The Complete Works of



Charles Dickens > No Thoroughfare > Chapter I

No Thoroughfare

Chapter I


In a court-yard in the City of London, which was No Thoroughfare
either for vehicles or foot-passengers; a court-yard diverging from
a steep, a slippery, and a winding street connecting Tower Street
with the Middlesex shore of the Thames; stood the place of business
of Wilding & Co., Wine Merchants. Probably as a jocose
acknowledgment of the obstructive character of this main approach,
the point nearest to its base at which one could take the river (if
so inodorously minded) bore the appellation Break-Neck-Stairs. The
court-yard itself had likewise been descriptively entitled in old
time, Cripple Corner.

Years before the year one thousand eight hundred and sixty-one,
people had left off taking boat at Break-Neck-Stairs, and watermen
had ceased to ply there. The slimy little causeway had dropped into
the river by a slow process of suicide, and two or three stumps of
piles and a rusty iron mooring-ring were all that remained of the
departed Break-Neck glories. Sometimes, indeed, a laden coal barge
would bump itself into the place, and certain laborious heavers,
seemingly mud-engendered, would arise, deliver the cargo in the
neighbourhood, shove off, and vanish; but at most times the only
commerce of Break-Neck-Stairs arose out of the conveyance of casks
and bottles, both full and empty, both to and from the cellars of
Wilding & Co., Wine Merchants. Even that commerce was but
occasional, and through three-fourths of its rising tides the dirty
indecorous drab of a river would come solitarily oozing and lapping
at the rusty ring, as if it had heard of the Doge and the Adriatic,
and wanted to be married to the great conserver of its filthiness,
the Right Honourable the Lord Mayor.

Some two hundred and fifty yards on the right, up the opposite hill
(approaching it from the low ground of Break-Neck-Stairs) was
Cripple Corner. There was a pump in Cripple Corner, there was a
tree in Cripple Corner. All Cripple Corner belonged to Wilding and
Co., Wine Merchants. Their cellars burrowed under it, their mansion
towered over it. It really had been a mansion in the days when
merchants inhabited the City, and had a ceremonious shelter to the
doorway without visible support, like the sounding-board over an old
pulpit. It had also a number of long narrow strips of window, so
disposed in its grave brick front as to render it symmetrically
ugly. It had also, on its roof, a cupola with a bell in it.

"When a man at five-and-twenty can put his hat on, and can say 'this
hat covers the owner of this property and of the business which is
transacted on this property,' I consider, Mr. Bintrey, that, without
being boastful, he may be allowed to be deeply thankful. I don't
know how it may appear to you, but so it appears to me."

Thus Mr. Walter Wilding to his man of law, in his own counting-
house; taking his hat down from its peg to suit the action to the
word, and hanging it up again when he had done so, not to overstep
the modesty of nature.

An innocent, open-speaking, unused-looking man, Mr. Walter Wilding,
with a remarkably pink and white complexion, and a figure much too
bulky for so young a man, though of a good stature. With crispy
curling brown hair, and amiable bright blue eyes. An extremely
communicative man: a man with whom loquacity was the irrestrainable
outpouring of contentment and gratitude. Mr. Bintrey, on the other
hand, a cautious man, with twinkling beads of eyes in a large
overhanging bald head, who inwardly but intensely enjoyed the
comicality of openness of speech, or hand, or heart.

"Yes," said Mr. Bintrey. "Yes. Ha, ha!"

A decanter, two wine-glasses, and a plate of biscuits, stood on the

"You like this forty-five year old port-wine?" said Mr. Wilding.

"Like it?" repeated Mr. Bintrey. "Rather, sir!"

"It's from the best corner of our best forty-five year old bin,"
said Mr. Wilding.

"Thank you, sir," said Mr. Bintrey. "It's most excellent."

He laughed again, as he held up his glass and ogled it, at the
highly ludicrous idea of giving away such wine.

"And now," said Wilding, with a childish enjoyment in the discussion
of affairs, "I think we have got everything straight, Mr. Bintrey."

"Everything straight," said Bintrey.

"A partner secured--"

"Partner secured," said Bintrey.

"A housekeeper advertised for--"

"Housekeeper advertised for," said Bintrey, "'apply personally at
Cripple Corner, Great Tower Street, from ten to twelve'--to-morrow,
by the bye."

"My late dear mother's affairs wound up--"

"Wound up," said Bintrey.

"And all charges paid."

"And all charges paid," said Bintrey, with a chuckle: probably
occasioned by the droll circumstance that they had been paid without
a haggle.

"The mention of my late dear mother," Mr. Wilding continued, his
eyes filling with tears and his pocket-handkerchief drying them,
"unmans me still, Mr. Bintrey. You know how I loved her; you (her
lawyer) know how she loved me. The utmost love of mother and child
was cherished between us, and we never experienced one moment's
division or unhappiness from the time when she took me under her
care. Thirteen years in all! Thirteen years under my late dear
mother's care, Mr. Bintrey, and eight of them her confidentially
acknowledged son! You know the story, Mr. Bintrey, who but you,
sir!" Mr. Wilding sobbed and dried his eyes, without attempt at
concealment, during these remarks.

Mr. Bintrey enjoyed his comical port, and said, after rolling it in
his mouth: "I know the story."

"My late dear mother, Mr. Bintrey," pursued the wine-merchant, "had
been deeply deceived, and had cruelly suffered. But on that subject
my late dear mother's lips were for ever sealed. By whom deceived,
or under what circumstances, Heaven only knows. My late dear mother
never betrayed her betrayer."

"She had made up her mind," said Mr. Bintrey, again turning his wine
on his palate, "and she could hold her peace." An amused twinkle in
his eyes pretty plainly added--"A devilish deal better than YOU ever

"'Honour,'" said Mr. Wilding, sobbing as he quoted from the
Commandments, "'thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long
in the land.' When I was in the Foundling, Mr. Bintrey, I was at
such a loss how to do it, that I apprehended my days would be short
in the land. But I afterwards came to honour my mother deeply,
profoundly. And I honour and revere her memory. For seven happy
years, Mr. Bintrey," pursued Wilding, still with the same innocent
catching in his breath, and the same unabashed tears, "did my
excellent mother article me to my predecessors in this business,
Pebbleson Nephew. Her affectionate forethought likewise apprenticed
me to the Vintners' Company, and made me in time a free Vintner,
and--and--everything else that the best of mothers could desire.
When I came of age, she bestowed her inherited share in this
business upon me; it was her money that afterwards bought out
Pebbleson Nephew, and painted in Wilding and Co.; it was she who
left me everything she possessed, but the mourning ring you wear.
And yet, Mr. Bintrey," with a fresh burst of honest affection, "she
is no more. It is little over half a year since she came into the
Corner to read on that door-post with her own eyes, WILDING AND CO.,
WINE MERCHANTS. And yet she is no more!"

"Sad. But the common lot, Mr. Wilding," observed Bintrey. "At some
time or other we must all be no more." He placed the forty-five
year old port-wine in the universal condition, with a relishing

"So now, Mr. Bintrey," pursued Wilding, putting away his pocket-
handkerchief, and smoothing his eyelids with his fingers, "now that
I can no longer show my love and honour for the dear parent to whom
my heart was mysteriously turned by Nature when she first spoke to
me, a strange lady, I sitting at our Sunday dinner-table in the
Foundling, I can at least show that I am not ashamed of having been
a Foundling, and that I, who never knew a father of my own, wish to
be a father to all in my employment. Therefore," continued Wilding,
becoming enthusiastic in his loquacity, "therefore, I want a
thoroughly good housekeeper to undertake this dwelling-house of
Wilding and Co., Wine Merchants, Cripple Corner, so that I may
restore in it some of the old relations betwixt employer and
employed! So that I may live in it on the spot where my money is
made! So that I may daily sit at the head of the table at which the
people in my employment eat together, and may eat of the same roast
and boiled, and drink of the same beer! So that the people in my
employment may lodge under the same roof with me! So that we may
one and all--I beg your pardon, Mr. Bintrey, but that old singing in
my head has suddenly come on, and I shall feel obliged if you will
lead me to the pump."

Alarmed by the excessive pinkness of his client, Mr. Bintrey lost
not a moment in leading him forth into the court-yard. It was
easily done; for the counting-house in which they talked together
opened on to it, at one side of the dwelling-house. There the
attorney pumped with a will, obedient to a sign from the client, and
the client laved his head and face with both hands, and took a
hearty drink. After these remedies, he declared himself much

"Don't let your good feelings excite you," said Bintrey, as they
returned to the counting-house, and Mr. Wilding dried himself on a
jack-towel behind an inner door.

"No, no. I won't," he returned, looking out of the towel. "I
won't. I have not been confused, have I?"

"Not at all. Perfectly clear."

"Where did I leave off, Mr. Bintrey?"

"Well, you left off--but I wouldn't excite myself, if I was you, by
taking it up again just yet."

"I'll take care. I'll take care. The singing in my head came on at
where, Mr. Bintrey?"

"At roast, and boiled, and beer," answered the lawyer,--"prompting
lodging under the same roof--and one and all--"

"Ah! And one and all singing in the head together--"

"Do you know, I really WOULD NOT let my good feelings excite me, if
I was you," hinted the lawyer again, anxiously. "Try some more

"No occasion, no occasion. All right, Mr. Bintrey. And one and all
forming a kind of family! You see, Mr. Bintrey, I was not used in
my childhood to that sort of individual existence which most
individuals have led, more or less, in their childhood. After that
time I became absorbed in my late dear mother. Having lost her, I
find that I am more fit for being one of a body than one by myself
one. To be that, and at the same time to do my duty to those
dependent on me, and attach them to me, has a patriarchal and
pleasant air about it. I don't know how it may appear to you, Mr
Bintrey, but so it appears to me."

"It is not I who am all-important in the case, but you," returned
Bintrey. "Consequently, how it may appear to me is of very small

"It appears to me," said Mr. Wilding, in a glow, "hopeful, useful,

"Do you know," hinted the lawyer again, "I really would not ex- "

"I am not going to. Then there's Handel."

"There's who?" asked Bintrey.

"Handel, Mozart, Haydn, Kent, Purcell, Doctor Arne, Greene,
Mendelssohn. I know the choruses to those anthems by heart.
Foundling Chapel Collection. Why shouldn't we learn them together?"

"Who learn them together?" asked the lawyer, rather shortly.

"Employer and employed."

"Ay, ay," returned Bintrey, mollified; as if he had half expected
the answer to be, Lawyer and client. "That's another thing."

"Not another thing, Mr. Bintrey! The same thing. A part of the
bond among us. We will form a Choir in some quiet church near the
Corner here, and, having sung together of a Sunday with a relish, we
will come home and take an early dinner together with a relish. The
object that I have at heart now is, to get this system well in
action without delay, so that my new partner may find it founded
when he enters on his partnership."

"All good be with it!" exclaimed Bintrey, rising. "May it prosper!
Is Joey Ladle to take a share in Handel, Mozart, Haydn, Kent,
Purcell, Doctor Arne, Greene, and Mendelssohn?

"I hope so."

"I wish them all well out of it," returned Bintrey, with much
heartiness. "Good-bye, sir."

They shook hands and parted. Then (first knocking with his knuckles
for leave) entered to Mr. Wilding from a door of communication
between his private counting-house and that in which his clerks sat,
the Head Cellarman of the cellars of Wilding and Co., Wine
Merchants, and erst Head Cellarman of the cellars of Pebbleson
Nephew. The Joey Ladle in question. A slow and ponderous man, of
the drayman order of human architecture, dressed in a corrugated
suit and bibbed apron, apparently a composite of door-mat and

"Respecting this same boarding and lodging, Young Master Wilding,"
said he.

"Yes, Joey?"

"Speaking for myself, Young Master Wilding--and I never did speak
and I never do speak for no one else--I don't want no boarding nor
yet no lodging. But if you wish to board me and to lodge me, take
me. I can peck as well as most men. Where I peck ain't so high a
object with me as What I peck. Nor even so high a object with me as
How Much I peck. Is all to live in the house, Young Master Wilding?
The two other cellarmen, the three porters, the two 'prentices, and
the odd men?"

"Yes. I hope we shall all be an united family, Joey."

"Ah!" said Joey. "I hope they may be."

"They? Rather say we, Joey."

Joey Ladle shook his held. "Don't look to me to make we on it,
Young Master Wilding, not at my time of life and under the
circumstances which has formed my disposition. I have said to
Pebbleson Nephew many a time, when they have said to me, 'Put a
livelier face upon it, Joey'--I have said to them, 'Gentlemen, it is
all wery well for you that has been accustomed to take your wine
into your systems by the conwivial channel of your throttles, to put
a lively face upon it; but,' I says, 'I have been accustomed to take
MY wine in at the pores of the skin, and, took that way, it acts
different. It acts depressing. It's one thing, gentlemen,' I says
to Pebbleson Nephew, 'to charge your glasses in a dining-room with a
Hip Hurrah and a Jolly Companions Every One, and it's another thing
to be charged yourself, through the pores, in a low dark cellar and
a mouldy atmosphere. It makes all the difference betwixt bubbles
and wapours,' I tells Pebbleson Nephew. And so it do. I've been a
cellarman my life through, with my mind fully given to the business.
What's the consequence? I'm as muddled a man as lives--you won't
find a muddleder man than me--nor yet you won't find my equal in
molloncolly. Sing of Filling the bumper fair, Every drop you
sprinkle, O'er the brow of care, Smooths away a wrinkle? Yes.
P'raps so. But try filling yourself through the pores, underground,
when you don't want to it!"

"I am sorry to hear this, Joey. I had even thought that you might
join a singing-class in the house."

"Me, sir? No, no, Young Master Wilding, you won't catch Joey Ladle
muddling the Armony. A pecking-machine, sir, is all that I am
capable of proving myself, out of my cellars; but that you're
welcome to, if you think it is worth your while to keep such a thing
on your premises."

"I do, Joey."

"Say no more, sir. The Business's word is my law. And you're a
going to take Young Master George Vendale partner into the old

"I am, Joey."

"More changes, you see! But don't change the name of the Firm
again. Don't do it, Young Master Wilding. It was bad luck enough
to make it Yourself and Co. Better by far have left it Pebbleson
Nephew that good luck always stuck to. You should never change luck
when it's good, sir."

"At all events, I have no intention of changing the name of the
House again, Joey."

"Glad to hear it, and wish you good-day, Young Master Wilding. But
you had better by half," muttered Joey Ladle inaudibly, as he closed
the door and shook his head, "have let the name alone from the
first. You had better by half have followed the luck instead of
crossing it."


The wine merchant sat in his dining-room next morning, to receive
the personal applicants for the vacant post in his establishment.
It was an old-fashioned wainscoted room; the panels ornamented with
festoons of flowers carved in wood; with an oaken floor, a well-worn
Turkey carpet, and dark mahogany furniture, all of which had seen
service and polish under Pebbleson Nephew. The great sideboard had
assisted at many business-dinners given by Pebbleson Nephew to their
connection, on the principle of throwing sprats overboard to catch
whales; and Pebbleson Nephew's comprehensive three-sided plate-
warmer, made to fit the whole front of the large fireplace, kept
watch beneath it over a sarcophagus-shaped cellaret that had in its
time held many a dozen of Pebbleson Nephew's wine. But the little
rubicund old bachelor with a pigtail, whose portrait was over the
sideboard (and who could easily be identified as decidedly Pebbleson
and decidedly not Nephew), had retired into another sarcophagus, and
the plate-warmer had grown as cold as he. So, the golden and black
griffins that supported the candelabra, with black balls in their
mouths at the end of gilded chains, looked as if in their old age
they had lost all heart for playing at ball, and were dolefully
exhibiting their chains in the Missionary line of inquiry, whether
they had not earned emancipation by this time, and were not griffins
and brothers.

Such a Columbus of a morning was the summer morning, that it
discovered Cripple Corner. The light and warmth pierced in at the
open windows, and irradiated the picture of a lady hanging over the
chimney-piece, the only other decoration of the walls.

"My mother at five-and-twenty," said Mr. Wilding to himself, as his
eyes enthusiastically followed the light to the portrait's face, "I
hang up here, in order that visitors may admire my mother in the
bloom of her youth and beauty. My mother at fifty I hang in the
seclusion of my own chamber, as a remembrance sacred to me. O!
It's you, Jarvis!"

These latter words he addressed to a clerk who had tapped at the
door, and now looked in.

"Yes, sir. I merely wished to mention that it's gone ten, sir, and
that there are several females in the Counting-house."

"Dear me!" said the wine-merchant, deepening in the pink of his
complexion and whitening in the white, "are there several? So many
as several? I had better begin before there are more. I'll see
them one by one, Jarvis, in the order of their arrival."

Hastily entrenching himself in his easy-chair at the table behind a
great inkstand, having first placed a chair on the other side of the
table opposite his own seat, Mr. Wilding entered on his task with
considerable trepidation.

He ran the gauntlet that must be run on any such occasion. There
were the usual species of profoundly unsympathetic women, and the
usual species of much too sympathetic women. There were
buccaneering widows who came to seize him, and who griped umbrellas
under their arms, as if each umbrella were he, and each griper had
got him. There were towering maiden ladies who had seen better
days, and who came armed with clerical testimonials to their
theology, as if he were Saint Peter with his keys. There were
gentle maiden ladies who came to marry him. There were professional
housekeepers, like non-commissioned officers, who put him through
his domestic exercise, instead of submitting themselves to
catechism. There were languid invalids, to whom salary was not so
much an object as the comforts of a private hospital. There were
sensitive creatures who burst into tears on being addressed, and had
to be restored with glasses of cold water. There were some
respondents who came two together, a highly promising one and a
wholly unpromising one: of whom the promising one answered all
questions charmingly, until it would at last appear that she was not
a candidate at all, but only the friend of the unpromising one, who
had glowered in absolute silence and apparent injury.

At last, when the good wine-merchant's simple heart was failing him,
there entered an applicant quite different from all the rest. A
woman, perhaps fifty, but looking younger, with a face remarkable
for placid cheerfulness, and a manner no less remarkable for its
quiet expression of equability of temper. Nothing in her dress
could have been changed to her advantage. Nothing in the noiseless
self-possession of her manner could have been changed to her
advantage. Nothing could have been in better unison with both, than
her voice when she answered the question: "What name shall I have
the pleasure of noting down?" with the words, "My name is Sarah
Goldstraw. Mrs. Goldstraw. My husband has been dead many years,
and we had no family."

Half-a-dozen questions had scarcely extracted as much to the purpose
from any one else. The voice dwelt so agreeably on Mr. Wilding's
ear as he made his note, that he was rather long about it. When he
looked up again, Mrs. Goldstraw's glance had naturally gone round
the room, and now returned to him from the chimney-piece. Its
expression was one of frank readiness to be questioned, and to
answer straight.

"You will excuse my asking you a few questions?" said the modest

"O, surely, sir. Or I should have no business here."

"Have you filled the station of housekeeper before?"

"Only once. I have lived with the same widow lady for twelve years.
Ever since I lost my husband. She was an invalid, and is lately
dead: which is the occasion of my now wearing black."

"I do not doubt that she has left you the best credentials?" said
Mr. Wilding.

"I hope I may say, the very best. I thought it would save trouble,
sir, if I wrote down the name and address of her representatives,
and brought it with me." Laying a card on the table.

"You singularly remind me, Mrs. Goldstraw," said Wilding, taking the
card beside him, "of a manner and tone of voice that I was once
acquainted with. Not of an individual--I feel sure of that, though
I cannot recall what it is I have in my mind--but of a general
bearing. I ought to add, it was a kind and pleasant one."

She smiled, as she rejoined: "At least, I am very glad of that,

"Yes," said the wine-merchant, thoughtfully repeating his last
phrase, with a momentary glance at his future housekeeper, "it was a
kind and pleasant one. But that is the most I can make of it.
Memory is sometimes like a half-forgotten dream. I don't know how
it may appear to you, Mrs. Goldstraw, but so it appears to me."

Probably it appeared to Mrs. Goldstraw in a similar light, for she
quietly assented to the proposition. Mr. Wilding then offered to
put himself at once in communication with the gentlemen named upon
the card: a firm of proctors in Doctors' Commons. To this, Mrs.
Goldstraw thankfully assented. Doctors' Commons not being far off,
Mr. Wilding suggested the feasibility of Mrs. Goldstraw's looking in
again, say in three hours' time. Mrs. Goldstraw readily undertook
to do so. In fine, the result of Mr. Wilding's inquiries being
eminently satisfactory, Mrs. Goldstraw was that afternoon engaged
(on her own perfectly fair terms) to come to-morrow and set up her
rest as housekeeper in Cripple Corner.


On the next day Mrs. Goldstraw arrived, to enter on her domestic

Having settled herself in her own room, without troubling the
servants, and without wasting time, the new housekeeper announced
herself as waiting to be favoured with any instructions which her
master might wish to give her. The wine-merchant received Mrs.
Goldstraw in the dining-room, in which he had seen her on the
previous day; and, the usual preliminary civilities having passed on
either side, the two sat down to take counsel together on the
affairs of the house.

"About the meals, sir?" said Mrs. Goldstraw. "Have I a large, or a
small, number to provide for?"

"If I can carry out a certain old-fashioned plan of mine," replied
Mr. Wilding, "you will have a large number to provide for. I am a
lonely single man, Mrs. Goldstraw; and I hope to live with all the
persons in my employment as if they were members of my family.
Until that time comes, you will only have me, and the new partner
whom I expect immediately, to provide for. What my partner's habits
may be, I cannot yet say. But I may describe myself as a man of
regular hours, with an invariable appetite that you may depend upon
to an ounce."

"About breakfast, sir?" asked Mrs. Goldstraw. "Is there anything

She hesitated, and left the sentence unfinished. Her eyes turned
slowly away from her master, and looked towards the chimney-piece.
If she had been a less excellent and experienced housekeeper, Mr.
Wilding might have fancied that her attention was beginning to
wander at the very outset of the interview.

"Eight o'clock is my breakfast-hour," he resumed. "It is one of my
virtues to be never tired of broiled bacon, and it is one of my
vices to be habitually suspicious of the freshness of eggs." Mrs.
Goldstraw looked back at him, still a little divided between her
master's chimney-piece and her master. "I take tea," Mr. Wilding
went on; "and I am perhaps rather nervous and fidgety about drinking
it, within a certain time after it is made. If my tea stands too

He hesitated, on his side, and left the sentence unfinished. If he
had not been engaged in discussing a subject of such paramount
interest to himself as his breakfast, Mrs. Goldstraw might have
fancied that his attention was beginning to wander at the very
outset of the interview.

"If your tea stands too long, sir--?" said the housekeeper, politely
taking up her master's lost thread.

"If my tea stands too long," repeated the wine-merchant
mechanically, his mind getting farther and farther away from his
breakfast, and his eyes fixing themselves more and more inquiringly
on his housekeeper's face. "If my tea--Dear, dear me, Mrs.
Goldstraw! what IS the manner and tone of voice that you remind me
of? It strikes me even more strongly to-day, than it did when I saw
you yesterday. What can it be?"

"What can it be?" repeated Mrs. Goldstraw.

She said the words, evidently thinking while she spoke them of
something else. The wine-merchant, still looking at her
inquiringly, observed that her eyes wandered towards the chimney-
piece once more. They fixed on the portrait of his mother, which
hung there, and looked at it with that slight contraction of the
brow which accompanies a scarcely conscious effort of memory. Mr.
Wilding remarked.

"My late dear mother, when she was five-and-twenty."

Mrs. Goldstraw thanked him with a movement of the head for being at
the pains to explain the picture, and said, with a cleared brow,
that it was the portrait of a very beautiful lady.

Mr. Wilding, falling back into his former perplexity, tried once
more to recover that lost recollection, associated so closely, and
yet so undiscoverably, with his new housekeeper's voice and manner.

"Excuse my asking you a question which has nothing to do with me or
my breakfast," he said. "May I inquire if you have ever occupied
any other situation than the situation of housekeeper?"

"O yes, sir. I began life as one of the nurses at the Foundling."

"Why, that's it!" cried the wine-merchant, pushing back his chair.
"By heaven! Their manner is the manner you remind me of!"

In an astonished look at him, Mrs. Goldstraw changed colour, checked
herself, turned her eyes upon the ground, and sat still and silent.

"What is the matter?" asked Mr. Wilding.

"Do I understand that you were in the Foundling, sir?"

"Certainly. I am not ashamed to own it."

"Under the name you now bear?"

"Under the name of Walter Wilding."

"And the lady--?" Mrs. Goldstraw stopped short with a look at the
portrait which was now unmistakably a look of alarm.

"You mean my mother," interrupted Mr. Wilding.

"Your--mother," repeated the housekeeper, a little constrainedly,
"removed you from the Foundling? At what age, sir?"

"At between eleven and twelve years old. It's quite a romantic
adventure, Mrs. Goldstraw."

He told the story of the lady having spoken to him, while he sat at
dinner with the other boys in the Foundling, and of all that had
followed in his innocently communicative way. "My poor mother could
never have discovered me," he added, "if she had not met with one of
the matrons who pitied her. The matron consented to touch the boy
whose name was 'Walter Wilding' as she went round the dinner-tables-
-and so my mother discovered me again, after having parted from me
as an infant at the Foundling doors."

At those words Mrs. Goldstraw's hand, resting on the table, dropped
helplessly into her lap. She sat, looking at her new master, with a
face that had turned deadly pale, and with eyes that expressed an
unutterable dismay.

"What does this mean?" asked the wine-merchant. "Stop!" he cried.
"Is there something else in the past time which I ought to associate
with you? I remember my mother telling me of another person at the
Foundling, to whose kindness she owed a debt of gratitude. When she
first parted with me, as an infant, one of the nurses informed her
of the name that had been given to me in the institution. You were
that nurse?"

"God forgive me, sir--I was that nurse!"

"God forgive you?"

"We had better get back, sir (if I may make so bold as to say so),
to my duties in the house," said Mrs. Goldstraw. "Your breakfast-
hour is eight. Do you lunch, or dine, in the middle of the day?"

The excessive pinkness which Mr. Bintrey had noticed in his client's
face began to appear there once more. Mr. Wilding put his hand to
his head, and mastered some momentary confusion in that quarter,
before he spoke again.

"Mrs. Goldstraw," he said, "you are concealing something from me!"

The housekeeper obstinately repeated, "Please to favour me, sir, by
saying whether you lunch, or dine, in the middle of the day?"

"I don't know what I do in the middle of the day. I can't enter
into my household affairs, Mrs. Goldstraw, till I know why you
regret an act of kindness to my mother, which she always spoke of
gratefully to the end of her life. You are not doing me a service
by your silence. You are agitating me, you are alarming me, you are
bringing on the singing in my head."

His hand went up to his head again, and the pink in his face
deepened by a shade or two.

"It's hard, sir, on just entering your service," said the
housekeeper, "to say what may cost me the loss of your good will.
Please to remember, end how it may, that I only speak because you
have insisted on my speaking, and because I see that I am alarming
you by my silence. When I told the poor lady, whose portrait you
have got there, the name by which her infant was christened in the
Foundling, I allowed myself to forget my duty, and dreadful
consequences, I am afraid, have followed from it. I'll tell you the
truth, as plainly as I can. A few months from the time when I had
informed the lady of her baby's name, there came to our institution
in the country another lady (a stranger), whose object was to adopt
one of our children. She brought the needful permission with her,
and after looking at a great many of the children, without being
able to make up her mind, she took a sudden fancy to one of the
babies--a boy--under my care. Try, pray try, to compose yourself,
sir! It's no use disguising it any longer. The child the stranger
took away was the child of that lady whose portrait hangs there!"

Mr. Wilding started to his feet. "Impossible!" he cried out,
vehemently. "What are you talking about? What absurd story are you
telling me now? There's her portrait! Haven't I told you so
already? The portrait of my mother!"

"When that unhappy lady removed you from the Foundling, in after
years," said Mrs. Goldstraw, gently, "she was the victim, and you
were the victim, sir, of a dreadful mistake."

He dropped back into his chair. "The room goes round with me," he
said. "My head! my head!" The housekeeper rose in alarm, and
opened the windows. Before she could get to the door to call for
help, a sudden burst of tears relieved the oppression which had at
first almost appeared to threaten his life. He signed entreatingly
to Mrs. Goldstraw not to leave him. She waited until the paroxysm
of weeping had worn itself out. He raised his head as he recovered
himself, and looked at her with the angry unreasoning suspicion of a
weak man.

"Mistake?" he said, wildly repeating her last word. "How do I know
you are not mistaken yourself?"

"There is no hope that I am mistaken, sir. I will tell you why,
when you are better fit to hear it."

"Now! now!"

The tone in which he spoke warned Mrs. Goldstraw that it would be
cruel kindness to let him comfort himself a moment longer with the
vain hope that she might be wrong. A few words more would end it,
and those few words she determined to speak.

"I have told you," she said, "that the child of the lady whose
portrait hangs there, was adopted in its infancy, and taken away by
a stranger. I am as certain of what I say as that I am now sitting
here, obliged to distress you, sir, sorely against my will. Please
to carry your mind on, now, to about three months after that time.
I was then at the Foundling, in London, waiting to take some
children to our institution in the country. There was a question
that day about naming an infant--a boy--who had just been received.
We generally named them out of the Directory. On this occasion, one
of the gentlemen who managed the Hospital happened to be looking
over the Register. He noticed that the name of the baby who had
been adopted ('Walter Wilding') was scratched out--for the reason,
of course, that the child had been removed for good from our care.
'Here's a name to let,' he said. 'Give it to the new foundling who
has been received to-day.' The name was given, and the child was
christened. You, sir, were that child."

The wine-merchant's head dropped on his breast. "I was that child!"
he said to himself, trying helplessly to fix the idea in his mind.
"I was that child!"

"Not very long after you had been received into the Institution,
sir," pursued Mrs. Goldstraw, "I left my situation there, to be
married. If you will remember that, and if you can give your mind
to it, you will see for yourself how the mistake happened. Between
eleven and twelve years passed before the lady, whom you have
believed to be your mother, returned to the Foundling, to find her
son, and to remove him to her own home. The lady only knew that her
infant had been called 'Walter Wilding.' The matron who took pity
on her, could but point out the only 'Walter Wilding' known in the
Institution. I, who might have set the matter right, was far away
from the Foundling and all that belonged to it. There was nothing--
there was really nothing that could prevent this terrible mistake
from taking place. I feel for you--I do indeed, sir! You must
think--and with reason--that it was in an evil hour that I came here
(innocently enough, I'm sure), to apply for your housekeeper's
place. I feel as if I was to blame--I feel as if I ought to have
had more self-command. If I had only been able to keep my face from
showing you what that portrait and what your own words put into my
mind, you need never, to your dying day, have known what you know

Mr. Wilding looked up suddenly. The inbred honesty of the man rose
in protest against the housekeeper's last words. His mind seemed to
steady itself, for the moment, under the shock that had fallen on

"Do you mean to say that you would have concealed this from me if
you could?" he exclaimed.

"I hope I should always tell the truth, sir, if I was asked," said
Mrs. Goldstraw. "And I know it is better for ME that I should not
have a secret of this sort weighing on my mind. But is it better
for YOU? What use can it serve now -?"

"What use? Why, good Lord! if your story is true--"

"Should I have told it, sir, as I am now situated, if it had not
been true?"

"I beg your pardon," said the wine-merchant. "You must make
allowance for me. This dreadful discovery is something I can't
realise even yet. We loved each other so dearly--I felt so fondly
that I was her son. She died, Mrs. Goldstraw, in my arms--she died
blessing me as only a mother COULD have blessed me. And now, after
all these years, to be told she was NOT my mother! O me, O me! I
don't know what I am saying!" he cried, as the impulse of self-
control under which he had spoken a moment since, flickered, and
died out. "It was not this dreadful grief--it was something else
that I had it in my mind to speak of. Yes, yes. You surprised me--
you wounded me just now. You talked as if you would have hidden
this from me, if you could. Don't talk in that way again. It would
have been a crime to have hidden it. You mean well, I know. I
don't want to distress you--you are a kind-hearted woman. But you
don't remember what my position is. She left me all that I possess,
in the firm persuasion that I was her son. I am not her son. I
have taken the place, I have innocently got the inheritance of
another man. He must be found! How do I know he is not at this
moment in misery, without bread to eat? He must be found! My only
hope of bearing up against the shock that has fallen on me, is the
hope of doing something which SHE would have approved. You must
know more, Mrs. Goldstraw, than you have told me yet. Who was the
stranger who adopted the child? You must have heard the lady's

"I never heard it, sir. I have never seen her, or heard of her,

"Did she say nothing when she took the child away? Search your
memory. She must have said something."

"Only one thing, sir, that I can remember. It was a miserably bad
season, that year; and many of the children were suffering from it.
When she took the baby away, the lady said to me, laughing, "Don't
be alarmed about his health. He will be brought up in a better
climate than this--I am going to take him to Switzerland."

"To Switzerland? What part of Switzerland?"

"She didn't say, sir."

"Only that faint clue!" said Mr. Wilding. "And a quarter of a
century has passed since the child was taken away! What am I to

"I hope you won't take offence at my freedom, sir," said Mrs.
Goldstraw; "but why should you distress yourself about what is to be
done? He may not be alive now, for anything you know. And, if he
is alive, it's not likely he can be in any distress. The, lady who
adopted him was a bred and born lady--it was easy to see that. And
she must have satisfied them at the Foundling that she could provide
for the child, or they would never have let her take him away. If I
was in your place, sir--please to excuse my saying so--I should
comfort myself with remembering that I had loved that poor lady
whose portrait you have got there--truly loved her as my mother, and
that she had truly loved me as her son. All she gave to you, she
gave for the sake of that love. It never altered while she lived;
and it won't alter, I'm sure, as long as YOU live. How can you have
a better right, sir, to keep what you have got than that?"

Mr. Wilding's immovable honesty saw the fallacy in his house-
keeper's point of view at a glance.

"You don't understand me," he said. "It's BECAUSE I loved her that
I feel it a duty--a sacred duty--to do justice to her son. If he is
a living man, I must find him: for my own sake, as well as for his.
I shall break down under this dreadful trial, unless I employ
myself--actively, instantly employ myself--in doing what my
conscience tells me ought to be done. I must speak to my lawyer; I
must set my lawyer at work before I sleep to-night." He approached
a tube in the wall of the room, and called down through it to the
office below. "Leave me for a little, Mrs. Goldstraw," he resumed;
"I shall be more composed, I shall be better able to speak to you
later in the day. We shall get on well--I hope we shall get on well
together--in spite of what has happened. It isn't your fault; I
know it isn't your fault. There! there! shake hands; and--and do
the best you can in the house--I can't talk about it now."

The door opened as Mrs. Goldstraw advanced towards it; and Mr.
Jarvis appeared.

"Send for Mr. Bintrey," said the wine-merchant. "Say I want to see
him directly."

The clerk unconsciously suspended the execution of the order, by
announcing "Mr. Vendale," and showing in the new partner in the firm
of Wilding and Co.

"Pray excuse me for one moment, George Vendale," said Wilding. "I
have a word to say to Jarvis. Send for Mr. Bintrey," he repeated--
"send at once."

Mr. Jarvis laid a letter on the table before he left the room.

"From our correspondents at Neuchatel, I think, sir. The letter has
got the Swiss postmark."


The words, "The Swiss Postmark," following so soon upon the
housekeeper's reference to Switzerland, wrought Mr. Wilding's
agitation to such a remarkable height, that his new partner could
not decently make a pretence of letting it pass unnoticed.

"Wilding," he asked hurriedly, and yet stopping short and glancing
around as if for some visible cause of his state of mind: "what is
the matter?"

"My good George Vendale," returned the wine-merchant, giving his
hand with an appealing look, rather as if he wanted help to get over
some obstacle, than as if he gave it in welcome or salutation: "my
good George Vendale, so much is the matter, that I shall never be
myself again. It is impossible that I can ever be myself again.
For, in fact, I am not myself."

The new partner, a brown-cheeked handsome fellow, of about his own
age, with a quick determined eye and an impulsive manner, retorted
with natural astonishment: "Not yourself?"

"Not what I supposed myself to be," said Wilding.

"What, in the name of wonder, DID you suppose yourself to be that
you are not?" was the rejoinder, delivered with a cheerful
frankness, inviting confidence from a more reticent man. "I may ask
without impertinence, now that we are partners."

"There again!" cried Wilding, leaning back in his chair, with a lost
look at the other. "Partners! I had no right to come into this
business. It was never meant for me. My mother never meant it
should be mine. I mean, his mother meant it should be his--if I
mean anything--or if I am anybody."

"Come, come," urged his partner, after a moment's pause, and taking
possession of him with that calm confidence which inspires a strong
nature when it honestly desires to aid a weak one. "Whatever has
gone wrong, has gone wrong through no fault of yours, I am very
sure. I was not in this counting-house with you, under the old
regime, for three years, to doubt you, Wilding. We were not younger
men than we are, together, for that. Let me begin our partnership
by being a serviceable partner, and setting right whatever is wrong.
Has that letter anything to do with it?"

"Hah!" said Wilding, with his hand to his temple. "There again! My
head! I was forgetting the coincidence. The Swiss postmark."

"At a second glance I see that the letter is unopened, so it is not
very likely to have much to do with the matter," said Vendale, with
comforting composure. "Is it for you, or for us?"

"For us," said Wilding.

"Suppose I open it and read it aloud, to get it out of our way?"

"Thank you, thank you."

"The letter is only from our champagne-making friends, the house at
Neuchatel. 'Dear Sir. We are in receipt of yours of the 28th ult.,
informing us that you have taken your Mr. Vendale into partnership,
whereon we beg you to receive the assurance of our felicitations.
Permit us to embrace the occasion of specially commanding to you M.
Jules Obenreizer.' Impossible!"

Wilding looked up in quick apprehension, and cried, "Eh?"

"Impossible sort of name," returned his partner, slightly--
"Obenreizer. '--Of specially commanding to you M. Jules Obenreizer,
of Soho Square, London (north side), henceforth fully accredited as
our agent, and who has already had the honour of making the
acquaintance of your Mr. Vendale, in his (said M. Obenreizer's)
native country, Switzerland.' To be sure! pooh pooh, what have I
been thinking of! I remember now; 'when travelling with his

"With his--?" Vendale had so slurred the last word, that Wilding
had not heard it.

"When travelling with his Niece. Obenreizer's Niece," said Vendale,
in a somewhat superfluously lucid manner. "Niece of Obenreizer. (I
met them in my first Swiss tour, travelled a little with them, and
lost them for two years; met them again, my Swiss tour before last,
and have lost them ever since.) Obenreizer. Niece of Obenreizer.
To be sure! Possible sort of name, after all! 'M. Obenreizer is in
possession of our absolute confidence, and we do not doubt you will
esteem his merits.' Duly signed by the House, 'Defresnier et Cie.'
Very well. I undertake to see M. Obenreizer presently, and clear
him out of the way. That clears the Swiss postmark out of the way.
So now, my dear Wilding, tell me what I can clear out of YOUR way,
and I'll find a way to clear it."

More than ready and grateful to be thus taken charge of, the honest
wine-merchant wrung his partner's hand, and, beginning his tale by
pathetically declaring himself an Impostor, told it.

"It was on this matter, no doubt, that you were sending for Bintrey
when I came in?" said his partner, after reflecting.

"It was."

"He has experience and a shrewd head; I shall be anxious to know his
opinion. It is bold and hazardous in me to give you mine before I
know his, but I am not good at holding back. Plainly, then, I do
not see these circumstances as you see them. I do not see your
position as you see it. As to your being an Impostor, my dear
Wilding, that is simply absurd, because no man can be that without
being a consenting party to an imposition. Clearly you never were
so. As to your enrichment by the lady who believed you to be her
son, and whom you were forced to believe, on her showing, to be your
mother, consider whether that did not arise out of the personal
relations between you. You gradually became much attached to her;
she gradually became much attached to you. It was on you,
personally you, as I see the case, that she conferred these worldly
advantages; it was from her, personally her, that you took them."

"She supposed me," objected Wilding, shaking his head, "to have a
natural claim upon her, which I had not."

"I must admit that," replied his partner, "to be true. But if she
had made the discovery that you have made, six months before she
died, do you think it would have cancelled the years you were
together, and the tenderness that each of you had conceived for the
other, each on increasing knowledge of the other?"

"What I think," said Wilding, simply but stoutly holding to the bare
fact, "can no more change the truth than it can bring down the sky.
The truth is that I stand possessed of what was meant for another

"He may be dead," said Vendale.

"He may be alive," said Wilding. "And if he is alive, have I not--
innocently, I grant you innocently--robbed him of enough? Have I
not robbed him of all the happy time that I enjoyed in his stead?
Have I not robbed him of the exquisite delight that filled my soul
when that dear lady," stretching his hand towards the picture, "told
me she was my mother? Have I not robbed him of all the care she
lavished on me? Have I not even robbed him of all the devotion and
duty that I so proudly gave to her? Therefore it is that I ask
myself, George Vendale, and I ask you, where is he? What has become
of him?"

"Who can tell!"

"I must try to find out who can tell. I must institute inquiries.
I must never desist from prosecuting inquiries. I will live upon
the interest of my share--I ought to say his share--in this
business, and will lay up the rest for him. When I find him, I may
perhaps throw myself upon his generosity; but I will yield up all to
him. I will, I swear. As I loved and honoured her," said Wilding,
reverently kissing his hand towards the picture, and then covering
his eyes with it. "As I loved and honoured her, and have a world of
reasons to be grateful to her!" And so broke down again.

His partner rose from the chair he had occupied, and stood beside
him with a hand softly laid upon his shoulder. "Walter, I knew you
before to-day to be an upright man, with a pure conscience and a
fine heart. It is very fortunate for me that I have the privilege
to travel on in life so near to so trustworthy a man. I am thankful
for it. Use me as your right hand, and rely upon me to the death.
Don't think the worse of me if I protest to you that my uppermost
feeling at present is a confused, you may call it an unreasonable,
one. I feel far more pity for the lady and for you, because you did
not stand in your supposed relations, than I can feel for the
unknown man (if he ever became a man), because he was unconsciously
displaced. You have done well in sending for Mr. Bintrey. What I
think will be a part of his advice, I know is the whole of mine. Do
not move a step in this serious matter precipitately. The secret
must be kept among us with great strictness, for to part with it
lightly would be to invite fraudulent claims, to encourage a host of
knaves, to let loose a flood of perjury and plotting. I have no
more to say now, Walter, than to remind you that you sold me a share
in your business, expressly to save yourself from more work than
your present health is fit for, and that I bought it expressly to do
work, and mean to do it."

With these words, and a parting grip of his partner's shoulder that
gave them the best emphasis they could have had, George Vendale
betook himself presently to the counting-house, and presently
afterwards to the address of M. Jules Obenreizer.

As he turned into Soho Square, and directed his steps towards its
north side, a deepened colour shot across his sun-browned face,
which Wilding, if he had been a better observer, or had been less
occupied with his own trouble, might have noticed when his partner
read aloud a certain passage in their Swiss correspondent's letter,
which he had not read so distinctly as the rest.

A curious colony of mountaineers has long been enclosed within that
small flat London district of Soho. Swiss watchmakers, Swiss
silver-chasers, Swiss jewellers, Swiss importers of Swiss musical
boxes and Swiss toys of various kinds, draw close together there.
Swiss professors of music, painting, and languages; Swiss artificers
in steady work; Swiss couriers, and other Swiss servants chronically
out of place; industrious Swiss laundresses and clear-starchers;
mysteriously existing Swiss of both sexes; Swiss creditable and
Swiss discreditable; Swiss to be trusted by all means, and Swiss to
be trusted by no means; these diverse Swiss particles are attracted
to a centre in the district of Soho. Shabby Swiss eating-houses,
coffee-houses, and lodging-houses, Swiss drinks and dishes, Swiss
service for Sundays, and Swiss schools for week-days, are all to be
found there. Even the native-born English taverns drive a sort of
broken-English trade; announcing in their windows Swiss whets and
drams, and sheltering in their bars Swiss skirmishes of love and
animosity on most nights in the year.

When the new partner in Wilding and Co. rang the bell of a door
bearing the blunt inscription OBENREIZER on a brass plate--the inner
door of a substantial house, whose ground story was devoted to the
sale of Swiss clocks--he passed at once into domestic Switzerland.
A white-tiled stove for winter-time filled the fireplace of the room
into which he was shown, the room's bare floor was laid together in
a neat pattern of several ordinary woods, the room had a prevalent
air of surface bareness and much scrubbing; and the little square of
flowery carpet by the sofa, and the velvet chimney-board with its
capacious clock and vases of artificial flowers, contended with that
tone, as if, in bringing out the whole effect, a Parisian had
adapted a dairy to domestic purposes.

Mimic water was dropping off a mill-wheel under the clock. The
visitor had not stood before it, following it with his eyes, a
minute, when M. Obenreizer, at his elbow, startled him by saying, in
very good English, very slightly clipped: "How do you do? So

"I beg your pardon. I didn't hear you come in."

"Not at all! Sit, please."

Releasing his visitor's two arms, which he had lightly pinioned at
the elbows by way of embrace, M. Obenreizer also sat, remarking,
with a smile: "You are well? So glad!" and touching his elbows

"I don't know," said Vendale, after exchange of salutations,
"whether you may yet have heard of me from your House at Neuchatel?"

"Ah, yes!"

"In connection with Wilding and Co.?"

"Ah, surely!"

"Is it not odd that I should come to you, in London here, as one of
the Firm of Wilding and Co., to pay the Firm's respects?"

"Not at all! What did I always observe when we were on the
mountains? We call them vast; but the world is so little. So
little is the world, that one cannot keep away from persons. There
are so few persons in the world, that they continually cross and re-
cross. So very little is the world, that one cannot get rid of a
person. Not," touching his elbows again, with an ingratiatory
smile, "that one would desire to get rid of you."

"I hope not, M. Obenreizer."

"Please call me, in your country, Mr. I call myself so, for I love
your country. If I COULD be English! But I am born. And you?
Though descended from so fine a family, you have had the
condescension to come into trade? Stop though. Wines? Is it trade
in England or profession? Not fine art?"

"Mr. Obenreizer," returned Vendale, somewhat out of countenance, "I
was but a silly young fellow, just of age, when I first had the
pleasure of travelling with you, and when you and I and Mademoiselle
your niece--who is well?"

"Thank you. Who is well."

"--Shared some slight glacier dangers together. If, with a boy's
vanity, I rather vaunted my family, I hope I did so as a kind of
introduction of myself. It was very weak, and in very bad taste;
but perhaps you know our English proverb, 'Live and Learn.'"

"You make too much of it," returned the Swiss. "And what the devil!
After all, yours WAS a fine family."

George Vendale's laugh betrayed a little vexation as he rejoined:
"Well! I was strongly attached to my parents, and when we first
travelled together, Mr. Obenreizer, I was in the first flush of
coming into what my father and mother left me. So I hope it may
have been, after all, more youthful openness of speech and heart
than boastfulness."

"All openness of speech and heart! No boastfulness!" cried
Obenreizer. "You tax yourself too heavily. You tax yourself, my
faith! as if you was your Government taxing you! Besides, it
commenced with me. I remember, that evening in the boat upon the
lake, floating among the reflections of the mountains and valleys,
the crags and pine woods, which were my earliest remembrance, I drew
a word-picture of my sordid childhood. Of our poor hut, by the
waterfall which my mother showed to travellers; of the cow-shed
where I slept with the cow; of my idiot half-brother always sitting
at the door, or limping down the Pass to beg; of my half-sister
always spinning, and resting her enormous goitre on a great stone;
of my being a famished naked little wretch of two or three years,
when they were men and women with hard hands to beat me, I, the only
child of my father's second marriage--if it even was a marriage.
What more natural than for you to compare notes with me, and say,
'We are as one by age; at that same time I sat upon my mother's lap
in my father's carriage, rolling through the rich English streets,
all luxury surrounding me, all squalid poverty kept far from me.
Such is MY earliest remembrance as opposed to yours!'"

Mr. Obenreizer was a black-haired young man of a dark complexion,
through whose swarthy skin no red glow ever shone. When colour
would have come into another cheek, a hardly discernible beat would
come into his, as if the machinery for bringing up the ardent blood
were there, but the machinery were dry. He was robustly made, well
proportioned, and had handsome features. Many would have perceived
that some surface change in him would have set them more at their
ease with him, without being able to define what change. If his
lips could have been made much thicker, and his neck much thinner,
they would have found their want supplied.

But the great Obenreizer peculiarity was, that a certain nameless
film would come over his eyes--apparently by the action of his own
will--which would impenetrably veil, not only from those tellers of
tales, but from his face at large, every expression save one of
attention. It by no means followed that his attention should be
wholly given to the person with whom he spoke, or even wholly
bestowed on present sounds and objects. Rather, it was a
comprehensive watchfulness of everything he had in his own mind, and
everything that he knew to be, or suspected to be, in the minds of
other men.

At this stage of the conversation, Mr. Obenreizer's film came over

"The object of my present visit," said Vendale, "is, I need hardly
say, to assure you of the friendliness of Wilding and Co., and of
the goodness of your credit with us, and of our desire to be of
service to you. We hope shortly to offer you our hospitality.
Things are not quite in train with us yet, for my partner, Mr.
Wilding, is reorganising the domestic part of our establishment, and
is interrupted by some private affairs. You don't know Mr. Wilding,
I believe?"

Mr. Obenreizer did not.

"You must come together soon. He will be glad to have made your
acquaintance, and I think I may predict that you will be glad to
have made his. You have not been long established in London, I
suppose, Mr. Obenreizer?"

"It is only now that I have undertaken this agency."

"Mademoiselle your niece--is--not married?"

"Not married."

George Vendale glanced about him, as if for any tokens of her.

"She has been in London?"

"She IS in London."

"When, and where, might I have the honour of recalling myself to her

Mr. Obenreizer, discarding his film and touching his visitor's
elbows as before, said lightly: "Come up-stairs."

Fluttered enough by the suddenness with which the interview he had
sought was coming upon him after all, George Vendale followed up-
stairs. In a room over the chamber he had just quitted--a room also
Swiss-appointed--a young lady sat near one of three windows, working
at an embroidery-frame; and an older lady sat with her face turned
close to another white-tiled stove (though it was summer, and the
stove was not lighted), cleaning gloves. The young lady wore an
unusual quantity of fair bright hair, very prettily braided about a
rather rounder white forehead than the average English type, and so
her face might have been a shade--or say a light--rounder than the
average English face, and her figure slightly rounder than the
figure of the average English girl at nineteen. A remarkable
indication of freedom and grace of limb, in her quiet attitude, and
a wonderful purity and freshness of colour in her dimpled face and
bright gray eyes, seemed fraught with mountain air. Switzerland
too, though the general fashion of her dress was English, peeped out
of the fanciful bodice she wore, and lurked in the curious clocked
red stocking, and in its little silver-buckled shoe. As to the
elder lady, sitting with her feet apart upon the lower brass ledge
of the stove, supporting a lap-full of gloves while she cleaned one
stretched on her left hand, she was a true Swiss impersonation of
another kind; from the breadth of her cushion-like back, and the
ponderosity of her respectable legs (if the word be admissible), to
the black velvet band tied tightly round her throat for the
repression of a rising tendency to goitre; or, higher still, to her
great copper-coloured gold ear-rings; or, higher still, to her head-
dress of black gauze stretc

< Back
Forward >

Index Index

Other Authors Other Authors

Charles Dickens. Copyright © 2022,
Contact the webmaster
Disclaimer here. Privacy Policy here.