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Armadale
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.




CHAPTER 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.

CHAPTER 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 
is 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.

CHAPTER 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?"

"It 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_.

CHAPTER 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.

CHAPTER 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!"

CHAPTER 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.

CHAPTER 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.

CHAPTER 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

CHAPTER 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 an 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."


CHAPTER 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.

CHAPTER 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 pubic 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.

CHAPTER 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 today," 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 today'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 he 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."

CHAPTER 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."

CHAPTER 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 she 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.

CHAPTER 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 he 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 today, 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 today, 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.

CHAPTER 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 he 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.

CHAPTER 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."

CHAPTER 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 today. 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 be 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.

CHAPTER 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."

CHAPTER 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--
Jwith 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!"

CHAPTER 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.

CHAPTER 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 scrupuously 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.

"BY 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!"

CHAPTER 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!"

CHAPTER 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 tomorrow 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, tomorrow 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.

CHAPTER 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
today, 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.

CHAPTER 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.

CHAPTER 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 
n 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!"

CHAPTER 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 tonight 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.

CHAPTER 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.

CHAPTER 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 tonight, but be in the street tomorrow 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 joined him at once; the people of the house, as before, being
too much absorbed in their eating and drinking to notice anything
else. 'We mustn't be seen together here,' I whispered. 'I must go
on first, and you must follow me.'

"He said nothing in the way of reply. What was going on in
his mind I can't pretend to guess; but, after coming to his
appointment, he actually hung back as if he was half inclined
to go away again.

"'You look as if you were afraid of me,' I said.

"'I _am_ afraid of you,' he answered--'of you, and of myself.'

"It was not encouraging; it was not complimentary. But I was
in such a frenzy of curiosity by this time that, if he had been
ruder still, I should have taken no notice of it. I led the way
a few steps toward the new buildings, and stopped and looked
round after him.

"'Must I ask it of you as a favor,' I said, 'after your giving
me your promise, and after such a letter as you have written
to me?'

"Something suddenly changed him; he was at my side in an instant.
'I beg your pardon, Miss Gwilt; lead the way where you please.'
He dropped back a little after that answer, and I heard him say
to himself, 'What _is_ to be _will_ be. What have I to do with
it, and what has she?'

"It could hardly have been the words, for I didn't understand
them--it must have been the tone he spoke in, I suppose, that
made me feel a momentary tremor. I was half inclined, without
the ghost of a reason for it, to wish him good-night, and go
in again. Not much like me, you will say. Not much, indeed!
It didn't last a moment. Your darling Lydia soon came to her
senses again.

"I led the way toward the unfinished cottages, and the country
beyond. It would have been much more to my taste to have had him
into the house, and have talked to him in the light of the
candles. But I had risked it once already; and in this
scandal-mongering place, and in my critical position, I was
afraid to risk it again. The garden was not to be thought of
either, for the landlord smokes his pipe there after his supper.
There was no alternative but to take him away from the town.

"From time to time, I looked back as I went on. There he was,
always at the same distance, dim and ghost-like in the dusk,
silently following me.

"I must leave off for a little while. The church bells have
broken out, and the jangling of them drives me mad. In these
days, when we have all got watches and clocks, why are bells
wanted to remind us when the service begins? We don't require
to be rung into the theater. How excessively discreditable to
the clergy to be obliged to ring us into the church!

----------

"They have rung the congregation in at last; and I can take up
my pen, and go on again.

"I was a little in doubt where to lead him to. The high-road was
on one side of me; but, empty as it looked, somebody might be
passing when we least expected it. The other way was through
the coppice. I led him through the coppice.

"At the outskirts of the trees, on the other side, there was
a dip in the ground with some felled timber lying on it, and a
little pool beyond, still and white and shining in the twilight.
The long grazing-grounds rose over its further shore, with the
mist thickening on them, and a dim black line far away of cattle
in slow procession going home. There wasn't a living creature
near; there wasn't a sound to be heard. I sat down on one
of the felled trees and looked back for him. 'Come,' I said,
softly--'come and sit by me here.'

"Why am I so particular about all this? I hardly know. The place
made an unaccountably vivid impression on me, and I can't help
writing about it. If I end badly--suppose we say on the
scaffold?--I believe the last thing I shall see, before the
hangman pulls the drop, will be the little shining pool, and the
long, misty grazing-grounds, and the cattle winding dimly home in
the thickening night. Don't be alarmed, you worthy creature! My
fancies play me strange tricks sometimes; and there is a little
of last night's laudanum, I dare say, in this part of my letter.

"He came--in the strangest silent way, like a man walking in
his sleep--he came and sat down by me. Either the night was very
close, or I was by this time literally in a fever: I couldn't
bear my bonnet on; I couldn't bear my gloves. The want to look
at him, and see what his singular silence meant, and the
impossibility of doing it in the darkening light, irritated my
nerves, till I thought I should have screamed. I took his hand,
to try if that would help me. It was burning hot; and it closed
instantly on mine--you know how. Silence, after _that_, was not
to be thought of. The one safe way was to begin talking to him
at once.

"'Don't despise me,' I said. 'I am obliged to bring you to this
lonely place; I should lose my character if we were seen
together.'

"I waited a little. His hand warned me once more not to let the
silence continue. I determined to _make_ him speak to me this
time.

"'You have interested me, and frightened me,' I went on. 'You
have written me a very strange letter. I must know what it
means.'

"'It is too late to ask. _You_ have taken the way, and _I_ have
taken the way, from which there is no turning back.' He made that
strange answer in a tone that was quite new to me--a tone that
made me even more uneasy than his silence had made me the moment
before. 'Too late,' he repeated--'too late! There is only one
question to ask me now.'

"'What is it?'

"As I said the words, a sudden trembling passed from his hand
to mine, and told me instantly that I had better have held my
tongue. Before I could move, before I could think, he had me
in his arms. 'Ask me if I love you,' he whispered. At the same
moment his head sank on my bosom; and some unutterable torture
that was in him burst its way out, as it does with _us_, in
a passion of sobs and tears.

"My first impulse was the impulse of a fool. I was on the point
of making our usual protest and defending myself in our usual
way. Luckily or unluckily, I don't know which, I have lost the
fine edge of the sensitiveness of youth; and I checked the first
movement of my hands, and the first word on my lips. Oh, dear,
how old I felt, while he was sobbing his heart out on my breast!
How I thought of the time when he might have possessed himself
of my love! All he had possessed himself of now was--my waist.

"I wonder whether I pitied him? It doesn't matter if I did. At
any rate, my hand lifted itself somehow, and my fingers twined
themselves softly in his hair. Horrible recollections came back
to me of other times, and made me shudder as I touched him. And
yet I did it. What fools women are!

"'I won't reproach you,' I said, gently. 'I won't say this is
a cruel advantage to take of me, in such a position as mine. You
are dreadfully agitated; I will let you wait a little and compose
yourself.'

"Having got as far as that, I stopped to consider how I should
put the questions to him that I was burning to ask. But I was too
confused, I suppose, or perhaps too impatient to consider. I let
out what was uppermost in my mind, in the words that came first.

"'I don't believe you love me,' I said. 'You write strange
things to me; you frighten me with mysteries. What did you mean
by saying in your letter that it would be fatal to Mr. Armadale
if you came back to me? What danger can there be to Mr.
Armadale--?'

"Before I could finish the question, he suddenly lifted his head
and unclasped his arms. I had apparently touched some painful
subject which recalled him to himself. Instead of my shrinking
from _him_, it was he who shrank from _me_. I felt offended with
him; why, I don't know--but offended I was; and I thanked him
with my bitterest emphasis for remembering what was due to me,
_at last_!

"'Do you believe in Dreams?' he burst out, in the most strangely
abrupt manner, without taking the slightest notice of what I had
said to him. 'Tell me,' he went on, without allowing me time to
answer, 'were you, or was any relation of yours, ever connected
with Allan Armadale's father or mother? Were you, or was anybody
belonging to you, ever in the island of Madeira?'

"Conceive my astonishment, if you can. I turned cold. In an
instant I turned cold all over. He was plainly in the secret
of what had happened when I was in Mrs. Armadale's service
in Madeira--in all probability before he was born! That was
startling enough of itself. And he had evidently some reason
of his own for trying to connect _me_ with those events--which
was more startling still.

"'No,' I said, as soon as I could trust myself to speak. 'I know
nothing of his father or mother.'

"'And nothing of the island of Madeira?'

"'Nothing of the island of Madeira.'

"He turned his head away, and began talking to himself.

"'Strange!' he said. 'As certainly as I was in the Shadow's
place at the window, _she_ was in the Shadow's place at the
pool!'

"Under other circumstances, his extraordinary behavior might have
alarmed me. But after his question about Madeira, there was some
greater fear in me which kept all common alarm at a distance.
I don't think I ever determined on anything in my life as I
determined on finding out how he had got his information, and who
he really was. It was quite plain to me that I had roused some
hidden feeling in him by my question about Armadale, which was
as strong in its way as his feeling for _me_. What had become
of my influence over him?

"I couldn't imagine what had become of it; but I could and did
set to work to make him feel it again.

"'Don't treat me cruelly,' I said; 'I didn't treat _you_ cruelly
just now. Oh, Mr. Midwinter, it's so lonely, it's so dark--don't
frighten me!'

"'Frighten you!' He was close to me again in a moment. 'Frighten
you!' He repeated the word with as much astonishment as if I had
woke him from a dream, and charged him with something that he had
said in his sleep.

"It was on the tip of my tongue, finding how I had surprised
him, to take him while he was off his guard, and to ask why my
question about Armadale had produced such a change in his
behavior to me. But after what had happened already, I was
afraid to risk returning to the subject too soon. Something or
other--what they call an instinct, I dare say--warned me to let
Armadale alone for the present, and to talk to him first about
himself. As I told you in one of my early letters, I had noticed
signs and tokens in his manner and appearance which convinced me,
young as he was, that he had done something or suffered something
out of the common in his past life. I had asked myself more and
more suspiciously every time I saw him whether he was what he
appeared to be; and first and foremost among my other doubts was
a doubt whether he was passing among us by his real name. Having
secrets to keep about my own past life, and having gone myself
in other days by more than one assumed name, I suppose I am all
the readier to suspect other people when I find something
mysterious about them. Any way, having the suspicion in my mind,
I determined to startle him, as he had startled me, by an
unexpected question on my side--a question about his name.

"While I was thinking, he was thinking; and, as it soon appeared,
of what I had just said to him. 'I am so grieved to have
frightened you,' he whispered, with that gentleness and humility
which we all so heartily despise in a man when he speaks to other
women, and which we all so dearly like when he speaks to
ourselves. 'I hardly know what I have been saying,' he went on;
'my mind is miserably disturbed. Pray forgive me, if you can;
I am not myself to-night.'

"'I am not angry,' I said; 'I have nothing to forgive. We
are both imprudent; we are both unhappy.' I laid my head
on his shoulder. 'Do you really love me?' I asked him, softly,
in a whisper.

"His arm stole round me again; and I felt the quick beat of his
heart get quicker and quicker. 'If you only knew!' he whispered
back; 'if you only knew--' He could say no more. I felt his face
bending toward mine, and dropped my head lower, and stopped him
in the very act of kissing me.

"'No,' I said; 'I am only a woman who has taken your fancy.
You are treating me as if I was your promised wife.'

"'_Be_ my promised wife!' he whispered, eagerly, and tried
to raise my head. I kept it down. The horror of these old
remembrances that you know of came back and made me tremble
a little when he asked me to be his wife. I don't think I was
actually faint; but something like faintness made me close my
eyes. The moment I shut them, the darkness seemed to open as if
lightning had split it; and the ghosts of _those other men_ rose
in the horrid gap, and looked at me.

"'Speak to me!' he whispered, tenderly. 'My darling, my angel,
speak to me!'

"His voice helped me to recover myself. I had just sense enough
left to remember that the time was passing, and that I had not
put my question to him yet about his name.

"'Suppose I felt for you as you feel for me?' I said. 'Suppose
I loved you dearly enough to trust you with the happiness of all
my life to come?'

"I paused a moment to get my breath. It was unbearably still
and close; the air seemed to have died when the night came.

"'Would you be marrying me honorably,' I went on, 'if you
married me in your present name?'

"His arm dropped from my waist, and I felt him give one great
start. After that he sat by me, still, and cold, and silent, as
if my question had struck him dumb. I put my arm round his neck,
and lifted my head again on his shoulder. Whatever the spell was
I had laid on him, my coming closer in that way seemed to break
it.

"'Who told you?' He stopped. 'No,' he went on, 'nobody can have
told you. What made you suspect--?' He stopped again.

"'Nobody told me,' I said; 'and I don't know what made me
suspect. Women have strange fancies sometimes. Is Midwinter
really your name?'

"'I can't deceive you,' he answered, after another interval
of silence; 'Midwinter is _not_ really my name.'

"I nestled a little closer to him.

" What _is_ your name?' I asked.

"He hesitated.

"I lifted my face till my cheek just touched his. I persisted,
with my lips close at his ear:

"'What, no confidence in me even yet! No confidence in the woman
who has almost confessed she loves you--who has almost consented
to be your wife!'

"He turned his face to mine. For the second time he tried to kiss
me, and for the second time I stopped him.

"'If I tell you my name,' he said, 'I must tell you more.'

"I let my cheek touch his again.

"'Why not?' I said. 'How can I love a man--much less marry
him--if he keeps himself a stranger to me?'

"There was no answering that, as I thought. But he did answer
it.

"'It is a dreadful story,' he said. 'It may darken all your
life, if you know it, as it has darkened mine.'

"I put my other arm round him, and persisted. 'Tell it me;
I'm not afraid; tell it me.'

"He began to yield to my other arm.

"'Will you keep it a sacred secret?' he said. 'Never to be
breathed--never to be known but to you and me?'

"I promised him it should be a secret. I waited in a perfect
frenzy of expectation. Twice he tried to begin, and twice his
courage failed him.

"'I can't!' he broke out in a wild, helpless way. I can't tell
it!'

"My curiosity, or more likely my temper, got beyond all control.
He had irritated me till I was reckless what I said or what
I did. I suddenly clasped him close, and pressed my lips to his.
'I love you!' I whispered in a kiss. '_Now_ will you tell me?'

"For the moment he was speechless. I don't know whether I did it
purposely to drive him wild. I don't know whether I did it
involuntarily in a burst of rage. Nothing is certain but that
I interpreted his silence the wrong way. I pushed him back from
me in a fury the instant after I had kissed him. 'I hate you!'
I said. 'You have maddened me into forgetting myself. Leave me.
I don't care for the darkness. Leave me instantly, and never see
me again!'

"He caught me by the hand and stopped me. He spoke in a new
voice; he suddenly _commanded_, as only men can.

"'Sit down,' he said. 'You have given me back my courage--you
shall know who I am.'

"In the silence and the darkness all round us, I obeyed him,
and sat down.

"In the silence and the darkness all round us, he took me
in his arms again, and told me who he was.

----------

"Shall I trust you with his story? Shall I tell you his real
name? Shall I show you, as I threatened, the thoughts that have
grown out of my interview with him and out of all that has
happened to me since that time?

"Or shall I keep his secret as I promised? and keep my own secret
too, by bringing this weary, long letter to an end at the very
moment when you are burning to hear more!

"Those are serious questions, Mrs. Oldershaw--more serious than
you suppose. I have had time to calm down, and I begin to see,
what I failed to see when I first took up my pen to write to you,
the wisdom of looking at consequences. Have I frightened myself
in trying to frighten _you_? It is possible--strange as it may
seem, it is really possible.

"I have been at the window for the last minute or two, thinking.
There is plenty of time for thinking before the post leaves. The
people are only now coming out of church.

"I have settled to put my letter on one side, and to take a look
at my diary. In plainer words I must see what I risk if I decide
on trusting you; and my diary will show me what my head is too
weary to calculate without help. I have written the story of my
days (and sometimes the story of my nights) much more regularly
than usual for the last week, having reasons of my own for being
particularly careful in this respect under present circumstances.
If I end in doing what it is now in my mind to do, it would be
madness to trust to my memory. The smallest forgetfulness of the
slightest event that has happened from the night of my interview
with Midwinter to the present time might be utter ruin to me.

"'Utter ruin to her!' you will say. 'What kind of ruin does she
mean?'

"Wait a little, till I have asked my diary whether I can safely
tell you."

CHAPTER X.

MISS GWILT'S DIARY.

"July 21st, Monday night, eleven o'clock.--Midwinter has just
left me. We parted by my desire at the path out of the coppice;
he going his way to the hotel, and I going mine to my lodgings.

"I have managed to avoid making another appointment with him by
arranging to write to him to-morrow morning. This gives me the
night's interval to compose myself, and to coax my mind back (if
I can) to my own affairs. Will the night pass, and the morning
find me still thinking of the Letter that came to him from his
father's deathbed? of the night he watched through on the Wrecked
Ship; and, more than all, of the first breathless moment when he
told me his real Name?

"Would it help me to shake off these impressions, I wonder, if
I made the effort of writing them down? There would be no danger,
in that case, of my forgetting anything important. And perhaps,
after all, it may be the fear of forgetting something which I
ought to remember that keeps this story of Midwinter's weighing
as it does on my mind. At any rate, the experiment is worth
trying. In my present situation I _must_ be free to think of
other things, or I shall never find my way through all the
difficulties at Thorpe Ambrose that are still to come.

"Let me think. What _haunts_ me, to begin with?

"The Names haunt me. I keep saying and saying to myself: Both
alike!--Christian name and surname both alike! A light-haired
Allan Armadale, whom I have long since known of, and who is the
son of my old mistress. A dark-haired Allan Armadale, whom I only
know of now, and who is only known to others under the name of
Ozias Midwinter. Stranger still; it is not relationship, it is
not chance, that has made them namesakes. The father of the light
Armadale was the man who was _born_ to the family name, and who
lost the family inheritance. The father of the dark Armadale
was the man who _took_ the name, on condition of getting the
inheritance--and who got it.

"So there are two of them--I can't help thinking of it--both
unmarried. The light-haired Armadale, who offers to the woman who
can secure him, eight thousand a year while he lives; who leaves
her twelve hundred a year when he dies; who must and shall marry
me for those two golden reasons; and whom I hate and loathe as I
never hated and loathed a man yet. And the dark-haired Armadale,
who has a poor little income, which might perhaps pay his wife's
milliner, if his wife was careful; who has just left me,
persuaded that I mean to marry him; and whom--well, whom I
_might_ have loved once, before I was the woman I am now.

"And Allan the Fair doesn't know he has a namesake. And Allan
the Dark has kept the secret from everybody but the Somersetshire
clergyman (whose discretion he can depend on) and myself.

"And there are two Allan Armadales--two Allan Armadales--two
Allan Armadales. There! three is a lucky number. Haunt me again,
after that, if you can!

"What next? The murder in the timber ship? No; the murder is
a good reason why the dark Armadale, whose father committed it,
should keep his secret from the fair Armadale, whose father
was killed; but it doesn't concern _me_. I remember there was
a suspicion in Madeira at the time of something wrong. _Was_ it
wrong? Was the man who had been tricked out of his wife to blame
for shutting the cabin door, and leaving the man who had tricked
him to drown in the wreck? Yes; the woman wasn't worth it.

"What am I sure of that really concerns myself?

"I am sure of one very important thing. I am sure that
Midwinter--I must call him by his ugly false name, or I may
confuse the two Armadales before I have done--I am sure that
Midwinter is perfectly ignorant that I and the little imp of
twelve years old who waited on Mrs. Armadale in Madeira, and
copied the letters that were supposed to arrive from the West
Indies, are one and the same. There are not many girls of twelve
who could have imitated a man's handwriting, and held their
tongues about it afterward, as I did; but that doesn't matter
now. What does matter is that Midwinter's belief in the Dream
is Midwinter's only reason for trying to connect me with Allan
Armadale, by associating me with Allan Armadale's father and
mother. I asked him if he actually thought me old enough to have
known either of them. And he said No, poor fellow, in the most
innocent, bewildered way. Would he say No if he saw me now? Shall
I turn to the glass and see if I look my five-and-thirty years?
or shall I go on writing? I will go on writing.

"There is one thing more that haunts me almost as obstinately
as the Names.

"I wonder whether I am right in relying on Midwinter's
superstition (as I do) to help me in keeping him at arms-length.
After having let the excitement of the moment hurry me into
saying more than I need have said, he is certain to press me;
he is certain to come back, with a man's hateful selfishness
and impatience in such things, to the question of marrying me.
Will the Dream help me to check him? After alternately believing
and disbelieving in it, he has got, by his own confession, to
believing in it again. Can I say I believe in it, too? I have
better reasons for doing so than he knows of. I am not only
the person who helped Mrs. Armadale's marriage by helping her
to impose on her own father: I am the woman who tried to drown
herself; the woman who started the series of accidents which put
young Armadale in possession of his fortune; the woman who has
come Thorpe Ambrose to marry him for his fortune, now he has got
it; and more extraordinary still, the woman who stood in the
Shadow's place at the pool! These may be coincidences, but they
are strange coincidences. I declare I begin to fancy that _I_
believe in the Dream too!

"Suppose I say to him, 'I think as you think. I say what you said
in your letter to me, Let us part before the harm is done. Leave
me before the Third Vision of the Dream comes true. Leave me, and
put the mountains and the seas between you and the man who bears
your name!'

"Suppose, on the other side, that his love for me makes him
reckless of everything else? Suppose he says those desperate
words again, which I understand now: What _is_ to be, _will_ be.
What have I to do with it, and what has she?' Suppose--suppose--

"I won't write any more. I hate writing. It doesn't relieve
me--it makes me worse. I'm further from being able to think of
all that I _must_ think of than I was when I sat down. It is past
midnight. To-morrow has come already; and here