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Title: Armadale
Author: Collins, Wilkie
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Armadale" ***

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ARMADALE

By Wilkie Collins


               TO

               JOHN FORSTER.

In acknowledgment of the services which he has rendered to the cause of
literature by his “Life of Goldsmith;” and in affectionate remembrance
of a friendship which is associated with some of the happiest years of
my life.


Readers in general--on whose friendly reception experience has given me
some reason to rely--will, I venture to hope, appreciate whatever merit
there may be in this story without any prefatory pleading for it on my
part. They will, I think, see that it has not been hastily meditated or
idly wrought out. They will judge it accordingly, and I ask no more.

Readers in particular will, I have some reason to suppose, be here
and there disturbed, perhaps even offended, by finding that “Armadale”
 oversteps, in more than one direction, the narrow limits within which
they are disposed to restrict the development of modern fiction--if they
can.

Nothing that I could say to these persons here would help me with them
as Time will help me if my work lasts. I am not afraid of my design
being permanently misunderstood, provided the execution has done it any
sort of justice. Estimated by the clap-trap morality of the present day,
this may be a very daring book. Judged by the Christian morality which
is of all time, it is only a book that is daring enough to speak the
truth.

LONDON, April, 1866.



ARMADALE.



PROLOGUE.



I. THE TRAVELERS.

It was the opening of the season of eighteen hundred and thirty-two, at
the Baths of Wildbad.

The evening shadows were beginning to gather over the quiet little
German town, and the diligence was expected every minute. Before the
door of the principal inn, waiting the arrival of the first visitors
of the year, were assembled the three notable personages of Wildbad,
accompanied by their wives--the mayor, representing the inhabitants;
the doctor, representing the waters; the landlord, representing his own
establishment. Beyond this select circle, grouped snugly about the trim
little square in front of the inn, appeared the towns-people in general,
mixed here and there with the country people, in their quaint German
costume, placidly expectant of the diligence--the men in short black
jackets, tight black breeches, and three-cornered beaver hats; the women
with their long light hair hanging in one thickly plaited tail behind
them, and the waists of their short woolen gowns inserted modestly
in the region of their shoulder-blades. Round the outer edge of the
assemblage thus formed, flying detachments of plump white-headed
children careered in perpetual motion; while, mysteriously apart from
the rest of the inhabitants, the musicians of the Baths stood collected
in one lost corner, waiting the appearance of the first visitors to play
the first tune of the season in the form of a serenade. The light of
a May evening was still bright on the tops of the great wooded hills
watching high over the town on the right hand and the left; and the
cool breeze that comes before sunset came keenly fragrant here with the
balsamic odor of the first of the Black Forest.

“Mr. Landlord,” said the mayor’s wife (giving the landlord his title),
“have you any foreign guests coming on this first day of the season?”

“Madame Mayoress,” replied the landlord (returning the compliment), “I
have two. They have written--the one by the hand of his servant, the
other by his own hand apparently--to order their rooms; and they
are from England, both, as I think by their names. If you ask me to
pronounce those names, my tongue hesitates; if you ask me to spell them,
here they are, letter by letter, first and second in their order as
they come. First, a high-born stranger (by title Mister) who introduces
himself in eight letters, A, r, m, a, d, a, l, e--and comes ill in his
own carriage. Second, a high-born stranger (by title Mister also), who
introduces himself in four letters--N, e, a, l--and comes ill in the
diligence. His excellency of the eight letters writes to me (by his
servant) in French; his excellency of the four letters writes to me in
German. The rooms of both are ready. I know no more.”

“Perhaps,” suggested the mayor’s wife, “Mr. Doctor has heard from one or
both of these illustrious strangers?”

“From one only, Madam Mayoress; but not, strictly speaking, from the
person himself. I have received a medical report of his excellency of
the eight letters, and his case seems a bad one. God help him!”

“The diligence!” cried a child from the outskirts of the crowd.

The musicians seized their instruments, and silence fell on the whole
community. From far away in the windings of the forest gorge, the ring
of horses’ bells came faintly clear through the evening stillness. Which
carriage was approaching--the private carriage with Mr. Armadale, or the
public carriage with Mr. Neal?

“Play, my friends!” cried the mayor to the musicians. “Public or
private, here are the first sick people of the season. Let them find us
cheerful.”

The band played a lively dance tune, and the children in the square
footed it merrily to the music. At the same moment, their elders near
the inn door drew aside, and disclosed the first shadow of gloom that
fell over the gayety and beauty of the scene. Through the opening made
on either hand, a little procession of stout country girls advanced,
each drawing after her an empty chair on wheels; each in waiting (and
knitting while she waited) for the paralyzed wretches who came helpless
by hundreds then--who come helpless by thousands now--to the waters of
Wildbad for relief.

While the band played, while the children danced, while the buzz of many
talkers deepened, while the strong young nurses of the coming cripples
knitted impenetrably, a woman’s insatiable curiosity about other women
asserted itself in the mayor’s wife. She drew the landlady aside, and
whispered a question to her on the spot.

“A word more, ma’am,” said the mayor’s wife, “about the two strangers
from England. Are their letters explicit? Have they got any ladies with
them?”

“The one by the diligence--no,” replied the landlady. “But the one by
the private carriage--yes. He comes with a child; he comes with a nurse;
and,” concluded the landlady, skillfully keeping the main point of
interest till the last, “he comes with a Wife.”

The mayoress brightened; the doctoress (assisting at the conference)
brightened; the landlady nodded significantly. In the minds of all three
the same thought started into life at the same moment--“We shall see the
Fashions!”

In a minute more, there was a sudden movement in the crowd; and a chorus
of voices proclaimed that the travelers were at hand.

By this time the coming vehicle was in sight, and all further doubt was
at an end. It was the diligence that now approached by the long street
leading into the square--the diligence (in a dazzling new coat of yellow
paint) that delivered the first visitors of the season at the inn door.
Of the ten travelers released from the middle compartment and the back
compartment of the carriage--all from various parts of Germany--three
were lifted out helpless, and were placed in the chairs on wheels to be
drawn to their lodgings in the town. The front compartment contained
two passengers only--Mr. Neal and his traveling servant. With an arm
on either side to assist him, the stranger (whose malady appeared to
be locally confined to a lameness in one of his feet) succeeded in
descending the steps of the carriage easily enough. While he steadied
himself on the pavement by the help of his stick--looking not
over-patiently toward the musicians who were serenading him with the
waltz in “Der Freischutz”--his personal appearance rather damped the
enthusiasm of the friendly little circle assembled to welcome him. He
was a lean, tall, serious, middle-aged man, with a cold gray eye and a
long upper lip, with overhanging eyebrows and high cheek-bones; a man
who looked what he was--every inch a Scotchman.

“Where is the proprietor of this hotel?” he asked, speaking in the
German language, with a fluent readiness of expression, and an icy
coldness of manner. “Fetch the doctor,” he continued, when the landlord
had presented himself, “I want to see him immediately.”

“I am here already, sir,” said the doctor, advancing from the circle of
friends, “and my services are entirely at your disposal.”

“Thank you,” said Mr. Neal, looking at the doctor, as the rest of us
look at a dog when we have whistled and the dog has come. “I shall be
glad to consult you to-morrow morning, at ten o’clock, about my own
case. I only want to trouble you now with a message which I have
undertaken to deliver. We overtook a traveling carriage on the road here
with a gentleman in it--an Englishman, I believe--who appeared to be
seriously ill. A lady who was with him begged me to see you immediately
on my arrival, and to secure your professional assistance in removing
the patient from the carriage. Their courier has met with an accident,
and has been left behind on the road, and they are obliged to travel
very slowly. If you are here in an hour, you will be here in time to
receive them. That is the message. Who is this gentleman who appears to
be anxious to speak to me? The mayor? If you wish to see my passport,
sir, my servant will show it to you. No? You wish to welcome me to the
place, and to offer your services? I am infinitely flattered. If you
have any authority to shorten the performances of your town band, you
would be doing me a kindness to exert it. My nerves are irritable, and
I dislike music. Where is the landlord? No; I want to see my rooms. I
don’t want your arm; I can get upstairs with the help of my stick. Mr.
Mayor and Mr. Doctor, we need not detain one another any longer. I wish
you good-night.”

Both mayor and doctor looked after the Scotchman as he limped upstairs,
and shook their heads together in mute disapproval of him. The ladies,
as usual, went a step further, and expressed their opinions openly in
the plainest words. The case under consideration (so far as _they_ were
concerned) was the scandalous case of a man who had passed them over
entirely without notice. Mrs. Mayor could only attribute such an outrage
to the native ferocity of a savage. Mrs. Doctor took a stronger view
still, and considered it as proceeding from the inbred brutality of a
hog.

The hour of waiting for the traveling-carriage wore on, and the creeping
night stole up the hillsides softly. One by one the stars appeared, and
the first lights twinkled in the windows of the inn. As the darkness
came, the last idlers deserted the square; as the darkness came,
the mighty silence of the forest above flowed in on the valley, and
strangely and suddenly hushed the lonely little town.

The hour of waiting wore out, and the figure of the doctor, walking
backward and forward anxiously, was still the only living figure left in
the square. Five minutes, ten minutes, twenty minutes, were counted out
by the doctor’s watch, before the first sound came through the night
silence to warn him of the approaching carriage. Slowly it emerged into
the square, at the walking pace of the horses, and drew up, as a hearse
might have drawn up, at the door of the inn.

“Is the doctor here?” asked a woman’s voice, speaking, out of the
darkness of the carriage, in the French language.

“I am here, madam,” replied the doctor, taking a light from the
landlord’s hand and opening the carriage door.

The first face that the light fell on was the face of the lady who had
just spoken--a young, darkly beautiful woman, with the tears standing
thick and bright in her eager black eyes. The second face revealed was
the face of a shriveled old negress, sitting opposite the lady on the
back seat. The third was the face of a little sleeping child in the
negress’s lap. With a quick gesture of impatience, the lady signed to
the nurse to leave the carriage first with the child. “Pray take them
out of the way,” she said to the landlady; “pray take them to their
room.” She got out herself when her request had been complied with.
Then the light fell clear for the first time on the further side of the
carriage, and the fourth traveler was disclosed to view.

He lay helpless on a mattress, supported by a stretcher; his hair, long
and disordered, under a black skull-cap; his eyes wide open, rolling
to and fro ceaselessly anxious; the rest of his face as void of all
expression of the character within him, and the thought within him, as
if he had been dead. There was no looking at him now, and guessing what
he might once have been. The leaden blank of his face met every question
as to his age, his rank, his temper, and his looks which that face might
once have answered, in impenetrable silence. Nothing spoke for him now
but the shock that had struck him with the death-in-life of paralysis.
The doctor’s eye questioned his lower limbs, and Death-in-Life answered,
_I am here_. The doctor’s eye, rising attentively by way of his hands
and arms, questioned upward and upward to the muscles round his mouth,
and Death-in-Life answered, _I am coming_.

In the face of a calamity so unsparing and so dreadful, there was
nothing to be said. The silent sympathy of help was all that could be
offered to the woman who stood weeping at the carriage door.

As they bore him on his bed across the hall of the hotel, his wandering
eyes encountered the face of his wife. They rested on her for a moment,
and in that moment he spoke.

“The child?” he said in English, with a slow, thick, laboring
articulation.

“The child is safe upstairs,” she answered, faintly.

“My desk?”

“It is in my hands. Look! I won’t trust it to anybody; I am taking care
of it for you myself.”

He closed his eyes for the first time after that answer, and said no
more. Tenderly and skillfully he was carried up the stairs, with his
wife on one side of him, and the doctor (ominously silent) on the other.
The landlord and the servants following saw the door of his room open
and close on him; heard the lady burst out crying hysterically as soon
as she was alone with the doctor and the sick man; saw the doctor come
out, half an hour later, with his ruddy face a shade paler than usual;
pressed him eagerly for information, and received but one answer to all
their inquiries--“Wait till I have seen him to-morrow. Ask me nothing
to-night.” They all knew the doctor’s ways, and they augured ill when he
left them hurriedly with that reply.

So the two first English visitors of the year came to the Baths of
Wildbad in the season of eighteen hundred and thirty-two.



II. THE SOLID SIDE OF THE SCOTCH CHARACTER.

AT ten o’clock the next morning, Mr. Neal--waiting for the medical visit
which he had himself appointed for that hour--looked at his watch, and
discovered, to his amazement, that he was waiting in vain. It was close
on eleven when the door opened at last, and the doctor entered the room.

“I appointed ten o’clock for your visit,” said Mr. Neal. “In my country,
a medical man is a punctual man.”

“In my country,” returned the doctor, without the least ill-humor, “a
medical man is exactly like other men--he is at the mercy of accidents.
Pray grant me your pardon, sir, for being so long after my time; I have
been detained by a very distressing case--the case of Mr. Armadale,
whose traveling-carriage you passed on the road yesterday.”

Mr. Neal looked at his medical attendant with a sour surprise. There
was a latent anxiety in the doctor’s eye, a latent preoccupation in the
doctor’s manner, which he was at a loss to account for. For a moment
the two faces confronted each other silently, in marked national
contrast--the Scotchman’s, long and lean, hard and regular; the
German’s, plump and florid, soft and shapeless. One face looked as if it
had never been young; the other, as if it would never grow old.

“Might I venture to remind you,” said Mr. Neal, “that the case now under
consideration is MY case, and not Mr. Armadale’s?”

“Certainly,” replied the doctor, still vacillating between the case
he had come to see and the case he had just left. “You appear to be
suffering from lameness; let me look at your foot.”

Mr. Neal’s malady, however serious it might be in his own estimation,
was of no extraordinary importance in a medical point of view. He was
suffering from a rheumatic affection of the ankle-joint. The necessary
questions were asked and answered and the necessary baths were
prescribed. In ten minutes the consultation was at an end, and the
patient was waiting in significant silence for the medical adviser to
take his leave.

“I cannot conceal from myself,” said the doctor, rising, and hesitating
a little, “that I am intruding on you. But I am compelled to beg your
indulgence if I return to the subject of Mr. Armadale.”

“May I ask what compels you?”

“The duty which I owe as a Christian,” answered the doctor, “to a dying
man.”

Mr. Neal started. Those who touched his sense of religious duty touched
the quickest sense in his nature.

“You have established your claim on my attention,” he said, gravely. “My
time is yours.”

“I will not abuse your kindness,” replied the doctor, resuming his
chair. “I will be as short as I can. Mr. Armadale’s case is briefly
this: He has passed the greater part of his life in the West Indies--a
wild life, and a vicious life, by his own confession. Shortly after
his marriage--now some three years since--the first symptoms of an
approaching paralytic affection began to show themselves, and his
medical advisers ordered him away to try the climate of Europe. Since
leaving the West Indies he has lived principally in Italy, with no
benefit to his health. From Italy, before the last seizure attacked him,
he removed to Switzerland, and from Switzerland he has been sent to this
place. So much I know from his doctor’s report; the rest I can tell you
from my own personal experience. Mr. Armadale has been sent to Wildbad
too late: he is virtually a dead man. The paralysis is fast spreading
upward, and disease of the lower part of the spine has already taken
place. He can still move his hands a little, but he can hold nothing
in his fingers. He can still articulate, but he may wake speechless
to-morrow or next day. If I give him a week more to live, I give him
what I honestly believe to be the utmost length of his span. At his own
request I told him, as carefully and as tenderly as I could, what I
have just told you. The result was very distressing; the violence of the
patient’s agitation was a violence which I despair of describing to you.
I took the liberty of asking him whether his affairs were unsettled.
Nothing of the sort. His will is in the hands of his executor in London,
and he leaves his wife and child well provided for. My next question
succeeded better; it hit the mark: ‘Have you something on your mind
to do before you die which is not done yet?’ He gave a great gasp of
relief, which said, as no words could have said it, Yes. ‘Can I help
you?’ ‘Yes. I have something to write that I _must_ write; can you make
me hold a pen?’

“He might as well have asked me if I could perform a miracle. I could
only say No. ‘If I dictate the words,’ he went on, ‘can you write what I
tell you to write?’ Once more I could only say No I understand a
little English, but I can neither speak it nor write it. Mr. Armadale
understands French when it is spoken (as I speak it to him) slowly, but
he cannot express himself in that language; and of German he is totally
ignorant. In this difficulty, I said, what any one else in my situation
would have said: ‘Why ask _me_? there is Mrs. Armadale at your service
in the next room.’ Before I could get up from my chair to fetch her,
he stopped me--not by words, but by a look of horror which fixed me, by
main force of astonishment, in my place. ‘Surely,’ I said, ‘your wife
is the fittest person to write for you as you desire?’ ‘The last person
under heaven!’ he answered. ‘What!’ I said, ‘you ask me, a foreigner
and a stranger, to write words at your dictation which you keep a secret
from your wife!’ Conceive my astonishment when he answered me, without
a moment’s hesitation, ‘Yes!’ I sat lost; I sat silent. ‘If _you_
can’t write English,’ he said, ‘find somebody who can.’ I tried to
remonstrate. He burst into a dreadful moaning cry--a dumb entreaty, like
the entreaty of a dog. ‘Hush! hush!’ I said, ‘I will find somebody.’
‘To-day!’ he broke out, ‘before my speech fails me, like my hand.’
‘To-day, in an hour’s time.’ He shut his eyes; he quieted himself
instantly. ‘While I am waiting for you,’ he said, ‘let me see my little
boy.’ He had shown no tenderness when he spoke of his wife, but I saw
the tears on his cheeks when he asked for his child. My profession, sir,
has not made me so hard a man as you might think; and my doctor’s heart
was as heavy, when I went out to fetch the child, as if I had not been a
doctor at all. I am afraid you think this rather weak on my part?”

The doctor looked appealingly at Mr. Neal. He might as well have looked
at a rock in the Black Forest. Mr. Neal entirely declined to be drawn by
any doctor in Christendom out of the regions of plain fact.

“Go on,” he said. “I presume you have not told me all that you have to
tell me, yet?”

“Surely you understand my object in coming here, now?” returned the
other.

“Your object is plain enough, at last. You invite me to connect myself
blindfold with a matter which is in the last degree suspicious, so far.
I decline giving you any answer until I know more than I know now. Did
you think it necessary to inform this man’s wife of what had passed
between you, and to ask her for an explanation?”

“Of course I thought it necessary!” said the doctor, indignant at the
reflection on his humanity which the question seemed to imply. “If ever
I saw a woman fond of her husband, and sorry for her husband, it is this
unhappy Mrs. Armadale. As soon as we were left alone together, I sat
down by her side, and I took her hand in mine. Why not? I am an ugly old
man, and I may allow myself such liberties as these!”

“Excuse me,” said the impenetrable Scotchman. “I beg to suggest that you
are losing the thread of the narrative.”

“Nothing more likely,” returned the doctor, recovering his good humor.
“It is in the habit of my nation to be perpetually losing the thread;
and it is evidently in the habit of yours, sir, to be perpetually
finding it. What an example here of the order of the universe, and the
everlasting fitness of things!”

“Will you oblige me, once for all, by confining yourself to the facts,”
 persisted Mr. Neal, frowning impatiently. “May I inquire, for my own
information, whether Mrs. Armadale could tell you what it is her husband
wishes me to write, and why it is that he refuses to let her write for
him?”

“There is my thread found--and thank you for finding it!” said the
doctor. “You shall hear what Mrs. Armadale had to tell me, in
Mrs. Armadale’s own words. ‘The cause that now shuts me out of his
confidence,’ she said, ‘is, I firmly believe, the same cause that has
always shut me out of his heart. I am the wife he has wedded, but I am
not the woman he loves. I knew when he married me that another man had
won from him the woman he loved. I thought I could make him forget her.
I hoped when I married him; I hoped again when I bore him a son. Need
I tell you the end of my hopes--you have seen it for yourself.’ (Wait,
sir, I entreat you! I have not lost the thread again; I am following it
inch by inch.) ‘Is this all you know?’ I asked. ‘All I knew,’ she said,
‘till a short time since. It was when we were in Switzerland, and when
his illness was nearly at its worst, that news came to him by accident
of that other woman who has been the shadow and the poison of my
life--news that she (like me) had borne her husband a son. On the
instant of his making that discovery--a trifling discovery, if ever
there was one yet--a mortal fear seized on him: not for me, not for
himself; a fear for his own child. The same day (without a word to me)
he sent for the doctor. I was mean, wicked, what you please--I listened
at the door. I heard him say: _I have something to tell my son, when
my son grows old enough to understand me. Shall I live to tell it_? The
doctor would say nothing certain. The same night (still without a word
to me) he locked himself into his room. What would any woman, treated
as I was, have done in my place? She would have done as I did--she would
have listened again. I heard him say to himself: _I shall not live to
tell it: I must; write it before I die_. I heard his pen scrape, scrape,
scrape over the paper; I heard him groaning and sobbing as he wrote;
I implored him for God’s sake to let me in. The cruel pen went scrape,
scrape, scrape; the cruel pen was all the answer he gave me. I waited
at the door--hours--I don’t know how long. On a sudden, the pen stopped;
and I heard no more. I whispered through the keyhole softly; I said I
was cold and weary with waiting; I said, Oh, my love, let me in! Not
even the cruel pen answered me now: silence answered me. With all the
strength of my miserable hands I beat at the door. The servants came up
and broke it in. We were too late; the harm was done. Over that fatal
letter, the stroke had struck him--over that fatal letter, we found him
paralyzed as you see him now. Those words which he wants you to write
are the words he would have written himself if the stroke had spared him
till the morning. From that time to this there has been a blank place
left in the letter; and it is that blank place which he has just asked
you to fill up.’--In those words Mrs. Armadale spoke to me; in those
words you have the sum and substance of all the information I can give.
Say, if you please, sir, have I kept the thread at last? Have I
shown you the necessity which brings me here from your countryman’s
death-bed?”

“Thus far,” said Mr. Neal, “you merely show me that you are exciting
yourself. This is too serious a matter to be treated as you are treating
it now. You have involved Me in the business, and I insist on seeing my
way plainly. Don’t raise your hands; your hands are not a part of the
question. If I am to be concerned in the completion of this mysterious
letter, it is only an act of justifiable prudence on my part to inquire
what the letter is about. Mrs. Armadale appears to have favored you with
an infinite number of domestic particulars--in return, I presume, for
your polite attention in taking her by the hand. May I ask what she
could tell you about her husband’s letter, so far as her husband has
written it?”

“Mrs. Armadale could tell me nothing,” replied the doctor, with a sudden
formality in his manner, which showed that his forbearance was at last
failing him. “Before she was composed enough to think of the letter, her
husband had asked for it, and had caused it to be locked up in his desk.
She knows that he has since, time after time, tried to finish it, and
that, time after time, the pen has dropped from his fingers. She knows,
when all other hope of his restoration was at an end, that his medical
advisers encouraged him to hope in the famous waters of this place. And
last, she knows how that hope has ended; for she knows what I told her
husband this morning.”

The frown which had been gathering latterly on Mr. Neal’s face deepened
and darkened. He looked at the doctor as if the doctor had personally
offended him.

“The more I think of the position you are asking me to take,” he said,
“the less I like it. Can you undertake to say positively that Mr.
Armadale is in his right mind?”

“Yes; as positively as words can say it.”

“Does his wife sanction your coming here to request my interference?”

“His wife sends me to you--the only Englishman in Wildbad--to write for
your dying countryman what he cannot write for himself; and what no one
else in this place but you can write for him.”

That answer drove Mr. Neal back to the last inch of ground left him to
stand on. Even on that inch the Scotchman resisted still.

“Wait a little!” he said. “You put it strongly; let us be quite sure you
put it correctly as well. Let us be quite sure there is nobody to take
this responsibility but myself. There is a mayor in Wildbad, to
begin with--a man who possesses an official character to justify his
interference.”

“A man of a thousand,” said the doctor. “With one fault--he knows no
language but his own.”

“There is an English legation at Stuttgart,” persisted Mr. Neal.

“And there are miles on miles of the forest between this and Stuttgart,”
 rejoined the doctor. “If we sent this moment, we could get no help from
the legation before to-morrow; and it is as likely as not, in the
state of this dying man’s articulation, that to-morrow may find him
speechless. I don’t know whether his last wishes are wishes harmless to
his child and to others, wishes hurtful to his child and to others; but
I _do_ know that they must be fulfilled at once or never, and that you
are the only man that can help him.”

That open declaration brought the discussion to a close. It fixed Mr.
Neal fast between the two alternatives of saying Yes, and committing an
act of imprudence, or of saying No, and committing an act of inhumanity.
There was a silence of some minutes. The Scotchman steadily reflected;
and the German steadily watched him.

The responsibility of saying the next words rested on Mr. Neal, and in
course of time Mr. Neal took it. He rose from his chair with a sullen
sense of injury lowering on his heavy eyebrows, and working sourly in
the lines at the corners of his mouth.

“My position is forced on me,” he said. “I have no choice but to accept
it.”

The doctor’s impulsive nature rose in revolt against the merciless
brevity and gracelessness of that reply. “I wish to God,” he broke out
fervently, “I knew English enough to take your place at Mr. Armadale’s
bedside!”

“Bating your taking the name of the Almighty in vain,” answered the
Scotchman, “I entirely agree with you. I wish you did.”

Without another word on either side, they left the room together--the
doctor leading the way.



III. THE WRECK OF THE TIMBER SHIP.

NO one answered the doctor’s knock when he and his companion reached the
antechamber door of Mr. Armadale’s apartments. They entered unannounced;
and when they looked into the sitting-room, the sitting-room was empty.

“I must see Mrs. Armadale,” said Mr. Neal. “I decline acting in the
matter unless Mrs. Armadale authorizes my interference with her own
lips.”

“Mrs. Armadale is probably with her husband,” replied the doctor.
He approached a door at the inner end of the sitting-room while he
spoke--hesitated--and, turning round again, looked at his sour companion
anxiously. “I am afraid I spoke a little harshly, sir, when we were
leaving your room,” he said. “I beg your pardon for it, with all my
heart. Before this poor afflicted lady comes in, will you--will you
excuse my asking your utmost gentleness and consideration for her?”

“No, sir,” retorted the other harshly; “I won’t excuse you. What right
have I given you to think me wanting in gentleness and consideration
toward anybody?”

The doctor saw it was useless. “I beg your pardon again,” he said,
resignedly, and left the unapproachable stranger to himself.

Mr. Neal walked to the window, and stood there, with his eyes
mechanically fixed on the prospect, composing his mind for the coming
interview.

It was midday; the sun shone bright and warm; and all the little world
of Wildbad was alive and merry in the genial springtime. Now and again
heavy wagons, with black-faced carters in charge, rolled by the window,
bearing their precious lading of charcoal from the forest. Now and
again, hurled over the headlong current of the stream that runs
through the town, great lengths of timber, loosely strung together in
interminable series--with the booted raftsmen, pole in hand, poised
watchful at either end--shot swift and serpent-like past the houses
on their course to the distant Rhine. High and steep above the gabled
wooden buildings on the river-bank, the great hillsides, crested black
with firs, shone to the shining heavens in a glory of lustrous green.
In and out, where the forest foot-paths wound from the grass through the
trees, from the trees over the grass, the bright spring dresses of women
and children, on the search for wild flowers, traveled to and fro in
the lofty distance like spots of moving light. Below, on the walk by the
stream side, the booths of the little bazar that had opened punctually
with the opening season showed all their glittering trinkets, and
fluttered in the balmy air their splendor of many-colored flags.
Longingly, here the children looked at the show; patiently the sunburned
lasses plied their knitting as they paced the walk; courteously the
passing townspeople, by fours and fives, and the passing visitors, by
ones and twos, greeted each other, hat in hand; and slowly, slowly,
the cripple and the helpless in their chairs on wheels came out in the
cheerful noontide with the rest, and took their share of the blessed
light that cheers, of the blessed sun that shines for all.

On this scene the Scotchman looked, with eyes that never noted its
beauty, with a mind far away from every lesson that it taught. One by
one he meditated the words he should say when the wife came in. One by
one he pondered over the conditions he might impose before he took the
pen in hand at the husband’s bedside.

“Mrs. Armadale is here,” said the doctor’s voice, interposing suddenly
between his reflections and himself.

He turned on the instant, and saw before him, with the pure midday light
shining full on her, a woman of the mixed blood of the European and the
African race, with the Northern delicacy in the shape of her face, and
the Southern richness in its color--a woman in the prime of her beauty,
who moved with an inbred grace, who looked with an inbred fascination,
whose large, languid black eyes rested on him gratefully, whose little
dusky hand offered itself to him in mute expression of her thanks, with
the welcome that is given to the coming of a friend. For the first time
in his life the Scotchman was taken by surprise. Every self-preservative
word that he had been meditating but an instant since dropped out of his
memory. His thrice impenetrable armor of habitual suspicion, habitual
self-discipline, and habitual reserve, which had never fallen from him
in a woman’s presence before, fell from him in this woman’s presence,
and brought him to his knees, a conquered man. He took the hand she
offered him, and bowed over it his first honest homage to the sex, in
silence.

She hesitated on her side. The quick feminine perception which,
in happier circumstances, would have pounced on the secret of his
embarrassment in an instant, failed her now. She attributed his
strange reception of her to pride, to reluctance--to any cause but the
unexpected revelation of her own beauty. “I have no words to thank you,”
 she said, faintly, trying to propitiate him. “I should only distress you
if I tried to speak.” Her lip began to tremble, she drew back a little,
and turned away her head in silence.

The doctor, who had been standing apart, quietly observant in a corner,
advanced before Mr. Neal could interfere, and led Mrs. Armadale to a
chair. “Don’t be afraid of him,” whispered the good man, patting her
gently on the shoulder. “He was hard as iron in my hands, but I think,
by the look of him, he will be soft as wax in yours. Say the words I
told you to say, and let us take him to your husband’s room, before
those sharp wits of his have time to recover themselves.”

She roused her sinking resolution, and advanced half-way to the window
to meet Mr. Neal. “My kind friend, the doctor, has told me, sir, that
your only hesitation in coming here is a hesitation on my account,” she
said, her head drooping a little, and her rich color fading away while
she spoke. “I am deeply grateful, but I entreat you not to think
of _me_. What my husband wishes--” Her voice faltered; she waited
resolutely, and recovered herself. “What my husband wishes in his last
moments, I wish too.”

This time Mr. Neal was composed enough to answer her. In low, earnest
tones, he entreated her to say no more. “I was only anxious to show you
every consideration,” he said. “I am only anxious now to spare you every
distress.” As he spoke, something like a glow of color rose slowly on
his sallow face. Her eyes were looking at him, softly attentive; and he
thought guiltily of his meditations at the window before she came in.

The doctor saw his opportunity. He opened the door that led into Mr.
Armadale’s room, and stood by it, waiting silently. Mrs. Armadale
entered first. In a minute more the door was closed again; and Mr.
Neal stood committed to the responsibility that had been forced on
him--committed beyond recall.

The room was decorated in the gaudy continental fashion, and the warm
sunlight was shining in joyously. Cupids and flowers were painted on
the ceiling; bright ribbons looped up the white window-curtains; a smart
gilt clock ticked on a velvet-covered mantelpiece; mirrors gleamed on
the walls, and flowers in all the colors of the rainbow speckled the
carpet. In the midst of the finery, and the glitter, and the light,
lay the paralyzed man, with his wandering eyes, and his lifeless lower
face--his head propped high with many pillows; his helpless hands laid
out over the bed-clothes like the hands of a corpse. By the bed head
stood, grim, and old, and silent, the shriveled black nurse; and on the
counter-pane, between his father’s outspread hands, lay the child, in
his little white frock, absorbed in the enjoyment of a new toy. When the
door opened, and Mrs. Armadale led the way in, the boy was tossing
his plaything--a soldier on horseback--backward and forward over the
helpless hands on either side of him; and the father’s wandering
eyes were following the toy to and fro, with a stealthy and ceaseless
vigilance--a vigilance as of a wild animal, terrible to see.

The moment Mr. Neal appeared in the doorway, those restless eyes
stopped, looked up, and fastened on the stranger with a fierce eagerness
of inquiry. Slowly the motionless lips struggled into movement. With
thick, hesitating articulation, they put the question which the eyes
asked mutely, into words: “Are you the man?”

Mr. Neal advanced to the bedside, Mrs. Armadale drawing back from it
as he approached, and waiting with the doctor at the further end of
the room. The child looked up, toy in hand, as the stranger came near,
opened his bright brown eyes in momentary astonishment, and then went on
with his game.

“I have been made acquainted with your sad situation, sir,” said
Mr. Neal; “and I have come here to place my services at your
disposal--services which no one but myself, as your medical attendant
informs me, is in a position to render you in this strange place.
My name is Neal. I am a writer to the signet in Edinburgh; and I may
presume to say for myself that any confidence you wish to place in me
will be confidence not improperly bestowed.”

The eyes of the beautiful wife were not confusing him now. He spoke
to the helpless husband quietly and seriously, without his customary
harshness, and with a grave compassion in his manner which presented him
at his best. The sight of the death-bed had steadied him.

“You wish me to write something for you?” he resumed, after waiting for
a reply, and waiting in vain.

“Yes!” said the dying man, with the all-mastering impatience which his
tongue was powerless to express, glittering angrily in his eye. “My hand
is gone, and my speech is going. Write!”

Before there was time to speak again, Mr. Neal heard the rustling of a
woman’s dress, and the quick creaking of casters on the carpet behind
him. Mrs. Armadale was moving the writing-table across the room to
the foot of the bed. If he was to set up those safeguards of his own
devising that were to bear him harmless through all results to come, now
was the time, or never. He, kept his back turned on Mrs. Armadale, and
put his precautionary question at once in the plainest terms.

“May I ask, sir, before I take the pen in hand, what it is you wish me
to write?”

The angry eyes of the paralyzed man glittered brighter and brighter. His
lips opened and closed again. He made no reply.

Mr. Neal tried another precautionary question, in a new direction.

“When I have written what you wish me to write,” he asked, “what is to
be done with it?”

This time the answer came:

“Seal it up in my presence, and post it to my ex--”

His laboring articulation suddenly stopped and he looked piteously in
the questioner’s face for the next word.

“Do you mean your executor?”

“Yes.”

“It is a letter, I suppose, that I am to post?” There was no answer.
“May I ask if it is a letter altering your will?”

“Nothing of the sort.”

Mr. Neal considered a little. The mystery was thickening. The one way
out of it, so far, was the way traced faintly through that strange story
of the unfinished letter which the doctor had repeated to him in Mrs.
Armadale’s words. The nearer he approached his unknown responsibility,
the more ominous it seemed of something serious to come. Should he risk
another question before he pledged himself irrevocably? As the doubt
crossed his mind, he felt Mrs. Armadale’s silk dress touch him on the
side furthest from her husband. Her delicate dark hand was laid gently
on his arm; her full deep African eyes looked at him in submissive
entreaty. “My husband is very anxious,” she whispered. “Will you quiet
his anxiety, sir, by taking your place at the writing-table?”

It was from _her_ lips that the request came--from the lips of the
person who had the best right to hesitate, the wife who was excluded
from the secret! Most men in Mr. Neal’s position would have given up all
their safeguards on the spot. The Scotchman gave them all up but one.

“I will write what you wish me to write,” he said, addressing Mr.
Armadale. “I will seal it in your presence; and I will post it to your
executor myself. But, in engaging to do this, I must beg you to remember
that I am acting entirely in the dark; and I must ask you to excuse
me, if I reserve my own entire freedom of action, when your wishes
in relation to the writing and the posting of the letter have been
fulfilled.”

“Do you give me your promise?”

“If you want my promise, sir, I will give it--subject to the condition I
have just named.”

“Take your condition, and keep your promise. My desk,” he added, looking
at his wife for the first time.

She crossed the room eagerly to fetch the desk from a chair in a corner.
Returning with it, she made a passing sign to the negress, who still
stood, grim and silent, in the place that she had occupied from the
first. The woman advanced, obedient to the sign, to take the child from
the bed. At the instant when she touched him, the father’s eyes--fixed
previously on the desk--turned on her with the stealthy quickness of
a cat. “No!” he said. “No!” echoed the fresh voice of the boy, still
charmed with his plaything, and still liking his place on the bed. The
negress left the room, and the child, in high triumph, trotted his toy
soldier up and down on the bedclothes that lay rumpled over his father’s
breast. His mother’s lovely face contracted with a pang of jealousy as
she looked at him.

“Shall I open your desk?” she asked, pushing back the child’s plaything
sharply while she spoke. An answering look from her husband guided her
hand to the place under his pillow where the key was hidden. She opened
the desk, and disclosed inside some small sheets of manuscript pinned
together. “These?” she inquired, producing them.

“Yes,” he said. “You can go now.”

The Scotchman sitting at the writing-table, the doctor stirring a
stimulant mixture in a corner, looked at each other with an anxiety in
both their faces which they could neither of them control. The words
that banished the wife from the room were spoken. The moment had come.

“You can go now,” said Mr. Armadale, for the second time.

She looked at the child, established comfortably on the bed, and an ashy
paleness spread slowly over her face. She looked at the fatal
letter which was a sealed secret to her, and a torture of jealous
suspicion--suspicion of that other woman who had been the shadow and
the poison of her life--wrung her to the heart. After moving a few
steps from the bedside, she stopped, and came back again. Armed with the
double courage of her love and her despair, she pressed her lips on
her dying husband’s cheek, and pleaded with him for the last time. Her
burning tears dropped on his face as she whispered to him: “Oh, Allan,
think how I have loved you! think how hard I have tried to make you
happy! think how soon I shall lose you! Oh, my own love! don’t, don’t
send me away!”

The words pleaded for her; the kiss pleaded for her; the recollection
of the love that had been given to him, and never returned, touched the
heart of the fast-sinking man as nothing had touched it since the day
of his marriage. A heavy sigh broke from him. He looked at her, and
hesitated.

“Let me stay,” she whispered, pressing her face closer to his.

“It will only distress you,” he whispered back.

“Nothing distresses me, but being sent away from _you_!”

He waited. She saw that he was thinking, and waited too.

“If I let you stay a little--?”

“Yes! yes!”

“Will you go when I tell you?”

“I will.”

“On your oath?”

The fetters that bound his tongue seemed to be loosened for a moment in
the great outburst of anxiety which forced that question to his lips. He
spoke those startling words as he had spoken no words yet.

“On my oath!” she repeated, and, dropping on her knees at the bedside,
passionately kissed his hand. The two strangers in the room turned their
heads away by common consent. In the silence that followed, the one
sound stirring was the small sound of the child’s toy, as he moved it
hither and thither on the bed.

The doctor was the first who broke the spell of stillness which had
fallen on all the persons present. He approached the patient, and
examined him anxiously. Mrs. Armadale rose from her knees; and, first
waiting for her husband’s permission, carried the sheets of manuscript
which she had taken out of the desk to the table at which Mr. Neal was
waiting. Flushed and eager, more beautiful than ever in the vehement
agitation which still possessed her, she stooped over him as she put
the letter into his hands, and, seizing on the means to her end with a
woman’s headlong self-abandonment to her own impulses, whispered to
him, “Read it out from the beginning. I must and will hear it!” Her
eyes flashed their burning light into his; her breath beat on his cheek.
Before he could answer, before he could think, she was back with her
husband. In an instant she had spoken, and in that instant her beauty
had bent the Scotchman to her will. Frowning in reluctant acknowledgment
of his own inability to resist her, he turned over the leaves of the
letter; looked at the blank place where the pen had dropped from the
writer’s hand and had left a blot on the paper; turned back again to the
beginning, and said the words, in the wife’s interest, which the wife
herself had put into his lips.

“Perhaps, sir, you may wish to make some corrections,” he began, with
all his attention apparently fixed on the letter, and with every outward
appearance of letting his sour temper again get the better of him.
“Shall I read over to you what you have already written?”

Mrs. Armadale, sitting at the bed head on one side, and the doctor, with
his fingers on the patient’s pulse, sitting on the other, waited with
widely different anxieties for the answer to Mr. Neal’s question. Mr.
Armadale’s eyes turned searchingly from his child to his wife.

“You _will_ hear it?” he said. Her breath came and went quickly; her
hand stole up and took his; she bowed her head in silence. Her husband
paused, taking secret counsel with his thoughts, and keeping his eyes
fixed on his wife. At last he decided, and gave the answer. “Read it,”
 he said, “and stop when I tell you.”

It was close on one o’clock, and the bell was ringing which summoned the
visitors to their early dinner at the inn. The quick beat of footsteps,
and the gathering hum of voices outside, penetrated gayly into the room,
as Mr. Neal spread the manuscript before him on the table, and read the
opening sentences in these words:


“I address this letter to my son, when my son is of an age to understand
it. Having lost all hope of living to see my boy grow up to manhood, I
have no choice but to write here what I would fain have said to him at a
future time with my own lips.

“I have three objects in writing. First, to reveal the circumstances
which attended the marriage of an English lady of my acquaintance, in
the island of Madeira. Secondly, to throw the true light on the death of
her husband a short time afterward, on board the French timber ship _La
Grace de Dieu_. Thirdly, to warn my son of a danger that lies in wait
for him--a danger that will rise from his father’s grave when the earth
has closed over his father’s ashes.

“The story of the English lady’s marriage begins with my inheriting the
great Armadale property, and my taking the fatal Armadale name.

“I am the only surviving son of the late Mathew Wrentmore, of Barbadoes.
I was born on our family estate in that island, and I lost my father
when I was still a child. My mother was blindly fond of me; she denied
me nothing, she let me live as I pleased. My boyhood and youth were
passed in idleness and self-indulgence, among people--slaves and
half-castes mostly--to whom my will was law. I doubt if there is a
gentleman of my birth and station in all England as ignorant as I am at
this moment. I doubt if there was ever a young man in this world whose
passions were left so entirely without control of any kind as mine were
in those early days.

“My mother had a woman’s romantic objection to my father’s homely
Christian name. I was christened Allan, after the name of a wealthy
cousin of my father’s--the late Allan Armadale--who possessed estates in
our neighborhood, the largest and most productive in the island, and who
consented to be my godfather by proxy. Mr. Armadale had never seen his
West Indian property. He lived in England; and, after sending me the
customary godfather’s present, he held no further communication with my
parents for years afterward. I was just twenty-one before we heard again
from Mr. Armadale. On that occasion my mother received a letter from
him asking if I was still alive, and offering no less (if I was) than to
make me the heir to his West Indian property.

“This piece of good fortune fell to me entirely through the misconduct
of Mr. Armadale’s son, an only child. The young man had disgraced
himself beyond all redemption; had left his home an outlaw; and had been
thereupon renounced by his father at once and forever. Having no other
near male relative to succeed him, Mr. Armadale thought of his cousin’s
son and his own godson; and he offered the West Indian estate to me, and
my heirs after me, on one condition--that I and my heirs should take
his name. The proposal was gratefully accepted, and the proper legal
measures were adopted for changing my name in the colony and in the
mother country. By the next mail information reached Mr. Armadale that
his condition had been complied with. The return mail brought news
from the lawyers. The will had been altered in my favor, and in a week
afterward the death of my benefactor had made me the largest proprietor
and the richest man in Barbadoes.

“This was the first event in the chain. The second event followed it six
weeks afterward.

“At that time there happened to be a vacancy in the clerk’s office on
the estate, and there came to fill it a young man about my own age who
had recently arrived in the island. He announced himself by the name of
Fergus Ingleby. My impulses governed me in everything; I knew no law but
the law of my own caprice, and I took a fancy to the stranger the moment
I set eyes on him. He had the manners of a gentleman, and he possessed
the most attractive social qualities which, in my small experience, I
had ever met with. When I heard that the written references to character
which he had brought with him were pronounced to be unsatisfactory, I
interfered, and insisted that he should have the place. My will was law,
and he had it.

“My mother disliked and distrusted Ingleby from the first. When she
found the intimacy between us rapidly ripening; when she found me
admitting this inferior to the closest companionship and confidence
(I had lived with my inferiors all my life, and I liked it), she made
effort after effort to part us, and failed in one and all. Driven to her
last resources, she resolved to try the one chance left--the chance of
persuading me to take a voyage which I had often thought of--a voyage to
England.

“Before she spoke to me on the subject, she resolved to interest me
in the idea of seeing England, as I had never been interested yet. She
wrote to an old friend and an old admirer of hers, the late Stephen
Blanchard, of Thorpe Ambrose, in Norfolk--a gentleman of landed estate,
and a widower with a grown-up family. After-discoveries informed me that
she must have alluded to their former attachment (which was checked,
I believe, by the parents on either side); and that, in asking Mr.
Blanchard’s welcome for her son when he came to England, she made
inquiries about his daughter, which hinted at the chance of a marriage
uniting the two families, if the young lady and I met and liked one
another. We were equally matched in every respect, and my mother’s
recollection of her girlish attachment to Mr. Blanchard made the
prospect of my marrying her old admirer’s daughter the brightest and
happiest prospect that her eyes could see. Of all this I knew nothing
until Mr. Blanchard’s answer arrived at Barbadoes. Then my mother showed
me the letter, and put the temptation which was to separate me from
Fergus Ingleby openly in my way.

“Mr. Blanchard’s letter was dated from the Island of Madeira. He was
out of health, and he had been ordered there by the doctors to try the
climate. His daughter was with him. After heartily reciprocating all my
mother’s hopes and wishes, he proposed (if I intended leaving Barbadoes
shortly) that I should take Madeira on my way to England, and pay him a
visit at his temporary residence in the island. If this could not be,
he mentioned the time at which he expected to be back in England, when
I might be sure of finding a welcome at his own house of Thorpe
Ambrose. In conclusion, he apologized for not writing at greater length;
explaining that his sight was affected, and that he had disobeyed the
doctor’s orders by yielding to the temptation of writing to his old
friend with his own hand.

“Kindly as it was expressed, the letter itself might have had little
influence on me. But there was something else besides the letter; there
was inclosed in it a miniature portrait of Miss Blanchard. At the back
of the portrait, her father had written, half-jestingly, half-tenderly,
‘I can’t ask my daughter to spare my eyes as usual, without telling her
of your inquiries, and putting a young lady’s diffidence to the blush.
So I send her in effigy (without her knowledge) to answer for herself.
It is a good likeness of a good girl. If she likes your son--and if I
like him, which I am sure I shall--we may yet live, my good friend, to
see our children what we might once have been ourselves--man and wife.’
My mother gave me the miniature with the letter. The portrait at once
struck me--I can’t say why, I can’t say how--as nothing of the kind had
ever struck me before.

“Harder intellects than mine might have attributed the extraordinary
impression produced on me to the disordered condition of my mind at that
time; to the weariness of my own base pleasures which had been gaining
on me for months past, to the undefined longing which that weariness
implied for newer interests and fresher hopes than any that had
possessed me yet. I attempted no such sober self-examination as this: I
believed in destiny then, I believe in destiny now. It was enough for
me to know--as I did know--that the first sense I had ever felt of
something better in my nature than my animal self was roused by that
girl’s face looking at me from her picture as no woman’s face had ever
looked at me yet. In those tender eyes--in the chance of making that
gentle creature my wife--I saw my destiny written. The portrait which
had come into my hands so strangely and so unexpectedly was the silent
messenger of happiness close at hand, sent to warn, to encourage, to
rouse me before it was too late. I put the miniature under my pillow at
night; I looked at it again the next morning. My conviction of the day
before remained as strong as ever; my superstition (if you please to
call it so) pointed out to me irresistibly the way on which I should go.
There was a ship in port which was to sail for England in a fortnight,
touching at Madeira. In that ship I took my passage.”


Thus far the reader had advanced with no interruption to disturb him.
But at the last words the tones of another voice, low and broken,
mingled with his own.

“Was she a fair woman,” asked the voice, “or dark, like me?”

Mr. Neal paused, and looked up. The doctor was still at the bed head,
with his fingers mechanically on the patient’s pulse. The child, missing
his midday sleep, was beginning to play languidly with his new toy. The
father’s eyes were watching him with a rapt and ceaseless attention. But
one great change was visible in the listeners since the narrative had
begun. Mrs. Armadale had dropped her hold of her husband’s hand, and sat
with her face steadily turned away from him The hot African blood burned
red in her dusky cheeks as she obstinately repeated the question: “Was
she a fair woman, or dark, like me?”

“Fair,” said her husband, without looking at her.

Her hands, lying clasped together in her lap, wrung each other hard--she
said no more. Mr. Neal’s overhanging eyebrows lowered ominously as
he returned to the narrative. He had incurred his own severe
displeasure--he had caught himself in the act of secretly pitying her.


“I have said”--the letter proceeded--“that Ingleby was admitted to my
closest confidence. I was sorry to leave him; and I was distressed by
his evident surprise and mortification when he heard that I was going
away. In my own justification, I showed him the letter and the likeness,
and told him the truth. His interest in the portrait seemed to be hardly
inferior to my own. He asked me about Miss Blanchard’s family and
Miss Blanchard’s fortune with the sympathy of a true friend; and he
strengthened my regard for him, and my belief in him, by putting himself
out of the question, and by generously encouraging me to persist in my
new purpose. When we parted, I was in high health and spirits. Before
we met again the next day, I was suddenly struck by an illness which
threatened both my reason and my life.

“I have no proof against Ingleby. There was more than one woman on the
island whom I had wronged beyond all forgiveness, and whose vengeance
might well have reached me at that time. I can accuse nobody. I can only
say that my life was saved by my old black nurse; and that the woman
afterward acknowledged having used the known negro antidote to a known
negro poison in those parts. When my first days of convalescence came,
the ship in which my passage had been taken had long since sailed. When
I asked for Ingleby, he was gone. Proofs of his unpardonable misconduct
in his situation were placed before me, which not even my partiality for
him could resist. He had been turned out of the office in the first days
of my illness, and nothing more was known of him but that he had left
the island.

“All through my sufferings the portrait had been under my pillow. All
through my convalescence it was my one consolation when I remembered the
past, and my one encouragement when I thought of the future. No words
can describe the hold that first fancy had now taken of me--with time
and solitude and suffering to help it. My mother, with all her interest
in the match, was startled by the unexpected success of her own project.
She had written to tell Mr. Blanchard of my illness, but had received no
reply. She now offered to write again, if I would promise not to leave
her before my recovery was complete. My impatience acknowledged no
restraint. Another ship in port gave me another chance of leaving for
Madeira. Another examination of Mr. Blanchard’s letter of invitation
assured me that I should find him still in the island, if I seized
my opportunity on the spot. In defiance of my mother’s entreaties, I
insisted on taking my passage in the second ship--and this time, when
the ship sailed, I was on board.

“The change did me good; the sea-air made a man of me again. After an
unusually rapid voyage, I found myself at the end of my pilgrimage. On
a fine, still evening which I can never forget, I stood alone on the
shore, with her likeness in my bosom, and saw the white walls of the
house where I knew that she lived.

“I strolled round the outer limits of the grounds to compose myself
before I went in. Venturing through a gate and a shrubbery, I looked
into the garden, and saw a lady there, loitering alone on the lawn. She
turned her face toward me--and I beheld the original of my portrait, the
fulfillment of my dream! It is useless, and worse than useless, to write
of it now. Let me only say that every promise which the likeness had
made to my fancy the living woman kept to my eyes in the moment when
they first looked on her. Let me say this--and no more.

“I was too violently agitated to trust myself in her presence. I drew
back undiscovered, and, making my way to the front door of the house,
asked for her father first. Mr. Blanchard had retired to his room,
and could see nobody. Upon that I took courage, and asked for Miss
Blanchard. The servant smiled. ‘My young lady is not Miss Blanchard any
longer, sir,’ he said. ‘She is married.’ Those words would have struck
some men, in my position, to the earth. They fired my hot blood, and I
seized the servant by the throat, in a frenzy of rage ‘It’s a lie!’ I
broke out, speaking to him as if he had been one of the slaves on my own
estate. ‘It’s the truth,’ said the man, struggling with me; ‘her husband
is in the house at this moment.’ ‘Who is he, you scoundrel?’ The servant
answered by repeating my own name, to my own face: ‘_Allan Armadale_.’

“You can now guess the truth. Fergus Ingleby was the outlawed son whose
name and whose inheritance I had taken. And Fergus Ingleby was even with
me for depriving him of his birthright.

“Some account of the manner in which the deception had been carried out
is necessary to explain--I don’t say to justify--the share I took in the
events that followed my arrival at Madeira.

“By Ingleby’s own confession, he had come to Barbadoes--knowing of his
father’s death and of my succession to the estates--with the settled
purpose of plundering and injuring me. My rash confidence put such an
opportunity into his hands as he could never have hoped for. He had
waited to possess himself of the letter which my mother wrote to Mr.
Blanchard at the outset of my illness--had then caused his own dismissal
from his situation--and had sailed for Madeira in the very ship that was
to have sailed with me. Arrived at the island, he had waited again till
the vessel was away once more on her voyage, and had then presented
himself at Mr. Blanchard’s--not in the assumed name by which I shall
continue to speak of him here, but in the name which was as certainly
his as mine, ‘Allan Armadale.’ The fraud at the outset presented few
difficulties. He had only an ailing old man (who had not seen my mother
for half a lifetime) and an innocent, unsuspicious girl (who had never
seen her at all) to deal with; and he had learned enough in my service
to answer the few questions that were put to him as readily as I might
have answered them myself. His looks and manners, his winning ways with
women, his quickness and cunning, did the rest. While I was still on my
sickbed, he had won Miss Blanchard’s affections. While I was dreaming
over the likeness in the first days of my convalescence, he had secured
Mr. Blanchard’s consent to the celebration of the marriage before he and
his daughter left the island.

“Thus far Mr. Blanchard’s infirmity of sight had helped the deception.
He had been content to send messages to my mother, and to receive the
messages which were duly invented in return. But when the suitor was
accepted, and the wedding-day was appointed, he felt it due to his old
friend to write to her, asking her formal consent and inviting her to
the marriage. He could only complete part of the letter himself; the
rest was finished, under his dictation, by Miss Blanchard. There was no
chance of being beforehand with the post-office this time; and Ingleby,
sure of his place in the heart of his victim, waylaid her as she came
out of her father’s room with the letter, and privately told her the
truth. She was still under age, and the position was a serious one.
If the letter was posted, no resource would be left but to wait and be
parted forever, or to elope under circumstances which made detection
almost a certainty. The destination of any ship which took them away
would be known beforehand; and the fast-sailing yacht in which Mr.
Blanchard had come to Madeira was waiting in the harbor to take him back
to England. The only other alternative was to continue the deception by
suppressing the letter, and to confess the truth when they were securely
married. What arts of persuasion Ingleby used--what base advantage he
might previously have taken of her love and her trust in him to degrade
Miss Blanchard to his own level--I cannot say. He did degrade her. The
letter never went to its destination; and, with the daughter’s privity
and consent, the father’s confidence was abused to the very last.

“The one precaution now left to take was to fabricate the answer from
my mother which Mr. Blanchard expected, and which would arrive in due
course of post before the day appointed for the marriage. Ingleby had
my mother’s stolen letter with him; but he was without the imitative
dexterity which would have enabled him to make use of it for a forgery
of her handwriting. Miss Blanchard, who had consented passively to the
deception, refused to take any active share in the fraud practiced on
her father. In this difficulty, Ingleby found an instrument ready to
his hand in an orphan girl of barely twelve years old, a marvel of
precocious ability, whom Miss Blanchard had taken a romantic fancy
to befriend and whom she had brought away with her from England to
be trained as her maid. That girl’s wicked dexterity removed the one
serious obstacle left to the success of the fraud. I saw the imitation
of my mother’s writing which she had produced under Ingleby’s
instructions and (if the shameful truth must be told) with her young
mistress’s knowledge--and I believe I should have been deceived by it
myself. I saw the girl afterward--and my blood curdled at the sight of
her. If she is alive now, woe to the people who trust her! No creature
more innately deceitful and more innately pitiless ever walked this
earth.

“The forged letter paved the way securely for the marriage; and when I
reached the house, they were (as the servant had truly told me) man and
wife. My arrival on the scene simply precipitated the confession
which they had both agreed to make. Ingleby’s own lips shamelessly
acknowledged the truth. He had nothing to lose by speaking out--he was
married, and his wife’s fortune was beyond her father’s control. I pass
over all that followed--my interview with the daughter, and my interview
with the father--to come to results. For two days the efforts of the
wife, and the efforts of the clergyman who had celebrated the marriage,
were successful in keeping Ingleby and myself apart. On the third day
I set my trap more successfully, and I and the man who had mortally
injured me met together alone, face to face.

“Remember how my confidence had been abused; remember how the one good
purpose of my life had been thwarted; remember the violent passions
rooted deep in my nature, and never yet controlled--and then imagine for
yourself what passed between us. All I need tell here is the end. He was
a taller and a stronger man than I, and he took his brute’s advantage
with a brute’s ferocity. He struck me.

“Think of the injuries I had received at that man’s hands, and then
think of his setting his mark on my face by a blow!

“I went to an English officer who had been my fellow-passenger on the
voyage from Barbadoes. I told him the truth, and he agreed with me that
a meeting was inevitable. Dueling had its received formalities and its
established laws in those days; and he began to speak of them. I stopped
him. ‘I will take a pistol in my right hand,’ I said, ‘and he shall take
a pistol in his: I will take one end of a handkerchief in my left hand,
and he shall take the other end in his; and across that handkerchief the
duel shall be fought.’ The officer got up, and looked at me as if I had
personally insulted him. ‘You are asking me to be present at a murder
and a suicide,’ he said; ‘I decline to serve you.’ He left the room. As
soon as he was gone I wrote down the words I had said to the officer and
sent them by a messenger to Ingleby. While I was waiting for an answer,
I sat down before the glass, and looked at his mark on my face. ‘Many a
man has had blood on his hands and blood on his conscience,’ I thought,
‘for less than this.’

“The messenger came back with Ingleby’s answer. It appointed a meeting
for three o’clock the next day, at a lonely place in the interior of the
island. I had resolved what to do if he refused; his letter released
me from the horror of my own resolution. I felt grateful to him--yes,
absolutely grateful to him--for writing it.

“The next day I went to the place. He was not there. I waited two hours,
and he never came. At last the truth dawned on me. ‘Once a coward,
always a coward,’ I thought. I went back to Mr. Blanchard’s house.
Before I got there, a sudden misgiving seized me, and I turned aside
to the harbor. I was right; the harbor was the place to go to. A ship
sailing for Lisbon that afternoon had offered him the opportunity of
taking a passage for himself and his wife, and escaping me. His answer
to my challenge had served its purpose of sending me out of the way into
the interior of the island. Once more I had trusted in Fergus Ingleby,
and once more those sharp wits of his had been too much for me.

“I asked my informant if Mr. Blanchard was aware as yet of his
daughter’s departure. He had discovered it, but not until the ship had
sailed. This time I took a lesson in cunning from Ingleby. Instead of
showing myself at Mr. Blanchard’s house, I went first and looked at Mr.
Blanchard’s yacht.

“The vessel told me what the vessel’s master might have concealed--the
truth. I found her in the confusion of a sudden preparation for sea.
All the crew were on board, with the exception of some few who had been
allowed their leave on shore, and who were away in the interior of the
island, nobody knew where. When I discovered that the sailing-master was
trying in, to supply their places with the best men he could pick up at
a moment’s notice, my resolution was instantly taken. I knew the duties
on board a yacht well enough, having had a vessel of my own, and having
sailed her myself. Hurrying into the town, I changed my dress for a
sailor’s coat and hat, and, returning to the harbor, I offered myself as
one of the volunteer crew. I don’t know what the sailing-master saw in
my face. My answers to his questions satisfied him, and yet he looked at
me and hesitated. But hands were scarce, and it ended in my being taken
on board. An hour later Mr. Blanchard joined us, and was assisted into
the cabin, suffering pitiably in mind and body both. An hour after
that we were at sea, with a starless night overhead, and a fresh breeze
behind us.

“As I had surmised, we were in pursuit of the vessel in which Ingleby
and his wife had left the island that afternoon. The ship was French,
and was employed in the timber trade: her name was _La Grace de Dieu_.
Nothing more was known of her than that she was bound for Lisbon; that
she had been driven out of her course; and that she had touched at
Madeira, short of men and short of provisions. The last want had been
supplied, but not the first. Sailors distrusted the sea-worthiness of
the ship, and disliked the look of the vagabond crew. When those two
serious facts had been communicated to Mr. Blanchard, the hard words he
had spoken to his child in the first shock of discovering that she had
helped to deceive him smote him to the heart. He instantly determined to
give his daughter a refuge on board his own vessel, and to quiet her by
keeping her villain of a husband out of the way of all harm at my hands.
The yacht sailed three feet and more to the ship’s one. There was no
doubt of our overtaking _La Grace de Dieu_; the only fear was that we
might pass her in the darkness.

“After we had been some little time out, the wind suddenly dropped, and
there fell on us an airless, sultry calm. When the order came to get
the topmasts on deck, and to shift the large sails, we all knew what to
expect. In little better than an hour more, the storm was upon us, the
thunder was pealing over our heads, and the yacht was running for it.
She was a powerful schooner-rigged vessel of three hundred tons,
as strong as wood and iron could make her; she was handled by a
sailing-master who thoroughly understood his work, and she behaved
nobly. As the new morning came, the fury of the wind, blowing still from
the southwest quarter, subsided a little, and the sea was less heavy.
Just before daybreak we heard faintly, through the howling of the gale,
the report of a gun. The men collected anxiously on deck, looked at each
other, and said: ‘There she is!’

“With the daybreak we saw the vessel, and the timber-ship it was. She
lay wallowing in the trough of the sea, her foremast and her mainmast
both gone--a water-logged wreck. The yacht carried three boats;
one amidships, and two slung to davits on the quarters; and the
sailing-master, seeing signs of the storm renewing its fury before long,
determined on lowering the quarter-boats while the lull lasted. Few as
the people were on board the wreck, they were too many for one boat, and
the risk of trying two boats at once was thought less, in the critical
state of the weather, than the risk of making two separate trips from
the yacht to the ship. There might be time to make one trip in safety,
but no man could look at the heavens and say there would be time enough
for two.

“The boats were manned by volunteers from the crew, I being in the
second of the two. When the first boat was got alongside of the
timber-ship--a service of difficulty and danger which no words can
describe--all the men on board made a rash to leave the wreck together.
If the boat had not been pulled off again before the whole of them had
crowded in, the lives of all must have been sacrificed. As our boat
approached the vessel in its turn, we arranged that four of us should
get on board--two (I being one of them) to see to the safety of Mr.
Blanchard’s daughter, and two to beat back the cowardly remnant of the
crew if they tried to crowd in first. The other three--the coxswain and
two oarsmen--were left in the boat to keep her from being crushed by the
ship. What the others saw when they first boarded _La Grace de Dieu_ I
don’t know; what I saw was the woman whom I had lost, the woman
vilely stolen from me, lying in a swoon on the deck. We lowered her,
insensible, into the boat. The remnant of the crew--five in number--were
compelled by main force to follow her in an orderly manner, one by one,
and minute by minute, as the chance offered for safely taking them in. I
was the last who left; and, at the next roll of the ship toward us, the
empty length of the deck, without a living creature on it from stem to
stern, told the boat’s crew that their work was done. With the louder
and louder howling of the fast-rising tempest to warn them, they rowed
for their lives back to the yacht.

“A succession of heavy squalls had brought round the course of the
new storm that was coming, from the south to the north; and the
sailing-master, watching his opportunity, had wore the yacht to be ready
for it. Before the last of our men had got on board again, it burst on
us with the fury of a hurricane. Our boat was swamped, but not a life
was lost. Once more we ran before it, due south, at the mercy of the
wind. I was on deck with the rest, watching the one rag of sail we could
venture to set, and waiting to supply its place with another, if it blew
out of the bolt-ropes, when the mate came close to me, and shouted in my
ear through the thunder of the storm: ‘She has come to her senses in the
cabin, and has asked for her husband. Where is he?’ Not a man on board
knew. The yacht was searched from one end to another without finding
him. The men were mustered in defiance of the weather--he was not among
them. The crews of the two boats were questioned. All the first crew
could say was that they had pulled away from the wreck when the rush
into their boat took place, and that they knew nothing of whom they let
in or whom they kept out. All the second crew could say was that they
had brought back to the yacht every living soul left by the first boat
on the deck of the timber-ship. There was no blaming anybody; but, at
the same time, there was no resisting the fact that the man was missing.

“All through that day the storm, raging unabatedly, never gave us even
the shadow of a chance of returning and searching the wreck. The one
hope for the yacht was to scud. Toward evening the gale, after having
carried us to the southward of Madeira, began at last to break--the wind
shifted again--and allowed us to bear up for the island. Early the next
morning we got back into port. Mr. Blanchard and his daughter were taken
ashore, the sailing-master accompanying them, and warning us that he
should have something to say on his return which would nearly concern
the whole crew.

“We were mustered on deck, and addressed by the sailing-master as soon
as he came on board again. He had Mr. Blanchard’s orders to go back at
once to the timber-ship and to search for the missing man. We were bound
to do this for his sake, and for the sake of his wife, whose reason was
despaired of by the doctors if something was not done to quiet her. We
might be almost sure of finding the vessel still afloat, for her ladling
of timber would keep her above water as long as her hull held together.
If the man was on board--living or dead--he must be found and brought
back. And if the weather continued to be moderate, there was no reason
why the men, with proper assistance, should not bring the ship back,
too, and (their master being quite willing) earn their share of the
salvage with the officers of the yacht.

“Upon this the crew gave three cheers, and set to work forthwith to get
the schooner to sea again. I was the only one of them who drew back
from the enterprise. I told them the storm had upset me--I was ill, and
wanted rest. They all looked me in the face as I passed through them on
my way out of the yacht, but not a man of them spoke to me.

“I waited through that day at a tavern on the port for the first
news from the wreck. It was brought toward night-fall by one of the
pilot-boats which had taken part in the enterprise--a successful
enterprise, as the event proved--for saving the abandoned ship. _La
Grace de Dieu_ had been discovered still floating, and the body of
Ingleby had been found on board, drowned in the cabin. At dawn the next
morning the dead man was brought back by the yacht; and on the same day
the funeral took place in the Protestant cemetery.”


“Stop!” said the voice from the bed, before the reader could turn to a
new leaf and begin the next paragraph.

There was a change in the room, and there were changes in the audience,
since Mr. Neal had last looked up from the narrative. A ray of sunshine
was crossing the death-bed; and the child, overcome by drowsiness, lay
peacefully asleep in the golden light. The father’s countenance had
altered visibly. Forced into action by the tortured mind, the muscles of
the lower face, which had never moved yet, were moving distortedly now.
Warned by the damps gathering heavily on his forehead, the doctor had
risen to revive the sinking man. On the other side of the bed the wife’s
chair stood empty. At the moment when her husband had interrupted the
reading, she had drawn back behind the bed head, out of his sight.
Supporting herself against the wall, she stood there in hiding, her eyes
fastened in hungering suspense on the manuscript in Mr. Neal’s hand.

In a minute more the silence was broken again by Mr. Armadale.

“Where is she?” he asked, looking angrily at his wife’s empty chair. The
doctor pointed to the place. She had no choice but to come forward. She
came slowly and stood before him.

“You promised to go when I told you,” he said. “Go now.”

Mr. Neal tried hard to control his hand as it kept his place between the
leaves of the manuscripts but it trembled in spite of him. A suspicion
which had been slowly forcing itself on his mind, while he was reading,
became a certainty when he heard those words. From one revelation to
another the letter had gone on, until it had now reached the brink of a
last disclosure to come. At that brink the dying man had predetermined
to silence the reader’s voice, before he had permitted his wife to hear
the narrative read. There was the secret which the son was to know
in after years, and which the mother was never to approach. From that
resolution, his wife’s tenderest pleadings had never moved him an
inch--and now, from his own lips, his wife knew it.

She made him no answer. She stood there and looked at him; looked her
last entreaty--perhaps her last farewell. His eyes gave her back no
answering glance: they wandered from her mercilessly to the sleeping
boy. She turned speechless from the bed. Without a look at the
child--without a word to the two strangers breathlessly watching
her--she kept the promise she had given, and in dead silence left the
room.

There was something in the manner of her departure which shook the
self-possession of both the men who witnessed it. When the door closed
on her, they recoiled instinctively from advancing further in the dark.
The doctor’s reluctance was the first to express itself. He attempted
to obtain the patient’s permission to withdraw until the letter was
completed. The patient refused.

Mr. Neal spoke next at greater length and to more serious purpose.

“The doctor is accustomed in his profession,” he began, “and I am
accustomed in mine, to have the secrets of others placed in our keeping.
But it is my duty, before we go further, to ask if you really understand
the extraordinary position which we now occupy toward one another. You
have just excluded Mrs. Armadale, before our own eyes, from a place in
your confidence. And you are now offering that same place to two men who
are total strangers to you.”

“Yes,” said Mr. Armadale, “_because_ you are strangers.”

Few as the words were, the inference to be drawn from them was not of a
nature to set distrust at rest. Mr. Neal put it plainly into words.

“You are in urgent need of my help and of the doctor’s help,” he said.
“Am I to understand (so long as you secure our assistance) that the
impression which the closing passages of this letter may produce on us
is a matter of indifference to you?”

“Yes. I don’t spare you. I don’t spare myself. I _do_ spare my wife.”

“You force me to a conclusion, sir, which is a very serious one,” said
Mr. Neal. “If I am to finish this letter under your dictation, I must
claim permission--having read aloud the greater part of it already--to
read aloud what remains, in the hearing of this gentleman, as a
witness.”

“Read it.”

Gravely doubting, the doctor resumed his chair. Gravely doubting, Mr.
Neal turned the leaf, and read the next words:


“There is more to tell before I can leave the dead man to his rest. I
have described the finding of his body. But I have not described the
circumstances under which he met his death.

“He was known to have been on deck when the yacht’s boats were seen
approaching the wreck; and he was afterward missed in the confusion
caused by the panic of the crew. At that time the water was five feet
deep in the cabin, and was rising fast. There was little doubt of his
having gone down into that water of his own accord. The discovery of his
wife’s jewel box, close under him, on the floor, explained his presence
in the cabin. He was known to have seen help approaching, and it was
quite likely that he had thereupon gone below to make an effort at
saving the box. It was less probable--though it might still have been
inferred--that his death was the result of some accident in diving,
which had for the moment deprived him of his senses. But a discovery
made by the yacht’s crew pointed straight to a conclusion which struck
the men, one and all, with the same horror. When the course of their
search brought them to the cabin, they found the scuttle bolted, and the
door locked on the outside. Had some one closed the cabin, not knowing
he was there? Setting the panic-stricken condition of the crew out of
the question, there was no motive for closing the cabin before leaving
the wreck. But one other conclusion remained. Had some murderous hand
purposely locked the man in, and left him to drown as the water rose
over him?

“Yes. A murderous hand had locked him in, and left him to drown. That
hand was mine.”


The Scotchman started up from the table; the doctor shrank from the
bedside. The two looked at the dying wretch, mastered by the same
loathing, chilled by the same dread. He lay there, with his child’s
head on his breast; abandoned by the sympathies of man, accursed by the
justice of God--he lay there, in the isolation of Cain, and looked back
at them.

At the moment when the two men rose to their feet, the door leading into
the next room was shaken heavily on the outer side, and a sound like
the sound of a fall, striking dull on their ears, silenced them both.
Standing nearest to the door, the doctor opened it, passed through, and
closed it instantly. Mr. Neal turned his back on the bed, and waited the
event in silence. The sound, which had failed to awaken the child, had
failed also to attract the father’s notice. His own words had taken him
far from all that was passing at his deathbed. His helpless body was
back on the wreck, and the ghost of his lifeless hand was turning the
lock of the cabin door.

A bell rang in the next room--eager voices talked; hurried footsteps
moved in it--an interval passed, and the doctor returned. “Was she
listening?” whispered Mr. Neal, in German. “The women are restoring
her,” the doctor whispered back. “She has heard it all. In God’s name,
what are we to do next?” Before it was possible to reply, Mr. Armadale
spoke. The doctor’s return had roused him to a sense of present things.

“Go on,” he said, as if nothing had happened.

“I refuse to meddle further with your infamous secret,” returned Mr.
Neal. “You are a murderer on your own confession. If that letter is to
be finished, don’t ask _me_ to hold the pen for you.”

“You gave me your promise,” was the reply, spoken with the same
immovable self-possession. “You must write for me, or break your word.”

For the moment, Mr. Neal was silenced. There the man lay--sheltered
from the execration of his fellow-creatures, under the shadow of
Death--beyond the reach of all human condemnation, beyond the dread of
all mortal laws; sensitive to nothing but his one last resolution to
finish the letter addressed to his son.

Mr. Neal drew the doctor aside. “A word with you,” he said, in German.
“Do you persist in asserting that he may be speechless before we can
send to Stuttgart?”

“Look at his lips,” said the doctor, “and judge for yourself.”

His lips answered for him: the reading of the narrative had left its
mark on them already. A distortion at the corners of his mouth, which
had been barely noticeable when Mr. Neal entered the room, was plainly
visible now. His slow articulation labored more and more painfully with
every word he uttered. The position was emphatically a terrible one.
After a moment more of hesitation, Mr. Neal made a last attempt to
withdraw from it.

“Now my eyes are open,” he said, sternly, “do you dare hold me to an
engagement which you forced on me blindfold?”

“No,” answered Mr. Armadale. “I leave you to break your word.”

The look which accompanied that reply stung the Scotchman’s pride to the
quick. When he spoke next, he spoke seated in his former place at the
table.

“No man ever yet said of me that I broke my word,” he retorted, angrily;
“and not even you shall say it of me now. Mind this! If you hold me to
my promise, I hold you to my condition. I have reserved my freedom of
action, and I warn you I will use it at my own sole discretion, as soon
as I am released from the sight of you.”

“Remember he is dying,” pleaded the doctor, gently.

“Take your place, sir,” said Mr. Neal, pointing to the empty chair.
“What remains to be read, I will only read in your hearing. What remains
to be written, I will only write in your presence. _You_ brought me
here. I have a right to insist--and I do insist--on your remaining as a
witness to the last.”

The doctor accepted his position without remonstrance. Mr. Neal returned
to the manuscript, and read what remained of it uninterruptedly to the
end:


“Without a word in my own defense, I have acknowledged my guilt. Without
a word in my own defense, I will reveal how the crime was committed.

“No thought of him was in my mind, when I saw his wife insensible on the
deck of the timber-ship. I did my part in lowering her safely into the
boat. Then, and not till then, I felt the thought of him coming back. In
the confusion that prevailed while the men of the yacht were forcing the
men of the ship to wait their time, I had an opportunity of searching
for him unobserved. I stepped back from the bulwark, not knowing whether
he was away in the first boat, or whether he was still on board--I
stepped back, and saw him mount the cabin stairs empty-handed, with the
water dripping from him. After looking eagerly toward the boat (without
noticing me), he saw there was time to spare before the crew were taken.
‘Once more!’ he said to himself--and disappeared again, to make a last
effort at recovering the jewel box. The devil at my elbow whispered,
‘Don’t shoot him like a man: drown him like a dog!’ He was under water
when I bolted the scuttle. But his head rose to the surface before I
could close the cabin door. I looked at him, and he looked at me--and I
locked the door in his face. The next minute, I was back among the last
men left on deck. The minute after, it was too late to repent. The storm
was threatening us with destruction, and the boat’s crew were pulling
for their lives from the ship.

“My son! I have pursued you from my grave with a confession which my
love might have spared you. Read on, and you will know why.

“I will say nothing of my sufferings; I will plead for no mercy to my
memory. There is a strange sinking at my heart, a strange trembling in
my hand, while I write these lines, which warns me to hasten to the end.
I left the island without daring to look for the last time at the woman
whom I had lost so miserably, whom I had injured so vilely. When I left,
the whole weight of the suspicion roused by the manner of Ingleby’s
death rested on the crew of the French vessel. No motive for the
supposed murder could be brought home to any of them; but they were
known to be, for the most part, outlawed ruffians capable of any crime,
and they were suspected and examined accordingly. It was not till
afterward that I heard by accident of the suspicion shifting round at
last to me. The widow alone recognized the vague description given
of the strange man who had made one of the yacht’s crew, and who had
disappeared the day afterward. The widow alone knew, from that time
forth, why her husband had been murdered, and who had done the deed.
When she made that discovery, a false report of my death had been
previously circulated in the island. Perhaps I was indebted to the
report for my immunity from all legal proceedings; perhaps (no eye but
Ingleby’s having seen me lock the cabin door) there was not evidence
enough to justify an inquiry; perhaps the widow shrank from the
disclosures which must have followed a public charge against me, based
on her own bare suspicion of the truth. However it might be, the crime
which I had committed unseen has remained a crime unpunished from that
time to this.

“I left Madeira for the West Indies in disguise. The first news that met
me when the ship touched at Barbadoes was the news of my mother’s death.
I had no heart to return to the old scenes. The prospect of living at
home in solitude, with the torment of my own guilty remembrances gnawing
at me day and night, was more than I had the courage to confront.
Without landing, or discovering myself to any one on shore, I went on as
far as the ship would take me--to the island of Trinidad.

“At that place I first saw your mother. It was my duty to tell her the
truth--and I treacherously kept my secret. It was my duty to spare
her the hopeless sacrifice of her freedom and her happiness to such an
existence as mine--and I did her the injury of marrying her. If she is
alive when you read this, grant her the mercy of still concealing the
truth. The one atonement I can make to her is to keep her unsuspicious
to the last of the man she has married. Pity her, as I have pitied her.
Let this letter be a sacred confidence between father and son.

“The time when you were born was the time when my health began to give
way. Some months afterward, in the first days of my recovery, you were
brought to me; and I was told that you had been christened during
my illness. Your mother had done as other loving mothers do--she had
christened her first-born by his father’s name. You, too, were Allan
Armadale. Even in that early time--even while I was happily ignorant of
what I have discovered since--my mind misgave me when I looked at you,
and thought of that fatal name.

“As soon as I could be moved, my presence was required at my estates in
Barbadoes. It crossed my mind--wild as the idea may appear to you--to
renounce the condition which compelled my son as well as myself to take
the Armadale name, or lose the succession to the Armadale property.
But, even in those days, the rumor of a contemplated emancipation of
the slaves--the emancipation which is now close at hand--was spreading
widely in the colony. No man could tell how the value of West Indian
property might be affected if that threatened change ever took place.
No man could tell--if I gave you back my own paternal name, and left you
without other provision in the future than my own paternal estate--how
you might one day miss the broad Armadale acres, or to what future
penury I might be blindly condemning your mother and yourself. Mark how
the fatalities gathered one on the other! Mark how your Christian name
came to you, how your surname held to you, in spite of me!

“My health had improved in my old home--but it was for a time only. I
sank again, and the doctors ordered me to Europe. Avoiding England (why,
you may guess), I took my passage, with you and your mother, for France.
From France we passed into Italy. We lived here; we lived there. It was
useless. Death had got met and Death followed me, go where I might. I
bore it, for I had an alleviation to turn to which I had not deserved.
You may shrink in horror from the very memory of me now. In those days,
you comforted me. The only warmth I still felt at my heart was the
warmth you brought to it. My last glimpses of happiness in this world
were the glimpses given me by my infant son.

“We removed from Italy, and went next to Lausanne--the place from which
I am now writing to you. The post of this morning has brought me news,
later and fuller than any I had received thus far, of the widow of the
murdered man. The letter lies before me while I write. It comes from a
friend of my early days, who has seen her, and spoken to her--who has
been the first to inform her that the report of my death in Madeira was
false. He writes, at a loss to account for the violent agitation which
she showed on hearing that I was still alive, that I was married, and
that I had an infant son. He asks me if I can explain it. He speaks in
terms of sympathy for her--a young and beautiful woman, buried in the
retirement of a fishing-village on the Devonshire coast; her father
dead; her family estranged from her, in merciless disapproval of her
marriage. He writes words which might have cut me to the heart, but for
a closing passage in his letter, which seized my whole attention the
instant I came to it, and which has forced from me the narrative that
these pages contain.

“I now know what never even entered my mind as a suspicion till the
letter reached me. I now know that the widow of the man whose death lies
at my door has borne a posthumous child. That child is a boy--a year
older than my own son. Secure in her belief in my death, his mother
has done what my son’s mother did: she has christened her child by his
father’s name. Again, in the second generation, there are two Allan
Armadales as there were in the first. After working its deadly mischief
with the fathers, the fatal resemblance of names has descended to work
its deadly mischief with the sons.

“Guiltless minds may see nothing thus far but the result of a series of
events which could lead no other way. I--with that man’s life to answer
for--I, going down into my grave, with my crime unpunished and unatoned,
see what no guiltless minds can discern. I see danger in the future,
begotten of the danger in the past--treachery that is the offspring of
_his_ treachery, and crime that is the child of _my_ crime. Is the dread
that now shakes me to the soul a phantom raised by the superstition of a
dying man? I look into the Book which all Christendom venerates, and the
Book tells me that the sin of the father shall be visited on the child.
I look out into the world, and I see the living witnesses round me to
that terrible truth. I see the vices which have contaminated the father
descending, and contaminating the child; I see the shame which has
disgraced the father’s name descending, and disgracing the child’s. I
look in on myself, and I see my crime ripening again for the future
in the self-same circumstance which first sowed the seeds of it in the
past, and descending, in inherited contamination of evil, from me to my
son.”


At those lines the writing ended. There the stroke had struck him, and
the pen had dropped from his hand.

He knew the place; he remembered the words. At the instant when the
reader’s voice stopped, he looked eagerly at the doctor. “I have
got what comes next in my mind,” he said, with slower and slower
articulation. “Help me to speak it.”

The doctor administered a stimulant, and signed to Mr. Neal to give him
time. After a little delay, the flame of the sinking spirit leaped up
in his eyes once more. Resolutely struggling with his failing speech,
he summoned the Scotchman to take the pen, and pronounced the closing
sentences of the narrative, as his memory gave them back to him, one by
one, in these words:


“Despise my dying conviction if you will, but grant me, I solemnly
implore you, one last request. My son! the only hope I have left for
you hangs on a great doubt--the doubt whether we are, or are not,
the masters of our own destinies. It may be that mortal free-will can
conquer mortal fate; and that going, as we all do, inevitably to death,
we go inevitably to nothing that is before death. If this be so, indeed,
respect--though you respect nothing else--the warning which I give you
from my grave. Never, to your dying day, let any living soul approach
you who is associated, directly or indirectly, with the crime which your
father has committed. Avoid the widow of the man I killed--if the widow
still lives. Avoid the maid whose wicked hand smoothed the way to the
marriage--if the maid is still in her service. And more than all,
avoid the man who bears the same name as your own. Offend your best
benefactor, if that benefactor’s influence has connected you one with
the other. Desert the woman who loves you, if that woman is a link
between you and him. Hide yourself from him under an assumed name. Put
the mountains and the seas between you; be ungrateful, be unforgiving;
be all that is most repellent to your own gentler nature, rather than
live under the same roof, and breathe the same air, with that man. Never
let the two Allan Armadales meet in this world: never, never, never!

“There lies the way by which you may escape--if any way there be. Take
it, if you prize your own innocence and your own happiness, through all
your life to come!

“I have done. If I could have trusted any weaker influence than the
influence of this confession to incline you to my will, I would have
spared you the disclosure which these pages contain. You are lying on my
breast, sleeping the innocent sleep of a child, while a stranger’s hand
writes these words for you as they fall from my lips. Think what the
strength of my conviction must be, when I can find the courage, on my
death-bed, to darken all your young life at its outset with the shadow
of your father’s crime. Think, and be warned. Think, and forgive me if
you can.”


There it ended. Those were the father’s last words to the son.

Inexorably faithful to his forced duty, Mr. Neal laid aside the pen, and
read over aloud the lines he had just written. “Is there more to add?”
 he asked, with his pitilessly steady voice. There was no more to add.

Mr. Neal folded the manuscript, inclosed it in a sheet of paper, and
sealed it with Mr. Armadale’s own seal. “The address?” he said, with his
merciless business formality. “To Allan Armadale, junior,” he wrote, as
the words were dictated from the bed. “Care of Godfrey Hammick, Esq.,
Offices of Messrs. Hammick and Ridge, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London.”
 Having written the address, he waited, and considered for a moment. “Is
your executor to open this?” he asked.

“No! he is to give it to my son when my son is of an age to understand
it.”

“In that case,” pursued Mr. Neal, with all his wits in remorseless
working order, “I will add a dated note to the address, repeating your
own words as you have just spoken them, and explaining the circumstances
under which my handwriting appears on the document.” He wrote the note
in the briefest and plainest terms, read it over aloud as he had read
over what went before, signed his name and address at the end, and made
the doctor sign next, as witness of the proceedings, and as medical
evidence of the condition in which Mr. Armadale then lay. This done,
he placed the letter in a second inclosure, sealed it as before, and
directed it to Mr. Hammick, with the superscription of “private” added
to the address. “Do you insist on my posting this?” he asked, rising
with the letter in his hand.

“Give him time to think,” said the doctor. “For the child’s sake, give
him time to think! A minute may change him.”

“I will give him five minutes,” answered Mr. Neal, placing his watch on
the table, implacable just to the very last.

They waited, both looking attentively at Mr. Armadale. The signs of
change which had appeared in him already were multiplying fast. The
movement which continued mental agitation had communicated to the
muscles of his face was beginning, under the same dangerous influence,
to spread downward. His once helpless hands lay still no longer; they
struggled pitiably on the bedclothes. At sight of that warning token,
the doctor turned with a gesture of alarm, and beckoned Mr. Neal to
come nearer. “Put the question at once,” he said; “if you let the five
minutes pass, you may be too late.”

Mr. Neal approached the bed. He, too, noticed the movement of the hands.
“Is that a bad sign?” he asked.

The doctor bent his head gravely. “Put your question at once,” he
repeated, “or you may be too late.”

Mr. Neal held the letter before the eyes of the dying man “Do you know
what this is?”

“My letter.”

“Do you insist on my posting it?”

He mastered his failing speech for the last time, and gave the answer:
“Yes!”

Mr. Neal moved to the door, with the letter in his hand. The German
followed him a few steps, opened his lips to plead for a longer delay,
met the Scotchman’s inexorable eye, and drew back again in silence.
The door closed and parted them, without a word having passed on either
side.

The doctor went back to the bed and whispered to the sinking man: “Let
me call him back; there is time to stop him yet!” It was useless. No
answer came; nothing showed that he heeded, or even heard. His eyes
wandered from the child, rested for a moment on his own struggling hand,
and looked up entreatingly in the compassionate face that bent over him.
The doctor lifted the hand, paused, followed the father’s longing eyes
back to the child, and, interpreting his last wish, moved the hand
gently toward the boy’s head. The hand touched it, and trembled
violently. In another instant the trembling seized on the arm, and
spread over the whole upper part of the body. The face turned from pale
to red, from red to purple, from purple to pale again. Then the toiling
hands lay still, and the shifting color changed no more.


The window of the next room was open, when the doctor entered it from
the death chamber, with the child in his arms. He looked out as he
passed by, and saw Mr. Neal in the street below, slowly returning to the
inn.

“Where is the letter?” he asked.

Three words sufficed for the Scotchman’s answer.

“In the post.”

THE END OF THE PROLOGUE.



THE STORY.



BOOK THE FIRST.



I. THE MYSTERY OF OZIAS MIDWINTER.

ON a warm May night, in the year eighteen hundred and fifty-one,
the Reverend Decimus Brock--at that time a visitor to the Isle of
Man--retired to his bedroom at Castletown, with a serious personal
responsibility in close pursuit of him, and with no distinct idea of the
means by which he might relieve himself from the pressure of his present
circumstances.

The clergyman had reached that mature period of human life at which a
sensible man learns to decline (as often as his temper will let him) all
useless conflict with the tyranny of his own troubles. Abandoning any
further effort to reach a decision in the emergency that now beset him,
Mr. Brock sat down placidly in his shirt sleeves on the side of his bed,
and applied his mind to consider next whether the emergency itself was
as serious as he had hitherto been inclined to think it. Following this
new way out of his perplexities, Mr. Brock found himself unexpectedly
traveling to the end in view by the least inspiriting of all human
journeys--a journey through the past years of his own life.

One by one the events of those years--all connected with the same little
group of characters, and all more or less answerable for the anxiety
which was now intruding itself between the clergyman and his night’s
rest--rose, in progressive series, on Mr. Brock’s memory. The first of
the series took him back, through a period of fourteen years, to his own
rectory on the Somersetshire shores of the Bristol Channel, and closeted
him at a private interview with a lady who had paid him a visit in the
character of a total stranger to the parson and the place.


The lady’s complexion was fair, the lady’s figure was well preserved;
she was still a young woman, and she looked even younger than her age.
There was a shade of melancholy in her expression, and an undertone of
suffering in her voice--enough, in each case, to indicate that she had
known trouble, but not enough to obtrude that trouble on the notice of
others. She brought with her a fine, fair-haired boy of eight years old,
whom she presented as her son, and who was sent out of the way, at the
beginning of the interview, to amuse himself in the rectory garden. Her
card had preceded her entrance into the study, and had announced her
under the name of “Mrs. Armadale.” Mr. Brock began to feel interested in
her before she had opened her lips; and when the son had been dismissed,
he awaited with some anxiety to hear what the mother had to say to him.

Mrs. Armadale began by informing the rector that she was a widow. Her
husband had perished by shipwreck a short time after their union, on the
voyage from Madeira to Lisbon. She had been brought to England,
after her affliction, under her father’s protection; and her child--a
posthumous son--had been born on the family estate in Norfolk. Her
father’s death, shortly afterward, had deprived her of her only
surviving parent, and had exposed her to neglect and misconstruction on
the part of her remaining relatives (two brothers), which had estranged
her from them, she feared, for the rest of her days. For some time past
she had lived in the neighboring county of Devonshire, devoting herself
to the education of her boy, who had now reached an age at which he
required other than his mother’s teaching. Leaving out of the question
her own unwillingness to part with him, in her solitary position, she
was especially anxious that he should not be thrown among strangers by
being sent to school. Her darling project was to bring him up privately
at home, and to keep him, as he advanced in years, from all contact with
the temptations and the dangers of the world.

With these objects in view, her longer sojourn in her own locality
(where the services of the resident clergyman, in the capacity of tutor,
were not obtainable) must come to an end. She had made inquiries, had
heard of a house that would suit her in Mr. Brock’s neighborhood, and
had also been told that Mr. Brock himself had formerly been in the habit
of taking pupils. Possessed of this information, she had ventured to
present herself, with references that vouched for her respectability,
but without a formal introduction; and she had now to ask whether (in
the event of her residing in the neighborhood) any terms that could be
offered would induce Mr. Brock to open his doors once more to a pupil,
and to allow that pupil to be her son.

If Mrs. Armadale had been a woman of no personal attractions, or if
Mr. Brock had been provided with an intrenchment to fight behind in the
shape of a wife, it is probable that the widow’s journey might have been
taken in vain. As things really were, the rector examined the references
which were offered to him, and asked time for consideration. When the
time had expired, he did what Mrs. Armadale wished him to do--he
offered his back to the burden, and let the mother load him with the
responsibility of the son.

This was the first event of the series; the date of it being the year
eighteen hundred and thirty-seven. Mr. Brock’s memory, traveling forward
toward the present from that point, picked up the second event in its
turn, and stopped next at the year eighteen hundred and forty-five.

-------------

The fishing-village on the Somersetshire coast was still the scene, and
the characters were once again--Mrs. Armadale and her son.

Through the eight years that had passed, Mr. Brock’s responsibility had
rested on him lightly enough. The boy had given his mother and his tutor
but little trouble. He was certainly slow over his books, but more from
a constitutional inability to fix his attention on his tasks than from
want of capacity to understand them. His temperament, it could not be
denied, was heedless to the last degree: he acted recklessly on his
first impulses, and rushed blindfold at all his conclusions. On the
other hand, it was to be said in his favor that his disposition was open
as the day; a more generous, affectionate, sweet-tempered lad it
would have been hard to find anywhere. A certain quaint originality of
character, and a natural healthiness in all his tastes, carried him
free of most of the dangers to which his mother’s system of education
inevitably exposed him. He had a thoroughly English love of the sea and
of all that belongs to it; and as he grew in years, there was no
luring him away from the water-side, and no keeping him out of the
boat-builder’s yard. In course of time his mother caught him actually
working there, to her infinite annoyance and surprise, as a volunteer.
He acknowledged that his whole future ambition was to have a yard of his
own, and that his one present object was to learn to build a boat for
himself. Wisely foreseeing that such a pursuit as this for his leisure
hours was exactly what was wanted to reconcile the lad to a position of
isolation from companions of his own rank and age, Mr. Brock prevailed
on Mrs. Armadale, with no small difficulty, to let her son have his
way. At the period of that second event in the clergyman’s life with
his pupil which is now to be related, young Armadale had practiced long
enough in the builder’s yard to have reached the summit of his wishes,
by laying with his own hands the keel of his own boat.

Late on a certain summer day, not long after Allan had completed his
sixteenth year, Mr. Brock left his pupil hard at work in the yard,
and went to spend the evening with Mrs. Armadale, taking the _Times_
newspaper with him in his hand.

The years that had passed since they had first met had long since
regulated the lives of the clergyman and his neighbor. The first
advances which Mr. Brock’s growing admiration for the widow had led him
to make in the early days of their intercourse had been met on her
side by an appeal to his forbearance which had closed his lips for the
future. She had satisfied him, at once and forever, that the one place
in her heart which he could hope to occupy was the place of a friend.
He loved her well enough to take what she would give him: friends they
became, and friends they remained from that time forth. No jealous
dread of another man’s succeeding where he had failed imbittered the
clergyman’s placid relations with the woman whom he loved. Of the few
resident gentlemen in the neighborhood, none were ever admitted by Mrs.
Armadale to more than the merest acquaintance with her. Contentedly
self-buried in her country retreat, she was proof against every social
attraction that would have tempted other women in her position and
at her age. Mr. Brock and his newspaper, appearing with monotonous
regularity at her tea-table three times a week, told her all she knew
or cared to know of the great outer world which circled round the narrow
and changeless limits of her daily life.

On the evening in question Mr. Brock took the arm-chair in which he
always sat, accepted the one cup of tea which he always drank, and
opened the newspaper which he always read aloud to Mrs. Armadale, who
invariably listened to him reclining on the same sofa, with the same
sort of needle-work everlastingly in her hand.

“Bless my soul!” cried the rector, with his voice in a new octave, and
his eyes fixed in astonishment on the first page of the newspaper.

No such introduction to the evening readings as this had ever happened
before in all Mrs. Armadale’s experience as a listener. She looked
up from the sofa in a flutter of curiosity, and besought her reverend
friend to favor her with an explanation.

“I can hardly believe my own eyes,” said Mr. Brock. “Here is an
advertisement, Mrs. Armadale, addressed to your son.”

Without further preface, he read the advertisement as follows:


IF this should meet the eye of ALLAN ARMADALE, he is desired to
communicate, either personally or by letter, with Messrs. Hammick and
Ridge (Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London), on business of importance which
seriously concerns him. Any one capable of informing Messrs. E. and R.
where the person herein advertised can be found would confer a favor
by doing the same. To prevent mistakes, it is further notified that
the missing Allan Armadale is a youth aged fifteen years, and that this
advertisement is inserted at the instance of his family and friends.


“Another family, and other friends,” said Mrs. Armadale. “The person
whose name appears in that advertisement is not my son.”

The tone in which she spoke surprised Mr. Brock. The change in her face,
when he looked up, shocked him. Her delicate complexion had faded away
to a dull white; her eyes were averted from her visitor with a strange
mixture of confusion and alarm; she looked an older woman than she was,
by ten good years at least.

“The name is so very uncommon,” said Mr. Brock, imagining he had
offended her, and trying to excuse himself. “It really seemed impossible
there could be two persons--”

“There _are_ two,” interposed Mrs. Armadale. “Allan, as you know, is
sixteen years old. If you look back at the advertisement, you will find
the missing person described as being only fifteen. Although he bears
the same surname and the same Christian name, he is, I thank God, in no
way whatever related to my son. As long as I live, it will be the object
of my hopes and prayers that Allan may never see him, may never even
hear of him. My kind friend, I see I surprise you: will you bear with
me if I leave these strange circumstances unexplained? There is past
misfortune and misery in my early life too painful for me to speak of,
even to _you_. Will you help me to bear the remembrance of it, by never
referring to this again? Will you do even more--will you promise not to
speak of it to Allan, and not to let that newspaper fall in his way?”

Mr. Brock gave the pledge required of him, and considerately left her to
herself.

The rector had been too long and too truly attached to Mrs. Armadale to
be capable of regarding her with any unworthy distrust. But it would be
idle to deny that he felt disappointed by her want of confidence in him,
and that he looked inquisitively at the advertisement more than once on
his way back to his own house.

It was clear enough, now, that Mrs. Armadale’s motives for burying her
son as well as herself in the seclusion of a remote country village was
not so much to keep him under her own eye as to keep him from discovery
by his namesake. Why did she dread the idea of their ever meeting? Was
it a dread for herself, or a dread for her son? Mr. Brock’s loyal belief
in his friend rejected any solution of the difficulty which pointed at
some past misconduct of Mrs. Armadale’s. That night he destroyed the
advertisement with his own hand; that night he resolved that the subject
should never be suffered to enter his mind again. There was another
Allan Armadale about the world, a stranger to his pupil’s blood, and
a vagabond advertised in the public newspapers. So much accident had
revealed to him. More, for Mrs. Armadale’s sake, he had no wish to
discover--and more he would never seek to know.

This was the second in the series of events which dated from the
rector’s connection with Mrs. Armadale and her son. Mr. Brock’s memory,
traveling on nearer and nearer to present circumstances, reached the
third stage of its journey through the by-gone time, and stopped at the
year eighteen hundred and fifty, next.

The five years that had passed had made little if any change in Allan’s
character. He had simply developed (to use his tutor’s own expression)
from a boy of sixteen to a boy of twenty-one. He was just as easy and
open in his disposition as ever; just as quaintly and inveterately
good-humored; just as heedless in following his own impulses, lead him
where they might. His bias toward the sea had strengthened with his
advance to the years of manhood. From building a boat, he had now got
on--with two journeymen at work under him--to building a decked vessel
of five-and-thirty tons. Mr. Brock had conscientiously tried to divert
him to higher aspirations; had taken him to Oxford, to see what college
life was like; had taken him to London, to expand his mind by the
spectacle of the great metropolis. The change had diverted Allan, but
had not altered him in the least. He was as impenetrably superior to
all worldly ambition as Diogenes himself. “Which is best,” asked this
unconscious philosopher, “to find out the way to be happy for yourself,
or to let other people try if they can find it out for you?” From that
moment Mr. Brock permitted his pupil’s character to grow at its own rate
of development, and Allan went on uninterruptedly with the work of his
yacht.

Time, which had wrought so little change in the son, had not passed
harmless over the mother.

Mrs. Armadale’s health was breaking fast. As her strength failed, her
temper altered for the worse: she grew more and more fretful, more and
more subject to morbid fears and fancies, more and more reluctant to
leave her own room. Since the appearance of the advertisement five years
since, nothing had happened to force her memory back to the painful
associations connected with her early life. No word more on the
forbidden topic had passed between the rector and herself; no suspicion
had ever been raised in Allan’s mind of the existence of his namesake;
and yet, without the shadow of a reason for any special anxiety, Mrs.
Armadale had become, of late years, obstinately and fretfully uneasy
on the subject of her son. More than once Mr. Brock dreaded a serious
disagreement between them; but Allan’s natural sweetness of temper,
fortified by his love for his mother, carried him triumphantly through
all trials. Not a hard word or a harsh look ever escaped him in her
presence; he was unchangeably loving and forbearing with her to the very
last.

Such were the positions of the son, the mother, and the friend, when
the next notable event happened in the lives of the three. On a dreary
afternoon, early in the month of November, Mr. Brock was disturbed
over the composition of his sermon by a visit from the landlord of the
village inn.

After making his introductory apologies, the landlord stated the urgent
business on which he had come to the rectory clearly enough.

A few hours since a young man had been brought to the inn by some farm
laborers in the neighborhood, who had found him wandering about one of
their master’s fields in a disordered state of mind, which looked to
their eyes like downright madness. The landlord had given the poor
creature shelter while he sent for medical help; and the doctor, on
seeing him, had pronounced that he was suffering from fever on the
brain, and that his removal to the nearest town at which a hospital or
a work-house infirmary could be found to receive him would in all
probability be fatal to his chances of recovery. After hearing this
expression of opinion, and after observing for himself that the
stranger’s only luggage consisted of a small carpet-bag which had been
found in the field near him, the landlord had set off on the spot to
consult the rector, and to ask, in this serious emergency, what course
he was to take next.

Mr. Brock was the magistrate as well as the clergyman of the district,
and the course to be taken, in the first instance, was to his mind clear
enough. He put on his hat, and accompanied the landlord back to the inn.

At the inn door they were joined by Allan, who had heard the news
through another channel, and who was waiting Mr. Brock’s arrival, to
follow in the magistrate’s train, and to see what the stranger was like.
The village surgeon joined them at the same moment, and the four went
into the inn together.

They found the landlord’s son on one side, and the hostler on the other,
holding the man down in his chair. Young, slim, and undersized, he was
strong enough at that moment to make it a matter of difficulty for the
two to master him. His tawny complexion, his large, bright brown eyes,
and his black beard gave him something of a foreign look. His dress was
a little worn, but his linen was clean. His dusky hands were wiry and
nervous, and were lividly discolored in more places than one by the
scars of old wounds. The toes of one of his feet, off which he had
kicked the shoe, grasped at the chair rail through his stocking, with
the sensitive muscular action which is only seen in those who have been
accustomed to go barefoot. In the frenzy that now possessed him, it was
impossible to notice, to any useful purpose, more than this. After
a whispered consultation with Mr. Brock, the surgeon personally
superintended the patient’s removal to a quiet bedroom at the back of
the house. Shortly afterward his clothes and his carpet-bag were sent
downstairs, and were searched, on the chance of finding a clew by which
to communicate with his friends, in the magistrate’s presence.

The carpet-bag contained nothing but a change of clothing, and two
books--the Plays of Sophocles, in the original Greek, and the “Faust” of
Goethe, in the original German. Both volumes were much worn by reading,
and on the fly-leaf of each were inscribed the initials O. M. So much
the bag revealed, and no more.

The clothes which the man wore when he was discovered in the field were
tried next. A purse (containing a sovereign and a few shillings), a
pipe, a tobacco pouch, a handkerchief, and a little drinking-cup of horn
were produced in succession. The next object, and the last, was found
crumpled up carelessly in the breast-pocket of the coat. It was a
written testimonial to character, dated and signed, but without any
address.

So far as this document could tell it, the stranger’s story was a sad
one indeed. He had apparently been employed for a short time as usher at
a school, and had been turned adrift in the world, at the outset of his
illness, from the fear that the fever might be infectious, and that
the prosperity of the establishment might suffer accordingly. Not the
slightest imputation of any misbehavior in his employment rested on him.
On the contrary, the schoolmaster had great pleasure in testifying to
his capacity and his character, and in expressing a fervent hope that
he might (under Providence) succeed in recovering his health in somebody
else’s house. The written testimonial which afforded this glimpse at the
man’s story served one purpose more: it connected him with the initials
on the books, and identified him to the magistrate and the landlord
under the strangely uncouth name of Ozias Midwinter.

Mr. Brock laid aside the testimonial, suspecting that the schoolmaster
had purposely abstained from writing his address on it, with the view
of escaping all responsibility in the event of his usher’s death. In any
case, it was manifestly useless, under existing circumstances, to think
of tracing the poor wretch’s friends, if friends he had. To the inn he
had been brought, and, as a matter of common humanity, at the inn he
must remain for the present. The difficulty about expenses, if it came
to the worst, might possibly be met by charitable contributions from
the neighbors, or by a collection after a sermon at church. Assuring the
landlord that he would consider this part of the question and would let
him know the result, Mr. Brock quitted the inn, without noticing for the
moment that he had left Allan there behind him.

Before he had got fifty yards from the house his pupil overtook him.
Allan had been most uncharacteristically silent and serious all through
the search at the inn; but he had now recovered his usual high spirits.
A stranger would have set him down as wanting in common feeling.

“This is a sad business,” said the rector. “I really don’t know what to
do for the best about that unfortunate man.”

“You may make your mind quite easy, sir,” said young Armadale, in his
off-hand way. “I settled it all with the landlord a minute ago.”

“You!” exclaimed Mr. Brock, in the utmost astonishment.

“I have merely given a few simple directions,” pursued Allan. “Our
friend the usher is to have everything he requires, and is to be treated
like a prince; and when the doctor and the landlord want their money
they are to come to me.”

“My dear Allan,” Mr. Brock gently remonstrated, “when will you learn
to think before you act on those generous impulses of yours? You
are spending more money already on your yacht-building than you can
afford--”

“Only think! we laid the first planks of the deck the day before
yesterday,” said Allan, flying off to the new subject in his usual
bird-witted way. “There’s just enough of it done to walk on, if you
don’t feel giddy. I’ll help you up the ladder, Mr. Brock, if you’ll only
come and try.”

“Listen to me,” persisted the rector. “I’m not talking about the
yacht now; that is to say, I am only referring to the yacht as an
illustration--”

“And a very pretty illustration, too,” remarked the incorrigible Allan.
“Find me a smarter little vessel of her size in all England, and
I’ll give up yacht-building to-morrow. Whereabouts were we in our
conversation, sir? I’m rather afraid we have lost ourselves somehow.”

“I am rather afraid one of us is in the habit of losing himself every
time he opens his lips,” retorted Mr. Brock. “Come, come, Allan, this is
serious. You have been rendering yourself liable for expenses which you
may not be able to pay. Mind, I am far from blaming you for your kind
feeling toward this poor friendless man--”

“Don’t be low-spirited about him, sir. He’ll get over it--he’ll be all
right again in a week or so. A capital fellow, I have not the least
doubt!” continued Allan, whose habit it was to believe in everybody and
to despair of nothing. “Suppose you ask him to dinner when he gets well,
Mr. Brock? I should like to find out (when we are all three snug
and friendly together over our wine, you know) how he came by that
extraordinary name of his. Ozias Midwinter! Upon my life, his father
ought to be ashamed of himself.”

“Will you answer me one question before I go in?” said the rector,
stopping in despair at his own gate. “This man’s bill for lodging and
medical attendance may mount to twenty or thirty pounds before he gets
well again, if he ever does get well. How are you to pay for it?”

“What’s that the Chancellor of the Exchequer says when he finds himself
in a mess with his accounts, and doesn’t see his way out again?” asked
Allan. “He always tells his honorable friend he is quite willing to
leave a something or other--”

“A margin?” suggested Mr. Brock.

“That’s it,” said Allan. “I’m like the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I’m
quite willing to leave a margin. The yacht (bless her heart!) doesn’t
eat up everything. If I’m short by a pound or two, don’t be afraid,
sir. There’s no pride about me; I’ll go round with the hat, and get
the balance in the neighborhood. Deuce take the pounds, shillings,
and pence! I wish they could all three get rid of themselves, like the
Bedouin brothers at the show. Don’t you remember the Bedouin brothers,
Mr. Brock? ‘Ali will take a lighted torch, and jump down the throat
of his brother Muli; Muli will take a lighted torch, and jump down the
throat of his brother Hassan; and Hassan, taking a third lighted torch,
will conclude the performances by jumping down his own throat, and
leaving the spectators in total darkness.’ Wonderfully good, that--what
I call real wit, with a fine strong flavor about it. Wait a minute!
Where are we? We have lost ourselves again. Oh, I remember--money. What
I can’t beat into my thick head,” concluded Allan, quite unconscious
that he was preaching socialist doctrines to a clergyman; “is the
meaning of the fuss that’s made about giving money away. Why can’t the
people who have got money to spare give it to the people who haven’t got
money to spare, and make things pleasant and comfortable all the world
over in that way? You’re always telling me to cultivate ideas, Mr. Brock
There’s an idea, and, upon my life, I don’t think it’s a bad one.”

Mr. Brock gave his pupil a good-humored poke with the end of his stick.
“Go back to your yacht,” he said. “All the little discretion you have
got in that flighty head of yours is left on board in your tool-chest.
How that lad will end,” pursued the rector, when he was left by himself,
“is more than any human being can say. I almost wish I had never taken
the responsibility of him on my shoulders.”

Three weeks passed before the stranger with the uncouth name was
pronounced to be at last on the way to recovery.

During this period Allan had made regular inquiries at the inn, and, as
soon as the sick man was allowed to see visitors, Allan was the first
who appeared at his bedside. So far Mr. Brock’s pupil had shown no more
than a natural interest in one of the few romantic circumstances
which had varied the monotony of the village life: he had committed
no imprudence, and he had exposed himself to no blame. But as the
days passed, young Armadale’s visits to the inn began to lengthen
considerably, and the surgeon (a cautious elderly man) gave the rector a
private hint to bestir himself. Mr. Brock acted on the hint immediately,
and discovered that Allan had followed his usual impulses in his usual
headlong way. He had taken a violent fancy to the castaway usher and had
invited Ozias Midwinter to reside permanently in the neighborhood in the
new and interesting character of his bosom friend.

Before Mr. Brock could make up his mind how to act in this emergency, he
received a note from Allan’s mother, begging him to use his privilege as
an old friend, and to pay her a visit in her room.

He found Mrs. Armadale suffering under violent nervous agitation, caused
entirely by a recent interview with her son. Allan had been sitting with
her all the morning, and had talked of nothing but his new friend. The
man with the horrible name (as poor Mrs. Armadale described him) had
questioned Allan, in a singularly inquisitive manner, on the subject of
himself and his family, but had kept his own personal history entirely
in the dark. At some former period of his life he had been accustomed to
the sea and to sailing. Allan had, unfortunately, found this out, and
a bond of union between them was formed on the spot. With a merciless
distrust of the stranger--simply _because_ he was a stranger--which
appeared rather unreasonable to Mr. Brock, Mrs. Armadale besought the
rector to go to the inn without a moment’s loss of time, and never to
rest until he had made the man give a proper account of himself. “Find
out everything about his father and mother!” she said, in her vehement
female way. “Make sure before you leave him that he is not a vagabond
roaming the country under an assumed name.”

“My dear lady,” remonstrated the rector, obediently taking his hat,
“whatever else we may doubt, I really think we may feel sure about the
man’s name! It is so remarkably ugly that it must be genuine. No sane
human being would _assume_ such a name as Ozias Midwinter.”

“You may be quite right, and I may be quite wrong; but pray go and see
him,” persisted Mrs. Armadale. “Go, and don’t spare him, Mr. Brock.
How do we know that this illness of his may not have been put on for a
purpose?”

It was useless to reason with her. The whole College of Physicians might
have certified to the man’s illness, and, in her present frame of mind,
Mrs. Armadale would have disbelieved the College, one and all, from
the president downward. Mr. Brock took the wise way out of the
difficulty--he said no more, and he set off for the inn immediately.

Ozias Midwinter, recovering from brain-fever, was a startling object to
contemplate on a first view of him. His shaven head, tied up in an old
yellow silk handkerchief; his tawny, haggard cheeks; his bright brown
eyes, preternaturally large and wild; his rough black beard; his long,
supple, sinewy fingers, wasted by suffering till they looked like
claws--all tended to discompose the rector at the outset of the
interview. When the first feeling of surprise had worn off, the
impression that followed it was not an agreeable one. Mr. Brock could
not conceal from himself that the stranger’s manner was against him.
The general opinion has settled that, if a man is honest, he is bound to
assert it by looking straight at his fellow-creatures when he speaks to
them. If this man was honest, his eyes showed a singular perversity in
looking away and denying it. Possibly they were affected in some degree
by a nervous restlessness in his organization, which appeared to pervade
every fiber in his lean, lithe body. The rector’s healthy Anglo-Saxon
flesh crept responsively at every casual movement of the usher’s supple
brown fingers, and every passing distortion of the usher’s haggard
yellow face. “God forgive me!” thought Mr. Brock, with his mind running
on Allan and Allan’s mother, “I wish I could see my way to turning Ozias
Midwinter adrift in the world again!”

The conversation which ensued between the two was a very guarded one.
Mr. Brock felt his way gently, and found himself, try where he might,
always kept politely, more or less, in the dark.

From first to last, the man’s real character shrank back with a savage
shyness from the rector’s touch. He started by an assertion which it
was impossible to look at him and believe--he declared that he was only
twenty years of age. All he could be persuaded to say on the subject of
the school was that the bare recollection of it was horrible to him.
He had only filled the usher’s situation for ten days when the first
appearance of his illness caused his dismissal. How he had reached
the field in which he had been found was more than he could say. He
remembered traveling a long distance by railway, with a purpose (if he
had a purpose) which it was now impossible to recall, and then wandering
coastward, on foot, all through the day, or all through the night--he
was not sure which. The sea kept running in his mind when his mind began
to give way. He had been employed on the sea as a lad. He had left it,
and had filled a situation at a bookseller’s in a country town. He had
left the bookseller’s, and had tried the school. Now the school had
turned him out, he must try something else. It mattered little what he
tried--failure (for which nobody was ever to blame but himself) was
sure to be the end of it, sooner or later. Friends to assist him, he
had none to apply to; and as for relations, he wished to be excused from
speaking of them. For all he knew they might be dead, and for all _they_
knew _he_ might be dead. That was a melancholy acknowledgment to make at
his time of life, there was no denying it. It might tell against him in
the opinions of others; and it did tell against him, no doubt, in the
opinion of the gentleman who was talking to him at that moment.

These strange answers were given in a tone and manner far removed from
bitterness on the one side, or from indifference on the other. Ozias
Midwinter at twenty spoke of his life as Ozias Midwinter at seventy
might have spoken with a long weariness of years on him which he had
learned to bear patiently.

Two circumstances pleaded strongly against the distrust with which, in
sheer perplexity of mind, Mr. Brock blindly regarded him. He had written
to a savings-bank in a distant part of England, had drawn his money, and
had paid the doctor and the landlord. A man of vulgar mind, after acting
in this manner, would have treated his obligations lightly when he
had settled his bills. Ozias Midwinter spoke of his obligations--and
especially of his obligation to Allan--with a fervor of thankfulness
which it was not surprising only, but absolutely painful to witness. He
showed a horrible sincerity of astonishment at having been treated
with common Christian kindness in a Christian land. He spoke of Allan’s
having become answerable for all the expenses of sheltering, nursing,
and curing him, with a savage rapture of gratitude and surprise which
burst out of him like a flash of lightning. “So help me God!” cried the
castaway usher, “I never met with the like of him: I never heard of the
like of him before!” In the next instant, the one glimpse of light which
the man had let in on his own passionate nature was quenched again
in darkness. His wandering eyes, returning to their old trick, looked
uneasily away from Mr. Brock, and his voice dropped back once more into
its unnatural steadiness and quietness of tone. “I beg your pardon,
sir,” he said. “I have been used to be hunted, and cheated, and starved.
Everything else comes strange to me.” Half attracted by the man, half
repelled by him, Mr. Brock, on rising to take leave, impulsively offered
his hand, and then, with a sudden misgiving, confusedly drew it back
again. “You meant that kindly, sir,” said Ozias Midwinter, with his own
hands crossed resolutely behind him. “I don’t complain of your thinking
better of it. A man who can’t give a proper account of himself is not a
man for a gentleman in your position to take by the hand.”

Mr. Brock left the inn thoroughly puzzled. Before returning to Mrs.
Armadale he sent for her son. The chances were that the guard had been
off the stranger’s tongue when he spoke to Allan, and with Allan’s
frankness there was no fear of his concealing anything that had passed
between them from the rector’s knowledge.

Here again Mr. Brock’s diplomacy achieved no useful results.

Once started on the subject of Ozias Midwinter, Allan rattled on about
his new friend in his usual easy, light-hearted way. But he had really
nothing of importance to tell, for nothing of importance had been
revealed to him. They had talked about boat-building and sailing by the
hour together, and Allan had got some valuable hints. They had discussed
(with diagrams to assist them, and with more valuable hints for Allan)
the serious impending question of the launch of the yacht. On other
occasions they had diverged to other subjects--to more of them than
Allan could remember, on the spur of the moment. Had Midwinter said
nothing about his relations in the flow of all this friendly talk?
Nothing, except that they had not behaved well to him--hang his
relations! Was he at all sensitive on the subject of his own odd name?
Not the least in the world; he had set the example, like a sensible
fellow, of laughing at it himself.

Mr. Brock still persisted. He inquired next what Allan had seen in the
stranger to take such a fancy to? Allan had seen in him--what he didn’t
see in people in general. He wasn’t like all the other fellows in the
neighborhood. All the other fellows were cut out on the same pattern.
Every man of them was equally healthy, muscular, loud, hard-hearted,
clean-skinned, and rough; every man of them drank the same draughts of
beer, smoked the same short pipes all day long, rode the best horse,
shot over the best dog, and put the best bottle of wine in England on
his table at night; every man of them sponged himself every morning
in the same sort of tub of cold water and bragged about it in frosty
weather in the same sort of way; every man of them thought getting
into debt a capital joke and betting on horse-races one of the most
meritorious actions that a human being can perform. They were, no doubt,
excellent fellows in their way; but the worst of them was, they were
all exactly alike. It was a perfect godsend to meet with a man like
Midwinter--a man who was not cut out on the regular local pattern, and
whose way in the world had the one great merit (in those parts) of being
a way of his own.

Leaving all remonstrances for a fitter opportunity, the rector went back
to Mrs. Armadale. He could not disguise from himself that Allan’s mother
was the person really answerable for Allan’s present indiscretion. If
the lad had seen a little less of the small gentry in the neighborhood,
and a little more of the great outside world at home and abroad, the
pleasure of cultivating Ozias Midwinter’s society might have had fewer
attractions for him.

Conscious of the unsatisfactory result of his visit to the inn, Mr.
Brock felt some anxiety about the reception of his report when he found
himself once more in Mrs. Armadale’s presence. His forebodings were soon
realized. Try as he might to make the best of it, Mrs. Armadale seized
on the one suspicious fact of the usher’s silence about himself as
justifying the strongest measures that could be taken to separate him
from her son. If the rector refused to interfere, she declared her
intention of writing to Ozias Midwinter with her own hand. Remonstrance
irritated her to such a pitch that she astounded Mr. Brock by reverting
to the forbidden subject of five years since, and referring him to the
conversation which had passed between them when the advertisement had
been discovered in the newspaper. She passionately declared that the
vagabond Armadale of that advertisement, and the vagabond Midwinter at
the village inn, might, for all she know to the contrary, be one and the
same. Foreboding a serious disagreement between the mother and son if
the mother interfered, Mr. Brock undertook to see Midwinter again, and
to tell him plainly that he must give a proper account of himself, or
that his intimacy with Allan must cease. The two concessions which he
exacted from Mrs. Armadale in return were that she should wait patiently
until the doctor reported the man fit to travel, and that she should be
careful in the interval not to mention the matter in any way to her son.

In a week’s time Midwinter was able to drive out (with Allan for his
coachman) in the pony chaise belonging to the inn, and in ten days the
doctor privately reported him as fit to travel. Toward the close of
that tenth day, Mr. Brock met Allan and his new friend enjoying the last
gleams of wintry sunshine in one of the inland lanes. He waited until
the two had separated, and then followed the usher on his way back to
the inn.

The rector’s resolution to speak pitilessly to the purpose was in some
danger of failing him as he drew nearer and nearer to the friendless
man, and saw how feebly he still walked, how loosely his worn coat
hung about him, and how heavily he leaned on his cheap, clumsy stick.
Humanely reluctant to say the decisive words too precipitately, Mr.
Brock tried him first with a little compliment on the range of his
reading, as shown by the volume of Sophocles and the volume of Goethe
which had been found in his bag, and asked how long he had been
acquainted with German and Greek. The quick ear of Midwinter detected
something wrong in the tone of Mr. Brock’s voice. He turned in the
darkening twilight, and looked suddenly and suspiciously in the rector’s
face.

“You have something to say to me,” he answered; “and it is not what you
are saying now.”

There was no help for it but to accept the challenge. Very delicately,
with many preparatory words, to which the other listened in unbroken
silence, Mr. Brock came little by little nearer and nearer to the point.
Long before he had really reached it--long before a man of no more than
ordinary sensibility would have felt what was coming--Ozias Midwinter
stood still in the lane, and told the rector that he need say no more.

“I understand you, sir,” said the usher. “Mr. Armadale has an
ascertained position in the world; Mr. Armadale has nothing to conceal,
and nothing to be ashamed of. I agree with you that I am not a fit
companion for him. The best return I can make for his kindness is
to presume on it no longer. You may depend on my leaving this place
to-morrow morning.”

He spoke no word more; he would hear no word more. With a self-control
which, at his years and with his temperament, was nothing less than
marvelous, he civilly took off his hat, bowed, and returned to the inn
by himself.

Mr. Brock slept badly that night. The issue of the interview in the lane
had made the problem of Ozias Midwinter a harder problem to solve than
ever.

Early the next morning a letter was brought to the rector from the inn,
and the messenger announced that the strange gentleman had taken his
departure. The letter inclosed an open note addressed to Allan, and
requested Allan’s tutor (after first reading it himself) to forward it
or not at his own sole discretion. The note was a startlingly short one;
it began and ended in a dozen words: “Don’t blame Mr. Brock; Mr. Brock
is right. Thank you, and good-by.--O. M.”

The rector forwarded the note to its proper destination, as a matter of
course, and sent a few lines to Mrs. Armadale at the same time to quiet
her anxiety by the news of the usher’s departure. This done, he waited
the visit from his pupil, which would probably follow the delivery of
the note, in no very tranquil frame of mind. There might or might not be
some deep motive at the bottom of Midwinter’s conduct; but thus far it
was impossible to deny that he had behaved in such a manner as to rebuke
the rector’s distrust, and to justify Allan’s good opinion of him.

The morning wore on, and young Armadale never appeared. After looking
for him vainly in the yard where the yacht was building, Mr. Brock went
to Mrs. Armadale’s house, and there heard news from the servant which
turned his steps in the direction of the inn. The landlord at once
acknowledged the truth: young Mr. Armadale had come there with an open
letter in his hand, and had insisted on being informed of the road which
his friend had taken. For the first time in the landlord’s experience of
him, the young gentleman was out of temper; and the girl who waited on
the customers had stupidly mentioned a circumstance which had added
fuel to the fire. She had acknowledged having heard Mr. Midwinter lock
himself into his room overnight, and burst into a violent fit of crying.
That trifling particular had set Mr. Armadale’s face all of a flame; he
had shouted and sworn; he had rushed into the stables; and forced the
hostler to saddle him a horse, and had set off full gallop on the road
that Ozias Midwinter had taken before him.

After cautioning the landlord to keep Allan’s conduct a secret if any
of Mrs. Armadale’s servants came that morning to the inn, Mr. Brock went
home again, and waited anxiously to see what the day would bring forth.

To his infinite relief his pupil appeared at the rectory late in the
afternoon.

Allan looked and spoke with a dogged determination which was quite new
in his old friend’s experience of him. Without waiting to be questioned,
he told his story in his usual straightforward way. He had overtaken
Midwinter on the road; and--after trying vainly first to induce him to
return, then to find out where he was going to--had threatened to
keep company with him for the rest of the day, and had so extorted the
confession that he was going to try his luck in London. Having gained
this point, Allan had asked next for his friend’s address in London, had
been entreated by the other not to press his request, had pressed it,
nevertheless, with all his might, and had got the address at last by
making an appeal to Midwinter’s gratitude, for which (feeling heartily
ashamed of himself) he had afterward asked Midwinter’s pardon. “I like
the poor fellow, and I won’t give him up,” concluded Allan, bringing his
clinched fist down with a thump on the rectory table. “Don’t be afraid
of my vexing my mother; I’ll leave you to speak to her, Mr. Brock, at
your own time and in your own way; and I’ll just say this much more
by way of bringing the thing to an end. Here is the address safe in my
pocket-book, and here am I, standing firm for once on a resolution of my
own. I’ll give you and my mother time to reconsider this; and, when the
time is up, if my friend Midwinter doesn’t come to _me_, I’ll go to my
friend Midwinter.”

So the matter rested for the present; and such was the result of turning
the castaway usher adrift in the world again.

-------------

A month passed, and brought in the new year--‘51. Overleaping that short
lapse of time, Mr. Brock paused, with a heavy heart, at the next
event; to his mind the one mournful, the one memorable event of the
series--Mrs. Armadale’s death.

The first warning of the affliction that was near at hand had followed
close on the usher’s departure in December, and had arisen out of a
circumstance which dwelt painfully on the rector’s memory from that time
forth.

But three days after Midwinter had left for London, Mr. Brock was
accosted in the village by a neatly dressed woman, wearing a gown and
bonnet of black silk and a red Paisley shawl, who was a total stranger
to him, and who inquired the way to Mrs. Armadale’s house. She put the
question without raising the thick black veil that hung over her face.
Mr. Brock, in giving her the necessary directions, observed that she
was a remarkably elegant and graceful woman, and looked after her as she
bowed and left him, wondering who Mrs. Armadale’s visitor could possibly
be.

A quarter of an hour later the lady, still veiled as before, passed Mr.
Brock again close to the inn. She entered the house, and spoke to the
landlady. Seeing the landlord shortly afterward hurrying round to the
stables, Mr. Brock asked him if the lady was going away. Yes; she had
come from the railway in the omnibus, but she was going back again more
creditably in a carriage of her own hiring, supplied by the inn.

The rector proceeded on his walk, rather surprised to find his thoughts
running inquisitively on a woman who was a stranger to him. When he
got home again, he found the village surgeon waiting his return with an
urgent message from Allan’s mother. About an hour since, the surgeon
had been sent for in great haste to see Mrs. Armadale. He had found her
suffering from an alarming nervous attack, brought on (as the servants
suspected) by an unexpected, and, possibly, an unwelcome visitor, who
had called that morning. The surgeon had done all that was needful,
and had no apprehension of any dangerous results. Finding his patient
eagerly desirous, on recovering herself, to see Mr. Brock immediately,
he had thought it important to humor her, and had readily undertaken to
call at the rectory with a message to that effect.

Looking at Mrs. Armadale with a far deeper interest in her than the
surgeon’s interest, Mr. Brock saw enough in her face, when it turned
toward him on his entering the room, to justify instant and serious
alarm. She allowed him no opportunity of soothing her; she heeded none
of his inquiries. Answers to certain questions of her own were what
she wanted, and what she was determined to have: Had Mr. Brock seen the
woman who had presumed to visit her that morning? Yes. Had Allan seen
her? No; Allan had been at work since breakfast, and was at work still,
in his yard by the water-side.

This latter reply appeared to quiet Mrs. Armadale for the moment;
she put her next question--the most extraordinary question of the
three--more composedly: Did the rector think Allan would object to
leaving his vessel for the present, and to accompanying his mother on
a journey to look out for a new house in some other part of England? In
the greatest amazement Mr. Brock asked what reason there could possibly
be for leaving her present residence? Mrs. Armadale’s reason, when she
gave it, only added to his surprise. The woman’s first visit might be
followed by a second; and rather than see her again, rather than run
the risk of Allan’s seeing her and speaking to her, Mrs. Armadale would
leave England if necessary, and end her days in a foreign land. Taking
counsel of his experience as a magistrate, Mr. Brock inquired if the
woman had come to ask for money. Yes; respectably as she was dressed,
she had described herself as being “in distress”; had asked for money,
and had got it. But the money was of no importance; the one thing
needful was to get away before the woman came again. More and more
surprised, Mr. Brock ventured on another question: Was it long since
Mrs. Armadale and her visitor had last met? Yes; longer than all Allan’s
lifetime--as long ago as the year before Allan was born.

At that reply, the rector shifted his ground, and took counsel next of
his experience as a friend.

“Is this person,” he asked, “connected in any way with the painful
remembrances of your early life?”

“Yes; with the painful remembrance of the time when I was married,” said
Mrs. Armadale. “She was associated, as a mere child, with a circumstance
which I must think of with shame and sorrow to my dying day.”

Mr. Brock noticed the altered tone in which his old friend spoke, and
the unwillingness with which she gave her answer.

“Can you tell me more about her without referring to yourself?” he went
on. “I am sure I can protect you, if you will only help me a little. Her
name, for instance--you can tell me her name?”

Mrs. Armadale shook her head, “The name I knew her by,” she said, “would
be of no use to you. She has been married since then; she told me so
herself.”

“And without telling you her married name?”

“She refused to tell it.”

“Do you know anything of her friends?”

“Only of her friends when she was a child. They called themselves her
uncle and aunt. They were low people, and they deserted her at the
school on my father’s estate. We never heard any more of them.”

“Did she remain under your father’s care?”

“She remained under my care; that is to say, she traveled with us. We
were leaving England, just as that time, for Madeira. I had my father’s
leave to take her with me, and to train the wretch to be my maid--”

At those words Mrs. Armadale stopped confusedly. Mr. Brock tried gently
to lead her on. It was useless; she started up in violent agitation, and
walked excitedly backward and forward in the room.

“Don’t ask me any more!” she cried out, in loud, angry tones. “I parted
with her when she was a girl of twelve years old. I never saw her again,
I never heard of her again, from that time to this. I don’t know how
she has discovered me, after all the years that have passed; I only know
that she _has_ discovered me. She will find her way to Allan next; she
will poison my son’s mind against me. Help me to get away from her! help
me to take Allan away before she comes back!”

The rector asked no more questions; it would have been cruel to press
her further. The first necessity was to compose her by promising
compliance with all that she desired. The second was to induce her to
see another medical man. Mr. Brock contrived to reach his end harmlessly
in this latter case by reminding her that she wanted strength to travel,
and that her own medical attendant might restore her all the more
speedily to herself if he were assisted by the best professional advice.
Having overcome her habitual reluctance to seeing strangers by this
means, the rector at once went to Allan; and, delicately concealing what
Mrs. Armadale had said at the interview, broke the news to him that his
mother was seriously ill. Allan would hear of no messengers being sent
for assistance: he drove off on the spot to the railway, and telegraphed
himself to Bristol for medical help.

On the next morning the help came, and Mr. Brock’s worst fears were
confirmed. The village surgeon had fatally misunderstood the case from
the first, and the time was past now at which his errors of treatment
might have been set right. The shock of the previous morning had
completed the mischief. Mrs. Armadale’s days were numbered.

The son who dearly loved her, the old friend to whom her life was
precious, hoped vainly to the last. In a month from the physician’s
visit all hope was over; and Allan shed the first bitter tears of his
life at his mother’s grave.

She had died more peacefully than Mr. Brock had dared to hope, leaving
all her little fortune to her son, and committing him solemnly to the
care of her one friend on earth. The rector had entreated her to let him
write and try to reconcile her brothers with her before it was too
late. She had only answered sadly that it was too late already. But one
reference escaped her in her last illness to those early sorrows which
had weighed heavily on all her after-life, and which had passed thrice
already, like shadows of evil, between the rector and herself. Even on
her deathbed she had shrunk from letting the light fall clearly on the
story of the past. She had looked at Allan kneeling by the bedside,
and had whispered to Mr. Brock: “_Never let his Namesake come near him!
Never let that Woman find him out_!” No word more fell from her that
touched on the misfortunes which had tried her in the past, or on the
dangers which she dreaded in the future. The secret which she had kept
from her son and from her friend was a secret which she carried with her
to the grave.

When the last offices of affection and respect had been performed, Mr.
Brock felt it his duty, as executor to the deceased lady, to write to
her brothers, and to give them information of her death. Believing that
he had to deal with two men who would probably misinterpret his motives
if he left Allan’s position unexplained, he was careful to remind them
that Mrs. Armadale’s son was well provided for, and that the object of
his letter was simply to communicate the news of their sister’s decease.
The two letters were dispatched toward the middle of January, and by
return of post the answers were received. The first which the rector
opened was written not by the elder brother, but by the elder brother’s
only son. The young man had succeeded to the estates in Norfolk on his
father’s death, some little time since. He wrote in a frank and friendly
spirit, assuring Mr. Brock that, however strongly his father might have
been prejudiced against Mrs. Armadale, the hostile feeling had never
extended to her son. For himself, he had only to add that he would be
sincerely happy to welcome his cousin to Thorpe Ambrose whenever his
cousin came that way.

The second letter was a far less agreeable reply to receive than the
first. The younger brother was still alive, and still resolute neither
to forget nor forgive. He informed Mr. Brock that his deceased sister’s
choice of a husband, and her conduct to her father at the time of her
marriage, had made any relations of affection or esteem impossible, on
his side, from that time forth. Holding the opinions he did, it would
be equally painful to his nephew and himself if any personal intercourse
took place between them. He had adverted, as generally as possible, to
the nature of the differences which had kept him apart from his
late sister, in order to satisfy Mr. Brock’s mind that a personal
acquaintance with young Mr. Armadale was, as a matter of delicacy, quite
out of the question and, having done this, he would beg leave to close
the correspondence.

Mr. Brock wisely destroyed the second letter on the spot, and, after
showing Allan his cousin’s invitation, suggested that he should go to
Thorpe Ambrose as soon as he felt fit to present himself to strangers.

Allan listened to the advice patiently enough; but he declined to profit
by it. “I will shake hands with my cousin willingly if I ever meet him,”
 he said; “but I will visit no family, and be a guest in no house, in
which my mother has been badly treated.” Mr. Brock remonstrated gently,
and tried to put matters in their proper light. Even at that time--even
while he was still ignorant of events which were then impending--Allan’s
strangely isolated position in the world was a subject of serious
anxiety to his old friend and tutor. The proposed visit to Thorpe
Ambrose opened the very prospect of his making friends and connections
suited to him in rank and age which Mr. Brock most desired to see; but
Allan was not to be persuaded; he was obstinate and unreasonable; and
the rector had no alternative but to drop the subject.

One on another the weeks passed monotonously, and Allan showed but
little of the elasticity of his age and character in bearing the
affliction that had made him motherless. He finished and launched his
yacht; but his own journeymen remarked that the work seemed to have lost
its interest for him. It was not natural to the young man to brood
over his solitude and his grief as he was brooding now. As the spring
advanced, Mr. Brock began to feel uneasy about the future, if Allan was
not roused at once by change of scene. After much pondering, the
rector decided on trying a trip to Paris, and on extending the journey
southward if his companion showed an interest in Continental traveling.
Allan’s reception of the proposal made atonement for his obstinacy in
refusing to cultivate his cousin’s acquaintance; he was willing to go
with Mr. Brock wherever Mr. Brock pleased. The rector took him at his
word, and in the middle of March the two strangely assorted companions
left for London on their way to Paris.

Arrived in London, Mr. Brock found himself unexpectedly face to face
with a new anxiety. The unwelcome subject of Ozias Midwinter, which
had been buried in peace since the beginning of December, rose to the
surface again, and confronted the rector at the very outset of his
travels, more unmanageably than ever.

Mr. Brock’s position in dealing with this difficult matter had been
hard enough to maintain when he had first meddled with it. He now found
himself with no vantage-ground left to stand on. Events had so ordered
it that the difference of opinion between Allan and his mother on the
subject of the usher was entirely disassociated with the agitation
which had hastened Mrs. Armadale’s death. Allan’s resolution to say no
irritating words, and Mr. Brock’s reluctance to touch on a disagreeable
topic, had kept them both silent about Midwinter in Mrs. Armadale’s
presence during the three days which had intervened between that
person’s departure and the appearance of the strange woman in the
village. In the period of suspense and suffering that had followed no
recurrence to the subject of the usher had been possible, and none had
taken place. Free from all mental disquietude on this score, Allan
had stoutly preserved his perverse interest in his new friend. He had
written to tell Midwinter of his affliction, and he now proposed (unless
the rector formally objected to it) paying a visit to his friend before
he started for Paris the next morning.

What was Mr. Brock to do? There was no denying that Midwinter’s conduct
had pleaded unanswerably against poor Mrs. Armadale’s unfounded distrust
of him. If the rector, with no convincing reason to allege against it,
and with no right to interfere but the right which Allan’s courtesy gave
him, declined to sanction the proposed visit, then farewell to all
the old sociability and confidence between tutor and pupil on the
contemplated tour. Environed by difficulties, which might have been
possibly worsted by a less just and a less kind-hearted man, Mr. Brock
said a cautious word or two at parting, and (with more confidence
in Midwinter’s discretion and self-denial than he quite liked to
acknowledge, even to himself) left Allan free to take his own way.

After whiling away an hour, during the interval of his pupil’s absence,
by a walk in the streets, the rector returned to his hotel, and, finding
the newspaper disengaged in the coffee-room, sat down absently to look
over it. His eye, resting idly on the title-page, was startled into
instant attention by the very first advertisement that it chanced
to light on at the head of the column. There was Allan’s mysterious
namesake again, figuring in capital letters, and associated this time
(in the character of a dead man) with the offer of a pecuniary reward.
Thus it ran:


SUPPOSED TO BE DEAD.--To parish clerks, sextons, and others. Twenty
Pounds reward will be paid to any person who can produce evidence of
the death of ALLAN ARMADALE, only son of the late Allan Armadale, of
Barbadoes, and born in Trinidad in the year 1830. Further particulars on
application to Messrs. Hammick and Ridge, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London.


Even Mr. Brock’s essentially unimaginative mind began to stagger
superstitiously in the dark as he laid the newspaper down again. Little
by little a vague suspicion took possession of him that the whole series
of events which had followed the first appearance of Allan’s namesake
in the newspaper six years since was held together by some mysterious
connection, and was tending steadily to some unimaginable end. Without
knowing why, he began to feel uneasy at Allan’s absence. Without knowing
why, he became impatient to get his pupil away from England before
anything else happened between night and morning.

In an hour more the rector was relieved of all immediate anxiety by
Allan’s return to the hotel. The young man was vexed and out of spirits.
He had discovered Midwinter’s lodgings, but he had failed to find
Midwinter himself. The only account his landlady could give of him was
that he had gone out at his customary time to get his dinner at the
nearest eating-house, and that he had not returned, in accordance with
his usual regular habits, at his usual regular hour. Allan had therefore
gone to inquire at the eating-house, and had found, on describing him,
that Midwinter was well known there. It was his custom, on other days,
to take a frugal dinner, and to sit half an hour afterward reading the
newspaper. On this occasion, after dining, he had taken up the paper
as usual, had suddenly thrown it aside again, and had gone, nobody knew
where, in a violent hurry. No further information being attainable,
Allan had left a note at the lodgings, giving his address at the hotel,
and begging Midwinter to come and say good-by before his departure for
Paris.

The evening passed, and Allan’s invisible friend never appeared. The
morning came, bringing no obstacles with it, and Mr. Brock and his pupil
left London. So far Fortune had declared herself at last on the rector’s
side. Ozias Midwinter, after intrusively rising to the surface, had
conveniently dropped out of sight again. What was to happen next?

-------------

Advancing once more, by three weeks only, from past to present, Mr.
Brock’s memory took up the next event on the seventh of April. To all
appearance, the chain was now broken at last. The new event had no
recognizable connection (either to his mind or to Allan’s) with any
of the persons who had appeared, or any of the circumstances that had
happened, in the by-gone time.

The travelers had as yet got no further than Paris. Allan’s spirits had
risen with the change; and he had been made all the readier to enjoy the
novelty of the scene around him by receiving a letter from Midwinter,
containing news which Mr. Brock himself acknowledged promised fairly for
the future. The ex-usher had been away on business when Allan had called
at his lodgings, having been led by an accidental circumstance to open
communications with his relatives on that day. The result had taken him
entirely by surprise: it had unexpectedly secured to him a little income
of his own for the rest of his life. His future plans, now that this
piece of good fortune had fallen to his share, were still unsettled.
But if Allan wished to hear what he ultimately decided on, his agent in
London (whose direction he inclosed) would receive communications
for him, and would furnish Mr. Armadale at all future times with his
address.

On receipt of this letter, Allan had seized the pen in his usual
headlong way, and had insisted on Midwinter’s immediately joining Mr.
Brock and himself on their travels. The last days of March passed, and
no answer to the proposal was received. The first days of April came,
and on the seventh of the month there was a letter for Allan at last on
the breakfast-table. He snatched it up, looked at the address, and threw
the letter down again impatiently. The handwriting was not Midwinter’s.
Allan finished his breakfast before he cared to read what his
correspondent had to say to him.

The meal over, young Armadale lazily opened the letter. He began it with
an expression of supreme indifference. He finished it with a sudden leap
out of his chair, and a loud shout of astonishment. Wondering, as he
well might, at this extraordinary outbreak, Mr. Brock took up the letter
which Allan had tossed across the table to him. Before he had come to
the end of it, his hands dropped helplessly on his knees, and the blank
bewilderment of his pupil’s expression was accurately reflected on his
own face.

If ever two men had good cause for being thrown completely off their
balance, Allan and the rector were those two. The letter which had
struck them both with the same shock of astonishment did, beyond all
question, contain an announcement which, on a first discovery of it, was
simply incredible. The news was from Norfolk, and was to this effect. In
little more than one week’s time death had mown down no less than three
lives in the family at Thorpe Ambrose, and Allan Armadale was at that
moment heir to an estate of eight thousand a year!

A second perusal of the letter enabled the rector and his companion to
master the details which had escaped them on a first reading.

The writer was the family lawyer at Thorpe Ambrose. After announcing to
Allan the deaths of his cousin Arthur at the age of twenty-five, of his
uncle Henry at the age of forty-eight, and of his cousin John at the
age of twenty-one, the lawyer proceeded to give a brief abstract of the
terms of the elder Mr. Blanchard’s will. The claims of male issue were,
as is not unusual in such cases, preferred to the claims of female
issue. Failing Arthur and his issue male, the estate was left to Henry
and his issue male. Failing them, it went to the issue male of Henry’s
sister; and, in default of such issue, to the next heir male. As events
had happened, the two young men, Arthur and John, had died unmarried,
and Henry Blanchard had died, leaving no surviving child but a daughter.
Under these circumstances, Allan was the next heir male pointed at by
the will, and was now legally successor to the Thorpe Ambrose estate.
Having made this extraordinary announcement, the lawyer requested to be
favored with Mr. Armadale’s instructions, and added, in conclusion, that
he would be happy to furnish any further particulars that were desired.

It was useless to waste time in wondering at an event which neither
Allan nor his mother had ever thought of as even remotely possible. The
only thing to be done was to go back to England at once. The next day
found the travelers installed once more in their London hotel, and the
day after the affair was placed in the proper professional hands. The
inevitable corresponding and consulting ensued, and one by one the
all-important particulars flowed in, until the measure of information
was pronounced to be full.

This was the strange story of the three deaths:

At the time when Mr. Brock had written to Mrs. Armadale’s relatives to
announce the news of her decease (that is to say, in the middle of
the month of January), the family at Thorpe Ambrose numbered five
persons--Arthur Blanchard (in possession of the estate), living in the
great house with his mother; and Henry Blanchard, the uncle, living in
the neighborhood, a widower with two children, a son and a daughter. To
cement the family connection still more closely, Arthur Blanchard was
engaged to be married to his cousin. The wedding was to be celebrated
with great local rejoicings in the coming summer, when the young lady
had completed her twentieth year.

The month of February had brought changes with it in the family
position. Observing signs of delicacy in the health of his son, Mr.
Henry Blanchard left Norfolk, taking the young man with him, under
medical advice, to try the climate of Italy. Early in the ensuing month
of March, Arthur Blanchard also left Thorpe Ambrose, for a few days
only, on business which required his presence in London. The business
took him into the City. Annoyed by the endless impediments in the
streets, he returned westward by one of the river steamers, and, so
returning, met his death.

As the steamer left the wharf, he noticed a woman near him who had shown
a singular hesitation in embarking, and who had been the last of the
passengers to take her place in the vessel. She was neatly dressed in
black silk, with a red Paisley shawl over her shoulders, and she kept
her face hidden behind a thick veil. Arthur Blanchard was struck by the
rare grace and elegance of her figure, and he felt a young man’s passing
curiosity to see her face. She neither lifted her veil nor turned her
head his way. After taking a few steps hesitatingly backward and forward
on the deck, she walked away on a sudden to the stern of the vessel. In
a minute more there was a cry of alarm from the man at the helm, and
the engines were stopped immediately. The woman had thrown herself
overboard.

The passengers all rushed to the side of the vessel to look. Arthur
Blanchard alone, without an instant’s hesitation, jumped into the river.
He was an excellent swimmer, and he reached the woman as she rose again
to the surface, after sinking for the first time. Help was at hand, and
they were both brought safely ashore. The woman was taken to the nearest
police station, and was soon restored to her senses, her preserver
giving his name and address, as usual in such cases, to the inspector on
duty, who wisely recommended him to get into a warm bath, and to send to
his lodgings for dry clothes. Arthur Blanchard, who had never known an
hour’s illness since he was a child, laughed at the caution, and went
back in a cab. The next day he was too ill to attend the examination
before the magistrate. A fortnight afterward he was a dead man.

The news of the calamity reached Henry Blanchard and his son at Milan,
and within an hour of the time when they received it they were on their
way back to England. The snow on the Alps had loosened earlier than
usual that year, and the passes were notoriously dangerous. The father
and son, traveling in their own carriage, were met on the mountain by
the mail returning, after sending the letters on by hand. Warnings which
would have produced their effect under any ordinary circumstances were
now vainly addressed to the two Englishmen. Their impatience to be
at home again, after the catastrophe which had befallen their family,
brooked no delay. Bribes lavishly offered to the postilions, tempted
them to go on. The carriage pursued its way, and was lost to view in the
mist. When it was seen again, it was disinterred from the bottom of a
precipice--the men, the horses, and the vehicle all crushed together
under the wreck and ruin of an avalanche.

So the three lives were mown down by death. So, in a clear sequence of
events, a woman’s suicide-leap into a river had opened to Allan Armadale
the succession to the Thorpe Ambrose estates.

Who was the woman? The man who saved her life never knew. The magistrate
who remanded her, the chaplain who exhorted her, the reporter who
exhibited her in print, never knew. It was recorded of her with surprise
that, though most respectably dressed, she had nevertheless described
herself as being “in distress.” She had expressed the deepest
contrition, but had persisted in giving a name which was on the face of
it a false one; in telling a commonplace story, which was manifestly
an invention; and in refusing to the last to furnish any clew to her
friends. A lady connected with a charitable institution (“interested by
her extreme elegance and beauty”) had volunteered to take charge of her,
and to bring her into a better frame of mind. The first day’s experience
of the penitent had been far from cheering, and the second day’s
experience had been conclusive. She had left the institution by stealth;
and--though the visiting clergyman, taking a special interest in the
case, had caused special efforts to be made--all search after her, from
that time forth, had proved fruitless.

While this useless investigation (undertaken at Allan’s express desire)
was in progress, the lawyers had settled the preliminary formalities
connected with the succession to the property. All that remained was
for the new master of Thorpe Ambrose to decide when he would personally
establish himself on the estate of which he was now the legal possessor.

Left necessarily to his own guidance in this matter, Allan settled
it for himself in his usual hot-headed, generous way. He positively
declined to take possession until Mrs. Blanchard and her niece (who had
been permitted thus far, as a matter of courtesy, to remain in their old
home) had recovered from the calamity that had befallen them, and were
fit to decide for themselves what their future proceedings should be.
A private correspondence followed this resolution, comprehending, on
Allan’s side, unlimited offers of everything he had to give (in a house
which he had not yet seen), and, on the ladies’ side, a discreetly
reluctant readiness to profit by the young gentleman’s generosity in the
matter of time. To the astonishment of his legal advisers, Allan entered
their office one morning, accompanied by Mr. Brock, and announced, with
perfect composure, that the ladies had been good enough to take his own
arrangements off his hands, and that, in deference to their convenience,
he meant to defer establishing himself at Thorpe Ambrose till that
day two months. The lawyers stared at Allan, and Allan, returning the
compliment, stared at the lawyers.

“What on earth are you wondering at, gentlemen?” he inquired, with a
boyish bewilderment in his good-humored blue eyes. “Why shouldn’t I
give the ladies their two months, if the ladies want them? Let the poor
things take their own time, and welcome. My rights? and my position? Oh,
pooh! pooh! I’m in no hurry to be squire of the parish; it’s not in my
way. What do I mean to do for the two months? What I should have done
anyhow, whether the ladies had stayed or not; I mean to go cruising
at sea. That’s what _I_ like! I’ve got a new yacht at home in
Somersetshire--a yacht of my own building. And I’ll tell you what, sir,”
 continued Allan, seizing the head partner by the arm in the fervor of
his friendly intentions, “you look sadly in want of a holiday in the
fresh air, and you shall come along with me on the trial trip of my new
vessel. And your partners, too, if they like. And the head clerk, who
is the best fellow I ever met with in my life. Plenty of room--we’ll all
shake down together on the floor, and we’ll give Mr. Brock a rug on the
cabin table. Thorpe Ambrose be hanged! Do you mean to say, if you had
built a vessel yourself (as I have), you would go to any estate in the
three kingdoms, while your own little beauty was sitting like a duck on
the water at home, and waiting for you to try her? You legal gentlemen
are great hands at argument. What do you think of that argument? I think
it’s unanswerable--and I’m off to Somersetshire to-morrow.”

With those words, the new possessor of eight thousand a year dashed into
the head clerk’s office, and invited that functionary to a cruise on the
high seas, with a smack on the shoulder which was heard distinctly by
his masters in the next room. The firm looked in interrogative wonder at
Mr. Brock. A client who could see a position among the landed gentry of
England waiting for him, without being in a hurry to occupy it at the
earliest possible opportunity, was a client of whom they possessed no
previous experience.

“He must have been very oddly brought up,” said the lawyers to the
rector.

“Very oddly,” said the rector to the lawyers.

A last leap over one month more brought Mr. Brock to the present
time--to the bedroom at Castletown, in which he was sitting thinking,
and to the anxiety which was obstinately intruding itself between
him and his night’s rest. That anxiety was no unfamiliar enemy to the
rector’s peace of mind. It had first found him out in Somersetshire six
months since, and it had now followed him to the Isle of Man under the
inveterately obtrusive form of Ozias Midwinter.

The change in Allan’s future prospects had worked no corresponding
alteration in his perverse fancy for the castaway at the village inn.
In the midst of the consultations with the lawyers he had found time
to visit Midwinter, and on the journey back with the rector there was
Allan’s friend in the carriage, returning with them to Somersetshire by
Allan’s own invitation.

The ex-usher’s hair had grown again on his shaven skull, and his dress
showed the renovating influence of an accession of pecuniary means, but
in all other respects the man was unchanged. He met Mr. Brock’s distrust
with the old uncomplaining resignation to it; he maintained the same
suspicious silence on the subject of his relatives and his early life;
he spoke of Allan’s kindness to him with the same undisciplined fervor
of gratitude and surprise. “I have done what I could, sir,” he said to
Mr. Brock, while Allan was asleep in the railway carriage. “I have kept
out of Mr. Armadale’s way, and I have not even answered his last letter
to me. More than that is more than I can do. I don’t ask you to consider
my own feeling toward the only human creature who has never suspected
and never ill-treated me. I can resist my own feeling, but I can’t
resist the young gentleman himself. There’s not another like him in the
world. If we are to be parted again, it must be his doing or yours--not
mine. The dog’s master has whistled,” said this strange man, with a
momentary outburst of the hidden passion in him, and a sudden springing
of angry tears in his wild brown eyes, “and it is hard, sir, to blame
the dog when the dog comes.”

Once more Mr. Brock’s humanity got the better of Mr. Brock’s caution. He
determined to wait, and see what the coming days of social intercourse
might bring forth.

The days passed; the yacht was rigged and fitted for sea; a cruise
was arranged to the Welsh coast--and Midwinter the Secret was the same
Midwinter still. Confinement on board a little vessel of five-and-thirty
tons offered no great attraction to a man of Mr. Brock’s time of life.
But he sailed on the trial trip of the yacht nevertheless, rather than
trust Allan alone with his new friend.

Would the close companionship of the three on their cruise tempt the
man into talking of his own affairs? No; he was ready enough on other
subjects, especially if Allan led the way to them. But not a word
escaped him about himself. Mr. Brock tried him with questions about
his recent inheritance, and was answered as he had been answered
once already at the Somersetshire inn. It was a curious coincidence,
Midwinter admitted, that Mr. Armadale’s prospects and his own prospects
should both have unexpectedly changed for the better about the same
time. But there the resemblance ended. It was no large fortune that
had fallen into his lap, though it was enough for his wants. It had not
reconciled him with his relations, for the money had not come to him as
a matter of kindness, but as a matter of right. As for the circumstance
which had led to his communicating with his family, it was not worth
mentioning, seeing that the temporary renewal of intercourse which had
followed had produced no friendly results. Nothing had come of it but
the money--and, with the money, an anxiety which troubled him sometimes,
when he woke in the small hours of the morning.

At those last words he became suddenly silent, as if for once his
well-guarded tongue had betrayed him.

Mr. Brock seized the opportunity, and bluntly asked him what the nature
of the anxiety might be. Did it relate to money? No; it related to a
Letter which had been waiting for him for many years. Had he received
the letter? Not yet; it had been left under charge of one of the
partners in the firm which had managed the business of his inheritance
for him; the partner had been absent from England; and the letter,
locked up among his own private papers, could not be got at till he
returned. He was expected back toward the latter part of that present
May, and, if Midwinter could be sure where the cruise would take them to
at the close of the month, he thought he would write and have the letter
forwarded. Had he any family reasons to be anxious about it? None that
he knew of; he was curious to see what had been waiting for him for many
years, and that was all. So he answered the rector’s questions, with
his tawny face turned away over the low bulwark of the yacht, and his
fishing-line dragging in his supple brown hands.

Favored by wind and weather, the little vessel had done wonders on her
trial trip. Before the period fixed for the duration of the cruise had
half expired, the yacht was as high up on the Welsh coast as Holyhead;
and Allan, eager for adventure in unknown regions, had declared boldly
for an extension of the voyage northward to the Isle of Man. Having
ascertained from reliable authority that the weather really promised
well for a cruise in that quarter, and that, in the event of any
unforeseen necessity for return, the railway was accessible by the
steamer from Douglas to Liverpool, Mr. Brock agreed to his pupil’s
proposal. By that night’s post he wrote to Allan’s lawyers and to his
own rectory, indicating Douglas in the Isle of Man as the next
address to which letters might be forwarded. At the post-office he met
Midwinter, who had just dropped a letter into the box. Remembering what
he had said on board the yacht, Mr. Brock concluded that they had both
taken the same precaution, and had ordered their correspondence to be
forwarded to the same place.

Late the next day they set sail for the Isle of Man.

For a few hours all went well; but sunset brought with it the signs of
a coming change. With the darkness the wind rose to a gale, and the
question whether Allan and his journeymen had or had not built a stout
sea-boat was seriously tested for the first time. All that night, after
trying vainly to bear up for Holyhead, the little vessel kept the sea,
and stood her trial bravely. The next morning the Isle of Man was in
view, and the yacht was safe at Castletown. A survey by daylight of hull
and rigging showed that all the damage done might be set right again
in a week’s time. The cruising party had accordingly remained at
Castletown, Allan being occupied in superintending the repairs, Mr.
Brock in exploring the neighborhood, and Midwinter in making daily
pilgrimages on foot to Douglas and back to inquire for letters.

The first of the cruising party who received a letter was Allan. “More
worries from those everlasting lawyers,” was all he said, when he had
read the letter, and had crumpled it up in his pocket. The rector’s turn
came next, before the week’s sojourn at Castletown had expired. On the
fifth day he found a letter from Somersetshire waiting for him at the
hotel. It had been brought there by Midwinter, and it contained news
which entirely overthrew all Mr. Brock’s holiday plans. The clergyman
who had undertaken to do duty for him in his absence had been
unexpectedly summoned home again; and Mr. Brock had no choice (the day
of the week being Friday) but to cross the next morning from Douglass
to Liverpool, and get back by railway on Saturday night in time for
Sunday’s service.

Having read his letter, and resigned himself to his altered
circumstances as patiently as he might, the rector passed next to a
question that pressed for serious consideration in its turn. Burdened
with his heavy responsibility toward Allan, and conscious of his own
undiminished distrust of Allan’s new friend, how was he to act, in the
emergency that now beset him, toward the two young men who had been his
companions on the cruise?

Mr. Brock had first asked himself that awkward question on the Friday
afternoon, and he was still trying vainly to answer it, alone in his own
room, at one o’clock on the Saturday morning. It was then only the end
of May, and the residence of the ladies at Thorpe Ambrose (unless they
chose to shorten it of their own accord) would not expire till the
middle of June. Even if the repairs of the yacht had been completed
(which was not the case), there was no possible pretense for hurrying
Allan back to Somersetshire. But one other alternative remained--to
leave him where he was. In other words, to leave him, at the
turning-point of his life, under the sole influence of a man whom he had
first met with as a castaway at a village inn, and who was still, to all
practical purposes, a total stranger to him.

In despair of obtaining any better means of enlightenment to guide
his decision, Mr. Brock reverted to the impression which Midwinter had
produced on his own mind in the familiarity of the cruise.

Young as he was, the ex-usher had evidently lived a varied life. He
could speak of books like a man who had really enjoyed them; he could
take his turn at the helm like a sailor who knew his duty; he could
cook, and climb the rigging, and lay the cloth for dinner, with an odd
delight in the exhibition of his own dexterity. The display of these,
and other qualities like them, as his spirits rose with the cruise, had
revealed the secret of his attraction for Allan plainly enough. But had
all disclosures rested there? Had the man let no chance light in on his
character in the rector’s presence? Very little; and that little did
not set him forth in a morally alluring aspect. His way in the world had
lain evidently in doubtful places; familiarity with the small villainies
of vagabonds peeped out of him now and then; and, more significant
still, he habitually slept the light, suspicious sleep of a man who has
been accustomed to close his eyes in doubt of the company under the same
roof with him. Down to the very latest moment of the rector’s experience
of him--down to that present Friday night--his conduct had been
persistently secret and unaccountable to the very last. After bringing
Mr. Brock’s letter to the hotel, he had mysterious disappeared from
the house without leaving any message for his companions, and without
letting anybody see whether he had or had not received a letter himself.
At nightfall he had come back stealthily in the darkness, had been
caught on the stairs by Allan, eager to tell him of the change in the
rector’s plans, had listened to the news without a word of remark! and
had ended by sulkily locking himself into his own room. What was
there in his favor to set against such revelations of his character
as these--against his wandering eyes, his obstinate reserve with the
rector, his ominous silence on the subject of family and friends? Little
or nothing: the sum of all his merits began and ended with his gratitude
to Allan.


Mr. Brock left his seat on the side of the bed, trimmed his candle, and,
still lost in his own thoughts, looked out absently at the night. The
change of place brought no new ideas with it. His retrospect over
his own past life had amply satisfied him that his present sense of
responsibility rested on no merely fanciful grounds, and, having brought
him to that point, had left him there, standing at the window, and
seeing nothing but the total darkness in his own mind faithfully
reflected by the total darkness of the night.

“If I only had a friend to apply to!” thought the rector. “If I could
only find some one to help me in this miserable place!”

At the moment when the aspiration crossed his mind, it was suddenly
answered by a low knock at the door, and a voice said softly in the
passage outside, “Let me come in.”

After an instant’s pause to steady his nerves, Mr. Brock opened the
door, and found himself, at one o’clock in the morning, standing face to
face on the threshold of his own bedroom with Ozias Midwinter.

“Are you ill?” asked the rector, as soon as his astonishment would allow
him to speak.

“I have come here to make a clean breast of it!” was the strange answer.
“Will you let me in?”

With those words he walked into the room, his eyes on the ground, his
lips ashy pale, and his hand holding something hidden behind him.

“I saw the light under your door,” he went on, without looking up, and
without moving his hand, “and I know the trouble on your mind which is
keeping you from your rest. You are going away to-morrow morning, and
you don’t like leaving Mr. Armadale alone with a stranger like me.”

Startled as he was, Mr. Brock saw the serious necessity of being plain
with a man who had come at that time, and had said those words to him.

“You have guessed right,” he answered. “I stand in the place of a father
to Allan Armadale, and I am naturally unwilling to leave him, at his
age, with a man whom I don’t know.”

Ozias Midwinter took a step forward to the table. His wandering eyes
rested on the rector’s New Testament, which was one of the objects lying
on it.

“You have read that Book, in the years of a long life, to many
congregations,” he said. “Has it taught you mercy to your miserable
fellow-creatures?”

Without waiting to be answered, he looked Mr. Brock in the face for the
first time, and brought his hidden hand slowly into view.

“Read that,” he said; “and, for Christ’s sake, pity me when you know who
I am.”

He laid a letter of many pages on the table. It was the letter that Mr.
Neal had posted at Wildbad nineteen years since.



II. THE MAN REVEALED.

THE first cool breathings of the coming dawn fluttered through the open
window as Mr. Brock read the closing lines of the Confession. He put it
from him in silence, without looking up. The first shock of discovery
had struck his mind, and had passed away again. At his age, and with
his habits of thought, his grasp was not strong enough to hold the whole
revelation that had fallen on him. All his heart, when he closed the
manuscript, was with the memory of the woman who had been the beloved
friend of his later and happier life; all his thoughts were busy with
the miserable secret of her treason to her own father which the letter
had disclosed.

He was startled out of the narrow limits of his own little grief by the
vibration of the table at which he sat, under a hand that was laid on it
heavily. The instinct of reluctance was strong in him; but he conquered
it, and looked up. There, silently confronting him in the mixed light of
the yellow candle flame and the faint gray dawn, stood the castaway of
the village inn--the inheritor of the fatal Armadale name.

Mr. Brock shuddered as the terror of the present time and the darker
terror yet of the future that might be coming rushed back on him at the
sight of the man’s face. The man saw it, and spoke first.

“Is my father’s crime looking at you out of my eyes?” he asked. “Has the
ghost of the drowned man followed me into the room?”

The suffering and the passion that he was forcing back shook the hand
that he still kept on the table, and stifled the voice in which he spoke
until it sank to a whisper.

“I have no wish to treat you otherwise than justly and kindly,” answered
Mr. Brock. “Do me justice on my side, and believe that I am incapable of
cruelly holding you responsible for your father’s crime.”

The reply seemed to compose him. He bowed his head in silence, and took
up the confession from the table.

“Have you read this through?” he asked, quietly.

“Every word of it, from first to last.”

“Have I dealt openly with you so far. Has Ozias Midwinter--”

“Do you still call yourself by that name,” interrupted Mr. Brock, “now
your true name is known to me?”

“Since I have read my father’s confession,” was the answer, “I like my
ugly alias better than ever. Allow me to repeat the question which I was
about to put to you a minute since: Has Ozias Midwinter done his best
thus far to enlighten Mr. Brock?”

The rector evaded a direct reply. “Few men in your position,” he said,
“would have had the courage to show me that letter.”

“Don’t be too sure, sir, of the vagabond you picked up at the inn till
you know a little more of him than you know now. You have got the secret
of my birth, but you are not in possession yet of the story of my life.
You ought to know it, and you shall know it, before you leave me alone
with Mr. Armadale. Will you wait, and rest a little while, or shall I
tell it you now?”

“Now,” said Mr. Brock, still as far away as ever from knowing the real
character of the man before him.

Everything Ozias Midwinter said, everything Ozias Midwinter did, was
against him. He had spoken with a sardonic indifference, almost with an
insolence of tone, which would have repelled the sympathies of any man
who heard him. And now, instead of placing himself at the table, and
addressing his story directly to the rector, he withdrew silently and
ungraciously to the window-seat. There he sat, his face averted, his
hands mechanically turning the leaves of his father’s letter till
he came to the last. With his eyes fixed on the closing lines of the
manuscript, and with a strange mixture of recklessness and sadness in
his voice, he began his promised narrative in these words:


“The first thing you know of me,” he said, “is what my father’s
confession has told you already. He mentions here that I was a child,
asleep on his breast, when he spoke his last words in this world, and
when a stranger’s hand wrote them down for him at his deathbed.
That stranger’s name, as you may have noticed, is signed on the
cover--‘Alexander Neal, Writer to the Signet, Edinburgh.’ The first
recollection I have is of Alexander Neal beating me with a horsewhip (I
dare say I deserved it), in the character of my stepfather.”

“Have you no recollection of your mother at the same time?” asked Mr.
Brock.

“Yes; I remember her having shabby old clothes made up to fit me,
and having fine new frocks bought for her two children by her second
husband. I remember the servants laughing at me in my old things, and
the horsewhip finding its way to my shoulders again for losing my temper
and tearing my shabby clothes. My next recollection gets on to a year or
two later. I remember myself locked up in a lumber-room, with a bit of
bread and a mug of water, wondering what it was that made my mother and
my stepfather seem to hate the very sight of me. I never settled that
question till yesterday, and then I solved the mystery, when my father’s
letter was put into my hands. My mother knew what had really happened
on board the French timber-ship, and my stepfather knew what had really
happened, and they were both well aware that the shameful secret which
they would fain have kept from every living creature was a secret
which would be one day revealed to _me_. There was no help for
it--the confession was in the executor’s hands, and there was I, an
ill-conditioned brat, with my mother’s negro blood in my face, and my
murdering father’s passions in my heart, inheritor of their secret in
spite of them! I don’t wonder at the horsewhip now, or the shabby old
clothes, or the bread and water in the lumber-room. Natural penalties
all of them, sir, which the child was beginning to pay already for the
father’s sin.”

Mr. Brock looked at the swarthy, secret face, still obstinately turned
away from him. “Is this the stark insensibility of a vagabond,” he asked
himself, “or the despair, in disguise, of a miserable man?”

“School is my next recollection,” the other went on--“a cheap place in a
lost corner of Scotland. I was left there, with a bad character to
help me at starting. I spare you the story of the master’s cane in the
schoolroom, and the boys’ kicks in the playground. I dare say there was
ingrained ingratitude in my nature; at any rate, I ran away. The first
person who met me asked my name. I was too young and too foolish to know
the importance of concealing it, and, as a matter of course, I was taken
back to school the same evening. The result taught me a lesson which I
have not forgotten since. In a day or two more, like the vagabond I
was, I ran away for the second time. The school watch-dog had had his
instructions, I suppose: he stopped me before I got outside the gate.
Here is his mark, among the rest, on the back of my hand. His master’s
marks I can’t show you; they are all on my back. Can you believe in my
perversity? There was a devil in me that no dog could worry out. I
ran away again as soon as I left my bed, and this time I got off. At
nightfall I found myself (with a pocketful of the school oatmeal) lost
on a moor. I lay down on the fine soft heather, under the lee of a
great gray rock. Do you think I felt lonely? Not I! I was away from the
master’s cane, away from my schoolfellows’ kicks, away from my mother,
away from my stepfather; and I lay down that night under my good friend
the rock, the happiest boy in all Scotland!”

Through the wretched childhood which that one significant circumstance
disclosed, Mr. Brock began to see dimly how little was really strange,
how little really unaccountable, in the character of the man who was now
speaking to him.

“I slept soundly,” Midwinter continued, “under my friend the rock. When
I woke in the morning, I found a sturdy old man with a fiddle sitting
on one side of me, and two performing dogs on the other. Experience
had made me too sharp to tell the truth when the man put his first
questions. He didn’t press them; he gave me a good breakfast out of his
knapsack, and he let me romp with the dogs. ‘I’ll tell you what,’ he
said, when he had got my confidence in this manner, ‘you want three
things, my man: you want a new father, a new family, and a new name.
I’ll be your father. I’ll let you have the dogs for your brothers; and,
if you’ll promise to be very careful of it, I’ll give you my own
name into the bargain. Ozias Midwinter, Junior, you have had a good
breakfast; if you want a good dinner, come along with me!’ He got up,
the dogs trotted after him, and I trotted after the dogs. Who was my new
father? you will ask. A half-breed gypsy, sir; a drunkard, a ruffian,
and a thief--and the best friend I ever had! Isn’t a man your friend who
gives you your food, your shelter, and your education? Ozias Midwinter
taught me to dance the Highland fling, to throw somersaults, to walk
on stilts, and to sing songs to his fiddle. Sometimes we roamed the
country, and performed at fairs. Sometimes we tried the large towns, and
enlivened bad company over its cups. I was a nice, lively little boy of
eleven years old, and bad company, the women especially, took a fancy to
me and my nimble feet. I was vagabond enough to like the life. The dogs
and I lived together, ate, and drank, and slept together. I can’t think
of those poor little four-footed brothers of mine, even now, without a
choking in the throat. Many is the beating we three took together; many
is the hard day’s dancing we did together; many is the night we have
slept together, and whimpered together, on the cold hill-side. I’m not
trying to distress you, sir; I’m only telling you the truth. The life
with all its hardships was a life that fitted me, and the half-breed
gypsy who gave me his name, ruffian as he was, was a ruffian I liked.”

“A man who beat you!” exclaimed Mr. Brock, in astonishment.

“Didn’t I tell you just now, sir, that I lived with the dogs? and did
you ever hear of a dog who liked his master the worse for beating him?
Hundreds of thousands of miserable men, women, and children would have
liked that man (as I liked him) if he had always given them what he
always gave me--plenty to eat. It was stolen food mostly, and my new
gypsy father was generous with it. He seldom laid the stick on us when
he was sober; but it diverted him to hear us yelp when he was drunk. He
died drunk, and enjoyed his favorite amusement with his last breath. One
day (when I had been two years in his service), after giving us a good
dinner out on the moor, he sat down with his back against a stone, and
called us up to divert himself with his stick. He made the dogs yelp
first, and then he called to me. I didn’t go very willingly; he had been
drinking harder than usual, and the more he drank the better he liked
his after-dinner amusement. He was in high good-humor that day, and
he hit me so hard that he toppled over, in his drunken state, with the
force of his own blow. He fell with his face in a puddle, and lay there
without moving. I and the dogs stood at a distance, and looked at him:
we thought he was feigning, to get us near and have another stroke at
us. He feigned so long that we ventured up to him at last. It took me
some time to pull him over; he was a heavy man. When I did get him on
his back, he was dead. We made all the outcry we could; but the dogs
were little, and I was little, and the place was lonely; and no help
came to us. I took his fiddle and his stick; I said to my two brothers,
‘Come along, we must get our own living now;’ and we went away
heavy-hearted, and left him on the moor. Unnatural as it may seem
to you, I was sorry for him. I kept his ugly name through all my
after-wanderings, and I have enough of the old leaven left in me to like
the sound of it still. Midwinter or Armadale, never mind my name now, we
will talk of that afterward; you must know the worst of me first.”

“Why not the best of you?” said Mr. Brock, gently.

“Thank you, sir; but I am here to tell the truth. We will get on, if you
please, to the next chapter in my story. The dogs and I did badly, after
our master’s death; our luck was against us. I lost one of my little
brothers--the best performer of the two; he was stolen, and I never
recovered him. My fiddle and my stilts were taken from me next, by main
force, by a tramp who was stronger than I. These misfortunes drew Tommy
and me--I beg your pardon, sir, I mean the dog--closer together than
ever.

“I think we had some kind of dim foreboding on both sides that we had not
done with our misfortunes yet; anyhow, it was not very long before we
were parted forever. We were neither of us thieves (our master had been
satisfied with teaching us to dance); but we both committed an invasion
of the rights of property, for all that. Young creatures, even when
they are half starved, cannot resist taking a run sometimes on a fine
morning. Tommy and I could not resist taking a run into a gentleman’s
plantation; the gentleman preserved his game; and the gentleman’s keeper
knew his business. I heard a gun go off; you can guess the rest. God
preserve me from ever feeling such misery again as I felt when I lay
down by Tommy, and took him, dead and bloody, in my arms! The keeper
attempted to part us; I bit him, like the wild animal I was. He tried
the stick on me next; he might as well have tried it on one of the
trees. The noise reached the ears of two young ladies riding near the
place--daughters of the gentleman on whose property I was a trespasser.
They were too well brought up to lift their voices against the sacred
right of preserving game, but they were kind-hearted girls, and they
pitied me, and took me home with them. I remember the gentlemen of the
house (keen sportsmen all of them) roaring with laughter as I went by
the windows, crying, with my little dead dog in my arms. Don’t suppose
I complain of their laughter; it did me good service; it roused the
indignation of the two ladies. One of them took me into her own garden,
and showed me a place where I might bury my dog under the flowers, and
be sure that no other hands should ever disturb him again. The other
went to her father, and persuaded him to give the forlorn little
vagabond a chance in the house, under one of the upper servants. Yes!
you have been cruising in company with a man who was once a foot-boy.
I saw you look at me, when I amused Mr. Armadale by laying the cloth
on board the yacht. Now you know why I laid it so neatly, and forgot
nothing. It has been my good fortune to see something of society; I have
helped to fill its stomach and black its boots. My experience of the
servants’ hall was not a long one. Before I had worn out my first suit
of livery, there was a scandal in the house. It was the old story; there
is no need to tell it over again for the thousandth time. Loose money
left on a table, and not found there again; all the servants with
characters to appeal to except the foot-boy, who had been rashly taken
on trial. Well! well! I was lucky in that house to the last; I was not
prosecuted for taking what I had not only never touched, but never even
seen: I was only turned out. One morning I went in my old clothes to the
grave where I had buried Tommy. I gave the place a kiss; I said good-by
to my little dead dog; and there I was, out in the world again, at the
ripe age of thirteen years!”

“In that friendless state, and at that tender age,” said Mr. Brock, “did
no thought cross your mind of going home again?”

“I went home again, sir, that very night--I slept on the hill-side. What
other home had I? In a day or two’s time I drifted back to the large
towns and the bad company, the great open country was so lonely to me,
now I had lost the dogs! Two sailors picked me up next. I was a handy
lad, and I got a cabin-boy’s berth on board a coasting-vessel. A
cabin-boy’s berth means dirt to live in, offal to eat, a man’s work on
a boy’s shoulders, and the rope’s-end at regular intervals. The vessel
touched at a port in the Hebrides. I was as ungrateful as usual to my
best benefactors; I ran away again. Some women found me, half dead of
starvation, in the northern wilds of the Isle of Skye. It was near the
coast and I took a turn with the fishermen next. There was less of the
rope’s-end among my new masters; but plenty of exposure to wind and
weather, and hard work enough to have killed a boy who was not a
seasoned tramp like me. I fought through it till the winter came, and
then the fishermen turned me adrift again. I don’t blame them; food was
scarce, and mouths were many. With famine staring the whole community in
the face, why should they keep a boy who didn’t belong to them? A great
city was my only chance in the winter-time; so I went to Glasgow, and
all but stepped into the lion’s mouth as soon as I got there. I was
minding an empty cart on the Broomielaw, when I heard my stepfather’s
voice on the pavement side of the horse by which I was standing. He had
met some person whom he knew, and, to my terror and surprise, they
were talking about me. Hidden behind the horse, I heard enough of their
conversation to know that I had narrowly escaped discovery before I
went on board the coasting-vessel. I had met at that time with another
vagabond boy of my own age; we had quarreled and parted. The day after,
my stepfather’s inquiries were made in that very district, and it became
a question with him (a good personal description being unattainable in
either case) which of the two boys he should follow. One of them, he was
informed, was known as “Brown,” and the other as “Midwinter.” Brown was
just the common name which a cunning runaway boy would be most likely
to assume; Midwinter, just the remarkable name which he would be most
likely to avoid. The pursuit had accordingly followed Brown, and had
allowed me to escape. I leave you to imagine whether I was not doubly
and trebly determined to keep my gypsy master’s name after that. But
my resolution did not stop here. I made up my mind to leave the country
altogether. After a day or two’s lurking about the outward-bound vessels
in port, I found out which sailed first, and hid myself on board. Hunger
tried hard to force me out before the pilot had left; but hunger was not
new to me, and I kept my place. The pilot was out of the vessel when I
made my appearance on deck, and there was nothing for it but to keep me
or throw me overboard. The captain said (I have no doubt quite truly)
that he would have preferred throwing me overboard; but the majesty of
the law does sometimes stand the friend even of a vagabond like me. In
that way I came back to a sea-life. In that way I learned enough to
make me handy and useful (as I saw you noticed) on board Mr. Armadale’s
yacht. I sailed more than one voyage, in more than one vessel, to more
than one part of the world, and I might have followed the sea for life,
if I could only have kept my temper under every provocation that could
be laid on it. I had learned a great deal; but, not having learned that,
I made the last part of my last voyage home to the port of Bristol in
irons; and I saw the inside of a prison for the first time in my life,
on a charge of mutinous conduct to one of my officers. You have heard me
with extraordinary patience, sir, and I am glad to tell you, in return,
that we are not far now from the end of my story. You found some books,
if I remember right, when you searched my luggage at the Somersetshire
inn?”

Mr. Brock answered in the affirmative.

“Those books mark the next change in my life--and the last, before I
took the usher’s place at the school. My term of imprisonment was not
a long one. Perhaps my youth pleaded for me; perhaps the Bristol
magistrates took into consideration the time I had passed in irons on
board ship. Anyhow, I was just turned seventeen when I found myself out
on the world again. I had no friends to receive me; I had no place to go
to. A sailor’s life, after what had happened, was a life I recoiled from
in disgust. I stood in the crowd on the bridge at Bristol, wondering
what I should do with my freedom now I had got it back. Whether I had
altered in the prison, or whether I was feeling the change in character
that comes with coming manhood, I don’t know; but the old reckless
enjoyment of the old vagabond life seemed quite worn out of my nature.
An awful sense of loneliness kept me wandering about Bristol, in horror
of the quiet country, till after nightfall. I looked at the lights
kindling in the parlor windows, with a miserable envy of the happy
people inside. A word of advice would have been worth something to me
at that time. Well! I got it: a policeman advised me to move on. He was
quite right; what else could I do? I looked up at the sky, and there
was my old friend of many a night’s watch at sea, the north star. ‘All
points of the compass are alike to me,’ I thought to myself; ‘I’ll go
_your_ way.’ Not even the star would keep me company that night. It got
behind a cloud, and left me alone in the rain and darkness. I groped my
way to a cart-shed, fell asleep, and dreamed of old times, when I served
my gypsy master and lived with the dogs. God! what I would have given
when I woke to have felt Tommy’s little cold muzzle in my hand! Why am
I dwelling on these things? Why don’t I get on to the end? You shouldn’t
encourage me, sir, by listening, so patiently. After a week more of
wandering, without hope to help me, or prospects to look to, I found
myself in the streets of Shrewsbury, staring in at the windows of a
book-seller’s shop. An old man came to the shop door, looked about him,
and saw me. ‘Do you want a job?’ he asked. ‘And are you not above
doing it cheap?’ The prospect of having something to do, and some human
creature to speak a word to, tempted me, and I did a day’s dirty work
in the book-seller’s warehouse for a shilling. More work followed at the
same rate. In a week I was promoted to sweep out the shop and put up the
shutters. In no very long time after, I was trusted to carry the books
out; and when quarter-day came, and the shop-man left, I took his place.
Wonderful luck! you will say; here I had found my way to a friend at
last. I had found my way to one of the most merciless misers in
England; and I had risen in the little world of Shrewsbury by the purely
commercial process of underselling all my competitors. The job in the
warehouse had been declined at the price by every idle man in the town,
and I did it. The regular porter received his weekly pittance under
weekly protest. I took two shillings less, and made no complaint. The
shop-man gave warning on the ground that he was underfed as well as
underpaid. I received half his salary, and lived contentedly on his
reversionary scraps. Never were two men so well suited to each other as
that book-seller and I. _His_ one object in life was to find somebody
who would work for him at starvation wages. _My_ one object in life was
to find somebody who would give me an asylum over my head. Without a
single sympathy in common--without a vestige of feeling of any sort,
hostile or friendly, growing up between us on either side--without
wishing each other good-night when we parted on the house stairs, or
good-morning when we met at the shop counter, we lived alone in that
house, strangers from first to last, for two whole years. A dismal
existence for a lad of my age, was it not? You are a clergyman and a
scholar--surely you can guess what made the life endurable to me?”

Mr. Brock remembered the well-worn volumes which had been found in the
usher’s bag. “The books made it endurable to you,” he said.

The eyes of the castaway kindled with a new light.

“Yes!” he said, “the books--the generous friends who met me without
suspicion--the merciful masters who never used me ill! The only years of
my life that I can look back on with something like pride are the years
I passed in the miser’s house. The only unalloyed pleasure I have ever
tasted is the pleasure that I found for myself on the miser’s shelves.
Early and late, through the long winter nights and the quiet summer
days, I drank at the fountain of knowledge, and never wearied of the
draught. There were few customers to serve, for the books were mostly of
the solid and scholarly kind. No responsibilities rested on me, for the
accounts were kept by my master, and only the small sums of money were
suffered to pass through my hands. He soon found out enough of me to
know that my honesty was to be trusted, and that my patience might be
counted on, treat me as he might. The one insight into _his_ character
which I obtained, on my side, widened the distance between us to its
last limits. He was a confirmed opium-eater in secret--a prodigal in
laudanum, though a miser in all besides. He never confessed his frailty,
and I never told him I had found it out. He had his pleasure apart from
me, and I had my pleasure apart from _him_. Week after week, month after
month, there we sat, without a friendly word ever passing between us--I,
alone with my book at the counter; he, alone with his ledger in the
parlor, dimly visible to me through the dirty window-pane of the glass
door, sometimes poring over his figures, sometimes lost and motionless
for hours in the ecstasy of his opium trance. Time passed, and made no
impression on us; the seasons of two years came and went, and found
us still unchanged. One morning, at the opening of the third year, my
master did not appear, as usual, to give me my allowance for breakfast.
I went upstairs, and found him helpless in his bed. He refused to trust
me with the keys of the cupboard, or to let me send for a doctor.
I bought a morsel of bread, and went back to my books, with no more
feeling for _him_ (I honestly confess it) than he would have had for
_me_ under the same circumstances. An hour or two later I was roused
from my reading by an occasional customer of ours, a retired medical
man. He went upstairs. I was glad to get rid of him and return to my
books. He came down again, and disturbed me once more. ‘I don’t much
like you, my lad,’ he said; ‘but I think it my duty to say that you will
soon have to shift for yourself. You are no great favorite in the
town, and you may have some difficulty in finding a new place. Provide
yourself with a written character from your master before it is too
late.’ He spoke to me coldly. I thanked him coldly on my side, and got
my character the same day. Do you think my master let me have it
for nothing? Not he! He bargained with me on his deathbed. I was his
creditor for a month’s salary, and he wouldn’t write a line of my
testimonial until I had first promised to forgive him the debt. Three
days afterward he died, enjoying to the last the happiness of having
overreached his shop-man. ‘Aha!’ he whispered, when the doctor
formally summoned me to take leave of him, ‘I got you cheap!’ Was Ozias
Midwinter’s stick as cruel as that? I think not. Well! there I was, out
on the world again, but surely with better prospects this time. I had
taught myself to read Latin, Greek, and German; and I had got my written
character to speak for me. All useless! The doctor was quite right; I
was not liked in the town. The lower order of the people despised me for
selling my services to the miser at the miser’s price. As for the better
classes, I did with them (God knows how!) what I have always done with
everybody except Mr. Armadale--I produced a disagreeable impression at
first sight; I couldn’t mend it afterward; and there was an end of me
in respectable quarters. It is quite likely I might have spent all my
savings, my puny little golden offspring of two years’ miserable
growth, but for a school advertisement which I saw in a local paper. The
heartlessly mean terms that were offered encouraged me to apply; and I
got the place. How I prospered in it, and what became of me next, there
is no need to tell you. The thread of my story is all wound off; my
vagabond life stands stripped of its mystery; and you know the worst of
me at last.”


A moment of silence followed those closing words. Midwinter rose from
the window-seat, and came back to the table with the letter from Wildbad
in his hand.

“My father’s confession has told you who I am; and my own confession has
told you what my life has been,” he said, addressing Mr. Brock, without
taking the chair to which the rector pointed. “I promised to make a
clean breast of it when I first asked leave to enter this room. Have I
kept my word?”

“It is impossible to doubt it,” replied Mr. Brock. “You have established
your claim on my confidence and my sympathy. I should be insensible,
indeed, if I could know what I now know of your childhood and your
youth, and not feel something of Allan’s kindness for Allan’s friend.”

“Thank you, sir,” said Midwinter, simply and gravely.

He sat down opposite Mr. Brook at the table for the first time.

“In a few hours you will have left this place,” he proceeded. “If I can
help you to leave it with your mind at ease, I will. There is more to be
said between us than we have said up to this time. My future relations
with Mr. Armadale are still left undecided; and the serious question
raised by my father’s letter is a question which we have neither of us
faced yet.”

He paused, and looked with a momentary impatience at the candle still
burning on the table, in the morning light. The struggle to speak with
composure, and to keep his own feelings stoically out of view, was
evidently growing harder and harder to him.

“It may possibly help your decision,” he went on, “if I tell you how I
determined to act toward Mr. Armadale--in the matter of the similarity
of our names--when I first read this letter, and when I had composed
myself sufficiently to be able to think at all.” He stopped, and cast
a second impatient look at the lighted candle. “Will you excuse the odd
fancy of an odd man?” he asked, with a faint smile. “I want to put out
the candle: I want to speak of the new subject, in the new light.”

He extinguished the candle as he spoke, and let the first tenderness of
the daylight flow uninterruptedly into the room.

“I must once more ask your patience,” he resumed, “if I return for a
moment to myself and my circumstances. I have already told you that my
stepfather made an attempt to discover me some years after I had turned
my back on the Scotch school. He took that step out of no anxiety of his
own, but simply as the agent of my father’s trustees. In the exercise of
their discretion, they had sold the estates in Barbadoes (at the time
of the emancipation of the slaves, and the ruin of West Indian property)
for what the estates would fetch. Having invested the proceeds,
they were bound to set aside a sum for my yearly education. This
responsibility obliged them to make the attempt to trace me--a fruitless
attempt, as you already know. A little later (as I have been since
informed) I was publicly addressed by an advertisement in the
newspapers, which I never saw. Later still, when I was twenty-one, a
second advertisement appeared (which I did see) offering a reward for
evidence of my death. If I was alive, I had a right to my half share
of the proceeds of the estates on coming of age; if dead, the money
reverted to my mother. I went to the lawyers, and heard from them what
I have just told you. After some difficulty in proving my identity--and
after an interview with my stepfather, and a message from my mother,
which has hopelessly widened the old breach between us--my claim was
allowed; and my money is now invested for me in the funds, under the
name that is really my own.”

Mr. Brock drew eagerly nearer to the table. He saw the end now to which
the speaker was tending

“Twice a year,” Midwinter pursued, “I must sign my own name to get my
own income. At all other times, and under all other circumstances, I
may hide my identity under any name I please. As Ozias Midwinter, Mr.
Armadale first knew me; as Ozias Midwinter he shall know me to the end
of my days. Whatever may be the result of this interview--whether I win
your confidence or whether I lose it--of one thing you may feel sure:
your pupil shall never know the horrible secret which I have trusted
to your keeping. This is no extraordinary resolution; for, as you know
already, it costs me no sacrifice of feeling to keep my assumed name.
There is nothing in my conduct to praise; it comes naturally out of the
gratitude of a thankful man. Review the circumstances for yourself,
sir, and set my own horror of revealing them to Mr. Armadale out of
the question. If the story of the names is ever told, there can be no
limiting it to the disclosure of my father’s crime; it must go back to
the story of Mrs. Armadale’s marriage. I have heard her son talk of her;
I know how he loves her memory. As God is my witness, he shall never
love it less dearly through _me_!”

Simply as the words were spoken, they touched the deepest sympathies
in the rector’s nature: they took his thoughts back to Mrs. Armadale’s
deathbed. There sat the man against whom she had ignorantly warned him
in her son’s interests; and that man, of his own free-will, had laid on
himself the obligation of respecting her secret for her son’s sake! The
memory of his own past efforts to destroy the very friendship out of
which this resolution had sprung rose and reproached Mr. Brock. He held
out his hand to Midwinter for the first time. “In her name, and in her
son’s name,” he said, warmly, “I thank you.”

Without replying, Midwinter spread the confession open before him on the
table.

“I think I have said all that it was my duty to say,” he began, “before
we could approach the consideration of this letter. Whatever may have
appeared strange in my conduct toward you and toward Mr. Armadale may
be now trusted to explain itself. You can easily imagine the natural
curiosity and surprise that I must have felt (ignorant as I then was of
the truth) when the sound of Mr. Armadale’s name first startled me as
the echo of my own. You will readily understand that I only hesitated
to tell him I was his namesake, because I hesitated to damage my
position--in your estimation, if not in his--by confessing that I had
come among you under an assumed name. And, after all that you have just
heard of my vagabond life and my low associates, you will hardly wonder
at the obstinate silence I maintained about myself, at a time when I did
not feel the sense of responsibility which my father’s confession has
laid on me. We can return to these small personal explanations, if you
wish it, at another time; they cannot be suffered to keep us from the
greater interests which we must settle before you leave this place.
We may come now--” His voice faltered, and he suddenly turned his face
toward the window, so as to hide it from the rector’s view. “We may come
now,” he repeated, his hand trembling visibly as it held the page,
“to the murder on board the timber-ship, and to the warning that has
followed me from my father’s grave.”

Softly--as if he feared they might reach Allan, sleeping in the
neighboring room--he read the last terrible words which the Scotchman’s
pen had written at Wildbad, as they fell from his father’s lips:

“Avoid the widow of the man I killed--if the widow still lives. Avoid
the maid whose wicked hand smoothed the way to the marriage--if the maid
is still in her service. And, more than all, avoid the man who bears the
same name as your own. Offend your best benefactor, if that benefactor’s
influence has connected you one with the other. Desert the woman who
loves you, if that woman is a link between you and him. Hide yourself
from him under an assumed name. Put the mountains and the seas between
you; be ungrateful; be unforgiving; be all that is most repellent
to your own gentler nature, rather than live under the same roof and
breathe the same air with that man. Never let the two Allan Armadales
meet in this world; never, never, never!”

After reading those sentences, he pushed the manuscript from him,
without looking up. The fatal reserve which he had been in a fair way of
conquering but a few minutes since, possessed itself of him once more.
Again his eyes wandered; again his voice sank in tone. A stranger who
had heard his story, and who saw him now, would have said, “His look is
lurking, his manner is bad; he is, every inch of him, his father’s son.”

“I have a question to ask you,” said Mr. Brock, breaking the silence
between them, on his side. “Why have you just read that passage in your
father’s letter?”

“To force me into telling you the truth,” was the answer. “You must
know how much there is of my father in me before you trust me to be Mr.
Armadale’s friend. I got my letter yesterday, in the morning. Some inner
warning troubled me, and I went down on the sea-shore by myself before I
broke the seal. Do you believe the dead can come back to the world they
once lived in? I believe my father came back in that bright morning
light, through the glare of that broad sunshine and the roar of that
joyful sea, and watched me while I read. When I got to the words that
you have just heard, and when I knew that the very end which he had died
dreading was the end that had really come, I felt the horror that had
crept over him in his last moments creeping over me. I struggled against
myself, as _he_ would have had me struggle. I tried to be all that was
most repellent to my own gentler nature; I tried to think pitilessly of
putting the mountains and the seas between me and the man who bore my
name. Hours passed before I could prevail on myself to go back and run
the risk of meeting Allan Armadale in this house. When I did get back,
and when he met me at night on the stairs, I thought I was looking him
in the face as _my_ father looked _his_ father in the face when the
cabin door closed between them. Draw your own conclusions, sir. Say, if
you like, that the inheritance of my father’s heathen belief in fate is
one of the inheritances he has left to me. I won’t dispute it; I
won’t deny that all through yesterday _his_ superstition was _my_
superstition. The night came before I could find my way to calmer and
brighter thoughts. But I did find my way. You may set it down in my
favor that I lifted myself at last above the influence of this horrible
letter. Do you know what helped me?”

“Did you reason with yourself?”

“I can’t reason about what I feel.”

“Did you quiet your mind by prayer?”

“I was not fit to pray.”

“And yet something guided you to the better feeling and the truer view?”

“Something did.”

“What was it?”

“My love for Allan Armadale.”

He cast a doubting, almost a timid look at Mr. Brock as he gave that
answer, and, suddenly leaving the table, went back to the window-seat.

“Have I no right to speak of him in that way?” he asked, keeping his
face hidden from the rector. “Have I not known him long enough; have I
not done enough for him yet? Remember what my experience of other men
had been when I first saw his hand held out to me--when I first heard
his voice speaking to me in my sick-room. What had I known of strangers’
hands all through my childhood? I had only known them as hands raised to
threaten and to strike me. His hand put my pillow straight, and patted
me on the shoulder, and gave me my food and drink. What had I known of
other men’s voices, when I was growing up to be a man myself? I had
only known them as voices that jeered, voices that cursed, voices that
whispered in corners with a vile distrust. _His_ voice said to me,
‘Cheer up, Midwinter! we’ll soon bring you round again. You’ll be strong
enough in a week to go out for a drive with me in our Somersetshire
lanes.’ Think of the gypsy’s stick; think of the devils laughing at me
when I went by their windows with my little dead dog in my arms; think
of the master who cheated me of my month’s salary on his deathbed--and
ask your own heart if the miserable wretch whom Allan Armadale has
treated as his equal and his friend has said too much in saying that
he loves him? I do love him! It _will_ come out of me; I can’t keep it
back. I love the very ground he treads on! I would give my life--yes,
the life that is precious to me now, because his kindness has made it a
happy one--I tell you I would give my life--”

The next words died away on his lips; the hysterical passion rose, and
conquered him. He stretched out one of his hands with a wild gesture
of entreaty to Mr. Brock; his head sank on the window-sill and he burst
into tears.

Even then the hard discipline of the man’s life asserted itself. He
expected no sympathy, he counted on no merciful human respect for human
weakness. The cruel necessity of self-suppression was present to his
mind, while the tears were pouring over his cheeks. “Give me a minute,”
 he said, faintly. “I’ll fight it down in a minute; I won’t distress you
in this way again.”

True to his resolution, in a minute he had fought it down. In a minute
more he was able to speak calmly.

“We will get back, sir, to those better thoughts which have brought me
from my room to yours,” he resumed. “I can only repeat that I should
never have torn myself from the hold which this letter fastened on
me, if I had not loved Allan Armadale with all that I have in me of a
brother’s love. I said to myself, ‘If the thought of leaving him breaks
my heart, the thought of leaving him is wrong!’ That was some hours
since, and I am in the same mind still. I can’t believe--I won’t
believe--that a friendship which has grown out of nothing but kindness
on one side, and nothing but gratitude on the other, is destined to lead
to an evil end. Judge, you who are a clergyman, between the dead father,
whose word is in these pages, and the living son, whose word is now on
his lips! What is it appointed me to do, now that I am breathing the
same air, and living under the same roof with the son of the man whom my
father killed--to perpetuate my father’s crime by mortally injuring him,
or to atone for my father’s crime by giving him the devotion of my whole
life? The last of those two faiths is my faith, and shall be my faith,
happen what may. In the strength of that better conviction, I have come
here to trust you with my father’s secret, and to confess the wretched
story of my own life. In the strength of that better conviction, I can
face you resolutely with the one plain question, which marks the one
plain end of all that I have come here to say. Your pupil stands at the
starting-point of his new career, in a position singularly friendless;
his one great need is a companion of his own age on whom he can rely.
The time has come, sir, to decide whether I am to be that companion or
not. After all you have heard of Ozias Midwinter, tell me plainly, will
you trust him to be Allan Armadale’s friend?”

Mr. Brock met that fearlessly frank question by a fearless frankness on
his side.

“I believe you love Allan,” he said, “and I believe you have spoken the
truth. A man who has produced that impression on me is a man whom I am
bound to trust. I trust you.”

Midwinter started to his feet, his dark face flushing deep; his eyes
fixed brightly and steadily, at last, on the rector’s face. “A light!”
 he exclaimed, tearing the pages of his father’s letter, one by one, from
the fastening that held them. “Let us destroy the last link that holds
us to the horrible past! Let us see this confession a heap of ashes
before we part!”

“Wait!” said Mr. Brock. “Before you burn it, there is a reason for
looking at it once more.”

The parted leaves of the manuscript dropped from Midwinter’s hands. Mr.
Brock took them up, and sorted them carefully until he found the last
page.

“I view your father’s superstition as you view it,” said the rector.
“But there is a warning given you here, which you will do well (for
Allan’s sake and for your own sake) not to neglect. The last link with
the past will not be destroyed when you have burned these pages. One of
the actors in this story of treachery and murder is not dead yet. Read
those words.”

He pushed the page across the table, with his finger on one sentence.
Midwinter’s agitation misled him. He mistook the indication, and read,
“Avoid the widow of the man I killed, if the widow still lives.”

“Not that sentence,” said the rector. “The next.”

Midwinter read it: “Avoid the maid whose wicked hand smoothed the way to
the marriage, if the maid is still in her service.”

“The maid and the mistress parted,” said Mr. Brock, “at the time of
the mistress’s marriage. The maid and the mistress met again at Mrs.
Armadale’s residence in Somersetshire last year. I myself met the
woman in the village, and I myself know that her visit hastened Mrs.
Armadale’s death. Wait a little, and compose yourself; I see I have
startled you.”

He waited as he was bid, his color fading away to a gray paleness and
the light in his clear brown eyes dying out slowly. What the rector had
said had produced no transient impression on him; there was more than
doubt, there was alarm in his face, as he sat lost in his own thought.
Was the struggle of the past night renewing itself already? Did he feel
the horror of his hereditary superstition creeping over him again?

“Can you put me on my guard against her?” he asked, after a long
interval of silence. “Can you tell me her name?”

“I can only tell you what Mrs. Armadale told me,” answered Mr. Brock.
“The woman acknowledged having been married in the long interval since
she and her mistress had last met. But not a word more escaped her about
her past life. She came to Mrs. Armadale to ask for money, under a
plea of distress. She got the money, and she left the house, positively
refusing, when the question was put to her, to mention her married
name.”

“You saw her yourself in the village. What was she like?”

“She kept her veil down. I can’t tell you.”

“You can tell me what you _did_ see?”

“Certainly. I saw, as she approached me, that she moved very gracefully,
that she had a beautiful figure, and that she was a little over the
middle height. I noticed, when she asked me the way to Mrs. Armadale’s
house, that her manner was the manner of a lady, and that the tone
of her voice was remarkably soft and winning. Lastly, I remembered
afterward that she wore a thick black veil, a black bonnet, a black
silk dress, and a red Paisley shawl. I feel all the importance of your
possessing some better means of identifying her than I can give you. But
unhappily--”

He stopped. Midwinter was leaning eagerly across the table, and
Midwinter’s hand was laid suddenly on his arm.

“Is it possible that you know the woman?” asked Mr. Brock, surprised at
the sudden change in his manner.

“No.”

“What have I said, then, that has startled you so?”

“Do you remember the woman who threw herself from the river steamer?”
 asked the other--“the woman who caused that succession of deaths which
opened Allan Armadale’s way to the Thorpe Ambrose estate?”

“I remember the description of her in the police report,” answered the
rector.

“_That_ woman,” pursued Midwinter, “moved gracefully, and had a
beautiful figure. _That_ woman wore a black veil, a black bonnet, a
black silk gown, and a red Paisley shawl--” He stopped, released his
hold of Mr. Brock’s arm, and abruptly resumed his chair. “Can it be
the same?” he said to himself in a whisper. “_Is_ there a fatality
that follows men in the dark? And is it following _us_ in that woman’s
footsteps?”

If the conjecture was right, the one event in the past which had
appeared to be entirely disconnected with the events that had preceded
it was, on the contrary, the one missing link which made the chain
complete. Mr. Brock’s comfortable common sense instinctively denied that
startling conclusion. He looked at Midwinter with a compassionate smile.

“My young friend,” he said, kindly, “have you cleared your mind of all
superstition as completely as you think? Is what you have just said
worthy of the better resolution at which you arrived last night?”

Midwinter’s head drooped on his breast; the color rushed back over his
face; he sighed bitterly.

“You are beginning to doubt my sincerity,” he said. “I can’t blame you.”

“I believe in your sincerity as firmly as ever,” answered Mr. Brock. “I
only doubt whether you have fortified the weak places in your nature as
strongly as you yourself suppose. Many a man has lost the battle against
himself far oftener than you have lost it yet, and has nevertheless won
his victory in the end. I don’t blame you, I don’t distrust you. I only
notice what has happened, to put you on your guard against yourself.
Come! come! Let your own better sense help you; and you will agree with
me that there is really no evidence to justify the suspicion that the
woman whom I met in Somersetshire, and the woman who attempted suicide
in London, are one and the same. Need an old man like me remind a young
man like you that there are thousands of women in England with beautiful
figures--thousands of women who are quietly dressed in black silk gowns
and red Paisley shawls?”

Midwinter caught eagerly at the suggestion; too eagerly, as it might
have occurred to a harder critic on humanity than Mr. Brock.

“You are quite right, sir,” he said, “and I am quite wrong. Tens of
thousands of women answer the description, as you say. I have been
wasting time on my own idle fancies, when I ought to have been carefully
gathering up facts. If this woman ever attempts to find her way to
Allan, I must be prepared to stop her.” He began searching restlessly
among the manuscript leaves scattered about the table, paused over one
of the pages, and examined it attentively. “This helps me to something
positive,” he went on; “this helps me to a knowledge of her age. She was
twelve at the time of Mrs. Armadale’s marriage; add a year, and bring
her to thirteen; add Allan’s age (twenty-two), and we make her a woman
of five-and-thirty at the present time. I know her age; and I know that
she has her own reasons for being silent about her married life. This is
something gained at the outset, and it may lead, in time, to something
more.” He looked up brightly again at Mr. Brock. “Am I in the right way
now, sir? Am I doing my best to profit by the caution which you have
kindly given me?”

“You are vindicating your own better sense,” answered the rector,
encouraging him to trample down his own imagination, with an
Englishman’s ready distrust of the noblest of the human faculties. “You
are paving the way for your own happier life.”

“Am I?” said the other, thoughtfully.

He searched among the papers once more, and stopped at another of the
scattered pages.

“The ship!” he exclaimed, suddenly, his color changing again, and his
manner altering on the instant.

“What ship?” asked the rector.

“The ship in which the deed was done,” Midwinter answered, with the
first signs of impatience that he had shown yet. “The ship in which my
father’s murderous hand turned the lock of the cabin door.”

“What of it?” said Mr. Brock.

He appeared not to hear the question; his eyes remained fixed intently
on the page that he was reading.

“A French vessel, employed in the timber trade,” he said, still speaking
to himself--“a French vessel, named _La Grace de Dieu_. If my father’s
belief had been the right belief--if the fatality had been following me,
step by step, from my father’s grave, in one or other of my voyages, I
should have fallen in with that ship.” He looked up again at Mr. Brock.
“I am quite sure about it now,” he said. “Those women are two, and not
one.”

Mr. Brock shook his head.

“I am glad you have come to that conclusion,” he said. “But I wish you
had reached it in some other way.”

Midwinter started passionately to his feet, and, seizing on the pages of
the manuscript with both hands, flung them into the empty fireplace.

“For God’s sake let me burn it!” he exclaimed. “As long as there is a
page left, I shall read it. And, as long as I read it, my father gets
the better of me, in spite of myself!”

Mr. Brock pointed to the match-box. In another moment the confession
was in flames. When the fire had consumed the last morsel of paper,
Midwinter drew a deep breath of relief.

“I may say, like Macbeth: ‘Why, so, being gone, I am a man again!’”
 he broke out with a feverish gayety. “You look fatigued, sir; and no
wonder,” he added, in a lower tone. “I have kept you too long from your
rest--I will keep you no longer. Depend on my remembering what you
have told me; depend on my standing between Allan and any enemy, man
or woman, who comes near him. Thank you, Mr. Brock; a thousand thousand
times, thank you! I came into this room the most wretched of living men;
I can leave it now as happy as the birds that are singing outside!”

As he turned to the door, the rays of the rising sun streamed through
the window, and touched the heap of ashes lying black in the black
fireplace. The sensitive imagination of Midwinter kindled instantly at
the sight.

“Look!” he said, joyously. “The promise of the Future shining over the
ashes of the Past!”

An inexplicable pity for the man, at the moment of his life when he
needed pity least, stole over the rector’s heart when the door had
closed, and he was left by himself again.

“Poor fellow!” he said, with an uneasy surprise at his own compassionate
impulse. “Poor fellow!”



III. DAY AND NIGHT

The morning hours had passed; the noon had come and gone; and Mr. Brock
had started on the first stage of his journey home.

After parting from the rector in Douglas Harbor, the two young men had
returned to Castletown, and had there separated at the hotel door, Allan
walking down to the waterside to look after his yacht, and Midwinter
entering the house to get the rest that he needed after a sleepless
night.

He darkened his room; he closed his eyes, but no sleep came to him.
On this first day of the rector’s absence, his sensitive nature
extravagantly exaggerated the responsibility which he now held in trust
for Mr. Brock. A nervous dread of leaving Allan by himself, even for a
few hours only, kept him waking and doubting, until it became a relief
rather than a hardship to rise from the bed again, and, following in
Allan’s footsteps, to take the way to the waterside which led to the
yacht.

The repairs of the little vessel were nearly completed. It was a breezy,
cheerful day; the land was bright, the water was blue, the quick waves
leaped crisply in the sunshine, the men were singing at their work.
Descending to the cabin, Midwinter discovered his friend busily
occupied in attempting to set the place to rights. Habitually the least
systematic of mortals, Allan now and then awoke to an overwhelming sense
of the advantages of order, and on such occasions a perfect frenzy of
tidiness possessed him. He was down on his knees, hotly and wildly at
work, when Midwinter looked in on him; and was fast reducing the neat
little world of the cabin to its original elements of chaos, with a
misdirected energy wonderful to see.

“Here’s a mess!” said Allan, rising composedly on the horizon of his own
accumulated litter. “Do you know, my dear fellow, I begin to wish I had
let well alone!”

Midwinter smiled, and came to his friend’s assistance with the natural
neat-handedness of a sailor.

The first object that he encountered was Allan’s dressing-case, turned
upside down, with half the contents scattered on the floor, and with
a duster and a hearth-broom lying among them. Replacing the various
objects which formed the furniture of the dressing-case one by
one, Midwinter lighted unexpectedly on a miniature portrait, of the
old-fashioned oval form, primly framed in a setting of small diamonds.

“You don’t seem to set much value on this,” he said. “What is it?”

Allan bent over him, and looked at the miniature. “It belonged to my
mother,” he answered; “and I set the greatest value on it. It is a
portrait of my father.”

Midwinter put the miniature abruptly, into Allan’s hands, and withdrew
to the opposite side of the cabin.

“You know best where the things ought to be put in your own
dressing-case,” he said, keeping his back turned on Allan. “I’ll make
the place tidy on this side of the cabin, and you shall make the place
tidy on the other.”

He began setting in order the litter scattered about him on the cabin
table and on the floor. But it seemed as if fate had decided that his
friend’s personal possessions should fall into his hands that morning,
employ them where he might. One among the first objects which he took
up was Allan’s tobacco jar, with the stopper missing, and with a letter
(which appeared by the bulk of it to contain inclosures) crumpled into
the mouth of the jar in the stopper’s place.

“Did you know that you had put this here?” he asked. “Is the letter of
any importance?”

Allan recognized it instantly. It was the first of the little series of
letters which had followed the cruising party to the Isle of Man--the
letter which young Armadale had briefly referred to as bringing him
“more worries from those everlasting lawyers,” and had then dismissed
from further notice as recklessly as usual.

“This is what comes of being particularly careful,” said Allan; “here is
an instance of my extreme thoughtfulness. You may not think it but I put
the letter there on purpose. Every time I went to the jar, you know, I
was sure to see the letter; and every time I saw the letter, I was sure
to say to myself, ‘This must be answered.’ There’s nothing to laugh at;
it was a perfectly sensible arrangement, if I could only have remembered
where I put the jar. Suppose I tie a knot in my pocket-handkerchief this
time? You have a wonderful memory, my dear fellow. Perhaps you’ll remind
me in the course of the day, in case I forget the knot next.”

Midwinter saw his first chance, since Mr. Brock’s departure, of usefully
filling Mr. Brock’s place.

“Here is your writing-case,” he said; “why not answer the letter at
once? If you put it away again, you may forget it again.”

“Very true,” returned Allan. “But the worst of it is, I can’t quite make
up my mind what answer to write. I want a word of advice. Come and sit
down here, and I’ll tell you all about it.”

With his loud boyish laugh--echoed by Midwinter, who caught the
infection of his gayety--he swept a heap of miscellaneous incumbrances
off the cabin sofa, and made room for his friend and himself to take
their places. In the high flow of youthful spirits, the two sat down to
their trifling consultation over a letter lost in a tobacco jar. It was
a memorable moment to both of them, lightly as they thought of it at the
time. Before they had risen again from their places, they had taken the
first irrevocable step together on the dark and tortuous road of their
future lives.

Reduced to plain facts, the question on which Allan now required his
friend’s advice may be stated as follows:

While the various arrangements connected with the succession to Thorpe
Ambrose were in progress of settlement, and while the new possessor
of the estate was still in London, a question had necessarily arisen
relating to the person who should be appointed to manage the property.
The steward employed by the Blanchard family had written, without loss
of time, to offer his services. Although a perfectly competent and
trustworthy man, he failed to find favor in the eyes of the new
proprietor. Acting, as usual, on his first impulses, and resolved,
at all hazards, to install Midwinter as a permanent inmate at Thorpe
Ambrose, Allan had determined that the steward’s place was the place
exactly fitted for his friend, for the simple reason that it would
necessarily oblige his friend to live with him on the estate. He
had accordingly written to decline the proposal made to him without
consulting Mr. Brock, whose disapproval he had good reason to fear; and
without telling Midwinter, who would probably (if a chance were allowed
him of choosing) have declined taking a situation which his previous
training had by no means fitted him to fill.

Further correspondence had followed this decision, and had raised two
new difficulties which looked a little embarrassing on the face of them,
but which Allan, with the assistance of his lawyer, easily contrived to
solve. The first difficulty, of examining the outgoing steward’s books,
was settled by sending a professional accountant to Thorpe Ambrose; and
the second difficulty, of putting the steward’s empty cottage to some
profitable use (Allan’s plans for his friend comprehending Midwinter’s
residence under his own roof), was met by placing the cottage on the
list of an active house agent in the neighboring county town. In this
state the arrangements had been left when Allan quitted London. He had
heard and thought nothing more of the matter, until a letter from his
lawyers had followed him to the Isle of Man, inclosing two proposals
to occupy the cottage, both received on the same day, and requesting to
hear, at his earliest convenience, which of the two he was prepared to
accept.

Finding himself, after having conveniently forgotten the subject for
some days past, placed face to face once more with the necessity for
decision, Allan now put the two proposals into his friend’s hands, and,
after a rambling explanation of the circumstances of the case, requested
to be favored with a word of advice. Instead of examining the proposals,
Midwinter unceremoniously put them aside, and asked the two very natural
and very awkward questions of who the new steward was to be, and why he
was to live in Allan’s house?

“I’ll tell you who, and I’ll tell you why, when we get to Thorpe
Ambrose,” said Allan. “In the meantime we’ll call the steward X. Y. Z.,
and we’ll say he lives with me, because I’m devilish sharp, and I mean
to keep him under my own eye. You needn’t look surprised. I know the man
thoroughly well; he requires a good deal of management. If I offered him
the steward’s place beforehand, his modesty would get in his way, and he
would say ‘No.’ If I pitch him into it neck and crop, without a word of
warning and with nobody at hand to relieve him of the situation, he’ll
have nothing for it but to consult my interests, and say ‘Yes.’ X. Y. Z.
is not at all a bad fellow, I can tell you. You’ll see him when we go
to Thorpe Ambrose; and I rather think you and he will get on uncommonly
well together.”

The humorous twinkle in Allan’s eye, the sly significance in Allan’s
voice, would have betrayed his secret to a prosperous man. Midwinter was
as far from suspecting it as the carpenters who were at work above them
on the deck of the yacht.

“Is there no steward now on the estate?” he asked, his face showing
plainly that he was far from feeling satisfied with Allan’s answer. “Is
the business neglected all this time?”

“Nothing of the sort!” returned Allan. “The business is going with ‘a
wet sheet and a flowing sea, and a wind that follows free.’ I’m not
joking; I’m only metaphorical. A regular accountant has poked his nose
into the books, and a steady-going lawyer’s clerk attends at the office
once a week. That doesn’t look like neglect, does it? Leave the new
steward alone for the present, and just tell me which of those two
tenants you would take, if you were in my place.”

Midwinter opened the proposals, and read them attentively.

The first proposal was from no less a person than the solicitor at
Thorpe Ambrose, who had first informed Allan at Paris of the large
fortune that had fallen into his hands. This gentleman wrote personally
to say that he had long admired the cottage, which was charmingly
situated within the limits of the Thorpe Ambrose grounds. He was
a bachelor, of studious habits, desirous of retiring to a country
seclusion after the wear and tear of his business hours; and he ventured
to say that Mr. Armadale, in accepting him as a tenant, might count
on securing an unobtrusive neighbor, and on putting the cottage into
responsible and careful hands.

The second proposal came through the house agent, and proceeded from a
total stranger. The tenant who offered for the cottage, in this case,
was a retired officer in the army--one Major Milroy. His family merely
consisted of an invalid wife and an only child--a young lady. His
references were unexceptionable; and he, too, was especially anxious to
secure the cottage, as the perfect quiet of the situation was exactly
what was required by Mrs. Milroy in her feeble state of health.

“Well, which profession shall I favor?” asked Allan. “The army or the
law?”

“There seems to me to be no doubt about it,” said Midwinter. “The lawyer
has been already in correspondence with you; and the lawyer’s claim is,
therefore, the claim to be preferred.”

“I knew you would say that. In all the thousands of times I have asked
other people for advice, I never yet got the advice I wanted. Here’s
this business of letting the cottage as an instance. I’m all on the
other side myself. I want to have the major.”

“Why?”

Young Armadale laid his forefinger on that part of the agent’s letter
which enumerated Major Milroy’s family, and which contained the three
words--“a young lady.”

“A bachelor of studious habits walking about my grounds,” said Allan,
“is not an interesting object; a young lady is. I have not the least
doubt Miss Milroy is a charming girl. Ozias Midwinter of the serious
countenance! think of her pretty muslin dress flitting about among your
trees and committing trespasses on your property; think of her adorable
feet trotting into your fruit-garden, and her delicious fresh lips
kissing your ripe peaches; think of her dimpled hands among your early
violets, and her little cream-colored nose buried in your blush-roses.
What does the studious bachelor offer me in exchange for the loss of all
this? He offers me a rheumatic brown object in gaiters and a wig. No!
no! Justice is good, my dear friend; but, believe me, Miss Milroy is
better.”

“Can you be serious about any mortal thing, Allan?”

“I’ll try to be, if you like. I know I ought to take the lawyer; but
what can I do if the major’s daughter keeps running in my head?”

Midwinter returned resolutely to the just and sensible view of the
matter, and pressed it on his friend’s attention with all the persuasion
of which he was master. After listening with exemplary patience until
he had done, Allan swept a supplementary accumulation of litter off the
cabin table, and produced from his waistcoat pocket a half-crown coin.

“I’ve got an entirely new idea,” he said. “Let’s leave it to chance.”

The absurdity of the proposal--as coming from a landlord--was
irresistible. Midwinter’s gravity deserted him.

“I’ll spin,” continued Allan, “and you shall call. We must give
precedence to the army, of course; so we’ll say Heads, the major; Tails,
the lawyer. One spin to decide. Now, then, look out!”

He spun the half-crown on the cabin table.

“Tails!” cried Midwinter, humoring what he believed to be one of Allan’s
boyish jokes.

The coin fell on the table with the Head uppermost.

“You don’t mean to say you are really in earnest!” said Midwinter, as
the other opened his writing-case and dipped his pen in the ink.

“Oh, but I am, though!” replied Allan. “Chance is on my side, and Miss
Milroy’s; and you’re outvoted, two to one. It’s no use arguing. The
major has fallen uppermost, and the major shall have the cottage. I
won’t leave it to the lawyers; they’ll only be worrying me with more
letters. I’ll write myself.”

He wrote his answers to the two proposals, literally in two minutes. One
to the house agent: “Dear sir, I accept Major Milroy’s offer; let him
come in when he pleases. Yours truly, Allan Armadale.” And one to the
lawyer: “Dear sir, I regret that circumstances prevent me from
accepting your proposal. Yours truly,” etc. “People make a fuss about
letter-writing,” Allan remarked, when he had done. “_I_ find it easy
enough.”

He wrote the addresses on his two notes, and stamped them for the post,
whistling gayly. While he had been writing, he had not noticed how
his friend was occupied. When he had done, it struck him that a sudden
silence had fallen on the cabin; and, looking up, he observed that
Midwinter’s whole attention was strangely concentrated on the half crown
as it lay head uppermost on the table. Allan suspended his whistling in
astonishment.

“What on earth are you doing?” he asked.

“I was only wondering,” replied Midwinter.

“What about?” persisted Allan.

“I was wondering,” said the other, handing him back the half-crown,
“whether there is such a thing as chance.”

Half an hour later the two notes were posted; and Allan, whose close
superintendence of the repairs of the yacht had hitherto allowed him but
little leisure time on shore, had proposed to while away the idle hours
by taking a walk in Castletown. Even Midwinter’s nervous anxiety to
deserve Mr. Brock’s confidence in him could detect nothing objectionable
in this harmless proposal, and the young men set forth together to see
what they could make of the metropolis of the Isle of Man.

It is doubtful if there is a place on the habitable globe which,
regarded as a sight-seeing investment offering itself to the spare
attention of strangers, yields so small a percentage of interest in
return as Castletown. Beginning with the waterside, there was an inner
harbor to see, with a drawbridge to let vessels through; an outer
harbor, ending in a dwarf lighthouse; a view of a flat coast to the
right, and a view of a flat coast to the left. In the central solitudes
of the city, there was a squat gray building called “the castle”; also
a memorial pillar dedicated to one Governor Smelt, with a flat top for
a statue, and no statue standing on it; also a barrack, holding the
half-company of soldiers allotted to the island, and exhibiting one
spirit-broken sentry at its lonely door. The prevalent color of the town
was faint gray. The few shops open were parted at frequent intervals
by other shops closed and deserted in despair. The weary lounging of
boatmen on shore was trebly weary here; the youth of the district smoked
together in speechless depression under the lee of a dead wall; the
ragged children said mechanically: “Give us a penny,” and before the
charitable hand could search the merciful pocket, lapsed away again in
misanthropic doubt of the human nature they addressed. The silence of
the grave overflowed the churchyard, and filled this miserable town. But
one edifice, prosperous to look at, rose consolatory in the desolation
of these dreadful streets. Frequented by the students of the neighboring
“College of King William,” this building was naturally dedicated to
the uses of a pastry-cook’s shop. Here, at least (viewed through the
friendly medium of the window), there was something going on for a
stranger to see; for here, on high stools, the pupils of the college
sat, with swinging legs and slowly moving jaws, and, hushed in the
horrid stillness of Castletown, gorged their pastry gravely, in an
atmosphere of awful silence.

“Hang me if I can look any longer at the boys and the tarts!” said
Allan, dragging his friend away from the pastry-cook’s shop. “Let’s try
if we can’t find something else to amuse us in the next street.”

The first amusing object which the next street presented was a
carver-and-gilder’s shop, expiring feebly in the last stage of
commercial decay. The counter inside displayed nothing to view but the
recumbent head of a boy, peacefully asleep in the unbroken solitude of
the place. In the window were exhibited to the passing stranger three
forlorn little fly-spotted frames; a small posting-bill, dusty with
long-continued neglect, announcing that the premises were to let; and
one colored print, the last of a series illustrating the horrors
of drunkenness, on the fiercest temperance principles. The
composition--representing an empty bottle of gin, an immensely spacious
garret, a perpendicular Scripture reader, and a horizontal expiring
family--appealed to public favor, under the entirely unobjectionable
title of “The Hand of Death.” Allan’s resolution to extract amusement
from Castletown by main force had resisted a great deal, but it
failed him at this stage of the investigations. He suggested trying an
excursion to some other place. Midwinter readily agreeing, they went
back to the hotel to make inquiries.

Thanks to the mixed influence of Allan’s ready gift of familiarity,
and total want of method in putting his questions, a perfect deluge of
information flowed in on the two strangers, relating to every subject
but the subject which had actually brought them to the hotel. They
made various interesting discoveries in connection with the laws and
constitution of the Isle of Man, and the manners and customs of the
natives. To Allan’s delight, the Manxmen spoke of England as of a
well-known adjacent island, situated at a certain distance from the
central empire of the Isle of Man. It was further revealed to the two
Englishmen that this happy little nation rejoiced in laws of its own,
publicly proclaimed once a year by the governor and the two head judges,
grouped together on the top of an ancient mound, in fancy costumes
appropriate to the occasion. Possessing this enviable institution,
the island added to it the inestimable blessing of a local parliament,
called the House of Keys, an assembly far in advance of the other
parliament belonging to the neighboring island, in this respect--that
the members dispensed with the people, and solemnly elected each other.
With these and many more local particulars, extracted from all sorts and
conditions of men in and about the hotel, Allan whiled away the weary
time in his own essentially desultory manner, until the gossip died out
of itself, and Midwinter (who had been speaking apart with the landlord)
quietly recalled him to the matter in hand. The finest coast scenery in
the island was said to be to the westward and the southward, and there
was a fishing town in those regions called Port St. Mary, with a hotel
at which travelers could sleep. If Allan’s impressions of Castletown
still inclined him to try an excursion to some other place, he had only
to say so, and a carriage would be produced immediately. Allan jumped at
the proposal, and in ten minutes more he and Midwinter were on their way
to the western wilds of the island.

With trifling incidents, the day of Mr. Brock’s departure had worn on
thus far. With trifling incidents, in which not even Midwinter’s nervous
watchfulness could see anything to distrust, it was still to proceed,
until the night came--a night which one at least of the two companions
was destined to remember to the end of his life.

Before the travelers had advanced two miles on their road, an accident
happened. The horse fell, and the driver reported that the animal had
seriously injured himself. There was no alternative but to send for
another carriage to Castletown, or to get on to Port St. Mary on foot.

Deciding to walk, Midwinter and Allan had not gone far before they were
overtaken by a gentleman driving alone in an open chaise. He civilly
introduced himself as a medical man, living close to Port St. Mary, and
offered seats in his carriage. Always ready to make new acquaintances,
Allan at once accepted the proposal. He and the doctor (whose name was
ascertained to be Hawbury) became friendly and familiar before they
had been five minutes in the chaise together; Midwinter, sitting behind
them, reserved and silent, on the back seat. They separated just outside
Port St. Mary, before Mr. Hawbury’s house, Allan boisterously admiring
the doctor’s neat French windows and pretty flower-garden and lawn,
and wringing his hand at parting as if they had known each other
from boyhood upward. Arrived in Port St. Mary, the two friends found
themselves in a second Castletown on a smaller scale. But the country
round, wild, open, and hilly, deserved its reputation. A walk brought
them well enough on with the day--still the harmless, idle day that it
had been from the first--to see the evening near at hand. After waiting
a little to admire the sun, setting grandly over hill, and heath, and
crag, and talking, while they waited, of Mr. Brock and his long journey
home, they returned to the hotel to order their early supper. Nearer and
nearer the night, and the adventure which the night was to bring with
it, came to the two friends; and still the only incidents that happened
were incidents to be laughed at, if they were noticed at all. The
supper was badly cooked; the waiting-maid was impenetrably stupid; the
old-fashioned bell-rope in the coffee-room had come down in Allan’s
hands, and, striking in its descent a painted china shepherdess on the
chimney-piece, had laid the figure in fragments on the floor. Events as
trifling as these were still the only events that had happened, when the
twilight faded, and the lighted candles were brought into the room.

Finding Midwinter, after the double fatigue of a sleepless night and
a restless day, but little inclined for conversation, Allan left him
resting on the sofa, and lounged into the passage of the hotel, on the
chance of discovering somebody to talk to. Here another of the trivial
incidents of the day brought Allan and Mr. Hawbury together again, and
helped--whether happily or not, yet remained to be seen--to strengthen
the acquaintance between them on either side.

The “bar” of the hotel was situated at one end of the passage, and
the landlady was in attendance there, mixing a glass of liquor for the
doctor, who had just looked in for a little gossip. On Allan’s asking
permission to make a third in the drinking and the gossiping, Mr.
Hawbury civilly handed him the glass which the landlady had just filled.
It contained cold brandy-and-water. A marked change in Allan’s face, as
he suddenly drew back and asked for whisky instead, caught the doctor’s
medical eye. “A case of nervous antipathy,” said Mr. Hawbury, quietly
taking the glass away again. The remark obliged Allan to acknowledge
that he had an insurmountable loathing (which he was foolish enough to
be a little ashamed of mentioning) to the smell and taste of brandy. No
matter with what diluting liquid the spirit was mixed, the presence of
it, instantly detected by his organs of taste and smell, turned him sick
and faint if the drink touched his lips. Starting from this personal
confession, the talk turned on antipathies in general; and the doctor
acknowledged, on his side, that he took a professional interest in the
subject, and that he possessed a collection of curious cases at home,
which his new acquaintance was welcome to look at, if Allan had nothing
else to do that evening, and if he would call, when the medical work of
the day was over, in an hour’s time.

Cordially accepting the invitation (which was extended to Midwinter
also, if he cared to profit by it), Allan returned to the coffee-room to
look after his friend. Half asleep and half awake, Midwinter was still
stretched on the sofa, with the local newspaper just dropping out of his
languid hand.

“I heard your voice in the passage,” he said, drowsily. “Whom were you
talking to?”

“The doctor,” replied Allan. “I am going to smoke a cigar with him, in
an hour’s time. Will you come too?”

Midwinter assented with a weary sigh. Always shyly unwilling to make new
acquaintances, fatigue increased the reluctance he now felt to become
Mr. Hawbury’s guest. As matters stood, however, there was no alternative
but to go; for, with Allan’s constitutional imprudence, there was no
safely trusting him alone anywhere, and more especially in a stranger’s
house. Mr. Brock would certainly not have left his pupil to visit
the doctor alone; and Midwinter was still nervously conscious that he
occupied Mr. Brock’s place.

“What shall we do till it’s time to go?” asked Allan, looking about
him. “Anything in this?” he added, observing the fallen newspaper, and
picking it up from the floor.

“I’m too tired to look. If you find anything interesting, read it out,”
 said Midwinter, thinking that the reading might help to keep him awake.

Part of the newspaper, and no small part of it, was devoted to extracts
from books recently published in London. One of the works most largely
laid under contribution in this manner was of the sort to interest
Allan: it was a highly spiced narrative of Traveling Adventures in
the wilds of Australia. Pouncing on an extract which described the
sufferings of the traveling-party, lost in a trackless wilderness,
and in danger of dying by thirst, Allan announced that he had found
something to make his friend’s flesh creep, and began eagerly to read
the passage aloud.

Resolute not to sleep, Midwinter followed the progress of the adventure,
sentence by sentence, without missing a word. The consultation of the
lost travelers, with death by thirst staring them in the face; the
resolution to press on while their strength lasted; the fall of a heavy
shower, the vain efforts made to catch the rainwater, the transient
relief experienced by sucking their wet clothes; the sufferings renewed
a few hours after; the night advance of the strongest of the party,
leaving the weakest behind; the following a flight of birds when morning
dawned; the discovery by the lost men of the broad pool of water that
saved their lives--all this Midwinter’s fast-failing attention mastered
painfully, Allan’s voice growing fainter and fainter on his ear with
every sentence that was read. Soon the next words seemed to drop away
gently, and nothing but the slowly sinking sound of the voice was left.
Then the light in the room darkened gradually, the sound dwindled
into delicious silence, and the last waking impressions of the weary
Midwinter came peacefully to an end.

The next event of which he was conscious was a sharp ringing at the
closed door of the hotel. He started to his feet, with the ready
alacrity of a man whose life has accustomed him to wake at the shortest
notice. An instant’s look round showed him that the room was empty, and
a glance at his watch told him that it was close on midnight. The noise
made by the sleepy servant in opening the door, and the tread the next
moment of quick footsteps in the passage, filled him with a sudden
foreboding of something wrong. As he hurriedly stepped forward to go
out and make inquiry, the door of the coffee-room opened, and the doctor
stood before him.

“I am sorry to disturb you,” said Mr. Hawbury. “Don’t be alarmed;
there’s nothing wrong.”

“Where is my friend?” asked Midwinter.

“At the pier head,” answered the doctor. “I am, to a certain extent,
responsible for what he is doing now; and I think some careful person,
like yourself, ought to be with him.”

The hint was enough for Midwinter. He and the doctor set out for the
pier immediately, Mr. Hawbury mentioning on the way the circumstances
under which he had come to the hotel.

Punctual to the appointed hour Allan had made his appearance at the
doctor’s house, explaining that he had left his weary friend so fast
asleep on the sofa that he had not had the heart to wake him. The
evening had passed pleasantly, and the conversation had turned on many
subjects, until, in an evil hour, Mr. Hawbury had dropped a hint
which showed that he was fond of sailing, and that he possessed a
pleasure-boat of his own in the harbor. Excited on the instant by his
favorite topic, Allan had left his host no hospitable alternative but to
take him to the pier head and show him the boat. The beauty of the night
and the softness of the breeze had done the rest of the mischief; they
had filled Allan with irresistible longings for a sail by moonlight.
Prevented from accompanying his guest by professional hindrances which
obliged him to remain on shore, the doctor, not knowing what else to
do, had ventured on disturbing Midwinter, rather than take the
responsibility of allowing Mr. Armadale (no matter how well he might be
accustomed to the sea) to set off on a sailing trip at midnight entirely
by himself.

The time taken to make this explanation brought Midwinter and the doctor
to the pier head. There, sure enough, was young Armadale in the boat,
hoisting the sail, and singing the sailor’s “Yo-heave-ho!” at the top of
his voice.

“Come along, old boy!” cried Allan. “You’re just in time for a frolic by
moonlight!”

Midwinter suggested a frolic by daylight, and an adjournment to bed in
the meantime.

“Bed!” cried Allan, on whose harum-scarum high spirits Mr. Hawbury’s
hospitality had certainly not produced a sedative effect. “Hear him,
doctor! one would think he was ninety! Bed, you drowsy old dormouse!
Look at that, and think of bed if you can!”

He pointed to the sea. The moon was shining in the cloudless heaven;
the night-breeze blew soft and steady from the land; the peaceful waters
rippled joyfully in the silence and the glory of the night. Midwinter
turned to the doctor with a wise resignation to circumstances: he had
seen enough to satisfy him that all words of remonstrance would be words
simply thrown away.

“How is the tide?” he asked.

Mr. Hawbury told him.

“Are there oars in the boat?”

“Yes.”

“I am well used to the sea,” said Midwinter, descending the pier steps.
“You may trust me to take care of my friend, and to take care of the
boat.”

“Good-night, doctor!” shouted Allan. “Your whisky-and-water is
delicious--your boat’s a little beauty--and you’re the best fellow I
ever met in my life!”

The doctor laughed and waved his hand, and the boat glided out from the
harbor, with Midwinter at the helm.

As the breeze then blew, they were soon abreast of the westward
headland, bounding the Bay of Poolvash, and the question was started
whether they should run out to sea or keep along the shore. The wisest
proceeding, in the event of the wind failing them, was to keep by the
land. Midwinter altered the course of the boat, and they sailed on
smoothly in a south-westerly direction, abreast of the coast.

Little by little the cliffs rose in height, and the rocks, massed wild
and jagged, showed rifted black chasms yawning deep in their seaward
sides. Off the bold promontory called Spanish Head, Midwinter looked
ominously at his watch. But Allan pleaded hard for half an hour more,
and for a glance at the famous channel of the Sound, which they were now
fast nearing, and of which he had heard some startling stories from
the workmen employed on his yacht. The new change which Midwinter’s
compliance with this request rendered it necessary to make in the course
of the boat brought her close to the wind; and revealed, on one side,
the grand view of the southernmost shores of the Isle of Man, and, on
the other, the black precipices of the islet called the Calf, separated
from the mainland by the dark and dangerous channel of the Sound.

Once more Midwinter looked at his watch. “We have gone far enough,” he
said. “Stand by the sheet!”

“Stop!” cried Allan, from the bows of the boat. “Good God! here’s a
wrecked ship right ahead of us!”

Midwinter let the boat fall off a little, and looked where the other
pointed.

There, stranded midway between the rocky boundaries on either side of
the Sound--there, never again to rise on the living waters from her
grave on the sunken rock; lost and lonely in the quiet night; high, and
dark, and ghostly in the yellow moonshine, lay the Wrecked Ship.

“I know the vessel,” said Allan, in great excitement. “I heard my
workmen talking of her yesterday. She drifted in here, on a pitch-dark
night, when they couldn’t see the lights; a poor old worn-out
merchantman, Midwinter, that the ship-brokers have bought to break up.
Let’s run in and have a look at her.”

Midwinter hesitated. All the old sympathies of his sea-life strongly
inclined him to follow Allan’s suggestion; but the wind was falling
light, and he distrusted the broken water and the swirling currents of
the channel ahead. “This is an ugly place to take a boat into when you
know nothing about it,” he said.

“Nonsense!” returned Allan. “It’s as light as day, and we float in two
feet of water.”

Before Midwinter could answer, the current caught the boat, and swept
them onward through the channel straight toward the wreck.

“Lower the sail,” said Midwinter, quietly, “and ship the oars. We are
running down on her fast enough now, whether we like it or not.”

Both well accustomed to the use of the oar, they brought the course of
the boat under sufficient control to keep her on the smoothest side of
the channel--the side which was nearest to the Islet of the Calf. As
they came swiftly up with the wreck, Midwinter resigned his oar to
Allan; and, watching his opportunity, caught a hold with the boat-hook
on the fore-chains of the vessel. The next moment they had the boat
safely in hand, under the lee of the wreck.

The ship’s ladder used by the workmen hung over the fore-chains.
Mounting it, with the boat’s rope in his teeth, Midwinter secured one
end, and lowered the other to Allan in the boat. “Make that fast,” he
said, “and wait till I see if it’s all safe on board.” With those words,
he disappeared behind the bulwark.

“Wait?” repeated Allan, in the blankest astonishment at his friend’s
excessive caution. “What on earth does he mean? I’ll be hanged if I
wait. Where one of us goes, the other goes too!”

He hitched the loose end of the rope round the forward thwart of the
boat, and, swinging himself up the ladder, stood the next moment on the
deck. “Anything very dreadful on board?” he inquired sarcastically, as
he and his friend met.

Midwinter smiled. “Nothing whatever,” he replied. “But I couldn’t be
sure that we were to have the whole ship to ourselves till I got over
the bulwark and looked about me.”

Allan took a turn on the deck, and surveyed the wreck critically from
stem to stern.

“Not much of a vessel,” he said; “the Frenchmen generally build better
ships than this.”

Midwinter crossed the deck, and eyed Allan in a momentary silence.

“Frenchmen?” he repeated, after an interval. “Is this vessel French?”

“Yes.”

“How do you know?”

“The men I have got at work on the yacht told me. They know all about
her.”

Midwinter came a little nearer. His swarthy face began to look, to
Allan’s eyes, unaccountably pale in the moonlight.

“Did they mention what trade she was engaged in?”

“Yes; the timber trade.”

As Allan gave that answer, Midwinter’s lean brown hand clutched him fast
by the shoulder, and Midwinter’s teeth chattered in his head like the
teeth of a man struck by a sudden chill.

“Did they tell you her name?” he asked, in a voice that dropped suddenly
to a whisper.

“They did, I think. But it has slipped my memory.--Gently, old fellow;
these long claws of yours are rather tight on my shoulder.”

“Was the name--?” He stopped, removed his hand, and dashed away the
great drops that were gathering on his forehead. “Was the name _La Grace
de Dieu_?”

“How the deuce did you come to know it? That’s the name, sure enough.
_La Grace de Dieu_.”

At one bound, Midwinter leaped on the bulwark of the wreck.

“The boat!” he cried, with a scream of horror that rang far and wide
through the stillness of the night, and brought Allan instantly to his
side.

The lower end of the carelessly hitched rope was loose on the water, and
ahead, in the track of the moonlight, a small black object was floating
out of view. The boat was adrift.



IV. THE SHADOW OF THE PAST.

One stepping back under the dark shelter of the bulwark, and one
standing out boldly in the yellow light of the moon, the two friends
turned face to face on the deck of the timber-ship, and looked at each
other in silence. The next moment Allan’s inveterate recklessness seized
on the grotesque side of the situation by main force. He seated himself
astride on the bulwark, and burst out boisterously into his loudest and
heartiest laugh.

“All my fault,” he said; “but there’s no help for it now. Here we are,
hard and fast in a trap of our own setting; and there goes the last of
the doctor’s boat! Come out of the dark, Midwinter; I can’t half see you
there, and I want to know what’s to be done next.”

Midwinter neither answered nor moved. Allan left the bulwark, and,
mounting the forecastle, looked down attentively at the waters of the
Sound.

“One thing is pretty certain,” he said. “With the current on that side,
and the sunken rocks on this, we can’t find our way out of the scrape
by swimming, at any rate. So much for the prospect at this end of the
wreck. Let’s try how things look at the other. Rouse up, messmate!” he
called out, cheerfully, as he passed Midwinter. “Come and see what the
old tub of a timber-ship has got to show us astern.” He sauntered on,
with his hands in his pockets, humming the chorus of a comic song.

His voice had produced no apparent effect on his friend; but, at the
light touch of his hand in passing, Midwinter started, and moved out
slowly from the shadow of the bulwark. “Come along!” cried Allan,
suspending his singing for a moment, and glancing back. Still, without a
word of answer, the other followed. Thrice he stopped before he reached
the stern end of the wreck: the first time, to throw aside his hat,
and push back his hair from his forehead and temples; the second time,
reeling, giddy, to hold for a moment by a ring-bolt close at hand; the
last time (though Allan was plainly visible a few yards ahead), to look
stealthily behind him, with the furtive scrutiny of a man who believes
that other footsteps are following him in the dark. “Not yet!” he
whispered to himself, with eyes that searched the empty air. “I shall
see him astern, with his hand on the lock of the cabin door.”

The stern end of the wreck was clear of the ship-breakers’ lumber,
accumulated in the other parts of the vessel. Here, the one object
that rose visible on the smooth surface of the deck was the low wooden
structure which held the cabin door and roofed in the cabin stairs. The
wheel-house had been removed, the binnacle had been removed, but
the cabin entrance, and all that had belonged to it, had been left
untouched. The scuttle was on, and the door was closed.

On gaining the after-part of the vessel, Allan walked straight to the
stern, and looked out to sea over the taffrail. No such thing as a
boat was in view anywhere on the quiet, moon-brightened waters. Knowing
Midwinter’s sight to be better than his own, he called out, “Come up
here, and see if there’s a fisherman within hail of us.” Hearing no
reply, he looked back. Midwinter had followed him as far as the cabin,
and had stopped there. He called again in a louder voice, and beckoned
impatiently. Midwinter had heard the call, for he looked up, but still
he never stirred from his place. There he stood, as if he had reached
the utmost limits of the ship and could go no further.

Allan went back and joined him. It was not easy to discover what he was
looking at, for he kept his face turned away from the moonlight; but it
seemed as if his eyes were fixed, with a strange expression of inquiry,
on the cabin door. “What is there to look at there?” Allan asked.
“Let’s see if it’s locked.” As he took a step forward to open the door,
Midwinter’s hand seized him suddenly by the coat collar and forced him
back. The moment after, the hand relaxed without losing its grasp, and
trembled violently, like the hand of a man completely unnerved.

“Am I to consider myself in custody?” asked Allan, half astonished and
half amused. “Why in the name of wonder do you keep staring at the cabin
door? Any suspicious noises below? It’s no use disturbing the rats--if
that’s what you mean--we haven’t got a dog with us. Men? Living men they
can’t be; for they would have heard us and come on deck. Dead men? Quite
impossible! No ship’s crew could be drowned in a land-locked place like
this, unless the vessel broke up under them--and here’s the vessel
as steady as a church to speak for herself. Man alive, how your hand
trembles! What is there to scare you in that rotten old cabin? What are
you shaking and shivering about? Any company of the supernatural sort on
board? Mercy preserve us! (as the old women say) do you see a ghost?”

“_I see two_!” answered the other, driven headlong into speech and
action by a maddening temptation to reveal the truth. “Two!” he
repeated, his breath bursting from him in deep, heavy gasps, as he tried
vainly to force back the horrible words. “The ghost of a man like you,
drowning in the cabin! And the ghost of a man like me, turning the lock
of the door on him!”

Once more young Armadale’s hearty laughter rang out loud and long
through the stillness of the night.

“Turning the lock of the door, is he?” said Allan, as soon as his
merriment left him breath enough to speak. “That’s a devilish unhandsome
action, Master Midwinter, on the part of your ghost. The least I can do,
after that, is to let mine out of the cabin, and give him the run of the
ship.”

With no more than a momentary exertion of his superior strength, he
freed himself easily from Midwinter’s hold. “Below there!” he called
out, gayly, as he laid his strong hand on the crazy lock, and tore open
the cabin door. “Ghost of Allan Armadale, come on deck!” In his terrible
ignorance of the truth, he put his head into the doorway and looked
down, laughing, at the place where his murdered father had died. “Pah!”
 he exclaimed, stepping back suddenly, with a shudder of disgust. “The
air is foul already; and the cabin is full of water.”

It was true. The sunken rocks on which the vessel lay wrecked had burst
their way through her lower timbers astern, and the water had welled up
through the rifted wood. Here, where the deed had been done, the fatal
parallel between past and present was complete. What the cabin had been
in the time of the fathers, that the cabin was now in the time of the
sons.

Allan pushed the door to again with his foot, a little surprised at
the sudden silence which appeared to have fallen on his friend from the
moment when he had laid his hand on the cabin lock. When he turned to
look, the reason of the silence was instantly revealed. Midwinter had
dropped on the deck. He lay senseless before the cabin door; his face
turned up, white and still, to the moonlight, like the face of a dead
man.

In a moment Allan was at his side. He looked uselessly round the lonely
limits of the wreck, as he lifted Midwinter’s head on his knee, for a
chance of help, where all chance was ruthlessly cut off. “What am I to
do?” he said to himself, in the first impulse of alarm. “Not a drop
of water near, but the foul water in the cabin.” A sudden recollection
crossed his memory, the florid color rushed back over his face, and he
drew from his pocket a wicker-covered flask. “God bless the doctor for
giving me this before we sailed!” he broke out, fervently, as he poured
down Midwinter’s throat some drops of the raw whisky which the flask
contained. The stimulant acted instantly on the sensitive system of the
swooning man. He sighed faintly, and slowly opened his eyes. “Have I
been dreaming?” he asked, looking up vacantly in Allan’s face. His
eyes wandered higher, and encountered the dismantled masts of the wreck
rising weird and black against the night sky. He shuddered at the sight
of them, and hid his face on Allan’s knee. “No dream!” he murmured to
himself, mournfully. “Oh me, no dream!”

“You have been overtired all day,” said Allan, “and this infernal
adventure of ours has upset you. Take some more whisky, it’s sure to
do you good. Can you sit by yourself, if I put you against the bulwark,
so?”

“Why by myself? Why do you leave me?” asked Midwinter.

Allan pointed to the mizzen shrouds of the wreck, which were still left
standing. “You are not well enough to rough it here till the workmen
come off in the morning,” he said. “We must find our way on shore at
once, if we can. I am going up to get a good view all round, and see if
there’s a house within hail of us.”

Even in the moment that passed while those few words were spoken,
Midwinter’s eyes wandered back distrustfully to the fatal cabin door.
“Don’t go near it!” he whispered. “Don’t try to open it, for God’s
sake!”

“No, no,” returned Allan, humoring him. “When I come down from the
rigging, I’ll come back here.” He said the words a little constrainedly,
noticing, for the first time while he now spoke, an underlying distress
in Midwinter’s face, which grieved and perplexed him. “You’re not angry
with me?” he said, in his simple, sweet-tempered way. “All this is my
fault, I know; and I was a brute and a fool to laugh at you, when I
ought to have seen you were ill. I am so sorry, Midwinter. Don’t be
angry with me!”

Midwinter slowly raised his head. His eyes rested with a mournful
interest, long and tender, on Allan’s anxious face.

“Angry?” he repeated, in his lowest, gentlest tones. “Angry with
_you_?--Oh, my poor boy, were you to blame for being kind to me when I
was ill in the old west-country inn? And was I to blame for feeling your
kindness thankfully? Was it our fault that we never doubted each other,
and never knew that we were traveling together blindfold on the way that
was to lead us here? The cruel time is coming, Allan, when we shall
rue the day we ever met. Shake hands, brother, on the edge of the
precipice--shake hands while we are brothers still!”

Allan turned away quickly, convinced that his mind had not yet recovered
the shock of the fainting fit. “Don’t forget the whisky!” he said,
cheerfully, as he sprang into the rigging, and mounted to the
mizzen-top.

It was past two, the moon was waning, and the darkness that comes before
dawn was beginning to gather round the wreck. Behind Allan, as he now
stood looking out from the elevation of the mizzen-top, spread the broad
and lonely sea. Before him were the low, black, lurking rocks, and the
broken waters of the channel, pouring white and angry into the vast calm
of the westward ocean beyond. On the right hand, heaved back grandly
from the water-side, were the rocks and precipices, with their little
table-lands of grass between; the sloping downs, and upward-rolling
heath solitudes of the Isle of Man. On the left hand rose the craggy
sides of the Islet of the Calf, here rent wildly into deep black chasms,
there lying low under long sweeping acclivities of grass and heath. No
sound rose, no light was visible, on either shore. The black lines of
the topmost masts of the wreck looked shadowy and faint in the darkening
mystery of the sky; the land breeze had dropped; the small shoreward
waves fell noiseless: far or near, no sound was audible but the
cheerless bubbling of the broken water ahead, pouring through the awful
hush of silence in which earth and ocean waited for the coming day.

Even Allan’s careless nature felt the solemn influence of the time. The
sound of his own voice startled him when he looked down and hailed his
friend on deck.

“I think I see one house,” he said. “Here-away, on the mainland to the
right.” He looked again, to make sure, at a dim little patch of white,
with faint white lines behind it, nestling low in a grassy hollow,
on the main island. “It looks like a stone house and inclosure,” he
resumed. “I’ll hail it, on the chance.” He passed his arm round a rope
to steady himself, made a speaking-trumpet of his hands, and suddenly
dropped them again without uttering a sound. “It’s so awfully quiet,”
 he whispered to himself. “I’m half afraid to call out.” He looked down
again on deck. “I shan’t startle you, Midwinter, shall I?” he said, with
an uneasy laugh. He looked once more at the faint white object, in
the grassy hollow. “It won’t do to have come up here for nothing,” he
thought, and made a speaking-trumpet of his hands again. This time he
gave the hail with the whole power of his lungs. “On shore there!” he
shouted, turning his face to the main island. “Ahoy-hoy-hoy!”

The last echoes of his voice died away and were lost. No sound answered
him but the cheerless bubbling of the broken water ahead.

He looked down again at his friend, and saw the dark figure of Midwinter
rise erect, and pace the deck backward and forward, never disappearing
out of sight of the cabin when it retired toward the bows of the wreck,
and never passing beyond the cabin when it returned toward the stern.
“He is impatient to get away,” thought Allan; “I’ll try again.” He
hailed the land once more, and, taught by previous experience, pitched
his voice in its highest key.

This time another sound than the sound of the bubbling water answered
him. The lowing of frightened cattle rose from the building in the
grassy hollow, and traveled far and drearily through the stillness
of the morning air. Allan waited and listened. If the building was a
farmhouse the disturbance among the beasts would rouse the men. If it
was only a cattle-stable, nothing more would happen. The lowing of
the frightened brutes rose and fell drearily, the minutes passed, and
nothing happened.

“Once more!” said Allan, looking down at the restless figure pacing
beneath him. For the third time he hailed the land. For the third time
he waited and listened.

In a pause of silence among the cattle, he heard behind him, on the
opposite shore of the channel, faint and far among the solitudes of the
Islet of the Calf, a sharp, sudden sound, like the distant clash of a
heavy door-bolt drawn back. Turning at once in the new direction, he
strained his eyes to look for a house. The last faint rays of the
waning moonlight trembled here and there on the higher rocks, and on the
steeper pinnacles of ground, but great strips of darkness lay dense
and black over all the land between; and in that darkness the house, if
house there were, was lost to view.

“I have roused somebody at last,” Allan called out, encouragingly, to
Midwinter, still walking to and fro on the deck, strangely indifferent
to all that was passing above and beyond him. “Look out for the
answering, hail!” And with his face set toward the islet, Allan shouted
for help.

The shout was not answered, but mimicked with a shrill, shrieking
derision, with wilder and wilder cries, rising out of the deep distant
darkness, and mingling horribly the expression of a human voice with the
sound of a brute’s. A sudden suspicion crossed Allan’s mind, which
made his head swim and turned his hand cold as it held the rigging. In
breathless silence he looked toward the quarter from which the first
mimicry of his cry for help had come. After a moment’s pause the shrieks
were renewed, and the sound of them came nearer. Suddenly a figure,
which seemed the figure of a man, leaped up black on a pinnacle of
rock, and capered and shrieked in the waning gleam of the moonlight.
The screams of a terrified woman mingled with the cries of the capering
creature on the rock. A red spark flashed out in the darkness from a
light kindled in an invisible window. The hoarse shouting of a man’s
voice in anger was heard through the noise. A second black figure leaped
up on the rock, struggled with the first figure, and disappeared with it
in the darkness. The cries grew fainter and fainter, the screams of the
woman were stilled, the hoarse voice of the man was heard again for a
moment, hailing the wreck in words made unintelligible by the distance,
but in tones plainly expressive of rage and fear combined. Another
moment, and the clang of the door-bolt was heard again, the red spark
of light was quenched in darkness, and all the islet lay quiet in the
shadows once more. The lowing of the cattle on the main-land ceased,
rose again, stopped. Then, cold and cheerless as ever, the eternal
bubbling of the broken water welled up through the great gap of
silence--the one sound left, as the mysterious stillness of the hour
fell like a mantle from the heavens, and closed over the wreck.

Allan descended from his place in the mizzen-top, and joined his friend
again on deck.

“We must wait till the ship-breakers come off to their work,” he said,
meeting Midwinter halfway in the course of his restless walk. “After
what has happened, I don’t mind confessing that I’ve had enough of
hailing the land. Only think of there being a madman in that house
ashore, and of my waking him! Horrible, wasn’t it?”

Midwinter stood still for a moment, and looked at Allan, with the
perplexed air of a man who hears circumstances familiarly mentioned to
which he is himself a total stranger. He appeared, if such a thing had
been possible, to have passed over entirely without notice all that had
just happened on the Islet of the Calf.

“Nothing is horrible _out_ of this ship,” he said. “Everything is
horrible _in_ it.”

Answering in those strange words, he turned away again, and went on with
his walk.

Allan picked up the flask of whisky lying on the deck near him, and
revived his spirits with a dram. “Here’s one thing on board that isn’t
horrible,” he retorted briskly, as he screwed on the stopper of the
flask; “and here’s another,” he added, as he took a cigar from his
case and lit it. “Three o’clock!” he went on, looking at his watch, and
settling himself comfortably on deck with his back against the bulwark.
“Daybreak isn’t far off; we shall have the piping of the birds to cheer
us up before long. I say, Midwinter, you seem to have quite got over
that unlucky fainting fit. How you do keep walking! Come here and have
a cigar, and make yourself comfortable. What’s the good of tramping
backward and forward in that restless way?”

“I am waiting,” said Midwinter.

“Waiting! What for?”

“For what is to happen to you or to me--or to both of us--before we are
out of this ship.”

“With submission to your superior judgment, my dear fellow, I think
quite enough has happened already. The adventure will do very well as
it stands now; more of it is more than I want.” He took another dram
of whisky, and rambled on, between the puffs of his cigar, in his usual
easy way. “I’ve not got your fine imagination, old boy; and I hope the
next thing that happens will be the appearance of the workmen’s boat. I
suspect that queer fancy of yours has been running away with you while
you were down here all by yourself. Come, now, what were you thinking of
while I was up in the mizzen-top frightening the cows?”

Midwinter suddenly stopped. “Suppose I tell you?” he said.

“Suppose you do?”

The torturing temptation to reveal the truth, roused once already by his
companion’s merciless gayety of spirit, possessed itself of Midwinter
for the second time. He leaned back in the dark against the high side
of the ship, and looked down in silence at Allan’s figure, stretched
comfortably on the deck. “Rouse him,” the fiend whispered, subtly, “from
that ignorant self-possession and that pitiless repose. Show him the
place where the deed was done; let him know it with your knowledge, and
fear it with your dread. Tell him of the letter you burned, and of the
words no fire can destroy which are living in your memory now. Let him
see your mind as it was yesterday, when it roused your sinking faith in
your own convictions, to look back on your life at sea, and to cherish
the comforting remembrance that, in all your voyages, you had never
fallen in with this ship. Let him see your mind as it is now, when the
ship has got you at the turning-point of your new life, at the outset of
your friendship with the one man of all men whom your father warned you
to avoid. Think of those death-bed words, and whisper them in his ear,
that he may think of them, too: ‘Hide yourself from him under an assumed
name. Put the mountains and the seas between you; be ungrateful, be
unforgiving; be all that is most repellent to your own gentler nature,
rather than live under the same roof and breathe the same air with that
man.’” So the tempter counseled. So, like a noisome exhalation from the
father’s grave, the father’s influence rose and poisoned the mind of the
son.

The sudden silence surprised Allan; he looked back drowsily over his
shoulder. “Thinking again!” he exclaimed, with a weary yawn.

Midwinter stepped out from the shadow, and came nearer to Allan than he
had come yet. “Yes,” he said, “thinking of the past and the future.”

“The past and the future?” repeated Allan, shifting himself comfortably
into a new position. “For my part, I’m dumb about the past. It’s a sore
subject with me: the past means the loss of the doctor’s boat. Let’s
talk about the future. Have you been taking a practical view? as dear
old Brock calls it. Have you been considering the next serious question
that concerns us both when we get back to the hotel--the question of
breakfast?”

After an instant’s hesitation, Midwinter took a step nearer. “I have
been thinking of your future and mine,” he said; “I have been thinking
of the time when your way in life and my way in life will be two ways
instead of one.”

“Here’s the daybreak!” cried Allan. “Look up at the masts; they’re
beginning to get clear again already. I beg your pardon. What were you
saying?”

Midwinter made no reply. The struggle between the hereditary
superstition that was driving him on, and the unconquerable affection
for Allan that was holding him back, suspended the next words on his
lips. He turned aside his face in speechless suffering. “Oh, my father!”
 he thought, “better have killed me on that day when I lay on your bosom,
than have let me live for this.”

“What’s that about the future?” persisted Allan. “I was looking for the
daylight; I didn’t hear.”

Midwinter controlled himself, and answered: “You have treated me with
your usual kindness,” he said, “in planning to take me with you to
Thorpe Ambrose. I think, on reflection, I had better not intrude myself
where I am not known and not expected.” His voice faltered, and he
stopped again. The more he shrank from it, the clearer the picture of
the happy life that he was resigning rose on his mind.

Allan’s thoughts instantly reverted to the mystification about the new
steward which he had practiced on his friend when they were consulting
together in the cabin of the yacht. “Has he been turning it over in
his mind?” wondered Allan; “and is he beginning at last to suspect the
truth? I’ll try him.--Talk as much nonsense, my dear fellow, as you
like,” he rejoined, “but don’t forget that you are engaged to see me
established at Thorpe Ambrose, and to give me your opinion of the new
steward.”

Midwinter suddenly stepped forward again, close to Allan.

“I am not talking about your steward or your estate,” he burst out
passionately; “I am talking about myself. Do you hear? Myself! I am not
a fit companion for you. You don’t know who I am.” He drew back into the
shadowy shelter of the bulwark as suddenly as he had come out from it.
“O God! I can’t tell him,” he said to himself, in a whisper.

For a moment, and for a moment only, Allan was surprised. “Not know
who you are?” Even as he repeated the words, his easy goodhumor got
the upper-hand again. He took up the whisky flask, and shook it
significantly. “I say,” he resumed, “how much of the doctor’s medicine
did you take while I was up in the mizzen-top?”

The light tone which he persisted in adopting stung Midwinter to the
last pitch of exasperation. He came out again into the light, and
stamped his foot angrily on the deck. “Listen to me!” he said. “You
don’t know half the low things I have done in my lifetime. I have been a
tradesman’s drudge; I have swept out the shop and put up the shutters;
I have carried parcels through the street, and waited for my master’s
money at his customers’ doors.”

“I have never done anything half as useful,” returned Allan, composedly.
“Dear old boy, what an industrious fellow you have been in your time!”

“I’ve been a vagabond and a blackguard in my time,” returned the other,
fiercely; “I’ve been a street tumbler, a tramp, a gypsy’s boy! I’ve
sung for half-pence with dancing dogs on the high-road! I’ve worn a
foot-boy’s livery, and waited at table! I’ve been a common sailors’
cook, and a starving fisherman’s Jack-of-all-trades! What has a
gentleman in your position in common with a man in mine? Can you take
_me_ into the society at Thorpe Ambrose? Why, my very name would be
a reproach to you. Fancy the faces of your new neighbors when their
footmen announce Ozias Midwinter and Allan Armadale in the same breath!”
 He burst into a harsh laugh, and repeated the two names again, with a
scornful bitterness of emphasis which insisted pitilessly on the marked
contrast between them.

Something in the sound of his laughter jarred painfully even on Allan’s
easy nature. He raised himself on the deck and spoke seriously for the
first time. “A joke’s a joke, Midwinter,” he said, “as long as you don’t
carry it too far. I remember your saying something of the same sort to
me once before when I was nursing you in Somersetshire. You forced me
to ask you if I deserved to be kept at arms-length by _you_ of all the
people in the world. Don’t force me to say so again. Make as much fun of
me as you please, old fellow, in any other way. _That_ way hurts me.”

Simple as the words were, and simply as they had been spoken, they
appeared to work an instant revolution in Midwinter’s mind. His
impressible nature recoiled as from some sudden shock. Without a word of
reply, he walked away by himself to the forward part of the ship. He sat
down on some piled planks between the masts, and passed his hand over
his head in a vacant, bewildered way. Though his father’s belief in
fatality was his own belief once more--though there was no longer the
shadow of a doubt in his mind that the woman whom Mr. Brock had met in
Somersetshire, and the woman who had tried to destroy herself in London,
were one and the same--though all the horror that mastered him when he
first read the letter from Wildbad had now mastered him again, Allan’s
appeal to their past experience of each other had come home to his
heart, with a force more irresistible than the force of his superstition
itself. In the strength of that very superstition, he now sought the
pretext which might encourage him to sacrifice every less generous
feeling to the one predominant dread of wounding the sympathies of his
friend. “Why distress him?” he whispered to himself. “We are not the end
here: there is the Woman behind us in the dark. Why resist him when the
mischief’s done, and the caution comes too late? What _is_ to be _will_
be. What have I to do with the future? and what has he?”

He went back to Allan, sat down by his side, and took his hand. “Forgive
me,” he said, gently; “I have hurt you for the last time.” Before it
was possible to reply, he snatched up the whisky flask from the deck.
“Come!” he exclaimed, with a sudden effort to match his friend’s
cheerfulness, “you have been trying the doctor’s medicine, why shouldn’t
I?”

Allan was delighted. “This is something like a change for the better,”
 he said; “Midwinter is himself again. Hark! there are the birds. Hail,
smiling morn! smiling morn!” He sang the words of the glee in his old,
cheerful voice, and clapped Midwinter on the shoulder in his old, hearty
way. “How did you manage to clear your head of those confounded megrims?
Do you know you were quite alarming about something happening to one or
other of us before we were out of this ship?”

“Sheer nonsense!” returned Midwinter, contemptuously. “I don’t think my
head has ever been quite right since that fever; I’ve got a bee in my
bonnet, as they say in the North. Let’s talk of something else. About
those people you have let the cottage to? I wonder whether the agent’s
account of Major Milroy’s family is to be depended on? There might be
another lady in the household besides his wife and his daughter.”

“Oho!” cried Allan, “_you’re_ beginning to think of nymphs among the
trees, and flirtations in the fruit-garden, are you? Another lady, eh?
Suppose the major’s family circle won’t supply another? We shall have to
spin that half-crown again, and toss up for which is to have the first
chance with Miss Milroy.”

For once Midwinter spoke as lightly and carelessly as Allan himself.
“No, no,” he said, “the major’s landlord has the first claim to the
notice of the major’s daughter. I’ll retire into the background, and
wait for the next lady who makes her appearance at Thorpe Ambrose.”

“Very good. I’ll have an address to the women of Norfolk posted in the
park to that effect,” said Allan. “Are you particular to a shade about
size or complexion? What’s your favorite age?”

Midwinter trifled with his own superstition, as a man trifles with the
loaded gun that may kill him, or with the savage animal that may maim
him for life. He mentioned the age (as he had reckoned it himself) of
the woman in the black gown and the red Paisley shawl.

“Five-and-thirty,” he said.

As the words passed his lips, his factitious spirits deserted him. He
left his seat, impenetrably deaf to all Allan’s efforts at rallying him
on his extraordinary answer, and resumed his restless pacing of the deck
in dead silence. Once more the haunting thought which had gone to and
fro with him in the hour of darkness went to and fro with him now in the
hour of daylight.

Once more the conviction possessed itself of his mind that something was
to happen to Allan or to himself before they left the wreck.

Minute by minute the light strengthened in the eastern sky; and the
shadowy places on the deck of the timber-ship revealed their barren
emptiness under the eye of day. As the breeze rose again, the sea began
to murmur wakefully in the morning light. Even the cold bubbling of the
broken water changed its cheerless note, and softened on the ear as the
mellowing flood of daylight poured warm over it from the rising sun.
Midwinter paused near the forward part of the ship, and recalled his
wandering attention to the passing time. The cheering influences of the
hour were round him, look where he might. The happy morning smile of the
summer sky, so brightly merciful to the old and weary earth, lavished
its all-embracing beauty even on the wreck. The dew that lay glittering
on the inland fields lay glittering on the deck, and the worn and rusted
rigging was gemmed as brightly as the fresh green leaves on shore.
Insensibly, as he looked round, Midwinter’s thoughts reverted to the
comrade who had shared with him the adventure of the night. He returned
to the after-part of the ship, spoke to Allan as he advanced. Receiving
no answer, he approached the recumbent figure and looked closer at it.
Left to his own resources, Allan had let the fatigues of the night take
their own way with him. His head had sunk back; his hat had fallen off;
he lay stretched at full length on the deck of the timber-ship, deeply
and peacefully asleep.

Midwinter resumed his walk; his mind lost in doubt; his own past
thoughts seeming suddenly to have grown strange to him. How darkly his
forebodings had distrusted the coming time, and how harmlessly that time
had come! The sun was mounting in the heavens, the hour of release was
drawing nearer and nearer, and of the two Armadales imprisoned in the
fatal ship, one was sleeping away the weary time, and the other was
quietly watching the growth of the new day.

The sun climbed higher; the hour wore on. With the latent distrust of
the wreck which still clung to him, Midwinter looked inquiringly on
either shore for signs of awakening human life. The land was still
lonely. The smoke wreaths that were soon to rise from cottage chimneys
had not risen yet.

After a moment’s thought he went back again to the after-part of the
vessel, to see if there might be a fisherman’s boat within hail astern
of them. Absorbed for the moment by the new idea, he passed Allan
hastily, after barely noticing that he still lay asleep. One step more
would have brought him to the taffrail, when that step was suspended by
a sound behind him, a sound like a faint groan. He turned, and looked at
the sleeper on the deck. He knelt softly, and looked closer.

“It has come!” he whispered to himself. “Not to _me_--but to _him_.”

It had come, in the bright freshness of the morning; it had come, in the
mystery and terror of a Dream. The face which Midwinter had last seen
in perfect repose was now the distorted face of a suffering man. The
perspiration stood thick on Allan’s forehead, and matted his curling
hair. His partially opened eyes showed nothing but the white of the
eyeball gleaming blindly. His outstretched hands scratched and struggled
on the deck. From moment to moment he moaned and muttered helplessly;
but the words that escaped him were lost in the grinding and gnashing of
his teeth. There he lay--so near in the body to the friend who bent
over him; so far away in the spirit, that the two might have been in
different worlds--there he lay, with the morning sunshine on his face,
in the torture of his dream.

One question, and one only, rose in the mind of the man who was looking
at him. What had the fatality which had imprisoned him in the wreck
decreed that he should see?

Had the treachery of Sleep opened the gates of the grave to that one of
the two Armadales whom the other had kept in ignorance of the truth? Was
the murder of the father revealing itself to the son--there, on the very
spot where the crime had been committed--in the vision of a dream?

With that question overshadowing all else in his mind, the son of the
homicide knelt on the deck, and looked at the son of the man whom his
father’s hand had slain.

The conflict between the sleeping body and the waking mind was
strengthening every moment. The dreamer’s helpless groaning for
deliverance grew louder; his hands raised themselves, and clutched at
the empty air. Struggling with the all-mastering dread that still held
him, Midwinter laid his hand gently on Allan’s forehead. Light as the
touch was, there were mysterious sympathies in the dreaming man that
answered it. His groaning ceased, and his hands dropped slowly. There
was an instant of suspense and Midwinter looked closer. His breath just
fluttered over the sleeper’s face. Before the next breath had risen to
his lips, Allan suddenly sprang up on his knees--sprang up, as if the
call of a trumpet had rung on his ear, awake in an instant.

“You have been dreaming,” said Midwinter, as the other looked at him
wildly, in the first bewilderment of waking.

Allan’s eyes began to wander about the wreck, at first vacantly,
then with a look of angry surprise. “Are we here still?” he said, as
Midwinter helped him to his feet. “Whatever else I do on board this
infernal ship,” he added, after a moment, “I won’t go to sleep again!”

As he said those words, his friend’s eyes searched his face in silent
inquiry. They took a turn together on the deck.

“Tell me your dream,” said Midwinter, with a strange tone of suspicion
in his voice, and a strange appearance of abruptness in his manner.

“I can’t tell it yet,” returned Allan. “Wait a little till I’m my own
man again.”

They took another turn on the deck. Midwinter stopped, and spoke once
more.

“Look at me for a moment, Allan,” he said.

There was something of the trouble left by the dream, and something
of natural surprise at the strange request just addressed to him, in
Allan’s face, as he turned it full on the speaker; but no shadow of
ill-will, no lurking lines of distrust anywhere. Midwinter turned aside
quickly, and hid, as he best might, an irrepressible outburst of relief.

“Do I look a little upset?” asked Allan, taking his arm, and leading him
on again. “Don’t make yourself nervous about me if I do. My head feels
wild and giddy, but I shall soon get over it.”

For the next few minutes they walked backward and forward in silence,
the one bent on dismissing the terror of the dream from his thoughts,
the other bent on discovering what the terror of the dream might be.
Relieved of the dread that had oppressed it, the superstitious nature
of Midwinter had leaped to its next conclusion at a bound. What if the
sleeper had been visited by another revelation than the revelation of
the Past? What if the dream had opened those unturned pages in the book
of the Future which told the story of his life to come? The bare
doubt that it might be so strengthened tenfold Midwinter’s longing to
penetrate the mystery which Allan’s silence still kept a secret from
him.

“Is your head more composed?” he asked. “Can you tell me your dream
now?”

While he put the question, a last memorable moment in the Adventure of
the Wreck was at hand.

They had reached the stern, and were just turning again when Midwinter
spoke. As Allan opened his lips to answer, he looked out mechanically to
sea. Instead of replying, he suddenly ran to the taffrail, and waved his
hat over his head, with a shout of exultation.

Midwinter joined him, and saw a large six-oared boat pulling straight
for the channel of the Sound. A figure, which they both thought they
recognized, rose eagerly in the stern-sheets and returned the waving
of Allan’s hat. The boat came nearer, the steersman called to them
cheerfully, and they recognized the doctor’s voice.

“Thank God you’re both above water!” said Mr. Hawbury, as they met him
on the deck of the timber-ship. “Of all the winds of heaven, which wind
blew you here?”

He looked at Midwinter as he made the inquiry, but it was Allan who
told him the story of the night, and Allan who asked the doctor for
information in return. The one absorbing interest in Midwinter’s
mind--the interest of penetrating the mystery of the dream--kept him
silent throughout. Heedless of all that was said or done about him, he
watched Allan, and followed Allan, like a dog, until the time came for
getting down into the boat. Mr. Hawbury’s professional eye rested on him
curiously, noting his varying color, and the incessant restlessness
of his hands. “I wouldn’t change nervous systems with that man for the
largest fortune that could be offered me,” thought the doctor as he took
the boat’s tiller, and gave the oarsmen their order to push off from the
wreck.

Having reserved all explanations on his side until they were on their
way back to Port St. Mary, Mr. Hawbury next addressed himself to the
gratification of Allan’s curiosity. The circumstances which had brought
him to the rescue of his two guests of the previous evening were simple
enough. The lost boat had been met with at sea by some fishermen of Port
Erin, on the western side of the island, who at once recognized it as
the doctor’s property, and at once sent a messenger to make inquiry,
at the doctor’s house. The man’s statement of what had happened had
naturally alarmed Mr. Hawbury for the safety of Allan and his friend. He
had immediately secured assistance, and, guided by the boatman’s advice,
had made first for the most dangerous place on the coast--the only
place, in that calm weather, in which an accident could have happened to
a boat sailed by experienced men--the channel of the Sound. After
thus accounting for his welcome appearance on the scene, the doctor
hospitably insisted that his guests of the evening should be his guests
of the morning as well. It would still be too early when they got back
for the people at the hotel to receive them, and they would find bed and
breakfast at Mr. Hawbury’s house.

At the first pause in the conversation between Allan and the doctor,
Midwinter, who had neither joined in the talk nor listened to the talk,
touched his friend on the arm. “Are you better?” he asked, in a whisper.
“Shall you soon be composed enough to tell me what I want to know?”

Allan’s eyebrows contracted impatiently; the subject of the dream, and
Midwinter’s obstinacy in returning to it, seemed to be alike distasteful
to him. He hardly answered with his usual good humor. “I suppose I shall
have no peace till I tell you,” he said, “so I may as well get it over
at once.”

“No!” returned Midwinter, with a look at the doctor and his oarsmen.
“Not where other people can hear it--not till you and I are alone.”

“If you wish to see the last, gentlemen, of your quarters for the
night,” interposed the doctor, “now is your time! The coast will shut
the vessel out in a minute more.”

In silence on the one side and on the other, the two Armadales looked
their last at the fatal ship. Lonely and lost they had found the wreck
in the mystery of the summer night; lonely and lost they left the wreck
in the radiant beauty of the summer morning.

An hour later the doctor had seen his guests established in their
bedrooms, and had left them to take their rest until the breakfast hour
arrived.

Almost as soon as his back was turned, the doors of both rooms opened
softly, and Allan and Midwinter met in the passage.

“Can you sleep after what has happened?” asked Allan.

Midwinter shook his head. “You were coming to my room, were you not?” he
said. “What for?”

“To ask you to keep me company. What were you coming to _my_ room for?”

“To ask you to tell me your dream.”

“Damn the dream! I want to forget all about it.”

“And _I_ want to know all about it.”

Both paused; both refrained instinctively from saying more. For the
first time since the beginning of their friendship they were on the
verge of a disagreement, and that on the subject of the dream. Allan’s
good temper just stopped them on the brink.

“You are the most obstinate fellow alive,” he said; “but if you will
know all about it, you must know all about it, I suppose. Come into my
room, and I’ll tell you.”

He led the way, and Midwinter followed. The door closed and shut them in
together.



V. THE SHADOW OF THE FUTURE.

When Mr. Hawbury joined his guests in the breakfast-room, the strange
contrast of character between them which he had noticed already was
impressed on his mind more strongly than ever. One of them sat at the
well-spread table, hungry and happy, ranging from dish to dish, and
declaring that he had never made such a breakfast in his life. The other
sat apart at the window; his cup thanklessly deserted before it was
empty, his meat left ungraciously half-eaten on his plate. The
doctor’s morning greeting to the two accurately expressed the differing
impressions which they had produced on his mind.

He clapped Allan on the shoulder, and saluted him with a joke. He
bowed constrainedly to Midwinter, and said, “I am afraid you have not
recovered the fatigues of the night.”

“It’s not the night, doctor, that has damped his spirits,” said Allan.
“It’s something I have been telling him. It is not my fault, mind. If
I had only known beforehand that he believed in dreams, I wouldn’t have
opened my lips.”

“Dreams?” repeated the doctor, looking at Midwinter directly, and
addressing him under a mistaken impression of the meaning of Allan’s
words. “With your constitution, you ought to be well used to dreaming by
this time.”

“This way, doctor; you have taken the wrong turning!” cried Allan.
“I’m the dreamer, not he. Don’t look astonished; it wasn’t in this
comfortable house; it was on board that confounded timber-ship. The fact
is, I fell asleep just before you took us off the wreck; and it’s not to
be denied that I had a very ugly dream. Well, when we got back here--”

“Why do you trouble Mr. Hawbury about a matter that cannot possibly
interest him?” asked Midwinter, speaking for the first time, and
speaking very impatiently.

“I beg your pardon,” returned the doctor, rather sharply; “so far as I
have heard, the matter does interest me.”

“That’s right, doctor!” said Allan. “Be interested, I beg and pray; I
want you to clear his head of the nonsense he has got in it now. What
do you think? He will have it that my dream is a warning to me to avoid
certain people; and he actually persists in saying that one of those
people is--himself! Did you ever hear the like of it? I took great
pains; I explained the whole thing to him. I said, warning be hanged;
it’s all indigestion! You don’t know what I ate and drank at the
doctor’s supper-table; I do. Do you think he would listen to me? Not he.
You try him next; you’re a professional man, and he must listen to you.
Be a good fellow, doctor, and give me a certificate of indigestion; I’ll
show you my tongue with pleasure.”

“The sight of your face is quite enough,” said Mr. Hawbury. “I certify,
on the spot, that you never had such a thing as an indigestion in your
life. Let’s hear about the dream, and see what we can make of it, if you
have no objection, that is to say.”

Allan pointed at Midwinter with his fork.

“Apply to my friend, there,” he said; “he has got a much better account
of it than I can give you. If you’ll believe me, he took it all down in
writing from my own lips; and he made me sign it at the end, as if it
was my ‘last dying speech and confession’ before I went to the gallows.
Out with it, old boy--I saw you put it in your pocket-book--out with
it!”

“Are you really in earnest?” asked Midwinter, producing his pocketbook
with a reluctance which was almost offensive under the circumstances,
for it implied distrust of the doctor in the doctor’s own house.

Mr. Hawbury’s color rose. “Pray don’t show it to me, if you feel the
least unwillingness,” he said, with the elaborate politeness of an
offended man.

“Stuff and nonsense!” cried Allan. “Throw it over here!”

Instead of complying with that characteristic request, Midwinter took
the paper from the pocket-book, and, leaving his place, approached Mr.
Hawbury. “I beg your pardon,” he said, as he offered the doctor the
manuscript with his own hand. His eyes dropped to the ground, and his
face darkened, while he made the apology. “A secret, sullen fellow,”
 thought the doctor, thanking him with formal civility; “his friend is
worth ten thousand of him.” Midwinter went back to the window, and sat
down again in silence, with the old impenetrable resignation which had
once puzzled Mr. Brock.

“Read that, doctor,” said Allan, as Mr. Hawbury opened the written
paper. “It’s not told in my roundabout way; but there’s nothing added
to it, and nothing taken away. It’s exactly what I dreamed, and exactly
what I should have written myself, if I had thought the thing worth
putting down on paper, and if I had had the knack of writing--which,”
 concluded Allan, composedly stirring his coffee, “I haven’t, except it’s
letters; and I rattle _them_ off in no time.”

Mr. Hawbury spread the manuscript before him on the breakfast-table, and
read these lines:

  “ALLAN ARMADALE’S DREAM.

“Early on the morning of June the first, eighteen hundred and fifty-one,
I found myself (through circumstances which it is not important to
mention in this place) left alone with a friend of mine--a young man
about my own age--on board the French timber-ship named _La Grace de
Dieu_, which ship then lay wrecked in the channel of the Sound between
the main-land of the Isle of Man and the islet called the Calf. Having
not been in bed the previous night, and feeling overcome by fatigue, I
fell asleep on the deck of the vessel. I was in my usual good health at
the time, and the morning was far enough advanced for the sun to have
risen. Under these circumstances, and at that period of the day, I
passed from sleeping to dreaming. As clearly as I can recollect it,
after the lapse of a few hours, this was the succession of events
presented to me by the dream:

“1. The first event of which I was conscious was the appearance of my
father. He took me silently by the hand; and we found ourselves in the
cabin of a ship.

“2. Water rose slowly over us in the cabin; and I and my father sank
through the water together.

“3. An interval of oblivion followed; and then the sense came to me of
being left alone in the darkness.

“4. I waited.

“5. The darkness opened, and showed me the vision--as in a picture--of a
broad, lonely pool, surrounded by open ground. Above the farther margin
of the pool I saw the cloudless western sky, red with the light of
sunset.

“6. On the near margin of the pool there stood the Shadow of a Woman.

“7. It was the shadow only. No indication was visible to me by which I
could identify it, or compare it with any living creature. The long robe
showed me that it was the shadow of a woman, and showed me nothing more.

“8. The darkness closed again--remained with me for an interval--and
opened for the second time.

“9. I found myself in a room, standing before a long window. The
only object of furniture or of ornament that I saw (or that I can now
remember having seen) was a little statue placed near me. The window
opened on a lawn and flower-garden; and the rain was pattering heavily
against the glass.

“10. I was not alone in the room. Standing opposite to me at the window
was the Shadow of a Man.

“11. I saw no more of it; I knew no more of it than I saw and knew of
the shadow of the woman. But the shadow of the man moved. It stretched
out its arm toward the statue; and the statue fell in fragments on the
floor.

“12. With a confused sensation in me, which was partly anger and partly
distress, I stooped to look at the fragments. When I rose again, the
Shadow had vanished, and I saw no more.

“13. The darkness opened for the third time, and showed me the Shadow of
the Woman and the Shadow of the Man together.

“14. No surrounding scene (or none that I can now call to mind) was
visible to me.

“15. The Man-Shadow was the nearest; the Woman-Shadow stood back.
From where she stood, there came a sound as of the pouring of a liquid
softly. I saw her touch the shadow of the man with one hand, and with
the other give him a glass. He took the glass, and gave it to me. In
the moment when I put it to my lips, a deadly faintness mastered me from
head to foot. When I came to my senses again, the Shadows had vanished,
and the third vision was at an end.

“16. The darkness closed over me again; and the interval of oblivion
followed.

“17. I was conscious of nothing more, till I felt the morning sun shine
on my face, and heard my friend tell me that I had awakened from a
dream....”


After reading the narrative attentively to the last line (under
which appeared Allan’s signature), the doctor looked across the
breakfast-table at Midwinter, and tapped his fingers on the manuscript
with a satirical smile.

“Many men, many opinions,” he said. “I don’t agree with either of you
about this dream. Your theory,” he added, looking at Allan, with a
smile, “we have disposed of already: the supper that _you_ can’t digest
is a supper which has yet to be discovered. My theory we will come to
presently; your friend’s theory claims attention first.” He turned again
to Midwinter, with his anticipated triumph over a man whom he disliked
a little too plainly visible in his face and manner. “If I understand
rightly,” he went on, “you believe that this dream is a warning!
supernaturally addressed to Mr. Armadale, of dangerous events that are
threatening him, and of dangerous people connected with those events
whom he would do wisely to avoid. May I inquire whether you have arrived
at this conclusion as an habitual believer in dreams, or as having
reasons of your own for attaching especial importance to this one dream
in particular?”

“You have stated what my conviction is quite accurately,” returned
Midwinter, chafing under the doctor’s looks and tones. “Excuse me if
I ask you to be satisfied with that admission, and to let me keep my
reasons to myself.”

“That’s exactly what he said to me,” interposed Allan. “I don’t believe
he has got any reasons at all.”

“Gently! gently!” said Mr. Hawbury. “We can discuss the subject without
intruding ourselves into anybody’s secrets. Let us come to my own method
of dealing with the dream next. Mr. Midwinter will probably not be
surprised to hear that I look at this matter from an essentially
practical point of view.”

“I shall not be at all surprised,” retorted Midwinter. “The view of a
medical man, when he has a problem in humanity to solve, seldom ranges
beyond the point of his dissecting-knife.”

The doctor was a little nettled on his side. “Our limits are not quite
so narrow as that,” he said; “but I willingly grant you that there
are some articles of your faith in which we doctors don’t believe.
For example, we don’t believe that a reasonable man is justified in
attaching a supernatural interpretation to any phenomenon which comes
within the range of his senses, until he has certainly ascertained that
there is no such thing as a natural explanation of it to be found in the
first instance.”

“Come; that’s fair enough, I’m sure,” exclaimed Allan. “He hit you hard
with the ‘dissecting-knife,’ doctor; and now you have hit him back again
with your ‘natural explanation.’ Let’s have it.”

“By all means,” said Mr. Hawbury. “Here it is. There is nothing at all
extraordinary in my theory of dreams: it is the theory accepted by
the great mass of my profession. A dream is the reproduction, in the
sleeping state of the brain, of images and impressions produced on it
in the waking state; and this reproduction is more or less involved,
imperfect, or contradictory, as the action of certain faculties in the
dreamer is controlled more or less completely by the influence of sleep.
Without inquiring further into this latter part of the subject--a very
curious and interesting part of it--let us take the theory, roughly and
generally, as I have just stated it, and apply it at once to the dream
now under consideration.” He took up the written paper from the table,
and dropped the formal tone (as of a lecturer addressing an audience)
into which he had insensibly fallen. “I see one event already in this
dream,” he resumed, “which I know to be the reproduction of a waking
impression produced on Mr. Armadale in my own presence. If he will only
help me by exerting his memory, I don’t despair of tracing back the
whole succession of events set down here to something that he has said
or thought, or seen or done, in the four-and-twenty hours, or less,
which preceded his falling asleep on the deck of the timber-ship.”

“I’ll exert my memory with the greatest pleasure,” said Allan. “Where
shall we start from?”

“Start by telling me what you did yesterday, before I met you and your
friend on the road to this place,” replied Mr. Hawbury. “We will say,
you got up and had your breakfast. What next?”

“We took a carriage next,” said Allan, “and drove from Castletown
to Douglas to see my old friend, Mr. Brock, off by the steamer to
Liverpool. We came back to Castletown and separated at the hotel door.
Midwinter went into the house, and I went on to my yacht in the harbor.
By-the-bye, doctor, remember you have promised to go cruising with us
before we leave the Isle of Man.”

“Many thanks; but suppose we keep to the matter in hand. What next?”

Allan hesitated. In both senses of the word his mind was at sea already.

“What did you do on board the yacht?”

“Oh, I know! I put the cabin to rights--thoroughly to rights. I give
you my word of honor, I turned every blessed thing topsy-turvy. And my
friend there came off in a shore-boat and helped me. Talking of boats, I
have never asked you yet whether your boat came to any harm last night.
If there’s any damage done, I insist on being allowed to repair it.”

The doctor abandoned all further attempts at the cultivation of Allan’s
memory in despair.

“I doubt if we shall be able to reach our object conveniently in this
way,” he said. “It will be better to take the events of the dream in
their regular order, and to ask the questions that naturally suggest
themselves as we go on. Here are the first two events to begin with. You
dream that your father appears to you--that you and he find yourselves
in the cabin of a ship--that the water rises over you, and that you sink
in it together. Were you down in the cabin of the wreck, may I ask?”

“I couldn’t be down there,” replied Allan, “as the cabin was full of
water. I looked in and saw it, and shut the door again.”

“Very good,” said Mr. Hawbury. “Here are the waking impressions clear
enough, so far. You have had the cabin in your mind; and you have had
the water in your mind; and the sound of the channel current (as I well
know without asking) was the last sound in your ears when you went to
sleep. The idea of drowning comes too naturally out of such impressions
as these to need dwelling on. Is there anything else before we go on?
Yes; there is one more circumstance left to account for.”

“The most important circumstance of all,” remarked Midwinter, joining in
the conversation, without stirring from his place at the window.

“You mean the appearance of Mr. Armadale’s father? I was just coming
to that,” answered Mr. Hawbury. “Is your father alive?” he added,
addressing himself to Allan once more.

“My father died before I was born.”

The doctor started. “This complicates it a little,” he said. “How did
you know that the figure appearing to you in the dream was the figure of
your father?”

Allan hesitated again. Midwinter drew his chair a little away from the
window, and looked at the doctor attentively for the first time.

“Was your father in your thoughts before you went to sleep?” pursued
Mr. Hawbury. “Was there any description of him--any portrait of him at
home--in your mind?”

“Of course there was!” cried Allan, suddenly seizing the lost
recollection. “Midwinter! you remember the miniature you found on the
floor of the cabin when we were putting the yacht to rights? You said I
didn’t seem to value it; and I told you I did, because it was a portrait
of my father--”

“And was the face in the dream like the face in the miniature?” asked
Mr. Hawbury.

“Exactly like! I say, doctor, this is beginning to get interesting!”

“What do you say now?” asked Mr. Hawbury, turning toward the window
again.

Midwinter hurriedly left his chair, and placed himself at the table with
Allan. Just as he had once already taken refuge from the tyranny of his
own superstition in the comfortable common sense of Mr. Brock, so, with
the same headlong eagerness, with the same straightforward sincerity
of purpose, he now took refuge in the doctor’s theory of dreams. “I say
what my friend says,” he answered, flushing with a sudden enthusiasm;
“this is beginning to get interesting. Go on; pray go on.”

The doctor looked at his strange guest more indulgently than he had
looked yet. “You are the only mystic I have met with,” he said, “who is
willing to give fair evidence fair play. I don’t despair of converting
you before our inquiry comes to an end. Let us get on to the next set
of events,” he resumed, after referring for a moment to the manuscript.
“The interval of oblivion which is described as succeeding the first
of the appearances in the dream may be easily disposed of. It means,
in plain English, the momentary cessation of the brain’s intellectual
action, while a deeper wave of sleep flows over it, just as the sense
of being alone in the darkness, which follows, indicates the renewal of
that action, previous to the reproduction of another set of impressions.
Let us see what they are. A lonely pool, surrounded by an open country;
a sunset sky on the further side of the pool; and the shadow of a woman
on the near side. Very good; now for it, Mr. Armadale! How did that pool
get into your head? The open country you saw on your way from Castletown
to this place. But we have no pools or lakes hereabouts; and you can have
seen none recently elsewhere, for you came here after a cruise at sea.
Must we fall back on a picture, or a book, or a conversation with your
friend?”

Allan looked at Midwinter. “I don’t remember talking about pools or
lakes,” he said. “Do you?”

Instead of answering the question, Midwinter suddenly appealed to the
doctor.

“Have you got the last number of the Manx newspaper?” he asked.

The doctor produced it from the sideboard. Midwinter turned to the
page containing those extracts from the recently published “Travels in
Australia,” which had roused Allan’s, interest on the previous evening,
and the reading of which had ended by sending his friend to sleep.
There--in the passage describing the sufferings of the travelers from
thirst, and the subsequent discovery which saved their lives--there,
appearing at the climax of the narrative, was the broad pool of water
which had figured in Allan’s dream!

“Don’t put away the paper,” said the doctor, when Midwinter had shown it
to him, with the necessary explanation. “Before we are at the end of the
inquiry, it is quite possible we may want that extract again. We have
got at the pool. How about the sunset? Nothing of that sort is referred
to in the newspaper extract. Search your memory again, Mr. Armadale; we
want your waking impression of a sunset, if you please.”

Once more, Allan was at a loss for an answer; and, once more,
Midwinter’s ready memory helped him through the difficulty.

“I think I can trace our way back to this impression, as I traced our
way back to the other,” he said, addressing the doctor. “After we got
here yesterday afternoon, my friend and I took a long walk over the
hills--”

“That’s it!” interposed Allan. “I remember. The sun was setting as we
came back to the hotel for supper, and it was such a splendid red sky,
we both stopped to look at it. And then we talked about Mr. Brock, and
wondered how far he had got on his journey home. My memory may be a slow
one at starting, doctor; but when it’s once set going, stop it if you
can! I haven’t half done yet.”

“Wait one minute, in mercy to Mr. Midwinter’s memory and mine,” said the
doctor. “We have traced back to your waking impressions the vision of
the open country, the pool, and the sunset. But the Shadow of the Woman
has not been accounted for yet. Can you find us the original of this
mysterious figure in the dream landscape?”

Allan relapsed into his former perplexity, and Midwinter waited for what
was to come, with his eyes fixed in breathless interest on the doctor’s
face. For the first time there was unbroken silence in the room. Mr.
Hawbury looked interrogatively from Allan to Allan’s friend. Neither of
them answered him. Between the shadow and the shadow’s substance there
was a great gulf of mystery, impenetrable alike to all three of them.

“Patience,” said the doctor, composedly. “Let us leave the figure by the
pool for the present and try if we can’t pick her up again as we go on.
Allow me to observe, Mr. Midwinter, that it is not very easy to identify
a shadow; but we won’t despair. This impalpable lady of the lake may
take some consistency when we next meet with her.”

Midwinter made no reply. From that moment his interest in the inquiry
began to flag.

“What is the next scene in the dream?” pursued Mr. Hawbury, referring
to the manuscript. “Mr. Armadale finds himself in a room. He is standing
before a long window opening on a lawn and flower-garden, and the rain
is pattering against the glass. The only thing he sees in the room is
a little statue; and the only company he has is the Shadow of a Man
standing opposite to him. The Shadow stretches out its arm, and the
statue falls in fragments on the floor; and the dreamer, in anger and
distress at the catastrophe (observe, gentlemen, that here the sleeper’s
reasoning faculty wakes up a little, and the dream passes rationally,
for a moment, from cause to effect), stoops to look at the broken
pieces. When he looks up again, the scene has vanished. That is to say,
in the ebb and flow of sleep, it is the turn of the flow now, and the
brain rests a little. What’s the matter, Mr. Armadale? Has that restive
memory of yours run away with you again?”

“Yes,” said Allan. “I’m off at full gallop. I’ve run the broken statue
to earth; it’s nothing more nor less than a china shepherdess I knocked
off the mantel-piece in the hotel coffee-room, when I rang the bell
for supper last night. I say, how well we get on; don’t we? It’s like
guessing a riddle. Now, then, Midwinter! your turn next.”

“No!” said the doctor. “My turn, if you please. I claim the long window,
the garden, and the lawn, as my property. You will find the long window,
Mr. Armadale, in the next room. If you look out, you’ll see the garden
and lawn in front of it; and, if you’ll exert that wonderful memory of
yours, you will recollect that you were good enough to take special and
complimentary notice of my smart French window and my neat garden, when
I drove you and your friend to Port St. Mary yesterday.”

“Quite right,” rejoined Allan; “so I did. But what about the rain that
fell in the dream? I haven’t seen a drop of rain for the last week.”

Mr. Hawbury hesitated. The Manx newspaper which had been left on the
table caught his eye. “If we can think of nothing else,” he said, “let
us try if we can’t find the idea of the rain where we found the idea of
the pool.” He looked through the extract carefully. “I have got it!”
 he exclaimed. “Here is rain described as having fallen on these thirsty
Australian travelers, before they discovered the pool. Behold the
shower, Mr. Armadale, which got into your mind when you read the extract
to your friend last night! And behold the dream, Mr. Midwinter, mixing
up separate waking impressions just as usual!”

“Can you find the waking impression which accounts for the human figure
at the window?” asked Midwinter; “or are we to pass over the Shadow of
the Man as we have passed over the Shadow of the Woman already?”

He put the question with scrupulous courtesy of manner, but with a tone
of sarcasm in his voice which caught the doctor’s ear, and set up the
doctor’s controversial bristles on the instant.

“When you are picking up shells on the beach, Mr. Midwinter, you usually
begin with the shells that lie nearest at hand,” he rejoined. “We are
picking up facts now; and those that are easiest to get at are the facts
we will take first. Let the Shadow of the Man and the Shadow of the
Woman pair off together for the present; we won’t lose sight of them, I
promise you. All in good time, my dear sir; all in good time!”

He, too, was polite, and he, too, was sarcastic. The short truce between
the opponents was at an end already. Midwinter returned significantly to
his former place by the window. The doctor instantly turned his back
on the window more significantly still. Allan, who never quarreled
with anybody’s opinion, and never looked below the surface of anybody’s
conduct, drummed cheerfully on the table with the handle of his knife.
“Go on, doctor!” he called out; “my wonderful memory is as fresh as
ever.”

“Is it?” said Mr. Hawbury, referring again to the narrative of the
dream. “Do you remember what happened when you and I were gossiping with
the landlady at the bar of the hotel last night?”

“Of course I do! You were kind enough to hand me a glass of
brandy-and-water, which the landlady had just mixed for your own
drinking. And I was obliged to refuse it because, as I told you, the
taste of brandy always turns me sick and faint, mix it how you please.”

“Exactly so,” returned the doctor. “And here is the incident reproduced
in the dream. You see the man’s shadow and the woman’s shadow together
this time. You hear the pouring out of liquid (brandy from the hotel
bottle, and water from the hotel jug); the glass is handed by the
woman-shadow (the landlady) to the man-shadow (myself); the man-shadow
hands it to you (exactly what I did); and the faintness (which you
had previously described to me) follows in due course. I am shocked
to identify these mysterious appearances, Mr. Midwinter, with such
miserably unromantic originals as a woman who keeps a hotel, and a man
who physics a country district. But your friend himself will tell you
that the glass of brandy-and-water was prepared by the landlady, and
that it reached him by passing from her hand to mine. We have picked
up the shadows, exactly as I anticipated; and we have only to account
now--which may be done in two words--for the manner of their appearance
in the dream. After having tried to introduce the waking impression of
the doctor and the landlady separately, in connection with the wrong set
of circumstances, the dreaming mind comes right at the third trial, and
introduces the doctor and the landlady together, in connection with the
right set of circumstances. There it is in a nutshell!--Permit me to
hand you back the manuscript, with my best thanks for your very complete
and striking confirmation of the rational theory of dreams.” Saying
those words, Mr. Hawbury returned the written paper to Midwinter, with
the pitiless politeness of a conquering man.

“Wonderful! not a point missed anywhere from beginning to end! By
Jupiter!” cried Allan, with the ready reverence of intense ignorance.
“What a thing science is!”

“Not a point missed, as you say,” remarked the doctor, complacently.
“And yet I doubt if we have succeeded in convincing your friend.”

“You have _not_ convinced me,” said Midwinter. “But I don’t presume on
that account to say that you are wrong.”

He spoke quietly, almost sadly. The terrible conviction of the
supernatural origin of the dream, from which he had tried to escape, had
possessed itself of him again. All his interest in the argument was at
an end; all his sensitiveness to its irritating influences was gone. In
the case of any other man, Mr. Hawbury would have been mollified by
such a concession as his adversary had now made to him; but he disliked
Midwinter too cordially to leave him in the peaceable enjoyment of an
opinion of his own.

“Do you admit,” asked the doctor, more pugnaciously than ever, “that I
have traced back every event of the dream to a waking impression which
preceded it in Mr. Armadale’s mind?”

“I have no wish to deny that you have done so,” said Midwinter,
resignedly.

“Have I identified the shadows with their living originals?”

“You have identified them to your own satisfaction, and to my friend’s
satisfaction. Not to mine.”

“Not to yours? Can _you_ identify them?”

“No. I can only wait till the living originals stand revealed in the
future.”

“Spoken like an oracle, Mr. Midwinter! Have you any idea at present of
who those living originals may be?”

“I have. I believe that coming events will identify the Shadow of the
Woman with a person whom my friend has not met with yet; and the Shadow
of the Man with myself.”

Allan attempted to speak. The doctor stopped him. “Let us clearly
understand this,” he said to Midwinter. “Leaving your own case out
of the question for the moment, may I ask how a shadow, which has no
distinguishing mark about it, is to be identified with a living woman
whom your friend doesn’t know?”

Midwinter’s color rose a little. He began to feel the lash of the
doctor’s logic.

“The landscape picture of the dream has its distinguishing marks,” he
replied; “and in that landscape the living woman will appear when the
living woman is first seen.”

“The same thing will happen, I suppose,” pursued the doctor, “with the
man-shadow which you persist in identifying with yourself. You will be
associated in the future with a statue broken in your friend’s presence,
with a long window looking out on a garden, and with a shower of rain
pattering against the glass? Do you say that?”

“I say that.”

“And so again, I presume, with the next vision? You and the mysterious
woman will be brought together in some place now unknown, and will
present to Mr. Armadale some liquid yet unnamed, which will turn him
faint?--Do you seriously tell me you believe this?”

“I seriously tell you I believe it.”

“And, according to your view, these fulfillments of the dream will
mark the progress of certain coming events, in which Mr. Armadale’s
happiness, or Mr. Armadale’s safety, will be dangerously involved?”

“That is my firm conviction.”

The doctor rose, laid aside his moral dissecting-knife, considered for a
moment, and took it up again.

“One last question,” he said. “Have you any reason to give for going out
of your way to adopt such a mystical view as this, when an unanswerably
rational explanation of the dream lies straight before you?”

“No reason,” replied Midwinter, “that I can give, either to you or to my
friend.”

The doctor looked at his watch with the air of a man who is suddenly
reminded that he has been wasting his time.

“We have no common ground to start from,” he said; “and if we talk till
doomsday, we should not agree. Excuse my leaving you rather abruptly.
It is later than I thought; and my morning’s batch of sick people
are waiting for me in the surgery. I have convinced _your_ mind, Mr.
Armadale, at any rate; so the time we have given to this discussion has
not been altogether lost. Pray stop here, and smoke your cigar. I shall
be at your service again in less than an hour.” He nodded cordially to
Allan, bowed formally to Midwinter, and quitted the room.

As soon as the doctor’s back was turned, Allan left his place at the
table, and appealed to his friend, with that irresistible heartiness of
manner which had always found its way to Midwinter’s sympathies, from
the first day when they met at the Somersetshire inn.

“Now the sparring-match between you and the doctor is over,” said Allan,
“I have got two words to say on my side. Will you do something for my
sake which you won’t do for your own?”

Midwinter’s face brightened instantly. “I will do anything you ask me,”
 he said.

“Very well. Will you let the subject of the dream drop out of our talk
altogether from this time forth?”

“Yes, if you wish it.”

“Will you go a step further? Will you leave off thinking about the
dream?”

“It’s hard to leave off thinking about it, Allan. But I will try.”

“That’s a good fellow! Now give me that trumpery bit of paper, and let’s
tear it up, and have done with it.”

He tried to snatch the manuscript out of his friend’s hand; but
Midwinter was too quick for him, and kept it beyond his reach.

“Come! come!” pleaded Allan. “I’ve set my heart on lighting my cigar
with it.”

Midwinter hesitated painfully. It was hard to resist Allan; but he did
resist him. “I’ll wait a little,” he said, “before you light your cigar
with it.”

“How long? Till to-morrow?”

“Longer.”

“Till we leave the Isle of Man?”

“Longer.”

“Hang it--give me a plain answer to a plain question! How long _will_
you wait?”

Midwinter carefully restored the paper to its place in his pocketbook.

“I’ll wait,” he said, “till we get to Thorpe Ambrose.”


THE END OF THE FIRST BOOK.


*****



BOOK THE SECOND



I. LURKING MISCHIEF.

1. _From Ozias Midwinter to Mr. Brock_.

“Thorpe Ambrose, June 15, 1851.

“DEAR MR. BROCK--Only an hour since we reached this house, just as the
servants were locking up for the night. Allan has gone to bed, worn out
by our long day’s journey, and has left me in the room they call the
library, to tell you the story of our journey to Norfolk. Being better
seasoned than he is to fatigues of all kinds, my eyes are quite wakeful
enough for writing a letter, though the clock on the chimney-piece
points to midnight, and we have been traveling since ten in the morning.

“The last news you had of us was news sent by Allan from the Isle of
Man. If I am not mistaken, he wrote to tell you of the night we passed
on board the wrecked ship. Forgive me, dear Mr. Brock, if I say nothing
on that subject until time has helped me to think of it with a quieter
mind. The hard fight against myself must all be fought over again; but I
will win it yet, please God; I will, indeed.

“There is no need to trouble you with any account of our journeyings
about the northern and western districts of the island, or of the short
cruises we took when the repairs of the yacht were at last complete.
It will be better if I get on at once to the morning of yesterday, the
fourteenth. We had come in with the night-tide to Douglas Harbor, and,
as soon as the post-office was open; Allan, by my advice, sent on shore
for letters. The messenger returned with one letter only, and the
writer of it proved to be the former mistress of Thorpe Ambrose--Mrs.
Blanchard.

“You ought to be informed, I think, of the contents of this letter, for
it has seriously influenced Allan’s plans. He loses everything, sooner
or later, as you know, and he has lost the letter already. So I must
give you the substance of what Mrs. Blanchard wrote to him, as plainly
as I can.

“The first page announced the departure of the ladies from Thorpe
Ambrose. They left on the day before yesterday, the thirteenth, having,
after much hesitation, finally decided on going abroad, to visit some
old friends settled in Italy, in the neighborhood of Florence. It
appears to be quite possible that Mrs. Blanchard and her niece may
settle there, too, if they can find a suitable house and grounds to let.
They both like the Italian country and the Italian people, and they are
well enough off to please themselves. The elder lady has her jointure,
and the younger is in possession of all her father’s fortune.

“The next page of the letter was, in Allan’s opinion, far from a
pleasant page to read.

“After referring, in the most grateful terms, to the kindness which had
left her niece and herself free to leave their old home at their own
time, Mrs. Blanchard added that Allan’s considerate conduct had produced
such a strongly favorable impression among the friends and dependents of
the family that they were desirous of giving him a public reception
on his arrival among them. A preliminary meeting of the tenants on the
estate and the principal persons in the neighboring town had already
been held to discuss the arrangements, and a letter might be expected
shortly from the clergyman inquiring when it would suit Mr. Armadale’s
convenience to take possession personally and publicly of his estates in
Norfolk.

“You will now be able to guess the cause of our sudden departure from
the Isle of Man. The first and foremost idea in your old pupil’s mind,
as soon as he had read Mrs. Blanchard’s account of the proceedings at
the meeting, was the idea of escaping the public reception, and the one
certain way he could see of avoiding it was to start for Thorpe Ambrose
before the clergyman’s letter could reach him.

“I tried hard to make him think a little before he acted on his first
impulse in this matter; but he only went on packing his portmanteau in
his own impenetrably good-humored way. In ten minutes his luggage was
ready, and in five minutes more he had given the crew their directions
for taking the yacht back to Somersetshire. The steamer to Liverpool was
alongside of us in the harbor, and I had really no choice but to go on
board with him or to let him go by himself. I spare you the account of
our stormy voyage, of our detention at Liverpool, and of the trains we
missed on our journey across the country. You know that we have got here
safely, and that is enough. What the servants think of the new squire’s
sudden appearance among them, without a word of warning, is of no great
consequence. What the committee for arranging the public reception may
think of it when the news flies abroad to-morrow is, I am afraid, a more
serious matter.

“Having already mentioned the servants, I may proceed to tell you that
the latter part of Mrs. Blanchard’s letter was entirely devoted to
instructing Allan on the subject of the domestic establishment which
she has left behind her. It seems that all the servants, indoors and out
(with three exceptions), are waiting here, on the chance that Allan
will continue them in their places. Two of these exceptions are readily
accounted for: Mrs. Blanchard’s maid and Miss Blanchard’s maid go abroad
with their mistresses. The third exceptional case is the case of the
upper housemaid; and here there is a little hitch. In plain words,
the housemaid has been sent away at a moment’s notice, for what Mrs.
Blanchard rather mysteriously describes as ‘levity of conduct with a
stranger.’

“I am afraid you will laugh at me, but I must confess the truth. I have
been made so distrustful (after what happened to us in the Isle of Man)
of even the most trifling misadventures which connect themselves in any
way with Allan’s introduction to his new life and prospects, that I have
already questioned one of the men-servants here about this apparently
unimportant matter of the housemaid’s going away in disgrace.

“All I can learn is that a strange man had been noticed hanging
suspiciously about the grounds; that the housemaid was so ugly a woman
as to render it next to a certainty that he had some underhand purpose
to serve in making himself agreeable to her; and that he has not as yet
been seen again in the neighborhood since the day of her dismissal. So
much for the one servant who has been turned out at Thorpe Ambrose. I
can only hope there is no trouble for Allan brewing in that quarter. As
for the other servants who remain, Mrs. Blanchard describes them, both
men and women, as perfectly trustworthy, and they will all, no doubt,
continue to occupy their present places.

“Having now done with Mrs. Blanchard’s letter, my next duty is to beg
you, in Allan’s name and with Allan’s love, to come here and stay with
him at the earliest moment when you can leave Somersetshire. Although
I cannot presume to think that my own wishes will have any special
influence in determining you to accept this invitation, I must
nevertheless acknowledge that I have a reason of my own for earnestly
desiring to see you here. Allan has innocently caused me a new anxiety
about my future relations with him, and I sorely need your advice to
show me the right way of setting that anxiety at rest.

“The difficulty which now perplexes me relates to the steward’s place
at Thorpe Ambrose. Before to-day I only knew that Allan had hit on
some plan of his own for dealing with this matter, rather strangely
involving, among other results, the letting of the cottage which was
the old steward’s place of abode, in consequence of the new steward’s
contemplated residence in the great house. A chance word in our
conversation on the journey here led Allan into speaking out more
plainly than he had spoken yet, and I heard to my unutterable
astonishment that the person who was at the bottom of the whole
arrangement about the steward was no other than myself!

“It is needless to tell you how I felt this new instance of Allan’s
kindness. The first pleasure of hearing from his own lips that I had
deserved the strongest proof he could give of his confidence in me was
soon dashed by the pain which mixes itself with all pleasure--at least,
with all that I have ever known. Never has my past life seemed so
dreary to look back on as it seems now, when I feel how entirely it has
unfitted me to take the place of all others that I should have liked to
occupy in my friend’s service. I mustered courage to tell him that I had
none of the business knowledge and business experience which his steward
ought to possess. He generously met the objection by telling me that I
could learn; and he has promised to send to London for the person who
has already been employed for the time being in the steward’s office,
and who will, therefore, be perfectly competent to teach me.

“Do you, too, think I can learn? If you do, I will work day and night to
instruct myself. But if (as I am afraid) the steward’s duties are of
far too serious a kind to be learned off-hand by a man so young and so
inexperienced as I am, then pray hasten your journey to Thorpe Ambrose,
and exert your influence over Allan personally. Nothing less will induce
him to pass me over, and to employ a steward who is really fit to take
the place. Pray, pray act in this matter as you think best for Allan’s
interests. Whatever disappointment I may feel, _he_ shall not see it.

“Believe me, dear Mr. Brock,

“Gratefuly yours,

“OZIAS MIDWINTER.

“P.S.--I open the envelope again to add one word more. If you have heard
or seen anything since your return to Somersetshire of the woman in
the black dress and the red shawl, I hope you will not forget, when you
write, to let me know it.

“O. M.”


2. _From Mrs. Oldershaw to Miss Gwilt_.

“Ladies’ Toilet Repository, Diana Street, Pimlico,

“Wednesday.

“MY DEAR LYDIA--To save the post, I write to you, after a long day’s
worry at my place of business, on the business letter-paper, having news
since we last met which it seems advisable to send you at the earliest
opportunity.

“To begin at the beginning. After carefully considering the thing, I
am quite sure you will do wisely with young Armadale if you hold your
tongue about Madeira and all that happened there. Your position was, no
doubt, a very strong one with his mother. You had privately helped
her in playing a trick on her own father; you had been ungratefully
dismissed, at a pitiably tender age, as soon as you had served her
purpose; and, when you came upon her suddenly, after a separation of
more than twenty years, you found her in failing health, with a grown-up
son, whom she had kept in total ignorance of the true story of her
marriage.

“Have you any such advantages as these with the young gentleman who has
survived her? If he is not a born idiot he will decline to believe your
shocking aspersions on the memory of his mother; and--seeing that you
have no proofs at this distance of time to meet him with--there is an
end of your money-grubbing in the golden Armadale diggings. Mind, I
don’t dispute that the old lady’s heavy debt of obligation, after what
you did for her in Madeira, is not paid yet; and that the son is the
next person to settle with you, now the mother has slipped through your
fingers. Only squeeze him the right way, my dear, that’s what I venture
to suggest--squeeze him the right way.

“And which is the right way? That question brings me to my news.

“Have you thought again of that other notion of yours of trying your
hand on this lucky young gentleman, with nothing but your own good
looks and your own quick wits to help you? The idea hung on my mind so
strangely after you were gone that it ended in my sending a little note
to my lawyer, to have the will under which young Armadale has got
his fortune examined at Doctor’s Commons. The result turns out to
be something infinitely more encouraging than either you or I could
possibly have hoped for. After the lawyer’s report to me, there cannot
be a moment’s doubt of what you ought to do. In two words, Lydia, take
the bull by the horns--and marry him!

“I am quite serious. He is much better worth the venture than you
suppose. Only persuade him to make you Mrs. Armadale, and you may set
all after-discoveries at flat defiance. As long as he lives, you can
make your own terms with him; and, if he dies, the will entitles you, in
spite of anything he can say or do--with children or without them--to
an income chargeable on his estate of _twelve hundred a year for life_.
There is no doubt about this; the lawyer himself has looked at the will.
Of course, Mr. Blanchard had his son and his son’s widow in his eye
when he made the provision. But, as it is not limited to any one heir by
name, and not revoked anywhere, it now holds as good with young Armadale
as it would have held under other circumstances with Mr. Blanchard’s
son. What a chance for you, after all the miseries and the dangers you
have gone through, to be mistress of Thorpe Ambrose, if he lives; to
have an income for life, if he dies! Hook him, my poor dear; hook him at
any sacrifice.

“I dare say you will make the same objection when you read this which
you made when we were talking about it the other day; I mean the
objection of your age.

“Now, my good creature, just listen to me. The question is--not whether
you were five-and-thirty last birthday; we will own the dreadful truth,
and say you were--but whether you do look, or don’t look, your real age.
My opinion on this matter ought to be, and is, one of the best opinions
in London. I have had twenty years experience among our charming sex in
making up battered old faces and wornout old figures to look like new,
and I say positively you don’t look a day over thirty, if as much.
If you will follow my advice about dressing, and use one or two of my
applications privately, I guarantee to put you back three years more.
I will forfeit all the money I shall have to advance for you in this
matter, if, when I have ground you young again in my wonderful mill,
you look more than seven-and-twenty in any man’s eyes living--except,
of course, when you wake anxious in the small hours of the morning; and
then, my dear, you will be old and ugly in the retirement of your own
room, and it won’t matter.

“‘But,’ you may say, ‘supposing all this, here I am, even with your
art to help me, looking a good six years older than he is; and that
is against me at starting.’ Is it? Just think again. Surely, your
own experience must have shown you that the commonest of all common
weaknesses, in young fellows of this Armadale’s age, is to fall in love
with women older than themselves. Who are the men who really appreciate
us in the bloom of our youth (I’m sure I have cause to speak well of the
bloom of youth; I made fifty guineas to-day by putting it on the spotted
shoulders of a woman old enough to be your mother)--who are the men, I
say, who are ready to worship us when we are mere babies of seventeen?
The gay young gentlemen in the bloom of their own youth? No! The cunning
old wretches who are on the wrong side of forty.

“And what is the moral of this, as the story-books say?

“The moral is that the chances, with such a head as you have got on
your shoulders, are all in your favor. If you feel your present forlorn
position, as I believe you do; if you know what a charming woman (in the
men’s eyes) you can still be when you please; and if all your resolution
has really come back, after that shocking outbreak of desperation on
board the steamer (natural enough, I own, under the dreadful provocation
laid on you), you will want no further persuasion from me to try this
experiment. Only to think of how things turn out! If the other young
booby had not jumped into the river after you, _this_ young booby would
never have had the estate. It really looks as if fate had determined
that you were to be Mrs. Armadale, of Thorpe Ambrose; and who can
control his fate, as the poet says?

“Send me one line to say Yes or No; and believe me your attached old
friend,

“MARIA OLDERSHAW.”


3. _From Miss Gwilt to Mrs. Oldershaw_.

Richmond, Thursday.

‘YOU OLD WRETCH--I won’t say Yes or No till I have had a long, long
look at my glass first. If you had any real regard for anybody but your
wicked old self, you would know that the bare idea of marrying again
(after what I have gone through) is an idea that makes my flesh creep.

“But there can be no harm in your sending me a little more information
while I am making up my mind. You have got twenty pounds of mine still
left out of those things you sold for me; send ten pounds here for
my expenses, in a post-office order, and use the other ten for making
private inquiries at Thorpe Ambrose. I want to know when the two
Blanchard women go away, and when young Armadale stirs up the dead ashes
in the family fire-place. Are you quite sure he will turn out as easy to
manage as you think? If he takes after his hypocrite of a mother, I can
tell you this: Judas Iscariot has come to life again.

“I am very comfortable in this lodging. There are lovely flowers in the
garden, and the birds wake me in the morning delightfully. I have hired
a reasonably good piano. The only man I care two straws about--don’t be
alarmed; he was laid in his grave many a long year ago, under the name
of BEETHOVEN--keeps me company, in my lonely hours. The landlady would
keep me company, too, if I would only let her. I hate women. The new
curate paid a visit to the other lodger yesterday, and passed me on the
lawn as he came out. My eyes have lost nothing yet, at any rate, though
I _am_ five-and-thirty; the poor man actually blushed when I looked at
him! What sort of color do you think he would have turned, if one of the
little birds in the garden had whispered in his ear, and told him the
true story of the charming Miss Gwilt?

“Good-by, Mother Oldershaw. I rather doubt whether I am yours, or
anybody’s, affectionately; but we all tell lies at the bottoms of our
letters, don’t we? If you are my attached old friend, I must, of course,
be yours affectionately.

“LYDIA GWILT.

“P.S.--Keep your odious powders and paints and washes for the spotted
shoulders of your customers; not one of them shall touch my skin, I
promise you. If you really want to be useful, try and find out some
quieting draught to keep me from grinding my teeth in my sleep. I shall
break them one of these nights; and then what will become of my beauty,
I wonder?”

4. _From Mrs. Oldershaw to Miss Gwilt_.

“Ladies’ Toilet Repository, Tuesday.

“MY DEAR LYDIA--It is a thousand pities your letter was not addressed to
Mr. Armadale; your graceful audacity would have charmed him. It doesn’t
affect me; I am so well used to audacity in my way of life, you
know. Why waste your sparkling wit, my love, on your own impenetrable
Oldershaw? It only splutters and goes out. Will you try and be serious
this next time? I have news for you from Thorpe Ambrose, which is beyond
a joke, and which must not be trifled with.

“An hour after I got your letter I set the inquiries on foot. Not
knowing what consequences they might lead to, I thought it safest to
begin in the dark. Instead of employing any of the people whom I have
at my own disposal (who know you and know me), I went to the Private
Inquiry Office in Shadyside Place, and put the matter in the inspector’s
hands, in the character of a perfect stranger, and without mentioning
you at all. This was not the cheapest way of going to work, I own; but
it was the safest way, which is of much greater consequence.

“The inspector and I understood each other in ten minutes; and the right
person for the purpose--the most harmless looking young man you ever saw
in your life--was produced immediately. He left for Thorpe Ambrose an
hour after I saw him. I arranged to call at the office on the afternoons
of Saturday, Monday, and to-day for news. There was no news till to-day;
and there I found our confidential agent just returned to town, and
waiting to favor me with a full account of his trip to Norfolk.

“First of all, let me quiet your mind about those two questions of
yours; I have got answers to both the one and the other. The Blanchard
women go away to foreign parts on the thirteenth, and young Armadale is
at this moment cruising somewhere at sea in his yacht. There is talk
at Thorpe Ambrose of giving him a public reception, and of calling a
meeting of the local grandees to settle it all. The speechifying and
fuss on these occasions generally wastes plenty of time, and the public
reception is not thought likely to meet the new squire much before the
end of the month.

“If our messenger had done no more for us than this, I think he would
have earned his money. But the harmless young man is a regular Jesuit at
a private inquiry, with this great advantage over all the Popish priests
I have ever seen, that he has not got his slyness written in his face.

“Having to get his information through the female servants in the usual
way, he addressed himself, with admirable discretion, to the ugliest
woman in the house. ‘When they are nice-looking, and can pick and
choose,’ as he neatly expressed it to me, ‘they waste a great deal
of valuable time in deciding on a sweetheart. When they are ugly,
and haven’t got the ghost of a chance of choosing, they snap at a
sweetheart, if he comes their way, like a starved dog at a bone.’ Acting
on these excellent principles, our confidential agent succeeded, after
certain unavoidable delays, in addressing himself to the upper housemaid
at Thorpe Ambrose, and took full possession of her confidence at
the first interview. Bearing his instructions carefully in mind, he
encouraged the woman to chatter, and was favored, of course, with all
the gossip of the servants’ hall. The greater part of it (as repeated
to me) was of no earthly importance. But I listened patiently, and was
rewarded by a valuable discovery at last. Here it is.

“It seems there is an ornamental cottage in the grounds at Thorpe
Ambrose. For some reason unknown, young Armadale has chosen to let it,
and a tenant has come in already. He is a poor half-pay major in the
army, named Milroy, a meek sort of man, by all accounts, with a turn
for occupying himself in mechanical pursuits, and with a domestic
incumbrance in the shape of a bedridden wife, who has not been seen by
anybody. Well, and what of all this? you will ask, with that sparkling
impatience which becomes you so well. My dear Lydia, don’t sparkle! The
man’s family affairs seriously concern us both, for, as ill luck will
have it, the man has got a daughter!

“You may imagine how I questioned our agent, and how our agent ransacked
his memory, when I stumbled, in due course, on such a discovery as
this. If Heaven is responsible for women’s chattering tongues, Heaven
be praised! From Miss Blanchard to Miss Blanchard’s maid; from Miss
Blanchard’s maid to Miss Blanchard’s aunt’s maid; from Miss Blanchard’s
aunt’s maid, to the ugly housemaid; from the ugly housemaid to the
harmless-looking young man--so the stream of gossip trickled into the
right reservoir at last, and thirsty Mother Oldershaw has drunk it all
up.

“In plain English, my dear, this is how it stands. The major’s daughter
is a minx just turned sixteen; lively and nice-looking (hateful little
wretch!), dowdy in her dress (thank Heaven!) and deficient in her
manners (thank Heaven again!). She has been brought up at home. The
governess who last had charge of her left before her father moved to
Thorpe Ambrose. Her education stands woefully in want of a finishing
touch, and the major doesn’t quite know what to do next. None of his
friends can recommend him a new governess and he doesn’t like the
notion of sending the girl to school. So matters rest at present, on
the major’s own showing; for so the major expressed himself at a morning
call which the father and daughter paid to the ladies at the great
house.

“You have now got my promised news, and you will have little difficulty,
I think, in agreeing with me that the Armadale business must be settled
at once, one way or the other. If, with your hopeless prospects, and
with what I may call your family claim on this young fellow, you decide
on giving him up, I shall have the pleasure of sending you the balance
of your account with me (seven-and-twenty shillings), and shall then
be free to devote myself entirely to my own proper business. If, on the
contrary, you decide to try your luck at Thorpe Ambrose, then (there
being no kind of doubt that the major’s minx will set her cap at the
young squire) I should be glad to hear how you mean to meet the double
difficulty of inflaming Mr. Armadale and extinguishing Miss Milroy.

“Affectionately yours,

“MARIA OLDERSHAW.

5. _From Miss Gwilt to Mrs. Oldershaw.

(First Answer.)_

“Richmond, Wednesday Morning.

“MRS. OLDERSHAW--Send me my seven-and-twenty shillings, and devote
yourself to your own proper business. Yours, L. G.”

6. _From Miss Gwilt to Mrs. Oldershaw.

(Second Answer.)_

“Richmond, Wednesday Night.

“DEAR OLD LOVE--Keep the seven-and-twenty shillings, and burn my other
letter. I have changed my mind.

“I wrote the first time after a horrible night. I write this time after
a ride on horseback, a tumbler of claret, and the breast of a chicken.
Is that explanation enough? Please say Yes, for I want to go back to my
piano.

“No; I can’t go back yet; I must answer your question first. But are you
really so very simple as to suppose that I don’t see straight through
you and your letter? You know that the major’s difficulty is our
opportunity as well as I do; but you want me to take the responsibility
of making the first proposal, don’t you? Suppose I take it in your
own roundabout way? Suppose I say, ‘Pray don’t ask me how I propose
inflaming Mr. Armadale and extinguishing Miss Milroy; the question is
so shockingly abrupt I really can’t answer it. Ask me, instead, if it is
the modest ambition of my life to become Miss Milroy’s governess?’ Yes,
if you please, Mrs. Oldershaw, and if you will assist me by becoming my
reference.

“There it is for you! If some serious disaster happens (which is quite
possible), what a comfort it will be to remember that it was all my
fault!

“Now I have done this for you, will you do something for me. I want to
dream away the little time I am likely to have left here in my own way.
Be a merciful Mother Oldershaw, and spare me the worry of looking at
the Ins and Outs, and adding up the chances For and Against, in this new
venture of mine. Think for me, in short, until I am obliged to think for
myself.

“I had better not write any more, or I shall say something savage that
you won’t like. I am in one of my tempers to-night. I want a husband to
vex, or a child to beat, or something of that sort. Do you ever like to
see the summer insects kill themselves in the candle? I do, sometimes.
Good-night, Mrs. Jezebel. The longer you can leave me here the better.
The air agrees with me, and I am looking charmingly.

“L. G.”

7. _From Mrs. Oldershaw to Miss Gwilt_.

“Thursday.

“MY DEAR LYDIA--Some persons in my situation might be a little offended
at the tone of your last letter. But I am so fondly attached to you! And
when I love a person, it is so very hard, my dear, for that person to
offend me! Don’t ride quite so far, and only drink half a tumblerful of
claret next time. I say no more.

“Shall we leave off our fencing-match and come to serious matters now?
How curiously hard it always seems to be for women to understand each
other, especially when they have got their pens in their hands! But
suppose we try.

“Well, then, to begin with: I gather from your letter that you have
wisely decided to try the Thorpe Ambrose experiment, and to secure, if
you can, an excellent position at starting by becoming a member of Major
Milroy’s household. If the circumstances turn against you, and some
other woman gets the governess’s place (about which I shall have
something more to say presently), you will then have no choice but to
make Mr. Armadale’s acquaintance in some other character. In any case,
you will want my assistance; and the first question, therefore, to set
at rest between us is the question of what I am willing to do, and what
I can do, to help you.

“A woman, my dear Lydia, with your appearance, your manners, your
abilities, and your education, can make almost any excursions into
society that she pleases if she only has money in her pocket and a
respectable reference to appeal to in cases of emergency. As to the
money, in the first place. I will engage to find it, on condition of
your remembering my assistance with adequate pecuniary gratitude if you
win the Armadale prize. Your promise so to remember me, embodying the
terms in plain figures, shall be drawn out on paper by my own lawyer, so
that we can sign and settle at once when I see you in London.

“Next, as to the reference.

“Here, again, my services are at your disposal, on another condition. It
is this: that you present yourself at Thorpe Ambrose, under the name
to which you have returned ever since that dreadful business of your
marriage; I mean your own maiden name of Gwilt. I have only one motive
in insisting on this; I wish to run no needless risks. My experience,
as confidential adviser of my customers, in various romantic cases of
private embarrassment, has shown me that an assumed name is, nine times
out of ten, a very unnecessary and a very dangerous form of deception.
Nothing could justify your assuming a name but the fear of young
Armadale’s detecting you--a fear from which we are fortunately relieved
by his mother’s own conduct in keeping your early connection with her a
profound secret from her son and from everybody.

“The next, and last, perplexity to settle relates, my dear, to the
chances for and against your finding your way, in the capacity of
governess, into Major Milroy’s house. Once inside the door, with your
knowledge of music and languages, if you can keep your temper, you may
be sure of keeping the place. The only doubt, as things are now, is
whether you can get it.

“In the major’s present difficulty about his daughter’s education, the
chances are, I think, in favor of his advertising for a governess. Say
he does advertise, what address will he give for applicants to write to?

“If he gives an address in London, good-by to all chances in your favor
at once; for this plain reason, that we shall not be able to pick out
his advertisement from the advertisements of other people who want
governesses, and who will give them addresses in London as well. If, on
the other hand, our luck helps us, and he refers his correspondents to
a shop, post-office, or what not _at Thorpe Ambrose_, there we have our
advertiser as plainly picked out for us as we can wish. In this last
case, I have little or no doubt--with me for your reference--of your
finding your way into the major’s family circle. We have one great
advantage over the other women who will answer the advertisement. Thanks
to my inquiries on the spot, I know Major Milroy to be a poor man; and
we will fix the salary you ask at a figure that is sure to tempt him. As
for the style of the letter, if you and I together can’t write a modest
and interesting application for the vacant place, I should like to know
who can?

“All this, however, is still in the future. For the present my advice
is, stay where you are, and dream to your heart’s content, till you hear
from me again. I take in _The Times_ regularly, and you may trust my
wary eye not to miss the right advertisement. We can luckily give the
major time, without doing any injury to our own interests; for there
is no fear just yet of the girl’s getting the start of you. The public
reception, as we know, won’t be ready till near the end of the month;
and we may safely trust young Armadale’s vanity to keep him out of his
new house until his flatterers are all assembled to welcome him.

“It’s odd, isn’t it, to think how much depends on this half-pay
officer’s decision? For my part, I shall wake every morning now with
the same question in my mind: If the major’s advertisment appears, which
will the major say--Thorpe Ambrose, or London?

“Ever, my dear Lydia, affectionately yours,

“MARIA OLDERSHAW.”



II. ALLAN AS A LANDED GENTLEMAN.

Early on the morning after his first night’s rest at Thorpe Ambrose,
Allan rose and surveyed the prospect from his bedroom window, lost in
the dense mental bewilderment of feeling himself to be a stranger in his
own house.

The bedroom looked out over the great front door, with its portico, its
terrace and flight of steps beyond, and, further still, the broad sweep
of the well-timbered park to close the view. The morning mist nestled
lightly about the distant trees; and the cows were feeding sociably,
close to the iron fence which railed off the park from the drive
in front of the house. “All mine!” thought Allan, staring in blank
amazement at the prospect of his own possessions. “Hang me if I can beat
it into my head yet. All mine!”

He dressed, left his room, and walked along the corridor which led to
the staircase and hall, opening the doors in succession as he passed
them.

The rooms in this part of the house were bedrooms and dressing-rooms,
light, spacious, perfectly furnished; and all empty, except the one
bed-chamber next to Allan’s, which had been appropriated to Midwinter.
He was still sleeping when his friend looked in on him, having sat late
into the night writing his letter to Mr. Brock. Allan went on to the end
of the first corridor, turned at right angles into a second, and, that
passed, gained the head of the great staircase. “No romance here,” he
said to himself, looking down the handsomely carpeted stone stairs into
the bright modern hall. “Nothing to startle Midwinter’s fidgety
nerves in this house.” There was nothing, indeed; Allan’s essentially
superficial observation had not misled him for once. The mansion of
Thorpe Ambrose (built after the pulling down of the dilapidated old
manor-house) was barely fifty years old. Nothing picturesque, nothing in
the slightest degree suggestive of mystery and romance, appeared in any
part of it. It was a purely conventional country house--the product of
the classical idea filtered judiciously through the commercial English
mind. Viewed on the outer side, it presented the spectacle of a modern
manufactory trying to look like an ancient temple. Viewed on the inner
side, it was a marvel of luxurious comfort in every part of it, from
basement to roof. “And quite right, too,” thought Allan, sauntering
contentedly down the broad, gently graduated stairs. “Deuce take all
mystery and romance! Let’s be clean and comfortable, that’s what I say.”

Arrived in the hall, the new master of Thorpe Ambrose hesitated, and
looked about him, uncertain which way to turn next.

The four reception-rooms on the ground-floor opened into the hall, two
on either side. Allan tried the nearest door on his right hand at a
venture, and found himself in the drawing-room. Here the first sign of
life appeared, under life’s most attractive form. A young girl was in
solitary possession of the drawing-room. The duster in her hand appeared
to associate her with the domestic duties of the house; but at that
particular moment she was occupied in asserting the rights of nature
over the obligations of service. In other words, she was attentively
contemplating her own face in the glass over the mantelpiece.

“There! there! don’t let me frighten you,” said Allan, as the girl
started away from the glass, and stared at him in unutterable confusion.
“I quite agree with you, my dear; your face is well worth looking at.
Who are you? Oh, the housemaid. And what’s your name? Susan, eh? Come!
I like your name, to begin with. Do you know who I am, Susan? I’m your
master, though you may not think it. Your character? Oh, yes! Mrs.
Blanchard gave you a capital character. You shall stop here; don’t be
afraid. And you’ll be a good girl, Susan, and wear smart little caps and
aprons and bright ribbons, and you’ll look nice and pretty, and dust the
furniture, won’t you?” With this summary of a housemaid’s duties, Allan
sauntered back into the hall, and found more signs of life in that
quarter. A man-servant appeared on this occasion, and bowed, as became a
vassal in a linen jacket, before his liege lord in a wide-awake hat.

“And who may you be?” asked Allan. “Not the man who let us in last
night? Ah, I thought not. The second footman, eh? Character? Oh, yes;
capital character. Stop here, of course. You can valet me, can you?
Bother valeting me! I like to put on my own clothes, and brush them,
too, when they _are_ on; and, if I only knew how to black my own boots,
by George, I should like to do it! What room’s this? Morning-room, eh?
And here’s the dining-room, of course. Good heavens, what a table! it’s
as long as my yacht, and longer. I say, by-the-by, what’s your name?
Richard, is it? Well, Richard, the vessel I sail in is a vessel of my
own building! What do you think of that? You look to me just the right
sort of man to be my steward on board. If you’re not sick at sea--oh,
you _are_ sick at sea? Well, then, we’ll say nothing more about it.
And what room is this? Ah, yes; the library, of course--more in Mr.
Midwinter’s way than mine. Mr. Midwinter is the gentleman who came here
with me last night; and mind this, Richard, you’re all to show him as
much attention as you show me. Where are we now? What’s this door at the
back? Billiard-room and smoking-room, eh? Jolly. Another door! and more
stairs! Where do they go to? and who’s this coming up? Take your time,
ma’am; you’re not quite so young as you were once--take your time.”

The object of Allan’s humane caution was a corpulent elderly woman of
the type called “motherly.” Fourteen stairs were all that separated her
from the master of the house; she ascended them with fourteen stoppages
and fourteen sighs. Nature, various in all things, is infinitely various
in the female sex. There are some women whose personal qualities reveal
the Loves and the Graces; and there are other women whose personal
qualities suggest the Perquisites and the Grease Pot. This was one of
the other women.

“Glad to see you looking so well, ma’am,” said Allan, when the cook, in
the majesty of her office, stood proclaimed before him. “Your name is
Gripper, is it? I consider you, Mrs. Gripper, the most valuable person
in the house. For this reason, that nobody in the house eats a heartier
dinner every day than I do. Directions? Oh, no; I’ve no directions to
give. I leave all that to you. Lots of strong soup, and joints done
with the gravy in them--there’s my notion of good feeding, in two
words. Steady! Here’s somebody else. Oh, to be sure--the butler! Another
valuable person. We’ll go right through all the wine in the cellar,
Mr. Butler; and if I can’t give you a sound opinion after that,
we’ll persevere boldly, and go right through it again. Talking of
wine--halloo! here are more of them coming up stairs. There! there!
don’t trouble yourselves. You’ve all got capital characters, and you
shall all stop here along with me. What was I saying just now? Something
about wine; so it was. I’ll tell you what, Mr. Butler, it isn’t every
day that a new master comes to Thorpe Ambrose; and it’s my wish that we
should all start together on the best possible terms. Let the servants
have a grand jollification downstairs to celebrate my arrival, and
give them what they like to drink my health in. It’s a poor heart, Mrs.
Gripper, that never rejoices, isn’t it? No; I won’t look at the cellar
now: I want to go out, and get a breath of fresh air before breakfast.
Where’s Richard? I say, have I got a garden here? Which side of the
house is it! That side, eh? You needn’t show me round. I’ll go alone,
Richard, and lose myself, if I can, in my own property.”

With those words Allan descended the terrace steps in front of the
house, whistling cheerfully. He had met the serious responsibility of
settling his domestic establishment to his own entire satisfaction.
“People talk of the difficulty of managing their servants,” thought
Allan. “What on earth do they mean? I don’t see any difficulty at all.”
 He opened an ornamental gate leading out of the drive at the side of the
house, and, following the footman’s directions, entered the shrubbery
that sheltered the Thorpe Ambrose gardens. “Nice shady sort of place
for a cigar,” said Allan, as he sauntered along with his hands in his
pockets “I wish I could beat it into my head that it really belongs to
_me_.”

The shrubbery opened on the broad expanse of a flower garden, flooded
bright in its summer glory by the light of the morning sun.

On one side, an archway, broken through, a wall, led into the fruit
garden. On the other, a terrace of turf led to ground on a lower level,
laid out as an Italian garden. Wandering past the fountains and statues,
Allan reached another shrubbery, winding its way apparently to some
remote part of the grounds. Thus far, not a human creature had been
visible or audible anywhere; but, as he approached the end of the second
shrubbery, it struck him that he heard something on the other side of
the foliage. He stopped and listened. There were two voices speaking
distinctly--an old voice that sounded very obstinate, and a young voice
that sounded very angry.

“It’s no use, miss,” said the old voice. “I mustn’t allow it, and I
won’t allow it. What would Mr. Armadale say?”

“If Mr. Armadale is the gentleman I take him for, you old brute!”
 replied the young voice, “he would say, ‘Come into my garden, Miss
Milroy, as often as you like, and take as many nosegays as you please.’”
 Allan’s bright blue eyes twinkled mischievously. Inspired by a sudden
idea, he stole softly to the end of the shrubbery, darted round the
corner of it, and, vaulting over a low ring fence, found himself in a
trim little paddock, crossed by a gravel walk. At a short distance down
the wall stood a young lady, with her back toward him, trying to force
her way past an impenetrable old man, with a rake in his hand, who stood
obstinately in front of her, shaking his head.

“Come into my garden, Miss Milroy, as often as you like, and take as
many nosegays as you please,” cried Allan, remorselessly repeating her
own words.

The young lady turned round, with a scream; her muslin dress, which she
was holding up in front, dropped from her hand, and a prodigious lapful
of flowers rolled out on the gravel walk.

Before another word could be said, the impenetrable old man stepped
forward, with the utmost composure, and entered on the question of his
own personal interests, as if nothing whatever had happened, and nobody
was present but his new master and himself.

“I bid you humbly welcome to Thorpe Ambrose, sir,” said this ancient of
the gardens. “My name is Abraham Sage. I’ve been employed in the grounds
for more than forty years; and I hope you’ll be pleased to continue me
in my place.”

So, with vision inexorably limited to the horizon of his own prospects,
spoke the gardener, and spoke in vain. Allan was down on his knees on
the gravel walk, collecting the fallen flowers, and forming his first
impressions of Miss Milroy from the feet upward.

She was pretty; she was not pretty; she charmed, she disappointed, she
charmed again. Tried by recognized line and rule, she was too short and
too well developed for her age. And yet few men’s eyes would have wished
her figure other than it was. Her hands were so prettily plump and
dimpled that it was hard to see how red they were with the blessed
exuberance of youth and health. Her feet apologized gracefully for her
old and ill fitting shoes; and her shoulders made ample amends for the
misdemeanor in muslin which covered them in the shape of a dress. Her
dark-gray eyes were lovely in their clear softness of color, in their
spirit, tenderness, and sweet good humor of expression; and her hair
(where a shabby old garden hat allowed it to be seen) was of just that
lighter shade of brown which gave value by contrast to the darker
beauty of her eyes. But these attractions passed, the little attendant
blemishes and imperfections of this self-contradictory girl began again.
Her nose was too short, her mouth was too large, her face was too round
and too rosy. The dreadful justice of photography would have had no
mercy on her; and the sculptors of classical Greece would have bowed
her regretfully out of their studios. Admitting all this, and more, the
girdle round Miss Milroy’s waist was the girdle of Venus nevertheless;
and the passkey that opens the general heart was the key she carried,
if ever a girl possessed it yet. Before Allan had picked up his second
handful of flowers, Allan was in love with her.

“Don’t! pray don’t, Mr. Armadale!” she said, receiving the flowers under
protest, as Allan vigorously showered them back into the lap of her
dress. “I am so ashamed! I didn’t mean to invite myself in that bold way
into your garden; my tongue ran away with me--it did, indeed! What can I
say to excuse myself? Oh, Mr. Armadale, what must you think of me?”

Allan suddenly saw his way to a compliment, and tossed it up to her
forthwith, with the third handful of flowers.

“I’ll tell you what I think, Miss Milroy,” he said, in his blunt, boyish
way. “I think the luckiest walk I ever took in my life was the walk this
morning that brought me here.”

He looked eager and handsome. He was not addressing a woman worn out
with admiration, but a girl just beginning a woman’s life; and it did
him no harm, at any rate, to speak in the character of master of Thorpe
Ambrose. The penitential expression on Miss Milroy’s face gently melted
away; she looked down, demure and smiling, at the flowers in her lap.

“I deserve a good scolding,” she said. “I don’t deserve compliments, Mr.
Armadale--least of all from _you_.”

“Oh, yes, you do!” cried the headlong Allan, getting briskly on
his legs. “Besides, it isn’t a compliment; it’s true. You are the
prettiest--I beg your pardon, Miss Milroy! _my_ tongue ran away with me
that time.”

Among the heavy burdens that are laid on female human nature, perhaps
the heaviest, at the age of sixteen, is the burden of gravity. Miss
Milroy struggled, tittered, struggled again, and composed herself for
the time being.

The gardener, who still stood where he had stood from the first,
immovably waiting for his next opportunity, saw it now, and gently
pushed his personal interests into the first gap of silence that had
opened within his reach since Allan’s appearance on the scene.

“I humbly bid you welcome to Thorpe Ambrose, sir,” said Abraham Sage,
beginning obstinately with his little introductory speech for the second
time. “My name--”

Before he could deliver himself of his name, Miss Milroy looked
accidentally in the horticulturist’s pertinacious face, and instantly
lost her hold on her gravity beyond recall. Allan, never backward in
following a boisterous example of any sort, joined in her laughter with
right goodwill. The wise man of the gardens showed no surprise, and took
no offense. He waited for another gap of silence, and walked in again
gently with his personal interests the moment the two young people
stopped to take breath.

“I have been employed in the grounds,” proceeded Abraham Sage,
irrepressibly, “for more than forty years--”

“You shall be employed in the grounds for forty more, if you’ll only
hold your tongue and take yourself off!” cried Allan, as soon as he
could speak.

“Thank you kindly, sir,” said the gardener, with the utmost politeness,
but with no present signs either of holding his tongue or of taking
himself off.

“Well?” said Allan.

Abraham Sage carefully cleared his throat, and shifted his rake from
one hand to the other. He looked down the length of his own invaluable
implement, with a grave interest and attention, seeing, apparently, not
the long handle of a rake, but the long perspective of a vista, with a
supplementary personal interest established at the end of it. “When
more convenient, sir,” resumed this immovable man, “I should wish
respectfully to speak to you about my son. Perhaps it may be more
convenient in the course of the day? My humble duty, sir, and my best
thanks. My son is strictly sober. He is accustomed to the stables, and
he belongs to the Church of England--without incumbrances.” Having thus
planted his offspring provisionally in his master’s estimation, Abraham
Sage shouldered his invaluable rake, and hobbled slowly out of view.

“If that’s a specimen of a trustworthy old servant,” said Allan, “I
think I’d rather take my chance of being cheated by a new one. _You_
shall not be troubled with him again, Miss Milroy, at any rate. All the
flower-beds in the garden are at your disposal, and all the fruit in the
fruit season, if you’ll only come here and eat it.”

“Oh, Mr. Armadale, how very, very kind you are. How can I thank you?”

Allan saw his way to another compliment--an elaborate compliment, in the
shape of a trap, this time.

“You can do me the greatest possible favor,” he said. “You can assist me
in forming an agreeable impression of my own grounds.”

“Dear me! how?” asked Miss Milroy, innocently.

Allan judiciously closed the trap on the spot in these words: “By taking
me with you, Miss Milroy, on your morning walk.” He spoke, smiled, and
offered his arm.

She saw the way, on her side, to a little flirtation. She rested her
hand on his arm, blushed, hesitated, and suddenly took it away again.

“I don’t think it’s quite right, Mr. Armadale,” she said, devoting
herself with the deepest attention to her collection of flowers.
“Oughtn’t we to have some old lady here? Isn’t it improper to take your
arm until I know you a little better than I do now? I am obliged to ask;
I have had so little instruction; I have seen so little of society, and
one of papa’s friends once said my manners were too bold for my age.
What do _you_ think?”

“I think it’s a very good thing your papa’s friend is not here now,”
 answered the outspoken Allan; “I should quarrel with him to a dead
certainty. As for society, Miss Milroy, nobody knows less about it than
I do; but if we _had_ an old lady here, I must say myself I think she
would be uncommonly in the way. Won’t you?” concluded Allan, imploringly
offering his arm for the second time. “Do!”

Miss Milroy looked up at him sidelong from her flowers “You are as bad
as the gardener, Mr. Armadale!” She looked down again in a flutter
of indecision. “I’m sure it’s wrong,” she said, and took his arm the
instant afterward without the slightest hesitation.

They moved away together over the daisied turf of the paddock, young
and bright and happy, with the sunlight of the summer morning shining
cloudless over their flowery path.

“And where are we going to, now?” asked Allan. “Into another garden?”

She laughed gayly. “How very odd of you, Mr. Armadale, not to know, when
it all belongs to you! Are you really seeing Thorpe Ambrose this morning
for the first time? How indescribably strange it must feel! No, no;
don’t say any more complimentary things to me just yet. You may turn my
head if you do. We haven’t got the old lady with us; and I really must
take care of myself. Let me be useful; let me tell you all about your
own grounds. We are going out at that little gate, across one of the
drives in the park, and then over the rustic bridge, and then round
the corner of the plantation--where do you think? To where I live, Mr.
Armadale; to the lovely little cottage that you have let to papa. Oh, if
you only knew how lucky we thought ourselves to get it!”

She paused, looked up at her companion, and stopped another compliment
on the incorrigible Allan’s lips.

“I’ll drop your arm,” she said coquettishly, “if you do! We _were_ lucky
to get the cottage, Mr. Armadale. Papa said he felt under an obligation
to you for letting it, the day we got in. And _I_ said I felt under an
obligation, no longer ago than last week.”

“You, Miss Milroy!” exclaimed Allan.

“Yes. It may surprise you to hear it; but if you hadn’t let the cottage
to papa, I believe I should have suffered the indignity and misery of
being sent to school.”

Allan’s memory reverted to the half-crown that he had spun on the
cabin-table of the yacht, at Castletown. “If she only knew that I had
tossed up for it!” he thought, guiltily.

“I dare say you don’t understand why I should feel such a horror of
going to school,” pursued Miss Milroy, misinterpreting the momentary
silence on her companion’s side. “If I had gone to school in early
life--I mean at the age when other girls go--I shouldn’t have minded it
now. But I had no such chance at the time. It was the time of mamma’s
illness and of papa’s unfortunate speculation; and as papa had nobody to
comfort him but me, of course I stayed at home. You needn’t laugh; I was
of some use, I can tell you. I helped papa over his trouble, by sitting
on his knee after dinner, and asking him to tell me stories of all the
remarkable people he had known when he was about in the great world, at
home and abroad. Without me to amuse him in the evening, and his clock
to occupy him in the daytime--”

“His clock?” repeated Allan.

“Oh, yes! I ought to have told you. Papa is an extraordinary mechanical
genius. You will say so, too, when you see his clock. It’s nothing
like so large, of course, but it’s on the model of the famous clock
at Strasbourg. Only think, he began it when I was eight years old; and
(though I was sixteen last birthday) it isn’t finished yet! Some of our
friends were quite surprised he should take to such a thing when his
troubles began. But papa himself set that right in no time; he reminded
them that Louis the Sixteenth took to lock-making when _his_ troubles
began, and then everybody was perfectly satisfied.” She stopped, and
changed color confusedly. “Oh, Mr. Armadale,” she said, in genuine
embarrassment this time, “here is my unlucky tongue running away with me
again! I am talking to you already as if I had known you for years! This
is what papa’s friend meant when he said my manners were too bold. It’s
quite true; I have a dreadful way of getting familiar with people, if--”
 She checked herself suddenly, on the brink of ending the sentence by
saying, “if I like them.”

“No, no; do go on!” pleaded Allan. “It’s a fault of mine to be familiar,
too. Besides, we _must_ be familiar; we are such near neighbors. I’m
rather an uncultivated sort of fellow, and I don’t know quite how to say
it; but I want your cottage to be jolly and friendly with my house, and
my house to be jolly and friendly with your cottage. There’s my meaning,
all in the wrong words. Do go on, Miss Milroy; pray go on!”

She smiled and hesitated. “I don’t exactly remember where I was,” she
replied, “I only remember I had something I wanted to tell you. This
comes, Mr. Armadale, of my taking your arm. I should get on so much
better, if you would only consent to walk separately. You won’t? Well,
then, will you tell me what it was I wanted to say? Where was I before I
went wandering off to papa’s troubles and papa’s clock?”

“At school!” replied Allan, with a prodigious effort of memory.

“_Not_ at school, you mean,” said Miss Milroy; “and all through _you_.
Now I can go on again, which is a great comfort. I am quite serious, Mr.
Armadale, in saying that I should have been sent to school, if you had
said No when papa proposed for the cottage. This is how it happened.
When we began moving in, Mrs. Blanchard sent us a most kind message from
the great house to say that her servants were at our disposal, if we
wanted any assistance. The least papa and I could do, after that, was to
call and thank her. We saw Mrs. Blanchard and Miss Blanchard. Mistress
was charming, and miss looked perfectly lovely in her mourning. I’m sure
you admire her? She’s tall and pale and graceful--quite your idea of
beauty, I should think?”

“Nothing like it,” began Allan. “My idea of beauty at the present
moment--”

Miss Milroy felt it coming, and instantly took her hand off his arm.

“I mean I have never seen either Mrs. Blanchard or her niece,” added
Allan, precipitately correcting himself.

Miss Milroy tempered justice with mercy, and put her hand back again.

“How extraordinary that you should never have seen them!” she went on.
“Why, you are a perfect stranger to everything and everybody at Thorpe
Ambrose! Well, after Miss Blanchard and I had sat and talked a little
while, I heard my name on Mrs. Blanchard’s lips and instantly held my
breath. She was asking papa if I had finished my education. Out came
papa’s great grievance directly. My old governess, you must know, left
us to be married just before we came here, and none of our friends
could produce a new one whose terms were reasonable. ‘I’m told, Mrs.
Blanchard, by people who understand it better than I do,’ says papa,
‘that advertising is a risk. It all falls on me, in Mrs. Milroy’s state
of health, and I suppose I must end in sending my little girl to school.
Do you happen to know of a school within the means of a poor man?’ Mrs.
Blanchard shook her head; I could have kissed her on the spot for doing
it. ‘All my experience, Major Milroy,’ says this perfect angel of a
woman, ‘is in favor of advertising. My niece’s governess was originally
obtained by an advertisement, and you may imagine her value to us when I
tell you she lived in our family for more than ten years.’ I could have
gone down on both my knees and worshipped Mrs. Blanchard then and there;
and I only wonder I didn’t! Papa was struck at the time--I could see
that--and he referred to it again on the way home. ‘Though I have been
long out of the world, my dear,’ says papa, ‘I know a highly-bred woman
and a sensible woman when I see her. Mrs. Blanchard’s experience puts
advertising in a new light; I must think about it.’ He has thought about
it, and (though he hasn’t openly confessed it to me) I know that he
decided to advertise, no later than last night. So, if papa thanks you
for letting the cottage, Mr. Armadale, I thank you, too. But for you, we
should never have known darling Mrs. Blanchard; and but for darling Mrs.
Blanchard, I should have been sent to school.”

Before Allan could reply, they turned the corner of the plantation,
and came in sight of the cottage. Description of it is needless; the
civilized universe knows it already. It was the typical cottage of the
drawing-master’s early lessons in neat shading and the broad pencil
touch--with the trim thatch, the luxuriant creepers, the modest
lattice-windows, the rustic porch, and the wicker bird-cage, all
complete.

“Isn’t it lovely?” said Miss Milroy. “Do come in!”

“May I?” asked Allan. “Won’t the major think it too early?”

“Early or late, I am sure papa will be only too glad to see you.”

She led the way briskly up the garden path, and opened the parlor door.
As Allan followed her into the little room, he saw, at the further end
of it, a gentleman sitting alone at an old-fashioned writing-table, with
his back turned to his visitor.

“Papa! a surprise for you!” said Miss Milroy, rousing him from his
occupation. “Mr. Armadale has come to Thorpe Ambrose; and I have brought
him here to see you.”

The major started; rose, bewildered for the moment; recovered
himself immediately, and advanced to welcome his young landlord, with
hospitable, outstretched hand.

A man with a larger experience of the world and a finer observation
of humanity than Allan possessed would have seen the story of Major
Milroy’s life written in Major Milroy’s face. The home troubles that
had struck him were plainly betrayed in his stooping figure and his wan,
deeply wrinkled cheeks, when he first showed himself on rising from
his chair. The changeless influence of one monotonous pursuit and one
monotonous habit of thought was next expressed in the dull, dreamy
self-absorption of his manner and his look while his daughter was
speaking to him. The moment after, when he had roused himself to welcome
his guest, was the moment which made the self-revelation complete. Then
there flickered in the major’s weary eyes a faint reflection of the
spirit of his happier youth. Then there passed over the major’s dull
and dreamy manner a change which told unmistakably of social graces and
accomplishments, learned at some past time in no ignoble social school;
a man who had long since taken his patient refuge from trouble in his
own mechanical pursuit; a man only roused at intervals to know himself
again for what he once had been. So revealed to all eyes that could read
him aright, Major Milroy now stood before Allan, on the first morning of
an acquaintance which was destined to be an event in Allan’s life.

“I am heartily glad to see you, Mr. Armadale,” he said, speaking in the
changeless quiet, subdued tone peculiar to most men whose occupations
are of the solitary and monotonous kind. “You have done me one favor
already by taking me as your tenant, and you now do me another by paying
this friendly visit. If you have not breakfasted already, let me waive
all ceremony on my side, and ask you to take your place at our little
table.”

“With the greatest pleasure, Major Milroy, if I am not in the way,”
 replied Allan, delighted at his reception. “I was sorry to hear from
Miss Milroy that Mrs. Milroy is an invalid. Perhaps my being here
unexpectedly; perhaps the sight of a strange face--”

“I understand your hesitation, Mr. Armadale,” said the major; “but it is
quite unnecessary. Mrs. Milroy’s illness keeps her entirely confined to
her own room. Have we got everything we want on the table, my love?” he
went on, changing the subject so abruptly that a closer observer than
Allan might have suspected it was distasteful to him. “Will you come and
make tea?”

Miss Milroy’s attention appeared to be already pre-engaged; she made no
reply. While her father and Allan had been exchanging civilities, she
had been putting the writing-table in order, and examining the various
objects scattered on it with the unrestrained curiosity of a spoiled
child. The moment after the major had spoken to her, she discovered a
morsel of paper hidden between the leaves of the blotting-book, snatched
it up, looked at it, and turned round instantly, with an exclamation of
surprise.

“Do my eyes deceive me, papa?” she asked. “Or were you really and truly
writing the advertisement when I came in?”

“I had just finished it,” replied her father. “But, my dear, Mr.
Armadale is here--we are waiting for breakfast.”

“Mr. Armadale knows all about it,” rejoined Miss Milroy. “I told him in
the garden.”

“Oh, yes!” said Allan. “Pray, don’t make a stranger of me, major! If
it’s about the governess, I’ve got something (in an indirect sort of
way) to do with it too.”

Major Milroy smiled. Before he could answer, his daughter, who had been
reading the advertisement, appealed to him eagerly, for the second time.

“Oh, papa,” she said, “there’s one thing here I don’t like at all! Why
do you put grandmamma’s initials at the end? Why do you tell them to
write to grandmamma’s house in London?”

“My dear! your mother can do nothing in this matter, as you know. And
as for me (even if I went to London), questioning strange ladies about
their characters and accomplishments is the last thing in the world that
I am fit to do. Your grandmamma is on the spot; and your grandmamma is
the proper person to receive the letters, and to make all the necessary
inquires.”

“But I want to see the letters myself,” persisted the spoiled child.
“Some of them are sure to be amusing--”

“I don’t apologize for this very unceremonious reception of you, Mr.
Armadale,” said the major, turning to Allan, with a quaint and quiet
humor. “It may be useful as a warning, if you ever chance to marry and
have a daughter, not to begin, as I have done, by letting her have her
own way.”

Allan laughed, and Miss Milroy persisted.

“Besides,” she went on, “I should like to help in choosing which letters
we answer, and which we don’t. I think I ought to have some voice in the
selection of my own governess. Why not tell them, papa, to send their
letters down here--to the post-office or the stationer’s, or anywhere
you like? When you and I have read them, we can send up the letters we
prefer to grandmamma; and she can ask all the questions, and pick out
the best governess, just as you have arranged already, without leaving
ME entirely in the dark, which I consider (don’t you, Mr. Armadale?)
to be quite inhuman. Let me alter the address, papa; do, there’s a
darling!”

“We shall get no breakfast, Mr. Armadale, if I don’t say Yes,” said the
major good-humoredly. “Do as you like, my dear,” he added, turning to
his daughter. “As long as it ends in your grandmamma’s managing the
matter for us, the rest is of very little consequence.”

Miss Milroy took up her father’s pen, drew it through the last line of
the advertisement, and wrote the altered address with her own hand as
follows:

“_Apply, by letter, to M., Post-office, Thorpe Ambrose, Norfolk_.”

“There!” she said, bustling to her place at the breakfast-table. “The
advertisement may go to London now; and, if a governess _does_ come of
it, oh, papa, who in the name of wonder will she be? Tea or coffee, Mr.
Armadale? I’m really ashamed of having kept you waiting. But it is such
a comfort,” she added, saucily, “to get all one’s business off one’s
mind before breakfast!”

Father, daughter, and guest sat down together sociably at the little
round table, the best of good neighbors and good friends already.


Three days later, one of the London newsboys got _his_ business off his
mind before breakfast. His district was Diana Street, Pimlico; and the
last of the morning’s newspapers which he disposed of was the newspaper
he left at Mrs. Oldershaw’s door.



III. THE CLAIMS OF SOCIETY.

More than an hour after Allan had set forth on his exploring expedition
through his own grounds, Midwinter rose, and enjoyed, in his turn, a
full view by daylight of the magnificence of the new house.

Refreshed by his long night’s rest, he descended the great staircase as
cheerfully as Allan himself. One after another, he, too, looked into
the spacious rooms on the ground floor in breathless astonishment at the
beauty and the luxury which surrounded him. “The house where I lived in
service when I was a boy, was a fine one,” he thought, gayly; “but it
was nothing to this! I wonder if Allan is as surprised and delighted as
I am?” The beauty of the summer morning drew him out through the open
hall door, as it had drawn his friend out before him. He ran briskly
down the steps, humming the burden of one of the old vagabond tunes
which he had danced to long since in the old vagabond time. Even the
memories of his wretched childhood took their color, on that happy
morning, from the bright medium through which he looked back at them.
“If I was not out of practice,” he thought to himself, as he leaned
on the fence and looked over at the park, “I could try some of my old
tumbling tricks on that delicious grass.” He turned, noticed two of the
servants talking together near the shrubbery, and asked for news of the
master of the house.

The men pointed with a smile in the direction of the gardens; Mr.
Armadale had gone that way more than an hour since, and had met (as had
been reported) with Miss Milroy in the grounds. Midwinter followed the
path through the shrubbery, but, on reaching the flower garden, stopped,
considered a little, and retraced his steps. “If Allan has met with the
young lady,” he said to himself, “Allan doesn’t want me.” He laughed as
he drew that inevitable inference, and turned considerately to explore
the beauties of Thorpe Ambrose on the other side of the house.

Passing the angle of the front wall of the building, he descended some
steps, advanced along a paved walk, turned another angle, and found
himself in a strip of garden ground at the back of the house.

Behind him was a row of small rooms situated on the level of the
servants’ offices. In front of him, on the further side of the little
garden, rose a wall, screened by a laurel hedge, and having a door at
one end of it, leading past the stables to a gate that opened on the
high-road. Perceiving that he had only discovered thus far the shorter
way to the house, used by the servants and trades-people, Midwinter
turned back again, and looked in at the window of one of the rooms on
the basement story as he passed it. Were these the servants’ offices?
No; the offices were apparently in some other part of the ground-floor;
the window he had looked in at was the window of a lumber-room. The
next two rooms in the row were both empty. The fourth window, when he
approached it, presented a little variety. It served also as a door; and
it stood open to the garden at that moment.

Attracted by the book-shelves which he noticed on one of the walls,
Midwinter stepped into the room.

The books, few in number, did not detain him long; a glance at their
backs was enough without taking them down. The Waverley Novels, Tales
by Miss Edgeworth, and by Miss Edgeworth’s many followers, the Poems of
Mrs. Hemans, with a few odd volumes of the illustrated gift-books of
the period, composed the bulk of the little library. Midwinter turned to
leave the room, when an object on one side of the window, which he had
not previously noticed, caught his attention and stopped him. It was a
statuette standing on a bracket--a reduced copy of the famous Niobe of
the Florence Museum. He glanced from the statuette to the window, with a
sudden doubt which set his heart throbbing fast. It was a French window.
He looked out with a suspicion which he had not felt yet. The view
before him was the view of a lawn and garden. For a moment his mind
struggled blindly to escape the conclusion which had seized it, and
struggled in vain. Here, close round him and close before him--here,
forcing him mercilessly back from the happy present to the horrible
past, was the room that Allan had seen in the Second Vision of the
Dream.

He waited, thinking and looking round him while he thought. There
was wonderfully little disturbance in his face and manner; he looked
steadily from one to the other of the few objects in the room, as if the
discovery of it had saddened rather than surprised him. Matting of
some foreign sort covered the floor. Two cane chairs and a plain table
comprised the whole of the furniture. The walls were plainly papered,
and bare--broken to the eye in one place by a door leading into the
interior of the house; in another, by a small stove; in a third, by the
book-shelves which Midwinter had already noticed. He returned to the
books, and this time he took some of them down from the shelves.

The first that he opened contained lines in a woman’s handwriting,
traced in ink that had faded with time. He read the inscription--“Jane
Armadale, from her beloved father. Thorpe Ambrose, October, 1828.”
 In the second, third, and fourth volumes that he opened, the same
inscription re-appeared. His previous knowledge of dates and persons
helped him to draw the true inference from what he saw. The books must
have belonged to Allan’s mother; and she must have inscribed them with
her name, in the interval of time between her return to Thorpe Ambrose
from Madeira and the birth of her son. Midwinter passed on to a volume
on another shelf--one of a series containing the writings of Mrs.
Hemans. In this case, the blank leaf at the beginning of the book was
filled on both sides with a copy of verses, the writing being still
in Mrs. Armadale’s hand. The verses were headed “Farewell to Thorpe
Ambrose,” and were dated “March, 1829”--two months only after Allan had
been born.

Entirely without merit in itself, the only interest of the little poem
was in the domestic story that it told.

The very room in which Midwinter then stood was described--with the
view on the garden, the window made to open on it, the bookshelves, the
Niobe, and other more perishable ornaments which Time had destroyed.
Here, at variance with her brothers, shrinking from her friends, the
widow of the murdered man had, on her own acknowledgment, secluded
herself, without other comfort than the love and forgiveness of her
father, until her child was born. The father’s mercy and the father’s
recent death filled many verses, happily too vague in their commonplace
expression of penitence and despair to give any hint of the marriage
story in Madeira to any reader who looked at them ignorant of the truth.
A passing reference to the writer’s estrangement from her surviving
relatives, and to her approaching departure from Thorpe Ambrose,
followed. Last came the assertion of the mother’s resolution to separate
herself from all her old associations; to leave behind her every
possession, even to the most trifling thing she had, that could remind
her of the miserable past; and to date her new life in the future from
the birthday of the child who had been spared to console her--who was
now the one earthly object that could still speak to her of love and
hope. So the old story of passionate feeling that finds comfort in
phrases rather than not find comfort at all was told once again. So the
poem in the faded ink faded away to its end.

Midwinter put the book back with a heavy sigh, and opened no other
volume on the shelves. “Here in the country house, or there on board the
wreck,” he said, bitterly, “the traces of my father’s crime follow me,
go where I may.” He advanced toward the window, stopped, and looked back
into the lonely, neglected little room. “Is _this_ chance?” he asked
himself. “The place where his mother suffered is the place he sees in
the Dream; and the first morning in the new house is the morning that
reveals it, not to _him_, but to me. Oh, Allan! Allan! how will it end?”


The thought had barely passed through his mind before he heard Allan’s
voice, from the paved walk at the side of the house, calling to him by
his name. He hastily stepped out into the garden. At the same moment
Allan came running round the corner, full of voluble apologies for
having forgotten, in the society of his new neighbors, what was due to
the laws of hospitality and the claims of his friend.

“I really haven’t missed you,” said Midwinter; “and I am very, very glad
to hear that the new neighbors have produced such a pleasant impression
on you already.”

He tried, as he spoke, to lead the way back by the outside of the house;
but Allan’s flighty attention had been caught by the open window and the
lonely little room. He stepped in immediately. Midwinter followed, and
watched him in breathless anxiety as he looked round. Not the slightest
recollection of the Dream troubled Allan’s easy mind. Not the slightest
reference to it fell from the silent lips of his friend.

“Exactly the sort of place I should have expected you to hit on!”
 exclaimed Allan, gayly. “Small and snug and unpretending. I know you,
Master Midwinter! You’ll be slipping off here when the county families
come visiting, and I rather think on those dreadful occasions you won’t
find me far behind you. What’s the matter? You look ill and out of
spirits. Hungry? Of course you are! unpardonable of me to have kept you
waiting. This door leads somewhere, I suppose; let’s try a short
cut into the house. Don’t be afraid of my not keeping you company at
breakfast. I didn’t eat much at the cottage; I feasted my eyes on Miss
Milroy, as the poets say. Oh, the darling! the darling! she turns you
topsy-turvy the moment you look at her. As for her father, wait till
you see his wonderful clock! It’s twice the size of the famous clock at
Strasbourg, and the most tremendous striker ever heard yet in the memory
of man!”

Singing the praises of his new friends in this strain at the top of his
voice, Allan hurried Midwinter along the stone passages on the
basement floor, which led, as he had rightly guessed, to a staircase
communicating with the hall. They passed the servants’ offices on the
way. At the sight of the cook and the roaring fire, disclosed through
the open kitchen door, Allan’s mind went off at a tangent, and Allan’s
dignity scattered itself to the four winds of heaven, as usual.

“Aha, Mrs. Gripper, there you are with your pots and pans, and your
burning fiery furnace! One had need be Shadrach, Meshach, and the other
fellow to stand over that. Breakfast as soon as ever you like. Eggs,
sausages, bacon, kidneys, marmalade, water-cresses, coffee, and so
forth. My friend and I belong to the select few whom it’s a perfect
privilege to cook for. Voluptuaries, Mrs. Gripper, voluptuaries, both of
us. You’ll see,” continued Allan, as they went on toward the stairs, “I
shall make that worthy creature young again; I’m better than a doctor
for Mrs. Gripper. When she laughs, she shakes her fat sides, and when
she shakes her fat sides, she exerts her muscular system; and when
she exerts her muscular system--Ha! here’s Susan again. Don’t squeeze
yourself flat against the banisters, my dear; if you don’t mind hustling
_me_ on the stairs, I rather like hustling _you_. She looks like a
full-blown rose when she blushes, doesn’t she? Stop, Susan! I’ve orders
to give. Be very particular with Mr. Midwinter’s room: shake up his bed
like mad, and dust his furniture till those nice round arms of yours
ache again. Nonsense, my dear fellow! I’m not too familiar with them;
I’m only keeping them up to their work. Now, then, Richard! where do we
breakfast? Oh, here. Between ourselves, Midwinter, these splendid rooms
of mine are a size too large for me; I don’t feel as if I should ever
be on intimate terms with my own furniture. My views in life are of the
snug and slovenly sort--a kitchen chair, you know, and a low ceiling.
Man wants but little here below, and wants that little long. That’s not
exactly the right quotation; but it expresses my meaning, and we’ll let
alone correcting it till the next opportunity.”

“I beg your pardon,” interposed Midwinter, “here is something waiting
for you which you have not noticed yet.”

As he spoke, he pointed a little impatiently to a letter lying on the
breakfast-table. He could conceal the ominous discovery which he had
made that morning, from Allan’s knowledge; but he could not conquer
the latent distrust of circumstances which was now raised again in
his superstitious nature--the instinctive suspicion of everything that
happened, no matter how common or how trifling the event, on the first
memorable day when the new life began in the new house.

Allan ran his eye over the letter, and tossed it across the table to his
friend. “I can’t make head or tail of it,” he said, “can you?”

Midwinter read the letter, slowly, aloud. “Sir--I trust you will pardon
the liberty I take in sending these few lines to wait your arrival at
Thorpe Ambrose. In the event of circumstances not disposing you to place
your law business in the hands of Mr. Darch--” He suddenly stopped at
that point, and considered a little.

“Darch is our friend the lawyer,” said Allan, supposing Midwinter had
forgotten the name. “Don’t you remember our spinning the half-crown on
the cabin table, when I got the two offers for the cottage? Heads, the
major; tails, the lawyer. This is the lawyer.”

Without making any reply, Midwinter resumed reading the letter. “In the
event of circumstances not disposing you to place your law business
in the hands of Mr. Darch, I beg to say that I shall be happy to take
charge of your interests, if you feel willing to honor me with your
confidence. Inclosing a reference (should you desire it) to my agents in
London, and again apologizing for this intrusion, I beg to remain, sir,
respectfully yours, A. PEDGIFT, Sen.”

“Circumstances?” repeated Midwinter, as he laid the letter down. “What
circumstances can possibly indispose you to give your law business to
Mr. Darch?”

“Nothing can indispose me,” said Allan. “Besides being the family lawyer
here, Darch was the first to write me word at Paris of my coming in for
my fortune; and, if I have got any business to give, of course he ought
to have it.”

Midwinter still looked distrustfully at the open letter on the table.
“I am sadly afraid, Allan, there is something wrong already,” he said.
“This man would never have ventured on the application he has made to
you, unless he had some good reason for believing he would succeed. If
you wish to put yourself right at starting, you will send to Mr. Darch
this morning to tell him you are here, and you will take no notice for
the present of Mr. Pedgift’s letter.”

Before more could be said on either side, the footman made his
appearance with the breakfast tray. He was followed, after an interval,
by the butler, a man of the essentially confidential kind, with a
modulated voice, a courtly manner, and a bulbous nose. Anybody but Allan
would have seen in his face that he had come into the room having a
special communication to make to his master. Allan, who saw nothing
under the surface, and whose head was running on the lawyer’s letter,
stopped him bluntly with the point-blank question: “Who’s Mr. Pedgift?”

The butler’s sources of local knowledge opened confidentially on the
instant. Mr. Pedgift was the second of the two lawyers in the town. Not
so long established, not so wealthy, not so universally looked up to
as old Mr. Darch. Not doing the business of the highest people in the
county, and not mixing freely with the best society, like old Mr. Darch.
A very sufficient man, in his way, nevertheless. Known as a perfectly
competent and respectable practitioner all round the neighborhood. In
short, professionally next best to Mr. Darch; and personally superior to
him (if the expression might be permitted) in this respect--that Darch
was a Crusty One, and Pedgift wasn’t.

Having imparted this information, the butler, taking a wise advantage
of his position, glided, without a moment’s stoppage, from Mr. Pedgift’s
character to the business that had brought him into the breakfast-room.
The Midsummer Audit was near at hand; and the tenants were accustomed
to have a week’s notice of the rent-day dinner. With this necessity
pressing, and with no orders given as yet, and no steward in office
at Thorpe Ambrose, it appeared desirable that some confidential person
should bring the matter forward. The butler was that confidential
person; and he now ventured accordingly to trouble his master on the
subject.

At this point Allan opened his lips to interrupt, and was himself
interrupted before he could utter a word.

“Wait!” interposed Midwinter, seeing in Allan’s face that he was in
danger of being publicly announced in the capacity of steward. “Wait!”
 he repeated, eagerly, “till I can speak to you first.”

The butler’s courtly manner remained alike unruffled by Midwinter’s
sudden interference and by his own dismissal from the scene. Nothing but
the mounting color in his bulbous nose betrayed the sense of injury
that animated him as he withdrew. Mr. Armadale’s chance of regaling his
friend and himself that day with the best wine in the cellar trembled in
the balance, as the butler took his way back to the basement story.

“This is beyond a joke, Allan,” said Midwinter, when they were alone.
“Somebody must meet your tenants on the rent-day who is really fit to
take the steward’s place. With the best will in the world to learn, it
is impossible for _me_ to master the business at a week’s notice. Don’t,
pray don’t let your anxiety for my welfare put you in a false position
with other people! I should never forgive myself if I was the unlucky
cause--”

“Gently gently!” cried Allan, amazed at his friend’s extraordinary
earnestness. “If I write to London by to-night’s post for the man who
came down here before, will that satisfy you?”

Midwinter shook his head. “Our time is short,” he said; “and the man may
not be at liberty. Why not try in the neighborhood first? You were going
to write to Mr. Darch. Send at once, and see if he can’t help us between
this and post-time.”

Allan withdrew to a side-table on which writing materials were placed.
“You shall breakfast in peace, you old fidget,” he replied, and
addressed himself forthwith to Mr. Darch, with his usual Spartan brevity
of epistolary expression. “Dear Sir--Here I am, bag and baggage. Will
you kindly oblige me by being my lawyer? I ask this, because I want to
consult you at once. Please look in in the course of the day, and stop
to dinner if you possibly can. Yours truly. ALLAN ARMADALE.” Having read
this composition aloud with unconcealed admiration of his own rapidity
of literary execution, Allan addressed the letter to Mr. Darch, and rang
the bell. “Here, Richard, take this at once, and wait for an answer.
And, I say, if there’s any news stirring in the town, pick it up and
bring it back with you. See how I manage my servants!” continued Allan,
joining his friend at the breakfast-table. “See how I adapt myself to my
new duties! I haven’t been down here one clear day yet, and I’m taking
an interest in the neighborhood already.”

Breakfast over, the two friends went out to idle away the morning under
the shade of a tree in the park. Noon came, and Richard never appeared.
One o’clock struck, and still there were no signs of an answer from Mr.
Darch. Midwinter’s patience was not proof against the delay. He left
Allan dozing on the grass, and went to the house to make inquiries. The
town was described as little more than two miles distant; but the day
of the week happened to be market day, and Richard was being detained
no doubt by some of the many acquaintances whom he would be sure to meet
with on that occasion.

Half an hour later the truant messenger returned, and was sent out to
report himself to his master under the tree in the park.

“Any answer from Mr. Darch?” asked Midwinter, seeing that Allan was too
lazy to put the question for himself.

“Mr. Darch was engaged, sir. I was desired to say that he would send an
answer.”

“Any news in the town?” inquired Allan, drowsily, without troubling
himself to open his eyes.

“No, sir; nothing in particular.”

Observing the man suspiciously as he made that reply, Midwinter
detected in his face that he was not speaking the truth. He was plainly
embarrassed, and plainly relieved when his master’s silence allowed
him to withdraw. After a little consideration, Midwinter followed, and
overtook the retreating servant on the drive before the house.

“Richard,” he said, quietly, “if I was to guess that there _is_ some
news in the town, and that you don’t like telling it to your master,
should I be guessing the truth?”

The man started and changed color. “I don’t know how you have found it
out,” he said; “but I can’t deny you have guessed right.”

“If you let me hear what the news is, I will take the responsibility on
myself of telling Mr. Armadale.”

After some little hesitation, and some distrustful consideration, on
his side, of Midwinter’s face, Richard at last prevailed on himself to
repeat what he had heard that day in the town.

The news of Allan’s sudden appearance at Thorpe Ambrose had preceded the
servant’s arrival at his destination by some hours. Wherever he went,
he found his master the subject of public discussion. The opinion of
Allan’s conduct among the leading townspeople, the resident gentry
of the neighborhood, and the principal tenants on the estate was
unanimously unfavorable. Only the day before, the committee for managing
the public reception of the new squire had sketched the progress of the
procession; had settled the serious question of the triumphal arches;
and had appointed a competent person to solicit subscriptions for the
flags, the flowers, the feasting, the fireworks, and the band. In less
than a week more the money could have been collected, and the rector
would have written to Mr. Armadale to fix the day. And now, by Allan’s
own act, the public welcome waiting to honor him had been cast back
contemptuously in the public teeth! Everybody took for granted (what
was unfortunately true) that he had received private information of
the contemplated proceedings. Everybody declared that he had purposely
stolen into his own house like a thief in the night (so the phrase ran)
to escape accepting the offered civilities of his neighbors. In brief,
the sensitive self-importance of the little town was wounded to the
quick, and of Allan’s once enviable position in the estimation of the
neighborhood not a vestige remained.

For a moment, Midwinter faced the messenger of evil tidings in silent
distress. That moment past, the sense of Allan’s critical position
roused him, now the evil was known, to seek the remedy.

“Has the little you have seen of your master, Richard, inclined you to
like him?” he asked.

This time the man answered without hesitation, “A pleasanter and kinder
gentleman than Mr. Armadale no one could wish to serve.”

“If you think that,” pursued Midwinter, “you won’t object to give me
some information which will help your master to set himself right with
his neighbors. Come into the house.”

He led the way into the library, and, after asking the necessary
questions, took down in writing a list of the names and addresses of the
most influential persons living in the town and its neighborhood. This
done, he rang the bell for the head footman, having previously sent
Richard with a message to the stables directing an open carriage to be
ready in an hour’s time.

“When the late Mr. Blanchard went out to make calls in the neighborhood,
it was your place to go with him, was it not?” he asked, when the upper
servant appeared. “Very well. Be ready in an hour’s time, if you please,
to go out with Mr. Armadale.” Having given that order, he left the house
again on his way back to Allan, with the visiting list in his hand.
He smiled a little sadly as he descended the steps. “Who would have
imagined,” he thought, “that my foot-boy’s experience of the ways of
gentlefolks would be worth looking back at one day for Allan’s sake?”

The object of the popular odium lay innocently slumbering on the grass,
with his garden hat over his nose, his waistcoat unbuttoned, and his
trousers wrinkled half way up his outstretched legs. Midwinter roused
him without hesitation, and remorselessly repeated the servant’s news.

Allan accepted the disclosure thus forced on him without the slightest
disturbance of temper. “Oh, hang ‘em!” was all he said. “Let’s have
another cigar.” Midwinter took the cigar out of his hand, and, insisting
on his treating the matter seriously, told him in plain words that he
must set himself right with his offended neighbors by calling on
them personally to make his apologies. Allan sat up on the grass in
astonishment; his eyes opened wide in incredulous dismay. Did Midwinter
positively meditate forcing him into a “chimney-pot hat,” a nicely
brushed frock-coat, and a clean pair of gloves? Was it actually in
contemplation to shut him up in a carriage, with his footman on the box
and his card-case in his hand, and send him round from house to house,
to tell a pack of fools that he begged their pardon for not letting them
make a public show of him? If anything so outrageously absurd as this
was really to be done, it could not be done that day, at any rate. He
had promised to go back to the charming Milroy at the cottage and to
take Midwinter with him. What earthly need had he of the good opinion of
the resident gentry? The only friends he wanted were the friends he
had got already. Let the whole neighborhood turn its back on him if it
liked; back or face, the Squire of Thorpe Ambrose didn’t care two straws
about it.

After allowing him to run on in this way until his whole stock of
objections was exhausted, Midwinter wisely tried his personal influence
next. He took Allan affectionately by the hand. “I am going to ask a
great favor,” he said. “If you won’t call on these people for your own
sake, will you call on them to please _me_?”

Allan delivered himself of a groan of despair, stared in mute surprise
at the anxious face of his friend, and good-humoredly gave way. As
Midwinter took his arm, and led him back to the house, he looked round
with rueful eyes at the cattle hard by, placidly whisking their tails in
the pleasant shade. “Don’t mention it in the neighborhood,” he said; “I
should like to change places with one of my own cows.”

Midwinter left him to dress, engaging to return when the carriage was at
the door. Allan’s toilet did not promise to be a speedy one. He began it
by reading his own visiting cards; and he advanced it a second stage
by looking into his wardrobe, and devoting the resident gentry to the
infernal regions. Before he could discover any third means of delaying
his own proceedings, the necessary pretext was unexpectedly supplied
by Richard’s appearance with a note in his hand. The messenger had just
called with Mr. Darch’s answer. Allan briskly shut up the wardrobe, and
gave his whole attention to the lawyer’s letter. The lawyer’s letter
rewarded him by the following lines:


“SIR--I beg to acknowledge the receipt of your favor of to-day’s date,
honoring me with two proposals; namely, ONE inviting me to act as your
legal adviser, and ONE inviting me to pay you a visit at your house.
In reference to the first proposal, I beg permission to decline it with
thanks. With regard to the second proposal, I have to inform you that
circumstances have come to my knowledge relating to the letting of the
cottage at Thorpe Ambrose which render it impossible for me (in justice
to myself) to accept your invitation. I have ascertained, sir, that my
offer reached you at the same time as Major Milroy’s; and that, with
both proposals thus before you, you gave the preference to a total
stranger, who addressed you through a house agent, over a man who had
faithfully served your relatives for two generations, and who had been
the first person to inform you of the most important event in your life.
After this specimen of your estimate of what is due to the claims of
common courtesy and common justice, I cannot flatter myself that I
possess any of the qualities which would fit me to take my place on the
list of your friends.

“I remain, sir, your obedient servant,

“JAMES DARCH.”


“Stop the messenger!” cried Allan, leaping to his feet, his ruddy face
aflame with indignation. “Give me pen, ink, and paper! By the
Lord Harry, they’re a nice set of people in these parts; the whole
neighborhood is in a conspiracy to bully me!” He snatched up the pen in
a fine frenzy of epistolary inspiration. “Sir--I despise you and your
letter.--” At that point the pen made a blot, and the writer was seized
with a momentary hesitation. “Too strong,” he thought; “I’ll give it to
the lawyer in his own cool and cutting style.” He began again on a clean
sheet of paper. “Sir--You remind me of an Irish bull. I mean that story
in ‘Joe Miller’ where Pat remarked, in the hearing of a wag hard by,
that ‘the reciprocity was all on one side.’ _Your_ reciprocity is all on
one side. You take the privilege of refusing to be my lawyer, and
then you complain of my taking the privilege of refusing to be your
landlord.” He paused fondly over those last words. “Neat!” he thought.
“Argument and hard hitting both in one. I wonder where my knack of
writing comes from?” He went on, and finished the letter in two more
sentences. “As for your casting my invitation back in my teeth, I beg to
inform you my teeth are none the worse for it. I am equally glad to
have nothing to say to you, either in the capacity of a friend or a
tenant.--ALLAN ARMADALE.” He nodded exultantly at his own composition,
as he addressed it and sent it down to the messenger. “Darch’s hide must
be a thick one,” he said, “if he doesn’t feel _that_!”

The sound of the wheels outside suddenly recalled him to the business
of the day. There was the carriage waiting to take him on his round of
visits; and there was Midwinter at his post, pacing to and fro on the
drive.

“Read that,” cried Allan, throwing out the lawyer’s letter; “I’ve
written him back a smasher.”

He bustled away to the wardrobe to get his coat. There was a wonderful
change in him; he felt little or no reluctance to pay the visits now.
The pleasurable excitement of answering Mr. Darth had put him in a fine
aggressive frame of mind for asserting himself in the neighborhood.
“Whatever else they may say of me, they shan’t say I was afraid to face
them.” Heated red-hot with that idea, he seized his hat and gloves,
and hurrying out of the room, met Midwinter in the corridor with the
lawyer’s letter in his hand.

“Keep up your spirits!” cried Allan, seeing the anxiety in his friend’s
face, and misinterpreting the motive of it immediately. “If Darch can’t
be counted on to send us a helping hand into the steward’s office,
Pedgift can.”

“My dear Allan, I was not thinking of that; I was thinking of Mr.
Darch’s letter. I don’t defend this sour-tempered man; but I am afraid
we must admit he has some cause for complaint. Pray don’t give him
another chance of putting you in the wrong. Where is your answer to his
letter?”

“Gone!” replied Allan. “I always strike while the iron’s hot--a word and
a blow, and the blow first, that’s my way. Don’t, there’s a good fellow,
don’t fidget about the steward’s books and the rent-day. Here! here’s a
bunch of keys they gave me last night: one of them opens the room where
the steward’s books are; go in and read them till I come back. I give
you my sacred word of honor I’ll settle it all with Pedgift before you
see me again.”

“One moment,” interposed Midwinter, stopping him resolutely on his way
out to the carriage. “I say nothing against Mr. Pedgift’s fitness to
possess your confidence, for I know nothing to justify me in distrusting
him. But he has not introduced himself to your notice in a very delicate
way; and he has not acknowledged (what is quite clear to my mind) that
he knew of Mr. Darch’s unfriendly feeling toward you when he wrote. Wait
a little before you go to this stranger; wait till we can talk it over
together to-night.”

“Wait!” replied Allan. “Haven’t I told you that I always strike while
the iron’s hot? Trust my eye for character, old boy, I’ll look Pedgift
through and through, and act accordingly. Don’t keep me any longer, for
Heaven’s sake. I’m in a fine humor for tackling the resident gentry; and
if I don’t go at once, I’m afraid it may wear off.”

With that excellent reason for being in a hurry, Allan boisterously
broke away. Before it was possible to stop him again, he had jumped into
the carriage and had left the house.



IV. THE MARCH OF EVENTS.

Midwinter’s face darkened when the last trace of the carriage had
disappeared from view. “I have done my best,” he said, as he turned back
gloomily into the house “If Mr. Brock himself were here, Mr. Brock could
do no more!”

He looked at the bunch of keys which Allan had thrust into his hand,
and a sudden longing to put himself to the test over the steward’s books
took possession of his sensitive self-tormenting nature. Inquiring his
way to the room in which the various movables of the steward’s office
had been provisionally placed after the letting of the cottage, he sat
down at the desk, and tried how his own unaided capacity would guide him
through the business records of the Thorpe Ambrose estate. The result
exposed his own ignorance unanswerably before his own eyes. The ledgers
bewildered him; the leases, the plans, and even the correspondence
itself, might have been written, for all he could understand of them,
in an unknown tongue. His memory reverted bitterly as he left the room
again to his two years’ solitary self-instruction in the Shrewsbury
book-seller’s shop. “If I could only have worked at a business!” he
thought. “If I could only have known that the company of poets and
philosophers was company too high for a vagabond like me!”

He sat down alone in the great hall; the silence of it fell heavier and
heavier on his sinking spirits; the beauty of it exasperated him, like
an insult from a purse-proud man. “Curse the place!” he said, snatching
up his hat and stick. “I like the bleakest hillside I ever slept on
better than I like this house!”

He impatiently descended the door-steps, and stopped on the drive,
considering, by which direction he should leave the park for the country
beyond. If he followed the road taken by the carriage, he might risk
unsettling Allan by accidentally meeting him in the town. If he went
out by the back gate, he knew his own nature well enough to doubt his
ability to pass the room of the dream without entering it again. But
one other way remained: the way which he had taken, and then abandoned
again, in the morning. There was no fear of disturbing Allan and the
major’s daughter now. Without further hesitation, Midwinter set forth
through the gardens to explore the open country on that side of the
estate.

Thrown off its balance by the events of the day, his mind was full
of that sourly savage resistance to the inevitable self-assertion of
wealth, so amiably deplored by the prosperous and the rich; so bitterly
familiar to the unfortunate and the poor. “The heather-bell costs
nothing!” he thought, looking contemptuously at the masses of rare and
beautiful flowers that surrounded him; “and the buttercups and daisies
are as bright as the best of you!” He followed the artfully contrived
ovals and squares of the Italian garden with a vagabond indifference to
the symmetry of their construction and the ingenuity of their design.
“How many pounds a foot did _you_ cost?” he said, looking back with
scornful eyes at the last path as he left it. “Wind away over high and
low like the sheep-walk on the mountain side, if you can!”

He entered the shrubbery which Allan had entered before him; crossed the
paddock and the rustic bridge beyond; and reached the major’s cottage.
His ready mind seized the right conclusion at the first sight of it; and
he stopped before the garden gate, to look at the trim little residence
which would never have been empty, and would never have been let, but
for Allan’s ill-advised resolution to force the steward’s situation on
his friend.

The summer afternoon was warm; the summer air was faint and still. On
the upper and the lower floor of the cottage the windows were all
open. From one of them, on the upper story, the sound of voices was
startlingly audible in the quiet of the park as Midwinter paused on the
outer side of the garden inclosure. The voice of a woman, harsh, high,
and angrily complaining--a voice with all the freshness and the
melody gone, and with nothing but the hard power of it left--was the
discordantly predominant sound. With it, from moment to moment, there
mingled the deeper and quieter tones, soothing and compassionate, of the
voice of a man. Although the distance was too great to allow Midwinter
to distinguish the words that were spoken, he felt the impropriety of
remaining within hearing of the voices, and at once stepped forward to
continue his walk.

At the same moment, the face of a young girl (easily recognizable as the
face of Miss Milroy, from Allan’s description of her) appeared at the
open window of the room. In spite of himself, Midwinter paused to look
at her. The expression of the bright young face, which had smiled
so prettily on Allan, was weary and disheartened. After looking out
absently over the park, she suddenly turned her head back into the room,
her attention having been apparently struck by something that had just
been said in it. “Oh, mamma, mamma,” she exclaimed, indignantly, “how
_can_ you say such things!” The words were spoken close to the window;
they reached Midwinter’s ears, and hurried him away before he heard
more. But the self-disclosure of Major Milroy’s domestic position had
not reached its end yet. As Midwinter turned the corner of the garden
fence, a tradesman’s boy was handing a parcel in at the wicket gate
to the woman servant. “Well,” said the boy, with the irrepressible
impudence of his class, “how is the missus?” The woman lifted her hand
to box his ears. “How is the missus?” she repeated, with an angry toss
of her head, as the boy ran off. “If it would only please God to take
the missus, it would be a blessing to everybody in the house.”

No such ill-omened shadow as this had passed over the bright domestic
picture of the inhabitants of the cottage, which Allan’s enthusiasm
had painted for the contemplation of his friend. It was plain that
the secret of the tenants had been kept from the landlord so far. Five
minutes more of walking brought Midwinter to the park gates. “Am I fated
to see nothing and hear nothing to-day, which can give me heart and hope
for the future?” he thought, as he angrily swung back the lodge gate.
“Even the people Allan has let the cottage to are people whose lives
are imbittered by a household misery which it is _my_ misfortune to have
found out!”

He took the first road that lay before him, and walked on, noticing
little, immersed in his own thoughts.

More than an hour passed before the necessity of turning back entered
his mind. As soon as the idea occurred to him, he consulted his watch,
and determined to retrace his steps, so as to be at the house in good
time to meet Allan on his return. Ten minutes of walking brought him
back to a point at which three roads met, and one moment’s observation
of the place satisfied him that he had entirely failed to notice at the
time by which of the three roads he had advanced. No sign-post was to
be seen; the country on either side was lonely and flat, intersected
by broad drains and ditches. Cattle were grazing here and there, and a
windmill rose in the distance above the pollard willows that fringed the
low horizon. But not a house was to be seen, and not a human creature
appeared on the visible perspective of any one of the three roads.
Midwinter glanced back in the only direction left to look at--the
direction of the road along which he had just been walking. There, to
his relief, was the figure of a man, rapidly advancing toward him, of
whom he could ask his way.

The figure came on, clad from head to foot in dreary black--a moving
blot on the brilliant white surface of the sun-brightened road. He was
a lean, elderly, miserably respectable man. He wore a poor old black
dress-coat, and a cheap brown wig, which made no pretense of being his
own natural hair. Short black trousers clung like attached old servants
round his wizen legs; and rusty black gaiters hid all they could of his
knobbed, ungainly feet. Black crape added its mite to the decayed and
dingy wretchedness of his old beaver hat; black mohair in the obsolete
form of a stock drearily encircled his neck and rose as high as his
haggard jaws. The one morsel of color he carried about him was a
lawyer’s bag of blue serge, as lean and limp as himself. The one
attractive feature in his clean-shaven, weary old face was a neat set of
teeth--teeth (as honest as his wig) which said plainly to all inquiring
eyes, “We pass our nights on his looking-glass, and our days in his
mouth.”

All the little blood in the man’s body faintly reddened his fleshless
cheeks as Midwinter advanced to meet him, and asked the way to
Thorpe Ambrose. His weak, watery eyes looked hither and thither in a
bewilderment painful to see. If he had met with a lion instead of a man,
and if the few words addressed to him had been words expressing a threat
instead of a question, he could hardly have looked more confused and
alarmed than he looked now. For the first time in his life, Midwinter
saw his own shy uneasiness in the presence of strangers reflected, with
tenfold intensity of nervous suffering, in the face of another man--and
that man old enough to be his father.

“Which do you please to mean, sir--the town or the house? I beg your
pardon for asking, but they both go by the same name in these parts.”

He spoke with a timid gentleness of tone, an ingratiatory smile, and an
anxious courtesy of manner, all distressingly suggestive of his being
accustomed to receive rough answers in exchange for his own politeness
from the persons whom he habitually addressed.

“I was not aware that both the house and the town went by the same
name,” said Midwinter; “I meant the house.” He instinctively conquered
his own shyness as he answered in those words, speaking with a
cordiality of manner which was very rare with him in his intercourse
with strangers.

The man of miserable respectability seemed to feel the warm return of
his own politeness gratefully; he brightened and took a little courage.
His lean forefinger pointed eagerly to the right road. “That way, sir,”
 he said, “and when you come to two roads next, please take the left
one of the two. I am sorry I have business the other way, I mean in the
town. I should have been happy to go with you and show you. Fine summer
weather, sir, for walking? You can’t miss your way if you keep to the
left. Oh, don’t mention it! I’m afraid I have detained you, sir. I wish
you a pleasant walk back, and--good-morning.”

By the time he had made an end of speaking (under an impression
apparently that the more he talked the more polite he would be) he
had lost his courage again. He darted away down his own road, as
if Midwinter’s attempt to thank him involved a series of trials too
terrible to confront. In two minutes more, his black retreating figure
had lessened in the distance till it looked again, what it had once
looked already, a moving blot on the brilliant white surface of the
sun-brightened road.

The man ran strangely in Midwinter’s thoughts while he took his way back
to the house. He was at a loss to account for it. It never occurred to
him that he might have been insensibly reminded of himself, when he saw
the plain traces of past misfortune and present nervous suffering in
the poor wretch’s face. He blindly resented his own perverse interest in
this chance foot passenger on the high-road, as he had resented all else
that had happened to him since the beginning of the day. “Have I made
another unlucky discovery?” he asked himself, impatiently. “Shall I see
this man again, I wonder? Who can he be?”

Time was to answer both those questions before many days more had passed
over the inquirer’s head.


Allan had not returned when Midwinter reached the house. Nothing had
happened but the arrival of a message of apology from the cottage.
“Major Milroy’s compliments, and he was sorry that Mrs. Milroy’s illness
would prevent his receiving Mr. Armadale that day.” It was plain that
Mrs. Milroy’s occasional fits of suffering (or of ill temper) created
no mere transitory disturbance of the tranquillity of the household.
Drawing this natural inference, after what he had himself heard at the
cottage nearly three hours since, Midwinter withdrew into the library to
wait patiently among the books until his friend came back.

It was past six o’clock when the well-known hearty voice was heard again
in the hall. Allan burst into the library, in a state of irrepressible
excitement, and pushed Midwinter back unceremoniously into the chair
from which he was just rising, before he could utter a word.

“Here’s a riddle for you, old boy!” cried Allan. “Why am I like the
resident manager of the Augean stable, before Hercules was called in to
sweep the litter out? Because I have had my place to keep up, and I’ve
gone and made an infernal mess of it! Why don’t you laugh? By George,
he doesn’t see the point! Let’s try again. Why am I like the resident
manager--”

“For God’s sake, Allan, be serious for a moment!” interposed Midwinter.
“You don’t know how anxious I am to hear if you have recovered the good
opinion of your neighbors.”

“That’s just what the riddle was intended to tell you!” rejoined Allan.
“But if you will have it in so many words, my own impression is that you
would have done better not to disturb me under that tree in the park.
I’ve been calculating it to a nicety, and I beg to inform you that I
have sunk exactly three degrees lower in the estimation of the resident
gentry since I had the pleasure of seeing you last.”

“You _will_ have your joke out,” said Midwinter, bitterly. “Well, if I
can’t laugh, I can wait.”

“My dear fellow, I’m not joking; I really mean what I say. You shall
hear what happened; you shall have a report in full of my first visit.
It will do, I can promise you, as a sample for all the rest. Mind this,
in the first place, I’ve gone wrong with the best possible intentions.
When I started for these visits, I own I was angry with that old brute
of a lawyer, and I certainly had a notion of carrying things with a high
hand. But it wore off somehow on the road; and the first family I called
on, I went in, as I tell you, with the best possible intentions. Oh,
dear, dear! there was the same spick-and-span reception-room for me to
wait in, with the neat conservatory beyond, which I saw again and again
and again at every other house I went to afterward. There was the same
choice selection of books for me to look at--a religious book, a book
about the Duke of Wellington, a book about sporting, and a book about
nothing in particular, beautifully illustrated with pictures. Down came
papa with his nice white hair, and mamma with her nice lace cap; down
came young mister with the pink face and straw-colored whiskers, and
young miss with the plump cheeks and the large petticoats. Don’t suppose
there was the least unfriendliness on my side; I always began with them
in the same way--I insisted on shaking hands all round. That staggered
them to begin with. When I came to the sore subject next--the subject
of the public reception--I give you my word of honor I took the greatest
possible pains with my apologies. It hadn’t the slightest effect; they
let my apologies in at one ear and out at the other, and then waited to
hear more. Some men would have been disheartened: I tried another way
with them; I addressed myself to the master of the house, and put
it pleasantly next. ‘The fact is,’ I said, ‘I wanted to escape the
speechifying--my getting up, you know, and telling you to your face
you’re the best of men, and I beg to propose your health; and your
getting up and telling me to my face I’m the best of men, and you beg
to thank me; and so on, man after man, praising each other and pestering
each other all round the table.’ That’s how I put it, in an easy,
light-handed, convincing sort of way. Do you think any of them took it
in the same friendly spirit? Not one! It’s my belief they had got their
speeches ready for the reception, with the flags and the flowers, and
that they’re secretly angry with me for stopping their open mouths just
as they were ready to begin. Anyway, whenever we came to the matter of
the speechifying (whether they touched it first or I), down I fell in
their estimation the first of those three steps I told you of just
now. Don’t suppose I made no efforts to get up again! I made desperate
efforts. I found they were all anxious to know what sort of life I had
led before I came in for the Thorpe Ambrose property, and I did my best
to satisfy them. And what came of that, do you think? Hang me, if I
didn’t disappoint them for the second time! When they found out that I
had actually never been to Eton or Harrow, or Oxford or Cambridge, they
were quite dumb with astonishment. I fancy they thought me a sort of
outlaw. At any rate, they all froze up again; and down I fell the second
step in their estimation. Never mind! I wasn’t to be beaten; I had
promised you to do my best, and I did it. I tried cheerful small-talk
about the neighborhood next. The women said nothing in particular; the
men, to my unutterable astonishment, all began to condole with me. I
shouldn’t be able to find a pack of hounds, they said, within twenty
miles of my house; and they thought it only right to prepare me for the
disgracefully careless manner in which the Thorpe Ambrose covers had
been preserved. I let them go on condoling with me, and then what do you
think I did? I put my foot in it again. ‘Oh, don’t take that to heart!’
I said; ‘I don’t care two straws about hunting or shooting, either. When
I meet with a bird in my walk, I can’t for the life of me feel eager
to kill it; I rather like to see the bird flying about and enjoying
itself.’ You should have seen their faces! They had thought me a sort of
outlaw before; now they evidently thought me mad. Dead silence fell upon
them all; and down I tumbled the third step in the general estimation.
It was just the same at the next house, and the next and the next. The
devil possessed us all, I think. It _would_ come out, now in one way,
and now in another, that I couldn’t make speeches--that I had been
brought up without a university education--and that I could enjoy a ride
on horseback without galloping after a wretched stinking fox or a poor
distracted little hare. These three unlucky defects of mine are not
excused, it seems, in a country gentleman (especially when he has dodged
a public reception to begin with). I think I got on best, upon the
whole, with the wives and daughters. The women and I always fell, sooner
or later, on the subject of Mrs. Blanchard and her niece. We invariably
agreed that they had done wisely in going to Florence; and the only
reason we had to give for our opinion was that we thought their minds
would be benefited after their sad bereavement, by the contemplation
of the masterpieces of Italian art. Every one of the ladies--I solemnly
declare it--at every house I went to, came sooner or later to Mrs. and
Miss Blanchard’s bereavement and the masterpieces of Italian art. What
we should have done without that bright idea to help us, I really don’t
know. The one pleasant thing at any of the visits was when we all shook
our heads together, and declared that the masterpieces would console
them. As for the rest of it, there’s only one thing more to be said.
What I might be in other places I don’t know: I’m the wrong man in the
wrong place here. Let me muddle on for the future in my own way, with my
own few friends; and ask me anything else in the world, as long as you
don’t ask me to make any more calls on my neighbors.”

With that characteristic request, Allan’s report of his exploring
expedition among the resident gentry came to a close. For a moment
Midwinter remained silent. He had allowed Allan to run on from first to
last without uttering a word on his side. The disastrous result of
the visits--coming after what had happened earlier in the day; and
threatening Allan, as it did, with exclusion from all local sympathies
at the very outset of his local career--had broken down Midwinter’s
power of resisting the stealthily depressing influence of his own
superstition. It was with an effort that he now looked up at Allan; it
was with an effort that he roused himself to answer.

“It shall be as you wish,” he said, quietly. “I am sorry for what has
happened; but I am not the less obliged to you, Allan, for having done
what I asked you.”

His head sank on his breast, and the fatalist resignation which had
once already quieted him on board the wreck now quieted him again. “What
_must_ be, _will_ be,” he thought once more. “What have I to do with the
future, and what has he?”

“Cheer up!” said Allan. “_Your_ affairs are in a thriving condition, at
any rate. I paid one pleasant visit in the town, which I haven’t told
you of yet. I’ve seen Pedgift, and Pedgift’s son, who helps him in the
office. They’re the two jolliest lawyers I ever met with in my life;
and, what’s more, they can produce the very man you want to teach you
the steward’s business.”

Midwinter looked up quickly. Distrust of Allan’s discovery was plainly
written in his face already; but he said nothing.

“I thought of you,” Allan proceeded, “as soon as the two Pedgifts and I
had had a glass of wine all round to drink to our friendly connection.
The finest sherry I ever tasted in my life; I’ve ordered some of the
same--but that’s not the question just now. In two words I told
these worthy fellows your difficulty, and in two seconds old Pedgift
understood all about it. ‘I have got the man in my office,’ he said,
‘and before the audit-day comes, I’ll place him with the greatest
pleasure at your friend’s disposal.’”

At this last announcement, Midwinter’s distrust found its expression in
words. He questioned Allan unsparingly.

The man’s name, it appeared was Bashwood. He had been some time (how
long, Allan could not remember) in Mr. Pedgift’s service. He had been
previously steward to a Norfolk gentleman (name forgotten) in the
westward district of the county. He had lost the steward’s place,
through some domestic trouble, in connection with his son, the precise
nature of which Allan was not able to specify. Pedgift vouched for him,
and Pedgift would send him to Thorpe Ambrose two or three days before
the rent-day dinner. He could not be spared, for office reasons, before
that time. There was no need to fidget about it; Pedgift laughed at the
idea of there being any difficulty with the tenants. Two or three
day’s work over the steward’s books with a man to help Midwinter who
practically understood that sort of thing would put him all right for
the audit; and the other business would keep till afterward.

“Have you seen this Mr. Bashwood yourself, Allan?” asked Midwinter,
still obstinately on his guard.

“No,” replied Allan “he was out--out with the bag, as young Pedgift
called it. They tell me he’s a decent elderly man. A little broken by
his troubles, and a little apt to be nervous and confused in his manner
with strangers; but thoroughly competent and thoroughly to be depended
on--those are Pedgift’s own words.”

Midwinter paused and considered a little, with a new interest in the
subject. The strange man whom he had just heard described, and the
strange man of whom he had asked his way where the three roads met,
were remarkably like each other. Was this another link in the
fast-lengthening chain of events? Midwinter grew doubly determined to be
careful, as the bare doubt that it might be so passed through his mind.

“When Mr. Bashwood comes,” he said, “will you let me see him, and speak
to him, before anything definite is done?”

“Of course I will!” rejoined Allan. He stopped and looked at his watch.
“And I’ll tell you what I’ll do for you, old boy, in the meantime,” he
added; “I’ll introduce you to the prettiest girl in Norfolk! There’s
just time to run over to the cottage before dinner. Come along, and be
introduced to Miss Milroy.”

“You can’t introduce me to Miss Milroy to-day,” replied Midwinter; and
he repeated the message of apology which had been brought from the major
that afternoon. Allan was surprised and disappointed; but he was not to
be foiled in his resolution to advance himself in the good graces of
the inhabitants of the cottage. After a little consideration he hit on
a means of turning the present adverse circumstances to good account.
“I’ll show a proper anxiety for Mrs. Milroy’s recovery,” he said,
gravely. “I’ll send her a basket of strawberries, with my best respects,
to-morrow morning.”

Nothing more happened to mark the end of that first day in the new
house.


The one noticeable event of the next day was another disclosure of
Mrs. Milroy’s infirmity of temper. Half an hour after Allan’s basket of
strawberries had been delivered at the cottage, it was returned to him
intact (by the hands of the invalid lady’s nurse), with a short and
sharp message, shortly and sharply delivered. “Mrs. Milroy’s compliments
and thanks. Strawberries invariably disagreed with her.” If this
curiously petulant acknowledgment of an act of politeness was intended
to irritate Allan, it failed entirely in accomplishing its object.
Instead of being offended with the mother, he sympathized with the
daughter. “Poor little thing,” was all he said, “she must have a hard
life of it with such a mother as that!”

He called at the cottage himself later in the day, but Miss Milroy was
not to be seen; she was engaged upstairs. The major received his visitor
in his working apron--far more deeply immersed in his wonderful clock,
and far less readily accessible to outer influences, than Allan had seen
him at their first interview. His manner was as kind as before; but not
a word more could be extracted from him on the subject of his wife than
that Mrs. Milroy “had not improved since yesterday.”

The two next days passed quietly and uneventfully. Allan persisted
in making his inquiries at the cottage; but all he saw of the major’s
daughter was a glimpse of her on one occasion at a window on the bedroom
floor. Nothing more was heard from Mr. Pedgift; and Mr. Bashwood’s
appearance was still delayed. Midwinter declined to move in the matter
until time enough had passed to allow of his first hearing from Mr.
Brock, in answer to the letter which he had addressed to the rector on
the night of his arrival at Thorpe Ambrose. He was unusually silent and
quiet, and passed most of his hours in the library among the books. The
time wore on wearily. The resident gentry acknowledged Allan’s visit by
formally leaving their cards. Nobody came near the house afterward;
the weather was monotonously fine. Allan grew a little restless and
dissatisfied. He began to resent Mrs. Milroy’s illness; he began to
think regretfully of his deserted yacht.

The next day--the twentieth--brought some news with it from the outer
world. A message was delivered from Mr. Pedgift, announcing that his
clerk, Mr. Bashwood, would personally present himself at Thorpe Ambrose
on the following day; and a letter in answer to Midwinter was received
from Mr. Brock.

The letter was dated the 18th, and the news which it contained raised
not Allan’s spirits only, but Midwinter’s as well.

On the day on which he wrote, Mr. Brock announced that he was about to
journey to London; having been summoned thither on business connected
with the interests of a sick relative, to whom he stood in the position
of trustee. The business completed, he had good hope of finding one or
other of his clerical friends in the metropolis who would be able and
willing to do duty for him at the rectory; and, in that case, he trusted
to travel on from London to Thorpe Ambrose in a week’s time or less.
Under these circumstances, he would leave the majority of the subjects
on which Midwinter had written to him to be discussed when they met. But
as time might be of importance, in relation to the stewardship of the
Thorpe Ambrose estate, he would say at once that he saw no reason why
Midwinter should not apply his mind to learning the steward’s duties,
and should not succeed in rendering himself invaluably serviceable in
that way to the interests of his friend.

Leaving Midwinter reading and re-reading the rector’s cheering letter,
as if he was bent on getting every sentence in it by heart, Allan
went out rather earlier than usual, to make his daily inquiry at the
cottage--or, in plainer words, to make a fourth attempt at improving
his acquaintance with Miss Milroy. The day had begun encouragingly, and
encouragingly it seemed destined to go on. When Allan turned the corner
of the second shrubbery, and entered the little paddock where he and the
major’s daughter had first met, there was Miss Milroy herself loitering
to and fro on the grass, to all appearance on the watch for somebody.

She gave a little start when Allan appeared, and came forward without
hesitation to meet him. She was not in her best looks. Her rosy
complexion had suffered under confinement to the house, and a marked
expression of embarrassment clouded her pretty face.

“I hardly know how to confess it, Mr. Armadale,” she said, speaking
eagerly, before Allan could utter a word, “but I certainly ventured
here this morning in the hope of meeting with you. I have been very much
distressed; I have only just heard, by accident, of the manner in which
mamma received the present of fruit you so kindly sent to her. Will you
try to excuse her? She has been miserably ill for years, and she is not
always quite herself. After your being so very, very kind to me (and to
papa), I really could not help stealing out here in the hope of seeing
you, and telling you how sorry I was. Pray forgive and forget, Mr.
Armadale--pray do!” her voice faltered over the last words, and, in her
eagerness to make her mother’s peace with him, she laid her hand on his
arm.

Allan was himself a little confused. Her earnestness took him by
surprise, and her evident conviction that he had been offended honestly
distressed him. Not knowing what else to do, he followed his instincts,
and possessed himself of her hand to begin with.

“My dear Miss Milroy, if you say a word more you will distress _me_
next,” he rejoined, unconsciously pressing her hand closer and closer,
in the embarrassment of the moment. “I never was in the least offended;
I made allowances--upon my honor I did--for poor Mrs. Milroy’s illness.
Offended!” cried Allan, reverting energetically to the old complimentary
strain. “I should like to have my basket of fruit sent back every
day--if I could only be sure of its bringing you out into the paddock
the first thing in the morning.”

Some of Miss Milroy’s missing color began to appear again in her cheeks.
“Oh, Mr. Armadale, there is really no end to your kindness,” she said;
“you don’t know how you relieve me!” She paused; her spirits rallied with
as happy a readiness of recovery as if they had been the spirits of a
child; and her native brightness of temper sparkled again in her eyes,
as she looked up, shyly smiling in Allan’s face. “Don’t you think,” she
asked, demurely, “that it is almost time now to let go of my hand?”

Their eyes met. Allan followed his instincts for the second time.
Instead of releasing her hand, he lifted it to his lips and kissed
it. All the missing tints of the rosier sort returned to Miss Milroy’s
complexion on the instant. She snatched away her hand as if Allan had
burned it.

“I’m sure _that’s_ wrong, Mr. Armadale,” she said, and turned her head
aside quickly, for she was smiling in spite of herself.

“I meant it as an apology for--for holding your hand too long,”
 stammered Allan. “An apology can’t be wrong--can it?”

There are occasions, though not many, when the female mind accurately
appreciates an appeal to the force of pure reason. This was one of the
occasions. An abstract proposition had been presented to Miss Milroy,
and Miss Milroy was convinced. If it was meant as an apology, that,
she admitted, made all the difference. “I only hope,” said the little
coquet, looking at him slyly, “you’re not misleading me. Not that it
matters much now,” she added, with a serious shake of her head. “If we
have committed any improprieties, Mr. Armadale, we are not likely to
have the opportunity of committing many more.”

“You’re not going away?” exclaimed Allan, in great alarm.

“Worse than that, Mr. Armadale. My new governess is coming.”

“Coming?” repeated Allan. “Coming already?”

“As good as coming, I ought to have said--only I didn’t know you wished
me to be so very particular. We got the answers to the advertisements
this morning. Papa and I opened them and read them together half an hour
ago; and we both picked out the same letter from all the rest. I picked
it out, because it was so prettily expressed; and papa picked it out
because the terms were so reasonable. He is going to send the letter up
to grandmamma in London by to-day’s post, and, if she finds everything
satisfactory on inquiry, the governess is to be engaged You don’t
know how dreadfully nervous I am getting about it already; a strange
governess is such an awful prospect. But it is not quite so bad as going
to school; and I have great hopes of this new lady, because she writes
such a nice letter! As I said to papa, it almost reconciles me to her
horrid, unromantic name.”

“What is her name?” asked Allan. “Brown? Grubb? Scraggs? Anything of
that sort?”

“Hush! hush! Nothing quite so horrible as that. Her name is Gwilt.
Dreadfully unpoetical, isn’t it? Her reference must be a respectable
person, though; for she lives in the same part of London as grandmamma.
Stop, Mr. Armadale! we are going the wrong way. No; I can’t wait to look
at those lovely flowers of yours this morning, and, many thanks, I can’t
accept your arm. I have stayed here too long already. Papa is waiting
for his breakfast; and I must run back every step of the way. Thank you
for making those kind allowances for mamma; thank you again and again,
and good-by!”

“Won’t you shake hands?” asked Allan.

She gave him her hand. “No more apologies, if you please, Mr. Armadale,”
 she said, saucily. Once more their eyes met, and once more the plump,
dimpled little hand found its way to Allan’s lips. “It isn’t an apology
this time!” cried Allan, precipitately defending himself. “It’s--it’s a
mark of respect.”

She started back a few steps, and burst out laughing. “You won’t find me
in our grounds again, Mr. Armadale,” she said, merrily, “till I have got
Miss Gwilt to take care of me!” With that farewell, she gathered up her
skirts, and ran back across the paddock at the top of her speed.

Allan stood watching her in speechless admiration till she was out
of sight. His second interview with Miss Milroy had produced an
extraordinary effect on him. For the first time since he had become the
master of Thorpe Ambrose, he was absorbed in serious consideration of
what he owed to his new position in life. “The question is,” pondered
Allan, “whether I hadn’t better set myself right with my neighbors by
becoming a married man? I’ll take the day to consider; and if I keep in
the same mind about it, I’ll consult Midwinter to-morrow morning.”


When the morning came, and when Allan descended to the breakfast-room,
resolute to consult his friend on the obligations that he owed to his
neighbors in general, and to Miss Milroy in particular, no Midwinter was
to be seen. On making inquiry, it appeared that he had been observed in
the hall; that he had taken from the table a letter which the morning’s
post had brought to him; and that he had gone back immediately to his
own room. Allan at once ascended the stairs again, and knocked at his
friend’s door.

“May I come in?” he asked.

“Not just now,” was the answer.

“You have got a letter, haven’t you?” persisted Allan. “Any bad news?
Anything wrong?”

“Nothing. I’m not very well this morning. Don’t wait breakfast for me;
I’ll come down as soon as I can.”

No more was said on either side. Allan returned to the breakfast-room a
little disappointed. He had set his heart on rushing headlong into his
consultation with Midwinter, and here was the consultation indefinitely
delayed. “What an odd fellow he is!” thought Allan. “What on earth can
he be doing, locked in there by himself?”

He was doing nothing. He was sitting by the window, with the letter
which had reached him that morning open in his hand. The handwriting was
Mr. Brock’s, and the words written were these:


“MY DEAR MIDWINTER--I have literally only two minutes before post time
to tell you that I have just met (in Kensington Gardens) with the woman
whom we both only know, thus far, as the woman with the red Paisley
shawl. I have traced her and her companion (a respectable-looking
elderly lady) to their residence--after having distinctly heard Allan’s
name mentioned between them. Depend on my not losing sight of the woman
until I am satisfied that she means no mischief at Thorpe Ambrose;
and expect to hear from me again as soon as I know how this strange
discovery is to end.

“Very truly yours, DECIMUS BROCK.”


After reading the letter for the second time, Midwinter folded it up
thoughtfully, and placed it in his pocket-book, side by side with the
manuscript narrative of Allan’s dream.

“Your discovery will not end with _you_, Mr. Brock,” he said. “Do what
you will with the woman, when the time comes the woman will be here.”



V. MOTHER OLDERSHAW ON HER GUARD.

1. _From Mrs. Oldershaw (Diana Street, Pimlico) to Miss Gwilt (West
Place, Old Brompton)_.

“Ladies’ Toilet Repository, June 20th,

“Eight in the Evening.

“MY DEAR LYDIA--About three hours have passed, as well as I can
remember, since I pushed you unceremoniously inside my house in West
Place, and, merely telling you to wait till you saw me again, banged
the door to between us, and left you alone in the hall. I know your
sensitive nature, my dear, and I am afraid you have made up your mind
by this time that never yet was a guest treated so abominably by her
hostess as I have treated you.

“The delay that has prevented me from explaining my strange conduct
is, believe me, a delay for which I am not to blame. One of the many
delicate little difficulties which beset so essentially confidential
a business as mine occurred here (as I have since discovered) while
we were taking the air this afternoon in Kensington Gardens. I see no
chance of being able to get back to you for some hours to come, and I
have a word of very urgent caution for your private ear, which has been
too long delayed already. So I must use the spare minutes as they come,
and write.

“Here is caution the first. On no account venture outside the door again
this evening, and be very careful, while the daylight lasts, not to
show yourself at any of the front windows. I have reason to fear that
a certain charming person now staying with me may possibly be watched.
Don’t be alarmed, and don’t be impatient; you shall know why.

“I can only explain myself by going back to our unlucky meeting in the
Gardens with that reverend gentleman who was so obliging as to follow us
both back to my house.

“It crossed my mind, just as we were close to the door, that there
might be a motive for the parson’s anxiety to trace us home, far less
creditable to his taste, and far more dangerous to both of us, than
the motive you supposed him to have. In plainer words, Lydia, I rather
doubted whether you had met with another admirer; and I strongly
suspected that you had encountered another enemy instead. There was
no time to tell you this. There was only time to see you safe into the
house, and to make sure of the parson (in case my suspicions were right)
by treating him as he had treated us; I mean, by following him in his
turn.

“I kept some little distance behind him at first, to turn the thing over
in my mind, and to be satisfied that my doubts were not misleading me.
We have no concealments from each other; and you shall know what my
doubts were.

“I was not surprised at _your_ recognizing _him_; he is not at all
a common-looking old man; and you had seen him twice in
Somersetshire--once when you asked your way of him to Mrs. Armadale’s
house, and once when you saw him again on your way back to the railroad.
But I was a little puzzled (considering that you had your veil down
on both those occasions, and your veil down also when we were in the
Gardens) at his recognizing _you_. I doubted his remembering your figure
in a summer dress after he had only seen it in a winter dress; and
though we were talking when he met us, and your voice is one among your
many charms, I doubted his remembering your voice, either. And yet
I felt persuaded that he knew you. ‘How?’ you will ask. My dear, as
ill-luck would have it, we were speaking at the time of young Armadale.
I firmly believe that the name was the first thing that struck him; and
when he heard _that_, your voice certainly and your figure perhaps,
came back to his memory. ‘And what if it did?’ you may say. Think again,
Lydia, and tell me whether the parson of the place where Mrs. Armadale
lived was not likely to be Mrs. Armadale’s friend? If he _was_ her
friend, the very first person to whom she would apply for advice
after the manner in which you frightened her, and after what you most
injudiciously said on the subject of appealing to her son, would be the
clergyman of the parish--and the magistrate, too, as the landlord at the
inn himself told you.

“You will now understand why I left you in that extremely uncivil
manner, and I may go on to what happened next.

“I followed the old gentleman till he turned into a quiet street,
and then accosted him, with respect for the Church written (I flatter
myself) in every line of my face.

“‘Will you excuse me,’ I said, ‘if I venture to inquire, sir, whether
you recognized the lady who was walking with me when you happened to
pass us in the Gardens?’

“‘Will you excuse my asking, ma’am, why you put that question?’ was all
the answer I got.

“‘I will endeavor to tell you, sir,’ I said. ‘If my friend is not an
absolute stranger to you, I should wish to request your attention to a
very delicate subject, connected with a lady deceased, and with her son
who survives her.’

“He was staggered; I could see that. But he was sly enough at the same
time to hold his tongue and wait till I said something more.

“‘If I am wrong, sir, in thinking that you recognized my friend,’ I went
on, ‘I beg to apologize. But I could hardly suppose it possible that a
gentleman in your profession would follow a lady home who was a total
stranger to him.’

“There I had him. He colored up (fancy that, at his age!), and owned the
truth, in defense of his own precious character.

“‘I have met with the lady once before, and I acknowledge that I
recognized her in the Gardens,’ he said. ‘You will excuse me if I
decline entering into the question of whether I did or did not purposely
follow her home. If you wish to be assured that your friend is not an
absolute stranger to me, you now have that assurance; and if you have
anything particular to say to me, I leave you to decide whether the time
has come to say it.’

“He waited, and looked about. I waited, and looked about. He said the
street was hardly a fit place to speak of a delicate subject in. I said
the street was hardly a fit place to speak of a delicate subject in. He
didn’t offer to take me to where he lived. I didn’t offer to take him
to where I lived. Have you ever seen two strange cats, my dear, nose to
nose on the tiles? If you have, you have seen the parson and me done to
the life.

“‘Well, ma’am,’ he said, at last, ‘shall we go on with our conversation
in spite of circumstances?’

“‘Yes, sir,’ I said; ‘we are both of us, fortunately, of an age to set
circumstances at defiance’ (I had seen the old wretch looking at my gray
hair, and satisfying himself that his character was safe if he _was_
seen with me).

“After all this snapping and snarling, we came to the point at last. I
began by telling him that I feared his interest in you was not of the
friendly sort. He admitted that much--of course, in defense of his own
character once more. I next repeated to him everything you had told me
about your proceedings in Somersetshire, when we first found that he was
following us home. Don’t be alarmed my dear--I was acting on principle.
If you want to make a dish of lies digestible, always give it a garnish
of truth. Well, having appealed to the reverend gentleman’s confidence
in this matter, I next declared that you had become an altered woman
since he had seen you last. I revived that dead wretch, your husband
(without mentioning names, of course), established him (the first place
I thought of) in business at the Brazils, and described a letter which
he had written, offering to forgive his erring wife, if she would repent
and go back to him. I assured the parson that your husband’s noble
conduct had softened your obdurate nature; and then, thinking I had
produced the right impression, I came boldly to close quarters with him.
I said, ‘At the very time when you met us, sir, my unhappy friend was
speaking in terms of touching, self-reproach of her conduct to the late
Mrs. Armadale. She confided to me her anxiety to make some atonement,
if possible, to Mrs. Armadale’s son; and it is at her entreaty (for she
cannot prevail on herself to face you) that I now beg to inquire whether
Mr. Armadale is still in Somersetshire, and whether he would consent
to take back in small installments the sum of money which my friend
acknowledges that she received by practicing on Mrs. Armadale’s fears.’
Those were my very words. A neater story (accounting so nicely for
everything) was never told; it was a story to melt a stone. But this
Somersetshire parson is harder than stone itself. I blush for _him_,
my dear, when I assure you that he was evidently insensible enough to
disbelieve every word I said about your reformed character, your husband
in the Brazils, and your penitent anxiety to pay the money back. It is
really a disgrace that such a man should be in the Church; such
cunning as his is in the last degree unbecoming in a member of a sacred
profession.

“‘Does your friend propose to join her husband by the next steamer?’ was
all he condescended to say, when I had done.

“I acknowledge I was angry. I snapped at him. I said, ‘Yes, she does.’

“‘How am I to communicate with her?’ he asked.

“I snapped at him again. ‘By letter--through me.’

“‘At what address, ma’am?’

“There, I had him once more. ‘You have found my address out for
yourself, sir,’ I said. ‘The directory will tell you my name, if you
wish to find that out for yourself also; otherwise, you are welcome to
my card.’

“‘Many thanks, ma’am. If your friend wishes to communicate with Mr.
Armadale, I will give you _my_ card in return.’

“‘Thank you, sir.’

“‘Thank you, ma’am.’

“‘Good-afternoon, sir.’

“‘Good-afternoon, ma’am.’

“So we parted. I went my way to an appointment at my place of business,
and he went his in a hurry; which is of itself suspicious. What I can’t
get over is his heartlessness. Heaven help the people who send for _him_
to comfort them on their death-beds!

“The next consideration is, What are we to do? If we don’t find out the
right way to keep this old wretch in the dark, he may be the ruin of us
at Thorpe Ambrose just as we are within easy reach of our end in view.
Wait up till I come to you, with my mind free, I hope, from the other
difficulty which is worrying me here. Was there ever such ill luck as
ours? Only think of that man deserting his congregation, and coming
to London just at the very time when we have answered Major Milroy’s
advertisement, and may expect the inquiries to be made next week! I have
no patience with him; his bishop ought to interfere.

“Affectionately yours,

“MARIA OLDERSHAW.”

2. _From Miss Gwilt to Mrs. Oldershaw_.

“West Place, June 20th.

“MY POOR OLD DEAR--How very little you know of my sensitive nature, as
you call it! Instead of feeling offended when you left me, I went to
your piano, and forgot all about you till your messenger came. Your
letter is irresistible; I have been laughing over it till I am quite
out of breath. Of all the absurd stories I ever read, the story you
addressed to the Somersetshire clergyman is the most ridiculous. And as
for your interview with him in the street, it is a perfect sin to keep
it to ourselves. The public ought really to enjoy it in the form of a
farce at one of the theaters.

“Luckily for both of us (to come to serious matters), your messenger is
a prudent person. He sent upstairs to know if there was an answer.
In the midst of my merriment I had presence of mind enough to send
downstairs and say ‘Yes.’

“Some brute of a man says, in some book which I once read, that no woman
can keep two separate trains of ideas in her mind at the same time. I
declare you have almost satisfied me that the man is right. What! when
you have escaped unnoticed to your place of business, and when you
suspect this house to be watched, you propose to come back here, and
to put it in the parson’s power to recover the lost trace of you! What
madness! Stop where you are; and when you have got over your difficulty
at Pimlico (it is some woman’s business, of course; what worries women
are!), be so good as to read what I have got to say about our difficulty
at Brompton.

“In the first place, the house (as you supposed) is watched.

“Half an hour after you left me, loud voices in the street interrupted
me at the piano, and I went to the window. There was a cab at the house
opposite, where they let lodgings; and an old man, who looked like a
respectable servant, was wrangling with the driver about his fare. An
elderly gentleman came out of the house, and stopped them. An elderly
gentleman returned into the house, and appeared cautiously at the front
drawing-room window. You know him, you worthy creature; he had the bad
taste, some few hours since, to doubt whether you were telling him
the truth. Don’t be afraid, he didn’t see me. When he looked up, after
settling with the cab driver, I was behind the curtain. I have been
behind the curtain once or twice since; and I have seen enough to
satisfy me that he and his servant will relieve each other at the
window, so as never to lose sight of your house here, night or day. That
the parson suspects the real truth is of course impossible. But that
he firmly believes I mean some mischief to young Armadale, and that you
have entirely confirmed him in that conviction, is as plain as that two
and two make four. And this has happened (as you helplessly remind me)
just when we have answered the advertisement, and when we may expect the
major’s inquiries to be made in a few days’ time.

“Surely, here is a terrible situation for two women to find themselves
in? A fiddlestick’s end for the situation! We have got an easy way out
of it--thanks, Mother Oldershaw, to what I myself forced you to do, not
three hours before the Somersetshire clergyman met with us.

“Has that venomous little quarrel of ours this morning--after we had
pounced on the major’s advertisement in the newspaper--quite slipped out
of your memory? Have you forgotten how I persisted in my opinion that
you were a great deal too well known in London to appear safely as my
reference in your own name, or to receive an inquiring lady or gentleman
(as you were rash enough to propose) in your own house? Don’t you
remember what a passion you were in when I brought our dispute to an end
by declining to stir a step in the matter, unless I could conclude my
application to Major Milroy by referring him to an address at which you
were totally unknown, and to a name which might be anything you pleased,
as long as it was not yours? What a look you gave me when you found
there was nothing for it but to drop the whole speculation or to let
me have my own way! How you fumed over the lodging hunting on the other
side of the Park! and how you groaned when you came back, possessed of
furnished apartments in respectable Bayswater, over the useless expense
I had put you to!

“What do you think of those furnished apartments _now_, you obstinate
old woman? Here we are, with discovery threatening us at our very door,
and with no hope of escape unless we can contrive to disappear from the
parson in the dark. And there are the lodgings in Bayswater, to which no
inquisitive strangers have traced either you or me, ready and waiting
to swallow us up--the lodgings in which we can escape all further
molestation, and answer the major’s inquiries at our ease. Can you see,
at last, a little further than your poor old nose? Is there anything in
the world to prevent your safe disappearance from Pimlico to-night,
and your safe establishment at the new lodgings, in the character of
my respectable reference, half an hour afterward? Oh, fie, fie, Mother
Oldershaw! Go down on your wicked old knees, and thank your stars that
you had a she-devil like me to deal with this morning!

“Suppose we come now to the only difficulty worth mentioning--_my_
difficulty. Watched as I am in this house, how am I to join you without
bringing the parson or the parson’s servant with me at my heels?

“Being to all intents and purposes a prisoner here, it seems to me that
I have no choice but to try the old prison plan of escape: a change of
clothes. I have been looking at your house-maid. Except that we are both
light, her face and hair and my face and hair are as unlike each other
as possible. But she is as nearly as can be my height and size; and (if
she only knew how to dress herself, and had smaller feet) her figure is
a very much better one than it ought to be for a person in her station
in life.

“My idea is to dress her in the clothes I wore in the Gardens to-day;
to send her out, with our reverend enemy in full pursuit of her; and, as
soon as the coast is clear, to slip away myself and join you. The thing
would be quite impossible, of course, if I had been seen with my veil
up; but, as events have turned out, it is one advantage of the horrible
exposure which followed my marriage that I seldom show myself in public,
and never, of course, in such a populous place as London, without
wearing a thick veil and keeping that veil down. If the house-maid wears
my dress, I don’t really see why the house-maid may not be counted on to
represent me to the life.

“The one question is, Can the woman be trusted? If she can, send me a
line, telling her, on your authority, that she is to place herself at my
disposal. I won’t say a word till I have heard from you first.

“Let me have my answer to-night. As long as we were only talking about
my getting the governess’s place, I was careless enough how it ended.
But now that we have actually answered Major Milroy’s advertisement, I
am in earnest at last. I mean to be Mrs. Armadale of Thorpe Ambrose; and
woe to the man or woman who tries to stop me! Yours,

“LYDIA GWILT.

“P.S.--I open my letter again to say that you need have no fear of your
messenger being followed on his return to Pimlico. He will drive to a
public-house where he is known, will dismiss the cab at the door, and
will go out again by a back way which is only used by the landlord and
his friends.--L. G.”

3. _From Mrs. Oldershaw to Miss Gwilt_.

“Diana Street, 10 o’clock.

“MY DEAR LYDIA--You have written me a heartless letter. If you had been
in my trying position, harassed as I was when I wrote to you, I should
have made allowances for my friend when I found my friend not so sharp
as usual. But the vice of the present age is a want of consideration
for persons in the decline of life. Morally speaking, you are in a sad
state, my dear; and you stand much in need of a good example. You shall
have a good example--I forgive you.

“Having now relieved my mind by the performance of a good action,
suppose I show you next (though I protest against the vulgarity of the
expression) that I _can_ see a little further than my poor old nose?

“I will answer your question about the house-maid first. You may trust
her implicitly. She has had her troubles, and has learned discretion.
She also looks your age; though it is only her due to say that, in
this particular, she has some years the advantage of you. I inclose the
necessary directions which will place her entirely at your disposal.

“And what comes next?

“Your plan for joining me at Bayswater comes next. It is very well
as far as it goes; but it stands sadly in need of a little judicious
improvement. There is a serious necessity (you shall know why presently)
for deceiving the parson far more completely than you propose to deceive
him. I want him to see the house-maid’s face under circumstances
which will persuade him that it is _your_ face. And then, going a
step further, I want him to see the house-maid leave London, under
the impression that he has seen _you_ start on the first stage of
your journey to the Brazils. He didn’t believe in that journey when I
announced it to him this afternoon in the street. He may believe in it
yet, if you follow the directions I am now going to give you.

“To-morrow is Saturday. Send the housemaid out in your walking dress of
to-day, just as you propose; but don’t stir out yourself, and don’t go
near the window. Desire the woman to keep her veil down, to take half an
hour’s walk (quite unconscious, of course, of the parson or his servant
at her heels), and then to come back to you. As soon as she appears,
send her instantly to the open window, instructing her to lift her veil
carelessly and look out. Let her go away again after a minute or two,
take off her bonnet and shawl, and then appear once more at the window,
or, better still, in the balcony outside. She may show herself again
occasionally (not too often) later in the day. And to-morrow--as we have
a professional gentleman to deal with--by all means send her to church.
If these proceedings don’t persuade the parson that the house-maid’s
face is your face, and if they don’t make him readier to believe in your
reformed character than he was when I spoke to him, I have lived sixty
years, my love, in this vale of tears to mighty little purpose.

“The next day is Monday. I have looked at the shipping advertisements,
and I find that a steamer leaves Liverpool for the Brazils on Tuesday.
Nothing could be more convenient; we will start you on your voyage under
the parson’s own eyes. You may manage it in this way:

“At one o’clock send out the man who cleans the knives and forks to get
a cab; and when he has brought it up to the door, let him go back and
get a second cab, which he is to wait in himself, round the corner, in
the square. Let the house-maid (still in your dress) drive off, with the
necessary boxes, in the first cab to the North-western Railway. When she
is gone, slip out yourself to the cab waiting round the corner, and come
to me at Bayswater. They may be prepared to follow the house-maid’s cab,
because they have seen it at the door; but they won’t be prepared to
follow your cab, because it has been hidden round the corner. When the
house-maid has got to the station, and has done her best to disappear
in the crowd (I have chosen the mixed train at 2:10, so as to give her
every chance), you will be safe with me; and whether they do or do not
find out that she does not really start for Liverpool won’t matter by
that time. They will have lost all trace of you; and they may follow
the house-maid half over London, if they like. She has my instructions
(inclosed) to leave the empty boxes to find their way to the lost
luggage office and to go to her friends in the City, and stay there till
I write word that I want her again.

“And what is the object of all this?

“My dear Lydia, the object is your future security (and mine). We may
succeed or we may fail, in persuading the parson that you have actually
gone to the Brazils. If we succeed, we are relieved of all fear of him.
If we fail, he will warn young Armadale to be careful _of a woman like
my house-maid, and not of a woman like you_. This last gain is a very
important one; for we don’t know that Mrs. Armadale may not have told
him your maiden name. In that event, the ‘Miss Gwilt’ whom he will
describe as having slipped through his fingers here will be so entirely
unlike the ‘Miss Gwilt’ established at Thorpe Ambrose, as to satisfy
everybody that it is not a case of similarity of persons, but only a
case of similarity of names.

“What do you say now to my improvement on your idea? Are my brains not
quite so addled as you thought them when you wrote? Don’t suppose I’m at
all overboastful about my own ingenuity. Cleverer tricks than this trick
of mine are played off on the public by swindlers, and are recorded in
the newspapers every week. I only want to show you that my assistance is
not less necessary to the success of the Armadale speculation now than
it was when I made our first important discoveries, by means of the
harmless-looking young man and the private inquiry office in Shadyside
Place.

“There is nothing more to say that I know of, except that I am just
going to start for the new lodging, with a box directed in my new name.
The last expiring moments of Mother Oldershaw, of the Toilet Repository,
are close at hand, and the birth of Miss Gwilt’s respectable reference,
Mrs. Mandeville, will take place in a cab in five minutes’ time. I fancy
I must be still young at heart, for I am quite in love already with my
romantic name; it sounds almost as pretty as Mrs. Armadale of Thorpe
Ambrose, doesn’t it?

“Good-night, my dear, and pleasant dreams. If any accident happens
between this and Monday, write to me instantly by post. If no accident
happens you will be with me in excellent time for the earliest inquiries
that the major can possibly make. My last words are, don’t go out, and
don’t venture near the front windows till Monday comes.

“Affectionately yours,

“M. O.”



VI. MIDWINTER IN DISGUISE.

Toward noon on the day of the twenty-first, Miss Milroy was loitering
in the cottage garden--released from duty in the sick-room by an
improvement in her mother’s health--when her attention was attracted
by the sound of voices in the park. One of the voices she instantly
recognized as Allan’s; the other was strange to her. She put aside the
branches of a shrub near the garden palings, and, peeping through,
saw Allan approaching the cottage gate, in company with a slim, dark,
undersized man, who was talking and laughing excitably at the top of
his voice. Miss Milroy ran indoors to warn her father of Mr. Armadale’s
arrival, and to add that he was bringing with him a noisy stranger, who
was, in all probability, the friend generally reported to be staying
with the squire at the great house.

Had the major’s daughter guessed right? Was the squire’s loud-talking,
loud-laughing companion the shy, sensitive Midwinter of other times? It
was even so. In Allan’s presence, that morning, an extraordinary change
had passed over the ordinarily quiet demeanor of Allan’s friend.

When Midwinter had first appeared in the breakfast-room, after putting
aside Mr. Brock’s startling letter, Allan had been too much occupied to
pay any special attention to him. The undecided difficulty of choosing
the day for the audit dinner had pressed for a settlement once more,
and had been fixed at last (under the butler’s advice) for Saturday,
the twenty-eighth of the month. It was only on turning round to remind
Midwinter of the ample space of time which the new arrangement allowed
for mastering the steward’s books, that even Allan’s flighty attention
had been arrested by a marked change in the face that confronted him.
He had openly noticed the change in his usual blunt manner, and had been
instantly silenced by a fretful, almost an angry, reply. The two had sat
down together to breakfast without the usual cordiality, and the meal
had proceeded gloomily, till Midwinter himself broke the silence by
bursting into the strange outbreak of gayety which had revealed in
Allan’s eyes a new side to the character of his friend.

As usual with most of Allan’s judgments, here again the conclusion was
wrong. It was no new side to Midwinter’s character that now presented
itself--it was only a new aspect of the one ever-recurring struggle of
Midwinter’s life.

Irritated by Allan’s discovery of the change in him, and dreading the
next questions that Allan’s curiosity might put, Midwinter had roused
himself to efface, by main force, the impression which his own altered
appearance had produced. It was one of those efforts which no men
compass so resolutely as the men of his quick temper and his sensitive
feminine organization. With his whole mind still possessed by the firm
belief that the Fatality had taken one great step nearer to Allan and
himself since the rector’s adventure in Kensington Gardens--with his
face still betraying what he had suffered, under the renewed conviction
that his father’s death-bed warning was now, in event after event,
asserting its terrible claim to part him, at any sacrifice, from the one
human creature whom he loved--with the fear still busy at his heart that
the first mysterious vision of Allan’s Dream might be a vision realized,
before the new day that now saw the two Armadales together was a day
that had passed over their heads--with these triple bonds, wrought by
his own superstition, fettering him at that moment as they had never
fettered him yet, he mercilessly spurred his resolution to the desperate
effort of rivaling, in Allan’s presence, the gayety and good spirits of
Allan himself.

He talked and laughed, and heaped his plate indiscriminately from every
dish on the breakfast-table. He made noisily merry with jests that had
no humor, and stories that had no point. He first astonished Allan, then
amused him, then won his easily encouraged confidence on the subject
of Miss Milroy. He shouted with laughter over the sudden development of
Allan’s views on marriage, until the servants downstairs began to think
that their master’s strange friend had gone mad. Lastly, he had accepted
Allan’s proposal that he should be presented to the major’s daughter,
and judge of her for himself, as readily, nay, more readily than it
would have been accepted by the least diffident man living. There the
two now stood at the cottage gate--Midwinter’s voice rising louder and
louder over Allan’s--Midwinter’s natural manner disguised (how madly
and miserably none but he knew!) in a coarse masquerade of boldness--the
outrageous, the unendurable boldness of a shy man.

They were received in the parlor by the major’s daughter, pending the
arrival of the major himself.

Allan attempted to present his friend in the usual form. To his
astonishment, Midwinter took the words flippantly out of his lips, and
introduced himself to Miss Milroy with a confident look, a hard laugh,
and a clumsy assumption of ease which presented him at his worst.
His artificial spirits, lashed continuously into higher and higher
effervescence since the morning, were now mounting hysterically beyond
his own control. He looked and spoke with that terrible freedom of
license which is the necessary consequence, when a diffident man has
thrown off his reserve, of the very effort by which he has broken loose
from his own restraints. He involved himself in a confused medley of
apologies that were not wanted, and of compliments that might have
overflattered the vanity of a savage. He looked backward and forward
from Miss Milroy to Allan, and declared jocosely that he understood now
why his friend’s morning walks were always taken in the same direction.
He asked her questions about her mother, and cut short the answers she
gave him by remarks on the weather. In one breath, he said she must
feel the day insufferably hot, and in another he protested that he quite
envied her in her cool muslin dress.

The major came in.

Before he could say two words, Midwinter overwhelmed him with the same
frenzy of familiarity, and the same feverish fluency of speech. He
expressed his interest in Mrs. Milroy’s health in terms which would have
been exaggerated on the lips of a friend of the family. He overflowed
into a perfect flood of apologies for disturbing the major at his
mechanical pursuits. He quoted Allan’s extravagant account of the clock,
and expressed his own anxiety to see it in terms more extravagant
still. He paraded his superficial book knowledge of the great clock
at Strasbourg, with far-fetched jests on the extraordinary automaton
figures which that clock puts in motion--on the procession of the Twelve
Apostles, which walks out under the dial at noon, and on the toy cock,
which crows at St. Peter’s appearance--and this before a man who had
studied every wheel in that complex machinery, and who had passed whole
years of his life in trying to imitate it. “I hear you have outnumbered
the Strasbourg apostles, and outcrowed the Strasbourg cock,” he
exclaimed, with the tone and manner of a friend habitually privileged
to waive all ceremony; “and I am dying, absolutely dying, major, to see
your wonderful clock!”

Major Milroy had entered the room with his mind absorbed in his own
mechanical contrivances as usual. But the sudden shock of Midwinter’s
familiarity was violent enough to recall him instantly to himself, and
to make him master again, for the time, of his social resources as a man
of the world.

“Excuse me for interrupting you,” he said, stopping Midwinter for the
moment, by a look of steady surprise. “I happen to have seen the clock
at Strasbourg; and it sounds almost absurd in my ears (if you will
pardon me for saying so) to put my little experiment in any light of
comparison with that wonderful achievement. There is nothing else of
the kind like it in the world!” He paused, to control his own mounting
enthusiasm; the clock at Strasbourg was to Major Milroy what the name of
Michael Angelo was to Sir Joshua Reynolds. “Mr. Armadale’s kindness has
led him to exaggerate a little,” pursued the major, smiling at Allan,
and passing over another attempt of Midwinter’s to seize on the talk, as
if no such attempt had been made. “But as there does happen to be this
one point of resemblance between the great clock abroad and the little
clock at home, that they both show what they can do on the stroke of
noon, and as it is close on twelve now, if you still wish to visit
my workshop, Mr. Midwinter, the sooner I show you the way to it the
better.” He opened the door, and apologized to Midwinter, with marked
ceremony, for preceding him out of the room.

“What do you think of my friend?” whispered Allan, as he and Miss Milroy
followed.

“Must I tell you the truth, Mr. Armadale?” she whispered back.

“Of course!”

“Then I don’t like him at all!”

“He’s the best and dearest fellow in the world,” rejoined the outspoken
Allan. “You’ll like him better when you know him better--I’m sure you
will!”

Miss Milroy made a little grimace, implying supreme indifference to
Midwinter, and saucy surprise at Allan’s earnest advocacy of the merits
of his friend. “Has he got nothing more interesting to say to me than
_that_,” she wondered, privately, “after kissing my hand twice yesterday
morning?”

They were all in the major’s workroom before Allan had the chance of
trying a more attractive subject. There, on the top of a rough wooden
case, which evidently contained the machinery, was the wonderful clock.
The dial was crowned by a glass pedestal placed on rock-work in carved
ebony; and on the top of the pedestal sat the inevitable figure of Time,
with his everlasting scythe in his hand. Below the dial was a little
platform, and at either end of it rose two miniature sentry-boxes, with
closed doors. Externally, this was all that appeared, until the magic
moment came when the clock struck twelve noon.

It wanted then about three minutes to twelve; and Major Milroy seized
the opportunity of explaining what the exhibition was to be, before the
exhibition began.

“At the first words, his mind fell back again into its old absorption
over the one employment of his life. He turned to Midwinter (who had
persisted in talking all the way from the parlor, and who was talking
still) without a trace left in his manner of the cool and cutting
composure with which he had spoken but a few minutes before. The noisy,
familiar man, who had been an ill-bred intruder in the parlor, became
a privileged guest in the workshop, for _there_ he possessed the
all-atoning social advantage of being new to the performances of the
wonderful clock.

“At the first stroke of twelve, Mr. Midwinter,” said the major, quite
eagerly, “keep your eye on the figure of Time: he will move his scythe,
and point it downward to the glass pedestal. You will next see a little
printed card appear behind the glass, which will tell you the day of
the month and the day of the week. At the last stroke of the clock, Time
will lift his scythe again into its former position, and the chimes will
ring a peal. The peal will be succeeded by the playing of a tune--the
favorite march of my old regiment--and then the final performance of the
clock will follow. The sentry-boxes, which you may observe at each
side, will both open at the same moment. In one of them you will see
the sentinel appear; and from the other a corporal and two privates will
march across the platform to relieve the guard, and will then disappear,
leaving the new sentinel at his post. I must ask your kind allowances
for this last part of the performance. The machinery is a little
complicated, and there are defects in it which I am ashamed to say
I have not yet succeeded in remedying as I could wish. Sometimes the
figures go all wrong, and sometimes they go all right. I hope they may
do their best on the occasion of your seeing them for the first time.”

As the major, posted near his clock, said the last words, his little
audience of three, assembled at the opposite end of the room, saw the
hour-hand and the minute-hand on the dial point together to twelve. The
first stroke sounded, and Time, true to the signal, moved his scythe.
The day of the month and the day of the week announced themselves
in print through the glass pedestal next; Midwinter applauding their
appearance with a noisy exaggeration of surprise, which Miss Milroy
mistook for coarse sarcasm directed at her father’s pursuits, and which
Allan (seeing that she was offended) attempted to moderate by touching
the elbow of his friend. Meanwhile, the performances of the clock went
on. At the last stroke of twelve, Time lifted his scythe again, the
chimes rang, the march tune of the major’s old regiment followed; and
the crowning exhibition of the relief of the guard announced itself in a
preliminary trembling of the sentry-boxes, and a sudden disappearance of
the major at the back of the clock.

The performance began with the opening of the sentry-box on the
right-hand side of the platform, as punctually as could be desired;
the door on the other side, however, was less tractable--it remained
obstinately closed. Unaware of this hitch in the proceedings, the
corporal and his two privates appeared in their places in a state
of perfect discipline, tottered out across the platform, all three
trembling in every limb, dashed themselves headlong against the closed
door on the other side, and failed in producing the smallest impression
on the immovable sentry presumed to be within. An intermittent clicking,
as of the major’s keys and tools at work, was heard in the machinery.
The corporal and his two privates suddenly returned, backward, across
the platform, and shut themselves up with a bang inside their own door.
Exactly at the same moment, the other door opened for the first time,
and the provoking sentry appeared with the utmost deliberation at his
post, waiting to be relieved. He was allowed to wait. Nothing happened
in the other box but an occasional knocking inside the door, as if the
corporal and his privates were impatient to be let out. The clicking of
the major’s tools was heard again among the machinery; the corporal and
his party, suddenly restored to liberty, appeared in a violent hurry,
and spun furiously across the platform. Quick as they were, however,
the hitherto deliberate sentry on the other side now perversely showed
himself to be quicker still. He disappeared like lightning into his
own premises, the door closed smartly after him, the corporal and his
privates dashed themselves headlong against it for the second time,
and the major, appearing again round the corner of the clock, asked his
audience innocently “if they would be good enough to tell him whether
anything had gone wrong?”

The fantastic absurdity of the exhibition, heightened by Major Milroy’s
grave inquiry at the end of it, was so irresistibly ludicrous that
the visitors shouted with laughter; and even Miss Milroy, with all her
consideration for her father’s sensitive pride in his clock, could not
restrain herself from joining in the merriment which the catastrophe of
the puppets had provoked. But there are limits even to the license of
laughter; and these limits were ere long so outrageously overstepped
by one of the little party as to have the effect of almost instantly
silencing the other two. The fever of Midwinter’s false spirits flamed
out into sheer delirium as the performance of the puppets came to an
end. His paroxysms of laughter followed each other with such convulsive
violence that Miss Milroy started back from him in alarm, and even the
patient major turned on him with a look which said plainly, Leave the
room! Allan, wisely impulsive for once in his life, seized Midwinter by
the arm, and dragged him out by main force into the garden, and thence
into the park beyond.

“Good heavens! what has come to you!” he exclaimed, shrinking back from
the tortured face before him, as he stopped and looked close at it for
the first time.

For the moment, Midwinter was incapable of answering. The hysterical
paroxysm was passing from one extreme to the other. He leaned against a
tree, sobbing and gasping for breath, and stretched out his hand in mute
entreaty to Allan to give him time.

“You had better not have nursed me through my fever,” he said, faintly,
as soon as he could speak. “I’m mad and miserable, Allan; I have never
recovered it. Go back and ask them to forgive me; I am ashamed to go
and ask them myself. I can’t tell how it happened; I can only ask your
pardon and theirs.” He turned aside his head quickly so as to conceal
his face. “Don’t stop here,” he said; “don’t look at me; I shall soon
get over it.” Allan still hesitated, and begged hard to be allowed to
take him back to the house. It was useless. “You break my heart with
your kindness,” he burst out, passionately. “For God’s sake, leave me by
my self!”

Allan went back to the cottage, and pleaded there for indulgence to
Midwinter, with an earnestness and simplicity which raised him immensely
in the major’s estimation, but which totally failed to produce the same
favorable impression on Miss Milroy. Little as she herself suspected it,
she was fond enough of Allan already to be jealous of Allan’s friend.

“How excessively absurd!” she thought, pettishly. “As if either papa or
I considered such a person of the slightest consequence!”

“You will kindly suspend your opinion, won’t you, Major Milroy?” said
Allan, in his hearty way, at parting.

“With the greatest pleasure!” replied the major, cordially shaking
hands.

“And you, too, Miss Milroy?” added Allan.

Miss Milroy made a mercilessly formal bow. “_My_ opinion, Mr. Armadale,
is not of the slightest consequence.”

Allan left the cottage, sorely puzzled to account for Miss Milroy’s
sudden coolness toward him. His grand idea of conciliating the whole
neighborhood by becoming a married man underwent some modification as
he closed the garden gate behind him. The virtue called Prudence and the
Squire of Thorpe Ambrose became personally acquainted with each other,
on this occasion, for the first time; and Allan, entering headlong as
usual on the high-road to moral improvement, actually decided on doing
nothing in a hurry!

A man who is entering on a course of reformation ought, if virtue is its
own reward, to be a man engaged in an essentially inspiriting pursuit.
But virtue is not always its own reward; and the way that leads to
reformation is remarkably ill-lighted for so respectable a thoroughfare.
Allan seemed to have caught the infection of his friend’s despondency.
As he walked home, he, too, began to doubt--in his widely different way,
and for his widely different reasons--whether the life at Thorpe Ambrose
was promising quite as fairly for the future as it had promised at
first.



VII. THE PLOT THICKENS.

Two messages were waiting for Allan when he returned to the house. One
had been left by Midwinter. “He had gone out for a long walk, and Mr.
Armadale was not to be alarmed if he did not get back till late in the
day.” The other message had been left by “a person from Mr. Pedgift’s
office,” who had called, according to appointment, while the two
gentlemen were away at the major’s. “Mr. Bashwood’s respects, and he
would have the honor of waiting on Mr. Armadale again in the course of
the evening.”

Toward five o’clock, Midwinter returned, pale and silent. Allan hastened
to assure him that his peace was made at the cottage; and then, to
change the subject, mentioned Mr. Bashwood’s message. Midwinter’s mind
was so preoccupied or so languid that he hardly seemed to remember the
name. Allan was obliged to remind him that Bashwood was the elderly
clerk, whom Mr. Pedgift had sent to be his instructor in the duties
of the steward’s office. He listened without making any remark, and
withdrew to his room, to rest till dinner-time.

Left by himself, Allan went into the library, to try if he could while
away the time over a book.

He took many volumes off the shelves, and put a few of them back again;
and there he ended. Miss Milroy contrived in some mysterious manner to
get, in this case, between the reader and the books. Her formal bow and
her merciless parting speech dwelt, try how he might to forget them, on
Allan’s mind; he began to grow more and more anxious as the idle hour
wore on, to recover his lost place in her favor. To call again that day
at the cottage, and ask if he had been so unfortunate as to offend her,
was impossible. To put the question in writing with the needful nicety
of expression proved, on trying the experiment, to be a task beyond his
literary reach. After a turn or two up and down the room, with his pen
in his mouth, he decided on the more diplomatic course (which happened,
in this case, to be the easiest course, too), of writing to Miss Milroy
as cordially as if nothing had happened, and of testing his position in
her good graces by the answer that she sent him back. An invitation of
some kind (including her father, of course, but addressed directly to
herself) was plainly the right thing to oblige her to send a written
reply; but here the difficulty occurred of what the invitation was to
be. A ball was not to be thought of, in his present position with the
resident gentry. A dinner-party, with no indispensable elderly lady on
the premises to receive Miss Milroy--except Mrs. Gripper, who could only
receive her in the kitchen--was equally out of the question. What was
the invitation to be? Never backward, when he wanted help, in asking for
it right and left in every available direction, Allan, feeling himself
at the end of his own resources, coolly rang the bell, and astonished
the servant who answered it by inquiring how the late family at Thorpe
Ambrose used to amuse themselves, and what sort of invitations they were
in the habit of sending to their friends.

“The family did what the rest of the gentry did, sir,” said the man,
staring at his master in utter bewilderment. “They gave dinner-parties
and balls. And in fine summer weather, sir, like this, they sometimes
had lawn-parties and picnics--”

“That’ll do!” shouted Allan. “A picnic’s just the thing to please her.
Richard, you’re an invaluable man; you may go downstairs again.”

Richard retired wondering, and Richard’s master seized his ready pen.


“DEAR MISS MILROY--Since I left you it has suddenly struck me that we
might have a picnic. A little change and amusement (what I should call a
good shaking-up, if I wasn’t writing to a young lady) is just the thing
for you, after being so long indoors lately in Mrs. Milroy’s room. A
picnic is a change, and (when the wine is good) amusement, too. Will
you ask the major if he will consent to the picnic, and come? And if
you have got any friends in the neighborhood who like a picnic, pray
ask them too, for I have got none. It shall be your picnic, but I will
provide everything and take everybody. You shall choose the day, and we
will picnic where you like. I have set my heart on this picnic.

“Believe me, ever yours,

“ALLAN ARMADALE.”


On reading over his composition before sealing it up, Allan frankly
acknowledged to himself, this time, that it was not quite faultless.
“‘Picnic’ comes in a little too often,” he said. “Never mind; if she
likes the idea, she won’t quarrel with that.” He sent off the letter on
the spot, with strict instructions to the messenger to wait for a reply.

In half an hour the answer came back on scented paper, without an
erasure anywhere, fragrant to smell, and beautiful to see.

The presentation of the naked truth is one of those exhibitions from
which the native delicacy of the female mind seems instinctively to
revolt. Never were the tables turned more completely than they were now
turned on Allan by his fair correspondent. Machiavelli himself would
never have suspected, from Miss Milroy’s letter, how heartily she had
repented her petulance to the young squire as soon as his back was
turned, and how extravagantly delighted she was when his invitation was
placed in her hands. Her letter was the composition of a model young
lady whose emotions are all kept under parental lock and key, and served
out for her judiciously as occasion may require. “Papa,” appeared quite
as frequently in Miss Milroy’s reply as “picnic” had appeared in Allan’s
invitation. “Papa” had been as considerately kind as Mr. Armadale in
wishing to procure her a little change and amusement, and had offered
to forego his usual quiet habits and join the picnic. With “papa’s”
 sanction, therefore, she accepted, with much pleasure, Mr. Armadale’s
proposal; and, at “papa’s” suggestion, she would presume on Mr.
Armadale’s kindness to add two friends of theirs recently settled at
Thorpe Ambrose, to the picnic party--a widow lady and her son; the
latter in holy orders and in delicate health. If Tuesday next would suit
Mr. Armadale, Tuesday next would suit “papa”--being the first day he
could spare from repairs which were required by his clock. The rest,
by “papa’s” advice, she would beg to leave entirely in Mr. Armadale’s
hands; and, in the meantime, she would remain, with “papa’s”
 compliments, Mr. Armadale’s truly--ELEANOR MILROY.

Who would ever have supposed that the writer of that letter had jumped
for joy when Allan’s invitation arrived? Who would ever have suspected
that there was an entry already in Miss Milroy’s diary, under that day’s
date, to this effect: “The sweetest, dearest letter from _I-know-who_;
I’ll never behave unkindly to him again as long as I live?” As for
Allan, he was charmed with the sweet success of his maneuver. Miss
Milroy had accepted his invitation; consequently, Miss Milroy was
not offended with him. It was on the tip of his tongue to mention the
correspondence to his friend when they met at dinner. But there was
something in Midwinter’s face and manner (even plain enough for Allan to
see) which warned him to wait a little before he said anything to revive
the painful subject of their visit to the cottage. By common consent
they both avoided all topics connected with Thorpe Ambrose, not even
the visit from Mr. Bashwood, which was to come with the evening, being
referred to by either of them. All through the dinner they drifted
further and further back into the old endless talk of past times about
ships and sailing. When the butler withdrew from his attendance at
table, he came downstairs with a nautical problem on his mind, and asked
his fellow-servants if they any of them knew the relative merits “on a
wind” and “off a wind” of a schooner and a brig.

The two young men had sat longer at table than usual that day. When they
went out into the garden with their cigars, the summer twilight fell
gray and dim on lawn and flower bed, and narrowed round them by slow
degrees the softly fading circle of the distant view. The dew was heavy,
and, after a few minutes in the garden, they agreed to go back to the
drier ground on the drive in front of the house.

They were close to the turning which led into the shrubbery, when there
suddenly glided out on them, from behind the foliage, a softly stepping
black figure--a shadow, moving darkly through the dim evening light.
Midwinter started back at the sight of it, and even the less finely
strung nerves of his friend were shaken for the moment.

“Who the devil are you?” cried Allan.

The figure bared its head in the gray light, and came slowly a step
nearer. Midwinter advanced a step on his side, and looked closer. It was
the man of the timid manners and the mourning garments, of whom he had
asked the way to Thorpe Ambrose where the three roads met.

“Who are you?” repeated Allan.

“I humbly beg your pardon, sir,” faltered the stranger, stepping back
again, confusedly. “The servants told me I should find Mr. Armadale--”

“What, are you Mr. Bashwood?”

“Yes, if you please, sir.”

“I beg your pardon for speaking to you so roughly,” said Allan; “but the
fact is, you rather startled me. My name is Armadale (put on your hat,
pray), and this is my friend, Mr. Midwinter, who wants your help in the
steward’s office.”

“We hardly stand in need of an introduction,” said Midwinter. “I met Mr.
Bashwood out walking a few days since, and he was kind enough to direct
me when I had lost my way.”

“Put on your hat,” reiterated Allan, as Mr. Bashwood, still bareheaded,
stood bowing speechlessly, now to one of the young men, and now to the
other. “My good sir, put on your hat, and let me show you the way back
to the house. Excuse me for noticing it,” added Allan, as the man, in
sheer nervous helplessness, let his hat fall, instead of putting it back
on his head; “but you seem a little out of sorts; a glass of good
wine will do you no harm before you and my friend come to business.
Whereabouts did you meet with Mr. Bashwood, Midwinter, when you lost
your way?”

“I am too ignorant of the neighborhood to know. I must refer you to Mr.
Bashwood.”

“Come, tell us where it was,” said Allan, trying, a little too abruptly,
to set the man at his ease, as they all three walked back to the house.

The measure of Mr. Bashwood’s constitutional timidity seemed to be
filled to the brim by the loudness of Allan’s voice and the bluntness of
Allan’s request. He ran over in the same feeble flow of words with which
he had deluged Midwinter on the occasion when they first met.

“It was on the road, sir,” he began, addressing himself alternately to
Allan, whom he called, “sir,” and to Midwinter, whom he called by
his name, “I mean, if you please, on the road to Little Gill Beck. A
singular name, Mr. Midwinter, and a singular place; I don’t mean
the village; I mean the neighborhood--I mean the ‘Broads’ beyond the
neighborhood. Perhaps you may have heard of the Norfolk Broads, sir?
What they call lakes in other parts of England, they call Broads here.
The Broads are quite numerous; I think they would repay a visit. You
would have seen the first of them, Mr. Midwinter, if you had walked on
a few miles from where I had the honor of meeting you. Remarkably
numerous, the Broads, sir--situated between this and the sea. About
three miles from the sea, Mr. Midwinter--about three miles. Mostly
shallow, sir, with rivers running between them. Beautiful; solitary.
Quite a watery country, Mr. Midwinter; quite separate, as it were, in
itself. Parties sometimes visit them, sir--pleasure parties in boats.
It’s quite a little network of lakes, or, perhaps--yes, perhaps, more
correctly, pools. There is good sport in the cold weather. The wild fowl
are quite numerous. Yes; the Broads would repay a visit, Mr. Midwinter.
The next time you are walking that way. The distance from here to Little
Gill Beck, and then from Little Gill Beck to Girdler Broad, which is the
first you come to, is altogether not more--” In sheer nervous inability
to leave off, he would apparently have gone on talking of the Norfolk
Broads for the rest of the evening, if one of his two listeners had not
unceremoniously cut him short before he could find his way into a new
sentence.

“Are the Broads within an easy day’s drive there and back from this
house?” asked Allan, feeling, if they were, that the place for the
picnic was discovered already.

“Oh, yes, sir; a nice drive--quite a nice easy drive from this beautiful
place!”

They were by this time ascending the portico steps, Allan leading the
way up, and calling to Midwinter and Mr. Bashwood to follow him into the
library, where there was a lighted lamp.

In the interval which elapsed before the wine made its appearance,
Midwinter looked at his chance acquaintance of the high-road with
strangely mingled feelings of compassion and distrust--of compassion
that strengthened in spite of him; of distrust that persisted in
diminishing, try as he might to encourage it to grow. There, perched
comfortless on the edge of his chair, sat the poor broken-down, nervous
wretch, in his worn black garments, with his watery eyes, his honest old
outspoken wig, his miserable mohair stock, and his false teeth that were
incapable of deceiving anybody--there he sat, politely ill at ease;
now shrinking in the glare of the lamp, now wincing under the shock
of Allan’s sturdy voice; a man with the wrinkles of sixty years in his
face, and the manners of a child in the presence of strangers; an object
of pity surely, if ever there was a pitiable object yet!

“Whatever else you’re afraid of, Mr. Bashwood,” cried Allan, pouring out
a glass of wine, “don’t be afraid of that! There isn’t a headache in
a hogshead of it! Make yourself comfortable; I’ll leave you and Mr.
Midwinter to talk your business over by yourselves. It’s all in Mr.
Midwinter’s hands; he acts for me, and settles everything at his own
discretion.”

He said those words with a cautious choice of expression very
uncharacteristic of him, and, without further explanation, made abruptly
for the door. Midwinter, sitting near it, noticed his face as he went
out. Easy as the way was into Allan’s favor, Mr. Bashwood, beyond all
kind of doubt, had in some unaccountable manner failed to find it!

The two strangely assorted companions were left together--parted widely,
as it seemed on the surface, from any possible interchange of sympathy;
drawn invisibly one to the other, nevertheless, by those magnetic
similarities of temperament which overleap all difference of age or
station, and defy all apparent incongruities of mind and character. From
the moment when Allan left the room, the hidden Influence that works
in darkness began slowly to draw the two men together, across the great
social desert which had lain between them up to this day.

Midwinter was the first to approach the subject of the interview.

“May I ask,” he began, “if you have been made acquainted with
my position here, and if you know why it is that I require your
assistance?”

Mr. Bashwood--still hesitating and still timid, but manifestly relieved
by Allan’s departure--sat further back in his chair, and ventured on
fortifying himself with a modest little sip of wine.

“Yes, sir,” he replied; “Mr. Pedgift informed me of all--at least I
think I may say so--of all the circumstances. I am to instruct, or
perhaps, I ought to say to advise--”

“No, Mr. Bashwood; the first word was the best word of the two. I am
quite ignorant of the duties which Mr. Armadale’s kindness has induced
him to intrust to me. If I understand right, there can be no question of
your capacity to instruct me, for you once filled a steward’s situation
yourself. May I inquire where it was?”

“At Sir John Mellowship’s, sir, in West Norfolk. Perhaps you would
like--I have got it with me--to see my testimonial? Sir John might have
dealt more kindly with me; but I have no complaint to make; it’s all
done and over now!” His watery eyes looked more watery still, and the
trembling in his hands spread to his lips as he produced an old dingy
letter from his pocket-book and laid it open on the table.

The testimonial was very briefly and very coldly expressed, but it was
conclusive as far as it went. Sir John considered it only right to say
that he had no complaint to make of any want of capacity or integrity
in his steward. If Mr. Bashwood’s domestic position had been compatible
with the continued performance of his duties on the estate, Sir John
would have been glad to keep him. As it was, embarrassments caused by
the state of Mr. Bashwood’s personal affairs had rendered it undesirable
that he should continue in Sir John’s service; and on that ground, and
that only, his employer and he had parted. Such was Sir John’s testimony
to Mr. Bashwood’s character. As Midwinter read the last lines, he
thought of another testimonial, still in his own possession--of the
written character which they had given him at the school, when
they turned their sick usher adrift in the world. His superstition
(distrusting all new events and all new faces at Thorpe Ambrose) still
doubted the man before him as obstinately as ever. But when he now tried
to put those doubts into words, his heart upbraided him, and he laid the
letter on the table in silence.

The sudden pause in the conversation appeared to startle Mr. Bashwood.
He comforted himself with another little sip of wine, and, leaving the
letter untouched, burst irrepressibly into words, as if the silence was
quite unendurable to him.

“I am ready to answer any question, sir,” he began. “Mr. Pedgift told
me that I must answer questions, because I was applying for a place of
trust. Mr. Pedgift said neither you nor Mr. Armadale was likely to think
the testimonial sufficient of itself. Sir John doesn’t say--he might
have put it more kindly, but I don’t complain--Sir John doesn’t say
what the troubles were that lost me my place. Perhaps you might wish to
know--” He stopped confusedly, looked at the testimonial, and said no
more.

“If no interests but mine were concerned in the matter,” rejoined
Midwinter, “the testimonial would, I assure you, be quite enough to
satisfy me. But while I am learning my new duties, the person who
teaches me will be really and truly the steward of my friend’s estate. I
am very unwilling to ask you to speak on what may be a painful subject,
and I am sadly inexperienced in putting such questions as I ought
to put; but, perhaps, in Mr. Armadale’s interests, I ought to know
something more, either from yourself, or from Mr. Pedgift, if you prefer
it--” He, too, stopped confusedly, looked at the testimonial, and said
no more.

There was another moment of silence. The night was warm, and Mr.
Bashwood, among his other misfortunes, had the deplorable infirmity of
perspiring in the palms of the hands. He took out a miserable little
cotton pocket-handkerchief, rolled it up into a ball, and softly dabbed
it to and fro, from one hand to the other, with the regularity of a
pendulum. Performed by other men, under other circumstances, the action
might have been ridiculous. Performed by this man, at the crisis of the
interview, the action was horrible.

“Mr. Pedgift’s time is too valuable, sir, to be wasted on me,” he said.
“I will mention what ought to be mentioned myself--if you will please to
allow me. I have been unfortunate in my family. It is very hard to bear,
though it seems not much to tell. My wife--” One of his hands closed
fast on the pocket-handkerchief; he moistened his dry lips, struggled
with himself, and went on.

“My wife, sir,” he resumed, “stood a little in my way; she did me (I am
afraid I must confess) some injury with Sir John. Soon after I got the
steward’s situation, she contracted--she took--she fell into habits (I
hardly know how to say it) of drinking. I couldn’t break her of it, and
I couldn’t always conceal it from Sir John’s knowledge. She broke out,
and--and tried his patience once or twice, when he came to my office on
business. Sir John excused it, not very kindly; but still he excused
it. I don’t complain of Sir John! I don’t complain now of my wife.” He
pointed a trembling finger at his miserable crape-covered beaver hat on
the floor. “I’m in mourning for her,” he said, faintly. “She died nearly
a year ago, in the county asylum here.”

His mouth began to work convulsively. He took up the glass of wine
at his side, and, instead of sipping it this time, drained it to
the bottom. “I’m not much used to wine, sir,” he said, conscious,
apparently, of the flush that flew into his face as he drank, and still
observant of the obligations of politeness amid all the misery of the
recollections that he was calling up.

“I beg, Mr. Bashwood, you will not distress yourself by telling me any
more,” said Midwinter, recoiling from any further sanction on his part
of a disclosure which had already bared the sorrows of the unhappy man
before him to the quick.

“I’m much obliged to you, sir,” replied Mr. Bashwood. “But if I don’t
detain you too long, and if you will please to remember that Mr.
Pedgift’s directions to me were very particular--and, besides, I only
mentioned my late wife because if she hadn’t tried Sir John’s patience
to begin with, things might have turned out differently--” He paused,
gave up the disjointed sentence in which he had involved himself, and
tried another. “I had only two children, sir,” he went on, advancing to
a new point in his narrative, “a boy and a girl. The girl died when she
was a baby. My son lived to grow up; and it was my son who lost me my
place. I did my best for him; I got him into a respectable office in
London. They wouldn’t take him without security. I’m afraid it was
imprudent; but I had no rich friends to help me, and I became security.
My boy turned out badly, sir. He--perhaps you will kindly understand
what I mean, if I say he behaved dishonestly. His employers consented,
at my entreaty, to let him off without prosecuting. I begged very
hard--I was fond of my son James--and I took him home, and did my best
to reform him. He wouldn’t stay with me; he went away again to London;
he--I beg your pardon, sir! I’m afraid I’m confusing things; I’m afraid
I’m wandering from the point.”

“No, no,” said Midwinter, kindly. “If you think it right to tell me this
sad story, tell it in your own way. Have you seen your son since he left
you to go to London?”

“No, sir. He’s in London still, for all I know. When I last heard of
him, he was getting his bread--not very creditably. He was employed,
under the inspector, at the Private Inquiry Office in Shadyside Place.”

He spoke those words--apparently (as events then stood) the most
irrelevant to the matter in hand that had yet escaped him; actually (as
events were soon to be) the most vitally important that he had uttered
yet--he spoke those words absently, looking about him in confusion, and
trying vainly to recover the lost thread of his narrative.

Midwinter compassionately helped him. “You were telling me,” he said,
“that your son had been the cause of your losing your place. How did
that happen?”

“In this way, sir,” said Mr. Bashwood, getting back again excitedly into
the right train of thought. “His employers consented to let him off; but
they came down on his security; and I was the man. I suppose they were
not to blame; the security covered their loss. I couldn’t pay it all out
of my savings; I had to borrow--on the word of a man, sir, I couldn’t
help it--I had to borrow. My creditor pressed me; it seemed cruel, but,
if he wanted the money, I suppose it was only just. I was sold out of
house and home. I dare say other gentlemen would have said what Sir John
said; I dare say most people would have refused to keep a steward
who had had the bailiffs after him, and his furniture sold in the
neighborhood. That was how it ended, Mr. Midwinter. I needn’t detain you
any longer--here is Sir John’s address, if you wish to apply to him.”
 Midwinter generously refused to receive the address.

“Thank you kindly, sir,” said Mr. Bashwood, getting tremulously on his
legs. “There is nothing more, I think, except--except that Mr. Pedgift
will speak for me, if you wish to inquire into my conduct in his
service. I’m very much indebted to Mr. Pedgift; he’s a little rough
with me sometimes, but, if he hadn’t taken me into his office, I think I
should have gone to the workhouse when I left Sir John, I was so broken
down.” He picked up his dingy old hat from the floor. “I won’t intrude
any longer, sir. I shall be happy to call again if you wish to have time
to consider before you decide-”

“I want no time to consider after what you have told me,” replied
Midwinter, warmly, his memory busy, while he spoke, with the time when
_he_ had told _his_ story to Mr. Brock, and was waiting for a generous
word in return, as the man before him was waiting now. “To-day is
Saturday,” he went on. “Can you come and give me my first lesson
on Monday morning? I beg your pardon,” he added, interrupting Mr.
Bashwood’s profuse expressions of acknowledgment, and stopping him on
his way out of the room; “there is one thing we ought to settle, ought
we not? We haven’t spoken yet about your own interest in this matter;
I mean, about the terms.” He referred, a little confusedly, to the
pecuniary part of the subject. Mr. Bashwood (getting nearer and nearer
to the door) answered him more confusedly still.

“Anything, sir--anything you think right. I won’t intrude any longer;
I’ll leave it to you and Mr. Armadale.”

“I will send for Mr. Armadale, if you like,” said Midwinter, following
him into the hall. “But I am afraid he has as little experience in
matters of this kind as I have. Perhaps, if you see no objection, we
might be guided by Mr. Pedgift?”

Mr. Bashwood caught eagerly at the last suggestion, pushing his retreat,
while he spoke, as far as the front door. “Yes, sir--oh, yes, yes!
nobody better than Mr. Pedgift. Don’t--pray don’t disturb Mr. Armadale!”
 His watery eyes looked quite wild with nervous alarm as he turned round
for a moment in the light of the hall lamp to make that polite request.
If sending for Allan had been equivalent to unchaining a ferocious
watch-dog, Mr. Bashwood could hardly have been more anxious to stop the
proceeding. “I wish you kindly good-evening, sir,” he went on, getting
out to the steps. “I’m much obliged to you. I will be scrupulously
punctual on Monday morning--I hope--I think--I’m sure you will soon
learn everything I can teach you. It’s not difficult--oh dear, no--not
difficult at all! I wish you kindly good-evening, sir. A beautiful
night; yes, indeed, a beautiful night for a walk home.”

With those words, all dropping out of his lips one on the top of the
other, and without noticing, in his agony of embarrassment at effecting
his departure, Midwinter’s outstretched hand, he went noiselessly down
the steps, and was lost in the darkness of the night.

As Midwinter turned to re-enter the house, the dining-room door opened
and his friend met him in the hall.

“Has Mr. Bashwood gone?” asked Allan.

“He has gone,” replied Midwinter, “after telling me a very sad story,
and leaving me a little ashamed of myself for having doubted him without
any just cause. I have arranged that he is to give me my first lesson in
the steward’s office on Monday morning.”

“All right,” said Allan. “You needn’t be afraid, old boy, of my
interrupting you over your studies. I dare say I’m wrong--but I don’t
like Mr. Bashwood.”

“I dare say _I’m_ wrong,” retorted the other, a little petulantly. “I
do.”


The Sunday morning found Midwinter in the park, waiting to intercept the
postman, on the chance of his bringing more news from Mr. Brock.

At the customary hour the man made his appearance, and placed the
expected letter in Midwinter’s hands. He opened it, far away from all
fear of observation this time, and read these lines:


“MY DEAR MIDWINTER--I write more for the purpose of quieting your
anxiety than because I have anything definite to say. In my last hurried
letter I had no time to tell you that the elder of the two women whom
I met in the Gardens had followed me, and spoken to me in the street.
I believe I may characterize what she said (without doing her any
injustice) as a tissue of falsehoods from beginning to end. At any rate,
she confirmed me in the suspicion that some underhand proceeding is on
foot, of which Allan is destined to be the victim, and that the prime
mover in the conspiracy is the vile woman who helped his mother’s
marriage and who hastened his mother’s death.

“Feeling this conviction, I have not hesitated to do, for Allan’s sake,
what I would have done for no other creature in the world. I have left
my hotel, and have installed myself (with my old servant Robert) in
a house opposite the house to which I traced the two women. We are
alternately on the watch (quite unsuspected, I am certain, by the
people opposite) day and night. All my feelings, as a gentleman and a
clergyman, revolt from such an occupation as I am now engaged in; but
there is no other choice. I must either do this violence to my own
self-respect, or I must leave Allan, with his easy nature, and in his
assailable position, to defend himself against a wretch who is prepared,
I firmly believe, to take the most unscrupulous advantage of his
weakness and his youth. His mother’s dying entreaty has never left my
memory; and, God help me, I am now degrading myself in my own eyes in
consequence.

“There has been some reward already for the sacrifice. This day
(Saturday) I have gained an immense advantage--I have at last seen the
woman’s face. She went out with her veil down as before; and Robert kept
her in view, having my instructions, if she returned to the house, not
to follow her back to the door. She did return to the house; and the
result of my precaution was, as I had expected, to throw her off her
guard. I saw her face unveiled at the window, and afterward again in the
balcony. If any occasion should arise for describing her particularly,
you shall have the description. At present I need only say that she
looks the full age (five-and-thirty) at which you estimated her, and
that she is by no means so handsome a woman as I had (I hardly know why)
expected to see.

“This is all I can now tell you. If nothing more happens by Monday or
Tuesday next, I shall have no choice but to apply to my lawyers for
assistance; though I am most unwilling to trust this delicate and
dangerous matter in other hands than mine. Setting my own feelings
however, out of the question, the business which has been the cause of
my journey to London is too important to be trifled with much longer as
I am trifling with it now. In any and every case, depend on my keeping
you informed of the progress of events, and believe me yours truly,

“DECIMUS BROCK.”


Midwinter secured the letter as he had secured the letter that preceded
it--side by side in his pocket-book with the narrative of Allan’s Dream.

“How many days more?” he asked himself, as he went back to the house.
“How many days more?”

Not many. The time he was waiting for was a time close at hand.


Monday came, and brought Mr. Bashwood, punctual to the appointed hour.
Monday came, and found Allan immersed in his preparations for the
picnic. He held a series of interviews, at home and abroad, all through
the day. He transacted business with Mrs. Gripper, with the butler,
and with the coachman, in their three several departments of eating,
drinking, and driving. He went to the town to consult his professional
advisers on the subject of the Broads, and to invite both the lawyers,
father and son (in the absence of anybody else in the neighborhood whom
he could ask), to join the picnic. Pedgift Senior (in his department)
supplied general information, but begged to be excused from appearing at
the picnic, on the score of business engagements. Pedgift Junior (in his
department) added all the details; and, casting business engagements to
the winds, accepted the invitation with the greatest pleasure. Returning
from the lawyer’s office, Allan’s next proceeding was to go to the
major’s cottage and obtain Miss Milroy’s approval of the proposed
locality for the pleasure party. This object accomplished, he returned
to his own house, to meet the last difficulty now left to encounter--the
difficulty of persuading Midwinter to join the expedition to the Broads.

On first broaching the subject, Allan found his friend impenetrably
resolute to remain at home. Midwinter’s natural reluctance to meet the
major and his daughter after what had happened at the cottage, might
probably have been overcome. But Midwinter’s determination not to allow
Mr. Bashwood’s course of instruction to be interrupted was proof
against every effort that could be made to shake it. After exerting his
influence to the utmost, Allan was obliged to remain contented with a
compromise. Midwinter promised, not very willingly, to join the party
toward evening, at the place appointed for a gypsy tea-making, which was
to close the proceedings of the day. To this extent he would consent to
take the opportunity of placing himself on a friendly footing with the
Milroys. More he could not concede, even to Allan’s persuasion, and for
more it would be useless to ask.

The day of the picnic came. The lovely morning, and the cheerful bustle
of preparation for the expedition, failed entirely to tempt Midwinter
into altering his resolution. At the regular hour he left the
breakfast-table to join Mr. Bashwood in the steward’s office. The two
were quietly closeted over the books, at the back of the house, while
the packing for the picnic went on in front. Young Pedgift (short in
stature, smart in costume, and self-reliant in manner) arrived
some little time before the hour for starting, to revise all the
arrangements, and to make any final improvements which his local
knowledge might suggest. Allan and he were still busy in consultation
when the first hitch occurred in the proceedings. The woman-servant from
the cottage was reported to be waiting below for an answer to a note
from her young mistress, which was placed in Allan’s hands.

On this occasion Miss Milroy’s emotions had apparently got the better
of her sense of propriety. The tone of the letter was feverish, and the
handwriting wandered crookedly up and down in deplorable freedom from
all proper restraint.

“Oh, Mr. Armadale” (wrote the major’s daughter), “such a misfortune!
What _are_ we to do? Papa has got a letter from grandmamma this morning
about the new governess. Her reference has answered all the questions,
and she’s ready to come at the shortest notice. Grandmamma thinks (how
provoking!) the sooner the better; and she says we may expect her--I
mean the governess--either to-day or to-morrow. Papa says (he _will_ be
so absurdly considerate to everybody!) that we can’t allow Miss Gwilt to
come here (if she comes to-day) and find nobody at home to receive her.
What is to be done? I am ready to cry with vexation. I have got the
worst possible impression (though grandmamma says she is a charming
person) of Miss Gwilt. _Can_ you suggest something, dear Mr. Armadale?
I’m sure papa would give way if you could. Don’t stop to write; send me
a message back. I have got a new hat for the picnic; and oh, the agony
of not knowing whether I am to keep it on or take it off. Yours truly,
E. M.”

“The devil take Miss Gwilt!” said Allan, staring at his legal adviser in
a state of helpless consternation.

“With all my heart, sir--I don’t wish to interfere,” remarked Pedgift
Junior. “May I ask what’s the matter?”

Allan told him. Mr. Pedgift the younger might have his faults, but a
want of quickness of resource was not among them.

“There’s a way out of the difficulty, Mr. Armadale,” he said. “If the
governess comes to-day, let’s have her at the picnic.”

Allan’s eyes opened wide in astonishment.

“All the horses and carriages in the Thorpe Ambrose stables are not
wanted for this small party of ours,” proceeded Pedgift Junior. “Of
course not! Very good. If Miss Gwilt comes to-day, she can’t possibly
get here before five o’clock. Good again. You order an open carriage to
be waiting at the major’s door at that time, Mr. Armadale, and I’ll give
the man his directions where to drive to. When the governess comes to
the cottage, let her find a nice little note of apology (along with the
cold fowl, or whatever else they give her after her journey) begging
her to join us at the picnic, and putting a carriage at her own sole
disposal to take her there. Gad, sir!” said young Pedgift, gayly, “she
_must_ be a Touchy One if she thinks herself neglected after that!”

“Capital!” cried Allan. “She shall have every attention. I’ll give her
the pony-chaise and the white harness, and she shall drive herself, if
she likes.”

He scribbled a line to relieve Miss Milroy’s apprehensions, and gave the
necessary orders for the pony-chaise. Ten minutes later, the carriages
for the pleasure party were at the door.

“Now we’ve taken all this trouble about her,” said Allan, reverting to
the governess as they left the house, “I wonder, if she does come to-day,
whether we shall see her at the picnic!”

“Depends, entirely on her age, sir,” remarked young Pedgift, pronouncing
judgment with the happy confidence in himself which eminently
distinguished him. “If she’s an old one, she’ll be knocked up with the
journey, and she’ll stick to the cold fowl and the cottage. If she’s
a young one, either I know nothing of women, or the pony in the white
harness will bring her to the picnic.”

They started for the major’s cottage.



VIII. THE NORFOLK BROADS.

The little group gathered together in Major Milroy’s parlor to wait for
the carriages from Thorpe Ambrose would hardly have conveyed the idea,
to any previously uninstructed person introduced among them, of a party
assembled in expectation of a picnic. They were almost dull enough,
as far as outward appearances went, to have been a party assembled in
expectation of a marriage.

Even Miss Milroy herself, though conscious, of looking her best in
her bright muslin dress and her gayly feathered new hat, was at this
inauspicious moment Miss Milroy under a cloud. Although Allan’s note had
assured her, in Allan’s strongest language, that the one great object of
reconciling the governess’s arrival with the celebration of the picnic
was an object achieved, the doubt still remained whether the plan
proposed--whatever it might be--would meet with her father’s approval.
In a word, Miss Milroy declined to feel sure of her day’s pleasure until
the carriage made its appearance and took her from the door. The major,
on his side, arrayed for the festive occasion in a tight blue frock-coat
which he had not worn for years, and threatened with a whole long day of
separation from his old friend and comrade the clock, was a man out of
his element, if ever such a man existed yet. As for the friends who had
been asked at Allan’s request--the widow lady (otherwise Mrs. Pentecost)
and her son (the Reverend Samuel) in delicate health--two people less
capable, apparently of adding to the hilarity of the day could hardly
have been discovered in the length and breadth of all England. A young
man who plays his part in society by looking on in green spectacles, and
listening with a sickly smile, may be a prodigy of intellect and a mine
of virtue, but he is hardly, perhaps, the right sort of man to have at
a picnic. An old lady afflicted with deafness, whose one inexhaustible
subject of interest is the subject of her son, and who (on the happily
rare occasions when that son opens his lips) asks everybody eagerly,
“What does my boy say?” is a person to be pitied in respect of her
infirmities, and a person to be admired in respect of her maternal
devotedness, but not a person, if the thing could possibly be avoided,
to take to a picnic. Such a man, nevertheless, was the Reverend Samuel
Pentecost, and such a woman was the Reverend Samuel’s mother; and in the
dearth of any other producible guests, there they were, engaged to eat,
drink, and be merry for the day at Mr. Armadale’s pleasure party to the
Norfolk Broads.

The arrival of Allan, with his faithful follower, Pedgift Junior, at his
heels, roused the flagging spirits of the party at the cottage. The plan
for enabling the governess to join the picnic, if she arrived that day,
satisfied even Major Milroy’s anxiety to show all proper attention to
the lady who was coming into his house. After writing the necessary
note of apology and invitation, and addressing it in her very best
handwriting to the new governess, Miss Milroy ran upstairs to say
good-by to her mother, and returned with a smiling face and a side look
of relief directed at her father, to announce that there was nothing
now to keep any of them a moment longer indoors. The company at once
directed their steps to the garden gate, and were there met face to face
by the second great difficulty of the day. How were the six persons of
the picnic to be divided between the two open carriages that were in
waiting for them?

Here, again, Pedgift Junior exhibited his invaluable faculty of
contrivance. This highly cultivated young man possessed in an eminent
degree an accomplishment more or less peculiar to all the young men
of the age we live in: he was perfectly capable of taking his pleasure
without forgetting his business. Such a client as the Master of Thorpe
Ambrose fell but seldom in his father’s way, and to pay special but
unobtrusive attention to Allan all through the day was the business of
which young Pedgift, while proving himself to be the life and soul of
the picnic, never once lost sight from the beginning of the merry-making
to the end. He had detected the state of affairs between Miss Milroy and
Allan at glance, and he at once provided for his client’s inclinations
in that quarter by offering, in virtue of his local knowledge, to lead
the way in the first carriage, and by asking Major Milroy and the curate
if they would do him the honor of accompanying him.

“We shall pass a very interesting place to a military man, sir,” said
young Pedgift, addressing the major, with his happy and unblushing
confidence--“the remains of a Roman encampment. And my father, sir, who
is a subscriber,” proceeded this rising lawyer, turning to the curate,
“wished me to ask your opinion of the new Infant School buildings at
Little Gill Beck. Would you kindly give it me as we go along?” He opened
the carriage door, and helped in the major and the curate before they
could either of them start any difficulties. The necessary result
followed. Allan and Miss Milroy rode together in the same carriage,
with the extra convenience of a deaf old lady in attendance to keep the
squire’s compliments within the necessary limits.

Never yet had Allan enjoyed such an interview with Miss Milroy as the
interview he now obtained on the road to the Broads.

The dear old lady, after a little anecdote or two on the subject of her
son, did the one thing wanting to secure the perfect felicity of her two
youthful companions: she became considerately blind for the occasion, as
well as deaf. A quarter of an hour after the carriage left the major’s
cottage, the poor old soul, reposing on snug cushions, and fanned by a
fine summer air, fell peaceably asleep. Allan made love, and Miss Milroy
sanctioned the manufacture of that occasionally precious article of
human commerce, sublimely indifferent on both sides to a solemn bass
accompaniment on two notes, played by the curate’s mother’s unsuspecting
nose. The only interruption to the love-making (the snoring, being a
thing more grave and permanent in its nature, was not interrupted at
all) came at intervals from the carriage ahead. Not satisfied with
having the major’s Roman encampment and the curate’s Infant Schools on
his mind, Pedgift Junior rose erect from time to time in his place, and,
respectfully hailing the hindmost vehicle, directed Allan’s attention,
in a shrill tenor voice, and with an excellent choice of language,
to objects of interest on the road. The only way to quiet him was to
answer, which Allan invariably did by shouting back, “Yes, beautiful,”
 upon which young Pedgift disappeared again in the recesses of the
leading carriage, and took up the Romans and the Infants where he had
left them last.

The scene through which the picnic party was now passing merited far
more attention than it received either from Allan or Allan’s friends.


An hour’s steady driving from the major’s cottage had taken young
Armadale and his guests beyond the limits of Midwinter’s solitary walk,
and was now bringing them nearer and nearer to one of the strangest and
loveliest aspects of nature which the inland landscape, not of Norfolk
only, but of all England, can show. Little by little the face of the
country began to change as the carriages approached the remote and
lonely district of the Broads. The wheat fields and turnip fields became
perceptibly fewer, and the fat green grazing grounds on either side grew
wider and wider in their smooth and sweeping range. Heaps of dry rushes
and reeds, laid up for the basket-maker and the thatcher, began to
appear at the road-side. The old gabled cottages of the early part of
the drive dwindled and disappeared, and huts with mud walls rose in
their place. With the ancient church towers and the wind and water
mills, which had hitherto been the only lofty objects seen over the
low marshy flat, there now rose all round the horizon, gliding slow and
distant behind fringes of pollard willows, the sails of invisible boats
moving on invisible waters. All the strange and startling anomalies
presented by an inland agricultural district, isolated from
other districts by its intricate surrounding network of pools and
streams--holding its communications and carrying its produce by water
instead of by land--began to present themselves in closer and closer
succession. Nets appeared on cottage pailings; little flat-bottomed
boats lay strangely at rest among the flowers in cottage gardens;
farmers’ men passed to and fro clad in composite costume of the coast
and the field, in sailors’ hats, and fishermen’s boots, and plowmen’s
smocks; and even yet the low-lying labyrinth of waters, embosomed in its
mystery of solitude, was a hidden labyrinth still. A minute more, and
the carriages took a sudden turn from the hard high-road into a little
weedy lane. The wheels ran noiseless on the damp and spongy ground. A
lonely outlying cottage appeared with its litter of nets and boats. A
few yards further on, and the last morsel of firm earth suddenly ended
in a tiny creek and quay. One turn more to the end of the quay--and
there, spreading its great sheet of water, far and bright and smooth,
on the right hand and the left--there, as pure in its spotless blue, as
still in its heavenly peacefulness, as the summer sky above it, was the
first of the Norfolk Broads.

The carriages stopped, the love-making broke off, and the venerable Mrs.
Pentecost, recovering the use of her senses at a moment’s notice, fixed
her eyes sternly on Allan the instant she woke.

“I see in your face, Mr. Armadale,” said the old lady, sharply, “that
you think I have been asleep.”

The consciousness of guilt acts differently on the two sexes. In nine
cases out of ten, it is a much more manageable consciousness with a
woman than with a man. All the confusion, on this occasion, was on
the man’s side. While Allan reddened and looked embarrassed, the
quick-witted Miss Milroy instantly embraced the old lady with a burst
of innocent laughter. “He is quite incapable, dear Mrs. Pentecost,” said
the little hypocrite, “of anything so ridiculous as thinking you have
been asleep!”

“All I wish Mr. Armadale to know,” pursued the old lady, still
suspicious of Allan, “is, that my head being giddy, I am obliged to
close my eyes in a carriage. Closing the eyes, Mr. Armadale, is one
thing, and going to sleep is another. Where is my son?”

The Reverend Samuel appeared silently at the carriage door, and assisted
his mother to get out (“Did you enjoy the drive, Sammy?” asked the old
lady. “Beautiful scenery, my dear, wasn’t it?”) Young Pedgift, on whom
the arrangements for exploring the Broads devolved, hustled about,
giving his orders to the boatman. Major Milroy, placid and patient, sat
apart on an overturned punt, and privately looked at his watch. Was it
past noon already? More than an hour past. For the first time, for many
a long year, the famous clock at home had struck in an empty workshop.
Time had lifted his wonderful scythe, and the corporal and his men had
relieved guard, with no master’s eye to watch their performances, with
no master’s hand to encourage them to do their best. The major sighed
as he put his watch back in his pocket. “I’m afraid I’m too old for this
sort of thing,” thought the good man, looking about him dreamily. “I
don’t find I enjoy it as much as I thought I should. When are we going
on the water, I wonder? Where’s Neelie?”

Neelie--more properly Miss Milroy--was behind one of the carriages
with the promoter of the picnic. They were immersed in the interesting
subject of their own Christian names, and Allan was as near a pointblank
proposal of marriage as it is well possible for a thoughtless young
gentleman of two-and-twenty to be.

“Tell me the truth,” said Miss Milroy, with her eyes modestly riveted on
the ground. “When you first knew what my name was, you didn’t like it,
did you?”

“I like everything that belongs to you,” rejoined Allan, vigorously. “I
think Eleanor is a beautiful name; and yet, I don’t know why, I think
the major made an improvement when he changed it to Neelie.”

“I can tell you why, Mr. Armadale,” said the major’s daughter, with
great gravity. “There are some unfortunate people in this world whose
names are--how can I express it?--whose names are misfits. Mine is a
misfit. I don’t blame my parents, for of course it was impossible to
know when I was a baby how I should grow up. But as things are, I and
my name don’t fit each other. When you hear a young lady called Eleanor,
you think of a tall, beautiful, interesting creature directly--the
very opposite of _me_! With my personal appearance, Eleanor sounds
ridiculous; and Neelie, as you yourself remarked, is just the thing. No!
no! don’t say any more; I’m tired of the subject. I’ve got another
name in my head, if we must speak of names, which is much better worth
talking about than mine.”

She stole a glance at her companion which said plainly enough, “The name
is yours.” Allan advanced a step nearer to her, and lowered his voice,
without the slightest necessity, to a mysterious whisper. Miss Milroy
instantly resumed her investigation of the ground. She looked at it with
such extraordinary interest that a geologist might have suspected her of
scientific flirtation with the superficial strata.

“What name are you thinking of?” asked Allan.

Miss Milroy addressed her answer, in the form of a remark, to the
superficial strata--and let them do what they liked with it, in their
capacity of conductors of sound. “If I had been a man,” she said, “I
should so like to have been called Allan!”

She felt his eyes on her as she spoke, and, turning her head aside,
became absorbed in the graining of the panel at the back of the
carriage. “How beautiful it is!” she exclaimed, with a sudden outburst
of interest in the vast subject of varnish. “I wonder how they do it?”

Man persists, and woman yields. Allan declined to shift the ground from
love-making to coach-making. Miss Milroy dropped the subject.

“Call me by my name, if you really like it,” he whispered, persuasively.
“Call me ‘Allan’ for once; just to try.”

She hesitated with a heightened color and a charming smile, and shook
her head. “I couldn’t just yet,” she answered, softly.

“May I call you Neelie? Is it too soon?”

She looked at him again, with a sudden disturbance about the bosom of
her dress, and a sudden flash of tenderness in her dark-gray eyes.

“You know best,” she said, faintly, in a whisper.

The inevitable answer was on the tip of Allan’s tongue. At the very
instant, however, when he opened his lips, the abhorrent high tenor of
Pedgift Junior, shouting for “Mr. Armadale,” rang cheerfully through the
quiet air. At the same moment, from the other side of the carriage, the
lurid spectacles of the Reverend Samuel showed themselves officiously on
the search; and the voice of the Reverend Samuel’s mother (who had, with
great dexterity, put the two ideas of the presence of water and a sudden
movement among the company together) inquired distractedly if anybody
was drowned? Sentiment flies and Love shudders at all demonstrations of
the noisy kind. Allan said: “Damn it,” and rejoined young Pedgift. Miss
Milroy sighed, and took refuge with her father.

“I’ve done it, Mr. Armadale!” cried young Pedgift, greeting his patron
gayly. “We can all go on the water together; I’ve got the biggest boat
on the Broads. The little skiffs,” he added, in a lower tone, as he led
the way to the quay steps, “besides being ticklish and easily upset,
won’t hold more than two, with the boatman; and the major told me he
should feel it his duty to go with his daughter, if we all separated in
different boats. I thought _that_ would hardly do, sir,” pursued Pedgift
Junior, with a respectfully sly emphasis on the words. “And, besides, if
we had put the old lady into a skiff, with her weight (sixteen stone if
she’s a pound), we might have had her upside down in the water half her
time, which would have occasioned delay, and thrown what you call a damp
on the proceedings. Here’s the boat, Mr. Armadale. What do you think of
it?”

The boat added one more to the strangely anomalous objects which
appeared at the Broads. It was nothing less than a stout old lifeboat,
passing its last declining years on the smooth fresh water, after the
stormy days of its youth time on the wild salt sea. A comfortable
little cabin for the use of fowlers in the winter season had been built
amidships, and a mast and sail adapted for inland navigation had been
fitted forward. There was room enough and to spare for the guests,
the dinner, and the three men in charge. Allan clapped his faithful
lieutenant approvingly on the shoulder; and even Mrs. Pentecost,
when the whole party were comfortably established on board, took a
comparatively cheerful view of the prospects of the picnic. “If anything
happens,” said the old lady, addressing the company generally, “there’s
one comfort for all of us. My son can swim.”

The boat floated out from the creek into the placid waters of the Broad,
and the full beauty of the scene opened on the view.

On the northward and westward, as the boat reached the middle of the
lake, the shore lay clear and low in the sunshine, fringed darkly at
certain points by rows of dwarf trees; and dotted here and there, in
the opener spaces, with windmills and reed-thatched cottages, of puddled
mud. Southward, the great sheet of water narrowed gradually to a little
group of close-nestling islands which closed the prospect; while to the
east a long, gently undulating line of reeds followed the windings of
the Broad, and shut out all view of the watery wastes beyond. So clear
and so light was the summer air that the one cloud in the eastern
quarter of the heaven was the smoke cloud left by a passing steamer
three miles distant and more on the invisible sea. When the voices of
the pleasure party were still, not a sound rose, far or near, but the
faint ripple at the bows, as the men, with slow, deliberate strokes
of their long poles, pressed the boat forward softly over the shallow
water. The world and the world’s turmoil seemed left behind forever
on the land; the silence was the silence of enchantment--the delicious
interflow of the soft purity of the sky and the bright tranquillity of
the lake.

Established in perfect comfort in the boat--the major and his daughter
on one side, the curate and his mother on the other, and Allan and young
Pedgift between the two--the water party floated smoothly toward the
little nest of islands at the end of the Broad. Miss Milroy was in
raptures; Allan was delighted; and the major for once forgot his clock.
Every one felt pleasurably, in their different ways, the quiet and
beauty of the scene. Mrs. Pentecost, in her way, felt it like a
clairvoyant--with closed eyes.

“Look behind you, Mr. Armadale,” whispered young Pedgift. “I think the
parson’s beginning to enjoy himself.”

An unwonted briskness--portentous apparently of coming speech--did
certainly at that moment enliven the curate’s manner. He jerked his head
from side to side like a bird; he cleared his throat, and clasped his
hands, and looked with a gentle interest at the company. Getting into
spirits seemed, in the case of this excellent person, to be alarmingly
like getting into the pulpit.

“Even in this scene of tranquillity,” said the Reverend Samuel, coming
out softly with his first contribution to the society in the shape of
a remark, “the Christian mind--led, so to speak, from one extreme to
another--is forcibly recalled to the unstable nature of all earthly
enjoyments. How if this calm should not last? How if the winds rose and
the waters became agitated?”

“You needn’t alarm yourself about that, sir,” said young Pedgift;
“June’s the fine season here--and you can swim.”

Mrs. Pentecost (mesmerically affected, in all probability, by the near
neighborhood of her son) opened her eyes suddenly and asked, with her
customary eagerness. “What does my boy say?”

The Reverend Samuel repeated his words in the key that suited his
mother’s infirmity. The old lady nodded in high approval, and pursued
her son’s train of thought through the medium of a quotation.

“Ah!” sighed Mrs. Pentecost, with infinite relish, “He rides the
whirlwind, Sammy, and directs the storm!”

“Noble words!” said the Reverend Samuel. “Noble and consoling words!”

“I say,” whispered Allan, “if he goes on much longer in that way, what’s
to be done?”

“I told you, papa, it was a risk to ask them,” added Miss Milroy, in
another whisper.

“My dear!” remonstrated the major. “We knew nobody else in the
neighborhood, and, as Mr. Armadale kindly suggested our bringing our
friends, what could we do?”

“We can’t upset the boat,” remarked young Pedgift, with sardonic
gravity. “It’s a lifeboat, unfortunately. May I venture to suggest
putting something into the reverend gentleman’s mouth, Mr. Armadale?
It’s close on three o’clock. What do you say to ringing the dinner-bell,
sir?”

Never was the right man more entirely in the right place than Pedgift
Junior at the picnic. In ten minutes more the boat was brought to a
stand-still among the reeds; the Thorpe Ambrose hampers were unpacked
on the roof of the cabin; and the current of the curate’s eloquence was
checked for the day.

How inestimably important in its moral results--and therefore how
praiseworthy in itself--is the act of eating and drinking! The social
virtues center in the stomach. A man who is not a better husband,
father, and brother after dinner than before is, digestively speaking,
an incurably vicious man. What hidden charms of character disclose
themselves, what dormant amiabilities awaken, when our common humanity
gathers together to pour out the gastric juice! At the opening of the
hampers from Thorpe Ambrose, sweet Sociability (offspring of the happy
union of Civilization and Mrs. Gripper) exhaled among the boating party,
and melted in one friendly fusion the discordant elements of which that
party had hitherto been composed. Now did the Reverend Samuel Pentecost,
whose light had hitherto been hidden under a bushel, prove at last that
he could do something by proving that he could eat. Now did Pedgift
Junior shine brighter than ever he had shone yet in gems of caustic
humor and exquisite fertilities of resource. Now did the squire, and the
squire’s charming guest, prove the triple connection between Champagne
that sparkles, Love that grows bolder, and Eyes whose vocabulary is
without the word No. Now did cheerful old times come back to the major’s
memory, and cheerful old stories not told for years find their way to
the major’s lips. And now did Mrs. Pentecost, coming out wakefully
in the whole force of her estimable maternal character, seize on a
supplementary fork, and ply that useful instrument incessantly between
the choicest morsels in the whole round of dishes, and the few vacant
places left available on the Reverend Samuel’s plate. “Don’t laugh at my
son,” cried the old lady, observing the merriment which her proceedings
produced among the company. “It’s my fault, poor dear--_I_ make him
eat!” And there are men in this world who, seeing virtues such as
these developed at the table, as they are developed nowhere else, can,
nevertheless, rank the glorious privilege of dining with the smallest
of the diurnal personal worries which necessity imposes on mankind--with
buttoning your waistcoat, for example, or lacing your stays! Trust no
such monster as this with your tender secrets, your loves and hatreds,
your hopes and fears. His heart is uncorrected by his stomach, and the
social virtues are not in him.

The last mellow hours of the day and the first cool breezes of the long
summer evening had met before the dishes were all laid waste, and the
bottles as empty as bottles should be. This point in the proceedings
attained, the picnic party looked lazily at Pedgift Junior to know what
was to be done next. That inexhaustible functionary was equal as ever to
all the calls on him. He had a new amusement ready before the quickest
of the company could so much as ask him what that amusement was to be.

“Fond of music on the water, Miss Milroy?” he asked, in his airiest and
pleasantest manner.

Miss Milroy adored music, both on the water and the land--always
excepting the one case when she was practicing the art herself on the
piano at home.

“We’ll get out of the reeds first,” said young Pedgift. He gave
his orders to the boatmen, dived briskly into the little cabin, and
reappeared with a concertina in his hand. “Neat, Miss Milroy, isn’t
it?” he observed, pointing to his initials, inlaid on the instrument
in mother-of-pearl. “My name’s Augustus, like my father’s. Some of my
friends knock off the ‘A,’ and call me ‘Gustus Junior.’ A small joke
goes a long way among friends, doesn’t it, Mr. Armadale? I sing a little
to my own accompaniment, ladies and gentlemen; and, if quite agreeable,
I shall be proud and happy to do my best.”

“Stop!” cried Mrs. Pentecost; “I dote on music.”

With this formidable announcement, the old lady opened a prodigious
leather bag, from which she never parted night or day, and took out an
ear-trumpet of the old-fashioned kind--something between a key-bugle and
a French horn. “I don’t care to use the thing generally,” explained Mrs.
Pentecost, “because I’m afraid of its making me deafer than ever. But
I can’t and won’t miss the music. I dote on music. If you’ll hold the
other end, Sammy, I’ll stick it in my ear. Neelie, my dear, tell him to
begin.”

Young Pedgift was troubled with no nervous hesitation. He began at once,
not with songs of the light and modern kind, such as might have been
expected from an amateur of his age and character, but with declamatory
and patriotic bursts of poetry, set to the bold and blatant music which
the people of England loved dearly at the earlier part of the present
century, and which, whenever they can get it, they love dearly still.
“The Death of Marmion,” “The Battle of the Baltic,” “The Bay of
Biscay,” “Nelson,” under various vocal aspects, as exhibited by the
late Braham--these were the songs in which the roaring concertina and
strident tenor of Gustus Junior exulted together. “Tell me when you’re
tired, ladies and gentlemen,” said the minstrel solicitor. “There’s no
conceit about _me_. Will you have a little sentiment by way of variety?
Shall I wind up with ‘The Mistletoe Bough’ and ‘Poor Mary Anne’?”

Having favored his audience with those two cheerful melodies, young
Pedgift respectfully requested the rest of the company to follow his
vocal example in turn, offering, in every case, to play “a running
accompaniment” impromptu, if the singer would only be so obliging as to
favor him with the key-note.

“Go on, somebody!” cried Mrs. Pentecost, eagerly. “I tell you again, I
dote on music. We haven’t had half enough yet, have we, Sammy?”

The Reverend Samuel made no reply. The unhappy man had reasons of his
own--not exactly in his bosom, but a little lower--for remaining silent,
in the midst of the general hilarity and the general applause. Alas for
humanity! Even maternal love is alloyed with mortal fallibility. Owing
much already to his excellent mother, the Reverend Samuel was now
additionally indebted to her for a smart indigestion.

Nobody, however, noticed as yet the signs and tokens of internal
revolution in the curate’s face. Everybody was occupied in entreating
everybody else to sing. Miss Milroy appealed to the founder of the
feast. “Do sing something, Mr. Armadale,” she said; “I should so like to
hear you!”

“If you once begin, sir,” added the cheerful Pedgift, “you’ll find it
get uncommonly easy as you go on. Music is a science which requires to
be taken by the throat at starting.”

“With all my heart,” said Allan, in his good-humored way. “I know lots
of tunes, but the worst of it is, the words escape me. I wonder if I
can remember one of Moore’s Melodies? My poor mother used to be fond of
teaching me Moore’s Melodies when I was a boy.”

“Whose melodies?” asked Mrs. Pentecost. “Moore’s? Aha! I know Tom Moore
by heart.”

“Perhaps in that case you will be good enough to help me, ma’am, if my
memory breaks down,” rejoined Allan. “I’ll take the easiest melody in
the whole collection, if you’ll allow me. Everybody knows it--‘Eveleen’s
Bower.’”

“I’m familiar, in a general sort of way, with the national melodies of
England, Scotland, and Ireland,” said Pedgift Junior. “I’ll accompany
you, sir, with the greatest pleasure. This is the sort of thing, I
think.” He seated himself cross-legged on the roof of the cabin, and
burst into a complicated musical improvisation wonderful to hear--a
mixture of instrumental flourishes and groans; a jig corrected by a
dirge, and a dirge enlivened by a jig. “That’s the sort of thing,” said
young Pedgift, with his smile of supreme confidence. “Fire away, sir!”

Mrs. Pentecost elevated her trumpet, and Allan elevated his voice.
“Oh, weep for the hour when to Eveleen’s Bower--” He stopped; the
accompaniment stopped; the audience waited. “It’s a most extraordinary
thing,” said Allan; “I thought I had the next line on the tip of my
tongue, and it seems to have escaped me. I’ll begin again, if you have
no objection. ‘Oh, weep for the hour when to Eveleen’s Bower--’”

“‘The lord of the valley with false vows came,’” said Mrs. Pentecost.

“Thank you, ma’am,” said Allan. “Now I shall get on smoothly. ‘Oh, weep
for the hour when to Eveleen’s Bower, the lord of the valley with false
vows came. The moon was shining bright--’”

“No!” said Mrs. Pentecost.

“I beg your pardon, ma’am,” remonstrated Allan. “‘The moon was shining
bright--’”

“The moon wasn’t doing anything of the kind,” said Mrs. Pentecost.

Pedgift Junior, foreseeing a dispute, persevered _sotto voce_ with the
accompaniment, in the interests of harmony.

“Moore’s own words, ma’am,” said Allan, “in my mother’s copy of the
Melodies.”

“Your mother’s copy was wrong,” retorted Mrs. Pentecost. “Didn’t I tell
you just now that I knew Tom Moore by heart?”

Pedgift Junior’s peace-making concertina still flourished and groaned in
the minor key.

“Well, what _did_ the moon do?” asked Allan, in despair.

“What the moon _ought_ to have done, sir, or Tom Moore wouldn’t have
written it so,” rejoined Mrs. Pentecost. “‘The moon hid her light from
the heaven that night, and wept behind her clouds o’er the maiden’s
shame!’ I wish that young man would leave off playing,” added Mrs.
Pentecost, venting her rising irritation on Gustus Junior. “I’ve had
enough of him--he tickles my ears.”

“Proud, I’m sure, ma’am,” said the unblushing Pedgift. “The whole
science of music consists in tickling the ears.”

“We seem to be drifting into a sort of argument,” remarked Major Milroy,
placidly. “Wouldn’t it be better if Mr. Armadale went on with his song?”

“Do go on, Mr. Armadale!” added the major’s daughter. “Do go on, Mr.
Pedgift!”

“One of them doesn’t know the words, and the other doesn’t know the
music,” said Mrs. Pentecost. “Let them go on if they can!”

“Sorry to disappoint you, ma’am,” said Pedgift Junior; “I’m ready to go
on myself to any extent. Now, Mr. Armadale!”

Allan opened his lips to take up the unfinished melody where he had last
left it. Before he could utter a note, the curate suddenly rose, with a
ghastly face, and a hand pressed convulsively over the middle region of
his waistcoat.

“What’s the matter?” cried the whole boating party in chorus.

“I am exceedingly unwell,” said the Reverend Samuel Pentecost. The boat
was instantly in a state of confusion. “Eveleen’s Bower” expired on
Allan’s lips, and even the irrepressible concertina of Pedgift
was silenced at last. The alarm proved to be quite needless. Mrs.
Pentecost’s son possessed a mother, and that mother had a bag. In
two seconds the art of medicine occupied the place left vacant in the
attention of the company by the art of music.

“Rub it gently, Sammy,” said Mrs. Pentecost. “I’ll get out the bottles
and give you a dose. It’s his poor stomach, major. Hold my trumpet,
somebody--and stop the boat. You take that bottle, Neelie, my dear; and
you take this one, Mr. Armadale; and give them to me as I want them.
Ah, poor dear, I know what’s the matter with him! Want of power _here_,
major--cold, acid, and flabby. Ginger to warm him; soda to correct him;
sal volatile to hold him up. There, Sammy! drink it before it settles;
and then go and lie down, my dear, in that dog-kennel of a place they
call the cabin. No more music!” added Mrs. Pentecost, shaking her
forefinger at the proprietor of the concertina--“unless it’s a hymn, and
that I don’t object to.”

Nobody appearing to be in a fit frame of mind for singing a hymn, the
all-accomplished Pedgift drew upon his stores of local knowledge, and
produced a new idea. The course of the boat was immediately changed
under his direction. In a few minutes more, the company found themselves
in a little island creek, with a lonely cottage at the far end of it,
and a perfect forest of reeds closing the view all round them. “What do
you say, ladies and gentlemen, to stepping on shore and seeing what a
reed-cutter’s cottage looks like?” suggested young Pedgift.

“We say yes, to be sure,” answered Allan. “I think our spirits have been
a little dashed by Mr. Pentecost’s illness and Mrs. Pentecost’s bag,” he
added, in a whisper to Miss Milroy. “A change of this sort is the very
thing we want to set us all going again.”

He and young Pedgift handed Miss Milroy out of the boat. The major
followed. Mrs. Pentecost sat immovable as the Egyptian Sphinx, with her
bag on her knees, mounting guard over “Sammy” in the cabin.

“We must keep the fun going, sir,” said Allan, as he helped the major
over the side of the boat. “We haven’t half done yet with the enjoyment
of the day.”

His voice seconded his hearty belief in his own prediction to such good
purpose that even Mrs. Pentecost heard him, and ominously shook her
head.

“Ah!” sighed the curate’s mother, “if you were as old as I am, young
gentleman, you wouldn’t feel quite so sure of the enjoyment of the day!”

So, in rebuke of the rashness of youth, spoke the caution of age. The
negative view is notoriously the safe view, all the world over, and the
Pentecost philosophy is, as a necessary consequence, generally in the
right.



IX. FATE OR CHANCE?

It was close on six o’clock when Allan and his friends left the boat,
and the evening influence was creeping already, in its mystery and its
stillness, over the watery solitude of the Broads.

The shore in these wild regions was not like the shore elsewhere. Firm
as it looked, the garden ground in front of the reed-cutter’s cottage
was floating ground, that rose and fell and oozed into puddles under the
pressure of the foot. The boatmen who guided the visitors warned them to
keep to the path, and pointed through gaps in the reeds and pollards to
grassy places, on which strangers would have walked confidently, where
the crust of earth was not strong enough to bear the weight of a child
over the unfathomed depths of slime and water beneath. The solitary
cottage, built of planks pitched black, stood on ground that had been
steadied and strengthened by resting it on piles. A little wooden tower
rose at one end of the roof, and served as a lookout post in the
fowling season. From this elevation the eye ranged far and wide over a
wilderness of winding water and lonesome marsh. If the reed-cutter
had lost his boat, he would have been as completely isolated from all
communication with town or village as if his place of abode had been a
light-vessel instead of a cottage. Neither he nor his family complained
of their solitude, or looked in any way the rougher or the worse for it.
His wife received the visitors hospitably, in a snug little room, with
a raftered ceiling, and windows which looked like windows in a cabin on
board ship. His wife’s father told stories of the famous days when the
smugglers came up from the sea at night, rowing through the net-work of
rivers with muffled oars till they gained the lonely Broads, and sank
their spirit casks in the water, far from the coast-guard’s reach. His
wild little children played at hide-and-seek with the visitors; and
the visitors ranged in and out of the cottage, and round and round the
morsel of firm earth on which it stood, surprised and delighted by the
novelty of all they saw. The one person who noticed the advance of
the evening--the one person who thought of the flying time and the
stationary Pentecosts in the boat--was young Pedgift. That experienced
pilot of the Broads looked askance at his watch, and drew Allan aside at
the first opportunity.

“I don’t wish to hurry you, Mr. Armadale,” said Pedgift Junior; “but the
time is getting on, and there’s a lady in the case.”

“A lady?” repeated Allan.

“Yes, sir,” rejoined young Pedgift. “A lady from London; connected
(if you’ll allow me to jog your memory) with a pony-chaise and white
harness.”

“Good heavens, the governess!” cried Allan. “Why, we have forgotten all
about her!”

“Don’t be alarmed, sir; there’s plenty of time, if we only get into
the boat again. This is how it stands, Mr. Armadale. We settled, if
you remember, to have the gypsy tea-making at the next ‘Broad’ to
this--Hurle Mere?”

“Certainly,” said Allan. “Hurle Mere is the place where my friend
Midwinter has promised to come and meet us.”

“Hurle Mere is where the governess will be, sir, if your coachman
follows my directions,” pursued young Pedgift. “We have got nearly an
hour’s punting to do, along the twists and turns of the narrow waters
(which they call The Sounds here) between this and Hurle Mere; and
according to my calculations we must get on board again in five minutes,
if we are to be in time to meet the governess and to meet your friend.”

“We mustn’t miss my friend on any account,” said Allan; “or the
governess, either, of course. I’ll tell the major.”

Major Milroy was at that moment preparing to mount the wooden
watch-tower of the cottage to see the view. The ever useful Pedgift
volunteered to go up with him, and rattle off all the necessary local
explanations in half the time which the reed-cutter would occupy in
describing his own neighborhood to a stranger.

Allan remained standing in front of the cottage, more quiet and more
thoughtful than usual. His interview with young Pedgift had brought his
absent friend to his memory for the first time since the picnic party
had started. He was surprised that Midwinter, so much in his thoughts on
all other occasions, should have been so long out of his thoughts now.
Something troubled him, like a sense of self-reproach, as his mind
reverted to the faithful friend at home, toiling hard over the steward’s
books, in his interests and for his sake. “Dear old fellow,” thought
Allan, “I shall be so glad to see him at the Mere; the day’s pleasure
won’t be complete till he joins us!”

“Should I be right or wrong, Mr. Armadale, if I guessed that you were
thinking of somebody?” asked a voice, softly, behind him.

Allan turned, and found the major’s daughter at his side. Miss Milroy
(not unmindful of a certain tender interview which had taken place
behind a carriage) had noticed her admirer standing thoughtfully by
himself, and had determined on giving him another opportunity, while her
father and young Pedgift were at the top of the watch-tower.

“You know everything,” said Allan, smiling. “I _was_ thinking of
somebody.”

Miss Milroy stole a glance at him--a glance of gentle encouragement.
There could be but one human creature in Mr. Armadale’s mind after what
had passed between them that morning! It would be only an act of mercy
to take him back again at once to the interrupted conversation of a few
hours since on the subject of names.

“I have been thinking of somebody, too,” she said, half-inviting,
half-repelling the coming avowal. “If I tell you the first letter of my
Somebody’s name, will you tell me the first letter of yours?”

“I will tell you anything you like,” rejoined Allan, with the utmost
enthusiasm.

She still shrank coquettishly from the very subject that she wanted to
approach. “Tell me your letter first,” she said, in low tones, looking
away from him.

Allan laughed. “M,” he said, “is my first letter.”

She started a little. Strange that he should be thinking of her by her
surname instead of her Christian name; but it mattered little as long as
he _was_ thinking of her.

“What is your letter?” asked Allan.

She blushed and smiled. “A--if you will have it!” she answered, in a
reluctant little whisper. She stole another look at him, and luxuriously
protracted her enjoyment of the coming avowal once more. “How many
syllables is the name in?” she asked, drawing patterns shyly on the
ground with the end of the parasol.

No man with the slightest knowledge of the sex would have been rash
enough, in Allan’s position, to tell her the truth. Allan, who knew
nothing whatever of woman’s natures, and who told the truth right
and left in all mortal emergencies, answered as if he had been under
examination in a court of justice.

“It’s a name in three syllables,” he said.

Miss Milroy’s downcast eyes flashed up at him like lightning. “Three!”
 she repeated in the blankest astonishment.

Allan was too inveterately straightforward to take the warning even now.
“I’m not strong at my spelling, I know,” he said, with his lighthearted
laugh. “But I don’t think I’m wrong, in calling Midwinter a name
in three syllables. I was thinking of my friend; but never mind my
thoughts. Tell me who A is--tell me whom _you_ were thinking of?”

“Of the first letter of the alphabet, Mr. Armadale, and I beg positively
to inform you of nothing more!”

With that annihilating answer the major’s daughter put up her parasol
and walked back by herself to the boat.

Allan stood petrified with amazement. If Miss Milroy had actually boxed
his ears (and there is no denying that she had privately longed to
devote her hand to that purpose), he could hardly have felt more
bewildered than he felt now. “What on earth have I done?” he asked
himself, helplessly, as the major and young Pedgift joined him, and the
three walked down together to the water-side. “I wonder what she’ll say
to me next?”

She said absolutely nothing; she never so much as looked at Allan when
he took his place in the boat. There she sat, with her eyes and her
complexion both much brighter than usual, taking the deepest interest in
the curate’s progress toward recovery; in the state of Mrs. Pentecost’s
spirits; in Pedgift Junior (for whom she ostentatiously made room
enough to let him sit beside her); in the scenery and the reed-cutter’s
cottage; in everybody and everything but Allan--whom she would have
married with the greatest pleasure five minutes since. “I’ll never
forgive him,” thought the major’s daughter. “To be thinking of that
ill-bred wretch when I was thinking of _him_; and to make me all but
confess it before I found him out! Thank Heaven, Mr. Pedgift is in the
boat!”

In this frame of mind Miss Neelie applied herself forthwith to the
fascination of Pedgift and the discomfiture of Allan. “Oh, Mr. Pedgift,
how extremely clever and kind of you to think of showing us that sweet
cottage! Lonely, Mr. Armadale? I don’t think it’s lonely at all; I
should like of all things to live there. What would this picnic have
been without you, Mr. Pedgift; you can’t think how I have enjoyed it
since we got into the boat. Cool, Mr. Armadale? What can you possibly
mean by saying it’s cool; it’s the warmest evening we’ve had this
summer. And the music, Mr. Pedgift; how nice it was of you to bring your
concertina! I wonder if I could accompany you on the piano? I would so
like to try. Oh, yes, Mr. Armadale, no doubt you meant to do something
musical, too, and I dare say you sing very well when you know the words;
but, to tell you the truth, I always did, and always shall, hate Moore’s
Melodies!”

Thus, with merciless dexterity of manipulation, did Miss Milroy work
that sharpest female weapon of offense, the tongue; and thus she would
have used it for some time longer, if Allan had only shown the necessary
jealousy, or if Pedgift had only afforded the necessary encouragement.
But adverse fortune had decreed that she should select for her victims
two men essentially unassailable under existing circumstances. Allan was
too innocent of all knowledge of female subtleties and susceptibilities
to understand anything, except that the charming Neelie was unreasonably
out of temper with him without the slightest cause. The wary Pedgift,
as became one of the quick-witted youth of the present generation,
submitted to female influence, with his eye fixed immovably all the time
on his own interests. Many a young man of the past generation, who was
no fool, has sacrificed everything for love. Not one young man in ten
thousand of the present generation, _except_ the fools, has sacrificed a
half-penny. The daughters of Eve still inherit their mother’s merits
and commit their mother’s faults. But the sons of Adam, in these latter
days, are men who would have handed the famous apple back with a bow,
and a “Thanks, no; it might get me into a scrape.” When Allan--surprised
and disappointed--moved away out of Miss Milroy’s reach to the forward
part of the boat, Pedgift Junior rose and followed him. “You’re a very
nice girl,” thought this shrewdly sensible young man; “but a client’s a
client; and I am sorry to inform you, miss, it won’t do.” He set himself
at once to rouse Allan’s spirits by diverting his attention to a new
subject. There was to be a regatta that autumn on one of the Broads, and
his client’s opinion as a yachtsman might be valuable to the committee.
“Something new, I should think, to you, sir, in a sailing match on fresh
water?” he said, in his most ingratiatory manner. And Allan, instantly
interested, answered, “Quite new. Do tell me about it!”

As for the rest of the party at the other end of the boat, they were in
a fair way to confirm Mrs. Pentecost’s doubts whether the hilarity of
the picnic would last the day out. Poor Neelie’s natural feeling of
irritation under the disappointment which Allan’s awkwardness had
inflicted on her was now exasperated into silent and settled resentment
by her own keen sense of humiliation and defeat. The major had relapsed
into his habitually dreamy, absent manner; his mind was turning
monotonously with the wheels of his clock. The curate still secluded his
indigestion from public view in the innermost recesses of the cabin; and
the curate’s mother, with a second dose ready at a moment’s notice,
sat on guard at the door. Women of Mrs. Pentecost’s age and character
generally enjoy their own bad spirits. “This,” sighed the old lady,
wagging her head with a smile of sour satisfaction “is what you call
a day’s pleasure, is it? Ah, what fools we all were to leave our
comfortable homes!”

Meanwhile the boat floated smoothly along the windings of the watery
labyrinth which lay between the two Broads. The view on either side was
now limited to nothing but interminable rows of reeds. Not a sound was
heard, far or near; not so much as a glimpse of cultivated or inhabited
land appeared anywhere. “A trifle dreary hereabouts, Mr. Armadale,” said
the ever-cheerful Pedgift. “But we are just out of it now. Look ahead,
sir! Here we are at Hurle Mere.”

The reeds opened back on the right hand and the left, and the boat
glided suddenly into the wide circle of a pool. Round the nearer half
of the circle, the eternal reeds still fringed the margin of the water.
Round the further half, the land appeared again, here rolling back from
the pool in desolate sand-hills, there rising above it in a sweep of
grassy shore. At one point the ground was occupied by a plantation, and
at another by the out-buildings of a lonely old red brick house, with
a strip of by-road near, that skirted the garden wall and ended at the
pool. The sun was sinking in the clear heaven, and the water, where the
sun’s reflection failed to tinge it, was beginning to look black and
cold. The solitude that had been soothing, the silence that had felt
like an enchantment, on the other Broad, in the day’s vigorous prime,
was a solitude that saddened here--a silence that struck cold, in the
stillness and melancholy of the day’s decline.

The course of the boat was directed across the Mere to a creek in the
grassy shore. One or two of the little flat-bottomed punts peculiar
to the Broads lay in the creek; and the reed cutters to whom the punts
belonged, surprised at the appearance of strangers, came out, staring
silently, from behind an angle of the old garden wall. Not another sign
of life was visible anywhere. No pony-chaise had been seen by the reed
cutters; no stranger, either man or woman, had approached the shores of
Hurle Mere that day.

Young Pedgift took another look at his watch, and addressed himself to
Miss Milroy. “You may, or may not, see the governess when you get back
to Thorpe Ambrose,” he said; “but, as the time stands now, you won’t
see her here. You know best, Mr. Armadale,” he added, turning to Allan,
“whether your friend is to be depended on to keep his appointment?”

“I am certain he is to be depended on,” replied Allan, looking about
him--in unconcealed disappointment at Midwinter’s absence.

“Very good,” pursued Pedgift Junior. “If we light the fire for our gypsy
tea-making on the open ground there, your friend may find us out, sir,
by the smoke. That’s the Indian dodge for picking up a lost man on the
prairie, Miss Milroy and it’s pretty nearly wild enough (isn’t it?) to
be a prairie here!”

There are some temptations--principally those of the smaller kind--which
it is not in the defensive capacity of female human nature to resist.
The temptation to direct the whole force of her influence, as the
one young lady of the party, toward the instant overthrow of Allan’s
arrangement for meeting his friend, was too much for the major’s
daughter. She turned on the smiling Pedgift with a look which ought to
have overwhelmed him. But who ever overwhelmed a solicitor?

“I think it’s the most lonely, dreary, hideous place I ever saw in my
life!” said Miss Neelie. “If you insist on making tea here, Mr. Pedgift,
don’t make any for me. No! I shall stop in the boat; and, though I am
absolutely dying with thirst, I shall touch nothing till we get back
again to the other Broad!”

The major opened his lips to remonstrate. To his daughter’s infinite
delight, Mrs. Pentecost rose from her seat before he could say a word,
and, after surveying the whole landward prospect, and seeing nothing
in the shape of a vehicle anywhere, asked indignantly whether they
were going all the way back again to the place where they had left the
carriages in the middle of the day. On ascertaining that this was,
in fact, the arrangement proposed, and that, from the nature of the
country, the carriages could not have been ordered round to Hurle Mere
without, in the first instance, sending them the whole of the way back
to Thorpe Ambrose, Mrs. Pentecost (speaking in her son’s interests)
instantly declared that no earthly power should induce her to be out
on the water after dark. “Call me a boat!” cried the old lady, in great
agitation. “Wherever there’s water, there’s a night mist, and wherever
there’s a night mist, my son Samuel catches cold. Don’t talk to _me_
about your moonlight and your tea-making--you’re all mad! Hi! you two
men there!” cried Mrs. Pentecost, hailing the silent reed cutters on
shore. “Sixpence apiece for you, if you’ll take me and my son back in
your boat!”

Before young Pedgift could interfere, Allan himself settled the
difficulty this time, with perfect patience and good temper.

“I can’t think, Mrs. Pentecost, of your going back in any boat but the
boat you have come out in,” he said. “There is not the least need (as
you and Miss Milroy don’t like the place) for anybody to go on shore
here but me. I _must_ go on shore. My friend Midwinter never broke his
promise to me yet; and I can’t consent to leave Hurle Mere as long as
there is a chance of his keeping his appointment. But there’s not the
least reason in the world why I should stand in the way on that account.
You have the major and Mr. Pedgift to take care of you; and you can get
back to the carriages before dark, if you go at once. I will wait here,
and give my friend half an hour more, and then I can follow you in one
of the reed-cutters’ boats.”

“That’s the most sensible thing, Mr. Armadale, you’ve said to-day,”
 remarked Mrs. Pentecost, seating herself again in a violent hurry

“Tell them to be quick!” cried the old lady, shaking her fist at the
boatmen. “Tell them to be quick!”

Allan gave the necessary directions, and stepped on shore. The wary
Pedgift (sticking fast to his client) tried to follow.

“We can’t leave you here alone, sir,” he said, protesting eagerly in
a whisper. “Let the major take care of the ladies, and let me keep you
company at the Mere.”

“No, no!” said Allan, pressing him back. “They’re all in low spirits on
board. If you want to be of service to me, stop like a good fellow where
you are, and do your best to keep the thing going.”

He waved his hand, and the men pushed the boat off from the shore. The
others all waved their hands in return except the major’s daughter, who
sat apart from the rest, with her face hidden under her parasol. The
tears stood thick in Neelie’s eyes. Her last angry feeling against Allan
died out, and her heart went back to him penitently the moment he left
the boat. “How good he is to us all!” she thought, “and what a wretch I
am!” She got up with every generous impulse in her nature urging her to
make atonement to him. She got up, reckless of appearances and looked
after him with eager eyes and flushed checks, as he stood alone on
the shore. “Don’t be long, Mr. Armadale!” she said, with a desperate
disregard of what the rest of the company thought of her.

The boat was already far out in the water, and with all Neelie’s
resolution the words were spoken in a faint little voice, which failed
to reach Allan’s ears. The one sound he heard, as the boat gained the
opposite extremity of the Mere, and disappeared slowly among the reeds,
was the sound of the concertina. The indefatigable Pedgift was keeping
things going--evidently under the auspices of Mrs. Pentecost--by
performing a sacred melody.

Left by himself, Allan lit a cigar, and took a turn backward and forward
on the shore. “She might have said a word to me at parting!” he thought.
“I’ve done everything for the best; I’ve as good as told her how fond
of her I am, and this is the way she treats me!” He stopped, and stood
looking absently at the sinking sun, and the fast-darkening waters
of the Mere. Some inscrutable influence in the scene forced its way
stealthily into his mind, and diverted his thoughts from Miss Milroy to
his absent friend. He started, and looked about him.

The reed-cutters had gone back to their retreat behind the angle of the
wall, not a living creature was visible, not a sound rose anywhere along
the dreary shore. Even Allan’s spirits began to get depressed. It was
nearly an hour after the time when Midwinter had promised to be at Hurle
Mere. He had himself arranged to walk to the pool (with a stable-boy
from Thorpe Ambrose as his guide), by lanes and footpaths which
shortened the distance by the road. The boy knew the country well, and
Midwinter was habitually punctual at all his appointments. Had anything
gone wrong at Thorpe Ambrose? Had some accident happened on the way?
Determined to remain no longer doubting and idling by himself, Allan
made up his mind to walk inland from the Mere, on the chance of meeting
his friend. He went round at once to the angle in the wall, and asked
one of the reedcutters to show him the footpath to Thorpe Ambrose.

The man led him away from the road, and pointed to a barely perceptible
break in the outer trees of the plantation. After pausing for one more
useless look around him, Allan turned his back on the Mere and made for
the trees.

For a few paces, the path ran straight through the plantation. Thence it
took a sudden turn; and the water and the open country became both lost
to view. Allan steadily followed the grassy track before him, seeing
nothing and hearing nothing, until he came to another winding of the
path. Turning in the new direction, he saw dimly a human figure sitting
alone at the foot of one of the trees. Two steps nearer were enough
to make the figure familiar to him. “Midwinter!” he exclaimed, in
astonishment. “This is not the place where I was to meet you! What are
you waiting for here?”

Midwinter rose, without answering. The evening dimness among the trees,
which obscured his face, made his silence doubly perplexing.

Allan went on eagerly questioning him. “Did you come here by yourself?”
 he asked. “I thought the boy was to guide you?”

This time Midwinter answered. “When we got as far as these trees,” he
said, “I sent the boy back. He told me I was close to the place, and
couldn’t miss it.”

“What made you stop here when he left you?” reiterated Allan. “Why
didn’t you walk on?”

“Don’t despise me,” answered the other. “I hadn’t the courage!”

“Not the courage?” repeated Allan. He paused a moment. “Oh, I know!” he
resumed, putting his hand gayly on Midwinter’s shoulder. “You’re still
shy of the Milroys. What nonsense, when I told you myself that your
peace was made at the cottage!”

“I wasn’t thinking, Allan, of your friends at the cottage. The truth is,
I’m hardly myself to-day. I am ill and unnerved; trifles startle me.”
 He stopped, and shrank away, under the anxious scrutiny of Allan’s eyes.
“If you _will_ have it,” he burst out, abruptly, “the horror of that
night on board the Wreck has got me again; there’s a dreadful oppression
on my head; there’s a dreadful sinking at my heart. I am afraid of
something happening to us, if we don’t part before the day is out. I
can’t break my promise to you; for God’s sake, release me from it, and
let me go back!”

Remonstrance, to any one who knew Midwinter, was plainly useless at that
moment. Allan humored him. “Come out of this dark, airless place,” he
said, “and we will talk about it. The water and the open sky are within
a stone’s throw of us. I hate a wood in the evening; it even gives _me_
the horrors. You have been working too hard over the steward’s books.
Come and breathe freely in the blessed open air.”

Midwinter stopped, considered for a moment, and suddenly submitted.

“You’re right,” he said, “and I’m wrong, as usual. I’m wasting time and
distressing you to no purpose. What folly to ask you to let me go back!
Suppose you had said yes?”

“Well?” asked Allan.

“Well,” repeated Midwinter, “something would have happened at the first
step to stop me, that’s all. Come on.”

They walked together in silence on the way to the Mere.

At the last turn in the path Allan’s cigar went out. While he stopped
to light it again, Midwinter walked on before him, and was the first to
come in sight of the open ground.

Allan had just kindled the match, when, to his surprise, his friend came
back to him round the turn in the path. There was light enough to show
objects more clearly in this part of the plantation. The match, as
Midwinter faced him, dropped on the instant from Allan’s hand.

“Good God!” he cried, starting back, “you look as you looked on board
the Wreck!”

Midwinter held up his band for silence. He spoke with his wild eyes
riveted on Allan’s face, with his white lips close at Allan’s ear.

“You remember how I _looked_,” he answered, in a whisper. “Do you
remember what I _said_ when you and the doctor were talking of the
Dream?”

“I have forgotten the Dream,” said Allan.

As he made that answer, Midwinter took his hand, and led him round the
last turn in the path.

“Do you remember it now?” he asked, and pointed to the Mere.

The sun was sinking in the cloudless westward heaven. The waters of
the Mere lay beneath, tinged red by the dying light. The open country
stretched away, darkening drearily already on the right hand and the
left. And on the near margin of the pool, where all had been solitude
before, there now stood, fronting the sunset, the figure of a woman.

The two Armadales stood together in silence, and looked at the lonely
figure and the dreary view.

Midwinter was the first to speak.

“Your own eyes have seen it,” he said. “Now look at our own words.”

He opened the narrative of the Dream, and held it under Allan’s eyes.
His finger pointed to the lines which recorded the first Vision; his
voice, sinking lower and lower, repeated the words:


“The sense came to me of being left alone in the darkness.

“I waited.

“The darkness opened, and showed me the vision--as in a picture--of a
broad, lonely pool, surrounded by open ground. Above the further margin
of the pool I saw the cloudless western sky, red with the light of
sunset.

“On the near margin of the pool there stood the Shadow of a Woman.”

He ceased, and let the hand which held the manuscript drop to his side.
The other hand pointed to the lonely figure, standing with its back
turned on them, fronting the setting sun.

“There,” he said, “stands the living Woman, in the Shadow’s place! There
speaks the first of the dream warnings to you and to me! Let the future
time find us still together, and the second figure that stands in the
Shadow’s place will be Mine.”

Even Allan was silenced by the terrible certainty of conviction with
which he spoke.

In the pause that followed, the figure at the pool moved, and walked
slowly away round the margin of the shore. Allan stepped out beyond the
last of the trees, and gained a wider view of the open ground. The first
object that met his eyes was the pony-chaise from Thorpe Ambrose.

He turned back to Midwinter with a laugh of relief. “What nonsense have
you been talking!” he said. “And what nonsense have I been listening to!
It’s the governess at last.”

Midwinter made no reply. Allan took him by the arm, and tried to lead
him on. He released himself suddenly, and seized Allan with both hands,
holding him back from the figure at the pool, as he had held him back
from the cabin door on the deck of the timber ship. Once again the
effort was in vain. Once again Allan broke away as easily as he had
broken away in the past time.

“One of us must speak to her,” he said. “And if you won’t, I will.”

He had only advanced a few steps toward the Mere, when he heard, or
thought he heard, a voice faintly calling after him, once and once only,
the word Farewell. He stopped, with a feeling of uneasy surprise, and
looked round.

“Was that you, Midwinter?” he asked.

There was no answer. After hesitating a moment more, Allan returned to
the plantation. Midwinter was gone.

He looked back at the pool, doubtful in the new emergency what to do
next. The lonely figure had altered its course in the interval; it had
turned, and was advancing toward the trees. Allan had been evidently
either heard or seen. It was impossible to leave a woman unbefriended,
in that helpless position and in that solitary place. For the second
time Allan went out from the trees to meet her.

As he came within sight of her face, he stopped in ungovernable
astonishment. The sudden revelation of her beauty, as she smiled and
looked at him inquiringly, suspended the movement in his limbs and the
words on his lips. A vague doubt beset him whether it was the governess,
after all.

He roused himself, and, advancing a few paces, mentioned his name. “May
I ask,” he added, “if I have the pleasure--?”

The lady met him easily and gracefully half-way. “Major Milroy’s
governess,” she said. “Miss Gwilt.”



X. THE HOUSE-MAID’S FACE.

All was quiet at Thorpe Ambrose. The hall was solitary, the rooms were
dark. The servants, waiting for the supper hour in the garden at the
back of the house, looked up at the clear heaven and the rising moon,
and agreed that there was little prospect of the return of the picnic
party until later in the night. The general opinion, led by the high
authority of the cook, predicted that they might all sit down to supper
without the least fear of being disturbed by the bell. Having arrived at
this conclusion, the servants assembled round the table, and exactly at
the moment when they sat down the bell rang.

The footman, wondering, went up stairs to open the door, and found to
his astonishment Midwinter waiting alone on the threshold, and looking
(in the servant’s opinion) miserably ill. He asked for a light, and,
saying he wanted nothing else, withdrew at once to his room. The footman
went back to his fellow-servants, and reported that something had
certainly happened to his master’s friend.

On entering his room, Midwinter closed the door, and hurriedly filled a
bag with the necessaries for traveling. This done, he took from a
locked drawer, and placed in the breast pocket of his coat, some little
presents which Allan had given him--a cigar case, a purse, and a set
of studs in plain gold. Having possessed himself of these memorials, he
snatched up the bag and laid his hand on the door. There, for the first
time, he paused. There, the headlong haste of all his actions thus far
suddenly ceased, and the hard despair in his face began to soften: he
waited, with the door in his hand.

Up to that moment he had been conscious of but one motive that animated
him, but one purpose that he was resolute to achieve. “For Allan’s
sake!” he had said to himself, when he looked back toward the fatal
landscape and saw his friend leaving him to meet the woman at the pool.
“For Allan’s sake!” he had said again, when he crossed the open country
beyond the wood, and saw afar, in the gray twilight, the long line of
embankment and the distant glimmer of the railway lamps beckoning him
away already to the iron road.

It was only when he now paused before he closed the door behind him--it
was only when his own impetuous rapidity of action came for the first
time to a check, that the nobler nature of the man rose in protest
against the superstitious despair which was hurrying him from all that
he held dear. His conviction of the terrible necessity of leaving Allan
for Allan’s good had not been shaken for an instant since he had seen
the first Vision of the Dream realized on the shores of the Mere. But
now, for the first time, his own heart rose against him in unanswerable
rebuke. “Go, if you must and will! but remember the time when you were
ill, and he sat by your bedside; friendless, and he opened his heart to
you--and write, if you fear to speak; write and ask him to forgive you,
before you leave him forever!”

The half-opened door closed again softly. Midwinter sat down at the
writing-table and took up the pen.

He tried again and again, and yet again, to write the farewell words;
he tried, till the floor all round him was littered with torn sheets of
paper. Turn from them which way he would, the old times still came back
and faced him reproachfully. The spacious bed-chamber in which he
sat, narrowed, in spite of him, to the sick usher’s garret at the
west-country inn. The kind hand that had once patted him on the
shoulder touched him again; the kind voice that had cheered him spoke
unchangeably in the old friendly tones. He flung his arms on the table
and dropped his head on them in tearless despair. The parting words
that his tongue was powerless to utter his pen was powerless to write.
Mercilessly in earnest, his superstition pointed to him to go while the
time was his own. Mercilessly in earnest, his love for Allan held him
back till the farewell plea for pardon and pity was written.

He rose with a sudden resolution, and rang for the servant, “When Mr.
Armadale returns,” he said, “ask him to excuse my coming downstairs, and
say that I am trying to get to sleep.” He locked the door and put out
the light, and sat down alone in the darkness. “The night will keep us
apart,” he said; “and time may help me to write. I may go in the early
morning; I may go while--” The thought died in him uncompleted; and
the sharp agony of the struggle forced to his lips the first cry of
suffering that had escaped him yet.

He waited in the darkness.

As the time stole on, his senses remained mechanically awake, but his
mind began to sink slowly under the heavy strain that had now been laid
on it for some hours past. A dull vacancy possessed him; he made no
attempt to kindle the light and write once more. He never started; he
never moved to the open window, when the first sound of approaching
wheels broke in on the silence of the night. He heard the carriages draw
up at the door; he heard the horses champing their bits; he heard the
voices of Allan and young Pedgift on the steps; and still he sat quiet
in the darkness, and still no interest was aroused in him by the sounds
that reached his ear from outside.

The voices remained audible after the carriages had been driven away;
the two young men were evidently lingering on the steps before they took
leave of each other. Every word they said reached Midwinter through the
open window. Their one subject of conversation was the new governess.
Allan’s voice was loud in her praise. He had never passed such an hour
of delight in his life as the hour he had spent with Miss Gwilt in the
boat, on the way from Hurle Mere to the picnic party waiting at the
other Broad. Agreeing, on his side, with all that his client said in
praise of the charming stranger, young Pedgift appeared to treat the
subject, when it fell into his hands, from a different point of view.
Miss Gwilt’s attractions had not so entirely absorbed his attention as
to prevent him from noticing the impression which the new governess had
produced on her employer and her pupil.

“There’s a screw loose somewhere, sir, in Major Milroy’s family,”
 said the voice of young Pedgift. “Did you notice how the major and his
daughter looked when Miss Gwilt made her excuses for being late at the
Mere? You don’t remember? Do you remember what Miss Gwilt said?”

“Something about Mrs. Milroy, wasn’t it?” Allan rejoined.

Young Pedgift’s voice dropped mysteriously a note lower.

“Miss Gwilt reached the cottage this afternoon, sir, at the time when I
told you she would reach it, and she would have joined us at the time I
told you she would come, but for Mrs. Milroy. Mrs. Milroy sent for her
upstairs as soon as she entered the house, and kept her upstairs a good
half-hour and more. That was Miss Gwilt’s excuse, Mr. Armadale, for
being late at the Mere.”

“Well, and what then?”

“You seem to forget, sir, what the whole neighborhood has heard about
Mrs. Milroy ever since the major first settled among us. We have all
been told, on the doctor’s own authority, that she is too great a
sufferer to see strangers. Isn’t it a little odd that she should have
suddenly turned out well enough to see Miss Gwilt (in her husband’s
absence) the moment Miss Gwilt entered the house?”

“Not a bit of it! Of course she was anxious to make acquaintance with
her daughter’s governess.”

“Likely enough, Mr. Armadale. But the major and Miss Neelie don’t see it
in that light, at any rate. I had my eye on them both when the governess
told them that Mrs. Milroy had sent for her. If ever I saw a girl look
thoroughly frightened, Miss Milroy was that girl; and (if I may be
allowed, in the strictest confidence, to libel a gallant soldier) I
should say that the major himself was much in the same condition. Take
my word for it, sir, there’s something wrong upstairs in that pretty
cottage of yours; and Miss Gwilt is mixed up in it already!”

There was a minute of silence. When the voices were next heard by
Midwinter, they were further away from the house--Allan was probably
accompanying young Pedgift a few steps on his way back.

After a while, Allan’s voice was audible once more under the portico,
making inquiries after his friend; answered by the servant’s voice
giving Midwinter’s message. This brief interruption over, the silence
was not broken again till the time came for shutting up the house. The
servants’ footsteps passing to and fro, the clang of closing doors,
the barking of a disturbed dog in the stable-yard--these sounds warned
Midwinter it was getting late. He rose mechanically to kindle a light.
But his head was giddy, his hand trembled; he laid aside the match-box,
and returned to his chair. The conversation between Allan and young
Pedgift had ceased to occupy his attention the instant he ceased to
hear it; and now again, the sense that the precious time was failing him
became a lost sense as soon as the house noises which had awakened it
had passed away. His energies of body and mind were both alike worn out;
he waited with a stolid resignation for the trouble that was to come to
him with the coming day.

An interval passed, and the silence was once more disturbed by voices
outside; the voices of a man and a woman this time. The first few
words exchanged between them indicated plainly enough a meeting of the
clandestine kind; and revealed the man as one of the servants at Thorpe
Ambrose, and the woman as one of the servants at the cottage.

Here again, after the first greetings were over, the subject of the new
governess became the all-absorbing subject of conversation.

The major’s servant was brimful of forebodings (inspired solely by
Miss Gwilt’s good looks) which she poured out irrepressibly on her
“sweetheart,” try as he might to divert her to other topics. Sooner or
later, let him mark her words, there would be an awful “upset” at the
cottage. Her master, it might be mentioned in confidence, led a dreadful
life with her mistress. The major was the best of men; he hadn’t a
thought in his heart beyond his daughter and his everlasting clock. But
only let a nice-looking woman come near the place, and Mrs. Milroy
was jealous of her--raging jealous, like a woman possessed, on
that miserable sick-bed of hers. If Miss Gwilt (who was certainly
good-looking, in spite of her hideous hair) didn’t blow the fire into a
flame before many days more were over their heads, the mistress was the
mistress no longer, but somebody else. Whatever happened, the fault,
this time, would lie at the door of the major’s mother. The old lady
and the mistress had had a dreadful quarrel two years since; and the old
lady had gone away in a fury, telling her son, before all the servants,
that, if he had a spark of spirit in him, he would never submit to his
wife’s temper as he did. It would be too much, perhaps, to accuse the
major’s mother of purposely picking out a handsome governess to spite
the major’s wife. But it might be safely said that the old lady was the
last person in the world to humor the mistress’s jealousy, by declining
to engage a capable and respectable governess for her granddaughter
because that governess happened to be blessed with good looks. How
it was all to end (except that it was certain to end badly) no human
creature could say. Things were looking as black already as things well
could. Miss Neelie was crying, after the day’s pleasure (which was one
bad sign); the mistress had found fault with nobody (which was another);
the master had wished her good-night through the door (which was a
third); and the governess had locked herself up in her room (which was
the worst sign of all, for it looked as if she distrusted the servants).
Thus the stream of the woman’s gossip ran on, and thus it reached
Midwinter’s ears through the window, till the clock in the stable-yard
struck, and stopped the talking. When the last vibrations of the bell
had died away, the voices were not audible again, and the silence was
broken no more.

Another interval passed, and Midwinter made a new effort to rouse
himself. This time he kindled the light without hesitation, and took the
pen in hand.

He wrote at the first trial with a sudden facility of expression,
which, surprising him as he went on, ended in rousing in him some vague
suspicion of himself. He left the table, and bathed his head and face
in water, and came back to read what he had written. The language
was barely intelligible; sentences were left unfinished; words were
misplaced one for the other. Every line recorded the protest of the
weary brain against the merciless will that had forced it into action.
Midwinter tore up the sheet of paper as he had torn up the other sheets
before it, and, sinking under the struggle at last, laid his weary
head on the pillow. Almost on the instant, exhaustion overcame him, and
before he could put the light out he fell asleep.

He was roused by a noise at the door. The sunlight was pouring into the
room, the candle had burned down into the socket, and the servant was
waiting outside with a letter which had come for him by the morning’s
post.

“I ventured to disturb you, sir,” said the man, when Midwinter opened
the door, “because the letter is marked ‘Immediate,’ and I didn’t know
but it might be of some consequence.”

Midwinter thanked him, and looked at the letter. It _was_ of some
consequence--the handwriting was Mr. Brock’s.

He paused to collect his faculties. The torn sheets of paper on the
floor recalled to him in a moment the position in which he stood. He
locked the door again, in the fear that Allan might rise earlier than
usual and come in to make inquiries. Then--feeling strangely little
interest in anything that the rector could write to him now--he opened
Mr. Brock’s letter, and read these lines:

“Tuesday.

“MY DEAR MIDWINTER--It is sometimes best to tell bad news plainly, in
few words. Let me tell mine at once, in one sentence. My precautions
have all been defeated: the woman has escaped me.

“This misfortune--for it is nothing less--happened yesterday (Monday).
Between eleven and twelve in the forenoon of that day, the business
which originally brought me to London obliged me to go to Doctors’
Commons, and to leave my servant Robert to watch the house opposite our
lodging until my return. About an hour and a half after my departure he
observed an empty cab drawn up at the door of the house. Boxes and bags
made their appearance first; they were followed by the woman herself,
in the dress I had first seen her in. Having previously secured a cab,
Robert traced her to the terminus of the North-Western Railway, saw her
pass through the ticket office, kept her in view till she reached the
platform, and there, in the crowd and confusion caused by the starting
of a large mixed train, lost her. I must do him the justice to say that
he at once took the right course in this emergency. Instead of wasting
time in searching for her on the platform, he looked along the line of
carriages; and he positively declares that he failed to see her in any
one of them. He admits, at the same time, that his search (conducted
between two o’clock, when he lost sight of her, and ten minutes past,
when the train started) was, in the confusion of the moment, necessarily
an imperfect one. But this latter circumstance, in my opinion, matters
little. I as firmly disbelieve in the woman’s actual departure by that
train as if I had searched every one of the carriages myself; and you, I
have no doubt, will entirely agree with me.

“You now know how the disaster happened. Let us not waste time and words
in lamenting it. The evil is done, and you and I together must find the
way to remedy it.

“What I have accomplished already, on my side, may be told in two words.
Any hesitation I might have previously felt at trusting this delicate
business in strangers’ hands was at an end the moment I heard Robert’s
news. I went back at once to the city, and placed the whole matter
confidentially before my lawyers. The conference was a long one, and
when I left the office it was past the post hour, or I should have
written to you on Monday instead of writing to-day. My interview with
the lawyers was not very encouraging. They warn me plainly that serious
difficulties stand in the way of our recovering the lost trace. But they
have promised to do their best, and we have decided on the course to be
taken, excepting one point on which we totally differ. I must tell you
what this difference is; for, while business keeps me away from Thorpe
Ambrose, you are the only person whom I can trust to put my convictions
to the test.

“The lawyers are of opinion, then, that the woman has been aware from
the first that I was watching her; that there is, consequently, no
present hope of her being rash enough to appear personally at Thorpe
Ambrose; that any mischief she may have it in contemplation to do will
be done in the first instance by deputy; and that the only wise course
for Allan’s friends and guardians to take is to wait passively till
events enlighten them. My own idea is diametrically opposed to this.
After what has happened at the railway, I cannot deny that the woman
must have discovered that I was watching her. But she has no reason to
suppose that she has not succeeded in deceiving me; and I firmly believe
she is bold enough to take us by surprise, and to win or force her way
into Allan’s confidence before we are prepared to prevent her.

“You and you only (while I am detained in London) can decide whether
I am right or wrong--and you can do it in this way. Ascertain at once
whether any woman who is a stranger in the neighborhood has appeared
since Monday last at or near Thorpe Ambrose. If any such person has been
observed (and nobody escapes observation in the country), take the first
opportunity you can get of seeing her, and ask yourself if her face does
or does not answer certain plain questions which I am now about to write
down for you. You may depend on my accuracy. I saw the woman unveiled on
more than one occasion, and the last time through an excellent glass.

“1. Is her hair light brown, and (apparently) not very plentiful? 2. Is
her forehead high, narrow, and sloping backward from the brow? 3. Are
her eyebrows very faintly marked, and are her eyes small, and nearer
dark than light--either gray or hazel (I have not seen her close enough
to be certain which)? 4. Is her nose aquiline? 5 Are her lips thin, and
is the upper lip long? 6. Does her complexion look like an originally
fair complexion, which has deteriorated into a dull, sickly paleness? 7
(and lastly). Has she a retreating chin, and is there on the left side
of it a mark of some kind--a mole or a scar, I can’t say which?

“I add nothing about her expression, for you may see her under
circumstances which may partially alter it as seen by me. Test her by
her features, which no circumstances can change. If there is a stranger
in the neighborhood, and if her face answers my seven questions, _you
have found the woman_! Go instantly, in that case, to the nearest
lawyer, and pledge my name and credit for whatever expenses may be
incurred in keeping her under inspection night and day. Having done
this, take the speediest means of communicating with me; and whether
my business is finished or not, I will start for Norfolk by the first
train.

“Always your friend, DECIMUS BROCK.”


Hardened by the fatalist conviction that now possessed him, Midwinter
read the rector’s confession of defeat, from the first line to the last,
without the slightest betrayal either of interest or surprise. The one
part of the letter at which he looked back was the closing part of it.
“I owe much to Mr. Brock’s kindness,” he thought; “and I shall never see
Mr. Brock again. It is useless and hopeless; but he asks me to do it,
and it shall be done. A moment’s look at her will be enough--a moment’s
look at her with his letter in my hand--and a line to tell him that the
woman is here!”

Again he stood hesitating at the half-opened door; again the cruel
necessity of writing his farewell to Allan stopped him, and stared him
in the face.

He looked aside doubtingly at the rector’s letter. “I will write the two
together,” he said. “One may help the other.” His face flushed deep as
the words escaped him. He was conscious of doing what he had not done
yet--of voluntarily putting off the evil hour; of making Mr. Brock the
pretext for gaining the last respite left, the respite of time.

The only sound that reached him through the open door was the sound of
Allan stirring noisily in the next room. He stepped at once into the
empty corridor, and meeting no one on the stairs, made his way out of
the house. The dread that his resolution to leave Allan might fail him
if he saw Allan again was as vividly present to his mind in the morning
as it had been all through the night. He drew a deep breath of relief
as he descended the house steps--relief at having escaped the friendly
greeting of the morning, from the one human creature whom he loved!

He entered the shrubbery with Mr. Brock’s letter in his hand, and took
the nearest way that led to the major’s cottage. Not the slightest
recollection was in his mind of the talk which had found its way to his
ears during the night. His one reason for determining to see the woman
was the reason which the rector had put in his mind. The one remembrance
that now guided him to the place in which she lived was the remembrance
of Allan’s exclamation when he first identified the governess with the
figure at the pool.

Arrived at the gate of the cottage, he stopped. The thought struck
him that he might defeat his own object if he looked at the rector’s
questions in the woman’s presence. Her suspicions would be probably
roused, in the first instance, by his asking to see her (as he had
determined to ask, with or without an excuse), and the appearance of the
letter in his hand might confirm them.

She might defeat him by instantly leaving the room. Determined to fix
the description in his mind first, and then to confront her, he opened
the letter; and, turning away slowly by the side of the house, read the
seven questions which he felt absolutely assured beforehand the woman’s
face would answer.

In the morning quiet of the park slight noises traveled far. A slight
noise disturbed Midwinter over the letter.

He looked up and found himself on the brink of a broad grassy trench,
having the park on one side and the high laurel hedge of an inclosure
on the other. The inclosure evidently surrounded the back garden of the
cottage, and the trench was intended to protect it from being damaged by
the cattle grazing in the park.

Listening carefully as the slight sound which had disturbed him grew
fainter, he recognized in it the rustling of women’s dresses. A few
paces ahead, the trench was crossed by a bridge (closed by a wicket
gate) which connected the garden with the park. He passed through the
gate, crossed the bridge, and, opening a door at the other end, found
himself in a summer-house thickly covered with creepers, and commanding
a full view of the garden from end to end.

He looked, and saw the figures of two ladies walking slowly away from
him toward the cottage. The shorter of the two failed to occupy his
attention for an instant; he never stopped to think whether she was
or was not the major’s daughter. His eyes were riveted on the other
figure--the figure that moved over the garden walk with the long,
lightly falling dress and the easy, seductive grace. There, presented
exactly as he had seen her once already--there, with her back again
turned on him, was the Woman at the pool!

There was a chance that they might take another turn in the garden--a
turn back toward the summer-house. On that chance Midwinter waited. No
consciousness of the intrusion that he was committing had stopped him
at the door of the summer-house, and no consciousness of it troubled him
even now. Every finer sensibility in his nature, sinking under the cruel
laceration of the past night, had ceased to feel. The dogged resolution
to do what he had come to do was the one animating influence left alive
in him. He acted, he even looked, as the most stolid man living might
have acted and looked in his place. He was self-possessed enough, in the
interval of expectation before governess and pupil reached the end of
the walk, to open Mr. Brock’s letter, and to fortify his memory by a
last look at the paragraph which described her face.

He was still absorbed over the description when he heard the smooth
rustle of the dresses traveling toward him again. Standing in the shadow
of the summer-house, he waited while she lessened the distance between
them. With her written portrait vividly impressed on his mind, and with
the clear light of the morning to help him, his eyes questioned her as
she came on; and these were the answers that her face gave him back.

The hair in the rector’s description was light brown and not plentiful.
This woman’s hair, superbly luxuriant in its growth, was of the one
unpardonably remarkable shade of color which the prejudice of the
Northern nations never entirely forgives--it was _red_! The forehead in
the rector’s description was high, narrow, and sloping backward from the
brow; the eyebrows were faintly marked; and the eyes small, and in color
either gray or hazel. This woman’s forehead was low, upright, and
broad toward the temples; her eyebrows, at once strongly and delicately
marked, were a shade darker than her hair; her eyes, large, bright, and
well opened, were of that purely blue color, without a tinge in it of
gray or green, so often presented to our admiration in pictures and
books, so rarely met with in the living face. The nose in the rector’s
description was aquiline. The line of this woman’s nose bent neither
outward nor inward: it was the straight, delicately molded nose (with
the short upper lip beneath) of the ancient statues and busts. The
lips in the rector’s description were thin and the upper lip long; the
complexion was of a dull, sickly paleness; the chin retreating and the
mark of a mole or a scar on the left side of it. This woman’s lips were
full, rich, and sensual. Her complexion was the lovely complexion which
accompanies such hair as hers--so delicately bright in its rosier tints,
so warmly and softly white in its gentler gradations of color on the
forehead and the neck. Her chin, round and dimpled, was pure of the
slightest blemish in every part of it, and perfectly in line with her
forehead to the end. Nearer and nearer, and fairer and fairer she
came, in the glow of the morning light--the most startling, the most
unanswerable contradiction that eye could see or mind conceive to the
description in the rector’s letter.

Both governess and pupil were close to the summer-house before they
looked that way, and noticed Midwinter standing inside. The governess
saw him first.

“A friend of yours, Miss Milroy?” she asked, quietly, without starting
or betraying any sign of surprise.

Neelie recognized him instantly. Prejudiced against Midwinter by his
conduct when his friend had introduced him at the cottage, she now
fairly detested him as the unlucky first cause of her misunderstanding
with Allan at the picnic. Her face flushed and she drew back from the
summerhouse with an expression of merciless surprise.

“He is a friend of Mr. Armadale’s,” she replied sharply. “I don’t know
what he wants, or why he is here.”

“A friend of Mr. Armadale’s!” The governess’s face lighted up with
a suddenly roused interest as she repeated the words. She returned
Midwinter’s look, still steadily fixed on her, with equal steadiness on
her side.

“For my part,” pursued Neelie, resenting Midwinter’s insensibility to
her presence on the scene, “I think it a great liberty to treat papa’s
garden as if it were the open park!”

The governess turned round, and gently interposed.

“My dear Miss Milroy,” she remonstrated, “there are certain distinctions
to be observed. This gentleman is a friend of Mr. Armadale’s. You could
hardly express yourself more strongly if he was a perfect stranger.”

“I express my opinion,” retorted Neelie, chafing under the satirically
indulgent tone in which the governess addressed her. “It’s a matter of
taste, Miss Gwilt; and tastes differ.” She turned away petulantly, and
walked back by herself to the cottage.

“She is very young,” said Miss Gwilt, appealing with a smile to
Midwinter’s forbearance; “and, as you must see for yourself, sir, she is
a spoiled child.” She paused--showed, for an instant only, her surprise
at Midwinter’s strange silence and strange persistency in keeping his
eyes still fixed on her--then set herself, with a charming grace and
readiness, to help him out of the false position in which he stood. “As
you have extended your walk thus far,” she resumed, “perhaps you will
kindly favor me, on your return, by taking a message to your friend?
Mr. Armadale has been so good as to invite me to see the Thorpe Ambrose
gardens this morning. Will you say that Major Milroy permits me to
accept the invitation (in company with Miss Milroy) between ten and
eleven o’clock?” For a moment her eyes rested, with a renewed look
of interest, on Midwinter’s face. She waited, still in vain, for an
answering word from him--smiled, as if his extraordinary silence amused
rather than angered her--and followed her pupil back to the cottage.


It was only when the last trace of her had disappeared that Midwinter
roused himself, and attempted to realize the position in which he
stood. The revelation of her beauty was in no respect answerable for
the breathless astonishment which had held him spell-bound up to this
moment. The one clear impression she had produced on him thus far began
and ended with his discovery of the astounding contradiction that her
face offered, in one feature after another, to the description in Mr.
Brock’s letter. All beyond this was vague and misty--a dim consciousness
of a tall, elegant woman, and of kind words, modestly and gracefully
spoken to him, and nothing more.

He advanced a few steps into the garden without knowing why--stopped,
glancing hither and thither like a man lost--recognized the summer-house
by an effort, as if years had elapsed since he had seen it--and made his
way out again, at last, into the park. Even here, he wandered first in
one direction, then in another. His mind was still reeling under
the shock that had fallen on it; his perceptions were all confused.
Something kept him mechanically in action, walking eagerly without a
motive, walking he knew not where.

A far less sensitively organized man might have been overwhelmed, as
he was overwhelmed now, by the immense, the instantaneous revulsion of
feeling which the event of the last few minutes had wrought in his mind.

At the memorable instant when he had opened the door of the
summer-house, no confusing influence troubled his faculties. In all that
related to his position toward his friend, he had reached an absolutely
definite conclusion by an absolutely definite process of thought. The
whole strength of the motive which had driven him into the resolution
to part from Allan rooted itself in the belief that he had seen at Hurle
Mere the fatal fulfillment of the first Vision of the Dream. And this
belief, in its turn, rested, necessarily, on the conviction that the
woman who was the one survivor of the tragedy in Madeira must be also
inevitably the woman whom he had seen standing in the Shadow’s place at
the pool. Firm in that persuasion, he had himself compared the object of
his distrust and of the rector’s distrust with the description written
by the rector himself--a description, carefully minute, by a man
entirely trustworthy--and his own eyes had informed him that the
woman whom he had seen at the Mere, and the woman whom Mr. Brock had
identified in London, were not one, but Two. In the place of the Dream
Shadow, there had stood, on the evidence of the rector’s letter, not the
instrument of the Fatality--but a stranger!

No such doubts as might have troubled a less superstitious man, were
started in _his_ mind by the discovery that had now opened on him.

It never occurred to him to ask himself whether a stranger might not
be the appointed instrument of the Fatality, now when the letter had
persuaded him that a stranger had been revealed as the figure in the
dream landscape. No such idea entered or could enter his mind. The one
woman whom _his_ superstition dreaded was the woman who had entwined
herself with the lives of the two Armadales in the first generation, and
with the fortunes of the two Armadales in the second--who was at once
the marked object of his father’s death-bed warning, and the first cause
of the family calamities which had opened Allan’s way to the Thorpe
Ambrose estate--the woman, in a word, whom he would have known
instinctively, but for Mr. Brock’s letter, to be the woman whom he had
now actually seen.

Looking at events as they had just happened, under the influence of the
misapprehension into which the rector had innocently misled him, his
mind saw and seized its new conclusion instantaneously, acting precisely
as it had acted in the past time of his interview with Mr. Brock at the
Isle of Man.

Exactly as he had once declared it to be an all-sufficient refutation of
the idea of the Fatality, that he had never met with the timber-ship
in any of his voyages at sea, so he now seized on the similarly derived
conclusion, that the whole claim of the Dream to a supernatural origin
stood self-refuted by the disclosure of a stranger in the Shadow’s
place. Once started from this point--once encouraged to let his love for
Allan influence him undividedly again, his mind hurried along the whole
resulting chain of thought at lightning speed. If the Dream was proved
to be no longer a warning from the other world, it followed inevitably
that accident and not fate had led the way to the night on the Wreck,
and that all the events which had happened since Allan and he had
parted from Mr. Brock were events in themselves harmless, which his
superstition had distorted from their proper shape. In less than a
moment his mobile imagination had taken him back to the morning at
Castletown when he had revealed to the rector the secret of his name;
when he had declared to the rector, with his father’s letter before his
eyes, the better faith that was in him. Now once more he felt his heart
holding firmly by the bond of brotherhood between Allan and himself; now
once more he could say with the eager sincerity of the old time, “If the
thought of leaving him breaks my heart, the thought of leaving him
is wrong!” As that nobler conviction possessed itself again of his
mind--quieting the tumult, clearing the confusion within him--the house
at Thorpe Ambrose, with Allan on the steps, waiting, looking for him,
opened on his eyes through the trees. A sense of illimitable relief
lifted his eager spirit high above the cares, and doubts, and fears
that had oppressed it so long, and showed him once more the better and
brighter future of his early dreams. His eyes filled with tears, and he
pressed the rector’s letter, in his wild, passionate way, to his lips,
as he looked at Allan through the vista of the trees. “But for this
morsel of paper,” he thought, “my life might have been one long sorrow
to me, and my father’s crime might have parted us forever!”


Such was the result of the stratagem which had shown the housemaid’s
face to Mr. Brock as the face of Miss Gwilt. And so--by shaking
Midwinter’s trust in his own superstition, in the one case in which
that superstition pointed to the truth--did Mother Oldershaw’s cunning
triumph over difficulties and dangers which had never been contemplated
by Mother Oldershaw herself.



XI. MISS GWILT AMONG THE QUICKSANDS.

1. _From the Rev. Decimus Brock to Ozias Midwinter_.

“Thursday.

“MY DEAR MIDWINTER--No words can tell what a relief it was to me to get
your letter this morning, and what a happiness I honestly feel in having
been thus far proved to be in the wrong. The precautions you have taken
in case the woman should still confirm my apprehensions by venturing
herself at Thorpe Ambrose seem to me to be all that can be desired. You
are no doubt sure to hear of her from one or other of the people in the
lawyer’s office, whom you have asked to inform you of the appearance of
a stranger in the town.

“I am the more pleased at finding how entirely I can trust you in this
matter; for I am likely to be obliged to leave Allan’s interests longer
than I supposed solely in your hands. My visit to Thorpe Ambrose must,
I regret to say, be deferred for two months. The only one of my
brother-clergymen in London who is able to take my duty for me cannot
make it convenient to remove with his family to Somersetshire before
that time. I have no alternative but to finish my business here, and be
back at my rectory on Saturday next. If anything happens, you will,
of course, instantly communicate with me; and, in that case, be the
inconvenience what it may, I must leave home for Thorpe Ambrose. If,
on the other hand, all goes more smoothly than my own obstinate
apprehensions will allow me to suppose, then Allan (to whom I have
written) must not expect to see me till this day two months.

“No result has, up to this time, rewarded our exertions to recover the
trace lost at the railway. I will keep my letter open, however, until
post time, in case the next few hours bring any news.

“Always truly yours,

“DECIMUS BROCK.

“P. S.--I have just heard from the lawyers. They have found out the name
the woman passed by in London. If this discovery (not a very important
one, I am afraid) suggests any new course of proceeding to you, pray act
on it at once. The name is--Miss Gwilt.”


2. _From Miss Gwilt to Mrs. Oldershaw_.

The Cottage, Thorpe Ambrose, Saturday, June 28.

“If you will promise not to be alarmed, Mamma Oldershaw, I will begin
this letter in a very odd way, by copying a page of a letter written
by somebody else. You have an excellent memory, and you may not have
forgotten that I received a note from Major Milroy’s mother (after she
had engaged me as governess) on Monday last. It was dated and signed;
and here it is, as far as the first page: ‘June 23d, 1851. Dear
Madam--Pray excuse my troubling you, before you go to Thorpe Ambrose,
with a word more about the habits observed in my son’s household. When
I had the pleasure of seeing you at two o’clock to-day, in Kingsdown
Crescent, I had another appointment in a distant part of London at
three; and, in the hurry of the moment, one or two little matters
escaped me which I think I ought to impress on your attention.’ The rest
of the letter is not of the slightest importance, but the lines that I
have just copied are well worthy of all the attention you can bestow on
them. They have saved me from discovery, my dear, before I have been a
week in Major Milroy’s service!

“It happened no later than yesterday evening, and it began and ended in
this manner:

“There is a gentleman here, (of whom I shall have more to say presently)
who is an intimate friend of young Armadale’s, and who bears the strange
name of Midwinter. He contrived yesterday to speak to me alone in the
park. Almost as soon as he opened his lips, I found that my name had
been discovered in London (no doubt by the Somersetshire clergyman);
and that Mr. Midwinter had been chosen (evidently by the same person)
to identify the Miss Gwilt who had vanished from Brompton with the Miss
Gwilt who had appeared at Thorpe Ambrose. You foresaw this danger, I
remember; but you could scarcely have imagined that the exposure would
threaten me so soon.

“I spare you the details of our conversation to come to the end.
Mr. Midwinter put the matter very delicately, declaring, to my great
surprise, that he felt quite certain himself that I was not the Miss
Gwilt of whom his friend was in search; and that he only acted as he did
out of regard to the anxiety of a person whose wishes he was bound to
respect. Would I assist him in setting that anxiety completely at rest,
as far as I was concerned, by kindly answering one plain question--which
he had no other right to ask me than the right my indulgence might
give him? The lost ‘Miss Gwilt’ had been missed on Monday last, at two
o’clock, in the crowd on the platform of the North-western Railway, in
Euston Square. Would I authorize him to say that on that day, and at
that hour, the Miss Gwilt who was Major Milroy’s governess had never
been near the place?

“I need hardly tell you that I seized the fine opportunity he had given
me of disarming all future suspicion. I took a high tone on the spot,
and met him with the old lady’s letter. He politely refused to look at
it. I insisted on his looking at it. ‘I don’t choose to be mistaken,’
I said, ‘for a woman who may be a bad character, because she happens
to bear, or to have assumed, the same name as mine. I insist on your
reading the first part of this letter for my satisfaction, if not for
your own.’ He was obliged to comply; and there was the proof, in the old
lady’s handwriting, that, at two o’clock on Monday last, she and I were
together in Kingsdown Crescent, which any directory would tell him is a
‘crescent’ in Bayswater! I leave you to imagine his apologies, and the
perfect sweetness with which I received them.

“I might, of course, if I had not preserved the letter, have referred
him to you, or to the major’s mother, with similar results. As it is,
the object has been gained without trouble or delay. _I have been proved
not to be myself_; and one of the many dangers that threatened me
at Thorpe Ambrose is a danger blown over from this moment. Your
house-maid’s face may not be a very handsome one; but there is no
denying that it has done us excellent service.

“So much for the past; now for the future. You shall hear how I get
on with the people about me; and you shall judge for yourself what the
chances are for and against my becoming mistress of Thorpe Ambrose.

“Let me begin with young Armadale--because it is beginning with good
news. I have produced the right impression on him already, and Heaven
knows _that_ is nothing to boast of! Any moderately good-looking woman
who chose to take the trouble could make him fall in love with her. He
is a rattle-pated young fool--one of those noisy, rosy, light-haired,
good-tempered men whom I particularly detest. I had a whole hour alone
with him in a boat, the first day I came here, and I have made good use
of my time, I can tell you, from that day to this. The only difficulty
with him is the difficulty of concealing my own feelings, especially
when he turns my dislike of him into downright hatred by sometimes
reminding me of his mother. I really never saw a man whom I could use
so ill, if I had the opportunity. He will give me the opportunity, I
believe, if no accident happens, sooner than we calculated on. I have
just returned from a party at the great house, in celebration of the
rent-day dinner, and the squire’s attentions to me, and my modest
reluctance to receive them, have already excited general remark.

“My pupil, Miss Milroy, comes next. She, too, is rosy and foolish;
and, what is more, awkward and squat and freckled, and ill-tempered and
ill-dressed. No fear of _her_, though she hates me like poison, which
is a great comfort, for I get rid of her out of lesson time and walking
time. It is perfectly easy to see that she has made the most of her
opportunities with young Armadale (opportunities, by-the-by, which we
never calculated on), and that she has been stupid enough to let him
slip through her fingers. When I tell you that she is obliged, for
the sake of appearances, to go with her father and me to the little
entertainments at Thorpe Ambrose, and to see how young Armadale admires
me, you will understand the kind of place I hold in her affections. She
would try me past all endurance if I didn’t see that I aggravate her by
keeping my temper, so, of course, I keep it. If I do break out, it will
be over our lessons--not over our French, our grammar, history, and
globes--but over our music. No words can say how I feel for her poor
piano. Half the musical girls in England ought to have their fingers
chopped off in the interests of society, and, if I had my way, Miss
Milroy’s fingers should be executed first.

“As for the major, I can hardly stand higher in his estimation than I
stand already. I am always ready to make his breakfast, and his daughter
is not. I can always find things for him when he loses them, and his
daughter can’t. I never yawn when he proses, and his daughter does. I
like the poor dear harmless old gentleman, so I won’t say a word more
about him.

“Well, here is a fair prospect for the future surely? My good Oldershaw,
there never was a prospect yet without an ugly place in it. _My_
prospect has two ugly places in it. The name of one of them is Mrs.
Milroy, and the name of the other is Mr. Midwinter.

“Mrs. Milroy first. Before I had been five minutes in the cottage, on
the day of my arrival, what do you think she did? She sent downstairs
and asked to see me. The message startled me a little, after hearing
from the old lady, in London, that her daughter-in-law was too great a
sufferer to see anybody; but, of course, when I got her message, I had
no choice but to go up stairs to the sick-room. I found her bedridden
with an incurable spinal complaint, and a really horrible object to look
at, but with all her wits about her; and, if I am not greatly mistaken,
as deceitful a woman, with as vile a temper, as you could find anywhere
in all your long experience. Her excessive politeness, and her keeping
her own face in the shade of the bed-curtains while she contrived to
keep mine in the light, put me on my guard the moment I entered the
room. We were more than half an hour together, without my stepping
into any one of the many clever little traps she laid for me. The only
mystery in her behavior, which I failed to see through at the time, was
her perpetually asking me to bring her things (things she evidently did
not want) from different parts of the room.

“Since then events have enlightened me. My first suspicions were raised
by overhearing some of the servants’ gossip; and I have been confirmed
in my opinion by the conduct of Mrs. Milroy’s nurse.

“On the few occasions when I have happened to be alone with the major,
the nurse has also happened to want something of her master, and has
invariably forgotten to announce her appearance by knocking, at the
door. Do you understand now why Mrs. Milroy sent for me the moment I got
into the house, and what she wanted when she kept me going backward and
forward, first for one thing and then for another? There is hardly an
attractive light in which my face and figure can be seen, in which
that woman’s jealous eyes have not studied them already. I am no longer
puzzled to know why the father and daughter started, and looked at each
other, when I was first presented to them; or why the servants still
stare at me with a mischievous expectation in their eyes when I ring the
bell and ask them to do anything. It is useless to disguise the truth,
Mother Oldershaw, between you and me. When I went upstairs into that
sickroom, I marched blindfold into the clutches of a jealous woman. If
Mrs. Milroy _can_ turn me out of the house, Mrs. Milroy _will_; and,
morning and night, she has nothing else to do in that bed prison of hers
but to find out the way.

“In this awkward position, my own cautious conduct is admirably seconded
by the dear old major’s perfect insensibility. His wife’s jealousy
of him is as monstrous a delusion as any that could be found in
a mad-house; it is the growth of her own vile temper, under the
aggravation of an incurable illness. The poor man hasn’t a thought
beyond his mechanical pursuits; and I don’t believe he knows at this
moment whether I am a handsome woman or not. With this chance to
help me, I may hope to set the nurse’s intrusions and the mistress’s
contrivances at defiance--for a time, at any rate. But you know what a
jealous woman is, and I think I know what Mrs. Milroy is; and I own
I shall breathe more freely on the day when young Armadale opens his
foolish lips to some purpose, and sets the major advertising for a new
governess.

“Armadale’s name reminds me of Armadale’s friend. There is more danger
threatening in that quarter; and, what is worse, I don’t feel half as
well armed beforehand against Mr. Midwinter as I do against Mrs. Milroy.

“Everything about this man is more or less mysterious, which I don’t
like, to begin with. How does he come to be in the confidence of the
Somersetshire clergyman? How much has that clergyman told him? How is it
that he was so firmly persuaded, when he spoke to me in the park, that
I was not the Miss Gwilt of whom his friend was in search? I haven’t the
ghost of an answer to give to any of those three questions. I can’t
even discover who he is, or how he and young Armadale first became
acquainted. I hate him. No, I don’t; I only want to find out about him.
He is very young, little and lean, and active and dark, with bright
black eyes which say to me plainly, ‘We belong to a man with brains in
his head and a will of his own; a man who hasn’t always been hanging
about a country house, in attendance on a fool.’ Yes; I am positively
certain Mr. Midwinter has done something or suffered something in his
past life, young as he is; and I would give I don’t know what to get at
it. Don’t resent my taking up so much space in my writing about him. He
has influence enough over young Armadale to be a very awkward obstacle
in my way, unless I can secure his good opinion at starting.

“Well, you may ask, and what is to prevent your securing his good
opinion? I am sadly afraid, Mother Oldershaw, I have got it on terms
I never bargained for I am sadly afraid the man is in love with me
already.

“Don’t toss your head and say, ‘Just like her vanity!’ After the horrors
I have gone through, I have no vanity left; and a man who admires me
is a man who makes me shudder. There was a time, I own--Pooh! what am I
writing? Sentiment, I declare! Sentiment to _you_! Laugh away, my dear.
As for me, I neither laugh nor cry; I mend my pen, and get on with
my--what do the men call it?--my report.

“The only thing worth inquiring is, whether I am right or wrong in my
idea of the impression I have made on him.

“Let me see; I have been four times in his company. The first time was
in the major’s garden, where we met unexpectedly, face to face. He stood
looking at me, like a man petrified, without speaking a word. The effect
of my horrid red hair, perhaps? Quite likely; let us lay it on my hair.
The second time was in going over the Thorpe Ambrose grounds, with young
Armadale on one side of me, and my pupil (in the sulks) on the other.
Out comes Mr. Midwinter to join us, though he had work to do in the
steward’s office, which he had never been known to neglect on any other
occasion. Laziness, possibly? or an attachment to Miss Milroy? I can’t
say; we will lay it on Miss Milroy, if you like; I only know he did
nothing but look at _me_. The third time was at the private interview
in the park, which I have told you of already. I never saw a man so
agitated at putting a delicate question to a woman in my life. But
_that_ might have been only awkwardness; and his perpetually looking
back after me when we had parted might have been only looking back at
the view. Lay it on the view; by all means, lay it on the view! The
fourth time was this very evening, at the little party. They made me
play; and, as the piano was a good one, I did my best. All the company
crowded round me, and paid me their compliments (my charming pupil
paid hers, with a face like a cat’s just before she spits), except Mr.
Midwinter. _He_ waited till it was time to go, and then he caught me
alone for a moment in the hall. There was just time for him to take my
hand, and say two words. Shall I tell you _how_ he took my hand, and
what his voice sounded like when he spoke? Quite needless! You have
always told me that the late Mr. Oldershaw doted on you. Just recall the
first time he took your hand, and whispered a word or two addressed to
your private ear. To what did you attribute his behavior that occasion?
I have no doubt, if you had been playing on the piano in the course of
the evening, you would have attributed it entirely to the music!

“No! you may take my word for it, the harm is done. _This_ man is no
rattle-pated fool, who changes his fancies as readily as he changes his
clothes. The fire that lights those big black eyes of his is not an easy
fire, when a woman has once kindled it, for that woman to put out. I
don’t wish to discourage you; I don’t say the changes are against us.
But with Mrs. Milroy threatening me on one side, and Mr. Midwinter on
the other, the worst of all risks to run is the risk of losing time.
Young Armadale has hinted already, as well as such a lout can hint, at
a private interview! Miss Milroy’s eyes are sharp, and the nurse’s eyes
are sharper; and I shall lose my place if either of them find me out. No
matter! I must take my chance, and give him the interview. Only let me
get him alone, only let me escape the prying eyes of the women, and--if
his friend doesn’t come between us--I answer for the result!

“In the meantime, have I anything more to tell you? Are there any other
people in our way at Thorpe Ambrose? Not another creature! None of the
resident families call here, young Armadale being, most fortunately, in
bad odor in the neighborhood. There are no handsome highly-bred women to
come to the house, and no persons of consequence to protest against his
attentions to a governess. The only guests he could collect at his
party to-night were the lawyer and his family (a wife, a son, and
two daughters), and a deaf old woman and _her_ son--all perfectly
unimportant people, and all obedient humble servants of the stupid young
squire.

“Talking of obedient humble servants, there is one other person
established here, who is employed in the steward’s office--a miserable,
shabby, dilapidated old man, named Bashwood. He is a perfect stranger to
me, and I am evidently a perfect stranger to him, for he has been asking
the house-maid at the cottage who I am. It is paying no great compliment
to myself to confess it, but it is not the less true that I produced the
most extraordinary impression on this feeble old creature the first
time he saw me. He turned all manner of colors, and stood trembling and
staring at me, as if there was something perfectly frightful in my face.
I felt quite startled for the moment, for, of all the ways in which men
have looked at me, no man ever looked at me in that way before. Did you
ever see the boa constrictor fed at the Zoological Gardens? They put a
live rabbit into his cage, and there is a moment when the two creatures
look at each other. I declare Mr. Bashwood reminded me of the rabbit.

“Why do I mention this? I don’t know why. Perhaps I have been writing
too long, and my head is beginning to fail me. Perhaps Mr. Bashwood’s
manner of admiring me strikes my fancy by its novelty. Absurd! I am
exciting myself, and troubling you about nothing. Oh, what a weary, long
letter I have written! and how brightly the stars look at me through the
window, and how awfully quiet the night is! Send me some more of those
sleeping drops, and write me one of your nice, wicked, amusing letters.
You shall hear from me again as soon as I know a little better how it is
all likely to end. Good-night, and keep a corner in your stony old heart
for

“L. G.”


3. _From Mrs. Oldershaw to Miss Gwilt_.

“Diana Street, Pimlico, Monday.

“MY DEAR LYDIA--I am in no state of mind to write you an amusing letter.
Your news is very discouraging, and the recklessness of your tone quite
alarms me. Consider the money I have already advanced, and the interests
we both have at stake. Whatever else you are, don’t be reckless, for
Heaven’s sake!

“What can I do? I ask myself, as a woman of business, what can I do to
help you? I can’t give you advice, for I am not on the spot, and I don’t
know how circumstances may alter from one day to another. Situated as we
are now, I can only be useful in one way. I can discover a new obstacle
that threatens you, and I think I can remove it.

“You say, with great truth, that there never was a prospect yet
without an ugly place in it, and that there are two ugly places in your
prospect. My dear, there may be _three_ ugly places, if I don’t bestir
myself to prevent it; and the name of the third place will be--Brock!
Is it possible you can refer, as you have done, to the Somersetshire
clergyman, and not see that the progress you make with young Armadale
will be, sooner or later, reported to him by young Armadale’s friend?
Why, now I think of it, you are doubly at the parson’s mercy! You are
at the mercy of any fresh suspicion which may bring him into the
neighborhood himself at a day’s notice; and you are at the mercy of his
interference the moment he hears that the squire is committing himself
with a neighbor’s governess. If I can do nothing else, I can keep this
additional difficulty out of your way. And oh, Lydia, with what alacrity
I shall exert myself, after the manner in which the old wretch insulted
me when I told him that pitiable story in the street! I declare I tingle
with pleasure at this new prospect of making a fool of Mr. Brock.

“And how is it to be done? Just as we have done it already, to be sure.
He has lost ‘Miss Gwilt’ (otherwise my house-maid), hasn’t he? Very
well. He shall find her again, wherever he is now, suddenly settled
within easy reach of him. As long as _she_ stops in the place, _he_ will
stop in it; and as we know he is not at Thorpe Ambrose, there you are
free of him! The old gentleman’s suspicions have given us a great deal
of trouble so far. Let us turn them to some profitable account at last;
let us tie him, by his suspicions, to my house-maid’s apron-string. Most
refreshing. Quite a moral retribution, isn’t it?

“The only help I need trouble you for is help you can easily give.
Find out from Mr. Midwinter where the parson is now, and let me know
by return of post. If he is in London, I will personally assist my
housemaid in the necessary mystification of him. If he is anywhere else,
I will send her after him, accompanied by a person on whose discretion I
can implicitly rely.

“You shall have the sleeping drops to-morrow. In the meantime, I say at
the end what I said at the beginning--no recklessness. Don’t encourage
poetical feelings by looking at the stars; and don’t talk about the
night being awfully quiet. There are people (in observatories) paid to
look at the stars for you; leave it to them. And as for the night,
do what Providence intended you to do with the night when Providence
provided you with eyelids--go to sleep in it. Affectionately yours,

“MARIA OLDERSHAW.”

4. _From the Reverend Decimus Brock to Ozias Midwinter_.

“Bascombe Rectory, West Somerset, Thursday, July 8.

“MY DEAR MIDWINTER--One line before the post goes out, to relieve you of
all sense of responsibility at Thorpe Ambrose, and to make my apologies
to the lady who lives as governess in Major Milroy’s family.

“_The_ Miss Gwilt--or perhaps I ought to say, the woman calling herself
by that name--has, to my unspeakable astonishment, openly made
her appearance here, in my own parish! She is staying at the inn,
accompanied by a plausible-looking man, who passes as her brother. What
this audacious proceeding really means--unless it marks a new step in
the conspiracy against Allan, taken under new advice--is, of course,
more than I can yet find out.

“My own idea is, that they have recognized the impossibility of getting
at Allan, without finding me (or you) as an obstacle in their way; and
that they are going to make a virtue of necessity by boldly trying
to open their communications through me. The man looks capable of any
stretch of audacity; and both he and the woman had the impudence to bow
when I met them in the village half an hour since. They have been making
inquiries already about Allan’s mother here, where her exemplary life
may set their closest scrutiny at defiance. If they will only attempt to
extort money, as the price of the woman’s silence on the subject of poor
Mrs. Armadale’s conduct in Madeira at the time of her marriage, they
will find me well prepared for them beforehand. I have written by this
post to my lawyers to send a competent man to assist me, and he will
stay at the rectory, in any character which he thinks it safest to
assume under present circumstances.

“You shall hear what happens in the next day or two.

“Always truly yours, DECIMUS BROCK.”



XII. THE CLOUDING OF THE SKY.

Nine days had passed, and the tenth day was nearly at an end, since Miss
Gwilt and her pupil had taken their morning walk in the cottage garden.

The night was overcast. Since sunset, there had been signs in the sky
from which the popular forecast had predicted rain. The reception-rooms
at the great house were all empty and dark. Allan was away, passing
the evening with the Milroys; and Midwinter was waiting his return--not
where Midwinter usually waited, among the books in the library, but in
the little back room which Allan’s mother had inhabited in the last days
of her residence at Thorpe Ambrose.

Nothing had been taken away, but much had been added to the room, since
Midwinter had first seen it. The books which Mrs. Armadale had left
behind her, the furniture, the old matting on the floor, the old paper
on the walls, were all undisturbed. The statuette of Niobe still stood
on its bracket, and the French window still opened on the garden.
But now, to the relics left by the mother, were added the personal
possessions belonging to the son. The wall, bare hitherto, was decorated
with water-color drawings--with a portrait of Mrs. Armadale supported
on one side by a view of the old house in Somersetshire, and on the
other by a picture of the yacht. Among the books which bore in faded
ink Mrs. Armadale’s inscriptions, “From my father,” were other books
inscribed in the same handwriting, in brighter ink, “To my son.” Hanging
to the wall, ranged on the chimney-piece, scattered over the table, were
a host of little objects, some associated with Allan’s past life,
others necessary to his daily pleasures and pursuits, and all plainly
testifying that the room which he habitually occupied at Thorpe Ambrose
was the very room which had once recalled to Midwinter the second vision
of the dream. Here, strangely unmoved by the scene around him, so lately
the object of his superstitious distrust, Allan’s friend now waited
composedly for Allan’s return; and here, more strangely still, he looked
on a change in the household arrangements, due in the first instance
entirely to himself. His own lips had revealed the discovery which he
had made on the first morning in the new house; his own voluntary act
had induced the son to establish himself in the mother’s room.

Under what motives had he spoken the words? Under no motives which were
not the natural growth of the new interests and the new hopes that now
animated him.

The entire change wrought in his convictions by the memorable event that
had brought him face to face with Miss Gwilt was a change which it was
not in his nature to hide from Allan’s knowledge. He had spoken openly,
and had spoken as it was in his character to speak. The merit of
conquering his superstition was a merit which he shrank from claiming,
until he had first unsparingly exposed that superstition in its worst
and weakest aspects to view.

It was only after he had unreservedly acknowledged the impulse under
which he had left Allan at the Mere, that he had taken credit to himself
for the new point of view from which he could now look at the Dream.
Then, and not till then, he had spoken of the fulfillment of the first
Vision as the doctor at the Isle of Man might have spoken of it. He had
asked, as the doctor might have asked, Where was the wonder of their
seeing a pool at sunset, when they had a whole network of pools within
a few hours’ drive of them? and what was there extraordinary in
discovering a woman at the Mere, when there were roads that led to it,
and villages in its neighborhood, and boats employed on it, and pleasure
parties visiting it? So again, he had waited to vindicate the firmer
resolution with which he looked to the future, until he had first
revealed all that he now saw himself of the errors of the past.
The abandonment of his friend’s interests, the unworthiness of the
confidence that had given him the steward’s place, the forgetfulness of
the trust that Mr. Brock had reposed in him all implied in the one idea
of leaving Allan--were all pointed out. The glaring self-contradictions
betrayed in accepting the Dream as the revelation of a fatality, and
in attempting to escape that fatality by an exertion of free-will--in
toiling to store up knowledge of the steward’s duties for the
future, and in shrinking from letting the future find him in Allan’s
house--were, in their turn, unsparingly exposed. To every error, to
every inconsistency, he resolutely confessed, before he ventured on the
last simple appeal which closed all, “Will you trust me in the future?
Will you forgive and forget the past?”

A man who could thus open his whole heart, without one lurking reserve
inspired by consideration for himself, was not a man to forget any minor
act of concealment of which his weakness might have led him to be guilty
toward his friend. It lay heavy on Midwinter’s conscience that he had
kept secret from Allan a discovery which he ought in Allan’s dearest
interests to have revealed--the discovery of his mother’s room.

But one doubt still closed his lips--the doubt whether Mrs. Armadale’s
conduct in Madeira had been kept secret on her return to England.

Careful inquiry, first among the servants, then among the tenantry,
careful consideration of the few reports current at the time, as
repeated to him by the few persons left who remembered them, convinced
him at last that the family secret had been successfully kept within the
family limits. Once satisfied that whatever inquiries the son might
make would lead to no disclosure which could shake his respect for his
mother’s memory, Midwinter had hesitated no longer. He had taken Allan
into the room, and had shown him the books on the shelves, and all that
the writing in the books disclosed. He had said plainly, “My one motive
for not telling you this before sprang from my dread of interesting you
in the room which I looked at with horror as the second of the scenes
pointed at in the Dream. Forgive me this also, and you will have
forgiven me all.”

With Allan’s love for his mother’s memory, but one result could follow
such an avowal as this. He had liked the little room from the first,
as a pleasant contrast to the oppressive grandeur of the other rooms at
Thorpe Ambrose, and, now that he knew what associations were connected
with it, his resolution was at once taken to make it especially his own.
The same day, all his personal possessions were collected and arranged
in his mother’s room--in Midwinter’s presence, and with Midwinter’s
assistance given to the work.

Under those circumstances had the change now wrought in the household
arrangements been produced; and in this way had Midwinter’s victory over
his own fatalism--by making Allan the daily occupant of a room which
he might otherwise hardly ever have entered--actually favored the
fulfillment of the Second Vision of the Dream.


The hour wore on quietly as Allan’s friend sat waiting for Allan’s
return. Sometimes reading, sometimes thinking placidly, he whiled away
the time. No vexing cares, no boding doubts, troubled him now. The
rent-day, which he had once dreaded, had come and gone harmlessly. A
friendlier understanding had been established between Allan and his
tenants; Mr. Bashwood had proved himself to be worthy of the confidence
reposed in him; the Pedgifts, father and son, had amply justified their
client’s good opinion of them. Wherever Midwinter looked, the prospect
was bright, the future was without a cloud.

He trimmed the lamp on the table beside him and looked out at the night.
The stable clock was chiming the half-hour past eleven as he walked to
the window, and the first rain-drops were beginning to fall. He had his
hand on the bell to summon the servant, and send him over to the cottage
with an umbrella, when he was stopped by hearing the familiar footstep
on the walk outside.

“How late you are!” said Midwinter, as Allan entered through the open
French window. “Was there a party at the cottage?”

“No! only ourselves. The time slipped away somehow.” He answered in
lower tones than usual, and sighed as he took his chair.

“You seem to be out of spirits?” pursued Midwinter. “What’s the matter?”

Allan hesitated. “I may as well tell you,” he said, after a moment.
“It’s nothing to be ashamed of; I only wonder you haven’t noticed it
before! There’s a woman in it, as usual--I’m in love.”

Midwinter laughed. “Has Miss Milroy been more charming to-night than
ever?” he asked, gayly.

“Miss Milroy!” repeated Allan. “What are you thinking of! I’m not in
love with Miss Milroy.”

“Who is it, then?”

“Who is it! What a question to ask! Who can it be but Miss Gwilt?”

There was a sudden silence. Allan sat listlessly, with his hands in his
pockets, looking out through the open window at the falling rain. If
he had turned toward his friend when he mentioned Miss Gwilt’s name he
might possibly have been a little startled by the change he would have
seen in Midwinter’s face.

“I suppose you don’t approve of it?” he said, after waiting a little.

There was no answer.

“It’s too late to make objections,” proceeded Allan. “I really mean it
when I tell you I’m in love with her.”

“A fortnight since you were in love with Miss Milroy,” said the other,
in quiet, measured tones.

“Pooh! a mere flirtation. It’s different this time. I’m in earnest about
Miss Gwilt.”

He looked round as he spoke. Midwinter turned his face aside on the
instant, and bent it over a book.

“I see you don’t approve of the thing,” Allan went on. “Do you object to
her being only a governess? You can’t do that, I’m sure. If you were
in my place, her being only a governess wouldn’t stand in the way with
_you_?”

“No,” said Midwinter; “I can’t honestly say it would stand in the way
with me.” He gave the answer reluctantly, and pushed his chair back out
of the light of the lamp.

“A governess is a lady who is not rich,” said Allan, in an oracular
manner; “and a duchess is a lady who is not poor. And that’s all the
difference I acknowledge between them. Miss Gwilt is older than I am--I
don’t deny that. What age do you guess her at, Midwinter? I say, seven
or eight and twenty. What do you say?”

“Nothing. I agree with you.”

“Do you think seven or eight and twenty is too old for me? If you were
in love with a woman yourself, you wouldn’t think seven or eight and
twenty too old--would you?”

“I can’t say I should think it too old, if--”

“If you were really fond of her?”

Once more there was no answer.

“Well,” resumed Allan, “if there’s no harm in her being only a
governess, and no harm in her being a little older than I am, what’s the
objection to Miss Gwilt?”

“I have made no objection.”

“I don’t say you have. But you don’t seem to like the notion of it, for
all that.”

There was another pause. Midwinter was the first to break the silence
this time.

“Are you sure of yourself, Allan?” he asked, with his face bent once
more over the book. “Are you really attached to this lady? Have you
thought seriously already of asking her to be your wife?”

“I am thinking seriously of it at this moment,” said Allan. “I can’t be
happy--I can’t live without her. Upon my soul, I worship the very ground
she treads on!”

“How long--” His voice faltered, and he stopped. “How long,” he
reiterated, “have you worshipped the very ground she treads on?”

“Longer than you think for. I know I can trust you with all my
secrets--”

“Don’t trust me!”

“Nonsense! I _will_ trust you. There is a little difficulty in the way
which I haven’t mentioned yet. It’s a matter of some delicacy, and I
want to consult you about it. Between ourselves, I have had private
opportunities with Miss Gwilt--”

Midwinter suddenly started to his feet, and opened the door.

“We’ll talk of this to-morrow,” he said. “Good-night.”

Allan looked round in astonishment. The door was closed again, and he
was alone in the room.

“He has never shaken hands with me!” exclaimed Allan, looking bewildered
at the empty chair.

As the words passed his lips the door opened, and Midwinter appeared
again.

“We haven’t shaken hands,” he said, abruptly. “God bless you, Allan!
We’ll talk of it to-morrow. Good-night.”

Allan stood alone at the window, looking out at the pouring rain. He
felt ill at ease, without knowing why. “Midwinter’s ways get stranger
and stranger,” he thought. “What can he mean by putting me off till
to-morrow, when I wanted to speak to him to-night?” He took up his
bedroom candle a little impatiently, put it down again, and, walking
back to the open window, stood looking out in the direction of the
cottage. “I wonder if she’s thinking of me?” he said to himself softly.

She _was_ thinking of him. She had just opened her desk to write to Mrs.
Oldershaw; and her pen had that moment traced the opening line: “Make
your mind easy. I have got him!”



XIII. EXIT.

It rained all through the night, and when the morning came it was
raining still.

Contrary to his ordinary habit, Midwinter was waiting in the
breakfast-room when Allan entered it. He looked worn and weary, but his
smile was gentler and his manner more composed than usual. To Allan’s
surprise he approached the subject of the previous night’s conversation
of his own accord as soon as the servant was out of the room.

“I am afraid you thought me very impatient and very abrupt with you last
night,” he said. “I will try to make amends for it this morning. I will
hear everything you wish to say to me on the subject of Miss Gwilt.”

“I hardly like to worry you,” said Allan. “You look as if you had had a
bad night’s rest.”

“I have not slept well for some time past,” replied Midwinter, quietly.
“Something has been wrong with me. But I believe I have found out the
way to put myself right again without troubling the doctors. Late in the
morning I shall have something to say to you about this. Let us get back
first to what you were talking of last night. You were speaking of some
difficulty--” He hesitated, and finished the sentence in a tone so low
that Allan failed to hear him. “Perhaps it would be better,” he went on,
“if, instead of speaking to me, you spoke to Mr. Brock?”

“I would rather speak to _you_,” said Allan. “But tell me first, was I
right or wrong last night in thinking you disapproved of my falling in
love with Miss Gwilt?”

Midwinter’s lean, nervous fingers began to crumble the bread in his
plate. His eyes looked away from Allan for the first time.

“If you have any objection,” persisted Allan, “I should like to hear
it.”

Midwinter suddenly looked up again, his cheeks turning ashy pale, and
his glittering black eyes fixed full on Allan’s face.

“You love her,” he said. “Does _she_ love _you_?”

“You won’t think me vain?” returned Allan. “I told you yesterday I had
had private opportunities with her--”

Midwinter’s eyes dropped again to the crumbs on his plate. “I
understand,” he interposed, quickly. “You were wrong last night. I had
no objections to make.”

“Don’t you congratulate me?” asked Allan, a little uneasily. “Such a
beautiful woman! such a clever woman!”

Midwinter held out his hand. “I owe you more than mere congratulations,”
 he said. “In anything which is for your happiness I owe you help.”
 He took Allan’s hand, and wrung it hard. “Can I help you?” he asked,
growing paler and paler as he spoke.

“My dear fellow,” exclaimed Allan, “what is the matter with you? Your
hand is as cold as ice.”

Midwinter smiled faintly. “I am always in extremes,” he said; “my hand
was as hot as fire the first time you took it at the old west-country
inn. Come to that difficulty which you have not come to yet. You are
young, rich, your own master--and she loves you. What difficulty can
there be?”

Allan hesitated. “I hardly know how to put it,” he replied. “As you
said just now, I love her, and she loves me; and yet there is a sort of
strangeness between us. One talks a good deal about one’s self when one
is in love, at least I do. I’ve told her all about myself and my mother,
and how I came in for this place, and the rest of it. Well--though it
doesn’t strike me when we are together--it comes across me now and then,
when I’m away from her, that she doesn’t say much on her side. In fact,
I know no more about her than you do.”

“Do you mean that you know nothing about Miss Gwilt’s family and
friends?”

“That’s it, exactly.”

“Have you never asked her about them?”

“I said something of the sort the other day,” returned Allan: “and I’m
afraid, as usual, I said it in the wrong way. She looked--I can’t quite
tell you how; not exactly displeased, but--oh, what things words are!
I’d give the world, Midwinter, if I could only find the right word when
I want it as well as you do.”

“Did Miss Gwilt say anything to you in the way of a reply?”

“That’s just what I was coming to. She said, ‘I shall have a melancholy
story to tell you one of these days, Mr. Armadale, about myself and my
family; but you look so happy, and the circumstances are so distressing,
that I have hardly the heart to speak of it now.’ Ah, _she_ can express
herself--with the tears in her eyes, my dear fellow, with the tears
in her eyes! Of course, I changed the subject directly. And now the
difficulty is how to get back to it, delicately, without making her cry
again. We _must_ get back to it, you know. Not on my account; I am quite
content to marry her first and hear of her family misfortunes, poor
thing, afterward. But I know Mr. Brock. If I can’t satisfy him about her
family when I write to tell him of this (which, of course, I must do),
he will be dead against the whole thing. I’m my own master, of course,
and I can do as I like about it. But dear old Brock was such a good
friend to my poor mother, and he has been such a good friend to me--you
see what I mean, don’t you?”

“Certainly, Allan; Mr. Brock has been your second father. Any
disagreement between you about such a serious matter as this would be
the saddest thing that could happen. You ought to satisfy him that Miss
Gwilt is (what I am sure Miss Gwilt will prove to be) worthy, in every
way worthy--” His voice sank in spite of him, and he left the sentence
unfinished.

“Just my feeling in the matter!” Allan struck in, glibly. “Now we can
come to what I particularly wanted to consult you about. If this was
your case, Midwinter, you would be able to say the right words to
her--you would put it delicately, even though you were putting it quite
in the dark. I can’t do that. I’m a blundering sort of fellow; and I’m
horribly afraid, if I can’t get some hint at the truth to help me at
starting, of saying something to distress her. Family misfortunes are
such tender subjects to touch on, especially with such a refined woman,
such a tender-hearted woman, as Miss Gwilt. There may have been
some dreadful death in the family--some relation who has disgraced
himself--some infernal cruelty which has forced the poor thing out on
the world as a governess. Well, turning it over in my mind, it struck
me that the major might be able to put me on the right tack. It is
quite possible that he might have been informed of Miss Gwilt’s family
circumstances before he engaged her, isn’t it?”

“It is possible, Allan, certainly.”

“Just my feeling again! My notion is to speak to the major. If I could
only get the story from him first, I should know so much better how to
speak to Miss Gwilt about it afterward. You advise me to try the major,
don’t you?”

There was a pause before Midwinter replied. When he did answer, it was a
little reluctantly.

“I hardly know how to advise you, Allan,” he said. “This is a very
delicate matter.”

“I believe you would try the major, if you were in my place,” returned
Allan, reverting to his inveterately personal way of putting the
question.

“Perhaps I might,” said Midwinter, more and more unwillingly. “But if I
did speak to the major, I should be very careful, in your place, not to
put myself in a false position. I should be very careful to let no one
suspect me of the meanness of prying into a woman’s secrets behind her
back.”

Allan’s face flushed. “Good heavens, Midwinter,” he exclaimed, “who
could suspect me of that?”

“Nobody, Allan, who really knows you.”

“The major knows me. The major is the last man in the world to
misunderstand me. All I want him to do is to help me (if he can) to
speak about a delicate subject to Miss Gwilt, without hurting her
feelings. Can anything be simpler between two gentlemen?”

Instead of replying, Midwinter, still speaking as constrainedly as ever,
asked a question on his side. “Do you mean to tell Major Milroy,” he
said, “what your intentions really are toward Miss Gwilt?”

Allan’s manner altered. He hesitated, and looked confused.

“I have been thinking of that,” he replied; “and I mean to feel my way
first, and then tell him or not afterward, as matters turn out?”

A proceeding so cautious as this was too strikingly inconsistent with
Allan’s character not to surprise any one who knew him. Midwinter showed
his surprise plainly.

“You forget that foolish flirtation of mine with Miss Milroy,” Allan
went on, more and more confusedly. “The major may have noticed it, and
may have thought I meant--well, what I didn’t mean. It might be rather
awkward, mightn’t it, to propose to his face for his governess instead
of his daughter?”

He waited for a word of answer, but none came. Midwinter opened his lips
to speak, and suddenly checked himself. Allan, uneasy at his silence,
doubly uneasy under certain recollections of the major’s daughter which
the conversation had called up, rose from the table and shortened the
interview a little impatiently.

“Come! come!” he said, “don’t sit there looking unutterable things;
don’t make mountains out of mole-hills. You have such an old, old head,
Midwinter, on those young shoulders of yours! Let’s have done with all
these _pros_ and _cons_. Do you mean to tell me in plain words that it
won’t do to speak to the major?”

“I can’t take the responsibility, Allan, of telling you that. To be
plainer still, I can’t feel confident of the soundness of any advice
I may give you in--in our present position toward each other. All I am
sure of is that I cannot possibly be wrong in entreating you to do two
things.”

“What are they?”

“If you speak to Major Milroy, pray remember the caution I have given
you! Pray think of what you say before you say it!”

“I’ll think, never fear! What next?”

“Before you take any serious step in this matter, write and tell Mr.
Brock. Will you promise me to do that?”

“With all my heart. Anything more?”

“Nothing more. I have said my last words.”

Allan led the way to the door. “Come into my room,” he said, “and I’ll
give you a cigar. The servants will be in here directly to clear away,
and I want to go on talking about Miss Gwilt.”

“Don’t wait for me,” said Midwinter; “I’ll follow you in a minute or
two.”

He remained seated until Allan had closed the door, then rose, and
took from a corner of the room, where it lay hidden behind one of the
curtains, a knapsack ready packed for traveling. As he stood at the
window thinking, with the knapsack in his hand, a strangely old,
care-worn look stole over his face: he seemed to lose the last of his
youth in an instant.


What the woman’s quicker insight had discovered days since, the man’s
slower perception had only realized in the past night. The pang that had
wrung him when he heard Allan’s avowal had set the truth self-revealed
before Midwinter for the first time. He had been conscious of looking at
Miss Gwilt with new eyes and a new mind, on the next occasion when they
met after the memorable interview in Major Milroy’s garden; but he had
never until now known the passion that she had roused in him for what
it really was. Knowing it at last, feeling it consciously in full
possession of him, he had the courage which no man with a happier
experience of life would have possessed--the courage to recall what
Allan had confided to him, and to look resolutely at the future through
his own grateful remembrances of the past.

Steadfastly, through the sleepless hours of the night, he had bent his
mind to the conviction that he must conquer the passion which had taken
possession of him, for Allan’s sake; and that the one way to conquer
it was--to go. No after-doubt as to the sacrifice had troubled him when
morning came; and no after-doubt troubled him now. The one question that
kept him hesitating was the question of leaving Thorpe Ambrose. Though
Mr. Brock’s letter relieved him from all necessity of keeping watch in
Norfolk for a woman who was known to be in Somersetshire; though the
duties of the steward’s office were duties which might be safely left
in Mr. Bashwood’s tried and trustworthy hands--still, admitting these
considerations, his mind was not easy at the thought of leaving Allan,
at a time when a crisis was approaching in Allan’s life.

He slung the knapsack loosely over his shoulder and put the question to
his conscience for the last time. “Can you trust yourself to see her,
day by day as you must see her--can you trust yourself to hear him talk
of her, hour by hour, as you must hear him--if you stay in this house?”
 Again the answer came, as it had come all through the night. Again his
heart warned him, in the very interests of the friendship that he held
sacred, to go while the time was his own; to go before the woman who
had possessed herself of his love had possessed herself of his power of
self-sacrifice and his sense of gratitude as well.

He looked round the room mechanically before he turned to leave it.
Every remembrance of the conversation that had just taken place between
Allan and himself pointed to the same conclusion, and warned him, as his
own conscience had warned him, to go.

Had he honestly mentioned any one of the objections which he, or any
man, must have seen to Allan’s attachment? Had he--as his knowledge of
his friend’s facile character bound him to do--warned Allan to distrust
his own hasty impulses, and to test himself by time and absence, before
he made sure that the happiness of his whole life was bound up in Miss
Gwilt? No. The bare doubt whether, in speaking of these things, he could
feel that he was speaking disinterestedly, had closed his lips, and
would close his lips for the future, till the time for speaking had gone
by. Was the right man to restrain Allan the man who would have given the
world, if he had it, to stand in Allan’s place? There was but one plain
course of action that an honest man and a grateful man could follow in
the position in which he stood. Far removed from all chance of seeing
her, and from all chance of hearing of her--alone with his own faithful
recollection of what he owed to his friend--he might hope to fight it
down, as he had fought down the tears in his childhood under his gypsy
master’s stick; as he had fought down the misery of his lonely youth
time in the country bookseller’s shop. “I must go,” he said, as he
turned wearily from the window, “before she comes to the house again. I
must go before another hour is over my head.”

With that resolution he left the room; and, in leaving it, took the
irrevocable step from Present to Future.


The rain was still falling. The sullen sky, all round the horizon,
still lowered watery and dark, when Midwinter, equipped for traveling,
appeared in Allan’s room.

“Good heavens!” cried Allan, pointing to the knapsack, “what does _that_
mean?”

“Nothing very extraordinary,” said Midwinter. “It only means--good-by.”

“Good-by!” repeated Allan, starting to his feet in astonishment.

Midwinter put him back gently into his chair, and drew a seat near to it
for himself.

“When you noticed that I looked ill this morning,” he said, “I told you
that I had been thinking of a way to recover my health, and that I meant
to speak to you about it later in the day. That latter time has come. I
have been out of sorts, as the phrase is, for some time past. You
have remarked it yourself, Allan, more than once; and, with your usual
kindness, you have allowed it to excuse many things in my conduct which
would have been otherwise unpardonable, even in your friendly eyes.”

“My dear fellow,” interposed Allan, “you don’t mean to say you are going
out on a walking tour in this pouring rain!”

“Never mind the rain,” rejoined Midwinter. “The rain and I are old
friends. You know something, Allan, of the life I led before you met
with me. From the time when I was a child, I have been used to hardship
and exposure. Night and day, sometimes for months together, I never
had my head under a roof. For years and years, the life of a wild
animal--perhaps I ought to say, the life of a savage--was the life
I led, while you were at home and happy. I have the leaven of the
vagabond--the vagabond animal, or the vagabond man, I hardly know
which--in me still. Does it distress you to hear me talk of myself in
this way? I won’t distress you. I will only say that the comfort and the
luxury of our life here are, at times, I think, a little too much for a
man to whom comforts and luxuries come as strange things. I want nothing
to put me right again but more air and exercise; fewer good breakfasts
and dinners, my dear friend, than I get here. Let me go back to some
of the hardships which this comfortable house is expressly made to shut
out. Let me meet the wind and weather as I used to meet them when I was
a boy; let me feel weary again for a little while, without a carriage
near to pick me up; and hungry when the night falls, with miles of
walking between my supper and me. Give me a week or two away, Allan--up
northward, on foot, to the Yorkshire moors--and I promise to return to
Thorpe Ambrose, better company for you and for your friends. I shall be
back before you have time to miss me. Mr. Bashwood will take care of the
business in the office; it is only for a fortnight, and it is for my own
good--let me go!”

“I don’t like it,” said Allan. “I don’t like your leaving me in this
sudden manner. There’s something so strange and dreary about it. Why not
try riding, if you want more exercise; all the horses in the stables are
at your disposal. At all events, you can’t possibly go to-day. Look at
the rain!”

Midwinter looked toward the window, and gently shook his head.

“I thought nothing of the rain,” he said, “when I was a mere child,
getting my living with the dancing dogs--why should I think anything of
it now? _My_ getting wet, and _your_ getting wet, Allan, are two very
different things. When I was a fisherman’s boy in the Hebrides, I hadn’t
a dry thread on me for weeks together.”

“But you’re not in the Hebrides now,” persisted Allan; “and I expect our
friends from the cottage to-morrow evening. You can’t start till after
to-morrow. Miss Gwilt is going to give us some more music, and you know
you like Miss Gwilt’s playing.”

Midwinter turned aside to buckle the straps of his knapsack. “Give me
another chance of hearing Miss Gwilt when I come back,” he said, with
his head down, and his fingers busy at the straps.

“You have one fault, my dear fellow, and it grows on you,” remonstrated
Allan; “when you have once taken a thing into our head, you’re the most
obstinate man alive. There’s no persuading you to listen to reason. If
you _will_ go,” added Allan, suddenly rising, as Midwinter took up his
hat and stick in silence, “I have half a mind to go with you, and try a
little roughing it too!”

“Go with _me_!” repeated Midwinter, with a momentary bitterness in his
tone, “and leave Miss Gwilt!”

Allan sat down again, and admitted the force of the objection in
significant silence. Without a word more on his side, Midwinter held
out his hand to take leave. They were both deeply moved, and each was
anxious to hide his agitation from the other. Allan took the last
refuge which his friend’s firmness left to him: he tried to lighten the
farewell moment by a joke.

“I’ll tell you what,” he said, “I begin to doubt if you’re quite cured
yet of your belief in the Dream. I suspect you’re running away from me,
after all!”

Midwinter looked at him, uncertain whether he was in jest or earnest.
“What do you mean?” he asked.

“What did you tell me,” retorted Allan, “when you took me in here the
other day, and made a clean breast of it? What did you say about this
room, and the second vision of the dream? By Jupiter!” he exclaimed,
starting to his feet once more, “now I look again, here _is_ the Second
Vision! There’s the rain pattering against the window--there’s the lawn
and the garden outside--here am I where I stood in the Dream--and there
are you where the Shadow stood. The whole scene complete, out-of-doors
and in; and _I’ve_ discovered it this time!”

A moment’s life stirred again in the dead remains of Midwinter’s
superstition. His color changed, and he eagerly, almost fiercely,
disputed Allan’s conclusion.

“No!” he said, pointing to the little marble figure on the bracket, “the
scene is _not_ complete--you have forgotten something, as usual. The
Dream is wrong this time, thank God--utterly wrong! In the vision
you saw, the statue was lying in fragments on the floor, and you were
stooping over them with a troubled and an angry mind. There stands the
statue safe and sound! and you haven’t the vestige of an angry feeling
in your mind, have you?” He seized Allan impulsively by the hand. At
the same moment the consciousness came to him that he was speaking and
acting as earnestly as if he still believed in the Dream. The color
rushed back over his face, and he turned away in confused silence.

“What did I tell you?” said Allan, laughing, a little uneasily. “That
night on the Wreck is hanging on your mind as heavily as ever.”

“Nothing hangs heavy on me,” retorted Midwinter, with a sudden outburst
of impatience, “but the knapsack on my back, and the time I’m wasting
here. I’ll go out, and see if it’s likely to clear up.”

“You’ll come back?” interposed Allan.

Midwinter opened the French window, and stepped out into the garden.

“Yes,” he said, answering with all his former gentleness of manner;
“I’ll come back in a fortnight. Good-by, Allan; and good luck with Miss
Gwilt!”

He pushed the window to, and was away across the garden before his
friend could open it again and follow him.

Allan rose, and took one step into the garden; then checked himself at
the window, and returned to his chair. He knew Midwinter well enough to
feel the total uselessness of attempting to follow him or to call him
back. He was gone, and for two weeks to come there was no hope of seeing
him again. An hour or more passed, the rain still fell, and the
sky still threatened. A heavier and heavier sense of loneliness and
despondency--the sense of all others which his previous life had least
fitted him to understand and endure--possessed itself of Allan’s mind.
In sheer horror of his own uninhabitably solitary house, he rang for his
hat and umbrella, and resolved to take refuge in the major’s cottage.

“I might have gone a little way with him,” thought Allan, his mind still
running on Midwinter as he put on his hat. “I should like to have seen
the dear old fellow fairly started on his journey.”

He took his umbrella. If he had noticed the face of the servant who gave
it to him, he might possibly have asked some questions, and might have
heard some news to interest him in his present frame of mind. As it was,
he went out without looking at the man, and without suspecting that his
servants knew more of Midwinter’s last moments at Thorpe Ambrose than he
knew himself. Not ten minutes since, the grocer and butcher had called
in to receive payment of their bills, and the grocer and the butcher had
seen how Midwinter started on his journey.

The grocer had met him first, not far from the house, stopping on his
way, in the pouring rain, to speak to a little ragged imp of a boy, the
pest of the neighborhood. The boy’s customary impudence had broken out
even more unrestrainedly than usual at the sight of the gentleman’s
knapsack. And what had the gentleman done in return? He had stopped
and looked distressed, and had put his two hands gently on the boy’s
shoulders. The grocer’s own eyes had seen that; and the grocer’s own
ears had heard him say, “Poor little chap! I know how the wind gnaws and
the rain wets through a ragged jacket, better than most people who have
got a good coat on their backs.” And with those words he had put his
hand in his pocket, and had rewarded the boy’s impudence with a present
of a shilling. “Wrong here-abouts,” said the grocer, touching his
forehead. “That’s my opinion of Mr. Armadale’s friend!”

The butcher had seen him further on in the journey, at the other end of
the town. He had stopped--again in the pouring rain--and this time to
look at nothing more remarkable than a half-starved cur, shivering on
a doorstep. “I had my eye on him,” said the butcher; “and what do you
think he did? He crossed the road over to my shop, and bought a bit of
meat fit for a Christian. Very well. He says good-morning, and crosses
back again; and, on the word of a man, down he goes on his knees on
the wet doorstep, and out he takes his knife, and cuts up the meat, and
gives it to the dog. Meat, I tell you again, fit for a Christian! I’m
not a hard man, ma’am,” concluded the butcher, addressing the cook, “but
meat’s meat; and it will serve your master’s friend right if he lives to
want it.”

With those old unforgotten sympathies of the old unforgotten time to
keep him company on his lonely road, he had left the town behind him,
and had been lost to view in the misty rain. The grocer and the butcher
had seen the last of him, and had judged a great nature, as all natures
_are_ judged from the grocer and the butcher point of view.

THE END OF THE SECOND BOOK.



BOOK THE THIRD.



I. MRS. MILROY.

Two days after Midwinter’s departure from Thorpe Ambrose, Mrs. Milroy,
having completed her morning toilet, and having dismissed her nurse,
rang the bell again five minutes afterward, and on the woman’s
re-appearance asked impatiently if the post had come in.

“Post?” echoed the nurse. “Haven’t you got your watch? Don’t you know
that it’s a good half-hour too soon to ask for your letters?” She spoke
with the confident insolence of a servant long accustomed to presume on
her mistress’s weakness and her mistress’s necessities. Mrs. Milroy, on
her side, appeared to be well used to her nurses manner; she gave her
orders composedly, without noticing it.

“When the postman does come,” she said, “see him yourself. I am
expecting a letter which I ought to have had two days since. I don’t
understand it. I’m beginning to suspect the servants.”

The nurse smiled contemptuously. “Whom will you suspect next?” she
asked. “There! don’t put yourself out. I’ll answer the gate-bell this
morning; and we’ll see if I can’t bring you a letter when the postman
comes.” Saying those words, with the tone and manner of a woman who is
quieting a fractious child, the nurse, without waiting to be dismissed,
left the room.

Mrs. Milroy turned slowly and wearily on her bed, when she was left by
herself again, and let the light from the window fall on her face. It
was the face of a woman who had once been handsome, and who was still,
so far as years went, in the prime of her life. Long-continued suffering
of body and long-continued irritation of mind had worn her away--in the
roughly expressive popular phrase--to skin and bone. The utter wreck of
her beauty was made a wreck horrible to behold, by her desperate efforts
to conceal the sight of it from her own eyes, from the eyes of her
husband and her child, from the eyes even of the doctor who attended
her, and whose business it was to penetrate to the truth. Her head, from
which the greater part of the hair had fallen off; would have been less
shocking to see than the hideously youthful wig by which she tried to
hide the loss. No deterioration of her complexion, no wrinkling of her
skin, could have been so dreadful to look at as the rouge that lay
thick on her cheeks, and the white enamel plastered on her forehead. The
delicate lace, and the bright trimming on her dressing-gown, the ribbons
in her cap, and the rings on her bony fingers, all intended to draw the
eye away from the change that had passed over her, directed the eye to
it, on the contrary; emphasized it; made it by sheer force of contrast
more hopeless and more horrible than it really was. An illustrated book
of the fashions, in which women were represented exhibiting their finery
by means of the free use of their limbs, lay on the bed, from which she
had not moved for years without being lifted by her nurse. A hand-glass
was placed with the book so that she could reach it easily. She took up
the glass after her attendant had left the room, and looked at her face
with an unblushing interest and attention which she would have been
ashamed of herself at the age of eighteen.

“Older and older, and thinner and thinner!” she said. “The major will
soon be a free man; but I’ll have that red-haired hussy out of the house
first!”

She dropped the looking-glass on the counterpane, and clinched the hand
that held it. Her eyes suddenly riveted themselves on a little crayon
portrait of her husband hanging on the opposite wall; they looked at
the likeness with the hard and cruel brightness of the eyes of a bird
of prey. “Red is your taste in your old age is it?” she said to the
portrait. “Red hair, and a scrofulous complexion, and a padded figure,
a ballet-girl’s walk, and a pickpocket’s light fingers. _Miss_ Gwilt!
_Miss_, with those eyes, and that walk!” She turned her head suddenly
on the pillow, and burst into a harsh, jeering laugh. “_Miss_!” she
repeated over and over again, with the venomously pointed emphasis of
the most merciless of all human forms of contempt--the contempt of one
woman for another.

The age we live in is an age which finds no human creature inexcusable.
Is there an excuse for Mrs. Milroy? Let the story of her life answer the
question.

She had married the major at an unusually early age; and, in marrying
him, had taken a man for her husband who was old enough to be her
father--a man who, at that time, had the reputation, and not unjustly,
of having made the freest use of his social gifts and his advantages of
personal appearance in the society of women. Indifferently educated, and
below her husband in station, she had begun by accepting his addresses
under the influence of her own flattered vanity, and had ended by
feeling the fascination which Major Milroy had exercised over women
infinitely her mental superiors in his earlier life. He had been
touched, on his side, by her devotion, and had felt, in his turn, the
attraction of her beauty, her freshness, and her youth. Up to the time
when their little daughter and only child had reached the age of eight
years, their married life had been an unusually happy one. At that
period the double misfortune fell on the household, of the failure of
the wife’s health, and the almost total loss of the husband’s fortune;
and from that moment the domestic happiness of the married pair was
virtually at an end.

Having reached the age when men in general are readier, under the
pressure of calamity, to resign themselves than to resist, the major had
secured the little relics of his property, had retired into the country,
and had patiently taken refuge in his mechanical pursuits. A woman
nearer to him in age, or a woman with a better training and more
patience of disposition than his wife possessed, would have understood
the major’s conduct, and have found consolation in the major’s
submission. Mrs. Milroy found consolation in nothing. Neither nature
nor training helped her to meet resignedly the cruel calamity which had
struck at her in the bloom of womanhood and the prime of beauty. The
curse of incurable sickness blighted her at once and for life.

Suffering can, and does, develop the latent evil that there is in
humanity, as well as the latent good. The good that was in Mrs. Milroy’s
nature shrank up, under that subtly deteriorating influence in which the
evil grew and flourished. Month by month, as she became the weaker
woman physically, she became the worse woman morally. All that was mean,
cruel, and false in her expanded in steady proportion to the contraction
of all that had once been generous, gentle, and true. Old suspicions
of her husband’s readiness to relapse into the irregularities of his
bachelor life, which, in her healthier days of mind and body, she had
openly confessed to him--which she had always sooner or later seen to
be suspicions that he had not deserved--came back, now that sickness had
divorced her from him, in the form of that baser conjugal distrust which
keeps itself cunningly secret; which gathers together its inflammatory
particles atom by atom into a heap, and sets the slowly burning frenzy
of jealousy alight in the mind. No proof of her husband’s blameless
and patient life that could now be shown to Mrs. Milroy; no appeal that
could be made to her respect for herself, or for her child growing up
to womanhood, availed to dissipate the terrible delusion born of her
hopeless illness, and growing steadily with its growth. Like all other
madness, it had its ebb and flow, its time of spasmodic outburst, and
its time of deceitful repose; but, active or passive, it was always in
her. It had injured innocent servants, and insulted blameless strangers.
It had brought the first tears of shame and sorrow into her daughter’s
eyes, and had set the deepest lines that scored it in her husband’s
face. It had made the secret misery of the little household for years;
and it was now to pass beyond the family limits, and to influence coming
events at Thorpe Ambrose, in which the future interests of Allan and
Allan’s friend were vitally concerned.

A moment’s glance at the posture of domestic affairs in the cottage,
prior to the engagement of the new governess, is necessary to the due
appreciation of the serious consequences that followed Miss Gwilt’s
appearance on the scene.

On the marriage of the governess who had lived in his service for many
years (a woman of an age and an appearance to set even Mrs. Milroy’s
jealousy at defiance), the major had considered the question of sending
his daughter away from home far more seriously than his wife supposed.
He was conscious that scenes took place in the house at which no young
girl should be present; but he felt an invincible reluctance to apply
the one efficient remedy--the keeping his daughter away from home in
school time and holiday time alike. The struggle thus raised in his mind
once set at rest, by the resolution to advertise for a new governess,
Major Milroy’s natural tendency to avoid trouble rather than to meet
it had declared itself in its customary manner. He had closed his eyes
again on his home anxieties as quietly as usual, and had gone back, as
he had gone back on hundreds of previous occasions, to the consoling
society of his old friend the clock.

It was far otherwise with the major’s wife. The chance which her husband
had entirely overlooked, that the new governess who was to come might
be a younger and a more attractive woman than the old governess who had
gone, was the first chance that presented itself as possible to Mrs.
Milroy’s mind. She had said nothing. Secretly waiting, and secretly
nursing her inveterate distrust, she had encouraged her husband and her
daughter to leave her on the occasion of the picnic, with the express
purpose of making an opportunity for seeing the new governess alone. The
governess had shown herself; and the smoldering fire of Mrs. Milroy’s
jealousy had burst into flame in the moment when she and the handsome
stranger first set eyes on each other.

The interview over, Mrs. Milroy’s suspicions fastened at once and
immovably on her husband’s mother.

She was well aware that there was no one else in London on whom the
major could depend to make the necessary inquiries; she was well aware
that Miss Gwilt had applied for the situation, in the first instance,
as a stranger answering an advertisement published in a newspaper. Yet
knowing this, she had obstinately closed her eyes, with the blind frenzy
of the blindest of all the passions, to the facts straight before her;
and, looking back to the last of many quarrels between them which
had ended in separating the elder lady and herself, had seized on the
conclusion that Miss Gwilt’s engagement was due to her mother-in-law’s
vindictive enjoyment of making mischief in her household. The inference
which the very servants themselves, witnesses of the family scandal, had
correctly drawn--that the major’s mother, in securing the services of
a well-recommended governess for her son, had thought it no part of her
duty to consider that governess’s looks in the purely fanciful interests
of the major’s wife--was an inference which it was simply impossible
to convey into Mrs. Milroy’s mind. Miss Gwilt had barely closed the
sick-room door when the whispered words hissed out of Mrs. Milroy’s
lips, “Before another week is over your head, my lady, you go!”

From that moment, through the wakeful night and the weary day, the one
object of the bedridden woman’s life was to procure the new governess’s
dismissal from the house.

The assistance of the nurse, in the capacity of spy, was secured--as
Mrs. Milroy had been accustomed to secure other extra services which her
attendant was not bound to render her--by a present of a dress from the
mistress’s wardrobe. One after another articles of wearing apparel which
were now useless to Mrs. Milroy had ministered in this way to feed the
nurse’s greed--the insatiable greed of an ugly woman for fine clothes.
Bribed with the smartest dress she had secured yet, the household spy
took her secret orders, and applied herself with a vile enjoyment of it
to her secret work.

The days passed, the work went on; but nothing had come of it. Mistress
and servant had a woman to deal with who was a match for both of them.

Repeated intrusions on the major, when the governess happened to be in
the same room with him, failed to discover the slightest impropriety of
word, look, or action, on either side. Stealthy watching and listening
at the governess’s bedroom door detected that she kept a light in her
room at late hours of the night, and that she groaned and ground her
teeth in her sleep--and detected nothing more. Careful superintendence
in the day-time proved that she regularly posted her own letters,
instead of giving them to the servant; and that on certain occasions,
when the occupation of her hours out of lesson time and walking time was
left at her own disposal, she had been suddenly missed from the garden,
and then caught coming back alone to it from the park. Once and once
only, the nurse had found an opportunity of following her out of the
garden, had been detected immediately in the park, and had been asked
with the most exasperating politeness if she wished to join Miss Gwilt
in a walk. Small circumstances of this kind, which were sufficiently
suspicious to the mind of a jealous woman, were discovered in abundance.
But circumstances, on which to found a valid ground of complaint that
might be laid before the major, proved to be utterly wanting. Day
followed day, and Miss Gwilt remained persistently correct in her
conduct, and persistently irreproachable in her relations toward her
employer and her pupil.

Foiled in this direction, Mrs. Milroy tried next to find an assailable
place in the statement which the governess’s reference had made on the
subject of the governess’s character.

Obtaining from the major the minutely careful report which his mother
had addressed to him on this topic, Mrs. Milroy read and reread it, and
failed to find the weak point of which she was in search in any part
of the letter. All the customary questions on such occasions had been
asked, and all had been scrupulously and plainly answered. The one sole
opening for an attack which it was possible to discover was an opening
which showed itself, after more practical matters had been all disposed
of, in the closing sentences of the letter.

“I was so struck,” the passage ran, “by the grace and distinction of
Miss Gwilt’s manners that I took an opportunity, when she was out of the
room, of asking how she first came to be governess. ‘In the usual way,’
I was told. ‘A sad family misfortune, in which she behaved nobly. She
is a very sensitive person, and shrinks from speaking of it among
strangers--a natural reluctance which I have always felt it a matter of
delicacy to respect.’ Hearing this, of course, I felt the same delicacy
on my side. It was no part of my duty to intrude on the poor thing’s
private sorrows; my only business was to do what I have now done, to
make sure that I was engaging a capable and respectable governess to
instruct my grandchild.”

After careful consideration of these lines, Mrs. Milroy, having a
strong desire to find circumstances suspicious, found them suspicious
accordingly. She determined to sift the mystery of Miss Gwilt’s family
misfortunes to the bottom, on the chance of extracting from it something
useful to her purpose. There were two ways of doing this. She might
begin by questioning the governess herself, or she might begin by
questioning the governess’s reference. Experience of Miss Gwilt’s
quickness of resource in dealing with awkward questions at their
introductory interview decided her on taking the latter course. “I’ll
get the particulars from the reference first,” thought Mrs. Milroy, “and
then question the creature herself, and see if the two stories agree.”

The letter of inquiry was short, and scrupulously to the point.

Mrs. Milroy began by informing her correspondent that the state of her
health necessitated leaving her daughter entirely under the governess’s
influence and control. On that account she was more anxious than most
mothers to be thoroughly informed in every respect about the person to
whom she confided the entire charge of an only child; and feeling this
anxiety, she might perhaps be excused for putting what might be thought,
after the excellent character Miss Gwilt had received, a somewhat
unnecessary question. With that preface, Mrs. Milroy came to the point,
and requested to be informed of the circumstances which had obliged Miss
Gwilt to go out as a governess.

The letter, expressed in these terms, was posted the same day. On the
morning when the answer was due, no answer appeared. The next morning
arrived, and still there was no reply. When the third morning came, Mrs.
Milroy’s impatience had broken loose from all restraint. She had rung
for the nurse in the manner which has been already recorded, and had
ordered the woman to be in waiting to receive the letters of the morning
with her own hands. In this position matters now stood; and in these
domestic circumstances the new series of events at Thorpe Ambrose took
their rise.


Mrs. Milroy had just looked at her watch, and had just put her hand once
more to the bell-pull, when the door opened and the nurse entered the
room.

“Has the postman come?” asked Mrs. Milroy.

The nurse laid a letter on the bed without answering, and waited, with
unconcealed curiosity, to watch the effect which it produced on her
mistress.

Mrs. Milroy tore open the envelope the instant it was in her hand. A
printed paper appeared (which she threw aside), surrounding a letter
(which she looked at) in her own handwriting! She snatched up the
printed paper. It was the customary Post-office circular, informing her
that her letter had been duly presented at the right address, and that
the person whom she had written to was not to be found.

“Something wrong?” asked the nurse, detecting a change in her mistress’s
face.

The question passed unheeded. Mrs. Milroy’s writing-desk was on the
table at the bedside. She took from it the letter which the major’s
mother had written to her son, and turned to the page containing
the name and address of Miss Gwilt’s reference. “Mrs. Mandeville, 18
Kingsdown Crescent, Bayswater,” she read, eagerly to herself, and then
looked at the address on her own returned letter. No error had been
committed: the directions were identically the same.

“Something wrong?” reiterated the nurse, advancing a step nearer to the
bed.

“Thank God--yes!” cried Mrs. Milroy, with a sudden outburst of
exultation. She tossed the Post-office circular to the nurse, and beat
her bony hands on the bedclothes in an ecstasy of anticipated triumph.
“Miss Gwilt’s an impostor! Miss Gwilt’s an impostor! If I die for it,
Rachel, I’ll be carried to the window to see the police take her away!”

“It’s one thing to say she’s an impostor behind her back, and another
thing to prove it to her face,” remarked the nurse. She put her hand
as she spoke into her apron pocket, and, with a significant look at her
mistress, silently produced a second letter.

“For me?” asked Mrs. Milroy.

“No!” said the nurse; “for Miss Gwilt.”

The two women eyed each other, and understood each other without another
word.

“Where is she?” said Mrs. Milroy.

The nurse pointed in the direction of the park. “Out again, for another
walk before breakfast--by herself.”

Mrs. Milroy beckoned to the nurse to stoop close over her. “Can you open
it, Rachel?” she whispered.

Rachel nodded.

“Can you close it again, so that nobody would know?”

“Can you spare the scarf that matches your pearl gray dress?” asked
Rachel.

“Take it!” said Mrs. Milroy, impatiently.

The nurse opened the wardrobe in silence, took the scarf in silence, and
left the room in silence. In less than five minutes she came back with
the envelope of Miss Gwilt’s letter open in her hand.

“Thank you, ma’am, for the scarf,” said Rachel, putting the open letter
composedly on the counterpane of the bed.

Mrs. Milroy looked at the envelope. It had been closed as usual by means
of adhesive gum, which had been made to give way by the application of
steam. As Mrs. Milroy took out the letter, her hand trembled violently,
and the white enamel parted into cracks over the wrinkles on her
forehead.

Rachel withdrew to the window to keep watch on the park. “Don’t hurry,”
 she said. “No signs of her yet.”

Mrs. Milroy still paused, keeping the all-important morsel of paper
folded in her hand. She could have taken Miss Gwilt’s life, but she
hesitated at reading Miss Gwilt’s letter.

“Are you troubled with scruples?” asked the nurse, with a sneer.
“Consider it a duty you owe to your daughter.”

“You wretch!” said Mrs. Milroy. With that expression of opinion, she
opened the letter.

It was evidently written in great haste, was undated, and was signed in
initials only. Thus it ran:

“Diana Street.

“MY DEAR LYDIA--The cab is waiting at the door, and I have only a moment
to tell you that I am obliged to leave London, on business, for three
or four days, or a week at longest. My letters will be forwarded if
you write. I got yours yesterday, and I agree with you that it is very
important to put him off the awkward subject of yourself and your family
as long as you safely can. The better you know him, the better you will
be able to make up the sort of story that will do. Once told, you will
have to stick to it; and, _having_ to stick to it, beware of making
it complicated, and beware of making it in a hurry. I will write again
about this, and give you my own ideas. In the meantime, don’t risk
meeting him too often in the park.

“Yours, M. O.”

“Well?” asked the nurse, returning to the bedside. “Have you done with
it?”

“Meeting him in the park!” repeated Mrs. Milroy, with her eyes still
fastened on the letter. “_Him_! Rachel, where is the major?”

“In his own room.”

“I don’t believe it!”

“Have your own way. I want the letter and the envelope.”

“Can you close it again so that she won’t know?”

“What I can open I can shut. Anything more?”

“Nothing more.”

Mrs. Milroy was left alone again, to review her plan of attack by the
new light that had now been thrown on Miss Gwilt.

The information that had been gained by opening the governess’s letter
pointed plainly to the conclusion that an adventuress had stolen her way
into the house by means of a false reference. But having been obtained
by an act of treachery which it was impossible to acknowledge, it was
not information that could be used either for warning the major or for
exposing Miss Gwilt. The one available weapon in Mrs. Milroy’s hands was
the weapon furnished by her own returned letter, and the one question to
decide was how to make the best and speediest use of it.

The longer she turned the matter over in her mind, the more hasty and
premature seemed the exultation which she had felt at the first sight of
the Post-office circular. That a lady acting as reference to a governess
should have quitted her residence without leaving any trace behind her,
and without even mentioning an address to which her letters could be
forwarded, was a circumstance in itself sufficiently suspicious to be
mentioned to the major. But Mrs. Milroy, however perverted her estimate
of her husband might be in some respects, knew enough of his character
to be assured that, if she told him what had happened, he would frankly
appeal to the governess herself for an explanation. Miss Gwilt’s
quickness and cunning would, in that case, produce some plausible answer
on the spot, which the major’s partiality would be only too ready to
accept; and she would at the same time, no doubt, place matters
in train, by means of the post, for the due arrival of all needful
confirmation on the part of her accomplice in London. To keep strict
silence for the present, and to institute (without the governess’s
knowledge) such inquiries as might be necessary to the discovery of
undeniable evidence, was plainly the only safe course to take with
such a man as the major, and with such a woman as Miss Gwilt. Helpless
herself, to whom could Mrs. Milroy commit the difficult and dangerous
task of investigation? The nurse, even if she was to be trusted, could
not be spared at a day’s notice, and could not be sent away without
the risk of exciting remark. Was there any other competent and reliable
person to employ, either at Thorpe Ambrose or in London? Mrs. Milroy
turned from side to side of the bed, searching every corner of her mind
for the needful discovery, and searching in vain. “Oh, if I could only
lay my hand on some man I could trust!” she thought, despairingly. “If I
only knew where to look for somebody to help me!”

As the idea passed through her mind, the sound of her daughter’s voice
startled her from the other side of the door.

“May I come in?” asked Neelie.

“What do you want?” returned Mrs. Milroy, impatiently.

“I have brought up your breakfast, mamma.”

“My breakfast?” repeated Mrs. Milroy, in surprise. “Why doesn’t Rachel
bring it up as usual?” She considered a moment, and then called out,
sharply, “Come in!”



II. THE MAN IS FOUND.

Neelie entered the room, carrying the tray with the tea, the dry toast,
and the pat of butter which composed the invalid’s invariable breakfast.

“What does this mean?” asked Mrs. Milroy, speaking and looking as she
might have spoken and looked if the wrong servant had come into the
room.

Neelie put the tray down on the bedside table. “I thought I should like
to bring you up your breakfast, mamma, for once in a way,” she replied,
“and I asked Rachel to let me.”

“Come here,” said Mrs. Milroy, “and wish me good-morning.”

Neelie obeyed. As she stooped to kiss her mother, Mrs. Milroy caught her
by the arm, and turned her roughly to the light. There were plain signs
of disturbance and distress in her daughter’s face. A deadly thrill of
terror ran through Mrs. Milroy on the instant. She suspected that the
opening of the letter had been discovered by Miss Gwilt, and that the
nurse was keeping out of the way in consequence.

“Let me go, mamma,” said Neelie, shrinking under her mother’s grasp.
“You hurt me.”

“Tell me why you have brought up my breakfast this morning,” persisted
Mrs. Milroy.

“I have told you, mamma.”

“You have not! You have made an excuse; I see it in your face. Come!
what is it?”

Neelie’s resolution gave way before her mother’s. She looked aside
uneasily at the things in the tray. “I have been vexed,” she said, with
an effort; “and I didn’t want to stop in the breakfast-room. I wanted to
come up here, and to speak to you.”

“Vexed? Who has vexed you? What has happened? Has Miss Gwilt anything to
do with it?”

Neelie looked round again at her mother in sudden curiosity and alarm.
“Mamma!” she said, “you read my thoughts. I declare you frighten me. It
_was_ Miss Gwilt.”

Before Mrs. Milroy could say a word more on her side, the door opened
and the nurse looked in.

“Have you got what you want?” she asked, as composedly as usual. “Miss,
there, insisted on taking your tray up this morning. Has she broken
anything?”

“Go to the window. I want to speak to Rachel,” said Mrs. Milroy.

As soon as her daughter’s back was turned, she beckoned eagerly to the
nurse. “Anything wrong?” she asked, in a whisper. “Do you think she
suspects us?”

The nurse turned away with her hard, sneering smile. “I told you it
should be done,” she said, “and it _has_ been done. She hasn’t the ghost
of a suspicion. I waited in the room; and I saw her take up the letter
and open it.”

Mrs. Milroy drew a deep breath of relief. “Thank you,” she said, loud
enough for her daughter to hear. “I want nothing more.”

The nurse withdrew; and Neelie came back from the window. Mrs. Milroy
took her by the hand, and looked at her more attentively and more kindly
than usual. Her daughter interested her that morning; for her daughter
had something to say on the subject of Miss Gwilt.

“I used to think that you promised to be pretty, child,” she said,
cautiously resuming the interrupted conversation in the least direct
way. “But you don’t seem to be keeping your promise. You look out of
health and out of spirits. What is the matter with you?”

If there had been any sympathy between mother and child, Neelie might
have owned the truth. She might have said frankly: “I am looking ill,
because my life is miserable to me. I am fond of Mr. Armadale, and Mr.
Armadale was once fond of me. We had one little disagreement, only one,
in which I was to blame. I wanted to tell him so at the time, and I have
wanted to tell him so ever since; and Miss Gwilt stands between us and
prevents me. She has made us like strangers; she has altered him, and
taken him away from me. He doesn’t look at me as he did; he doesn’t
speak to me as he did; he is never alone with me as he used to be; I
can’t say the words to him that I long to say; and I can’t write to him,
for it would look as if I wanted to get him back. It is all over between
me and Mr. Armadale; and it is that woman’s fault. There is ill-blood
between Miss Gwilt and me the whole day long; and say what I may, and do
what I may, she always gets the better of me, and always puts me in the
wrong. Everything I saw at Thorpe Ambrose pleased me, everything I did
at Thorpe Ambrose made me happy, before she came. Nothing pleases me,
and nothing makes me happy now!” If Neelie had ever been accustomed to
ask her mother’s advice and to trust herself to her mother’s love, she
might have said such words as these. As it was, the tears came into her
eyes, and she hung her head in silence.

“Come!” said Mrs. Milroy, beginning to lose patience. “You have
something to say to me about Miss Gwilt. What is it?”

Neelie forced back her tears, and made an effort to answer.

“She aggravates me beyond endurance, mamma; I can’t bear her; I shall do
something--” Neelie stopped, and stamped her foot angrily on the floor.
“I shall throw something at her head if we go on much longer like this!
I should have thrown something this morning if I hadn’t left the room.
Oh, do speak to papa about it! Do find out some reason for sending her
away! I’ll go to school--I’ll do anything in the world to get rid of
Miss Gwilt!”

To get rid of Miss Gwilt! At those words--at that echo from her
daughter’s lips of the one dominant desire kept secret in her own
heart--Mrs. Milroy slowly raised herself in bed. What did it mean? Was
the help she wanted coming from the very last of all quarters in which
she could have thought of looking for it?

“Why do you want to get rid of Miss Gwilt?” she asked. “What have you
got to complain of?”

“Nothing!” said Neelie. “That’s the aggravation of it. Miss Gwilt won’t
let me have anything to complain of. She is perfectly detestable; she
is driving me mad; and she is the pink of propriety all the time. I dare
say it’s wrong, but I don’t care--I hate her!”

Mrs. Milroy’s eyes questioned her daughter’s face as they had
never questioned it yet. There was something under the surface,
evidently--something which it might be of vital importance to her own
purpose to discover--which had not risen into view. She went on probing
her way deeper and deeper into Neelie’s mind, with a warmer and warmer
interest in Neelie’s secret.

“Pour me out a cup of tea,” she said; “and don’t excite yourself, my
dear. Why do you speak to _me_ about this? Why don’t you speak to your
father?”

“I have tried to speak to papa,” said Neelie. “But it’s no use; he
is too good to know what a wretch she is. She is always on her best
behavior with him; she is always contriving to be useful to him. I
can’t make him understand why I dislike Miss Gwilt; I can’t make _you_
understand--I only understand it myself.” She tried to pour out the
tea, and in trying upset the cup. “I’ll go downstairs again!” exclaimed
Neelie, with a burst of tears. “I’m not fit for anything; I can’t even
pour out a cup of tea!”

Mrs. Milroy seized her hand and stopped her. Trifling as it was,
Neelie’s reference to the relations between the major and Miss Gwilt had
roused her mother’s ready jealousy. The restraints which Mrs. Milroy
had laid on herself thus far vanished in a moment--vanished even in the
presence of a girl of sixteen, and that girl her own child!

“Wait here!” she said, eagerly. “You have come to the right place and
the right person. Go on abusing Miss Gwilt. I like to hear you--I hate
her, too!”

“You, mamma!” exclaimed Neelie, looking at her mother in astonishment.

For a moment Mrs. Milroy hesitated before she said more. Some last-left
instinct of her married life in its earlier and happier time pleaded
hard with her to respect the youth and the sex of her child. But
jealousy respects nothing; in the heaven above and on the earth beneath,
nothing but itself. The slow fire of self-torment, burning night and day
in the miserable woman’s breast, flashed its deadly light into her eyes,
as the next words dropped slowly and venomously from her lips.

“If you had had eyes in your head, you would never have gone to your
father,” she said. “Your father has reasons of his own for hearing
nothing that you can say, or that anybody can say, against Miss Gwilt.”

Many girls at Neelie’s age would have failed to see the meaning hidden
under those words. It was the daughter’s misfortune, in this instance,
to have had experience enough of the mother to understand her. Neelie
started back from the bedside, with her face in a glow. “Mamma!” she
said, “you are talking horribly! Papa is the best, and dearest, and
kindest--oh, I won’t hear it! I won’t hear it!”

Mrs. Milroy’s fierce temper broke out in an instant--broke out all the
more violently from her feeling herself, in spite of herself, to have
been in the wrong.

“You impudent little fool!” she retorted, furiously. “Do you think I
want _you_ to remind me of what I owe to your father? Am I to learn how
to speak of your father, and how to think of your father, and how to
love and honor your father, from a forward little minx like you! I was
finely disappointed, I can tell you, when you were born--I wished for
a boy, you impudent hussy! If you ever find a man who is fool enough to
marry you, he will be a lucky man if you only love him half as well,
a quarter as well, a hundred-thousandth part as well, as I loved your
father. Ah, you can cry when it’s too late; you can come creeping back
to beg your mother’s pardon after you have insulted her. You little
dowdy, half-grown creature! I was handsomer than ever you will be when
I married your father. I would have gone through fire and water to serve
your father! If he had asked me to cut off one of my arms, I would have
done it--I would have done it to please him!” She turned suddenly with
her face to the wall, forgetting her daughter, forgetting her husband,
forgetting everything but the torturing remembrance of her lost beauty.
“My arms!” she repeated to herself, faintly. “What arms I had when I was
young!” She snatched up the sleeve of her dressing-gown furtively, with
a shudder. “Oh, look at it now! look at it now!”

Neelie fell on her knees at the bedside and hid her face. In sheer
despair of finding comfort and help anywhere else, she had cast herself
impulsively on her mother’s mercy; and this was how it had ended! “Oh,
mamma,” she pleaded, “you know I didn’t mean to offend you! I couldn’t
help it when you spoke so of my father. Oh, do, do forgive me!”

Mrs. Milroy turned again on her pillow, and looked at her daughter
vacantly. “Forgive you?” she repeated, with her mind still in the past,
groping its way back darkly to the present.

“I beg your pardon, mamma--I beg your pardon on my knees. I am so
unhappy; I do so want a little kindness! Won’t you forgive me?”

“Wait a little,” rejoined Mrs. Milroy. “Ah,” she said, after an
interval, “now I know! Forgive you? Yes; I’ll forgive you on one
condition.” She lifted Neelie’s head, and looked her searchingly in the
face. “Tell me why you hate Miss Gwilt! You’ve a reason of your own for
hating her, and you haven’t confessed it yet.”

Neelie’s head dropped again. The burning color that she was hiding by
hiding her face showed itself on her neck. Her mother saw it, and gave
her time.

“Tell me,” reiterated Mrs. Milroy, more gently, “why do you hate her?”

The answer came reluctantly, a word at a time, in fragments.

“Because she is trying--”

“Trying what?”

“Trying to make somebody who is much--”

“Much what?”

“Much too young for her--”

“Marry her?”

“Yes, mamma.”

Breathlessly interested, Mrs. Milroy leaned forward, and twined her hand
caressingly in her daughter’s hair.

“Who is it, Neelie?” she asked, in a whisper.

“You will never say I told you, mamma?”

“Never! Who is it?”

“Mr. Armadale.”

Mrs. Milroy leaned back on her pillow in dead silence. The plain
betrayal of her daughter’s first love, by her daughter’s own lips, which
would have absorbed the whole attention of other mothers, failed to
occupy her for a moment. Her jealousy, distorting all things to fit its
own conclusions, was busied in distorting what she had just heard. “A
blind,” she thought, “which has deceived my girl. It doesn’t deceive
_me_. Is Miss Gwilt likely to succeed?” she asked, aloud. “Does Mr.
Armadale show any sort of interest in her?”

Neelie looked up at her mother for the first time. The hardest part
of the confession was over now. She had revealed the truth about Miss
Gwilt, and she had openly mentioned Allan’s name.

“He shows the most unaccountable interest,” she said. “It’s impossible
to understand it. It’s downright infatuation. I haven’t patience to talk
about it!”

“How do _you_ come to be in Mr. Armadale’s secrets?” inquired Mrs.
Milroy. “Has he informed _you_, of all the people in the world, of his
interest in Miss Gwilt?”

“Me!” exclaimed Neelie, indignantly. “It’s quite bad enough that he
should have told papa.”

At the re-appearance of the major in the narrative, Mrs. Milroy’s
interest in the conversation rose to its climax. She raised herself
again from the pillow. “Get a chair,” she said. “Sit down, child, and
tell me all about it. Every word, mind--every word!”

“I can only tell you, mamma, what papa told me.”

“When?”

“Saturday. I went in with papa’s lunch to the workshop, and he said,
‘I have just had a visit from Mr. Armadale; and I want to give you
a caution while I think of it.’ I didn’t say anything, mamma; I only
waited. Papa went on, and told me that Mr. Armadale had been speaking to
him on the subject of Miss Gwilt, and that he had been asking a question
about her which nobody in his position had a right to ask. Papa said he
had been obliged, good-humoredly, to warn Mr. Armadale to be a little
more delicate, and a little more careful next time. I didn’t feel much
interested, mamma; it didn’t matter to _me_ what Mr. Armadale said or
did. Why should I care about it?”

“Never mind yourself,” interposed Mrs. Milroy, sharply. “Go on with
what your father said. What was he doing when he was talking about Miss
Gwilt? How did he look?”

“Much as usual, mamma. He was walking up and down the workshop; and I
took his arm and walked up and down with him.”

“I don’t care what _you_ were doing,” said Mrs. Milroy, more and more
irritably. “Did your father tell you what Mr. Armadale’s question was,
or did he not?”

“Yes, mamma. He said Mr. Armadale began by mentioning that he was very
much interested in Miss Gwilt, and he then went on to ask whether papa
could tell him anything about her family misfortunes--”

“What!” cried Mrs. Milroy. The word burst from her almost in a scream,
and the white enamel on her face cracked in all directions. “Mr.
Armadale said _that_?” she went on, leaning out further and further over
the side of the bed.

Neelie started up, and tried to put her mother back on the pillow.

“Mamma!” she exclaimed, “are you in pain? Are you ill? You frighten me!”

“Nothing, nothing, nothing,” said Mrs. Milroy. She was too violently
agitated to make any other than the commonest excuse. “My nerves are bad
this morning; don’t notice it. I’ll try the other side of the pillow.
Go on! go on! I’m listening, though I’m not looking at you.” She turned
her face to the wall, and clinched her trembling hands convulsively
beneath the bedclothes. “I’ve got her!” she whispered to herself, under
her breath. “I’ve got her at last!”

“I’m afraid I’ve been talking too much,” said Neelie. “I’m afraid I’ve
been stopping here too long. Shall I go downstairs, mamma, and come back
later in the day?”

“Go on,” repeated Mrs. Milroy, mechanically. “What did your father say
next? Anything more about Mr. Armadale?”

“Nothing more, except how papa answered him,” replied Neelie. “Papa
repeated his own words when he told me about it. He said, ‘In the
absence of any confidence volunteered by the lady herself, Mr. Armadale,
all I know or wish to know--and you must excuse me for saying, all
any one else need know or wish to know--is that Miss Gwilt gave me a
perfectly satisfactory reference before she entered my house.’ Severe,
mamma, wasn’t it? I don’t pity him in the least; he richly deserved
it. The next thing was papa’s caution to _me_. He told me to check Mr.
Armadale’s curiosity if he applied to me next. As if he was likely to
apply to me! And as if I should listen to him if he did! That’s all,
mamma. You won’t suppose, will you, that I have told you this because I
want to hinder Mr. Armadale from marrying Miss Gwilt? Let him marry her
if he pleases; I don’t care!” said Neelie, in a voice that faltered
a little, and with a face which was hardly composed enough to be in
perfect harmony with a declaration of indifference. “All I want is to
be relieved from the misery of having Miss Gwilt for my governess. I’d
rather go to school. I should like to go to school. My mind’s quite
changed about all that, only I haven’t the heart to tell papa. I don’t
know what’s come to me, I don’t seem to have heart enough for anything
now; and when papa takes me on his knee in the evening, and says, ‘Let’s
have a talk, Neelie,’ he makes me cry. Would you mind breaking it to
him, mamma, that I’ve changed my mind, and I want to go to school?” The
tears rose thickly in her eyes, and she failed to see that her mother
never even turned on the pillow to look round at her.

“Yes, yes,” said Mrs. Milroy, vacantly. “You’re a good girl; you shall
go to school.”

The cruel brevity of the reply, and the tone in which it was spoken,
told Neelie plainly that her mother’s attention had been wandering
far away from her, and that it was useless and needless to prolong the
interview. She turned aside quietly, without a word of remonstrance.
It was nothing new in her experience to find herself shut out from her
mother’s sympathies. She looked at her eyes in the glass, and, pouring
out some cold water, bathed her face. “Miss Gwilt shan’t see I’ve been
crying!” thought Neelie, as she went back to the bedside to take her
leave. “I’ve tired you out, mamma,” she said, gently. “Let me go now;
and let me come back a little later when you have had some rest.”

“Yes,” repeated her mother, as mechanically as ever; “a little later
when I have had some rest.”

Neelie left the room. The minute after the door had closed on her, Mrs.
Milroy rang the bell for her nurse. In the face of the narrative she had
just heard, in the face of every reasonable estimate of probabilities,
she held to her own jealous conclusions as firmly as ever. “Mr. Armadale
may believe her, and my daughter may believe her,” thought the furious
woman. “But I know the major; and she can’t deceive _me_!”

The nurse came in. “Prop me up,” said Mrs. Milroy. “And give me my desk.
I want to write.”

“You’re excited,” replied the nurse. “You’re not fit to write.”

“Give me the desk,” reiterated Mrs. Milroy.

“Anything more?” asked Rachel, repeating her invariable formula as she
placed the desk on the bed.

“Yes. Come back in half an hour. I shall want you to take a letter to
the great house.”

The nurse’s sardonic composure deserted her for once. “Mercy on us!”
 she exclaimed, with an accent of genuine surprise. “What next? You don’t
mean to say you’re going to write--?”

“I am going to write to Mr. Armadale,” interposed Mrs. Milroy; “and you
are going to take the letter to him, and wait for an answer; and,
mind this, not a living soul but our two selves must know of it in the
house.”

“Why are you writing to Mr. Armadale?” asked Rachel. “And why is nobody
to know of it but our two selves?”

“Wait,” rejoined Mrs. Milroy, “and you will see.”

The nurse’s curiosity, being a woman’s curiosity, declined to wait.

“I’ll help you with my eyes open,” she said; “but I won’t help you
blindfold.”

“Oh, if I only had the use of my limbs!” groaned Mrs. Milroy. “You
wretch, if I could only do without you!”

“You have the use of your head,” retorted the impenetrable nurse. “And
you ought to know better than to trust me by halves, at this time of
day.”

It was brutally put; but it was true--doubly true, after the opening of
Miss Gwilt’s letter. Mrs. Milroy gave way.

“What do you want to know?” she asked. “Tell me, and leave me.”

“I want to know what you are writing to Mr. Armadale about?”

“About Miss Gwilt.”

“What has Mr. Armadale to do with you and Miss Gwilt?”

Mrs. Milroy held up the letter that had been returned to her by the
authorities at the Post-office.

“Stoop,” she said. “Miss Gwilt may be listening at the door. I’ll
whisper.”

The nurse stooped, with her eye on the door. “You know that the postman
went with this letter to Kingsdown Crescent?” said Mrs. Milroy. “And you
know that he found Mrs. Mandeville gone away, nobody could tell where?”

“Well,” whispered Rachel “what next?”

“This, next. When Mr. Armadale gets the letter that I am going to write
to him, he will follow the same road as the postman; and we’ll see what
happens when he knocks at Mrs. Mandeville’s door.”

“How do you get him to the door?”

“I tell him to go to Miss Gwilt’s reference.”

“Is he sweet on Miss Gwilt?”

“Yes.”

“Ah!” said the nurse. “I see!”



III. THE BRINK OF DISCOVERY.

The morning of the interview between Mrs. Milroy and her daughter at the
cottage was a morning of serious reflection for the squire at the great
house.

Even Allan’s easy-tempered nature had not been proof against the
disturbing influences exercised on it by the events of the last three
days. Midwinter’s abrupt departure had vexed him; and Major Milroy’s
reception of his inquiries relating to Miss Gwilt weighed unpleasantly
on his mind. Since his visit to the cottage, he had felt impatient and
ill at ease, for the first time in his life, with everybody who came
near him. Impatient with Pedgift Junior, who had called on the previous
evening to announce his departure for London, on business, the next day,
and to place his services at the disposal of his client; ill at ease
with Miss Gwilt, at a secret meeting with her in the park that morning;
and ill at ease in his own company, as he now sat moodily smoking in
the solitude of his room. “I can’t live this sort of life much longer,”
 thought Allan. “If nobody will help me to put the awkward question to
Miss Gwilt, I must stumble on some way of putting it for myself.”

What way? The answer to that question was as hard to find as ever. Allan
tried to stimulate his sluggish invention by walking up and down the
room, and was disturbed by the appearance of the footman at the first
turn.

“Now then! what is it?” he asked, impatiently.

“A letter, sir; and the person waits for an answer.”

Allan looked at the address. It was in a strange handwriting. He opened
the letter, and a little note inclosed in it dropped to the ground.
The note was directed, still in the strange handwriting, to “Mrs.
Mandeville, 18 Kingsdown Crescent, Bayswater. Favored by Mr. Armadale.”
 More and more surprised, Allan turned for information to the signature
at the end of the letter. It was “Anne Milroy.”

“Anne Milroy?” he repeated. “It must be the major’s wife. What can she
possibly want with me?” By way of discovering what she wanted, Allan
did at last what he might more wisely have done at first. He sat down to
read the letter.

[“Private.”] “The Cottage, Monday.

“DEAR SIR--The name at the end of these lines will, I fear, recall to
you a very rude return made on my part, some time since, for an act of
neighborly kindness on yours. I can only say in excuse that I am a
great sufferer, and that, if I was ill-tempered enough, in a moment of
irritation under severe pain, to send back your present of fruit, I have
regretted doing so ever since. Attribute this letter, if you please, to
my desire to make some atonement, and to my wish to be of service to our
good friend and landlord, if I possibly can.

“I have been informed of the question which you addressed to my husband,
the day before yesterday, on the subject of Miss Gwilt. From all I have
heard of you, I am quite sure that your anxiety to know more of this
charming person than you know now is an anxiety proceeding from the most
honorable motives. Believing this, I feel a woman’s interest--incurable
invalid as I am--in assisting you. If you are desirous of becoming
acquainted with Miss Gwilt’s family circumstances without directly
appealing to Miss Gwilt herself, it rests with you to make the
discovery; and I will tell you how.

“It so happens that, some few days since, I wrote privately to Miss
Gwilt’s reference on this very subject. I had long observed that my
governess was singularly reluctant to speak of her family and her
friends; and, without attributing her silence to other than perfectly
proper motives, I felt it my duty to my daughter to make some inquiry on
the subject. The answer that I have received is satisfactory as far as
it goes. My correspondent informs me that Miss Gwilt’s story is a very
sad one, and that her own conduct throughout has been praiseworthy in
the extreme. The circumstances (of a domestic nature, as I gather) are
all plainly stated in a collection of letters now in the possession of
Miss Gwilt’s reference. This lady is perfectly willing to let me see
the letters; but not possessing copies of them, and being personally
responsible for their security, she is reluctant, if it can be avoided,
to trust them to the post; and she begs me to wait until she or I can
find some reliable person who can be employed to transmit the packet
from her hands to mine.

“Under these circumstances, it has struck me that you might possibly,
with your interest in the matter, be not unwilling to take charge of the
papers. If I am wrong in this idea, and if you are not disposed, after
what I have told you, to go to the trouble and expense of a journey to
London, you have only to burn my letter and inclosure, and to think no
more about it. If you decide on becoming my envoy, I gladly provide you
with the necessary introduction to Mrs. Mandeville. You have only, on
presenting it, to receive the letters in a sealed packet, to send
them here on your return to Thorpe Ambrose, and to wait an early
communication from me acquainting you with the result.

“In conclusion, I have only to add that I see no impropriety in your
taking (if you feel so inclined) the course that I propose to you. Miss
Gwilt’s manner of receiving such allusions as I have made to her family
circumstances has rendered it unpleasant for me (and would render it
quite impossible for you) to seek information in the first instance from
herself. I am certainly justified in applying to her reference; and you
are certainly not to blame for being the medium of safely transmitting
a sealed communication with one lady to another. If I find in that
communication family secrets which cannot honorably be mentioned to any
third person, I shall, of course, be obliged to keep you waiting until
I have first appealed to Miss Gwilt. If I find nothing recorded but
what is to her honor, and what is sure to raise her still higher in your
estimation, I am undeniably doing her a service by taking you into my
confidence. This is how I look at the matter; but pray don’t allow me to
influence _you_.

“In any case, I have one condition to make, which I am sure you will
understand to be indispensable. The most innocent actions are liable,
in this wicked world, to the worst possible interpretation I must,
therefore, request that you will consider this communication as strictly
_private_. I write to you in a confidence which is on no account (until
circumstances may, in my opinion, justify the revelation of it) to
extend beyond our two selves,

“Believe me, dear sir, truly yours,

“ANNE MILROY.”

In this tempting form the unscrupulous ingenuity of the major’s wife
had set the trap. Without a moment’s hesitation, Allan followed his
impulses, as usual, and walked straight into it, writing his answer and
pursuing his own reflections simultaneously in a highly characteristic
state of mental confusion.

“By Jupiter, this is kind of Mrs. Milroy!” (“My dear madam.”) “Just the
thing I wanted, at the time when I needed it most!” (“I don’t know how
to express my sense of your kindness, except by saying that I will go
to London and fetch the letters with the greatest pleasure.”) “She shall
have a basket of fruit regularly every day, all through the season.” (“I
will go at once, dear madam, and be back to-morrow.”) “Ah, nothing like
the women for helping one when one is in love! This is just what my poor
mother would have done in Mrs. Milroy’s place.” (“On my word of honor
as a gentleman, I will take the utmost care of the letters; and keep
the thing strictly private, as you request.”) “I would have given five
hundred pounds to anybody who would have put me up to the right way
to speak to Miss Gwilt; and here is this blessed woman does it
for nothing.” (“Believe me, my dear madam, gratefully yours, Allan
Armadale.”)

Having sent his reply out to Mrs. Milroy’s messenger, Allan paused in a
momentary perplexity. He had an appointment with Miss Gwilt in the park
for the next morning. It was absolutely necessary to let her know that
he would be unable to keep it. She had forbidden him to write, and
he had no chance that day of seeing her alone. In this difficulty, he
determined to let the necessary intimation reach her through the medium
of a message to the major, announcing his departure for London on
business, and asking if he could be of service to any member of the
family. Having thus removed the only obstacle to his freedom of action,
Allan consulted the time-table, and found, to his disappointment, that
there was a good hour to spare before it would be necessary to drive to
the railway station. In his existing frame of mind he would infinitely
have preferred starting for London in a violent hurry.

When the time came at last, Allan, on passing the steward’s office,
drummed at the door, and called through it to Mr. Bashwood, “I’m going
to town; back to-morrow.” There was no answer from within; and the
servant, interposing, informed his master that Mr. Bashwood, having no
business to attend to that day, had locked up the office, and had left
some hours since.

On reaching the station, the first person whom Allan encountered was
Pedgift Junior, going to London on the legal business which he had
mentioned on the previous evening at the great house. The necessary
explanations exchanged, and it was decided that the two should travel
in the same carriage. Allan was glad to have a companion; and Pedgift,
enchanted as usual to make himself useful to his client, bustled away
to get the tickets and see to the luggage. Sauntering to and fro on the
platform, until his faithful follower returned, Allan came suddenly upon
no less a person than Mr. Bashwood himself, standing back in a corner
with the guard of the train, and putting a letter (accompanied, to all
appearance, by a fee) privately into the man’s hand.

“Halloo!” cried Allan, in his hearty way. “Something important there,
Mr. Bashwood, eh?”

If Mr. Bashwood had been caught in the act of committing murder, he
could hardly have shown greater alarm than he now testified at Allan’s
sudden discovery of him. Snatching off his dingy old hat, he bowed
bare-headed, in a palsy of nervous trembling from head to foot. “No,
sir--no, sir; only a little letter, a little letter, a little letter,”
 said the deputy-steward, taking refuge in reiteration, and bowing
himself swiftly backward out of his employer’s sight.

Allan turned carelessly on his heel. “I wish I could take to that
fellow,” he thought, “but I can’t; he’s such a sneak! What the deuce was
there to tremble about? Does he think I want to pry into his secrets?”

Mr. Bashwood’s secret on this occasion concerned Allan more nearly than
Allan supposed. The letter which he had just placed in charge of
the guard was nothing less than a word of warning addressed to Mrs.
Oldershaw, and written by Miss Gwilt.

“If you can hurry your business” (wrote the major’s governess) “do so,
and come back to London immediately. Things are going wrong here, and
Miss Milroy is at the bottom of the mischief. This morning she insisted
on taking up her mother’s breakfast, always on other occasions taken up
by the nurse. They had a long confabulation in private; and half an hour
later I saw the nurse slip out with a letter, and take the path that
leads to the great house. The sending of the letter has been followed
by young Armadale’s sudden departure for London--in the face of an
appointment which he had with me for to-morrow morning. This looks
serious. The girl is evidently bold enough to make a fight of it for the
position of Mrs. Armadale of Thorpe Ambrose, and she has found out some
way of getting her mother to help her. Don’t suppose I am in the least
nervous or discouraged, and don’t do anything till you hear from me
again. Only get back to London, for I may have serious need of your
assistance in the course of the next day or two.

“I send this letter to town (to save a post) by the midday train, in
charge of the guard. As you insist on knowing every step I take at
Thorpe Ambrose, I may as well tell you that my messenger (for I can’t go
to the station myself) is that curious old creature whom I mentioned
to you in my first letter. Ever since that time he has been perpetually
hanging about here for a look at me. I am not sure whether I frighten
him or fascinate him; perhaps I do both together. All you need care to
know is that I can trust him with my trifling errands, and possibly, as
time goes on, with something more. L. G.”


Meanwhile the train had started from the Thorpe Ambrose station, and the
squire and his traveling companion were on their way to London.

Some men, finding themselves in Allan’s company under present
circumstances, might have felt curious to know the nature of his
business in the metropolis. Young Pedgift’s unerring instinct as a man
of the world penetrated the secret without the slightest difficulty.
“The old story,” thought this wary old head, wagging privately on its
lusty young shoulders, “There’s a woman in the case, as usual. Any other
business would have been turned over to me.” Perfectly satisfied with
this conclusion, Mr. Pedgift the younger proceeded, with an eye to his
professional interest, to make himself agreeable to his client in the
capacity of volunteer courier. He seized on the whole administrative
business of the journey to London, as he had seized on the whole
administrative business of the picnic at the Broads. On reaching the
terminus, Allan was ready to go to any hotel that might be recommended.
His invaluable solicitor straight-way drove him to a hotel at which the
Pedgift family had been accustomed to put up for three generations.

“You don’t object to vegetables, sir?” said the cheerful Pedgift, as
the cab stopped at a hotel in Covent Garden Market. “Very good; you may
leave the rest to my grandfather, my father, and me. I don’t know which
of the three is most beloved and respected in this house. How d’ye do,
William? (Our head-waiter, Mr. Armadale.) Is your wife’s rheumatism
better, and does the little boy get on nicely at school? Your master’s
out, is he? Never mind, you’ll do. This, William, is Mr. Armadale of
Thorpe Ambrose. I have prevailed on Mr. Armadale to try our house. Have
you got the bedroom I wrote for? Very good. Let Mr. Armadale have it
instead of me (my grandfather’s favorite bedroom, sir; No. 57, on the
second floor); pray take it; I can sleep anywhere. Will you have the
mattress on the top of the feather-bed? You hear, William? Tell Matilda,
the mattress on the top of the feather-bed. How is Matilda? Has she got
the toothache, as usual? The head-chambermaid, Mr. Armadale, and a most
extraordinary woman; she will _not_ part with a hollow tooth in her
lower jaw. My grandfather says, ‘Have it out;’ my father says, ‘Have it
out;’ I say, ‘Have it out;’ and Matilda turns a deaf ear to all three of
us. Yes, William, yes; if Mr. Armadale approves, this sitting-room will
do. About dinner, sir? Shall we say, in that case, half-past seven?
William, half-past seven. Not the least need to order anything, Mr.
Armadale. The head-waiter has only to give my compliments to the cook,
and the best dinner in London will be sent up, punctual to the minute,
as a necessary consequence. Say, Mr. Pedgift Junior, if you please,
William; otherwise, sir, we might get my grandfather’s dinner or my
father’s dinner, and they _might_ turn out a little too heavy and
old-fashioned in their way of feeding for you and me. As to the wine,
William. At dinner, _my_ Champagne, and the sherry that my father thinks
nasty. After dinner, the claret with the blue seal--the wine my innocent
grandfather said wasn’t worth sixpence a bottle. Ha! ha! poor old boy!
You will send up the evening papers and the play-bills, just as usual,
and--that will do? I think, William, for the present. An invaluable
servant, Mr. Armadale; they’re all invaluable servants in this house. We
may not be fashionable here, sir, but by the Lord Harry we are snug! A
cab? you would like a cab? Don’t stir! I’ve rung the bell twice--that
means, Cab wanted in a hurry. Might I ask, Mr. Armadale, which way your
business takes you? Toward Bayswater? Would you mind dropping me in the
park? It’s a habit of mine when I’m in London to air myself among the
aristocracy. Yours truly, sir, has an eye for a fine woman and a fine
horse; and when he’s in Hyde Park he’s quite in his native element.”
 Thus the all-accomplished Pedgift ran on; and by these little arts did
he recommend himself to the good opinion of his client.

When the dinner hour united the traveling companions again in their
sitting-room at the hotel, a far less acute observer than young Pedgift
must have noticed the marked change that appeared in Allan’s manner.
He looked vexed and puzzled, and sat drumming with his fingers on the
dining-table without uttering a word.

“I’m afraid something has happened to annoy you, sir, since we parted
company in the Park?” said Pedgift Junior. “Excuse the question; I only
ask it in case I can be of any use.”

“Something that I never expected has happened,” returned Allan; “I don’t
know what to make of it. I should like to have your opinion,” he added,
after a little hesitation; “that is to say, if you will excuse my not
entering into any particulars?”

“Certainly!” assented young Pedgift. “Sketch it in outline, sir. The
merest hint will do; I wasn’t born yesterday.” (“Oh, these women!”
 thought the youthful philosopher, in parenthesis.)

“Well,” began Allan, “you know what I said when we got to this hotel; I
said I had a place to go to in Bayswater” (Pedgift mentally checked off
the first point: Case in the suburbs, Bayswater); “and a person--that
is to say--no--as I said before, a person to inquire after.” (Pedgift
checked off the next point: Person in the case. She-person, or
he-person? She-person, unquestionably!) “Well, I went to the house,
and when I asked for her--I mean the person--she--that is to say, the
person--oh, confound it!” cried Allan, “I shall drive myself mad, and
you, too, if I try to tell my story in this roundabout way. Here it is
in two words. I went to No. 18 Kingsdown Crescent, to see a lady named
Mandeville; and, when I asked for her, the servant said Mrs. Mandeville
had gone away, without telling anybody where, and without even leaving
an address at which letters could be sent to her. There! it’s out at
last. And what do you think of it now?”

“Tell me first, sir,” said the wary Pedgift, “what inquiries you made
when you found this lady had vanished?”

“Inquiries!” repeated Allan. “I was utterly staggered; I didn’t say
anything. What inquiries ought I to have made?”

Pedgift Junior cleared his throat, and crossed his legs in a strictly
professional manner.

“I have no wish, Mr. Armadale,” he began, “to inquire into your business
with Mrs. Mandeville--”

“No,” interposed Allan, bluntly; “I hope you won’t inquire into that. My
business with Mrs. Mandeville must remain a secret.”

“But,” pursued Pedgift, laying down the law with the forefinger of one
hand on the outstretched palm of the other, “I may, perhaps, be allowed
to ask generally whether your business with Mrs. Mandeville is of a
nature to interest you in tracing her from Kingsdown Crescent to her
present residence?”

“Certainly!” said Allan. “I have a very particular reason for wishing to
see her.”

“In that case, sir,” returned Pedgift Junior, “there were two obvious
questions which you ought to have asked, to begin with--namely, on what
date Mrs. Mandeville left, and how she left. Having discovered this, you
should have ascertained next under what domestic circumstances she
went away--whether there was a misunderstanding with anybody; say a
difficulty about money matters. Also, whether she went away alone, or
with somebody else. Also, whether the house was her own, or whether she
only lodged in it. Also, in the latter event--”

“Stop! stop! you’re making my head swim,” cried Allan. “I don’t
understand all these ins and outs. I’m not used to this sort of thing.”

“I’ve been used to it myself from my childhood upward, sir,” remarked
Pedgift. “And if I can be of any assistance, say the word.”

“You’re very kind,” returned Allan. “If you could only help me to find
Mrs. Mandeville; and if you wouldn’t mind leaving the thing afterward
entirely in my hands--?”

“I’ll leave it in your hands, sir, with all the pleasure in life,” said
Pedgift Junior. (“And I’ll lay five to one,” he added, mentally, “when
the time comes, you’ll leave it in mine!”) “We’ll go to Bayswater
together, Mr. Armadale, to-morrow morning. In the meantime here’s the
soup. The case now before the court is, Pleasure versus Business. I
don’t know what you say, sir; I say, without a moment’s hesitation,
Verdict for the plaintiff. Let us gather our rosebuds while we may.
Excuse my high spirits, Mr. Armadale. Though buried in the country, I
was made for a London life; the very air of the metropolis intoxicates
me.” With that avowal the irresistible Pedgift placed a chair for
his patron, and issued his orders cheerfully to his viceroy, the
head-waiter. “Iced punch, William, after the soup. I answer for the
punch, Mr. Armadale; it’s made after a recipe of my great-uncle’s. He
kept a tavern, and founded the fortunes of the family. I don’t mind
telling you the Pedgifts have had a publican among them; there’s no
false pride about me. ‘Worth makes the man (as Pope says) and want of
it the fellow; the rest is all but leather and prunella.’ I cultivate
poetry as well as music, sir, in my leisure hours; in fact, I’m more or
less on familiar terms with the whole of the nine Muses. Aha! here’s the
punch! The memory of my great-uncle, the publican, Mr. Armadale--drunk
in solemn silence!”

Allan tried hard to emulate his companion’s gayety and good humor, but
with very indifferent success. His visit to Kingsdown Crescent recurred
ominously again and again to his memory all through the dinner, and all
through the public amusements to which he and his legal adviser repaired
at a later hour of the evening. When Pedgift Junior put out his candle
that night, he shook his wary head, and regretfully apostrophized “the
women” for the second time.

By ten o’clock the next morning the indefatigable Pedgift was on
the scene of action. To Allan’s great relief, he proposed making the
necessary inquiries at Kingsdown Crescent in his own person, while his
patron waited near at hand, in the cab which had brought them from the
hotel. After a delay of little more than five minutes, he reappeared, in
full possession of all attainable particulars. His first proceeding was
to request Allan to step out of the cab, and to pay the driver. Next,
he politely offered his arm, and led the way round the corner of the
crescent, across a square, and into a by-street, which was rendered
exceptionally lively by the presence of the local cab-stand. Here he
stopped, and asked jocosely whether Mr. Armadale saw his way now,
or whether it would be necessary to test his patience by making an
explanation.

“See my way?” repeated Allan, in bewilderment. “I see nothing but a
cab-stand.”

Pedgift Junior smiled compassionately, and entered on his explanation.
It was a lodging-house at Kingsdown Crescent, he begged to state to
begin with. He had insisted on seeing the landlady. A very nice person,
with all the remains of having been a fine girl about fifty years ago;
quite in Pedgift’s style--if he had only been alive at the beginning of
the present century--quite in Pedgift’s style. But perhaps Mr. Armadale
would prefer hearing about Mrs. Mandeville? Unfortunately, there was
nothing to tell. There had been no quarreling, and not a farthing
left unpaid: the lodger had gone, and there wasn’t an explanatory
circumstance to lay hold of anywhere. It was either Mrs. Mandeville’s
way to vanish, or there was something under the rose, quite
undiscoverable so far. Pedgift had got the date on which she left, and
the time of day at which she left, and the means by which she left.
The means might help to trace her. She had gone away in a cab which the
servant had fetched from the nearest stand. The stand was now before
their eyes; and the waterman was the first person to apply to--going to
the waterman for information being clearly (if Mr. Armadale would excuse
the joke) going to the fountain-head. Treating the subject in this airy
manner, and telling Allan that he would be back in a moment,
Pedgift Junior sauntered down the street, and beckoned the waterman
confidentially into the nearest public-house.

In a little while the two re-appeared, the waterman taking Pedgift in
succession to the first, third, fourth, and sixth of the cabmen whose
vehicles were on the stand. The longest conference was held with the
sixth man; and it ended in the sudden approach of the sixth cab to the
part of the street where Allan was waiting.

“Get in, sir,” said Pedgift, opening the door; “I’ve found the man. He
remembers the lady; and, though he has forgotten the name of the street,
he believes he can find the place he drove her to when he once gets back
into the neighborhood. I am charmed to inform you, Mr. Armadale, that
we are in luck’s way so far. I asked the waterman to show me the regular
men on the stand; and it turns out that one of the regular men drove
Mrs. Mandeville. The waterman vouches for him; he’s quite an anomaly--a
respectable cabman; drives his own horse, and has never been in any
trouble. These are the sort of men, sir, who sustain one’s belief
in human nature. I’ve had a look at our friend, and I agree with the
waterman; I think we can depend on him.”

The investigation required some exercise of patience at the outset. It
was not till the cab had traversed the distance between Bayswater and
Pimlico that the driver began to slacken his pace and look about him.
After once or twice retracing its course, the vehicle entered a quiet
by-street, ending in a dead wall, with a door in it; and stopped at the
last house on the left-hand side, the house next to the wall.

“Here it is, gentlemen,” said the man, opening the cab door.

Allan and Allan’s adviser both got out, and both looked at the house,
with the same feeling of instinctive distrust.

Buildings have their physiognomy--especially buildings in great
cities--and the face of this house was essentially furtive in its
expression. The front windows were all shut, and the front blinds were
all drawn down. It looked no larger than the other houses in the street,
seen in front; but it ran back deceitfully and gained its greater
accommodation by means of its greater depth. It affected to be a shop on
the ground-floor; but it exhibited absolutely nothing in the space that
intervened between the window and an inner row of red curtains, which
hid the interior entirely from view. At one side was the shop door,
having more red curtains behind the glazed part of it, and bearing
a brass plate on the wooden part of it, inscribed with the name of
“Oldershaw.” On the other side was the private door, with a bell marked
Professional; and another brass plate, indicating a medical occupant on
this side of the house, for the name on it was, “Doctor Downward.” If
ever brick and mortar spoke yet, the brick and mortar here said plainly,
“We have got our secrets inside, and we mean to keep them.”

“This can’t be the place,” said Allan; “there must be some mistake.”

“You know best, sir,” remarked Pedgift Junior, with his sardonic
gravity. “You know Mrs. Mandeville’s habits.”

“I!” exclaimed Allan. “You may be surprised to hear it; but Mrs.
Mandeville is a total stranger to me.”

“I’m not in the least surprised to hear it, sir; the landlady at
Kingsdown Crescent informed me that Mrs. Mandeville was an old woman.
Suppose we inquire?” added the impenetrable Pedgift, looking at the
red curtains in the shop window with a strong suspicion that Mrs.
Mandeville’s granddaughter might possibly be behind them.

They tried the shop door first. It was locked. They rang. A lean and
yellow young woman, with a tattered French novel in her hand, opened it.

“Good-morning, miss,” said Pedgift. “Is Mrs. Mandeville at home?”

The yellow young woman stared at him in astonishment. “No person of that
name is known here,” she answered, sharply, in a foreign accent.

“Perhaps they know her at the private door?” suggested Pedgift Junior.

“Perhaps they do,” said the yellow young woman, and shut the door in his
face.

“Rather a quick-tempered young person that, sir,” said Pedgift. “I
congratulate Mrs. Mandeville on not being acquainted with her.” He led
the way, as he spoke, to Doctor Downward’s side of the premises, and
rang the bell.

The door was opened this time by a man in a shabby livery. He, too,
stared when Mrs. Mandeville’s name was mentioned; and he, too, knew of
no such person in the house.

“Very odd,” said Pedgift, appealing to Allan.

“What is odd?” asked a softly stepping, softly speaking gentleman in
black, suddenly appearing on the threshold of the parlor door.

Pedgift Junior politely explained the circumstances, and begged to know
whether he had the pleasure of speaking to Doctor Downward.

The doctor bowed. If the expression may be pardoned, he was one of those
carefully constructed physicians in whom the public--especially the
female public--implicitly trust. He had the necessary bald head,
the necessary double eyeglass, the necessary black clothes, and the
necessary blandness of manner, all complete. His voice was soothing, his
ways were deliberate, his smile was confidential. What particular branch
of his profession Doctor Downward followed was not indicated on his
door-plate; but he had utterly mistaken his vocation if he was not a
ladies’ medical man.

“Are you quite sure there is no mistake about the name?” asked the
doctor, with a strong underlying anxiety in his manner. “I have known
very serious inconvenience to arise sometimes from mistakes about names.
No? There is really no mistake? In that case, gentlemen, I can only
repeat what my servant has already told you. Don’t apologize, pray.
Good-morning.” The doctor withdrew as noiselessly as he had appeared;
the man in the shabby livery silently opened the door; and Allan and his
companion found themselves in the street again.

“Mr. Armadale,” said Pedgift, “I don’t know how you feel; I feel
puzzled.”

“That’s awkward,” returned Allan. “I was just going to ask you what we
ought to do next.”

“I don’t like the look of the place, the look of the shop-woman, or the
look of the doctor,” pursued the other. “And yet I can’t say I think
they are deceiving us; I can’t say I think they really know Mrs.
Mandeville’s name.”

The impressions of Pedgift Junior seldom misled him; and they had not
misled him in this case. The caution which had dictated Mrs. Oldershaw’s
private removal from Bayswater was the caution which frequently
overreaches itself. It had warned her to trust nobody at Pimlico with
the secret of the name she had assumed as Miss Gwilt’s reference; but
it had entirely failed to prepare her for the emergency that had really
happened. In a word, Mrs. Oldershaw had provided for everything except
for the one unimaginable contingency of an after-inquiry into the
character of Miss Gwilt.

“We must do something,” said Allan; “it seems useless to stop here.”

Nobody had ever yet caught Pedgift Junior at the end of his resources;
and Allan failed to catch him at the end of them now. “I quite agree
with you, sir,” he said; “we must do something. We’ll cross-examine the
cabman.”

The cabman proved to be immovable. Charged with mistaking the place, he
pointed to the empty shop window. “I don’t know what you may have seen,
gentlemen,” he remarked; “but there’s the only shop window I ever saw
with nothing at all inside it. _That_ fixed the place in my mind at the
time, and I know it again when I see it.” Charged with mistaking the
person or the day, or the house at which he had taken the person up, the
cabman proved to be still unassailable. The servant who fetched him
was marked as a girl well known on the stand. The day was marked as the
unluckiest working-day he had had since the first of the year; and the
lady was marked as having had her money ready at the right moment (which
not one elderly lady in a hundred usually had), and having paid him his
fare on demand without disputing it (which not one elderly lady in a
hundred usually did). “Take my number, gentlemen,” concluded the cabman,
“and pay me for my time; and what I’ve said to you, I’ll swear to
anywhere.”

Pedgift made a note in his pocket-book of the man’s number. Having added
to it the name of the street, and the names on the two brass plates, he
quietly opened the cab door. “We are quite in the dark, thus far,” he
said. “Suppose we grope our way back to the hotel?”

He spoke and looked more seriously than usual The mere fact of “Mrs.
Mandeville’s” having changed her lodging without telling any one where
she was going, and without leaving any address at which letters could
be forwarded to her--which the jealous malignity of Mrs. Milroy had
interpreted as being undeniably suspicious in itself--had produced no
great impression on the more impartial judgment of Allan’s solicitor.
People frequently left their lodgings in a private manner, with
perfectly producible reasons for doing so. But the appearance of the
place to which the cabman persisted in declaring that he had driven
“Mrs. Mandeville” set the character and proceedings of that mysterious
lady before Pedgift Junior in a new light. His personal interest in the
inquiry suddenly strengthened, and he began to feel a curiosity to know
the real nature of Allan’s business which he had not felt yet.

“Our next move, Mr. Armadale, is not a very easy move to see,” he said,
as they drove back to the hotel. “Do you think you could put me in
possession of any further particulars?”

Allan hesitated; and Pedgift Junior saw that he had advanced a little
too far. “I mustn’t force it,” he thought; “I must give it time, and let
it come of its own accord.” “In the absence of any other information,
sir,” he resumed, “what do you say to my making some inquiry about that
queer shop, and about those two names on the door-plate? My business in
London, when I leave you, is of a professional nature; and I am going
into the right quarter for getting information, if it is to be got.”

“There can’t be any harm, I suppose, in making inquiries,” replied
Allan.

He, too, spoke more seriously than usual; he, too, was beginning to feel
an all-mastering curiosity to know more. Some vague connection, not to
be distinctly realized or traced out, began to establish itself in
his mind between the difficulty of approaching Miss Gwilt’s family
circumstances and the difficulty of approaching Miss Gwilt’s reference.
“I’ll get down and walk, and leave you to go on to your business,” he
said. “I want to consider a little about this, and a walk and a cigar
will help me.”

“My business will be done, sir, between one and two,” said Pedgift, when
the cab had been stopped, and Allan had got out. “Shall we meet again at
two o’clock, at the hotel?”

Allan nodded, and the cab drove off.



IV. ALLAN AT BAY.

Two o’clock came; and Pedgift Junior, punctual to his time, came with
it. His vivacity of the morning had all sparkled out; he greeted Allan
with his customary politeness, but without his customary smile; and,
when the headwaiter came in for orders, his dismissal was instantly
pronounced in words never yet heard to issue from the lips of Pedgift in
that hotel: “Nothing at present.”

“You seem to be in low spirits,” said Allan. “Can’t we get our
information? Can nobody tell you anything about the house in Pimlico?”

“Three different people have told me about it, Mr. Armadale, and they
have all three said the same thing.”

Allan eagerly drew his chair nearer to the place occupied by his
traveling companion. His reflections in the interval since they had last
seen each other had not tended to compose him. That strange connection,
so easy to feel, so hard to trace, between the difficulty of approaching
Miss Gwilt’s family circumstances and the difficulty of approaching Miss
Gwilt’s reference, which had already established itself in his thoughts,
had by this time stealthily taken a firmer and firmer hold on his mind.
Doubts troubled him which he could neither understand nor express.
Curiosity filled him, which he half longed and half dreaded to satisfy.

“I am afraid I must trouble you with a question or two, sir, before
I can come to the point,” said Pedgift Junior. “I don’t want to force
myself into your confidence. I only want to see my way, in what looks to
me like a very awkward business. Do you mind telling me whether others
besides yourself are interested in this inquiry of ours?”

“Other people _are_ interested in it,” replied Allan. “There’s no
objection to telling you that.”

“Is there any other person who is the object of the inquiry besides Mrs.
Mandeville, herself?” pursued Pedgift, winding his way a little deeper
into the secret.

“Yes; there is another person,” said Allan, answering rather
unwillingly.

“Is the person a young woman, Mr. Armadale?”

Allan started. “How do you come to guess that?” he began, then checked
himself, when it was too late. “Don’t ask me any more questions,” he
resumed. “I’m a bad hand at defending myself against a sharp fellow like
you; and I’m bound in honor toward other people to keep the particulars
of this business to myself.”

Pedgift Junior had apparently heard enough for his purpose. He drew
his chair, in his turn, nearer to Allan. He was evidently anxious and
embarrassed; but his professional manner began to show itself again from
sheer force of habit.

“I’ve done with my questions, sir,” he said; “and I have something to
say now on my side. In my father’s absence, perhaps you may be kindly
disposed to consider me as your legal adviser. If you will take my
advice, you will not stir another step in this inquiry.”

“What do you mean?” interposed Allan.

“It is just possible, Mr. Armadale, that the cabman, positive as he is,
may have been mistaken. I strongly recommend you to take it for granted
that he _is_ mistaken, and to drop it there.”

The caution was kindly intended; but it came too late. Allan did what
ninety-nine men out of a hundred in his position would have done--he
declined to take his lawyer’s advice.

“Very well, sir,” said Pedgift Junior; “if you will have it, you must
have it.”

He leaned forward close to Allan’s ear, and whispered what he had heard
of the house in Pimlico, and of the people who occupied it.

“Don’t blame me, Mr. Armadale,” he added, when the irrevocable words had
been spoken. “I tried to spare you.”

Allan suffered the shock, as all great shocks are suffered, in silence.
His first impulse would have driven him headlong for refuge to that very
view of the cabman’s assertion which had just been recommended to him,
but for one damning circumstance which placed itself inexorably in his
way. Miss Gwilt’s marked reluctance to approach the story of her
past life rose irrepressibly on his memory, in indirect but horrible
confirmation of the evidence which connected Miss Gwilt’s reference with
the house in Pimlico. One conclusion, and one only--the conclusion which
any man must have drawn, hearing what he had just heard, and knowing
no more than he knew--forced itself into his mind. A miserable, fallen
woman, who had abandoned herself in her extremity to the help of
wretches skilled in criminal concealment, who had stolen her way back to
decent society and a reputable employment by means of a false character,
and whose position now imposed on her the dreadful necessity of
perpetual secrecy and perpetual deceit in relation to her past
life--such was the aspect in which the beautiful governess at Thorpe
Ambrose now stood revealed to Allan’s eyes!

Falsely revealed, or truly revealed? Had she stolen her way back to
decent society and a reputable employment by means of a false character?
She had. Did her position impose on her the dreadful necessity of
perpetual secrecy and perpetual deceit in relation to her past life? It
did. Was she some such pitiable victim to the treachery of a man unknown
as Allan had supposed? _She was no such pitiable victim_. The conclusion
which Allan had drawn--the conclusion literally forced into his mind by
the facts before him--was, nevertheless, the conclusion of all others
that was furthest even from touching on the truth. The true story of
Miss Gwilt’s connection with the house in Pimlico and the people who
inhabited it--a house rightly described as filled with wicked secrets,
and people rightly represented as perpetually in danger of feeling the
grasp of the law--was a story which coming events were yet to disclose:
a story infinitely less revolting, and yet infinitely more terrible,
than Allan or Allan’s companion had either of them supposed.

“I tried to spare you, Mr. Armadale,” repeated Pedgift. “I was anxious,
if I could possibly avoid it, not to distress you.”

Allan looked up, and made an effort to control himself. “You have
distressed me dreadfully,” he said. “You have quite crushed me down. But
it is not your fault. I ought to feel you have done me a service; and
what I ought to do I will do, when I am my own man again. There is one
thing,” Allan added, after a moment’s painful consideration, “which
ought to be understood between us at once. The advice you offered me
just now was very kindly meant, and it was the best advice that could be
given. I will take it gratefully. We will never talk of this again, if
you please; and I beg and entreat you will never speak about it to any
other person. Will you promise me that?”

Pedgift gave the promise with very evident sincerity, but without his
professional confidence of manner. The distress in Allan’s face seemed
to daunt him. After a moment of very uncharacteristic hesitation, he
considerately quitted the room.

Left by himself, Allan rang for writing materials, and took out of his
pocket-book the fatal letter of introduction to “Mrs. Mandeville” which
he had received from the major’s wife.

A man accustomed to consider consequences and to prepare himself for
action by previous thought would, in Allan’s present circumstances,
have felt some difficulty as to the course which it might now be least
embarrassing and least dangerous to pursue. Accustomed to let his
impulses direct him on all other occasions, Allan acted on impulse in
the serious emergency that now confronted him. Though his attachment
to Miss Gwilt was nothing like the deeply rooted feeling which he had
himself honestly believed it to be, she had taken no common place in his
admiration, and she filled him with no common grief when he thought of
her now. His one dominant desire, at that critical moment in his life,
was a man’s merciful desire to protect from exposure and ruin the
unhappy woman who had lost her place in his estimation, without losing
her claim to the forbearance that could spare, and to the compassion
that could shield her. “I can’t go back to Thorpe Ambrose; I can’t
trust myself to speak to her, or to see her again. But I can keep her
miserable secret; and I will!” With that thought in his heart, Allan
set himself to perform the first and foremost duty which now claimed
him--the duty of communicating with Mrs. Milroy. If he had possessed a
higher mental capacity and a clearer mental view, he might have
found the letter no easy one to write. As it was, he calculated no
consequences, and felt no difficulty. His instinct warned him to
withdraw at once from the position in which he now stood toward the
major’s wife, and he wrote what his instinct counseled him to write
under those circumstances, as rapidly as the pen could travel over the
paper:


“Dunn’s Hotel, Covent Garden, Tuesday.

“DEAR MADAM--Pray excuse my not returning to Thorpe Ambrose to-day, as I
said I would. Unforeseen circumstances oblige me to stop in London. I am
sorry to say I have not succeeded in seeing Mrs. Mandeville, for which
reason I cannot perform your errand; and I beg, therefore, with many
apologies, to return the letter of introduction. I hope you will allow
me to conclude by saying that I am very much obliged to you for your
kindness, and that I will not venture to trespass on it any further.

“I remain, dear madam, yours truly,

“ALLAN ARMADALE.”


In those artless words, still entirely unsuspicious of the character of
the woman he had to deal with, Allan put the weapon she wanted into Mrs.
Milroy’s hands.

The letter and its inclosure once sealed up and addressed, he was free
to think of himself and his future. As he sat idly drawing lines with
his pen on the blotting-paper, the tears came into his eyes for the
first time--tears in which the woman who had deceived him had no share.
His heart had gone back to his dead mother. “If she had been alive,” he
thought, “I might have trusted _her_, and she would have comforted me.”
 It was useless to dwell on it; he dashed away the tears, and turned his
thoughts, with the heart-sick resignation that we all know, to living
and present things.

He wrote a line to Mr. Bashwood, briefly informing the deputy steward
that his absence from Thorpe Ambrose was likely to be prolonged for some
little time, and that any further instructions which might be necessary,
under those circumstances, would reach him through Mr. Pedgift the
elder. This done, and the letters sent to the post, his thoughts were
forced back once more on himself. Again the blank future waited before
him to be filled up; and again his heart shrank from it to the refuge of
the past.

This time other images than the image of his mother filled his mind. The
one all-absorbing interest of his earlier days stirred living and eager
in him again. He thought of the sea; he thought of his yacht lying idle
in the fishing harbor at his west-country home. The old longing got
possession of him to hear the wash of the waves; to see the filling of
the sails; to feel the vessel that his own hands had helped to build
bounding under him once more. He rose in his impetuous way to call for
the time-table, and to start for Somersetshire by the first train, when
the dread of the questions which Mr. Brock might ask, the suspicion of
the change which Mr. Brock might see in him, drew him back to his chair.
“I’ll write,” he thought, “to have the yacht rigged and refitted, and
I’ll wait to go to Somersetshire myself till Midwinter can go with me.”
 He sighed as his memory reverted to his absent friend. Never had he felt
the void made in his life by Midwinter’s departure so painfully as he
felt it now, in the dreariest of all social solitudes--the solitude of a
stranger in London, left by himself at a hotel.

Before long, Pedgift Junior looked in, with an apology for his
intrusion. Allan felt too lonely and too friendless not to welcome his
companion’s re-appearance gratefully. “I’m not going back to Thorpe
Ambrose,” he said; “I’m going to stay a little while in London. I
hope you will be able to stay with me?” To do him justice, Pedgift was
touched by the solitary position in which the owner of the great Thorpe
Ambrose estate now appeared before him. He had never, in his relations
with Allan, so entirely forgotten his business interests as he forgot
them now.

“You are quite right, sir, to stop here; London’s the place to divert
your mind,” said Pedgift, cheerfully. “All business is more or less
elastic in its nature, Mr. Armadale; I’ll spin _my_ business out, and
keep you company with the greatest pleasure. We are both of us on the
right side of thirty, sir; let’s enjoy ourselves. What do you say to
dining early, and going to the play, and trying the Great Exhibition
in Hyde Park to-morrow morning, after breakfast? If we only live like
fighting-cocks, and go in perpetually for public amusements, we shall
arrive in no time at the _mens sana in corpore sano_ of the ancients.
Don’t be alarmed at the quotation, sir. I dabble a little in Latin after
business hours, and enlarge my sympathies by occasional perusal of the
Pagan writers, assisted by a crib. William, dinner at five; and, as it’s
particularly important to-day, I’ll see the cook myself.”

The evening passed; the next day passed; Thursday morning came, and
brought with it a letter for Allan. The direction was in Mrs. Milroy’s
handwriting; and the form of address adopted in the letter warned Allan,
the moment he opened it, that something had gone wrong.


[“Private.”]

“The Cottage, Thorpe Ambrose, Wednesday.

“SIR--I have just received your mysterious letter. It has more than
surprised, it has really alarmed me. After having made the friendliest
advances to you on my side, I find myself suddenly shut out from
your confidence in the most unintelligible, and, I must add, the most
discourteous manner. It is quite impossible that I can allow the matter
to rest where you have left it. The only conclusion I can draw from your
letter is that my confidence must have been abused in some way, and that
you know a great deal more than you are willing to tell me. Speaking in
the interest of my daughter’s welfare, I request that you will inform
me what the circumstances are which have prevented your seeing Mrs.
Mandeville, and which have led to the withdrawal of the assistance that
you unconditionally promised me in your letter of Monday last.

“In my state of health, I cannot involve myself in a lengthened
correspondence. I must endeavor to anticipate any objections you may
make, and I must say all that I have to say in my present letter. In the
event (which I am most unwilling to consider possible) of your declining
to accede to the request that I have just addressed to you, I beg to
say that I shall consider it my duty to my daughter to have this very
unpleasant matter cleared up. If I don’t hear from you to my full
satisfaction by return of post, I shall be obliged to tell my husband
that circumstances have happened which justify us in immediately testing
the respectability of Miss Gwilt’s reference. And when he asks me for my
authority, I will refer him to you.

“Your obedient servant, ANNE MILROY.”


In those terms the major’s wife threw off the mask, and left her victim
to survey at his leisure the trap in which she had caught him. Allan’s
belief in Mrs. Milroy’s good faith had been so implicitly sincere
that her letter simply bewildered him. He saw vaguely that he had been
deceived in some way, and that Mrs. Milroy’s neighborly interest in
him was not what it had looked on the surface; and he saw no more. The
threat of appealing to the major--on which, with a woman’s ignorance of
the natures of men, Mrs. Milroy had relied for producing its
effect--was the only part of the letter to which Allan reverted with any
satisfaction: it relieved instead of alarming him. “If there _is_ to be
a quarrel,” he thought, “it will be a comfort, at any rate, to have it
out with a man.”

Firm in his resolution to shield the unhappy woman whose secret he
wrongly believed himself to have surprised, Allan sat down to write
his apologies to the major’s wife. After setting up three polite
declarations, in close marching order, he retired from the field. “He
was extremely sorry to have offended Mrs. Milroy. He was innocent of all
intention to offend Mrs. Milroy. And he begged to remain Mrs. Milroy’s
truly.” Never had Allan’s habitual brevity as a letter-writer done him
better service than it did him now. With a little more skillfulness in
the use of his pen, he might have given his enemy even a stronger hold
on him than the hold she had got already.

The interval day passed, and with the next morning’s post Mrs. Milroy’s
threat came realized in the shape of a letter from her husband. The
major wrote less formally than his wife had written, but his questions
were mercilessly to the point:


[“Private.”]

“The Cottage, Thorpe Ambrose, Friday, July 11, 1851.

“DEAR SIR--When you did me the favor of calling here a few days since,
you asked a question relating to my governess, Miss Gwilt, which I
thought rather a strange one at the time, and which caused, as you may
remember, a momentary embarrassment between us.

“This morning the subject of Miss Gwilt has been brought to my notice
again in a manner which has caused me the utmost astonishment. In plain
words, Mrs. Milroy has informed me that Miss Gwilt has exposed herself
to the suspicion of having deceived us by a false reference. On my
expressing the surprise which such an extraordinary statement caused
me, and requesting that it might be instantly substantiated, I was still
further astonished by being told to apply for all particulars to no
less a person than Mr. Armadale. I have vainly requested some further
explanation from Mrs. Milroy; she persists in maintaining silence, and
in referring me to yourself.

“Under these extraordinary circumstances, I am compelled, in justice to
all parties, to ask you certain questions which I will endeavor to put
as plainly as possible, and which I am quite ready to believe (from my
previous experience of you) that you will answer frankly on your side.

“I beg to inquire, in the first place, whether you admit or deny
Mrs. Milroy’s assertion that you have made yourself acquainted with
particulars relating either to Miss Gwilt or to Miss Gwilt’s reference,
of which I am entirely ignorant? In the second place, if you admit
the truth of Mrs. Milroy’s statement, I request to know how you became
acquainted with those particulars? Thirdly, and lastly, I beg to ask you
what the particulars are?

“If any special justification for putting these questions be
needed--which, purely as a matter of courtesy toward yourself, I am
willing to admit--I beg to remind you that the most precious charge in
my house, the charge of my daughter, is confided to Miss Gwilt; and that
Mrs. Milroy’s statement places you, to all appearance, in the position
of being competent to tell me whether that charge is properly bestowed
or not.

“I have only to add that, as nothing has thus far occurred to justify
me in entertaining the slightest suspicion either of my governess or her
reference, I shall wait before I make any appeal to Miss Gwilt until
I have received your answer--which I shall expect by return of post.
Believe me, dear sir, faithfully yours,

“DAVID MILROY.”


This transparently straightforward letter at once dissipated the
confusion which had thus far existed in Allan’s mind. He saw the snare
in which he had been caught (though he was still necessarily at a loss
to understand why it had been set for him) as he had not seen it
yet. Mrs. Milroy had clearly placed him between two alternatives--the
alternative of putting himself in the wrong, by declining to answer
her husband’s questions; or the alternative of meanly sheltering his
responsibility behind the responsibility of a woman, by acknowledging to
the major’s own face that the major’s wife had deceived him.

In this difficulty Allan acted as usual, without hesitation. His pledge
to Mrs. Milroy to consider their correspondence private still bound him,
disgracefully as she had abused it. And his resolution was as immovable
as ever to let no earthly consideration tempt him into betraying Miss
Gwilt. “I may have behaved like a fool,” he thought, “but I won’t break
my word; and I won’t be the means of turning that miserable woman adrift
in the world again.”

He wrote to the major as artlessly and briefly as he had written to
the major’s wife. He declared his unwillingness to cause a friend and
neighbor any disappointment, if he could possibly help it. On this
occasion he had no other choice. The questions the major asked him were
questions which he could not consent to answer. He was not very clever
at explaining himself, and he hoped he might be excused for putting it
in that way, and saying no more.

Monday’s post brought with it Major Milroy’s rejoinder, and closed the
correspondence.


“The Cottage, Thorpe Ambrose, Sunday.

“SIR--Your refusal to answer my questions, unaccompanied as it is by
even the shadow of an excuse for such a proceeding, can be interpreted
but in one way. Besides being an implied acknowledgment of the
correctness of Mrs. Milroy’s statement, it is also an implied reflection
on my governess’s character. As an act of justice toward a lady who
lives under the protection of my roof, and who has given me no reason
whatever to distrust her, I shall now show our correspondence to Miss
Gwilt; and I shall repeat to her the conversation which I had with Mrs.
Milroy on the subject, in Mrs. Milroy’s presence.

“One word more respecting the future relations between us, and I have
done. My ideas on certain subjects are, I dare say, the ideas of an
old-fashioned man. In my time, we had a code of honor by which we
regulated our actions. According to that code, if a man made private
inquiries into a lady’s affairs, without being either her husband, her
father, or her brother, he subjected himself to the responsibility of
justifying his conduct in the estimation of others; and, if he evaded
that responsibility, he abdicated the position of a gentleman. It is
quite possible that this antiquated way of thinking exists no longer;
but it is too late for me, at my time of life, to adopt more modern
views. I am scrupulously anxious, seeing that we live in a country and
a time in which the only court of honor is a police-court, to express
myself with the utmost moderation of language upon this the last
occasion that I shall have to communicate with you. Allow me, therefore,
merely to remark that our ideas of the conduct which is becoming in a
gentleman differ seriously; and permit me on this account to request
that you will consider yourself for the future as a stranger to my
family and to myself.

“Your obedient servant,

“DAVID MILROY.”


The Monday morning on which his client received the major’s letter was
the blackest Monday that had yet been marked in Pedgift’s calendar. When
Allan’s first angry sense of the tone of contempt in which his friend
and neighbor pronounced sentence on him had subsided, it left him sunk
in a state of depression from which no efforts made by his traveling
companion could rouse him for the rest of the day. Reverting naturally,
now that his sentence of banishment had been pronounced, to his early
intercourse with the cottage, his memory went back to Neelie, more
regretfully and more penitently than it had gone back to her yet. “If
_she_ had shut the door on me, instead of her father,” was the bitter
reflection with which Allan now reviewed the past, “I shouldn’t have had
a word to say against it; I should have felt it served me right.”

The next day brought another letter--a welcome letter this time,
from Mr. Brock. Allan had written to Somersetshire on the subject of
refitting the yacht some days since. The letter had found the rector
engaged, as he innocently supposed, in protecting his old pupil against
the woman whom he had watched in London, and whom he now believed to
have followed him back to his own home. Acting under the directions sent
to her, Mrs. Oldershaw’s house-maid had completed the mystification of
Mr. Brock. She had tranquilized all further anxiety on the rector’s part
by giving him a written undertaking (in the character of Miss Gwilt),
engaging never to approach Mr. Armadale, either personally or by letter!
Firmly persuaded that he had won the victory at last, poor Mr. Brock
answered Allan’s note in the highest spirits, expressing some natural
surprise at his leaving Thorpe Ambrose, but readily promising that the
yacht should be refitted, and offering the hospitality of the rectory in
the heartiest manner.

This letter did wonders in raising Allan’s spirits. It gave him a
new interest to look to, entirely disassociated from his past life in
Norfolk. He began to count the days that were still to pass before the
return of his absent friend. It was then Tuesday. If Midwinter came back
from his walking trip, as he had engaged to come back, in a fortnight,
Saturday would find him at Thorpe Ambrose. A note sent to meet the
traveler might bring him to London the same night; and, if all went
well, before another week was over they might be afloat together in the
yacht.

The next day passed, to Allan’s relief, without bringing any letters.
The spirits of Pedgift rose sympathetically with the spirits of his
client. Toward dinner time he reverted to the _mens sana in corpore
sano_ of the ancients, and issued his orders to the head-waiter more
royally than ever.

Thursday came, and brought the fatal postman with more news from
Norfolk. A letter-writer now stepped on the scene who had not appeared
there yet; and the total overthrow of all Allan’s plans for a visit to
Somersetshire was accomplished on the spot.

Pedgift Junior happened that morning to be the first at the breakfast
table. When Allan came in, he relapsed into his professional manner, and
offered a letter to his patron with a bow performed in dreary silence.

“For me?” inquired Allan, shrinking instinctively from a new
correspondent.

“For you, sir--from my father,” replied Pedgift, “inclosed in one to
myself. Perhaps you will allow me to suggest, by way of preparing
you for--for something a little unpleasant--that we shall want a
particularly good dinner to-day; and (if they’re not performing any
modern German music to-night) I think we should do well to finish the
evening melodiously at the Opera.”

“Something wrong at Thorpe Ambrose?” asked Allen.

“Yes, Mr. Armadale; something wrong at Thorpe Ambrose.”

Allan sat down resignedly, and opened the letter.


[“Private and Confidential.”]

“High Street Thorpe Ambrose, 17th July, 1851.

“DEAR SIR--I cannot reconcile it with my sense of duty to your interests
to leave you any longer in ignorance of reports current in this town
and its neighborhood, which, I regret to say, are reports affecting
yourself.

“The first intimation of anything unpleasant reached me on Monday last.
It was widely rumored in the town that something had gone wrong at Major
Milroy’s with the new governess, and that Mr. Armadale was mixed up in
it. I paid no heed to this, believing it to be one of the many trumpery
pieces of scandal perpetually set going here, and as necessary as
the air they breathe to the comfort of the inhabitants of this highly
respectable place.

“Tuesday, however, put the matter in a new light. The most interesting
particulars were circulated on the highest authority. On Wednesday,
the gentry in the neighborhood took the matter up, and universally
sanctioned the view adopted by the town. To-day the public feeling has
reached its climax, and I find myself under the necessity of making you
acquainted with what has happened.

“To begin at the beginning. It is asserted that a correspondence took
place last week between Major Milroy and yourself; in which you cast a
very serious suspicion on Miss Gwilt’s respectability, without defining
your accusations and without (on being applied to) producing your
proofs. Upon this, the major appears to have felt it his duty (while
assuring his governess of his own firm belief in her respectability) to
inform her of what had happened, in order that she might have no future
reason to complain of his having had any concealments from her in a
matter affecting her character. Very magnanimous on the major’s part;
but you will see directly that Miss Gwilt was more magnanimous still.
After expressing her thanks in a most becoming manner, she requested
permission to withdraw herself from Major Milroy’s service.

“Various reports are in circulation as to the governess’s reason for
taking this step.

“The authorized version (as sanctioned by the resident gentry)
represents Miss Gwilt to have said that she could not condescend--in
justice to herself, and in justice to her highly respectable
reference--to defend her reputation against undefined imputations cast
on it by a comparative stranger. At the same time it was impossible for
her to pursue such a course of conduct as this, unless she possessed a
freedom of action which was quite incompatible with her continuing to
occupy the dependent position of a governess. For that reason she felt
it incumbent on her to leave her situation. But, while doing this,
she was equally determined not to lead to any misinterpretation of her
motives by leaving the neighborhood. No matter at what inconvenience
to herself, she would remain long enough at Thorpe Ambrose to await
any more definitely expressed imputations that might be made on her
character, and to repel them publicly the instant they assumed a
tangible form.

“Such is the position which this high-minded lady has taken up, with an
excellent effect on the public mind in these parts. It is clearly her
interest, for some reason, to leave her situation, without leaving the
neighborhood. On Monday last she established herself in a cheap lodging
on the outskirts of the town. And on the same day she probably wrote to
her reference, for yesterday there came a letter from that lady to Major
Milroy, full of virtuous indignation, and courting the fullest inquiry.
The letter has been shown publicly, and has immensely strengthened
Miss Gwilt’s position. She is now considered to be quite a heroine. The
_Thorpe Ambrose Mercury_ has got a leading article about her, comparing
her to Joan of Arc. It is considered probable that she will be referred
to in the sermon next Sunday. We reckon five strong-minded single ladies
in this neighborhood--and all five have called on her. A testimonial was
suggested; but it has been given up at Miss Gwilt’s own request, and a
general movement is now on foot to get her employment as a teacher of
music. Lastly, I have had the honor of a visit from the lady herself,
in her capacity of martyr, to tell me, in the sweetest manner, that she
doesn’t blame Mr. Armadale, and that she considers him to be an innocent
instrument in the hands of other and more designing people. I was
carefully on my guard with her; for I don’t altogether believe in Miss
Gwilt, and I have my lawyer’s suspicions of the motive that is at the
bottom of her present proceedings.

“I have written thus far, my dear sir, with little hesitation or
embarrassment. But there is unfortunately a serious side to this
business as well as a ridiculous side; and I must unwillingly come to it
before I close my letter.

“It is, I think, quite impossible that you can permit yourself to be
spoken of as you are spoken of now, without stirring personally in the
matter. You have unluckily made many enemies here, and foremost among
them is my colleague, Mr. Darch. He has been showing everywhere a
somewhat rashly expressed letter you wrote to him on the subject of
letting the cottage to Major Milroy instead of to himself, and it has
helped to exasperate the feeling against you. It is roundly stated in so
many words that you have been prying into Miss Gwilt’s family affairs,
with the most dishonorable motives; that you have tried, for a
profligate purpose of your own, to damage her reputation, and to deprive
her of the protection of Major Milroy’s roof; and that, after having
been asked to substantiate by proof the suspicions that you have cast
on the reputation of a defenseless woman, you have maintained a silence
which condemns you in the estimation of all honorable men.

“I hope it is quite unnecessary for me to say that I don’t attach the
smallest particle of credit to these infamous reports. But they are too
widely spread and too widely believed to be treated with contempt.
I strongly urge you to return at once to this place, and to take the
necessary measures for defending your character, in concert with me, as
your legal adviser. I have formed, since my interview with Miss Gwilt,
a very strong opinion of my own on the subject of that lady which it is
not necessary to commit to paper. Suffice it to say here that I shall
have a means to propose to you for silencing the slanderous tongues
of your neighbors, on the success of which I stake my professional
reputation, if you will only back me by your presence and authority.

“It may, perhaps, help to show you the necessity there is for your
return, if I mention one other assertion respecting yourself, which is
in everybody’s mouth. Your absence is, I regret to tell you, attributed
to the meanest of all motives. It is said that you are remaining in
London because you are afraid to show your face at Thorpe Ambrose.

“Believe me, dear sir, your faithful servant,

“A. PEDGIFT, Sen.”


Allan was of an age to feel the sting contained in the last sentence
of his lawyer’s letter. He started to his feet in a paroxysm of
indignation, which revealed his character to Pedgift Junior in an
entirely new light.

“Where’s the time-table?” cried Allan. “I must go back to Thorpe Ambrose
by the next train! If it doesn’t start directly, I’ll have a special
engine. I must and will go back instantly, and I don’t care two straws
for the expense!”

“Suppose we telegraph to my father, sir?” suggested the judicious
Pedgift. “It’s the quickest way of expressing your feelings, and the
cheapest.”

“So it is,” said Allan. “Thank you for reminding me of it. Telegraph
to them! Tell your father to give every man in Thorpe Ambrose the
lie direct, in my name. Put it in capital letters, Pedgift--put it in
capital letters!”

Pedgift smiled and shook his head. If he was acquainted with no other
variety of human nature, he thoroughly knew the variety that exists in
country towns.

“It won’t have the least effect on them, Mr. Armadale,” he remarked
quietly. “They’ll only go on lying harder than ever. If you want to
upset the whole town, one line will do it. With five shillings’ worth of
human labor and electric fluid, sir (I dabble a little in science
after business hours), we’ll explode a bombshell in Thorpe Ambrose!”
 He produced the bombshell on a slip of paper as he spoke: “A. Pedgift,
Junior, to A. Pedgift, Senior.--Spread it all over the place that Mr.
Armadale is coming down by the next train.”

“More words!” suggested Allan, looking over his shoulder. “Make it
stronger.”

“Leave my father to make it stronger, sir,” returned the wary Pedgift.
“My father is on the spot, and his command of language is something
quite extraordinary.” He rang the bell, and dispatched the telegram.

Now that something had been done, Allan subsided gradually into a state
of composure. He looked back again at Mr. Pedgift’s letter, and then
handed it to Mr. Pedgift’s son.

“Can you guess your father’s plan for setting me right in the
neighborhood?” he asked.

Pedgift the younger shook his wise head. “His plan appears to be
connected in some way, sir, with his opinion of Miss Gwilt.”

“I wonder what he thinks of her?” said Allan.

“I shouldn’t be surprised, Mr. Armadale,” returned Pedgift Junior, “if
his opinion staggers you a little, when you come to hear it. My father
has had a large legal experience of the shady side of the sex, and he
learned his profession at the Old Bailey.”

Allan made no further inquiries. He seemed to shrink from pursuing the
subject, after having started it himself. “Let’s be doing something to
kill the time,” he said. “Let’s pack up and pay the bill.”

They packed up and paid the bill. The hour came, and the train left for
Norfolk at last.

While the travelers were on their way back, a somewhat longer
telegraphic message than Allan’s was flashing its way past them along
the wires, in the reverse direction--from Thorpe Ambrose to London. The
message was in cipher, and, the signs being interpreted, it ran thus:
“From Lydia Gwilt to Maria Oldershaw.--Good news! He is coming back. I
mean to have an interview with him. Everything looks well. Now I have
left the cottage, I have no women’s prying eyes to dread, and I can come
and go as I please. Mr. Midwinter is luckily out of the way. I don’t
despair of becoming Mrs. Armadale yet. Whatever happens, depend on my
keeping away from London until I am certain of not taking any spies
after me to your place. I am in no hurry to leave Thorpe Ambrose. I mean
to be even with Miss Milroy first.”

Shortly after that message was received in London, Allan was back again
in his own house.

It was evening--Pedgift Junior had just left him--and Pedgift Senior was
expected to call on business in half an hour’s time.



V. PEDGIFT’S REMEDY.

After waiting to hold a preliminary consultation with his son, Mr.
Pedgift the elder set forth alone for his interview with Allan at the
great house.

Allowing for the difference in their ages, the son was, in this
instance, so accurately the reflection of the father, that an
acquaintance with either of the two Pedgifts was almost equivalent to an
acquaintance with both. Add some little height and size to the figure
of Pedgift Junior, give more breadth and boldness to his humor, and some
additional solidity and composure to his confidence in himself, and
the presence and character of Pedgift Senior stood, for all general
purposes, revealed before you.

The lawyer’s conveyance to Thorpe Ambrose was his own smart gig, drawn
by his famous fast-trotting mare. It was his habit to drive himself; and
it was one among the trifling external peculiarities in which he and his
son differed a little, to affect something of the sporting character in
his dress. The drab trousers of Pedgift the elder fitted close to his
legs; his boots, in dry weather and wet alike, were equally thick in
the sole; his coat pockets overlapped his hips, and his favorite summer
cravat was of light spotted muslin, tied in the neatest and smallest of
bows. He used tobacco like his son, but in a different form. While the
younger man smoked, the elder took snuff copiously; and it was noticed
among his intimates that he always held his “pinch” in a state of
suspense between his box and his nose when he was going to clinch a good
bargain or to say a good thing. The art of diplomacy enters largely into
the practice of all successful men in the lower branch of the law. Mr.
Pedgift’s form of diplomatic practice had been the same throughout his
life, on every occasion when he found his arts of persuasion required
at an interview with another man. He invariably kept his strongest
argument, or his boldest proposal, to the last, and invariably
remembered it at the door (after previously taking his leave), as if it
was a purely accidental consideration which had that instant occurred to
him. Jocular friends, acquainted by previous experience with this form
of proceeding, had given it the name of “Pedgift’s postscript.” There
were few people in Thorpe Ambrose who did not know what it meant when
the lawyer suddenly checked his exit at the opened door; came back
softly to his chair, with his pinch of snuff suspended between his
box and his nose; said, “By-the-by, there’s a point occurs to me;” and
settled the question off-hand, after having given it up in despair not a
minute before.

This was the man whom the march of events at Thorpe Ambrose had now
thrust capriciously into a foremost place. This was the one friend at
hand to whom Allan in his social isolation could turn for counsel in the
hour of need.


“Good-evening, Mr. Armadale. Many thanks for your prompt attention to my
very disagreeable letter,” said Pedgift Senior, opening the conversation
cheerfully the moment he entered his client’s house. “I hope you
understand, sir, that I had really no choice under the circumstances but
to write as I did?”

“I have very few friends, Mr. Pedgift,” returned Allan, simply. “And I
am sure you are one of the few.”

“Much obliged, Mr. Armadale. I have always tried to deserve your good
opinion, and I mean, if I can, to deserve it now. You found yourself
comfortable, I hope, sir, at the hotel in London? We call it Our hotel.
Some rare old wine in the cellar, which I should have introduced to your
notice if I had had the honor of being with you. My son unfortunately
knows nothing about wine.”

Allan felt his false position in the neighborhood far too acutely to be
capable of talking of anything but the main business of the evening. His
lawyer’s politely roundabout method of approaching the painful subject
to be discussed between them rather irritated than composed him. He came
at once to the point, in his own bluntly straightforward way.

“The hotel was very comfortable, Mr. Pedgift, and your son was very kind
to me. But we are not in London now; and I want to talk to you about
how I am to meet the lies that are being told of me in this place.
Only point me out any one man,” cried Allan, with a rising voice and a
mounting color--“any one man who says I am afraid to show my face in the
neighborhood, and I’ll horsewhip him publicly before another day is over
his head!”

Pedgift Senior helped himself to a pinch of snuff, and held it calmly in
suspense midway between his box and his nose.

“You can horsewhip a man, sir; but you can’t horsewhip a neighborhood,”
 said the lawyer, in his politely epigrammatic manner. “We will fight our
battle, if you please, without borrowing our weapons of the coachman yet
a while, at any rate.”

“But how are we to begin?” asked Allan, impatiently. “How am I to
contradict the infamous things they say of me?”

“There are two ways of stepping out of your present awkward position,
sir--a short way, and a long way,” replied Pedgift Senior. “The short
way (which is always the best) has occurred to me since I have heard of
your proceedings in London from my son. I understand that you permitted
him, after you received my letter, to take me into your confidence. I
have drawn various conclusions from what he has told me, which I may
find it necessary to trouble you with presently. In the meantime I
should be glad to know under what circumstances you went to London
to make these unfortunate inquiries about Miss Gwilt? Was it your own
notion to pay that visit to Mrs. Mandeville? or were you acting under
the influence of some other person?”

Allan hesitated. “I can’t honestly tell you it was my own notion,” he
replied, and said no more.

“I thought as much!” remarked Pedgift Senior, in high triumph. “The
short way out of our present difficulty, Mr. Armadale, lies straight
through that other person, under whose influence you acted. That other
person must be presented forthwith to public notice, and must stand in
that other person’s proper place. The name, if you please, sir, to begin
with--we’ll come to the circumstances directly.”

“I am sorry to say, Mr. Pedgift, that we must try the longest way, if
you have no objection,” replied Allan, quietly. “The short way happens
to be a way I can’t take on this occasion.”

The men who rise in the law are the men who decline to take No for an
answer. Mr. Pedgift the elder had risen in the law; and Mr. Pedgift the
elder now declined to take No for an answer. But all pertinacity--even
professional pertinacity included--sooner or later finds its limits; and
the lawyer, doubly fortified as he was by long experience and copious
pinches of snuff, found his limits at the very outset of the interview.
It was impossible that Allan could respect the confidence which Mrs.
Milroy had treacherously affected to place in him. But he had an
honest man’s regard for his own pledged word--the regard which looks
straightforward at the fact, and which never glances sidelong at the
circumstances--and the utmost persistency of Pedgift Senior failed to
move him a hairbreadth from the position which he had taken up. “No” is
the strongest word in the English language, in the mouth of any man who
has the courage to repeat it often enough, and Allan had the courage to
repeat it often enough on this occasion.

“Very good, sir,” said the lawyer, accepting his defeat without the
slightest loss of temper. “The choice rests with you, and you have
chosen. We will go the long way. It starts (allow me to inform you) from
my office; and it leads (as I strongly suspect) through a very miry road
to--Miss Gwilt.”

Allan looked at his legal adviser in speechless astonishment.

“If you won’t expose the person who is responsible in the first
instance, sir, for the inquiries to which you unfortunately lent
yourself,” proceeded Mr. Pedgift the elder, “the only other alternative,
in your present position, is to justify the inquiries themselves.”

“And how is that to be done?” inquired Allan.

“By proving to the whole neighborhood, Mr. Armadale, what I firmly
believe to be the truth--that the pet object of the public protection is
an adventuress of the worst class; an undeniably worthless and dangerous
woman. In plainer English still, sir, by employing time enough and money
enough to discover the truth about Miss Gwilt.”


Before Allan could say a word in answer, there was an interruption at
the door. After the usual preliminary knock, one of the servants came
in.

“I told you I was not to be interrupted,” said Allan, irritably. “Good
heavens! am I never to have done with them? Another letter!”

“Yes, sir,” said the man, holding it out. “And,” he added, speaking
words of evil omen in his master’s ears, “the person waits for an
answer.”

Allan looked at the address of the letter with a natural expectation of
encountering the handwriting of the major’s wife. The anticipation was
not realized. His correspondent was plainly a lady, but the lady was not
Mrs. Milroy.

“Who can it be?” he said, looking mechanically at Pedgift Senior as he
opened the envelope.

Pedgift Senior gently tapped his snuff-box, and said, without a moment’s
hesitation, “Miss Gwilt.”

Allan opened the letter. The first two words in it were the echo of the
two words the lawyer had just pronounced. It _was_ Miss Gwilt!

Once more, Allan looked at his legal adviser in speechless astonishment.

“I have known a good many of them in my time, sir,” explained Pedgift
Senior, with a modesty equally rare and becoming in a man of his age.
“Not as handsome as Miss Gwilt, I admit. But quite as bad, I dare say.
Read your letter, Mr. Armadale--read your letter.”

Allan read these lines:


“Miss Gwilt presents her compliments to Mr. Armadale and begs to know if
it will be convenient to him to favor her with an interview, either this
evening or to-morrow morning. Miss Gwilt offers no apology for making
her present request. She believes Mr. Armadale will grant it as an act
of justice toward a friendless woman whom he has been innocently the
means of injuring, and who is earnestly desirous to set herself right in
his estimation.”


Allan handed the letter to his lawyer in silent perplexity and distress.

The face of Mr. Pedgift the elder expressed but one feeling when he
had read the letter in his turn and had handed it back--a feeling of
profound admiration. “What a lawyer she would have made,” he exclaimed,
fervently, “if she had only been a man!”

“I can’t treat this as lightly as you do, Mr. Pedgift,” said Allan.
“It’s dreadfully distressing to me. I was so fond of her,” he added, in
a lower tone--“I was so fond of her once.”

Mr. Pedgift Senior suddenly became serious on his side.

“Do you mean to say, sir, that you actually contemplate seeing Miss
Gwilt?” he asked, with an expression of genuine dismay.

“I can’t treat her cruelly,” returned Allan. “I have been the means of
injuring her--without intending it, God knows! I can’t treat her cruelly
after that!”

“Mr. Armadale,” said the lawyer, “you did me the honor, a little while
since, to say that you considered me your friend. May I presume on that
position to ask you a question or two, before you go straight to your
own ruin?”

“Any questions you like,” said Allan, looking back at the letter--the
only letter he had ever received from Miss Gwilt.

“You have had one trap set for you already, sir, and you have fallen
into it. Do you want to fall into another?”

“You know the answer to that question, Mr. Pedgift, as well as I do.”

“I’ll try again, Mr. Armadale; we lawyers are not easily discouraged. Do
you think that any statement Miss Gwilt might make to you, if you do
see her, would be a statement to be relied on, after what you and my son
discovered in London?”

“She might explain what we discovered in London,” suggested Allan, still
looking at the writing, and thinking of the hand that had traced it.

“_Might_ explain it? My dear sir, she is quite certain to explain it!
I will do her justice: I believe she would make out a case without a
single flaw in it from beginning to end.”

That last answer forced Allan’s attention away from the letter. The
lawyer’s pitiless common sense showed him no mercy.

“If you see that woman again, sir,” proceeded Pedgift Senior, “you will
commit the rashest act of folly I ever heard of in all my experience.
She can have but one object in coming here--to practice on your weakness
for her. Nobody can say into what false step she may not lead you, if
you once give her the opportunity. You admit yourself that you have been
fond of her; your attentions to her have been the subject of general
remark; if you haven’t actually offered her the chance of becoming Mrs.
Armadale, you have done the next thing to it; and knowing all this, you
propose to see her, and to let her work on you with her devilish beauty
and her devilish cleverness, in the character of your interesting
victim! You, who are one of the best matches in England! You, who are
the natural prey of all the hungry single women in the community! I
never heard the like of it; I never, in all my professional experience,
heard the like of it! If you must positively put yourself in a
dangerous position, Mr. Armadale,” concluded Pedgift the elder, with
the everlasting pinch of snuff held in suspense between his box and his
nose, “there’s a wild-beast show coming to our town next week. Let in
the tigress, sir; don’t let in Miss Gwilt!”

For the third time Allan looked at his lawyer. And for the third time
his lawyer looked back at him quite unabashed.

“You seem to have a very bad opinion of Miss Gwilt,” said Allan.

“The worst possible opinion, Mr. Armadale,” retorted Pedgift Senior,
coolly. “We will return to that when we have sent the lady’s messenger
about his business. Will you take my advice? Will you decline to see
her?”

“I would willingly decline--it would be so dreadfully distressing to
both of us,” said Allan. “I would willingly decline, if I only knew
how.”

“Bless my soul, Mr. Armadale, it’s easy enough! Don’t commit _you_
yourself in writing. Send out to the messenger, and say there’s no
answer.”

The short course thus suggested was a course which Allan positively
declined to take. “It’s treating her brutally,” he said; “I can’t and
won’t do it.”

Once more the pertinacity of Pedgift the elder found its limits, and
once more that wise man yielded gracefully to a compromise. On receiving
his client’s promise not to see Miss Gwilt, he consented to Allan’s
committing himself in writing under his lawyer’s dictation. The letter
thus produced was modeled in Allan’s own style; it began and ended in
one sentence. “Mr. Armadale presents his compliments to Miss Gwilt,
and regrets that he cannot have the pleasure of seeing her at Thorpe
Ambrose.” Allan had pleaded hard for a second sentence, explaining
that he only declined Miss Gwilt’s request from a conviction that an
interview would be needlessly distressing on both sides. But his legal
adviser firmly rejected the proposed addition to the letter. “When you
say No to a woman, sir,” remarked Pedgift Senior, “always say it in one
word. If you give her your reasons, she invariably believes that you
mean Yes.”

Producing that little gem of wisdom from the rich mine of his
professional experience, Mr. Pedgift the elder sent out the answer to
Miss Gwilt’s messenger, and recommended the servant to “see the fellow,
whoever he was, well clear of the house.”

“Now, sir,” said the lawyer, “we will come back, if you like, to my
opinion of Miss Gwilt. It doesn’t at all agree with yours, I’m afraid.
You think her an object of pity--quite natural at your age. I think her
an object for the inside of a prison--quite natural at mine. You shall
hear the grounds on which I have formed my opinion directly. Let me show
you that I am in earnest by putting the opinion itself, in the first
place, to a practical test. Do you think Miss Gwilt is likely to persist
in paying you a visit, Mr. Armadale, after the answer you have just sent
to her?”

“Quite impossible!” cried Allan, warmly. “Miss Gwilt is a lady; after
the letter I have sent to her, she will never come near me again.”

“There we join issue, sir,” cried Pedgift Senior. “I say she will snap
her fingers at your letter (which was one of the reasons why I objected
to your writing it). I say, she is in all probability waiting her
messenger’s return, in or near your grounds at this moment. I say, she
will try to force her way in here, before four-and-twenty hours more
are over your head. Egad, sir!” cried Mr. Pedgift, looking at his watch,
“it’s only seven o’clock now. She’s bold enough and clever enough
to catch you unawares this very evening. Permit me to ring for the
servant--permit me to request that you will give him orders immediately
to say you are not at home. You needn’t hesitate, Mr. Armadale! If
you’re right about Miss Gwilt, it’s a mere formality. If I’m right, it’s
a wise precaution. Back your opinion, sir,” said Mr. Pedgift, ringing
the bell; “I back mine!”

Allan was sufficiently nettled when the bell rang to feel ready to
give the order. But when the servant came in, past remembrances got the
better of him, and the words stuck in his throat. “You give the order,”
 he said to Mr. Pedgift, and walked away abruptly to the window.
“You’re a good fellow!” thought the old lawyer, looking after him, and
penetrating his motive on the instant. “The claws of that she-devil
shan’t scratch you if I can help it.”

The servant waited inexorably for his orders.

“If Miss Gwilt calls here, either this evening, or at any other time,”
 said Pedgift Senior, “Mr. Armadale is not at home. Wait! If she asks
when Mr. Armadale will be back, you don’t know. Wait! If she proposes
coming in and sitting down, you have a general order that nobody is to
come in and sit down unless they have a previous appointment with Mr.
Armadale. Come!” cried old Pedgift, rubbing his hands cheerfully when
the servant had left the room, “I’ve stopped her out now, at any
rate! The orders are all given, Mr. Armadale. We may go on with our
conversation.”

Allan came back from the window. “The conversation is not a very
pleasant one,” he said. “No offense to you, but I wish it was over.”

“We will get it over as soon as possible, sir,” said Pedgift Senior,
still persisting, as only lawyers and women _can_ persist, in forcing
his way little by little nearer and nearer to his own object. “Let us go
back, if you please, to the practical suggestion which I offered to you
when the servant came in with Miss Gwilt’s note. There is, I repeat,
only one way left for you, Mr. Armadale, out of your present awkward
position. You must pursue your inquiries about this woman to an end--on
the chance (which I consider next to a certainty) that the end will
justify you in the estimation of the neighborhood.”

“I wish to God I had never made any inquiries at all!” said Allan.
“Nothing will induce me, Mr. Pedgift, to make any more.”

“Why?” asked the lawyer.

“Can you ask me why,” retorted Allan, hotly, “after your son has told
you what we found out in London? Even if I had less cause to be--to be
sorry for Miss Gwilt than I have; even if it was some other woman, do
you think I would inquire any further into the secret of a poor betrayed
creature--much less expose it to the neighborhood? I should think myself
as great a scoundrel as the man who has cast her out helpless on the
world, if I did anything of the kind. I wonder you can ask me the
question--upon my soul, I wonder you can ask me the question!”

“Give me your hand, Mr. Armadale!” cried Pedgift Senior, warmly; “I
honor you for being so angry with me. The neighborhood may say what it
pleases; you’re a gentleman, sir, in the best sense of the word. Now,”
 pursued the lawyer, dropping Allan’s hand, and lapsing back instantly
from sentiment to business, “just hear what I have got to say in my own
defense. Suppose Miss Gwilt’s real position happens to be nothing like
what you are generously determined to believe it to be?”

“We have no reason to suppose that,” said Allan, resolutely.

“Such is your opinion, sir,” persisted Pedgift. “Mine, founded on what
is publicly known of Miss Gwilt’s proceedings here, and on what I have
seen of Miss Gwilt herself, is that she is as far as I am from being
the sentimental victim you are inclined to make her out. Gently, Mr.
Armadale! remember that I have put my opinion to a practical test, and
wait to condemn it off-hand until events have justified you. Let me put
my points, sir--make allowances for me as a lawyer--and let me put
my points. You and my son are young men; and I don’t deny that the
circumstances, on the surface, appear to justify the interpretation
which, as young men, you have placed on them. I am an old man--I know
that circumstances are not always to be taken as they appear on the
surface--and I possess the great advantage, in the present case, of
having had years of professional experience among some of the wickedest
women who ever walked this earth.”

Allan opened his lips to protest, and checked himself, in despair
of producing the slightest effect. Pedgift Senior bowed in polite
acknowledgment of his client’s self-restraint, and took instant
advantage of it to go on.

“All Miss Gwilt’s proceedings,” he resumed, “since your unfortunate
correspondence with the major show me that she is an old hand at deceit.
The moment she is threatened with exposure--exposure of some kind, there
can be no doubt, after what you discovered in London--she turns your
honorable silence to the best possible account, and leaves the major’s
service in the character of a martyr. Once out of the house, what does
she do next? She boldly stops in the neighborhood, and serves three
excellent purposes by doing so. In the first place, she shows everybody
that she is not afraid of facing another attack on her reputation. In
the second place, she is close at hand to twist you round her little
finger, and to become Mrs. Armadale in spite of circumstances, if you
(and I) allow her the opportunity. In the third place, if you (and I)
are wise enough to distrust her, she is equally wise on her side, and
doesn’t give us the first great chance of following her to London, and
associating her with her accomplices. Is this the conduct of an unhappy
woman who has lost her character in a moment of weakness, and who has
been driven unwillingly into a deception to get it back again?”

“You put it cleverly,” said Allan, answering with marked reluctance; “I
can’t deny that you put it cleverly.”

“Your own common sense, Mr. Armadale, is beginning to tell you that I
put it justly,” said Pedgift Senior. “I don’t presume to say yet what
this woman’s connection may be with those people at Pimlico. All I
assert is that it is not the connection you suppose. Having stated the
facts so far, I have only to add my own personal impression of Miss
Gwilt. I won’t shock you, if I can help it; I’ll try if I can’t put it
cleverly again. She came to my office (as I told you in my letter), no
doubt to make friends with your lawyer, if she could; she came to tell
me, in the most forgiving and Christian manner, that she didn’t blame
_you_.”

“Do you ever believe in anybody, Mr. Pedgift?” interposed Allan.

“Sometimes, Mr. Armadale,” returned Pedgift the elder, as unabashed as
ever. “I believe as often as a lawyer can. To proceed, sir. When I
was in the criminal branch of practice, it fell to my lot to take
instructions for the defense of women committed for trial from the
women’s own lips. Whatever other difference there might be among them,
I got, in time, to notice, among those who were particularly wicked and
unquestionably guilty, one point in which they all resembled each other.
Tall and short, old and young, handsome and ugly, they all had a secret
self-possession that nothing could shake. On the surface they were as
different as possible. Some of them were in a state of indignation;
some of them were drowned in tears; some of them were full of pious
confidence; and some of them were resolved to commit suicide before the
night was out. But only put your finger suddenly on the weak point in
the story told by any one of them, and there was an end of her rage, or
her tears, or her piety, or her despair; and out came the genuine woman,
in full possession of all her resources with a neat little lie that
exactly suited the circumstances of the case. Miss Gwilt was in tears,
sir--becoming tears that didn’t make her nose red--and I put my finger
suddenly on the weak point in _her_ story. Down dropped her pathetic
pocket-handkerchief from her beautiful blue eyes, and out came
the genuine woman with the neat little lie that exactly suited the
circumstances! I felt twenty years younger, Mr. Armadale, on the spot. I
declare I thought I was in Newgate again, with my note-book in my hand,
taking my instructions for the defense!”

“The next thing you’ll say, Mr. Pedgift,” cried Allan, angrily, “is that
Miss Gwilt has been in prison!”

Pedgift Senior calmly rapped his snuff-box, and had his answer ready at
a moment’s notice.

“She may have richly deserved to see the inside of a prison, Mr.
Armadale; but, in the age we live in, that is one excellent reason
for her never having been near any place of the kind. A prison, in the
present tender state of public feeling, for a charming woman like Miss
Gwilt! My dear sir, if she had attempted to murder you or me, and if an
inhuman judge and jury had decided on sending her to a prison, the first
object of modern society would be to prevent her going into it; and, if
that couldn’t be done, the next object would be to let her out again as
soon as possible. Read your newspaper, Mr. Armadale, and you’ll find we
live in piping times for the black sheep of the community--if they are
only black enough. I insist on asserting, sir, that we have got one of
the blackest of the lot to deal with in this case. I insist on asserting
that you have had the rare luck, in these unfortunate inquiries, to
pitch on a woman who happens to be a fit object for inquiry, in the
interests of the public protection. Differ with me as strongly as you
please, but don’t make up your mind finally about Miss Gwilt until
events have put those two opposite opinions of ours to the test that I
have proposed. A fairer test there can’t be. I agree with you that no
lady worthy of the name could attempt to force her way in here, after
receiving your letter. But I deny that Miss Gwilt is worthy of the name;
and I say she will try to force her way in here in spite of you.”

“And I say she won’t!” retorted Allan, firmly.

Pedgift Senior leaned back in his chair and smiled. There was a
momentary silence, and in that silence the door-bell rang.

The lawyer and the client both looked expectantly in the direction of
the hall.

“No,” cried Allan, more angrily than ever.

“Yes!” cried Pedgift Senior, contradicting him with the utmost
politeness.

They waited the event. The opening of the house door was audible, but
the room was too far from it for the sound of voices to reach the ear as
well. After a long interval of expectation, the closing of the door was
heard at last. Allan rose impetuously and rang the bell. Mr. Pedgift the
elder sat sublimely calm, and enjoyed, with a gentle zest, the largest
pinch of snuff he had taken yet.

“Anybody for me?” asked Allan, when the servant came in.

The man looked at Pedgift Senior, with an expression of unutterable
reverence, and answered, “Miss Gwilt.”

“I don’t want to crow over you, sir,” said Mr. Pedgift the elder, when
the servant had withdrawn. “But what do you think of Miss Gwilt _now_?”

Allan shook his head in silent discouragement and distress.

“Time is of some importance, Mr. Armadale. After what has just happened,
do you still object to taking the course I have had the honor of
suggesting to you?”

“I can’t, Mr. Pedgift,” said Allan. “I can’t be the means of disgracing
her in the neighborhood. I would rather be disgraced myself--as I am.”

“Let me put it in another way, sir. Excuse my persisting. You have been
very kind to me and my family; and I have a personal interest, as well
as a professional interest, in you. If you can’t prevail on yourself
to show this woman’s character in its true light, will you take common
precautions to prevent her doing any more harm? Will you consent
to having her privately watched as long as she remains in this
neighborhood?”

For the second time Allan shook his head.

“Is that your final resolution, sir?”

“It is, Mr. Pedgift; but I am much obliged to you for your advice, all
the same.”

Pedgift Senior rose in a state of gentle resignation, and took up his
hat “Good-evening, sir,” he said, and made sorrowfully for the door.
Allan rose on his side, innocently supposing that the interview was
at an end. Persons better acquainted with the diplomatic habits of his
legal adviser would have recommended him to keep his seat. The time was
ripe for “Pedgift’s postscript,” and the lawyer’s indicative snuff-box
was at that moment in one of his hands, as he opened the door with the
other.

“Good-evening,” said Allan.

Pedgift Senior opened the door, stopped, considered, closed the door
again, came back mysteriously with his pinch of snuff in suspense
between his box and his nose, and repeating his invariable formula,
“By-the-by, there’s a point occurs to me,” quietly resumed possession of
his empty chair.

Allan, wondering, took the seat, in his turn, which he had just left.
Lawyer and client looked at each other once more, and the inexhaustible
interview began again.



VI. PEDGIFT’S POSTSCRIPT.

“I mentioned that a point had occurred to me, sir,” remarked Pedgift
Senior.

“You did,” said Allan.

“Would you like to hear what it is, Mr. Armadale?”

“If you please,” said Allan.

“With all my heart, sir! This is the point. I attach considerable
importance--if nothing else can be done--to having Miss Gwilt privately
looked after, as long as she stops at Thorpe Ambrose. It struck me just
now at the door, Mr. Armadale, that what you are not willing to do
for your own security, you might be willing to do for the security of
another person.”

“What other person?” inquired Allan.

“A young lady who is a near neighbor of yours, sir. Shall I mention the
name in confidence? Miss Milroy.”

Allan started, and changed color.

“Miss Milroy!” he repeated. “Can _she_ be concerned in this miserable
business? I hope not, Mr. Pedgift; I sincerely hope not.”

“I paid a visit, in your interests, sir, at the cottage this morning,”
 proceeded Pedgift Senior. “You shall hear what happened there, and judge
for yourself. Major Milroy has been expressing his opinion of you pretty
freely; and I thought it highly desirable to give him a caution. It’s
always the way with those quiet addle-headed men: when they do once wake
up, there’s no reasoning with their obstinacy, and no quieting their
violence. Well, sir, this morning I went to the cottage. The major
and Miss Neelie were both in the parlor--miss not looking so pretty
as usual; pale, I thought, pale, and worn, and anxious. Up jumps the
addle-headed major (I wouldn’t give _that_, Mr. Armadale, for the
brains of a man who can occupy himself for half his lifetime in making
a clock!)--up jumps the addle-headed major, in the loftiest manner, and
actually tries to look me down. Ha! ha! the idea of anybody looking _me_
down, at my time of life. I behaved like a Christian; I nodded kindly to
old What’s-o’clock ‘Fine morning, major,’ says I. ‘Have you any business
with me?’ says he. ‘Just a word,’ says I. Miss Neelie, like the sensible
girl she is, gets up to leave the room; and what does her ridiculous
father do? He stops her. ‘You needn’t go, my dear, I have nothing to
say to Mr. Pedgift,’ says this old military idiot, and turns my way, and
tries to look me down again. ‘You are Mr. Armadale’s lawyer,’ says he;
‘if you come on any business relating to Mr. Armadale, I refer you to my
solicitor.’ (His solicitor is Darch; and Darch has had enough of _me_ in
business, I can tell you!) ‘My errand here, major, does certainly relate
to Mr. Armadale,’ says I; ‘but it doesn’t concern your lawyer--at any
rate, just yet. I wish to caution you to suspend your opinion of my
client, or, if you won’t do that, to be careful how you express it in
public. I warn you that our turn is to come, and that you are not at the
end yet of this scandal about Miss Gwilt.’ It struck me as likely that
he would lose his temper when he found himself tackled in that way,
and he amply fulfilled my expectations. He was quite violent in his
language--the poor weak creature--actually violent with _me_! I behaved
like a Christian again; I nodded kindly, and wished him good-morning.
When I looked round to wish Miss Neelie good-morning, too, she was gone.
You seem restless, Mr. Armadale,” remarked Pedgift Senior, as Allan,
feeling the sting of old recollections, suddenly started out of his
chair, and began pacing up and down the room. “I won’t try your patience
much longer, sir; I am coming to the point.”

“I beg your pardon, Mr. Pedgift,” said Allan, returning to his seat, and
trying to look composedly at the lawyer through the intervening image of
Neelie which the lawyer had called up.

“Well, sir, I left the cottage,” resumed Pedgift Senior. “Just as I
turned the corner from the garden into the park, whom should I stumble
on but Miss Neelie herself, evidently on the lookout for me. ‘I want to
speak to you for one moment, Mr. Pedgift!’ says she. ‘Does Mr. Armadale
think _me_ mixed up in this matter?’ She was violently agitated--tears
in her eyes, sir, of the sort which my legal experience has _not_
accustomed me to see. I quite forgot myself; I actually gave her my arm,
and led her away gently among the trees. (A nice position to find me in,
if any of the scandal-mongers of the town had happened to be walking in
that direction!) ‘My dear Miss Milroy,’ says I, ‘why should Mr. Armadale
think _you_ mixed up in it?’”

“You ought to have told her at once that I thought nothing of the kind!”
 exclaimed Allan, indignantly. “Why did you leave her a moment in doubt
about it?”

“Because I am a lawyer, Mr. Armadale,” rejoined Pedgift Senior, dryly.
“Even in moments of sentiment, under convenient trees, with a pretty
girl on my arm, I can’t entirely divest myself of my professional
caution. Don’t look distressed, sir, pray! I set things right in due
course of time. Before I left Miss Milroy, I told her, in the plainest
terms, no such idea had ever entered your head.”

“Did she seem relieved?” asked Allan.

“She was able to dispense with the use of my arm, sir,” replied old
Pedgift, as dryly as ever, “and to pledge me to inviolable secrecy on
the subject of our interview. She was particularly desirous that _you_
should hear nothing about it. If you are at all anxious on your side to
know why I am now betraying her confidence, I beg to inform you that
her confidence related to no less a person than the lady who favored you
with a call just now--Miss Gwilt.”

Allan, who had been once more restlessly pacing the room, stopped, and
returned to his chair.

“Is this serious?” he asked.

“Most serious, sir,” returned Pedgift Senior. “I am betraying Miss
Neelie’s secret, in Miss Neelie’s own interest. Let us go back to that
cautious question I put to her. She found some little difficulty in
answering it, for the reply involved her in a narrative of the parting
interview between her governess and herself. This is the substance of
it. The two were alone when Miss Gwilt took leave of her pupil; and the
words she used (as reported to me by Miss Neelie) were these. She said,
‘Your mother has declined to allow me to take leave of her. Do you
decline too?’ Miss Neelie’s answer was a remarkably sensible one for
a girl of her age. ‘We have not been good friends,’ she said, ‘and I
believe we are equally glad to part with each other. But I have no wish
to decline taking leave of you.’ Saying that, she held out her hand.
Miss Gwilt stood looking at her steadily, without taking it, and
addressed her in these words: ‘_You are not Mrs. Armadale yet_.’ Gently,
sir! Keep your temper. It’s not at all wonderful that a woman, conscious
of having her own mercenary designs on you, should attribute similar
designs to a young lady who happens to be your near neighbor. Let me go
on. Miss Neelie, by her own confession (and quite naturally, I think),
was excessively indignant. She owns to having answered, ‘You shameless
creature, how dare you say that to me!’ Miss Gwilt’s rejoinder was
rather a remarkable one--the anger, on her side, appears to have been
of the cool, still, venomous kind. ‘Nobody ever yet injured me, Miss
Milroy,’ she said, ‘without sooner or later bitterly repenting it. _You_
will bitterly repent it.’ She stood looking at her pupil for a moment in
dead silence, and then left the room. Miss Neelie appears to have
felt the imputation fastened on her, in connection with you, far more
sensitively than she felt the threat. She had previously known, as
everybody had known in the house, that some unacknowledged proceedings
of yours in London had led to Miss Gwilt’s voluntary withdrawal from
her situation. And she now inferred, from the language addressed to
her, that she was actually believed by Miss Gwilt to have set those
proceedings on foot, to advance herself, and to injure her governess, in
your estimation. Gently, sir, gently! I haven’t quite done yet. As soon
as Miss Neelie had recovered herself, she went upstairs to speak to Mrs.
Milroy. Miss Gwilt’s abominable imputation had taken her by surprise;
and she went to her mother first for enlightenment and advice. She got
neither the one nor the other. Mrs. Milroy declared she was too ill to
enter on the subject, and she has remained too ill to enter on it ever
since. Miss Neelie applied next to her father. The major stopped her the
moment your name passed her lips: he declared he would never hear you
mentioned again by any member of his family. She has been left in
the dark from that time to this, not knowing how she might have been
misrepresented by Miss Gwilt, or what falsehoods you might have been led
to believe of her. At my age and in my profession, I don’t profess to
have any extraordinary softness of heart. But I do think, Mr. Armadale,
that Miss Neelie’s position deserves our sympathy.”

“I’ll do anything to help her!” cried Allan, impulsively. “You don’t
know, Mr. Pedgift, what reason I have--” He checked himself, and
confusedly repeated his first words. “I’ll do anything,” he reiterated
earnestly--“anything in the world to help her!”

“Do you really mean that, Mr. Armadale? Excuse my asking; but you can
very materially help Miss Neelie, if you choose!”

“How?” asked Allan. “Only tell me how!”

“By giving me your authority, sir, to protect her from Miss Gwilt.”

Having fired that shot pointblank at his client, the wise lawyer waited
a little to let it take its effect before he said any more.

Allan’s face clouded, and he shifted uneasily from side to side of his
chair.

“Your son is hard enough to deal with, Mr. Pedgift,” he said, “and you
are harder than your son.”

“Thank you, sir,” rejoined the ready Pedgift, “in my son’s name and my
own, for a handsome compliment to the firm. If you really wish to be of
assistance to Miss Neelie,” he went on, more seriously, “I have shown
you the way. You can do nothing to quiet her anxiety which I have not
done already. As soon as I had assured her that no misconception of her
conduct existed in your mind, she went away satisfied. Her governess’s
parting threat doesn’t seem to have dwelt on her memory. I can tell you,
Mr. Armadale, it dwells on mine! You know my opinion of Miss Gwilt; and
you know what Miss Gwilt herself has done this very evening to justify
that opinion even in your eyes. May I ask, after all that has passed,
whether you think she is the sort of woman who can be trusted to confine
herself to empty threats?”

The question was a formidable one to answer. Forced steadily back from
the position which he had occupied at the outset of the interview, by
the irresistible pressure of plain facts, Allan began for the first time
to show symptoms of yielding on the subject of Miss Gwilt. “Is there no
other way of protecting Miss Milroy but the way you have mentioned?” he
asked, uneasily.

“Do you think the major would listen to you, sir, if you spoke to him?”
 asked Pedgift Senior, sarcastically. “I’m rather afraid he wouldn’t
honor _me_ with his attention. Or perhaps you would prefer alarming Miss
Neelie by telling her in plain words that we both think her in danger?
Or, suppose you send me to Miss Gwilt, with instructions to inform her
that she has done her pupil a cruel injustice? Women are so proverbially
ready to listen to reason; and they are so universally disposed to alter
their opinions of each other on application--especially when one woman
thinks that another woman has destroyed her prospect of making a good
marriage. Don’t mind _me_, Mr. Armadale; I’m only a lawyer, and I can
sit waterproof under another shower of Miss Gwilt’s tears!”

“Damn it, Mr. Pedgift, tell me in plain words what you want to do!”
 cried Allan, losing his temper at last.

“In plain words, Mr. Armadale, I want to keep Miss Gwilt’s proceedings
privately under view, as long as she stops in this neighborhood. I
answer for finding a person who will look after her delicately
and discreetly. And I agree to discontinue even this harmless
superintendence of her actions, if there isn’t good reasons shown for
continuing it, to your entire satisfaction, in a week’s time. I make
that moderate proposal, sir, in what I sincerely believe to be Miss
Milroy’s interest, and I wait your answer, Yes or No.”

“Can’t I have time to consider?” asked Allan, driven to the last
helpless expedient of taking refuge in delay.

“Certainly, Mr. Armadale. But don’t forget, while you are considering,
that Miss Milroy is in the habit of walking out alone in your park,
innocent of all apprehension of danger, and that Miss Gwilt is perfectly
free to take any advantage of that circumstance that Miss Gwilt
pleases.”

“Do as you like!” exclaimed Allan, in despair. “And, for God’s sake,
don’t torment me any longer!”

Popular prejudice may deny it, but the profession of the law is a
practically Christian profession in one respect at least. Of all
the large collection of ready answers lying in wait for mankind on
a lawyer’s lips, none is kept in better working order than “the soft
answer which turneth away wrath.” Pedgift Senior rose with the alacrity
of youth in his legs, and the wise moderation of age on his tongue.
“Many thanks, sir,” he said, “for the attention you have bestowed on me.
I congratulate you on your decision, and I wish you good-evening.” This
time his indicative snuff-box was not in his hand when he opened the
door, and he actually disappeared without coming back for a second
postscript.

Allan’s head sank on his breast when he was left alone. “If it was only
the end of the week!” he thought, longingly. “If I only had Midwinter
back again!”

As that aspiration escaped the client’s lips, the lawyer got gayly
into his gig. “Hie away, old girl!” cried Pedgift Senior, patting
the fast-trotting mare with the end of his whip. “I never keep a lady
waiting--and I’ve got business to-night with one of your own sex!”



VII. THE MARTYRDOM OF MISS GWILT.

The outskirts of the little town of Thorpe Ambrose, on the side nearest
to “the great house,” have earned some local celebrity as exhibiting
the prettiest suburb of the kind to be found in East Norfolk. Here the
villas and gardens are for the most part built and laid out in excellent
taste, the trees are in the prime of their growth, and the healthy
common beyond the houses rises and falls in picturesque and delightful
variety of broken ground. The rank, fashion, and beauty of the town make
this place their evening promenade; and when a stranger goes out for a
drive, if he leaves it to the coachman, the coachman starts by way of
the common as a matter of course.

On the opposite side, that is to say, on the side furthest from “the
great house,” the suburbs (in the year 1851) were universally regarded
as a sore subject by all persons zealous for the reputation of the town.

Here nature was uninviting, man was poor, and social progress, as
exhibited under the form of building, halted miserably. The streets
dwindled feebly, as they receded from the center of the town, into
smaller and smaller houses, and died away on the barren open ground into
an atrophy of skeleton cottages. Builders hereabouts appeared to have
universally abandoned their work in the first stage of its creation.
Land-holders set up poles on lost patches of ground, and, plaintively
advertising that they were to let for building, raised sickly little
crops meanwhile, in despair of finding a purchaser to deal with them.
All the waste paper of the town seemed to float congenially to this
neglected spot; and all the fretful children came and cried here, in
charge of all the slatternly nurses who disgraced the place. If there
was any intention in Thorpe Ambrose of sending a worn-out horse to the
knacker’s, that horse was sure to be found waiting his doom in a field
on this side of the town. No growth flourished in these desert regions
but the arid growth of rubbish; and no creatures rejoiced but the
creatures of the night--the vermin here and there in the beds, and the
cats everywhere on the tiles.

The sun had set, and the summer twilight was darkening. The fretful
children were crying in their cradles; the horse destined for the
knacker dozed forlorn in the field of his imprisonment; the cats waited
stealthily in corners for the coming night. But one living figure
appeared in the lonely suburb--the figure of Mr. Bashwood. But one faint
sound disturbed the dreadful silence--the sound of Mr. Bashwood’s softly
stepping feet.

Moving slowly past the heaps of bricks rising at intervals along
the road, coasting carefully round the old iron and the broken tiles
scattered here and there in his path, Mr. Bashwood advanced from the
direction of the country toward one of the unfinished streets of the
suburb. His personal appearance had been apparently made the object of
some special attention. His false teeth were brilliantly white; his
wig was carefully brushed; his mourning garments, renewed throughout,
gleamed with the hideous and slimy gloss of cheap black cloth. He moved
with a nervous jauntiness, and looked about him with a vacant smile.
Having reached the first of the skeleton cottages, his watery eyes
settled steadily for the first time on the view of the street before
him. The next instant he started; his breath quickened; he leaned,
trembling and flushing, against the unfinished wall at his side. A lady,
still at some distance, was advancing toward him down the length of the
street. “She’s coming!” he whispered, with a strange mixture of rapture
and fear, of alternating color and paleness, showing itself in his
haggard face. “I wish I was the ground she treads on! I wish I was
the glove she’s got on her hand!” He burst ecstatically into those
extravagant words, with a concentrated intensity of delight in uttering
them that actually shook his feeble figure from head to foot.

Smoothly and gracefully the lady glided nearer and nearer, until she
revealed to Mr. Bashwood’s eyes, what Mr. Bashwood’s instincts had
recognized in the first instance--the face of Miss Gwilt.

She was dressed with an exquisitely expressive economy of outlay. The
plainest straw bonnet procurable, trimmed sparingly with the cheapest
white ribbon, was on her head. Modest and tasteful poverty expressed
itself in the speckless cleanliness and the modestly proportioned skirts
of her light “print” gown, and in the scanty little mantilla of cheap
black silk which she wore over it, edged with a simple frilling of
the same material. The luster of her terrible red hair showed itself
unshrinkingly in a plaited coronet above her forehead, and escaped in
one vagrant love-lock, perfectly curled, that dropped over her left
shoulder. Her gloves, fitting her like a second skin, were of the sober
brown hue which is slowest to show signs of use. One hand lifted her
dress daintily above the impurities of the road; the other held a little
nosegay of the commonest garden flowers. Noiselessly and smoothly she
came on, with a gentle and regular undulation of the print gown; with
the love-lock softly lifted from moment to moment in the evening breeze;
with her head a little drooped, and her eyes on the ground--in walk, and
look, and manner, in every casual movement that escaped her, expressing
that subtle mixture of the voluptuous and the modest which, of the many
attractive extremes that meet in women, is in a man’s eyes the most
irresistible of all.

“Mr. Bashwood!” she exclaimed, in loud, clear tones indicative of the
utmost astonishment, “what a surprise to find you here! I thought none
but the wretched inhabitants ever ventured near this side of the town.
Hush!” she added quickly, in a whisper. “You heard right when you heard
that Mr. Armadale was going to have me followed and watched. There’s
a man behind one of the houses. We must talk out loud of indifferent
things, and look as if we had met by accident. Ask me what I am doing.
Out loud! Directly! You shall never see me again, if you don’t instantly
leave off trembling and do what I tell you!”

She spoke with a merciless tyranny of eye and voice--with a merciless
use of her power over the feeble creature whom she addressed. Mr.
Bashwood obeyed her in tones that quavered with agitation, and with eyes
that devoured her beauty in a strange fascination of terror and delight.

“I am trying to earn a little money by teaching music,” she said, in the
voice intended to reach the spy’s ears. “If you are able to recommend me
any pupils, Mr. Bashwood, your good word will oblige me. Have you been
in the grounds to-day?” she went on, dropping her voice again in a
whisper. “Has Mr. Armadale been near the cottage? Has Miss Milroy been
out of the garden? No? Are you sure? Look out for them to-morrow, and
next day, and next day. They are certain to meet and make it up again,
and I must and will know of it. Hush! Ask me my terms for teaching
music. What are you frightened about? It’s me the man’s after--not you.
Louder than when you asked me what I was doing, just now; louder, or I
won’t trust you any more; I’ll go to somebody else!”

Once more Mr. Bashwood obeyed. “Don’t be angry with me,” he murmured,
faintly, when he had spoken the necessary words. “My heart beats so
you’ll kill me!”

“You poor old dear!” she whispered back, with a sudden change in her
manner, with an easy satirical tenderness. “What business have you with
a heart at your age? Be here to-morrow at the same time, and tell me
what you have seen in the grounds. My terms are only five shillings a
lesson,” she went on, in her louder tone. “I’m sure that’s not much,
Mr. Bashwood; I give such long lessons, and I get all my pupils’ music
half-price.” She suddenly dropped her voice again, and looked him
brightly into instant subjection. “Don’t let Mr. Armadale out of your
sight to-morrow! If that girl manages to speak to him, and if I don’t
hear of it, I’ll frighten you to death. If I _do_ hear of it, I’ll kiss
you! Hush! Wish me good-night, and go on to the town, and leave me to
go the other way. I don’t want you--I’m not afraid of the man behind the
houses; I can deal with him by myself. Say goodnight, and I’ll let you
shake hands. Say it louder, and I’ll give you one of my flowers, if
you’ll promise not to fall in love with it.” She raised her voice
again. “Goodnight, Mr. Bashwood! Don’t forget my terms. Five shillings a
lesson, and the lessons last an hour at a time, and I get all my pupils’
music half-price, which is an immense advantage, isn’t it?” She slipped
a flower into his hand--frowned him into obedience, and smiled to reward
him for obeying, at the same moment--lifted her dress again above the
impurities of the road--and went on her way with a dainty and indolent
deliberation, as a cat goes on her way when she has exhausted the
enjoyment of frightening a mouse.

Left alone, Mr. Bashwood turned to the low cottage wall near which he
had been standing, and, resting himself on it wearily, looked at the
flower in his hand.

His past existence had disciplined him to bear disaster and insult, as
few happier men could have borne them; but it had not prepared him to
feel the master-passion of humanity, for the first time, at the dreary
end of his life, in the hopeless decay of a manhood that had withered
under the double blight of conjugal disappointment and parental sorrow.
“Oh, if I was only young again!” murmured the poor wretch, resting his
arms on the wall and touching the flower with his dry, fevered lips in
a stealthy rapture of tenderness. “She might have liked me when I was
twenty!” He suddenly started back into an erect position, and stared
about him in vacant bewilderment and terror. “She told me to go home,”
 he said, with a startled look. “Why am I stopping here?” He turned, and
hurried on to the town--in such dread of her anger, if she looked round
and saw him, that he never so much as ventured on a backward glance at
the road by which she had retired, and never detected the spy dogging
her footsteps, under cover of the empty houses and the brick-heaps by
the roadside.

Smoothly and gracefully, carefully preserving the speckless integrity
of her dress, never hastening her pace, and never looking aside to
the right hand or the left, Miss Gwilt pursued her way toward the open
country. The suburban road branched off at its end in two directions. On
the left, the path wound through a ragged little coppice to the grazing
grounds of a neighboring farm; on the right, it led across a hillock
of waste land to the high-road. Stopping a moment to consider, but not
showing the spy that she suspected him by glancing behind her while
there was a hiding-place within his reach, Miss Gwilt took the path
across the hillock. “I’ll catch him there,” she said to herself, looking
up quietly at the long straight line of the empty high-road.

Once on the ground that she had chosen for her purpose, she met the
difficulties of the position with perfect tact and self-possession.
After walking some thirty yards along the road, she let her nosegay
drop, half turned round in stooping to pick it up, saw the man stopping
at the same moment behind her, and instantly went on again, quickening
her pace little by little, until she was walking at the top of her
speed. The spy fell into the snare laid for him. Seeing the night
coming, and fearing that he might lose sight of her in the darkness, he
rapidly lessened the distance between them. Miss Gwilt went on faster
and faster till she plainly heard his footstep behind her, then stopped,
turned, and met the man face to face the next moment.

“My compliments to Mr. Armadale,” she said, “and tell him I’ve caught
you watching me.”

“I’m not watching you, miss,” retorted the spy, thrown off his guard by
the daring plainness of the language in which she had spoken to him.

Miss Gwilt’s eyes measured him contemptuously from head to foot. He was
a weakly, undersized man. She was the taller, and (quite possibly) the
stronger of the two.

“Take your hat off, you blackguard, when you speak to a lady,” she said,
and tossed his hat in an instant, across a ditch by which they were
standing, into a pool on the other side.

This time the spy was on his guard. He knew as well as Miss Gwilt knew
the use which might be made of the precious minutes, if he turned his
back on her and crossed the ditch to recover his hat. “It’s well for
you you’re a woman,” he said, standing scowling at her bareheaded in the
fast-darkening light.

Miss Gwilt glanced sidelong down the onward vista of the road, and saw,
through the gathering obscurity, the solitary figure of a man rapidly
advancing toward her. Some women would have noticed the approach of a
stranger at that hour and in that lonely place with a certain anxiety.
Miss Gwilt was too confident in her own powers of persuasion not to
count on the man’s assistance beforehand, whoever he might be, _because_
he was a man. She looked back at the spy with redoubled confidence
in herself, and measured him contemptuously from head to foot for the
second time.

“I wonder whether I’m strong enough to throw you after your hat?” she
said. “I’ll take a turn and consider it.”

She sauntered on a few steps toward the figure advancing along the road.
The spy followed her close. “Try it,” he said, brutally. “You’re a fine
woman; you’re welcome to put your arms round me if you like.” As the
words escaped him, he too saw the stranger for the first time. He drew
back a step and waited. Miss Gwilt, on her side, advanced a step and
waited, too.

The stranger came on, with the lithe, light step of a practiced walker,
swinging a stick in his hand and carrying a knapsack on his shoulders.
A few paces nearer, and his face became visible. He was a dark man,
his black hair was powdered with dust, and his black eyes were looking
steadfastly forward along the road before him.

Miss Gwilt advanced with the first signs of agitation she had shown yet.
“Is it possible?” she said, softly. “Can it really be you?”

It was Midwinter, on his way back to Thorpe Ambrose, after his fortnight
among the Yorkshire moors.

He stopped and looked at her, in breathless surprise. The image of the
woman had been in his thoughts, at the moment when the woman herself
spoke to him. “Miss Gwilt!” he exclaimed, and mechanically held out his
hand.

She took it, and pressed it gently. “I should have been glad to see you
at any time,” she said. “You don’t know how glad I am to see you now.
May I trouble you to speak to that man? He has been following me, and
annoying me all the way from the town.”

Midwinter stepped past her without uttering a word. Faint as the light
was, the spy saw what was coming in his face, and, turning instantly,
leaped the ditch by the road-side. Before Midwinter could follow, Miss
Gwilt’s hand was on his shoulder.

“No,” she said, “you don’t know who his employer is.”

Midwinter stopped and looked at her.

“Strange things have happened since you left us,” she went on. “I have
been forced to give up my situation, and I am followed and watched by a
paid spy. Don’t ask who forced me out of my situation, and who pays the
spy--at least not just yet. I can’t make up my mind to tell you till I
am a little more composed. Let the wretch go. Do you mind seeing me
safe back to my lodging? It’s in your way home. May I--may I ask for the
support of your arm? My little stock of courage is quite exhausted.” She
took his arm and clung close to it. The woman who had tyrannized over
Mr. Bashwood was gone, and the woman who had tossed the spy’s hat into
the pool was gone. A timid, shrinking, interesting creature filled the
fair skin and trembled on the symmetrical limbs of Miss Gwilt. She
put her handkerchief to her eyes. “They say necessity has no law,” she
murmured, faintly. “I am treating you like an old friend. God knows I
want one!”

They went on toward the town. She recovered herself with a touching
fortitude; she put her handkerchief back in her pocket, and persisted in
turning the conversation on Midwinter’s walking tour. “It is bad enough
to be a burden on you,” she said, gently pressing on his arm as she
spoke; “I mustn’t distress you as well. Tell me where you have been, and
what you have seen. Interest me in your journey; help me to escape from
myself.”

They reached the modest little lodging in the miserable little suburb.
Miss Gwilt sighed, and removed her glove before she took Midwinter’s
hand. “I have taken refuge here,” she said, simply. “It is clean and
quiet; I am too poor to want or expect more. We must say good-by, I
suppose, unless”--she hesitated modestly, and satisfied herself by a
quick look round that they were unobserved--“unless you would like
to come in and rest a little? I feel so gratefully toward you, Mr.
Midwinter! Is there any harm, do you think, in my offering you a cup of
tea?”

The magnetic influence of her touch was thrilling through him while she
spoke. Change and absence, to which he had trusted to weaken her hold
on him, had treacherously strengthened it instead. A man exceptionally
sensitive, a man exceptionally pure in his past life, he stood hand in
hand, in the tempting secrecy of the night, with the first woman who had
exercised over him the all-absorbing influence of her sex. At his age,
and in his position, who could have left her? The man (with a man’s
temperament) doesn’t live who could have left her. Midwinter went in.

A stupid, sleepy lad opened the house door. Even he, being a male
creature, brightened under the influence of Miss Gwilt. “The urn, John,”
 she said, kindly, “and another cup and saucer. I’ll borrow your candle
to light my candles upstairs, and then I won’t trouble you any more
to-night.” John was wakeful and active in an instant. “No trouble,
miss,” he said, with awkward civility. Miss Gwilt took his candle with
a smile. “How good people are to me!” she whispered, innocently, to
Midwinter, as she led the way upstairs to the little drawing-room on the
first floor.

She lit the candles, and, turning quickly on her guest, stopped him at
the first attempt he made to remove the knapsack from his shoulders.
“No,” she said, gently; “in the good old times there were occasions when
the ladies unarmed their knights. I claim the privilege of unarming
_my_ knight.” Her dexterous fingers intercepted his at the straps and
buckles, and she had the dusty knapsack off, before he could protest
against her touching it.

They sat down at the one little table in the room. It was very poorly
furnished; but there was something of the dainty neatness of the woman
who inhabited it in the arrangement of the few poor ornaments on
the chimney-piece, in the one or two prettily bound volumes on
the chiffonier, in the flowers on the table, and the modest little
work-basket in the window. “Women are not all coquettes,” she said,
as she took off her bonnet and mantilla, and laid them carefully on a
chair. “I won’t go into my room, and look in my glass, and make myself
smart; you shall take me just as I am.” Her hands moved about among the
tea-things with a smooth, noiseless activity.

Her magnificent hair flashed crimson in the candle-light, as she turned
her head hither and thither, searching with an easy grace for the things
she wanted in the tray. Exercise had heightened the brilliancy of her
complexion, and had quickened the rapid alternations of expression
in her eyes--the delicious languor that stole over them when she was
listening or thinking, the bright intelligence that flashed from them
softly when she spoke. In the lightest word she said, in the least thing
she did, there was something that gently solicited the heart of the
man who sat with her. Perfectly modest in her manner, possessed to
perfection of the graceful restraints and refinements of a lady, she had
all the allurements that feast the eye, all the siren invitations that
seduce the sense--a subtle suggestiveness in her silence, and a sexual
sorcery in her smile.

“Should I be wrong,” she asked, suddenly suspending the conversation
which she had thus far persistently restricted to the subject of
Midwinter’s walking tour, “if I guessed that you have something on your
mind--something which neither my tea nor my talk can charm away? Are men
as curious as women? Is the something--Me?”

Midwinter struggled against the fascination of looking at her and
listening to her. “I am very anxious to hear what has happened since I
have been away,” he said. “But I am still more anxious, Miss Gwilt, not
to distress you by speaking of a painful subject.”

She looked at him gratefully. “It is for your sake that I have avoided
the painful subject,” she said, toying with her spoon among the dregs
in her empty cup. “But you will hear about it from others, if you don’t
hear about it from me; and you ought to know why you found me in that
strange situation, and why you see me here. Pray remember one thing, to
begin with. I don’t blame your friend, Mr. Armadale. I blame the people
whose instrument he is.”

Midwinter started. “Is it possible,” he began, “that Allan can be in
any way answerable--?” He stopped, and looked at Miss Gwilt in silent
astonishment.

She gently laid her hand on his. “Don’t be angry with me for only
telling the truth,” she said. “Your friend is answerable for everything
that has happened to me--innocently answerable, Mr. Midwinter, I firmly
believe. We are both victims. _He_ is the victim of his position as
the richest single man in the neighborhood; and I am the victim of Miss
Milroy’s determination to marry him.”

“Miss Milroy?” repeated Midwinter, more and more astonished. “Why, Allan
himself told me--” He stopped again.

“He told you that I was the object of his admiration? Poor fellow,
he admires everybody; his head is almost as empty as this,” said Miss
Gwilt, smiling indicatively into the hollow of her cup. She dropped the
spoon, sighed, and became serious again. “I am guilty of the vanity of
having let him admire me,” she went on, penitently, “without the excuse
of being able, on my side, to reciprocate even the passing interest that
he felt in me. I don’t undervalue his many admirable qualities, or the
excellent position he can offer to his wife. But a woman’s heart is not
to be commanded--no, Mr. Midwinter, not even by the fortunate master of
Thorpe Ambrose, who commands everything else.”

She looked him full in the face as she uttered that magnanimous
sentiment. His eyes dropped before hers, and his dark color deepened. He
had felt his heart leap in him at the declaration of her indifference to
Allan. For the first time since they had known each other, his interests
now stood self-revealed before him as openly adverse to the interests of
his friend.

“I have been guilty of the vanity of letting Mr. Armadale admire me,
and I have suffered for it,” resumed Miss Gwilt. “If there had been any
confidence between my pupil and me, I might have easily satisfied her
that she might become Mrs. Armadale--if she could--without having any
rivalry to fear on my part. But Miss Milroy disliked and distrusted
me from the first. She took her own jealous view, no doubt, of Mr.
Armadale’s thoughtless attentions to me. It was her interest to destroy
the position, such as it was, that I held in his estimation; and it is
quite likely her mother assisted her. Mrs. Milroy had her motive also
(which I am really ashamed to mention) for wishing to drive me out of
the house. Anyhow, the conspiracy has succeeded. I have been forced
(with Mr. Armadale’s help) to leave the major’s service. Don’t be angry,
Mr. Midwinter! Don’t form a hasty opinion! I dare say Miss Milroy has
some good qualities, though I have not found them out; and I assure you
again and again that I don’t blame Mr. Armadale. I only blame the people
whose instrument he is.”

“How is he their instrument? How can he be the instrument of any enemy
of yours?” asked Midwinter. “Pray excuse my anxiety, Miss Gwilt: Allan’s
good name is as dear to me as my own!”

Miss Gwilt’s eyes turned full on him again, and Miss Gwilt’s heart
abandoned itself innocently to an outburst of enthusiasm. “How I admire
your earnestness!” she said. “How I like your anxiety for your friend!
Oh, if women could only form such friendships! Oh you happy, happy men!”
 Her voice faltered, and her convenient tea-cup absorbed her for the
third time. “I would give all the little beauty I possess,” she said,
“if I could only find such a friend as Mr. Armadale has found in _you_.
I never shall, Mr. Midwinter--I never shall. Let us go back to what we
were talking about. I can only tell you how your friend is concerned
in my misfortune by telling you something first about myself. I am like
many other governesses; I am the victim of sad domestic circumstances.
It may be weak of me, but I have a horror of alluding to them among
strangers. My silence about my family and my friends exposes me to
misinterpretation in my dependent position. Does it do me any harm, Mr.
Midwinter, in your estimation?”

“God forbid!” said Midwinter, fervently. “There is no man living,” he
went on, thinking of his own family story, “who has better reason to
understand and respect your silence than I have.”

Miss Gwilt seized his hand impulsively. “Oh,” she said, “I knew it, the
first moment I saw you! I knew that you, too, had suffered; that you,
too, had sorrows which you kept sacred! Strange, strange sympathy! I
believe in mesmerism--do you?” She suddenly recollected herself, and
shuddered. “Oh, what have I done? What must you think of me?” she
exclaimed, as he yielded to the magnetic fascination of her touch, and,
forgetting everything but the hand that lay warm in his own, bent over
it and kissed it. “Spare me!” she said, faintly, as she felt the burning
touch of his lips. “I am so friendless--I am so completely at your
mercy!”

He turned away from her, and hid his face in his hands; he was
trembling, and she saw it. She looked at him while his face was hidden
from her; she looked at him with a furtive interest and surprise. “How
that man loves me!” she thought. “I wonder whether there was a time when
I might have loved _him_?”

The silence between them remained unbroken for some minutes. He had felt
her appeal to his consideration as she had never expected or intended
him to feel it--he shrank from looking at her or from speaking to her
again.

“Shall I go on with my story?” she asked. “Shall we forget and forgive
on both sides?” A woman’s inveterate indulgence for every expression
of a man’s admiration which keeps within the limits of personal
respect curved her lips gently into a charming smile. She looked down
meditatively at her dress, and brushed a crumb off her lap with a little
flattering sigh. “I was telling you,” she went on, “of my reluctance
to speak to strangers of my sad family story. It was in that way, as I
afterward found out, that I laid myself open to Miss Milroy’s malice and
Miss Milroy’s suspicion. Private inquiries about me were addressed to
the lady who was my reference--at Miss Milroy’s suggestion, in the first
instance, I have no doubt. I am sorry to say, this is not the worst
of it. By some underhand means, of which I am quite ignorant, Mr.
Armadale’s simplicity was imposed on; and, when application was made
secretly to my reference in London, it was made, Mr. Midwinter, through
your friend.”

Midwinter suddenly rose from his chair and looked at her. The
fascination that she exercised over him, powerful as it was, became a
suspended influence, now that the plain disclosure came plainly at
last from her lips. He looked at her, and sat down again, like a man
bewildered, without uttering a word.

“Remember how weak he is,” pleaded Miss Gwilt, gently, “and make
allowances for him as I do. The trifling accident of his failing to find
my reference at the address given him seems, I can’t imagine why, to
have excited Mr. Armadale’s suspicion. At any rate, he remained in
London. What he did there, it is impossible for me to say. I was quite
in the dark; I knew nothing: I distrusted nobody; I was as happy in my
little round of duties as I could be with a pupil whose affections I
had failed to win, when, one morning, to my indescribable astonishment,
Major Milroy showed me a correspondence between Mr. Armadale and
himself. He spoke to me in his wife’s presence. Poor creature, I make no
complaint of her; such affliction as she suffers excuses everything. I
wish I could give you some idea of the letters between Major Milroy and
Mr. Armadale; but my head is only a woman’s head, and I was so confused
and distressed at the time! All I can tell you is that Mr. Armadale
chose to preserve silence about his proceedings in London, under
circumstances which made that silence a reflection on my character. The
major was most kind; his confidence in me remained unshaken; but
could his confidence protect me against his wife’s prejudice and his
daughter’s ill-will? Oh, the hardness of women to each other! Oh, the
humiliation if men only knew some of us as we really are! What could I
do? I couldn’t defend myself against mere imputations; and I couldn’t
remain in my situation after a slur had been cast on me. My pride
(Heaven help me, I was brought up like a gentlewoman, and I have
sensibilities that are not blunted even yet!)--my pride got the better
of me, and I left my place. Don’t let it distress you, Mr. Midwinter!
There’s a bright side to the picture. The ladies in the neighborhood
have overwhelmed me with kindness; I have the prospect of getting pupils
to teach; I am spared the mortification of going back to be a burden on
my friends. The only complaint I have to make is, I think, a just one.
Mr. Armadale has been back at Thorpe Ambrose for some days. I have
entreated him, by letter, to grant me an interview; to tell me what
dreadful suspicions he has of me, and to let me set myself right in his
estimation. Would you believe it? He has declined to see me--under the
influence of others, not of his own free will, I am sure! Cruel,
isn’t it? But he has even used me more cruelly still; he persists in
suspecting me; it is he who is having me watched. Oh, Mr. Midwinter,
don’t hate me for telling you what you _must_ know! The man you found
persecuting me and frightening me to-night was only earning his money,
after all, as Mr. Armadale’s spy.”

Once more Midwinter started to his feet; and this time the thoughts that
were in him found their way into words.

“I can’t believe it; I won’t believe it!” he exclaimed, indignantly. “If
the man told you that, the man lied. I beg your pardon, Miss Gwilt; I
beg your pardon from the bottom of my heart. Don’t, pray don’t think I
doubt _you_; I only say there is some dreadful mistake. I am not sure
that I understand as I ought all that you have told me. But this last
infamous meanness of which you think Allan guilty, I _do_ understand.
I swear to you, he is incapable of it! Some scoundrel has been taking
advantage of him; some scoundrel has been using his name. I’ll prove
it to you, if you will only give me time. Let me go and clear it up at
once. I can’t rest; I can’t bear to think of it; I can’t even enjoy the
pleasure of being here. Oh,” he burst out desperately, “I’m sure you
feel for me, after what you have said--I feel so for _you_!”

He stopped in confusion. Miss Gwilt’s eyes were looking at him again,
and Miss Gwilt’s hand had found its way once more into his own.

“You are the most generous of living men,” she said, softly. “I will
believe what you tell me to believe. Go,” she added, in a whisper,
suddenly releasing his hand, and turning away from him. “For both our
sakes, go!”

His heart beat fast; he looked at her as she dropped into a chair and
put her handkerchief to her eyes. For one moment he hesitated; the next,
he snatched up his knapsack from the floor, and left her precipitately,
without a backward look or a parting word.

She rose when the door closed on him. A change came over her the instant
she was alone. The color faded out of her cheeks; the beauty died out of
her eyes; her face hardened horribly with a silent despair. “It’s even
baser work than I bargained for,” she said, “to deceive _him_.” After
pacing to and fro in the room for some minutes, she stopped wearily
before the glass over the fire-place. “You strange creature!” she
murmured, leaning her elbows on the mantelpiece, and languidly
addressing the reflection of herself in the glass. “Have you got any
conscience left? And has that man roused it?”

The reflection of her face changed slowly. The color returned to her
cheeks, the delicious languor began to suffuse her eyes again. Her lips
parted gently, and her quickening breath began to dim the surface of
the glass. She drew back from it, after a moment’s absorption in her own
thoughts, with a start of terror. “What am I doing?” she asked herself,
in a sudden panic of astonishment. “Am I mad enough to be thinking of
him in _that_ way?”

She burst into a mocking laugh, and opened her desk on the table
recklessly with a bang. “It’s high time I had some talk with Mother
Jezebel,” she said, and sat down to write to Mrs. Oldershaw.

“I have met with Mr. Midwinter,” she began, “under very lucky
circumstances; and I have made the most of my opportunity. He has just
left me for his friend Armadale; and one of two good things will happen
to-morrow. If they don’t quarrel, the doors of Thorpe Ambrose will be
opened to me again at Mr. Midwinter’s intercession. If they do quarrel,
I shall be the unhappy cause of it, and I shall find my way in for
myself, on the purely Christian errand of reconciling them.”

She hesitated at the next sentence, wrote the first few words of it,
scratched them out again, and petulantly tore the letter into fragments,
and threw the pen to the other end of the room. Turning quickly on her
chair, she looked at the seat which Midwinter had occupied, her foot
restlessly tapping the floor, and her handkerchief thrust like a gag
between her clinched teeth. “Young as you are,” she thought, with her
mind reviving the image of him in the empty chair, “there has been
something out of the common in _your_ life; and I must and will know
it!”

The house clock struck the hour, and roused her. She sighed, and,
walking back to the glass, wearily loosened the fastenings of her dress;
wearily removed the studs from the chemisette beneath it, and put them
on the chimney-piece. She looked indolently at the reflected beauties of
her neck and bosom, as she unplaited her hair and threw it back in one
great mass over her shoulders. “Fancy,” she thought, “if he saw me now!”
 She turned back to the table, and sighed again as she extinguished one
of the candles and took the other in her hand. “Midwinter?” she said, as
she passed through the folding-doors of the room to her bed-chamber. “I
don’t believe in his name, to begin with!”


The night had advanced by more than an hour before Midwinter was back
again at the great house.

Twice, well as the homeward way was known to him, he had strayed out of
the right road. The events of the evening--the interview with Miss
Gwilt herself, after his fortnight’s solitary thinking of her; the
extraordinary change that had taken place in her position since he had
seen her last; and the startling assertion of Allan’s connection with
it--had all conspired to throw his mind into a state of ungovernable
confusion. The darkness of the cloudy night added to his bewilderment.
Even the familiar gates of Thorpe Ambrose seemed strange to him. When
he tried to think of it, it was a mystery to him how he had reached the
place.

The front of the house was dark, and closed for the night. Midwinter
went round to the back. The sound of men’s voices, as he advanced,
caught his ear. They were soon distinguishable as the voices of the
first and second footman, and the subject of conversation between them
was their master.

“I’ll bet you an even half-crown he’s driven out of the neighborhood
before another week is over his head,” said the first footman.

“Done!” said the second. “He isn’t as easy driven as you think.”

“Isn’t he!” retorted the other. “He’ll be mobbed if he stops here! I
tell you again, he’s not satisfied with the mess he’s got into already.
I know it for certain, he’s having the governess watched.”

At those words, Midwinter mechanically checked himself before he turned
the corner of the house. His first doubt of the result of his meditated
appeal to Allan ran through him like a sudden chill. The influence
exercised by the voice of public scandal is a force which acts in
opposition to the ordinary law of mechanics. It is strongest, not by
concentration, but by distribution. To the primary sound we may shut our
ears; but the reverberation of it in echoes is irresistible. On his way
back, Midwinter’s one desire had been to find Allan up, and to speak to
him immediately. His one hope now was to gain time to contend with the
new doubts and to silence the new misgivings; his one present anxiety
was to hear that Allan had gone to bed. He turned the corner of the
house, and presented himself before the men smoking their pipes in the
back garden. As soon as their astonishment allowed them to speak, they
offered to rouse their master. Allan had given his friend up for that
night, and had gone to bed about half an hour since.

“It was my master’s’ particular order, sir,” said the head-footman,
“that he was to be told of it if you came back.”

“It is _my_ particular request,” returned Midwinter, “that you won’t
disturb him.”

The men looked at each other wonderingly, as he took his candle and left
them.



VIII. SHE COMES BETWEEN THEM.

Appointed hours for the various domestic events of the day were
things unknown at Thorpe Ambrose. Irregular in all his habits, Allan
accommodated himself to no stated times (with the solitary exception of
dinner-time) at any hour of the day or night. He retired to rest early
or late, and he rose early or late, exactly as he felt inclined. The
servants were forbidden to call him; and Mrs. Gripper was accustomed
to improvise the breakfast as she best might, from the time when the
kitchen fire was first lighted to the time when the clock stood on the
stroke of noon.

Toward nine o’clock on the morning after his return Midwinter knocked
at Allan’s door, and on entering the room found it empty. After inquiry
among the servants, it appeared that Allan had risen that morning before
the man who usually attended on him was up, and that his hot water had
been brought to the door by one of the house-maids, who was then still
in ignorance of Midwinter’s return. Nobody had chanced to see the
master, either on the stairs or in the hall; nobody had heard him ring
the bell for breakfast, as usual. In brief, nobody knew anything about
him, except what was obviously clear to all--that he was not in the
house.

Midwinter went out under the great portico. He stood at the head of the
flight of steps considering in which direction he should set forth to
look for his friend. Allan’s unexpected absence added one more to the
disquieting influences which still perplexed his mind. He was in the
mood in which trifles irritate a man, and fancies are all-powerful to
exalt or depress his spirits.

The sky was cloudy; and the wind blew in puffs from the south; there was
every prospect, to weather-wise eyes, of coming rain. While Midwinter
was still hesitating, one of the grooms passed him on the drive below.
The man proved, on being questioned, to be better informed about his
master’s movements than the servants indoors. He had seen Allan pass the
stables more than an hour since, going out by the back way into the park
with a nosegay in his hand.

A nosegay in his hand? The nosegay hung incomprehensibly on Midwinter’s
mind as he walked round, on the chance of meeting Allan, to the back
of the house. “What does the nosegay mean?” he asked himself, with an
unintelligible sense of irritation, and a petulant kick at a stone that
stood in his way.

It meant that Allan had been following his impulses as usual. The one
pleasant impression left on his mind after his interview with
Pedgift Senior was the impression made by the lawyer’s account of his
conversation with Neelie in the park. The anxiety that he should not
misjudge her, which the major’s daughter had so earnestly expressed,
placed her before Allan’s eyes in an irresistibly attractive
character--the character of the one person among all his neighbors who
had some respect still left for his good opinion. Acutely sensible
of his social isolation, now that there was no Midwinter to keep him
company in the empty house, hungering and thirsting in his solitude
for a kind word and a friendly look, he began to think more and more
regretfully and more and more longingly of the bright young face so
pleasantly associated with his first happiest days at Thorpe Ambrose.
To be conscious of such a feeling as this was, with a character like
Allan’s, to act on it headlong, lead him where it might. He had gone
out on the previous morning to look for Neelie with a peace-offering of
flowers, but with no very distinct idea of what he should say to her if
they met; and failing to find her on the scene of her customary walks,
he had characteristically persisted the next morning in making a second
attempt with another peace-offering on a larger scale. Still ignorant
of his friend’s return, he was now at some distance from the house,
searching the park in a direction which he had not tried yet.

After walking out a few hundred yards beyond the stables, and failing
to discover any signs of Allan, Midwinter retraced his steps, and waited
for his friend’s return, pacing slowly to and fro on the little strip of
garden ground at the back of the house.

From time to time, as he passed it, he looked in absently at the room
which had formerly been Mrs. Armadale’s, which was now (through his
interposition) habitually occupied by her son--the room with the
Statuette on the bracket, and the French windows opening to the ground,
which had once recalled to him the Second Vision of the Dream. The
Shadow of the Man, which Allan had seen standing opposite to him at the
long window; the view over a lawn and flower-garden; the pattering of
the rain against the glass; the stretching out of the Shadow’s arm,
and the fall of the statue in fragments on the floor--these objects and
events of the visionary scene, so vividly present to his memory once,
were all superseded by later remembrances now, were all left to fade as
they might in the dim background of time. He could pass the room again
and again, alone and anxious, and never once think of the boat drifting
away in the moonlight, and the night’s imprisonment on the Wrecked Ship!

Toward ten o’clock the well-remembered sound of Allan’s voice became
suddenly audible in the direction of the stables. In a moment more he
was visible from the garden. His second morning’s search for Neelie had
ended to all appearance in a second defeat of his object. The nosegay
was still in his hand; and he was resignedly making a present of it to
one of the coachman’s children.

Midwinter impulsively took a step forward toward the stables, and
abruptly checked his further progress.

Conscious that his position toward his friend was altered already in
relation to Miss Gwilt, the first sight of Allan filled his mind with a
sudden distrust of the governess’s influence over him, which was almost
a distrust of himself. He knew that he had set forth from the moors on
his return to Thorpe Ambrose with the resolution of acknowledging the
passion that had mastered him, and of insisting, if necessary, on a
second and a longer absence in the interests of the sacrifice which he
was bent on making to the happiness of his friend. What had become of
that resolution now? The discovery of Miss Gwilt’s altered position,
and the declaration that she had voluntarily made of her indifference
to Allan, had scattered it to the winds. The first words with which
he would have met his friend, if nothing had happened to him on the
homeward way, were words already dismissed from his lips. He drew back
as he felt it, and struggled, with an instinctive loyalty toward Allan,
to free himself at the last moment from the influence of Miss Gwilt.

Having disposed of his useless nosegay, Allan passed on into the garden,
and the instant he entered it recognized Midwinter with a loud cry of
surprise and delight.

“Am I awake or dreaming?” he exclaimed, seizing his friend excitably
by both hands. “You dear old Midwinter, have you sprung up out of the
ground, or have you dropped from the clouds?”

It was not till Midwinter had explained the mystery of his unexpected
appearance in every particular that Allan could be prevailed on to say
a word about himself. When he did speak, he shook his head ruefully, and
subdued the hearty loudness of his voice, with a preliminary look round
to see if the servants were within hearing.

“I’ve learned to be cautious since you went away and left me,” said
Allan. “My dear fellow, you haven’t the least notion what things have
happened, and what an awful scrape I’m in at this very moment!”

“You are mistaken, Allan. I have heard more of what has happened than
you suppose.”

“What! the dreadful mess I’m in with Miss Gwilt? the row with the major?
the infernal scandal-mongering in the neighborhood? You don’t mean to
say--?”

“Yes,” interposed Midwinter, quietly; “I have heard of it all.”

“Good heavens! how? Did you stop at Thorpe Ambrose on your way back?
Have you been in the coffee-room at the hotel? Have you met Pedgift?
Have you dropped into the Reading Rooms, and seen what they call the
freedom of the press in the town newspaper?”

Midwinter paused before he answered, and looked up at the sky. The
clouds had been gathering unnoticed over their heads, and the first
rain-drops were beginning to fall.

“Come in here,” said Allan. “We’ll go up to breakfast this way.” He led
Midwinter through the open French window into his own sitting-room. The
wind blew toward that side of the house, and the rain followed them in.
Midwinter, who was last, turned and closed the window.

Allan was too eager for the answer which the weather had interrupted to
wait for it till they reached the breakfast-room. He stopped close at
the window, and added two more to his string of questions.

“How can you possibly have heard about me and Miss Gwilt?” he asked.
“Who told you?”

“Miss Gwilt herself,” replied Midwinter, gravely.

Allan’s manner changed the moment the governess’s name passed his
friend’s lips.

“I wish you had heard my story first,” he said. “Where did you meet with
Miss Gwilt?”

There was a momentary pause. They both stood still at the window,
absorbed in the interest of the moment. They both forgot that their
contemplated place of shelter from the rain had been the breakfast-room
upstairs.

“Before I answer your question,” said Midwinter, a little constrainedly,
“I want to ask you something, Allan, on my side. Is it really true that
you are in some way concerned in Miss Gwilt’s leaving Major Milroy’s
service?”

There was another pause. The disturbance which had begun to appear in
Allan’s manner palpably increased.

“It’s rather a long story,” he began. “I have been taken in, Midwinter.
I’ve been imposed on by a person, who--I can’t help saying it--who
cheated me into promising what I oughtn’t to have promised, and doing
what I had better not have done. It isn’t breaking my promise to tell
you. I can trust in your discretion, can’t I? You will never say a word,
will you?”

“Stop!” said Midwinter. “Don’t trust me with any secrets which are not
your own. If you have given a promise, don’t trifle with it, even in
speaking to such an intimate friend as I am.” He laid his hand gently
and kindly on Allan’s shoulder. “I can’t help seeing that I have made
you a little uncomfortable,” he went on. “I can’t help seeing that my
question is not so easy a one to answer as I had hoped and supposed.
Shall we wait a little? Shall we go upstairs and breakfast first?”

Allan was far too earnestly bent on presenting his conduct to his friend
in the right aspect to heed Midwinter’s suggestion. He spoke eagerly on
the instant, without moving from the window.

“My dear fellow, it’s a perfectly easy question to answer. Only”--he
hesitated--“only it requires what I’m a bad hand at: it requires an
explanation.”

“Do you mean,” asked Midwinter, more seriously, but not less gently
than before, “that you must first justify yourself, and then answer my
question?”

“That’s it!” said Allan, with an air of relief. “You’re hit the right
nail on the head, just as usual.”

Midwinter’s face darkened for the first time. “I am sorry to hear it,”
 he said, his voice sinking low, and his eyes dropping to the ground as
he spoke.

The rain was beginning to fall thickly. It swept across the garden,
straight on the closed windows, and pattered heavily against the glass.

“Sorry!” repeated Allan. “My dear fellow, you haven’t heard the
particulars yet. Wait till I explain the thing first.”

“You are a bad hand at explanations,” said Midwinter, repeating Allan’s
own words. “Don’t place yourself at a disadvantage. Don’t explain it.”

Allan looked at him, in silent perplexity and surprise.

“You are my friend--my best and dearest friend,” Midwinter went on. “I
can’t bear to let you justify yourself to me as if I was your judge, or
as if I doubted you.” He looked up again at Allan frankly and kindly as
he said those words. “Besides,” he resumed, “I think, if I look into
my memory, I can anticipate your explanation. We had a moment’s talk,
before I went away, about some very delicate questions which you
proposed putting to Major Milroy. I remember I warned you; I remember
I had my misgivings. Should I be guessing right if I guessed that those
questions have been in some way the means of leading you into a false
position? If it is true that you have been concerned in Miss Gwilt’s
leaving her situation, is it also true--is it only doing you justice
to believe--that any mischief for which you are responsible has been
mischief innocently done?”

“Yes,” said Allan, speaking, for the first time, a little constrainedly
on his side. “It is only doing me justice to say that.” He stopped and
began drawing lines absently with his finger on the blurred surface of
the window-pane. “You’re not like other people, Midwinter,” he resumed,
suddenly, with an effort; “and I should have liked you to have heard the
particulars all the same.”

“I will hear them if you desire it,” returned Midwinter. “But I am
satisfied, without another word, that you have not willingly been the
means of depriving Miss Gwilt of her situation. If that is understood
between you and me, I think we need say no more. Besides, I have another
question to ask, of much greater importance--a question that has been
forced on me by what I saw with my own eyes, and heard with my own ears,
last night.”

He stopped, recoiling in spite of himself. “Shall we go upstairs first?”
 he asked, abruptly, leading the way to the door, and trying to gain
time.

It was useless. Once again, the room which they were both free to leave,
the room which one of them had twice tried to leave already, held them
as if they were prisoners.

Without answering, without even appearing to have heard Midwinter’s
proposal to go upstairs, Allan followed him mechanically as far as the
opposite side of the window. There he stopped. “Midwinter!” he burst
out, in a sudden panic of astonishment and alarm, “there seems to be
something strange between us! You’re not like yourself. What is it?”

With his hand on the lock of the door, Midwinter turned, and looked
back into the room. The moment had come. His haunting fear of doing his
friend an injustice had shown itself in a restraint of word, look, and
action which had been marked enough to force its way to Allan’s notice.
The one course left now, in the dearest interests of the friendship that
united them, was to speak at once, and to speak boldly.

“There’s something strange between us,” reiterated Allan. “For God’s
sake, what is it?”

Midwinter took his hand from the door, and came down again to the
window, fronting Allan. He occupied the place, of necessity, which Allan
had just left. It was the side of the window on which the Statuette
stood. The little figure, placed on its projecting bracket, was, close
behind him on his right hand. No signs of change appeared in the stormy
sky. The rain still swept slanting across the garden, and pattered
heavily against the glass.

“Give me your hand, Allan.”

Allan gave it, and Midwinter held it firmly while he spoke.

“There is something strange between us,” he said. “There is something
to be set right which touches you nearly; and it has not been set right
yet. You asked me just now where I met with Miss Gwilt. I met with her
on my way back here, upon the high-road on the further side of the
town. She entreated me to protect her from a man who was following and
frightening her. I saw the scoundrel with my own eyes, and I should have
laid hands on him, if Miss Gwilt herself had not stopped me. She gave
a very strange reason for stopping me. She said I didn’t know who his
employer was.”

Allan’s ruddy color suddenly deepened; he looked aside quickly through
the window at the pouring rain. At the same moment their hands fell
apart, and there was a pause of silence on either side. Midwinter was
the first to speak again.

“Later in the evening,” he went on, “Miss Gwilt explained herself. She
told me two things. She declared that the man whom I had seen following
her was a hired spy. I was surprised, but I could not dispute it. She
told me next, Allan--what I believe with my whole heart and soul to be
a falsehood which has been imposed on her as the truth--she told me that
the spy was in your employment!”

Allan turned instantly from the window, and looked Midwinter full in the
face again. “I must explain myself this time,” he said, resolutely.

The ashy paleness peculiar to him in moments of strong emotion began to
show itself on Midwinter’s cheeks.

“More explanations!” he said, and drew back a step, with his eyes fixed
in a sudden terror of inquiry on Allan’s face.

“You don’t know what I know, Midwinter. You don’t know that what I have
done has been done with a good reason. And what is more, I have not
trusted to myself--I have had good advice.”

“Did you hear what I said just now?” asked Midwinter, incredulously.
“You can’t--surely, you can’t have been attending to me?”

“I haven’t missed a word,” rejoined Allan. “I tell you again, you don’t
know what I know of Miss Gwilt. She has threatened Miss Milroy. Miss
Milroy is in danger while her governess stops in this neighborhood.”

Midwinter dismissed the major’s daughter from the conversation with a
contemptuous gesture of his hand.

“I don’t want to hear about Miss, Milroy,” he said. “Don’t mix up Miss
Milroy--Good God, Allan, am I to understand that the spy set to watch
Miss Gwilt was doing his vile work with your approval?”

“Once for all, my dear fellow, will you, or will you not, let me
explain?”

“Explain!” cried Midwinter, his eyes aflame, and his hot Creole blood
rushing crimson into his face. “Explain the employment of a spy? What!
after having driven Miss Gwilt out of her situation by meddling with her
private affairs, you meddle again by the vilest of all means--the means
of a paid spy? You set a watch on the woman whom you yourself told me
you loved, only a fortnight since--the woman you were thinking of as
your wife! I don’t believe it; I won’t believe it. Is my head failing
me? Is it Allan Armadale I am speaking to? Is it Allan Armadale’s face
looking at me? Stop! you are acting under some mistaken scruple. Some
low fellow has crept into your confidence, and has done this in your
name without telling you first.”

Allan controlled himself with admirable patience and admirable
consideration for the temper of his friend. “If you persist in refusing
to hear me,” he said, “I must wait as well as I can till my turn comes.”

“Tell me you are a stranger to the employment of that man, and I will
hear you willingly.”

“Suppose there should be a necessity, that you know nothing about, for
employing him?”

“I acknowledge no necessity for the cowardly persecution of a helpless
woman.”

A momentary flush of irritation--momentary, and no more--passed over
Allan’s face. “You mightn’t think her quite so helpless,” he said, “if
you knew the truth.”

“Are _you_ the man to tell me the truth?” retorted the other. “You who
have refused to hear her in her own defense! You who have closed the
doors of this house against her!”

Allan still controlled himself, but the effort began at last to be
visible.

“I know your temper is a hot one,” he said. “But for all that, your
violence quite takes me by surprise. I can’t account for it, unless”--he
hesitated a moment, and then finished the sentence in his usual frank,
outspoken way--“unless you are sweet yourself on Miss Gwilt.”

Those last words heaped fuel on the fire. They stripped the truth
instantly of all concealments and disguises, and laid it bare to view.
Allan’s instinct had guessed, and the guiding influence stood revealed
of Midwinter’s interest in Miss Gwilt.

“What right have you to say that?” he asked, with raised voice and
threatening eyes.

“I told _you_,” said Allan, simply, “when I thought I was sweet on her
myself. Come! come! it’s a little hard, I think, even if you are in love
with her, to believe everything she tells you, and not to let me say a
word. Is _that_ the way you decide between us?”

“Yes, it is!” cried the other, infuriated by Allan’s second allusion to
Miss Gwilt. “When I am asked to choose between the employer of a spy and
the victim of a spy, I side with the victim!”

“Don’t try me too hard, Midwinter, I have a temper to lose as well as
you.”

He stopped, struggling with himself. The torture of passion in
Midwinter’s face, from which a less simple and less generous nature
might have recoiled in horror, touched Allan suddenly with an artless
distress, which, at that moment, was little less than sublime. He
advanced, with his eyes moistening, and his hand held out. “You asked
me for my hand just now,” he said, “and I gave it you. Will you remember
old times, and give me yours, before it’s too late?”

“No!” retorted Midwinter, furiously. “I may meet Miss Gwilt again, and I
may want my hand free to deal with your spy!”

He had drawn back along the wall as Allan advanced, until the bracket
which supported the Statuette was before instead of behind him. In the
madness of his passion he saw nothing but Allan’s face confronting him.
In the madness of his passion, he stretched out his right hand as he
answered, and shook it threateningly in the air. It struck the forgotten
projection of the bracket--and the next instant the Statuette lay in
fragments on the floor.

The rain drove slanting over flower-bed and lawn, and pattered heavily
against the glass; and the two Armadales stood by the window, as the two
Shadows had stood in the Second Vision of the Dream, with the wreck of
the image between them.

Allan stooped over the fragments of the little figure, and lifted them
one by one from the floor.

“Leave me,” he said, without looking up, “or we shall both repent it.”

Without a word, Midwinter moved back slowly. He stood for the second
time with his hand on the door, and looked his last at the room. The
horror of the night on the Wreck had got him once more, and the flame of
his passion was quenched in an instant.

“The Dream!” he whispered, under his breath. “The Dream again!”

The door was tried from the outside, and a servant appeared with a
trivial message about the breakfast.

Midwinter looked at the man with a blank, dreadful helplessness in his
face. “Show me the way out,” he said. “The place is dark, and the room
turns round with me.”

The servant took him by the arm, and silently led him out.

As the door closed on them, Allan picked up the last fragment of the
broken figure. He sat down alone at the table, and hid his face in
his hands. The self-control which he had bravely preserved under
exasperation renewed again and again now failed him at last in the
friendless solitude of his room, and, in the first bitterness of feeling
that Midwinter had turned against him like the rest, he burst into
tears.

The moments followed each other, the slow time wore on. Little by little
the signs of a new elemental disturbance began to show themselves in the
summer storm. The shadow of a swiftly deepening darkness swept over the
sky. The pattering of the rain lessened with the lessening wind. There
was a momentary hush of stillness. Then on a sudden the rain poured down
again like a cataract, and the low roll of thunder came up solemnly on
the dying air.



IX. SHE KNOWS THE TRUTH.

1. _From Mr. Bashwood to Miss Gwilt_.

“Thorpe Ambrose, July 20th, 1851.

“DEAR MADAM--I received yesterday, by private messenger, your obliging
note, in which you direct me to communicate with you through the post
only, as long as there is reason to believe that any visitors who may
come to you are likely to be observed. May I be permitted to say that
I look forward with respectful anxiety to the time when I shall again
enjoy the only real happiness I have ever experienced--the happiness of
personally addressing you?

“In compliance with your desire that I should not allow this day (the
Sunday) to pass without privately noticing what went on at the great
house, I took the keys, and went this morning to the steward’s office. I
accounted for my appearance to the servants by informing them that I had
work to do which it was important to complete in the shortest possible
time. The same excuse would have done for Mr. Armadale if we had met,
but no such meeting happened.

“Although I was at Thorpe Ambrose in what I thought good time, I was too
late to see or hear anything myself of a serious quarrel which appeared
to have taken place, just before I arrived, between Mr. Armadale and Mr.
Midwinter.

“All the little information I can give you in this matter is derived
from one of the servants. The man told me that he heard the voices of
the two gentlemen loud in Mr. Armadale’s sitting-room. He went in to
announce breakfast shortly afterward, and found Mr. Midwinter in such
a dreadful state of agitation that he had to be helped out of the room.
The servant tried to take him upstairs to lie down and compose himself.
He declined, saying he would wait a little first in one of the lower
rooms, and begging that he might be left alone. The man had hardly got
downstairs again when he heard the front door opened and closed. He ran
back, and found that Mr. Midwinter was gone. The rain was pouring at the
time, and thunder and lightning came soon afterward. Dreadful weather
certainly to go out in. The servant thinks Mr. Midwinter’s mind was
unsettled. I sincerely hope not. Mr. Midwinter is one of the few people
I have met with in the course of my life who have treated me kindly.

“Hearing that Mr. Armadale still remained in the sitting-room, I went
into the steward’s office (which, as you may remember, is on the same
side of the house), and left the door ajar, and set the window open,
waiting and listening for anything that might happen. Dear madam, there
was a time when I might have thought such a position in the house of my
employer not a very becoming one. Let me hasten to assure you that this
is far from being my feeling now. I glory in any position which makes me
serviceable to you.

“The state of the weather seemed hopelessly adverse to that renewal
of intercourse between Mr. Armadale and Miss Milroy which you so
confidently anticipate, and of which you are so anxious to be made
aware. Strangely enough, however, it is actually in consequence of the
state of the weather that I am now in a position to give you the very
information you require. Mr. Armadale and Miss Milroy met about an hour
since. The circumstances were as follows:

“Just at the beginning of the thunder-storm, I saw one of the grooms run
across from the stables, and heard him tap at his master’s window. Mr.
Armadale opened the window and asked what was the matter. The groom said
he came with a message from the coachman’s wife. She had seen from her
room over the stables (which looks on to the park) Miss Milroy quite
alone, standing for shelter under one of the trees. As that part of the
park was at some distance from the major’s cottage, she had thought
that her master might wish to send and ask the young lady into the
house--especially as she had placed herself, with a thunder-storm coming
on, in what might turn out to be a very dangerous position.

“The moment Mr. Armadale understood the man’s message, he called for the
water-proof things and the umbrellas, and ran out himself, instead of
leaving it to the servants. In a little time he and the groom came back
with Miss Milroy between them, as well protected as could be from the
rain.

“I ascertained from one of the women-servants, who had taken the young
lady into a bedroom, and had supplied her with such dry things as she
wanted, that Miss Milroy had been afterward shown into the drawing-room,
and that Mr. Armadale was there with her. The only way of following your
instructions, and finding out what passed between them, was to go round
the house in the pelting rain, and get into the conservatory (which
opens into the drawing-room) by the outer door. I hesitate at nothing,
dear madam, in your service; I would cheerfully get wet every day, to
please you. Besides, though I may at first sight be thought rather an
elderly man, a wetting is of no very serious consequence to me. I assure
you I am not so old as I look, and I am of a stronger constitution than
appears.

“It was impossible for me to get near enough in the conservatory to see
what went on in the drawing-room, without the risk of being discovered.
But most of the conversation reached me, except when they dropped their
voices. This is the substance of what I heard:

“I gathered that Miss Milroy had been prevailed on, against her will, to
take refuge from the thunder-storm in Mr. Armadale’s house. She said so,
at least, and she gave two reasons. The first was that her father had
forbidden all intercourse between the cottage and the great house. Mr.
Armadale met this objection by declaring that her father had issued his
orders under a total misconception of the truth, and by entreating her
not to treat him as cruelly as the major had treated him. He entered,
I suspect, into some explanations at this point, but as he dropped his
voice I am unable to say what they were. His language, when I did hear
it, was confused and ungrammatical. It seemed, however, to be quite
intelligible enough to persuade Miss Milroy that her father had been
acting under a mistaken impression of the circumstances. At least, I
infer this; for, when I next heard the conversation, the young lady was
driven back to her second objection to being in the house--which was,
that Mr. Armadale had behaved very badly to her, and that he richly
deserved that she should never speak to him again.

“In this latter case, Mr. Armadale attempted no defense of any kind. He
agreed with her that he had behaved badly; he agreed with her that he
richly deserved she should never speak to him again. At the same time he
implored her to remember that he had suffered his punishment already.
He was disgraced in the neighborhood; and his dearest friend, his one
intimate friend in the world, had that very morning turned against him
like the rest. Far or near, there was not a living creature whom he was
fond of to comfort him, or to say a friendly word to him. He was lonely
and miserable, and his heart ached for a little kindness--and that was
his only excuse for asking Miss Milroy to forget and forgive the past.

“I must leave you, I fear, to judge for yourself of the effect of this
on the young lady; for, though I tried hard, I failed to catch what
she said. I am almost certain I heard her crying, and Mr. Armadale
entreating her not to break his heart. They whispered a great deal,
which aggravated me. I was afterward alarmed by Mr. Armadale coming
out into the conservatory to pick some flowers. He did not come as far,
fortunately, as the place where I was hidden; and he went in again
into the drawing-room, and there was more talking (I suspect at close
quarters), which to my great regret I again failed to catch. Pray
forgive me for having so little to tell you. I can only add that, when
the storm cleared off, Miss Milroy went away with the flowers in her
hand, and with Mr. Armadale escorting her from the house. My own humble
opinion is that he had a powerful friend at court, all through the
interview, in the young lady’s own liking for him.

“This is all I can say at present, with the exception of one other thing
I heard, which I blush to mention. But your word is law, and you have
ordered me to have no concealments from you.

“Their talk turned once, dear madam, on yourself. I think I heard the
word ‘creature’ from Miss Milroy; and I am certain that Mr. Armadale,
while acknowledging that he had once admired you, added that
circumstances had since satisfied him of ‘his folly.’ I quote his own
expression; it made me quite tremble with indignation. If I may be
permitted to say so, the man who admires Miss Gwilt lives in Paradise.
Respect, if nothing else, ought to have closed Mr. Armadale’s lips.
He is my employer, I know; but after his calling it an act of folly to
admire you (though I _am_ his deputy-steward), I utterly despise him.

“Trusting that I may have been so happy as to give you satisfaction
thus far, and earnestly desirous to deserve the honor of your continued
confidence in me, I remain, dear madam,

“Your grateful and devoted servant,

“FELIX BASHWOOD.”

2. _From Mrs. Oldershaw to Miss Gwilt_.

“Diana Street, Monday, July 21st.

“MY DEAR LYDIA--I trouble you with a few lines. They are written under a
sense of the duty which I owe to myself, in our present position toward
each other.

“I am not at all satisfied with the tone of your last two letters; and I
am still less pleased at your leaving me this morning without any letter
at all--and this when we had arranged, in the doubtful state of our
prospects, that I was to hear from you every day. I can only interpret
your conduct in one way. I can only infer that matters at Thorpe
Ambrose, having been all mismanaged, are all going wrong.

“It is not my present object to reproach you, for why should I waste
time, language, and paper? I merely wish to recall to your memory
certain considerations which you appear to be disposed to overlook.
Shall I put them in the plainest English? Yes; for, with all my faults,
I am frankness personified.

“In the first place, then, I have an interest in your becoming Mrs.
Armadale of Thorpe Ambrose as well as you. Secondly, I have provided you
(to say nothing of good advice) with all the money needed to accomplish
our object. Thirdly, I hold your notes of hand, at short dates, for
every farthing so advanced. Fourthly and lastly, though I am indulgent
to a fault in the capacity of a friend--in the capacity of a woman of
business, my dear, I am not to be trifled with. That is all, Lydia, at
least for the present.

“Pray don’t suppose I write in anger; I am only sorry and disheartened.
My state of mind resembles David’s. If I had the wings of a dove, I
would flee away and be at rest.

“Affectionately yours, MARIA OLDERSHAW.”

3. _From Mr. Bashwood to Miss Gwilt_.

“Thorpe Ambrose, July 21st.

“DEAR MADAM--You will probably receive these lines a few hours after
my yesterday’s communication reaches you. I posted my first letter last
night, and I shall post this before noon to-day.

“My present object in writing is to give you some more news from
this house. I have the inexpressible happiness of announcing that Mr.
Armadale’s disgraceful intrusion on your privacy is at an end. The watch
set on your actions is to be withdrawn this day. I write, dear madam,
with the tears in my eyes--tears of joy, caused by feelings which I
ventured to express in my previous letter (see first paragraph toward
the end). Pardon me this personal reference. I can speak to you (I don’t
know why) so much more readily with my pen than with my tongue.

“Let me try to compose myself, and proceed with my narrative.

“I had just arrived at the steward’s office this morning, when Mr.
Pedgift the elder followed me to the great house to see Mr. Armadale by
special appointment. It is needless to say that I at once suspended
any little business there was to do, feeling that your interests might
possibly be concerned. It is also most gratifying to add that this time
circumstances favored me. I was able to stand under the open window and
to hear the whole interview.

“Mr. Armadale explained himself at once in the plainest terms. He
gave orders that the person who had been hired to watch you should be
instantly dismissed. On being asked to explain this sudden change of
purpose, he did not conceal that it was owing to the effect produced
on his mind by what had passed between Mr. Midwinter and himself on the
previous day. Mr. Midwinter’s language, cruelly unjust as it was, had
nevertheless convinced him that no necessity whatever could excuse any
proceeding so essentially base in itself as the employment of a spy, and
on that conviction he was now determined to act.

“But for your own positive directions to me to conceal nothing that
passes here in which your name is concerned, I should really be ashamed
to report what Mr. Pedgift said on his side. He has behaved kindly to
me, I know. But if he was my own brother, I could never forgive him the
tone in which he spoke of you, and the obstinacy with which he tried to
make Mr. Armadale change his mind.

“He began by attacking Mr. Midwinter. He declared that Mr. Midwinter’s
opinion was the very worst opinion that could be taken; for it was quite
plain that you, dear madam, had twisted him round your finger. Producing
no effect by this coarse suggestion (which nobody who knows you could
for a moment believe), Mr. Pedgift next referred to Miss Milroy, and
asked Mr. Armadale if he had given up all idea of protecting her. What
this meant I cannot imagine. I can only report it for your private
consideration. Mr. Armadale briefly answered that he had his own plan
for protecting Miss Milroy, and that the circumstances were altered in
that quarter, or words to a similar effect. Still Mr. Pedgift persisted.
He went on (I blush to mention) from bad to worse. He tried to persuade
Mr. Armadale next to bring an action at law against one or other of
the persons who had been most strongly condemning his conduct in the
neighborhood, for the purpose--I really hardly know how to write it--of
getting you into the witness-box. And worse yet: when Mr. Armadale still
said No, Mr. Pedgift, after having, as I suspected by the sound of his
voice, been on the point of leaving the room, artfully came back, and
proposed sending for a detective officer from London, simply to look at
you. ‘The whole of this mystery about Miss Gwilt’s true character,’ he
said, ‘may turn on a question of identity. It won’t cost much to have
a man down from London; and it’s worth trying whether her face is or is
not known at headquarters to the police.’ I again and again assure you,
dearest lady, that I only repeat those abominable words from a sense of
duty toward yourself. I shook--I declare I shook from head to foot when
I heard them.

“To resume, for there is more to tell you.

“Mr. Armadale (to his credit--I don’t deny it, though I don’t like him)
still said No. He appeared to be getting irritated under Mr. Pedgift’s
persistence, and he spoke in a somewhat hasty way. ‘You persuaded me on
the last occasion when we talked about this,’ he said, ‘to do something
that I have been since heartily ashamed of. You won’t succeed in
persuading me, Mr. Pedgift, a second time.’ Those were his words. Mr.
Pedgift took him up short; Mr. Pedgift seemed to be nettled on his side.

“‘If that is the light in which you see my advice, sir,’ he said, ‘the
less you have of it for the future, the better. Your character and
position are publicly involved in this matter between yourself and Miss
Gwilt; and you persist, at a most critical moment, in taking a course of
your own, which I believe will end badly. After what I have already said
and done in this very serious case, I can’t consent to go on with it
with both my hands tied, and I can’t drop it with credit to myself while
I remain publicly known as your solicitor. You leave me no alternative,
sir, but to resign the honor of acting as your legal adviser.’ ‘I
am sorry to hear it,’ says Mr. Armadale, ‘but I have suffered enough
already through interfering with Miss Gwilt. I can’t and won’t stir any
further in the matter.’ ‘_You_ may not stir any further in it, sir,’
says Mr. Pedgift, ‘and _I_ shall not stir any further in it, for it
has ceased to be a question of professional interest to me. But mark my
words, Mr. Armadale, you are not at the end of this business yet. Some
other person’s curiosity may go on from the point where you (and I) have
stopped; and some other person’s hand may let the broad daylight in yet
on Miss Gwilt.’

“I report their language, dear madam, almost word for word, I believe,
as I heard it. It produced an indescribable impression on me; it filled
me, I hardly know why, with quite a panic of alarm. I don’t at all
understand it, and I understand still less what happened immediately
afterward.

“Mr. Pedgift’s voice, when he said those last words, sounded dreadfully
close to me. He must have been speaking at the open window, and he must,
I fear, have seen me under it. I had time, before he left the house,
to get out quietly from among the laurels, but not to get back to the
office. Accordingly I walked away along the drive toward the lodge, as
if I was going on some errand connected with the steward’s business.

“Before long, Mr. Pedgift overtook me in his gig, and stopped. ‘So _you_
feel some curiosity about Miss Gwilt, do you?’ he said. ‘Gratify your
curiosity by all means; _I_ don’t object to it.’ I felt naturally
nervous, but I managed to ask him what he meant. He didn’t answer; he
only looked down at me from the gig in a very odd manner, and laughed.
‘I have known stranger things happen even than _that_!’ he said to
himself suddenly, and drove off.

“I have ventured to trouble you with this last incident, though it
may seem of no importance in your eyes, in the hope that your superior
ability may be able to explain it. My own poor faculties, I confess, are
quite unable to penetrate Mr. Pedgift’s meaning. All I know is that he
has no right to accuse me of any such impertinent feeling as curiosity
in relation to a lady whom I ardently esteem and admire. I dare not put
it in warmer words.

“I have only to add that I am in a position to be of continued service
to you here if you wish it. Mr. Armadale has just been into the office,
and has told me briefly that, in Mr. Midwinter’s continued absence, I am
still to act as steward’s deputy till further notice.

“Believe me, dear madam, anxiously and devotedly yours, FELIX BASHWOOD.”

4. _From Allan Armadale to the Reverend Decimus Brock_.

Thorpe Ambrose, Tuesday.

“MY DEAR MR. BROCK--I am in sad trouble. Midwinter has quarreled with
me and left me; and my lawyer has quarreled with me and left me; and
(except dear little Miss Milroy, who has forgiven me) all the neighbors
have turned their backs on me. There is a good deal about ‘me’ in this,
but I can’t help it. I am very miserable alone in my own house. Do pray
come and see me! You are the only old friend I have left, and I do long
so to tell you about it.

“N. B.--On my word of honor as a gentleman, I am not to blame. Yours
affectionately,

“ALLAN ARMADALE.

“P. S.--I would come to you (for this place is grown quite hateful to
me), but I have a reason for not going too far away from Miss Milroy
just at present.”

5. _From Robert Stapleton to Allan Armadale, Esq._

“Bascombe Rectory, Thursday Morning.

“RESPECTED SIR--I see a letter in your writing, on the table along with
the others, which I am sorry to say my master is not well enough to
open. He is down with a sort of low fever. The doctor says it has been
brought on with worry and anxiety which master was not strong enough to
bear. This seems likely; for I was with him when he went to London last
month, and what with his own business, and the business of looking after
that person who afterward gave us the slip, he was worried and anxious
all the time; and for the matter of that, so was I.

“My master was talking of you a day or two since. He seemed unwilling
that you should know of his illness, unless he got worse. But I think
you ought to know of it. At the same time he is not worse; perhaps
a trifle better. The doctor says he must be kept very quiet, and not
agitated on any account. So be pleased to take no notice of this--I mean
in the way of coming to the rectory. I have the doctor’s orders to say
it is not needful, and it would only upset my master in the state he is
in now.

“I will write again if you wish it. Please accept of my duty, and
believe me to remain, sir, your humble servant,

“ROBERT STAPLETON.

“P. S.--The yacht has been rigged and repainted, waiting your orders.
She looks beautiful.”

6. _From Mrs. Oldershaw to Miss Gwilt_.

“Diana Street, July 24th.

“MISS GWILT--The post hour has passed for three mornings following,
and has brought me no answer to my letter. Are you purposely bent on
insulting me? or have you left Thorpe Ambrose? In either case, I won’t
put up with your conduct any longer. The law shall bring you to book, if
I can’t.

“Your first note of hand (for thirty pounds) falls due on Tuesday next,
the 29th. If you had behaved with common consideration toward me, I
would have let you renew it with pleasure. As things are, I shall have
the note presented; and, if it is not paid, I shall instruct my man of
business to take the usual course.

“Yours, MARIA OLDERSHAW.”


7. _From Miss Gwilt to Mrs. Oldershaw_.

“5 Paradise Place, Thorpe Ambrose, July 25th.

“MRS. OLDERSHAW--The time of your man of business being, no doubt, of
some value, I write a line to assist him when he takes the usual course.
He will find me waiting to be arrested in the first-floor apartments,
at the above address. In my present situation, and with my present
thoughts, the best service you can possibly render me is to lock me up.

“L. G.”

8. _From Mrs. Oldershaw to Miss Gwilt_.

“Diana Street, July 26th.

“MY DARLING LYDIA--The longer I live in this wicked world the more
plainly I see that women’s own tempers are the worst enemies women have
to contend with. What a truly regretful style of correspondence we have
fallen into! What a sad want of self-restraint, my dear, on your side
and on mine!

“Let me, as the oldest in years, be the first to make the needful
excuses, the first to blush for my own want of self-control. Your cruel
neglect, Lydia, stung me into writing as I did. I am so sensitive to
ill treatment, when it is inflicted on me by a person whom I love and
admire; and, though turned sixty, I am still (unfortunately for myself)
so young at heart. Accept my apologies for having made use of my
pen, when I ought to have been content to take refuge in my
pocket-handkerchief. Forgive your attached Maria for being still young
at heart!

“But oh, my dear--though I own I threatened you--how hard of you to take
me at my word! How cruel of you, if your debt had been ten times what
it is, to suppose me capable (whatever I might say) of the odious
inhumanity of arresting my bosom friend! Heavens! have I deserved to
be taken at my word in this unmercifully exact way, after the years of
tender intimacy that have united us? But I don’t complain; I only mourn
over the frailty of our common human nature. Let us expect as little of
each other as possible, my dear; we are both women, and we can’t help
it. I declare, when I reflect on the origin of our unfortunate sex--when
I remember that we were all originally made of no better material than
the rib of a man (and that rib of so little importance to its possessor
that he never appears to have missed it afterward), I am quite
astonished at our virtues, and not in the least surprised at our faults.

“I am wandering a little; I am losing myself in serious thought, like
that sweet character in Shakespeare who was ‘fancy free.’ One last word,
dearest, to say that my longing for an answer to this proceeds entirely
from my wish to hear from you again in your old friendly tone, and
is quite unconnected with any curiosity to know what you are doing at
Thorpe Ambrose--except such curiosity as you yourself might approve.
Need I add that I beg you as a favor to _me_ to renew, on the customary
terms? I refer to the little bill due on Tuesday next, and I venture to
suggest that day six weeks.

“Yours, with a truly motherly feeling,

“MARIA OLDERSHAW.”

9. _From Miss Gwilt to Mrs. Oldershaw_.

“Paradise Place, July 27th.

“I have just got your last letter. The brazen impudence of it has roused
me. I am to be treated like a child, am I?--to be threatened first, and
then, if threatening fails, to be coaxed afterward? You _shall_ coax me;
you shall know, my motherly friend, the sort of child you have to deal
with.

“I had a reason, Mrs. Oldershaw, for the silence which has so seriously
offended you. I was afraid--actually afraid--to let you into the secret
of my thoughts. No such fear troubles me now. My only anxiety this
morning is to make you my best acknowledgments for the manner in which
you have written to me. After carefully considering it, I think the
worst turn I can possibly do you is to tell you what you are burning to
know. So here I am at my desk, bent on telling it. If you don’t bitterly
repent, when you are at the end of this letter, not having held to your
first resolution, and locked me up out of harm’s way while you had the
chance, my name is not Lydia Gwilt.

“Where did my last letter end? I don’t remember, and don’t care. Make it
out as you can--I am not going back any further than this day week. That
is to say, Sunday last.

“There was a thunder-storm in the morning. It began to clear off toward
noon. I didn’t go out: I waited to see Midwinter or to hear from him.
(Are you surprised at my not writing ‘Mr.’ before his name? We have got
so familiar, my dear, that ‘Mr.’ would be quite out of place.) He had
left me the evening before, under very interesting circumstances. I had
told him that his friend Armadale was persecuting me by means of a hired
spy. He had declined to believe it, and had gone straight to Thorpe
Ambrose to clear the thing up. I let him kiss my hand before he went. He
promised to come back the next day (the Sunday). I felt I had secured my
influence over him; and I believed he would keep his word.

“Well, the thunder passed away as I told you. The weather cleared up;
the people walked out in their best clothes; the dinners came in from
the bakers; I sat dreaming at my wretched little hired piano, nicely
dressed and looking my best--and still no Midwinter appeared. It was
late in the afternoon, and I was beginning to feel offended, when a
letter was brought to me. It had been left by a strange messenger
who went away again immediately. I looked at the letter. Midwinter at
last--in writing, instead of in person. I began to feel more offended
than ever; for, as I told you, I thought I had used my influence over
him to better purpose.

“The letter, when I read it, set my mind off in a new direction. It
surprised, it puzzled, it interested me. I thought, and thought, and
thought of him, all the rest of the day.

“He began by asking my pardon for having doubted what I told him. Mr.
Armadale’s own lips had confirmed me. They had quarreled (as I had
anticipated they would); and he, and the man who had once been
his dearest friend on earth, had parted forever. So far, I was not
surprised. I was amused by his telling me in his extravagant way that he
and his friend were parted forever; and I rather wondered what he would
think when I carried out my plan, and found my way into the great house
on pretense of reconciling them.

“But the second part of the letter set me thinking. Here it is, in his
own words.

“‘It is only by struggling against myself (and no language can say how
hard the struggle has been) that I have decided on writing, instead of
speaking to you. A merciless necessity claims my future life. I must
leave Thorpe Ambrose, I must leave England, without hesitating, without
stopping to look back. There are reasons--terrible reasons, which I have
madly trifled with--for my never letting Mr. Armadale set eyes on me, or
hear of me again, after what has happened between us. I must go, never
more to live under the same roof, never more to breathe the same air
with that man. I must hide myself from him under an assumed name; I
must put the mountains and the seas between us. I have been warned as
no human creature was ever warned before. I believe--I dare not tell you
why--I believe that, if the fascination you have for me draws me back to
you, fatal consequences will come of it to the man whose life has been
so strangely mingled with your life and mine--the man who was once
_your_ admirer and _my_ friend. And yet, feeling this, seeing it in my
mind as plainly as I see the sky above my head, there is a weakness in
me that still shrinks from the one imperative sacrifice of never seeing
you again. I am fighting with it as a man fights with the strength of
his despair. I have been near enough, not an hour since, to see the
house where you live, and have forced myself away again out of sight
of it. Can I force myself away further still, now that my letter is
written--now, when the useless confession escapes me, and I own to
loving you with the first love I have ever known, with the last love
I shall ever feel? Let the coming time answer the question; I dare not
write of it or think of it more.”


“Those were the last words. In that strange way the letter ended.

“I felt a perfect fever of curiosity to know what he meant. His loving
me, of course, was easy enough to understand. But what did he mean by
saying he had been warned? Why was he never to live under the same roof,
never to breathe the same air again, with young Armadale? What sort of
quarrel could it be which obliged one man to hide himself from another
under an assumed name, and to put the mountains and the seas between
them? Above all, if he came back, and let me fascinate him, why should
it be fatal to the hateful lout who possesses the noble fortune and
lives in the great house?

“I never longed in my life as I longed to see him again and put these
questions to him. I got quite superstitious about it as the day drew on.
They gave me a sweet-bread and a cherry pudding for dinner. I actually
tried if he would come back by the stones in the plate! He will, he
won’t, he will, he won’t--and so on. It ended in ‘He won’t.’ I rang
the bell, and had the things taken away. I contradicted Destiny quite
fiercely. I said, ‘He will!’ and I waited at home for him.

“You don’t know what a pleasure it is to me to give you all these little
particulars. Count up--my bosom friend, my second mother--count up the
money you have advanced on the chance of my becoming Mrs. Armadale, and
then think of my feeling this breathless interest in another man. Oh,
Mrs. Oldershaw, how intensely I enjoy the luxury of irritating you!

“The day got on toward evening. I rang again, and sent down to borrow a
railway time-table. What trains were there to take him away on Sunday?
The national respect for the Sabbath stood my friend. There was only
one train, which had started hours before he wrote to me. I went and
consulted my glass. It paid me the compliment of contradicting
the divination by cherry-stones. My glass said: ‘Get behind the
window-curtain; he won’t pass the long lonely evening without coming
back again to look at the house.’ I got behind the window-curtain, and
waited with his letter in my hand.

“The dismal Sunday light faded, and the dismal Sunday quietness in the
street grew quieter still. The dusk came, and I heard a step coming with
it in the silence. My heart gave a little jump--only think of my having
any heart left! I said to myself: ‘Midwinter!’ And Midwinter it was.

“When he came in sight he was walking slowly, stopping and hesitating at
every two or three steps. My ugly little drawing-room window seemed to
be beckoning him on in spite of himself. After waiting till I saw him
come to a standstill, a little aside from the house, but still within
view of my irresistible window, I put on my things and slipped out
by the back way into the garden. The landlord and his family were at
supper, and nobody saw me. I opened the door in the wall, and got
round by the lane into the street. At that awkward moment I suddenly
remembered, what I had forgotten before, the spy set to watch me, who
was, no doubt, waiting somewhere in sight of the house.

“It was necessary to get time to think, and it was (in my state of
mind) impossible to let Midwinter go without speaking to him. In great
difficulties you generally decide at once, if you decide at all. I
decided to make an appointment with him for the next evening, and to
consider in the interval how to manage the interview so that it might
escape observation. This, as I felt at the time, was leaving my own
curiosity free to torment me for four-and-twenty mortal hours; but what
other choice had I? It was as good as giving up being mistress of Thorpe
Ambrose altogether, to come to a private understanding with Midwinter in
the sight and possibly in the hearing of Armadale’s spy.

“Finding an old letter of yours in my pocket, I drew back into the lane,
and wrote on the blank leaf, with the little pencil that hangs at my
watch-chain: ‘I must and will speak to you. It is impossible to-night,
but be in the street to-morrow at this time, and leave me afterward
forever, if you like. When you have read this, overtake me, and say as
you pass, without stopping or looking round, “Yes, I promise.”’

“I folded up the paper, and came on him suddenly from behind. As he
started and turned round, I put the note into his hand, pressed his
hand, and passed on. Before I had taken ten steps I heard him behind me.
I can’t say he didn’t look round--I saw his big black eyes, bright and
glittering in the dusk, devour me from head to foot in a moment;
but otherwise he did what I told him. ‘I can deny you nothing,’ he
whispered; ‘I promise.’ He went on and left me. I couldn’t help thinking
at the time how that brute and booby Armadale would have spoiled
everything in the same situation.

“I tried hard all night to think of a way of making our interview of the
next evening safe from discovery, and tried in vain. Even as early
as this, I began to feel as if Midwinter’s letter had, in some
unaccountable manner, stupefied me.

“Monday morning made matters worse. News came from my faithful ally,
Mr. Bashwood, that Miss Milroy and Armadale had met and become friends
again. You may fancy the state I was in! An hour or two later there came
more news from Mr. Bashwood--good news this time. The mischievous
idiot at Thorpe Ambrose had shown sense enough at last to be ashamed of
himself. He had decided on withdrawing the spy that very day, and he and
his lawyer had quarreled in consequence.

“So here was the obstacle which I was too stupid to remove for myself
obligingly removed for me! No more need to fret about the coming
interview with Midwinter; and plenty of time to consider my next
proceedings, now that Miss Milroy and her precious swain had come
together again. Would you believe it, the letter, or the man himself (I
don’t know which), had taken such a hold on me that, though I tried and
tried, I could think of nothing else; and this when I had every reason
to fear that Miss Milroy was in a fair way of changing her name to
Armadale, and when I knew that my heavy debt of obligation to her was
not paid yet? Was there ever such perversity? I can’t account for it;
can you?

“The dusk of the evening came at last. I looked out of the window--and
there he was!

“I