No Thoroughfare – 1867 – a short story
This story was written with Wilkie Collins, it was both a five-act stage play and a novel.
As a play it had opened at the Adelphi Theatre on 26 Dec 1867. As a novel it appeared in the 1870 Christmas edition of All the Year Round. There are parallels in Little Dorrit and Our Mutual Friend.
In the book Wilkie Collins assisted in Act 1 and Act 4, in the play Dickens offered general assistance.
At 48,000 words it is the length of many modern novels.
Two foundlings are given the same name at the Hospital for Foundling Children, both are named as Walter Wilding.
An attendant at the Hospital, Sally, is approached by a mysterious women who offers her two guineas, she refuses it. The woman reveals she is the mother of a baby lately received by the hospital. She asks only to be told the name her child has been given and is told Walter Wilding.
At a dinner held at the hospital the woman is there, asking which of the children in Walter Wilding. One of the staff is asked and will not reveal him in words, but the lady asks her to let her know by going among the children and acknowledging which boy he is. The lady approaches the lad and lifts her veil, she asks him his age, 12, then offers him some treats, in the process of handing them to him her forehead and hair touches him.
We meet Walter Wilding, a wine merchant, he is meeting with Bintrey, his lawyer. Walter mentions his now dead mother’s affairs are still not resolved. She had taken him in care thirteen years earlier, and for eight of these years had privately acknowledged him as a son. He believes her to have been deceived cruelly, but she never revealed her betrayer.
He decided to employ a housekeeper and holds interviews.
He hires Sarah Goldstraw who reminds him of his mother. She duly takes up the post and asks Walter for her instructions. He becomes distracted by her and asks if she had performed other roles. She says she was a nurse at the Foundling. He tells her of his history, and she reveals she was the nurse who identified him to his mother.
Sarah reveals that there was confusion at the Hospital. The first Walter had been adopted by a lady and the official at the Founding thought it appropriate to give the name to a new foundling. The portrait of his mother was of that lady, he was the second Walter Wilding, she the mother of the first. But she cannot supply the name of the adoptive stranger, but when pressed she recalled the baby was bing taken to Switzerland.
Walter states that because he loved the lady he thought was his mother he felt obliged to find the other and the other Walter. Jarvis is asked to summon Bintrey, when in fact he wants to announce George Vendale, Walter’s new partner, and deliver a letter assumed to be from Neuchâtel by its Swiss postmark.
Walter advises Vendale that he is not and never will be himself, after his recent news. He laments that he should never have been the owner of the business. While still in disarray he opens the letter, which says they applaud his appointment of Vendale, they specially commend Walter to a M. Jules Obenreizer of Soho Square. Vendale had previously met him in Switzerland, his native country, while travelling with his niece.
Vendale reassures Walter that no man can be an impostor without being a consenting party. His mother had given Walter after years of working with him her inheritance. Then cautions him to think carefully before embarking on his plan to find the other Walter.
Vendale meets with Obenreizer and his niece and ward, Marguerite.On his return to the office the cellarman, Joey, shows him a blood-coloured pendulous growth on the roof for which the House is renowned, he is warned from touching it. He warns that if a piece of the growth touch a person’s breast he will be murdered.
Wilding leaves the next day to visit the Foundling Hospital, to see their records. They find an entry dated 3 Mar 1836 showing an adoption and removal from the Foundling Hospital, a male infant, named Walter Wilding. The adopter was Mrs Jane Ann Miller, widow of Lime-Tree Lodge, Groombridge Wells. Her two references were the Rev John Harker, Groombridge Wells and Messrs. Giles, Jeremie and Giles, bankers from Lombard Street.
Wilding heads for the bank, the two named gentlemen not being available, but he establishes that Mrs Miller’s account was closed on the 30 Sep 1837, so his search reached a ‘No Thoroughfare’. He talks the train to Groombridge Wells, but there is no Lime Tree Cottage, a house-agent shows him where it had once stood., ‘No Thoroughfare’ again.
So he pursued the Rev Harker, to learn from a bookseller that the gentleman had been martyred in New Zealand, The third and final reference was therefore a ‘No Thoroughfare’ too.
He returns to London where he appoints Bintrey and Vendale as his trustees of his will that intends to manage on behalf of the other Wilding.
They are somewhat mistrustful of Obenreizer and Mrs Dor, but Vendale is besotted by Marguerite. Joey confides in Marguerite that Wilding had brought luck to he house, but he believed that Vendale would bring bad luck.
Wilding becomes ill and is nursed by Sally, eventually he dies.
William’s will has left Vendale and Bintrey, all the possible avenues of investigation have been exhausted by William himself. To advertise for the missing person would merely attract impostors.
Vendale declares his love for Marguerite and asks Obenreizer for her hand. There are the expected concerns that she is of a different class dismissed by Vendale. But when he outlines his financial situation Obenreizer asks that the question be delayed until he doubles his income to 3,000 pa. Vendale declares that he will return within a year having achieved that.
On return to his business, Vendale learns from Ladle that there has been a mistake in a consignment, six cases proved to be red wine and not a good vintage champagne, He writes to the supplier, Defresnier, suggesting replacement or credit. Their reply establishes that a shipment has not been paid, the monies appear to have been diverted somehow. He is asked to check the receipt he received. This is a small error but could cost the firm £500. He finds the receipt has been correctly issued.
Defresnier et Cie reply that the circumstances point to an unnamed individual in their firm, he urges for the receipt to be sent to them by hand. Vendale pondered if Obenreizer might be an appropriate messenger, but due to the importance of the matter decides against this. They agree to travel together via the mail train.
On the journey Obenreizer is contemplating when he should steal the receipt. He establishes that Vendale, slips with his door open at night, and commends him, in Switzerland, to therefore putting important papers under his pillow. During the night Obenreizer opens Vendale’s door but finds him awake, Obenreizer has a knife. He offers Vendale a drink, that he complains has an after taste. He has been drugged.
|On arrival at Defresniers at Neuchâtel Vendale receives a letter to travel on. He decides on the Simplon, but they have to complete the journey on foot. The journey is arduous with the underlying threat of what might Obenreizer have in mind. He attacks him and finally reveals himself as the thief and forger. But he still has the receipt as he drops into the void.|
Later, Marguerite and Joey are following the route and get found by two guides form the local Hospice with dogs. They see someone on a ledge and Marguerite, the lightest is lowered to the body, it is Vendale and he is still alive. But by the time rescue is achieved Vendale appears dead.
Obenreizer has survived and is in the notary’s office at Maître Voigt. He has been ostracised by Defresnier et Cie and he is taking legal action against them. Obenreizer is trying to establish where important documents are held and is shown a sealed off room that has a clock-lock.
As a watchmaker, in his youth, he asks to see the mechanism and realises how he might defeat it. He distracts Voigt and sets it to open at 8pm as well as 8am. He then arranges that he is locked into the offices when they close. At 8pm he searches and finds the Vendale file, he copies the document of interest and returns it all to the vault. The notary meets with Mr Bintrey who whispers something and agrees a meeting at 10am the next day.
The action moves to the inn at Brieg on the Swiss side of the Simplon. Obenreizer meets with Bintrey and the Maître. Obenreizer is demanding his rights as Marguerite’s guardian, but becomes aware that someone is in the next room and demands to know who it is. The door is opened and to Obenreizer’s shock, Marguerite and an infirm, but alive, Vendale enter.
Bintrey describes why and how she had followed the two men, how she had found and rescued Vendale. Bintrey had lured him into this trap to free Marguerite of the guardianship.
Obenreizer signs the documents to release his guardianship in return for an indemnity not to pursue the Vendale attack.
But he then reveals a trail of evidence that he concludes makes Vendale unsuitable for marriage to Marguerite. But Bintrey disagrees and states that Vendale. is therefore the other Walter Wilding and gains a large inheritance, and now a better appreciation of Marguerite’s peasant roots. She declares she loves him. Good finally triumphs over Evil.
They marry at the town of Brieg, but just before the procession up the street Vendale /Wilding is called to a side door. There he meets the two guards from the Hospice, they report that thy dug Obenreizer out of an avalanche and found him broken and dead.
They advise him to distract his wife when they pass the street second on the right, because they are transporting Obedreizer’s body. George/Walter does so and the happy couple, undisturbed, go down to the shining valley.
Scene forom the play ‘No Thoroughfare’
· Bintrey, Mr
· Defresnier, M.
· Dick – Sallys fiancé
· Dor, Madame
· Giles, Giles
· Giles. Jeremie
· Goldstraw, Sarah
· Harker, Rev John
· Jarvis, Mr
· Ladle, Joey
· Miller, Mrs Jane Ann
· Obenreizer, M Jules
· Treasurer of the Foundling
· Vendale, George
· Voight, Maître
· Wilding, Walter x 2
Obenreizer and Wilding on the mountain