssohn.I
knowthechorusestothoseanthemsbyheart.FoundlingChapelCollection.
Whyshouldn’twelearnthemtogether?”
“Wholearnthemtogether?”askedthelawyer,rathershortly.
“Employerandemployed.”
“Ay,ay,”returnedBintrey,mollified;asifhehadhalfexpectedtheanswertobe,
Lawyerandclient.“That’sanotherthing.”
“Notanotherthing,Mr.Bintrey!Thesamething.Apartofthebondamongus.
WewillformaChoirinsomequietchurchneartheCornerhere,and,having
sungtogetherofaSundaywitharelish,wewillcomehomeandtakeanearly
dinnertogetherwitharelish.TheobjectthatIhaveatheartnowis,togetthis
systemwellinactionwithoutdelay,sothatmynewpartnermayfinditfounded
whenheentersonhispartnership.”
“Allgoodbewithit!”exclaimedBintrey,rising.“Mayitprosper!IsJoeyLadle
totakeashareinHandel,Mozart,Haydn,Kent,Purcell,DoctorArne,Greene,
andMendelssohn?
“Ihopeso.”
“Iwishthemallwelloutofit,”returnedBintrey,withmuchheartiness.“Goodbye,sir.”
Theyshookhandsandparted.Then(firstknockingwithhisknucklesforleave)
enteredtoMr.Wildingfromadoorofcommunicationbetweenhisprivate
counting-houseandthatinwhichhisclerkssat,theHeadCellarmanofthe
cellarsofWildingandCo.,WineMerchants,anderstHeadCellarmanofthe
cellarsofPebblesonNephew.TheJoeyLadleinquestion.Aslowand
ponderousman,ofthedraymanorderofhumanarchitecture,dressedina
corrugatedsuitandbibbedapron,apparentlyacompositeofdoor-matand
rhinoceros-hide.
“Respectingthissameboardingandlodging,YoungMasterWilding,”saidhe.


“Yes,Joey?”
“Speakingformyself,YoungMasterWilding—andIneverdidspeakandInever
dospeakfornooneelse—Idon’twantnoboardingnoryetnolodging.Butif
youwishtoboardmeandtolodgeme,takeme.Icanpeckaswellasmost
men.WhereIpeckain’tsohighaobjectwithmeasWhatIpeck.Norevenso
highaobjectwithmeasHowMuchIpeck.Isalltoliveinthehouse,Young
MasterWilding?Thetwoothercellarmen,thethreeporters,thetwo‘prentices,
andtheoddmen?”
“Yes.Ihopeweshallallbeanunitedfamily,Joey.”
“Ah!”saidJoey.“Ihopetheymaybe.”
“They?Rathersaywe,Joey.”
JoeyLadleshookhisheld.“Don’tlooktometomakeweonit,YoungMaster
Wilding,notatmytimeoflifeandunderthecircumstanceswhichhasformed
mydisposition.IhavesaidtoPebblesonNephewmanyatime,whentheyhave
saidtome,‘Putalivelierfaceuponit,Joey’—Ihavesaidtothem,‘Gentlemen,
itisallwerywellforyouthathasbeenaccustomedtotakeyourwineintoyour
systemsbytheconwivialchannelofyourthrottles,toputalivelyfaceuponit;
but,’Isays,‘Ihavebeenaccustomedtotakemywineinattheporesoftheskin,
and,tookthatway,itactsdifferent.Itactsdepressing.It’sonething,
gentlemen,’IsaystoPebblesonNephew,‘tochargeyourglassesinadiningroomwithaHipHurrahandaJollyCompanionsEveryOne,andit’sanother
thingtobechargedyourself,throughthepores,inalowdarkcellaranda
mouldyatmosphere.Itmakesallthedifferencebetwixtbubblesandwapours,’I
tellsPebblesonNephew.Andsoitdo.I’vebeenacellarmanmylifethrough,
withmymindfullygiventothebusiness.What’stheconsequence?I’mas
muddledamanaslives—youwon’tfindamuddledermanthanme—noryetyou
won’tfindmyequalinmolloncolly.SingofFillingthebumperfair,Everydrop
yousprinkle,O’erthebrowofcare,Smoothsawayawrinkle?Yes.P’rapsso.
Buttryfillingyourselfthroughthepores,underground,whenyoudon’twantto
it!”
“Iamsorrytohearthis,Joey.Ihadeventhoughtthatyoumightjoinasingingclassinthehouse.”
“Me,sir?No,no,YoungMasterWilding,youwon’tcatchJoeyLadlemuddling
theArmony.Apecking-machine,sir,isallthatIamcapableofprovingmyself,


outofmycellars;butthatyou’rewelcometo,ifyouthinkitisworthyourwhile
tokeepsuchathingonyourpremises.”
“Ido,Joey.”
“Saynomore,sir.TheBusiness’swordismylaw.Andyou’reagoingtotake
YoungMasterGeorgeVendalepartnerintotheoldBusiness?”
“Iam,Joey.”
“Morechanges,yousee!Butdon’tchangethenameoftheFirmagain.Don’t
doit,YoungMasterWilding.ItwasbadluckenoughtomakeitYourselfand
Co.BetterbyfarhaveleftitPebblesonNephewthatgoodluckalwaysstuckto.
Youshouldneverchangeluckwhenit’sgood,sir.”
“Atallevents,IhavenointentionofchangingthenameoftheHouseagain,
Joey.”
“Gladtohearit,andwishyougood-day,YoungMasterWilding.Butyouhad
betterbyhalf,”mutteredJoeyLadleinaudibly,asheclosedthedoorandshook
hishead,“haveletthenamealonefromthefirst.Youhadbetterbyhalfhave
followedtheluckinsteadofcrossingit.”

ENTERTHEHOUSEKEEPER
Thewinemerchantsatinhisdining-roomnextmorning,toreceivethepersonal
applicantsforthevacantpostinhisestablishment.Itwasanold-fashioned
wainscotedroom;thepanelsornamentedwithfestoonsofflowerscarvedin
wood;withanoakenfloor,awell-wornTurkeycarpet,anddarkmahogany
furniture,allofwhichhadseenserviceandpolishunderPebblesonNephew.
Thegreatsideboardhadassistedatmanybusiness-dinnersgivenbyPebbleson
Nephewtotheirconnection,ontheprincipleofthrowingspratsoverboardto
catchwhales;andPebblesonNephew’scomprehensivethree-sidedplate-warmer,
madetofitthewholefrontofthelargefireplace,keptwatchbeneathitovera
sarcophagus-shapedcellaretthathadinitstimeheldmanyadozenofPebbleson
Nephew’swine.Butthelittlerubicundoldbachelorwithapigtail,whose
portraitwasoverthesideboard(andwhocouldeasilybeidentifiedasdecidedly
PebblesonanddecidedlynotNephew),hadretiredintoanothersarcophagus,and
theplate-warmerhadgrownascoldashe.So,thegoldenandblackgriffinsthat
supportedthecandelabra,withblackballsintheirmouthsattheendofgilded
chains,lookedasifintheiroldagetheyhadlostallheartforplayingatball,and


weredolefullyexhibitingtheirchainsintheMissionarylineofinquiry,whether
theyhadnotearnedemancipationbythistime,andwerenotgriffinsand
brothers.
SuchaColumbusofamorningwasthesummermorning,thatitdiscovered
CrippleCorner.Thelightandwarmthpiercedinattheopenwindows,and
irradiatedthepictureofaladyhangingoverthechimney-piece,theonlyother
decorationofthewalls.
“Mymotheratfive-and-twenty,”saidMr.Wildingtohimself,ashiseyes
enthusiasticallyfollowedthelighttotheportrait’sface,“Ihanguphere,inorder
thatvisitorsmayadmiremymotherinthebloomofheryouthandbeauty.My
motheratfiftyIhangintheseclusionofmyownchamber,asaremembrance
sacredtome.O!It’syou,Jarvis!”
Theselatterwordsheaddressedtoaclerkwhohadtappedatthedoor,andnow
lookedin.
“Yes,sir.Imerelywishedtomentionthatit’sgoneten,sir,andthatthereare
severalfemalesintheCounting-house.”
“Dearme!”saidthewine-merchant,deepeninginthepinkofhiscomplexion
andwhiteninginthewhite,“arethereseveral?Somanyasseveral?Ihadbetter
beginbeforetherearemore.I’llseethemonebyone,Jarvis,intheorderof
theirarrival.”
Hastilyentrenchinghimselfinhiseasy-chairatthetablebehindagreatinkstand,
havingfirstplacedachairontheothersideofthetableoppositehisownseat,
Mr.Wildingenteredonhistaskwithconsiderabletrepidation.
Heranthegauntletthatmustberunonanysuchoccasion.Thereweretheusual
speciesofprofoundlyunsympatheticwomen,andtheusualspeciesofmuchtoo
sympatheticwomen.Therewerebuccaneeringwidowswhocametoseizehim,
andwhogripedumbrellasundertheirarms,asifeachumbrellawerehe,and
eachgriperhadgothim.Thereweretoweringmaidenladieswhohadseen
betterdays,andwhocamearmedwithclericaltestimonialstotheirtheology,as
ifhewereSaintPeterwithhiskeys.Thereweregentlemaidenladieswhocame
tomarryhim.Therewereprofessionalhousekeepers,likenon-commissioned
officers,whoputhimthroughhisdomesticexercise,insteadofsubmitting
themselvestocatechism.Therewerelanguidinvalids,towhomsalarywasnot
somuchanobjectasthecomfortsofaprivatehospital.Thereweresensitive


creatureswhoburstintotearsonbeingaddressed,andhadtoberestoredwith
glassesofcoldwater.Thereweresomerespondentswhocametwotogether,a
highlypromisingoneandawhollyunpromisingone:ofwhomthepromising
oneansweredallquestionscharmingly,untilitwouldatlastappearthatshewas
notacandidateatall,butonlythefriendoftheunpromisingone,whohad
gloweredinabsolutesilenceandapparentinjury.
Atlast,whenthegoodwine-merchant’ssimpleheartwasfailinghim,there
enteredanapplicantquitedifferentfromalltherest.Awoman,perhapsfifty,but
lookingyounger,withafaceremarkableforplacidcheerfulness,andamanner
nolessremarkableforitsquietexpressionofequabilityoftemper.Nothingin
herdresscouldhavebeenchangedtoheradvantage.Nothinginthenoiseless
self-possessionofhermannercouldhavebeenchangedtoheradvantage.
Nothingcouldhavebeeninbetterunisonwithboth,thanhervoicewhenshe
answeredthequestion:“WhatnameshallIhavethepleasureofnotingdown?”
withthewords,“MynameisSarahGoldstraw.Mrs.Goldstraw.Myhusband
hasbeendeadmanyyears,andwehadnofamily.”
Half-a-dozenquestionshadscarcelyextractedasmuchtothepurposefromany
oneelse.ThevoicedweltsoagreeablyonMr.Wilding’searashemadehis
note,thathewasratherlongaboutit.Whenhelookedupagain,Mrs.
Goldstraw’sglancehadnaturallygoneroundtheroom,andnowreturnedtohim
fromthechimney-piece.Itsexpressionwasoneoffrankreadinesstobe
questioned,andtoanswerstraight.
“Youwillexcusemyaskingyouafewquestions?”saidthemodestwinemerchant.
“O,surely,sir.OrIshouldhavenobusinesshere.”
“Haveyoufilledthestationofhousekeeperbefore?”
“Onlyonce.Ihavelivedwiththesamewidowladyfortwelveyears.Eversince
Ilostmyhusband.Shewasaninvalid,andislatelydead:whichistheoccasion
ofmynowwearingblack.”
“Idonotdoubtthatshehasleftyouthebestcredentials?”saidMr.Wilding.
“IhopeImaysay,theverybest.Ithoughtitwouldsavetrouble,sir,ifIwrote
downthenameandaddressofherrepresentatives,andbroughtitwithme.”
Layingacardonthetable.


“Yousingularlyremindme,Mrs.Goldstraw,”saidWilding,takingthecard
besidehim,“ofamannerandtoneofvoicethatIwasonceacquaintedwith.Not
ofanindividual—Ifeelsureofthat,thoughIcannotrecallwhatitisIhavein
mymind—butofageneralbearing.Ioughttoadd,itwasakindandpleasant
one.”
Shesmiled,assherejoined:“Atleast,Iamverygladofthat,sir.”
“Yes,”saidthewine-merchant,thoughtfullyrepeatinghislastphrase,witha
momentaryglanceathisfuturehousekeeper,“itwasakindandpleasantone.
ButthatisthemostIcanmakeofit.Memoryissometimeslikeahalf-forgotten
dream.Idon’tknowhowitmayappeartoyou,Mrs.Goldstraw,butsoit
appearstome.”
ProbablyitappearedtoMrs.Goldstrawinasimilarlight,forshequietly
assentedtotheproposition.Mr.Wildingthenofferedtoputhimselfatoncein
communicationwiththegentlemennameduponthecard:afirmofproctorsin
Doctors’Commons.Tothis,Mrs.Goldstrawthankfullyassented.Doctors’
Commonsnotbeingfaroff,Mr.WildingsuggestedthefeasibilityofMrs.
Goldstraw’slookinginagain,sayinthreehours’time.Mrs.Goldstrawreadily
undertooktodoso.Infine,theresultofMr.Wilding’sinquiriesbeingeminently
satisfactory,Mrs.Goldstrawwasthatafternoonengaged(onherownperfectly
fairterms)tocometo-morrowandsetupherrestashousekeeperinCripple
Corner.

THEHOUSEKEEPERSPEAKS
OnthenextdayMrs.Goldstrawarrived,toenteronherdomesticduties.
Havingsettledherselfinherownroom,withouttroublingtheservants,and
withoutwastingtime,thenewhousekeeperannouncedherselfaswaitingtobe
favouredwithanyinstructionswhichhermastermightwishtogiveher.The
wine-merchantreceivedMrs.Goldstrawinthedining-room,inwhichhehad
seenheronthepreviousday;and,theusualpreliminarycivilitieshavingpassed
oneitherside,thetwosatdowntotakecounseltogetherontheaffairsofthe
house.
“Aboutthemeals,sir?”saidMrs.Goldstraw.“HaveIalarge,orasmall,
numbertoprovidefor?”
“IfIcancarryoutacertainold-fashionedplanofmine,”repliedMr.Wilding,


“youwillhavealargenumbertoprovidefor.Iamalonelysingleman,Mrs.
Goldstraw;andIhopetolivewithallthepersonsinmyemploymentasifthey
weremembersofmyfamily.Untilthattimecomes,youwillonlyhaveme,and
thenewpartnerwhomIexpectimmediately,toprovidefor.Whatmypartner’s
habitsmaybe,Icannotyetsay.ButImaydescribemyselfasamanofregular
hours,withaninvariableappetitethatyoumaydependupontoanounce.”
“Aboutbreakfast,sir?”askedMrs.Goldstraw.“Isthereanythingparticular—?”
Shehesitated,andleftthesentenceunfinished.Hereyesturnedslowlyaway
fromhermaster,andlookedtowardsthechimney-piece.Ifshehadbeenaless
excellentandexperiencedhousekeeper,Mr.Wildingmighthavefanciedthather
attentionwasbeginningtowanderattheveryoutsetoftheinterview.
“Eighto’clockismybreakfast-hour,”heresumed.“Itisoneofmyvirtuestobe
nevertiredofbroiledbacon,anditisoneofmyvicestobehabituallysuspicious
ofthefreshnessofeggs.”Mrs.Goldstrawlookedbackathim,stillalittle
dividedbetweenhermaster’schimney-pieceandhermaster.“Itaketea,”Mr.
Wildingwenton;“andIamperhapsrathernervousandfidgetyaboutdrinkingit,
withinacertaintimeafteritismade.Ifmyteastandstoolong—”
Hehesitated,onhisside,andleftthesentenceunfinished.Ifhehadnotbeen
engagedindiscussingasubjectofsuchparamountinteresttohimselfashis
breakfast,Mrs.Goldstrawmighthavefanciedthathisattentionwasbeginningto
wanderattheveryoutsetoftheinterview.
“Ifyourteastandstoolong,sir—?”saidthehousekeeper,politelytakingupher
master’slostthread.
“Ifmyteastandstoolong,”repeatedthewine-merchantmechanically,hismind
gettingfartherandfartherawayfromhisbreakfast,andhiseyesfixing
themselvesmoreandmoreinquiringlyonhishousekeeper’sface.“Ifmytea—
Dear,dearme,Mrs.Goldstraw!whatisthemannerandtoneofvoicethatyou
remindmeof?Itstrikesmeevenmorestronglyto-day,thanitdidwhenIsaw
youyesterday.Whatcanitbe?”
“Whatcanitbe?”repeatedMrs.Goldstraw.
Shesaidthewords,evidentlythinkingwhileshespokethemofsomethingelse.
Thewine-merchant,stilllookingatherinquiringly,observedthathereyes
wanderedtowardsthechimney-pieceoncemore.Theyfixedontheportraitof


hismother,whichhungthere,andlookedatitwiththatslightcontractionofthe
browwhichaccompaniesascarcelyconsciouseffortofmemory.Mr.Wilding
remarked.
“Mylatedearmother,whenshewasfive-and-twenty.”
Mrs.Goldstrawthankedhimwithamovementoftheheadforbeingatthepains
toexplainthepicture,andsaid,withaclearedbrow,thatitwastheportraitofa
verybeautifullady.
Mr.Wilding,fallingbackintohisformerperplexity,triedoncemoretorecover
thatlostrecollection,associatedsoclosely,andyetsoundiscoverably,withhis
newhousekeeper’svoiceandmanner.
“Excusemyaskingyouaquestionwhichhasnothingtodowithmeormy
breakfast,”hesaid.“MayIinquireifyouhaveeveroccupiedanyothersituation
thanthesituationofhousekeeper?”
“Oyes,sir.IbeganlifeasoneofthenursesattheFoundling.”
“Why,that’sit!”criedthewine-merchant,pushingbackhischair.“Byheaven!
Theirmanneristhemanneryouremindmeof!”
Inanastonishedlookathim,Mrs.Goldstrawchangedcolour,checkedherself,
turnedhereyesupontheground,andsatstillandsilent.
“Whatisthematter?”askedMr.Wilding.
“DoIunderstandthatyouwereintheFoundling,sir?”
“Certainly.Iamnotashamedtoownit.”
“Underthenameyounowbear?”
“UnderthenameofWalterWilding.”
“Andthelady—?”Mrs.Goldstrawstoppedshortwithalookattheportrait
whichwasnowunmistakablyalookofalarm.
“Youmeanmymother,”interruptedMr.Wilding.
“Your—mother,”repeatedthehousekeeper,alittleconstrainedly,“removedyou
fromtheFoundling?Atwhatage,sir?”


“Atbetweenelevenandtwelveyearsold.It’squitearomanticadventure,Mrs.
Goldstraw.”
Hetoldthestoryoftheladyhavingspokentohim,whilehesatatdinnerwith
theotherboysintheFoundling,andofallthathadfollowedinhisinnocently
communicativeway.“Mypoormothercouldneverhavediscoveredme,”he
added,“ifshehadnotmetwithoneofthematronswhopitiedher.Thematron
consentedtotouchtheboywhosenamewas‘WalterWilding’asshewentround
thedinner-tables—andsomymotherdiscoveredmeagain,afterhavingparted
frommeasaninfantattheFoundlingdoors.”
AtthosewordsMrs.Goldstraw’shand,restingonthetable,droppedhelplessly
intoherlap.Shesat,lookingathernewmaster,withafacethathadturned
deadlypale,andwitheyesthatexpressedanunutterabledismay.
“Whatdoesthismean?”askedthewine-merchant.“Stop!”hecried.“Isthere
somethingelseinthepasttimewhichIoughttoassociatewithyou?Iremember
mymothertellingmeofanotherpersonattheFoundling,towhosekindnessshe
owedadebtofgratitude.Whenshefirstpartedwithme,asaninfant,oneofthe
nursesinformedherofthenamethathadbeengiventomeintheinstitution.
Youwerethatnurse?”
“Godforgiveme,sir—Iwasthatnurse!”
“Godforgiveyou?”
“Wehadbettergetback,sir(ifImaymakesoboldastosayso),tomydutiesin
thehouse,”saidMrs.Goldstraw.“Yourbreakfast-houriseight.Doyoulunch,
ordine,inthemiddleoftheday?”
TheexcessivepinknesswhichMr.Bintreyhadnoticedinhisclient’sfacebegan
toappearthereoncemore.Mr.Wildingputhishandtohishead,andmastered
somemomentaryconfusioninthatquarter,beforehespokeagain.
“Mrs.Goldstraw,”hesaid,“youareconcealingsomethingfromme!”
Thehousekeeperobstinatelyrepeated,“Pleasetofavourme,sir,bysaying
whetheryoulunch,ordine,inthemiddleoftheday?”
“Idon’tknowwhatIdointhemiddleoftheday.Ican’tenterintomy
householdaffairs,Mrs.Goldstraw,tillIknowwhyyouregretanactofkindness
tomymother,whichshealwaysspokeofgratefullytotheendofherlife.You


arenotdoingmeaservicebyyoursilence.Youareagitatingme,youare
alarmingme,youarebringingonthesinginginmyhead.”
Hishandwentuptohisheadagain,andthepinkinhisfacedeepenedbyashade
ortwo.
“It’shard,sir,onjustenteringyourservice,”saidthehousekeeper,“tosaywhat
maycostmethelossofyourgoodwill.Pleasetoremember,endhowitmay,
thatIonlyspeakbecauseyouhaveinsistedonmyspeaking,andbecauseIsee
thatIamalarmingyoubymysilence.WhenItoldthepoorlady,whoseportrait
youhavegotthere,thenamebywhichherinfantwaschristenedinthe
Foundling,Iallowedmyselftoforgetmyduty,anddreadfulconsequences,Iam
afraid,havefollowedfromit.I’lltellyouthetruth,asplainlyasIcan.Afew
monthsfromthetimewhenIhadinformedtheladyofherbaby’sname,there
cametoourinstitutioninthecountryanotherlady(astranger),whoseobjectwas
toadoptoneofourchildren.Shebroughttheneedfulpermissionwithher,and
afterlookingatagreatmanyofthechildren,withoutbeingabletomakeupher
mind,shetookasuddenfancytooneofthebabies—aboy—undermycare.Try,
praytry,tocomposeyourself,sir!It’snousedisguisingitanylonger.Thechild
thestrangertookawaywasthechildofthatladywhoseportraithangsthere!”
Mr.Wildingstartedtohisfeet.“Impossible!”hecriedout,vehemently.“What
areyoutalkingabout?Whatabsurdstoryareyoutellingmenow?There’sher
portrait!Haven’tItoldyousoalready?Theportraitofmymother!”
“WhenthatunhappyladyremovedyoufromtheFoundling,inafteryears,”said
Mrs.Goldstraw,gently,“shewasthevictim,andyouwerethevictim,sir,ofa
dreadfulmistake.”
Hedroppedbackintohischair.“Theroomgoesroundwithme,”hesaid.“My
head!myhead!”Thehousekeeperroseinalarm,andopenedthewindows.
Beforeshecouldgettothedoortocallforhelp,asuddenburstoftearsrelieved
theoppressionwhichhadatfirstalmostappearedtothreatenhislife.Hesigned
entreatinglytoMrs.Goldstrawnottoleavehim.Shewaiteduntiltheparoxysm
ofweepinghadwornitselfout.Heraisedhisheadasherecoveredhimself,and
lookedatherwiththeangryunreasoningsuspicionofaweakman.
“Mistake?”hesaid,wildlyrepeatingherlastword.“HowdoIknowyouarenot
mistakenyourself?”
“ThereisnohopethatIammistaken,sir.Iwilltellyouwhy,whenyouare


betterfittohearit.”
“Now!now!”
ThetoneinwhichhespokewarnedMrs.Goldstrawthatitwouldbecruel
kindnesstolethimcomforthimselfamomentlongerwiththevainhopethatshe
mightbewrong.Afewwordsmorewouldendit,andthosefewwordsshe
determinedtospeak.
“Ihavetoldyou,”shesaid,“thatthechildoftheladywhoseportraithangsthere,
wasadoptedinitsinfancy,andtakenawaybyastranger.Iamascertainofwhat
IsayasthatIamnowsittinghere,obligedtodistressyou,sir,sorelyagainstmy
will.Pleasetocarryyourmindon,now,toaboutthreemonthsafterthattime.I
wasthenattheFoundling,inLondon,waitingtotakesomechildrentoour
institutioninthecountry.Therewasaquestionthatdayaboutnaminganinfant
—aboy—whohadjustbeenreceived.Wegenerallynamedthemoutofthe
Directory.Onthisoccasion,oneofthegentlemenwhomanagedtheHospital
happenedtobelookingovertheRegister.Henoticedthatthenameofthebaby
whohadbeenadopted(‘WalterWilding’)wasscratchedout—forthereason,of
course,thatthechildhadbeenremovedforgoodfromourcare.‘Here’saname
tolet,’hesaid.‘Giveittothenewfoundlingwhohasbeenreceivedto-day.’
Thenamewasgiven,andthechildwaschristened.You,sir,werethatchild.”
Thewine-merchant’sheaddroppedonhisbreast.“Iwasthatchild!”hesaidto
himself,tryinghelplesslytofixtheideainhismind.“Iwasthatchild!”
“NotverylongafteryouhadbeenreceivedintotheInstitution,sir,”pursued
Mrs.Goldstraw,“Ileftmysituationthere,tobemarried.Ifyouwillremember
that,andifyoucangiveyourmindtoit,youwillseeforyourselfhowthe
mistakehappened.Betweenelevenandtwelveyearspassedbeforethelady,
whomyouhavebelievedtobeyourmother,returnedtotheFoundling,tofind
herson,andtoremovehimtoherownhome.Theladyonlyknewthather
infanthadbeencalled‘WalterWilding.’Thematronwhotookpityonher,could
butpointouttheonly‘WalterWilding’knownintheInstitution.I,whomight
havesetthematterright,wasfarawayfromtheFoundlingandallthatbelonged
toit.Therewasnothing—therewasreallynothingthatcouldpreventthis
terriblemistakefromtakingplace.Ifeelforyou—Idoindeed,sir!Youmust
think—andwithreason—thatitwasinanevilhourthatIcamehere(innocently
enough,I’msure),toapplyforyourhousekeeper’splace.IfeelasifIwasto
blame—IfeelasifIoughttohavehadmoreself-command.IfIhadonlybeen


abletokeepmyfacefromshowingyouwhatthatportraitandwhatyourown
wordsputintomymind,youneednever,toyourdyingday,haveknownwhat
youknownow.”
Mr.Wildinglookedupsuddenly.Theinbredhonestyofthemanroseinprotest
againstthehousekeeper’slastwords.Hismindseemedtosteadyitself,forthe
moment,undertheshockthathadfallenonit.
“Doyoumeantosaythatyouwouldhaveconcealedthisfrommeifyoucould?”
heexclaimed.
“IhopeIshouldalwaystellthetruth,sir,ifIwasasked,”saidMrs.Goldstraw.
“AndIknowitisbetterformethatIshouldnothaveasecretofthissort
weighingonmymind.Butisitbetterforyou?Whatusecanitservenow—?”
“Whatuse?Why,goodLord!ifyourstoryistrue—”
“ShouldIhavetoldit,sir,asIamnowsituated,ifithadnotbeentrue?”
“Ibegyourpardon,”saidthewine-merchant.“Youmustmakeallowancefor
me.ThisdreadfuldiscoveryissomethingIcan’trealiseevenyet.Weloved
eachothersodearly—IfeltsofondlythatIwasherson.Shedied,Mrs.
Goldstraw,inmyarms—shediedblessingmeasonlyamothercouldhave
blessedme.Andnow,afteralltheseyears,tobetoldshewasnotmymother!O
me,Ome!Idon’tknowwhatIamsaying!”hecried,astheimpulseofselfcontrolunderwhichhehadspokenamomentsince,flickered,anddiedout.“It
wasnotthisdreadfulgrief—itwassomethingelsethatIhaditinmymindto
speakof.Yes,yes.Yousurprisedme—youwoundedmejustnow.Youtalked
asifyouwouldhavehiddenthisfromme,ifyoucould.Don’ttalkinthatway
again.Itwouldhavebeenacrimetohavehiddenit.Youmeanwell,Iknow.I
don’twanttodistressyou—youareakind-heartedwoman.Butyoudon’t
rememberwhatmypositionis.SheleftmeallthatIpossess,inthefirm
persuasionthatIwasherson.Iamnotherson.Ihavetakentheplace,Ihave
innocentlygottheinheritanceofanotherman.Hemustbefound!HowdoI
knowheisnotatthismomentinmisery,withoutbreadtoeat?Hemustbe
found!Myonlyhopeofbearingupagainsttheshockthathasfallenonme,is
thehopeofdoingsomethingwhichshewouldhaveapproved.Youmustknow
more,Mrs.Goldstraw,thanyouhavetoldmeyet.Whowasthestrangerwho
adoptedthechild?Youmusthaveheardthelady’sname?”
“Ineverheardit,sir.Ihaveneverseenher,orheardofher,since.”


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