'The Rock Ahead' features a strong and self-confident woman Gertrude Lloyd, who becomes a famous opera singer after leaving her husband, a murderer. Edmund Hodgson Yates (1831-1894) was a British journalist, novelist and dramatist. His first career was a clerk in the General Post Office, becoming in 1862 head of the missing letter department, and where he stayed until 1872. Meanwhile, he entered journalism, working on the 'Court Journal' and then 'Daily News', under Charles Dickens. In 1854 he published his first book 'My Haunts and their Frequenters', after which followed a succession of novels and plays.
"I rang to tell you I shall send my traps down from Pavilion-place, but I shall not sleep here," said Lloyd; "I shall come up to breakfast in the morning, though."
"Very good, sir," said the man; and Gilbert Lloyd took up his hat and walked out. He called for a minute at Pavilion-place, and spoke a few words to Mrs. Bush, who gave him a latchkey, then went away again; and the morning hours were well on when he let himself quietly into the lodging-house and threw himself on the bed in the back parlour.
The window of the "two-pair front" was open, and the fresh breeze, sea-scented, blew in through the aperture, and faintly stirred the drapery of the bed. Presently the sun rose, and before long a bright ray streamed through the green blind, and a wavering bar of light shimmered fantastically across the sheet which decently veiled the dead man's face.
Gertrude Lloyd went down to the railway station early on the following morning, and before Gilbert had made his appearance at the George. She had not passed unnoticed at that hostelry. In the first place, she was too young and handsome to pass unnoticed anywhere during a sojourn of sufficient duration to give people time to look at her, if so disposed. In the second place, there was something odd about her. She was evidently the wife of the gentleman who had brought her to the hotel, and had then changed his mind about staying, and gone away so abruptly. Here she was now going away without seeing him; calling for her bill and paying it, "quite independent like," as a chambermaid, with a very proper reverence for masculine superiority, remarked; setting off alone, perfectly cool and comfortable. "There's been a tiff, that's it, and more's the pity," was the conclusion arrived at by the waiter and the chambermaid, who agreed that Gertrude was very pretty, and "uncommon young, to be sure, to be so very off-handed."
Mrs. Bush, too, did not omit to inquire for the handsome young lady who had got "the better" of her so very decidedly. "She's off to London, first train in the morning," said Lloyd. "There was no good in her staying here for all this sad affair. I can't avoid it, of course; but she is better out of it all." After which explanation, Mrs. Bush thought, sagaciously, that leaving one's husband in an unpleasant position, and getting safe out of it one's self, was not a very affectionate proceeding; and that Mrs. Lloyd, if she really was very fond of her husband, at all events did not make the fact obtrusively evident.
But Gertrude Lloyd had not gone to London. Her mind had been actively at work from an early hour in the morning, and strengthened and refreshed by rest, she had been able to employ it to good purpose. Her first resolve was not to go to the lodgings she and her husband had occupied in London any more. She had no wish to embarrass his proceedings in any way. She desired to carry out their contract in both letter and spirit, and to disappear at once and completely from his life. So she left a note for Gilbert Lloyd at the George, containing the words: "Please have everything belonging to me sent to Mrs. Bloxam's;" and then took her way to the station, and her place in an early train for Worthing. Gertrude was alone in the carriage, and she profited by the circumstance to tear up and throw out of window a letter or two, and sundry bills on which her name, "Mrs. Lloyd," appeared. Her initials only were stamped on her travelling-bag. The letters disposed of, she drew off her wedding-ring, and without an instant's hesitation for sentimental regret, dropped it on to the rails. Then she sat still and looked out at the landscape. Her face was quite calm now, but the traces of past agitation were on it. The first person to whom Gertrude Lloyd should speak to-day would not be struck by the contrast between her assured, self-possessed manner and her extreme youth, as Mrs. Bush had been impressed by it only yesterday.
Arrived at Worthing, Gertrude had no difficulty in securing quiet and respectable lodgings, away from the sea, and not far out of the town. It was in a small house, forming one of a row of small houses, with climbing roses about the windows, and common but fragrant flowers in a Lilliputian strip of garden-plot on either side of the door. On the opposite side of the road was a row of gardens corresponding to the houses, remarkable for numerous arbours of curiously small dimensions and great variety and ingenuity of construction; likewise for the profusion and luxuriance with which they grew scarlet-runners and nasturtiums. In one of these houses Gertrude engaged a sunny parlour and bedroom for a week certain; and then, having explained to the woman of the house that she was a governess, and was about to enter on a new situation, but was not certain when she would be required to proceed to the house of her employers, she set herself to the carrying out of the plans she had formed that morning, and, as a first step, wrote the following letter:
"7 Warwick-place, Worthing.
"My Dear Mrs. Bloxam,--You will probably be very much surprised to receive a letter from me, and I am not less astonished to find myself writing to you. Though you were kind to me, after a fashion, while I lived at the Vale House, the circumstances under which I quitted your protection, and the events which have since occurred, were of a nature to render me unwilling to open up any communication with you, and to make it extremely improbable that I should ever be called on to do so. I retain some pleasant and grateful recollections of you and of my childhood, when I was, on the whole, happy; and I remember in particular, and with especial gratitude, that you put down, with the high hand of authority, the very natural inclination of the other girls to ridicule and oppress me, because I had no relations to give me presents, take me out, and beg half-holidays for all the pupils on the strength of their visits, and because my holidays were always passed at school. You will wonder what I am coming to, and why, if it be anything important, I should recall these seemingly trivial things by the way; but I do so in order to remind myself, and to gain courage in so doing, of the only protection and friendship I have ever received from a woman,--now, when I need protection and friendship very, very much, and am about to ask you to extend them to me.
"When I left you as I did, and married the man who had induced me to deceive you as I did (do not suppose I want to extenuate my own share in the matter, or throw the blame on him because I mention him thus), you told me, in the only letter you ever addressed to me, that I had made a bad mistake, and should inevitably find it out sooner or later. You were distinctly and unerringly right. I did make a bad mistake--a worse mistake than anyone but myself can ever know or guess; and I have found it out sooner instead of later. I have known it for a long time; but now circumstances have arisen which oblige me to act on my knowledge, and a separation has taken place between my husband and myself. Not a separation in the ordinary sense, with the tie repudiated and yet retained; but a separation by which each has undertaken to cease to exist for the other. I have no relations, so far as I know. If I have any, you and you alone are aware of the fact, and know who they are. I have no prejudices to offend, no position to forfeit. Gilbert Lloyd and I have parted never to meet again, as we both hope; never, under any circumstances, to recognise or interfere with one another. I have no friends, except I may venture to call you a friend; and to you alone can I now turn for assistance. I would say for advice, but that the time for that is past. There is nothing to be done now but to act upon the resolution which has been taken.
"My plan for the future is this: I have 100l., and a voice whose quality you know, and which has improved since I was at the Vale House; so that I know it to be of the best kind, and in the best order, for concert-singing at least, perhaps ultimately for opera. I intend to become a public singer; but I must have more teaching, and the means of living in the mean time; so that the small sum in my possession may be expended upon the teaching and training of my voice. From many indications, which I perfectly remember, but need not enter into here, I have reason to believe that I was a profitable pupil to you; that from some source unknown to me you received sums of money for my maintenance and education of an amount which was very well worth having. I do not say this in any way to disparage the habitual kindness with which you treated me, and which I have always acknowledged gratefully, bat because I am about to propose a bargain to you, and wish to assure myself that I have some grounds for doing so, and for counting upon your acquiescence.
"Will you receive me at the Vale House for one year free of charge, in the capacity of a teacher for the junior classes, and giving me sufficient time to enable me to take music-lessons and practise singing? If you will do this, and thus enable me, if I find my voice fulfils my expectations, to earn a livelihood for myself in an independent fashion, I will undertake to repay the cost out of my earnings. Possessing, as you do, the knowledge, if not of my parentage, at least of some person who became voluntarily responsible for my support during several years, you may perhaps be able, unless I am considered to have sacrificed all claim on my unknown connections by my marriage, to procure from them a little more assistance for me; but you must not make any attempt to do so if such an attempt should involve the revelation of my secret. I presume, if anyone exists whom it concerned, you made known my...