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Armadale by Wilkie Collins

Part 15 out of 17

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of leaving the fatal place in which the Third Vision of the Dream
had come true, had (as he owned himself) additionally cheered
and relieved him. He asked, before he went away to make the
arrangements for our journey, whether I expected to hear from my
'family' in England, and whether he should give instructions for
the forwarding of my letters with his own to the _poste restante_
at Turin. I instantly thanked him, and accepted the offer. His
proposal had suggested to me, the moment he made it, that my
fictitious 'family circumstances' might be turned to good account
once more, as a reason for unexpectedly summoning me from Italy
to England.

"On the ninth of the month we were installed at Turin.

"On the thirteenth, Midwinter--being then very busy--asked if I
would save him a loss of time by applying for any letters which
might have followed us from Naples. I had been waiting for the
opportunity he now offered me; and I determined to snatch at it
without allowing myself time to hesitate. There were no letters
at the _poste restante_ for either of us. But when he put the
question on my return, I told him that there had been a letter
for me, with alarming news from 'home.' My 'mother' was
dangerously ill, and I was entreated to lose no time in hurrying
back to England to see her.

"It seems quite unaccountable--now that I am away from him--but
it is none the less true, that I could not, even yet, tell him
a downright premeditated falsehood, without a sense of shrinking
and shame, which other people would think, and which I think
myself, utterly inconsistent with such a character as mine.
Inconsistent or not, I felt it. And what is stranger--perhaps
I ought to say madder--still, if he had persisted in his first
resolution to accompany me himself to England rather than allow
me to travel alone, I firmly believe I should have turned my back
on temptation for the second time, and have lulled myself to rest
once more in the old dream of living out my life happy and
harmless in my husband's love.

"Am I deceiving myself in this? It doesn't matter--I dare say
I am. Never mind what _might_ have happened. What _did_ happen
is the only thing of any importance now.

"It ended in Midwinter's letting me persuade him that I was old
enough to take care of myself on the journey to England, and
that he owed it to the newspaper people, who had trusted their
interests in his hands, not to leave Turin just as he was
established there. He didn't suffer at taking leave of me as he
suffered when he saw the last of his friend. I saw that, and set
down the anxiety he expressed that I should write to him at its
proper value. I have quite got over my weakness for him at last.
No man who really loved me would have put what he owed to a peck
of newspaper people before what he owed to his wife. I hate him
for letting me convince him! I believe he was glad to get rid
of me. I believe he has seen some woman whom he likes at Turin.
Well, let him follow his new fancy, if he pleases! I shall be
the widow of Mr. Armadale of Thorpe Ambrose before long; and
what will his likes or dislikes matter to me then?

"The events on the journey were not worth mentioning, and my
arrival in London stands recorded already on the top of the new
page.

"As for to-day, the one thing of any importance that I have done
since I got to the cheap and quiet hotel at which I am now
staying, has been to send for the landlord, and ask him to help
me to a sight of the back numbers of _The Times_ newspaper. He
has politely offered to accompany me himself to-morrow morning to
some place in the City where all the papers are kept, as he calls
it, in file. Till to-morrow, then, I must control my impatience
for news of Armadale as well as I can. And so good-night to the
pretty reflection of myself that appears in these pages!

"November 20th.--Not a word of news yet, either in the obituary
column or in any other part of the paper. I looked carefully
through each number in succession, dating from the day when
Armadale's letter was written at Messina to this present 20th
of the month, and I am certain, whatever may have happened, that
nothing is known in England as yet. Patience! The newspaper is to
meet me at the breakfast-table every morning till further notice;
and any day now may show me what I most want to see.

"November 21st.--No news again. I wrote to Midwinter to-day,
to keep up appearances.

"When the letter was done, I fell into wretchedly low spirits--I
can't imagine why--and felt such a longing for a little company
that, in despair of knowing where else to go, I actually went to
Pimlico, on the chance that Mother Oldershaw might have returned
to her old quarters.

"There were changes since I had seen the place during my former
stay in London. Doctor Downward's side of the house was still
empty. But the shop was being brightened up for the occupation
of a milliner and dress-maker. The people, when I went in to make
inquiries, were all strangers to me. They showed, however, no
hesitation in giving me Mrs. Oldershaw's address when I asked for
it--from which I infer that the little 'difficulty' which forced
her to be in hiding in August last is at an end, so far as she
is concerned. As for the doctor, the people at the shop either
were, or pretended to be, quite unable to tell me what had become
of him.

"I don't know whether it was the sight of the place at Pimlico
that sickened me, or whether it was my own perversity, or what.
But now that I had got Mrs. Oldershaw's address, I felt as if
she was the very last person in the world that I wanted to see.
I took a cab, and told the man to drive to the street she lived
in, and then told him to drive back to the hotel. I hardly know
what is the matter with me--unless it is that I am getting more
impatient every hour for information about Armadale. When will
the future look a little less dark, I wonder? To-morrow is
Saturday. Will to-morrow's newspaper lift the veil?

"November 22d.--Saturday's newspaper _has_ lifted the veil! Words
are vain to express the panic of astonishment in which I write.
I never once anticipated it; I can't believe it or realize it,
now it has happened. The winds and waves themselves have turned
my accomplices! The yacht has foundered at sea, and every soul
on board has perished!

"Here is the account cut out of this morning's newspaper:

"'DISASTER AT SEA.--Intelligence has reached the Royal Yacht
Squadron and the insurers which leaves no reasonable doubt, we
regret to say, of the total loss, on the fifth of the present
month, of the yacht _Dorothea_, with every soul on board. The
particulars are as follows: At daylight, on the morning of the
sixth, the Italian brig _Speranza_, bound from Venice to Marsala
for orders, encountered some floating objects off Cape
Spartivento (at the southernmost extremity of Italy) which
attracted the curiosity of the people of the brig. The previous
day had been marked by one of the most severe of the sudden and
violent storms, peculiar to these southern seas, which has been
remembered for years. The _Speranza_ herself having been in
danger while the gale lasted, the captain and crew concluded that
they were on the traces of a wreck, and a boat was lowered for
the purpose of examining the objects in the water. A hen-coop,
some broken spars, and fragments of shattered plank were the
first evidences discovered of the terrible disaster that had
happened. Some of the lighter articles of cabin furniture,
wrenched and shattered, were found next. And, lastly, a memento
of melancholy interest turned up, in the shape of a lifebuoy,
with a corked bottle attached to it. These latter objects,
with the relics of cabin furniture, were brought on board the
_Speranza_. On the buoy the name of the vessel was painted, as
follows: "_Dorothea, R. Y. S._" (meaning Royal Yacht Squadron).
The bottle, on being uncorked, contained a sheet of note-paper,
on which the following lines were hurriedly traced in pencil:
"Off Cape Spartivento; two days out from Messina. Nov. 5th,
4 P.M." (being the hour at which the log of the Italian brig
showed the storm to have been at its height). "Both our boats
are stove in by the sea. The rudder is gone, and we have sprung
a leak astern which is more than we can stop. The Lord help us
all--we are sinking. (Signed) John Mitchenden, Mate." On reaching
Marsala, the captain of the brig made his report to the British
consul, and left the objects discovered in that gentleman's
charge. Inquiry at Messina showed that the ill-fated vessel had
arrived there from Naples. At the latter port it was ascertained
that the _Dorothea_ had been hired from the owner's agent by
an English gentleman, Mr. Armadale, of Thorpe Ambrose, Norfolk.
Whether Mr. Armadale had any friends on board with him has not
been clearly discovered. But there is unhappily no doubt that the
ill-fated gentleman himself sailed in the yacht from Naples, and
that he was also on board of the vessel when she left Messina.'

"Such is the story of the wreck, as the newspaper tells it in the
plainest and fewest words. My head is in a whirl; my confusion
is so great that I think of fifty different things in trying
to think of one. I must wait--a day more or less is of no
consequence now--I must wait till I can face my new position,
without feeling bewildered by it.

"November 23d.--Eight in the morning.--I rose an hour ago, and
saw my way clearly to the first step that I must take under
present circumstances.

"It is of the utmost importance to me to know what is doing
at Thorpe Ambrose; and it would be the height of rashness, while
I am quite in the dark in this matter, to venture there myself.
The only other alternative is to write to somebody on the spot
for news; and the only person I can write to is--Bashwood.

"I have just finished the letter. It is headed 'private and
confidential,' and signed 'Lydia Armadale.' There is nothing in
it to compromise me, if the old fool is mortally offended by my
treatment of him, and if he spitefully shows my letter to other
people. But I don't believe he will do this. A man at his age
forgives a woman anything, if the woman only encourages him.
I have requested him, as a personal favor, to keep our
correspondence for the present strictly private. I have hinted
that my married life with my deceased husband has not been a
happy one; and that I feel the injudiciousness of having married
a _young_ man. In the postscript I go further still, and venture
boldly on these comforting words: 'I can explain, dear Mr.
Bashwood, what may have seemed fake and deceitful in my conduct
toward you when you give me a personal opportunity.' If he was
on the right side of sixty, I should feel doubtful of results.
But he is on the wrong side of sixty, and I believe he will give
me my personal opportunity.

"Ten o'clock.--I have been looking over the copy of my marriage
certificate, with which I took care to provide myself on the
wedding-day; and I have discovered, to my inexpressible dismay,
an obstacle to my appearance in the character of Armadale's widow
which I now see for the first time.

"The description of Midwinter (under his own name) which the
certificate presents answers in every important particular to
what would have been the description of Armadale of Thorpe
Ambrose, if I had really married him. 'Name and Surname'--Allan
Armadale. 'Age'--twenty-one, instead of twenty-two, which might
easily pass for a mistake. 'Condition'--Bachelor. 'Rank or
profession'--Gentleman. 'Residence at the time of Marriage'--
Frant's Hotel, Darley Street. 'Father's Name and Surname'--
Allan Armadale. 'Rank or Profession of Father'--Gentleman. Every
particular (except the year's difference in their two ages) which
answers for the one answers for the other. But suppose, when
I produce my copy of the certificate, that some meddlesome lawyer
insists on looking at the original register? Midwinter's writing
is as different as possible from the writing of his dead friend.
The hand in which he has written 'Allan Armadale' in the book has
not a chance of passing for the hand in which Armadale of Thorpe
Ambrose was accustomed to sign his name.

"Can I move safely in the matter, with such a pitfall as I see
here open under my feet? How can I tell? Where can I find an
experienced person to inform me? I must shut up my diary and
think.

"Seven o'clock.--My prospects have changed again since I made my
last entry. I have received a warning to be careful in the future
which I shall not neglect; and I have (I believe) succeeded in
providing myself with the advice and assistance of which I stand
in need.

"After vainly trying to think of some better person to apply to
in the difficulty which embarrassed me, I made a virtue of
necessity, and set forth to surprise Mrs. Oldershaw by a visit
from her darling Lydia! It is almost needless to add that
I determined to sound her carefully, and not to let any secret
of importance out of my own possession.

"A sour and solemn old maid-servant admitted me into the house.
When I asked for her mistress, I was reminded with the bitterest
emphasis that I had committed the impropriety of calling on
a Sunday. Mrs. Oldershaw was at home, solely in consequence of
being too unwell to go to church! The servant thought it very
unlikely that she would see me. I thought it highly probable,
on the contrary, that she would honor me with an interview in
her own interests, if I sent in my name as 'Miss Gwilt'--and
the event proved that I was right. After being kept waiting some
minutes I was shown into the drawing-room.

"There sat Mother Jezebel, with the air of a woman resting on
the high-road to heaven, dressed in a slate-colored gown, with
gray mittens on her hands, a severely simple cap on her head,
and a volume of sermons on her lap. She turned up the whites of
her eyes dev outly at the sight of me, and the first words she
said were--'Oh, Lydia! Lydia! why are you not at church?'

"If I had been less anxious, the sudden presentation of Mrs.
Oldershaw in an entirely new character might have amused me. But
I was in no humor for laughing, and (my notes of hand being all
paid) I was under no obligation to restrain my natural freedom
of speech. 'Stuff and nonsense!' I said. 'Put your Sunday face
in your pocket. I have got some news for you, since I last wrote
from Thorpe Ambrose.'

"The instant I mentioned 'Thorpe Ambrose,' the whites of the old
hypocrite's eyes showed themselves again, and she flatly refused
to hear a word more from me on the subject of my proceedings in
Norfolk. I insisted; but it was quite useless. Mother Oldershaw
only shook her head and groaned, and informed me that her
connection with the pomps and vanities of the world was at an end
forever. 'I have been born again, Lydia,' said the brazen old
wretch, wiping her eyes. 'Nothing will induce me to return to
the subject of that wicked speculation of yours on the folly of
a rich young man.'

"After hearing this, I should have left her on the spot, but for
one consideration which delayed me a moment longer.

"It was easy to see, by this time, that the circumstances
(whatever they might have been) which had obliged Mother
Oldershaw to keep in hiding, on the occasion of my former visit
to London, had been sufficiently serious to force her into giving
up, or appearing to give up, her old business. And it was hardly
less plain that she had found it to her advantage--everybody
in England finds it to their advantage in some way to cover the
outer side of her character carefully with a smooth varnish of
Cant. This was, however, no business of mine; and I should have
made these reflections outside instead of inside the house, if
my interests had not been involved in putting the sincerity of
Mother Oldershaw's reformation to the test--so far as it affected
her past connection with myself. At the time when she had fitted
me out for our enterprise, I remembered signing a certain
business document which gave her a handsome pecuniary interest
in my success, if I became Mrs. Armadale of Thorpe Ambrose.
The chance of turning this mischievous morsel of paper to good
account, in the capacity of a touchstone, was too tempting to be
resisted. I asked my devout friend's permission to say one last
word before I left the house.

"'As you have no further interest in my wicked speculation
at Thorpe Ambrose,' I said, 'perhaps you will give me back
the written paper that I signed, when you were not quite such
an exemplary person as you are now?'

"The shameless old hypocrite instantly shut her eyes and
shuddered.

"'Does that mean Yes, or No'?' I asked.

"'On moral and religious grounds, Lydia,' said Mrs. Oldershaw,
'it means No.'

"'On wicked and worldly grounds,' I rejoined, 'I beg to thank
you for showing me your hand.'

"There could, indeed, be no doubt now about the object she really
had in view. She would run no more risks and lend no more money;
she would leave me to win or lose single-handed. If I lost, she
would not be compromised. If I won, she would produce the paper
I had signed, and profit by it without remorse. In my present
situation, it was mere waste of time and words to prolong the
matter by any useless recrimination on my side. I put the warning
away privately in my memory for future use, and got up to go.

"At the moment when I left my chair there was a sharp double
knock at the street door. Mrs. Oldershaw evidently recognized it.
She rose in a violent hurry, and rang the bell. 'I am too unwell
to see anybody,' she said, when the servant appeared. 'Wait a
moment, if you please,' she added, turning sharply on me, when
the woman had left us to answer the door.

"It was small, very small, spitefulness on my part, I know; but
the satisfaction of thwarting Mother Jezebel, even in a trifle,
was not to be resisted. 'I can't wait,' I said; 'you reminded me
just now that I ought to be at church.' Before she could answer
I was out of the room.

"As I put my foot on the first stair the street door was opened,
and a man's voice inquired whether Mrs. Oldershaw was at home.

"I instantly recognized the voice. Doctor Downward!

"The doctor repeated the servant's message in a tone which
betrayed unmistakable irritation at finding himself admitted
no further than the door.

"'Your mistress is not well enough to see visitors? Give her
that card,' said the doctor, 'and say I expect her, the next time
I call, to be well enough to see _me_.'

"If his voice had not told me plainly that he felt in no friendly
mood toward Mrs. Oldershaw, I dare say I should have let him go
without claiming his acquaintance; but, as things were, I felt
an impulse to speak to him or to anybody who had a grudge against
Mother Jezebel. There was more of my small spitefulness in this,
I suppose. Anyway, I slipped downstairs; and, following the
doctor out quietly, overtook him in the street.

"I had recognized his voice, and I recognized his back as
I walked behind him. But when I called him by his name, and
when he turned round with a start and confronted me, I followed
his example, and started on my side. The doctor's face was
transformed into the face of a perfect stranger! His baldness
had hidden itself under an artfully grizzled wig. He had allowed
his whiskers to grow, and had dyed them to match his new head
of hair. Hideous circular spectacles bestrode his nose in place
of the neat double eyeglass that he used to carry in his hand;
and a black neckerchief, surmounted by immense shirt-collars,
appeared as the unworthy successor of the clerical white cravat
of former times. Nothing remained of the man I once knew but
the comfortable plumpness of his figure, and the confidential
courtesy and smoothness of his manner and his voice.

"'Charmed to see you again,' said the doctor, looking about him
a little anxiously, and producing his card-case in a very
precipitate manner. 'But, my dear Miss Gwilt, permit me to
rectify a slight mistake on your part. Doctor Downward of Pimlico
is dead and buried; and you will infinitely oblige me if you will
never, on any consideration, mention him again!'

"I took the card he offered me, and discovered that I was now
supposed to be speaking to 'Doctor Le Doux, of the Sanitarium,
Fairweather Vale, Hampstead!'

"'You seem to have found it necessary,' I said, 'to change
a great many things since I last saw you? Your name, your
residence, your personal appearance--?'

"'And my branch of practice,' interposed the doctor. 'I have
purchased of the original possessor (a person of feeble
enterprise and no resources) a name, a diploma, and a partially
completed sanitarium for the reception of nervous invalids.
We are open already to the inspection of a few privileged
friends--come and see us. Are you walking my way? Pray take
my arm, and tell me to what happy chance I am indebted for
the pleasure of seeing you again?'

"I told him the circumstances exactly as they had happened, and
I added (with a view to making sure of his relations with his
former ally at Pimlico) that I had been greatly surprised to hear
Mrs. Oldershaw's door shut on such an old friend as himself.
Cautious as he was, the doctor's manner of receiving my remark
satisfied me at once that my suspicions of an estrangement were
well founded. His smile vanished, and he settled his hideous
spectacles irritably on the bridge of his nose.

"'Pardon me if I leave you to draw your own conclusions,' he
said. 'The subject of Mrs. Oldershaw is, I regret to say, far
from agreeable to me under existing circumstances--a business
difficulty connected with our late partnership at Pimlico,
entirely without interest for a young and brilliant woman like
yourself. Tell me your news! Have you left your situation at
Thorpe Ambrose? Are you residing in London? Is there anything,
professional or otherwise, that I can do for you?'

"That last question was a more important one than he supposed.
Before I answered it, I felt the necessity of parting company
with him and of getting a little time to think.

"'You have kindly asked me, doctor, to pay you a visit,' I said.
'In your quiet house at Hampstead, I may possibly have something
to say to you which I can't say in this noisy street. When are
you at home at the Sanitarium? Should I find you there later in
the day?'

"The doctor assured me that he was then on his way back, and
begged that I would name my own hour. I said, 'Toward the
afternoon;' and, pleading an engagement, hailed the first omnibus
that passed us. 'Don't forget the address,' said the doctor, as
he handed me in. 'I have got your card,' I answered, and so we
parted.

"I returned to the hotel, and went up into my room, and thought
over it very anxiously.

"The serious obstacle of the signature on the marriage register
still stood in my way as unmanageably as ever. All hope of
getting assistance from Mrs. Oldershaw was at an end. I could
only regard her henceforth as an enemy hidden in the dark--the
enemy, beyond all doubt now, who had had me followed and watched
when I was last in London. To what other counselor could I turn
for the advice which my unlucky ignorance of law and business
obliged me to seek from some one more experienced than myself?
Could I go to the lawyer whom I consulted when I was about to
marry Midwinter in my maiden name? Impossible! To say nothing
of his cold reception of me when I had last seen him, the advice
I wanted this time related (disguise the facts as I might) to
commission of a Fraud--a fraud of the sort that no prosperous
lawyer would consent to assist if he had a character to lose.
Was there any other competent person I could think of? There was
one, and one only--the doctor who had died at Pimlico, and had
revived again at Hampstead.

"I knew him to be entirely without scruples; to have the business
experience that I wanted myself; and to be as cunning, as clever,
and as far-seeing a man as could be found in all London. Beyond
this, I had made two important discoveries in connection with him
that morning. In the first place, he was on bad terms with Mrs.
Oldershaw, which would protect me from all danger of the two
leaguing together against me if I trusted him. In the second
place, circumstances still obliged him to keep his identity
carefully disguised, which gave me a hold over him in no respect
inferior to any hold that _I_ might give him over _me_. In every
way he was the right man, the only man, for my purpose; and yet
I hesitated at going to him--hesitated for a full hour and more,
without knowing why!

"It was two o'clock before I finally decided on paying the doctor
a visit. Having, after this, occupied nearly another hour in
determining to a hair-breadth how far I should take him into my
confidence, I sent for a cab at last, and set off toward three
in the afternoon for Hampstead.

"I found the Sanitarium with some little difficulty.

"Fairweather Vale proved to be a new neighborhood, situated below
the high ground of Hampstead, on the southern side. The day was
overcast, and the place looked very dreary. We approached it
by a new road running between trees, which might once have been
the park avenue of a country house. At the end we came upon
a wilderness of open ground, with half-finished villas dotted
about, and a hideous litter of boards, wheelbarrows, and building
materials of all sorts scattered in every direction. At one
corner of this scene of desolation, stood a great overgrown
dismal house, plastered with drab-colored stucco, and surrounded
by a naked, unfinished garden, without a shrub or a flower in it,
frightful to behold. On the open iron gate that led into this
inclosure was a new brass plate, with 'Sanitarium' inscribed
on it in great black letters. The bell, when the cabman rang it,
pealed through the empty house like a knell; and the pallid,
withered old man-servant in black who answered the door looked as
if he had stepped up out of his grave to perform that service. He
let out on me a smell of damp plaster and new varnish; and he let
in with me a chilling draft of the damp November air. I didn't
notice it at the time, but, writing of it now, I remember that
I shivered as I crossed the threshold.

"I gave my name to the servant as 'Mrs. Armadale,' and was shown
into the waiting-room. The very fire itself was dying of damp in
the grate. The only books on the table were the doctor's Works,
in sober drab covers; and the only object that ornamented the
walls was the foreign Diploma (handsomely framed and glazed),
of which the doctor had possessed himself by purchase, along with
the foreign name.

"After a moment or two, the proprietor of the Sanitarium came in,
and held up his hands in cheerful astonishment at the sight of
me.

"'I hadn't an idea who "Mrs. Armadale" was!' he said. 'My dear
lady, have _you_ changed your name too? How sly of you not
to tell me when we met this morning! Come into my private
snuggery--I can't think of keeping an old and dear friend
like you in the patients' waiting-room.'

"The doctor's private snuggery was at the back of the house,
looking out on fields and trees, doomed but not yet destroyed
by the builder. Horrible objects in brass and leather and glass,
twisted and turned as if they were sentient things writhing in
agonies of pain, filled up one end of the room. A great book-case
with glass doors extended over the whole of the opposite wall,
and exhibited on its shelves long rows of glass jars, in which
shapeless dead creatures of a dull white color floated in yellow
liquid. Above the fireplace hung a collection of photographic
portraits of men and women, inclosed in two large frames hanging
side by side with a space between them. The left-hand frame
illustrated the effects of nervous suffering as seen in the face;
the right-hand frame exhibited the ravages of insanity from
the same point of view; while the space between was occupied by
an elegantly illuminated scroll, bearing inscribed on it the
time-honored motto, 'Prevention is better than Cure.'

"'Here I am, with my galvanic apparatus, and my preserved
specimens, and all the rest of it,' said the doctor, placing
me in a chair by the fireside. 'And there is my System mutely
addressing you just above your head, under a form of exposition
which I venture to describe as frankness itself. This is no
mad-house, my dear lady. Let other men treat insanity, if they
like--_I_ stop it! No patients in the house as yet. But we
live in an age when nervous derangement (parent of insanity)
is steadily on the increase; and in due time the sufferers will
come. I can wait as Harvey waited, as Jenner waited. And now do
put your feet up on the fender, and tell me about yourself. You
are married, of course? And what a pretty name! Accept my best
and most heart-felt congratulations. You have the two greatest
blessings that can fall to a woman's lot; the two capital H's,
as I call them--Husband and Home.'

"I interrupted the genial flow of the doctor's congratulations
at the first opportunity.

"'I am married; but the circumstances are by no means of the
ordinary kind,' I said, seriously. My present position includes
none of the blessings that are usually supposed to fall to
a woman's lot. I am already in a situation of very serious
difficulty; and before long I may be in a situation of very
serious danger as well.'

"The doctor drew his chair a little nearer to me, and fell at
once into his old professional manner and his old confidential
tone.

"'If you wish to consult me,' he said, softly, 'you know that
I have kept some dangerous secrets in my time, and you also know
that I possess two valuable qualities as an adviser. I am not
easily shocked; and I can be implicitly trusted.'

"I hesitated even now, at the eleventh hour, sitting alone with
him in his own room. It was so strange to me to be trusting to
anybody but myself! And yet, how could I help trusting another
person in a difficulty which turned on a matter of law?

"'Just as you please, you know,' added the doctor. 'I never
invite confidences. I merely receive them.'

"There was no help for it; I had come there not to hesitate,
but to speak. I risked it, and spoke.

"'The matter on which I wish to consult you,' I said, 'is not
(as you seem to think) within your experience as a professional
man. But I believe you may be of assistance to me, if I trust
myself to your larger experience as a man of the world. I warn
you beforehand that I shall certainly surprise, and possibly
alarm, you before I have done.'

"With that preface I entered on my story, telling him what
I had settled to tell him, and no more.

"I made no secret, at the outset, of my intention to personate
Armadale's widow; and I mentioned without reserve (knowing
that the doctor could go to the office and examine the will
for himself) the handsome income that would be settled on me in
the event of my success. Some of the circumstances that followed
next in succession I thought it desirable to alter or conceal. I
showed him the newspaper account of the loss of the yacht, but I
said nothing about events at Naples. I informed him of the exact
similarity of the two names; leaving him to imagine that it was
accidental. I told him, as an important element in the matter,
that my husband had kept his real name a profound secret from
everybody but myself; but (to prevent any communication between
them) I carefully concealed from the doctor what the assumed
name under which Midwinter had lived all his life really was.
I acknowledged that I had left my husband behind me on the
Continent; but when the doctor put the question, I allowed
him to conclude--I couldn't, with all my resolution, tell him
positively!--that Midwinter knew of the contemplated Fraud, and
that he was staying away purposely, so as not to compromise me
by his presence. This difficulty smoothed over--or, as I feel it
now, this baseness committed--I reverted to myself, and came
back again to the truth. One after another I mentioned all the
circumstances connected with my private marriage, and with the
movements of Armadale and Midwinter, which rendered any discovery
of the false personation (through the evidence of other people)
a downright impossibility. 'So much,' I said, in conclusion,
'for the object in view. The next thing is to tell you plainly
of a very serious obstacle that stands in my way.'

"The doctor, who had listened thus far without interrupting me,
begged permission here to say a few words on his side before
I went on.

"The 'few words' proved to be all questions--clever, searching,
suspicious questions--which I was, however, able to answer with
little or no reserve, for they related, in almost every instance,
to the circumstances under which I had been married, and to the
chances for and against my lawful husband if he chose to assert
his claim to me at any future time.

"My replies informed the doctor, in the first place, that I had
so managed matters at Thorpe Ambrose as to produce a general
impression that Armadale intended to marry me; in the second
place, that my husband's early life had not been of a kind to
exhibit him favorably in the eyes of the world; in the third
place, that we had been married, without any witnesses present
who knew us, at a large parish church in which two other couples
had been married the same morning, to say nothing of the dozens
on dozens of other couples (confusing all remembrance of us in
the minds of the officiating people) who had been married since.
When I had put the doctor in possession of these facts--and when
he had further ascertained that Midwinter and I had gone abroad
among strangers immediately after leaving the church; and that
the men employed on board the yacht in which Armadale had sailed
from Somersetshire (before my marriage) were now away in ships
voyaging to the other end of the world--his confidence in my
prospects showed itself plainly in his face. 'So far as I can
see,' he said, 'your husband's claim to you (after you have
stepped into the place of the dead Mr. Armadale's widow) would
rest on nothing but his own bare assertion. And _that_ I think
you may safely set at defiance. Excuse my apparent distrust of
the gentleman. But there might be a misunderstanding between you
in the future, and it is highly desirable to ascertain beforehand
exactly what he could or could not do under those circumstances.
And now that we have done with the main obstacle that _I_ see in
the way of your success, let us by all means come to the obstacle
that _you_ see next!'

"I was willing enough to come to it. The tone in which he spoke
of Midwinter, though I myself was responsible for it, jarred on
me horribly, and roused for the moment some of the old folly of
feeling which I fancied I had laid asleep forever. I rushed at
the chance of changing the subject, and mentioned the discrepancy
in the register between the hand in which Midwinter had signed
the name of Allan Armadale, and the hand in which Armadale of
Thorpe Ambrose had been accustomed to write his name, with an
eagerness which it quite diverted the doctor to see.

"'Is _that_ all?' he asked, to my infinite surprise and relief,
when I had done. 'My dear lady, pray set your mind at ease!
If the late Mr. Armadale's lawyers want a proof of your marriage,
they won't go to the church-register for it, I can promise you!'

"'What!' I exclaimed, in astonishment. 'Do you mean to say that
the entry in the register is not a proof of my marriage?'

"'It is a proof,' said the doctor, 'that you have been married
to somebody. But it is no proof that you have been married to Mr.
Armadale of Thorpe Ambrose. Jack Nokes or Tom Styles (excuse the
homeliness of the illustration!) might have got the license, and
gone to the church to be married to you under Mr. Armadale's
name; and the register (how could it do otherwise?) must in that
case have innocently assisted the deception. I see I surprise
you. My dear madam, when you opened this interesting business you
surprised _me_--I may own it now--by laying so much stress on the
curious similarity between the two names. You might have entered
on the very daring and romantic enterprise in which you are now
engaged, without necessarily marrying your present husband. Any
other man would have done just as well, provided he was willing
to take Mr. Armadale's name for the purpose.'

"I felt my temper going at this. 'Any other man would _not_
have done just as well,' I rejoined, instantly. 'But for the
similarity of the names, I should never have thought of the
enterprise at all.'

"The doctor admitted that he had spoken too hastily. 'That
personal view of the subject had, I confess, escaped me,' he
said. 'However, let us get back to the matter in hand. In the
course of what I may term an adventurous medical life, I have
been brought more than once into contact with the gentlemen
of the law, and have had opportunities of observing their
proceedings in cases of, let us say, Domestic Jurisprudence. I
am quite sure I am correct in informing you that the proof which
will be required by Mr. Armadale's representatives will be the
evidence of a witness present at the marriage who can speak to
the identity of the bride and bridegroom from his own personal
knowledge.'

"'But I have already told you,' I said, 'that there was no such
person present.'

"'Precisely,' rejoined the doctor. 'In that case, what you now
want, before you can safely stir a step in the matter, is--if you
will pardon me the expression--a ready-made witness, possessed of
rare moral and personal resources, who can be trusted to assume
the necessary character, and to make the necessary Declaration
before a magistrate. Do you know of any such person?' asked the
doctor, throwing himself back in his chair, and looking at me
with the utmost innocence.

"'I only know you,' I said.

"The doctor laughed softly. 'So like a woman!' he remarked,
with the most exasperating good humor. 'The moment she sees
her object, she dashes at it headlong the nearest way. Oh,
the sex! the sex!'

"'Never mind the sex!' I broke out, impatiently. 'I want
a serious answer--Yes or No?'

"The doctor rose, and waved his hand with great gravity and
dignity all round the room. 'You see this vast establishment,'
he began; 'you can possibly estimate to some extent the immense
stake I have in its prosperity and success. Your excellent
natural sense will tell you that the Principal of this Sanitarium
must be a man of the most unblemished character--'

"'Why waste so many words,' I said, 'when one word will do?
You mean No!'

"The Principal of the Sanitarium suddenly relapsed into the
character of my confidential friend.

"'My dear lady,' he said, 'it isn't Yes, and it isn't No, at a
moment's notice. Give me till to-morrow afternoon. By that time
I engage to be ready to do one of two things--either to withdraw
myself from this business at once, or to go into it with you
heart and soul. Do you agree to that? Very good; we may drop
the subject, then, till to-morrow. Where can I call on you when
I have decided what to do?'

"There was no objection to my trusting him with my address
at the hotel. I had taken care to present myself there as
'Mrs. Armadale'; and I had given Midwinter an address at the
neighboring post-office to write to when he answered my letters.
We settled the hour at which the doctor was to call on me;
and, that matter arranged, I rose to go, resisting all offers
of refreshment, and all proposals to show me over the house.
His smooth persistence in keeping up appearances after we had
thoroughly understood each other disgusted me. I got away from
him as soon as I could, and came back to my diary and my own
room.

"We shall see how it ends to-morrow. My own idea is that my
confidential friend will say Yes.

"November 24th.--The doctor has said Yes, as I supposed; but on
terms which I never anticipated. The condition on which I have
secured his services amounts to nothing less than the payment to
him, on my stepping into the place of Armadale's widow, of half
my first year's income--in other words, six hundred pounds!

"I protested against this extortionate demand in every way
I could think of. All to no purpose. The doctor met me with
the most engaging frankness. Nothing, he said, but the accidental
embarrassment of his position at the present time would have
induced him to mix himself up in the matter at all. He would
honestly confess that he had exhausted his own resources, and
the resources of other persons whom he described as his 'backers,'
in the purchase and completion of the Sanitarium. Under those
circumstances, six hundred pounds in prospect was an object
to him. For that sum he would run the serious risk of advising
and assisting me. Not a farthing less would tempt him; and there
he left it, with his best and friendliest wishes, in my hands!

"It ended in the only way in which it could end. I had no choice
but to accept the terms, and to let the doctor settle things
on the spot as he pleased. The arrangement once made between us,
I must do him the justice to say that he showed no disposition
to let the grass grow under his feet. He called briskly for pen,
ink and paper, and suggested opening the campaign at Thorpe
Ambrose by to-night's post.

"We agreed on a form of letter which I wrote, and which he copied
on the spot. I entered into no particulars at starting. I simply
asserted that I was the widow of the deceased Mr. Armadale;
that I had been privately married to him; that I had returned
to England on his sailing in the yacht from Naples; and that I
begged to inclose a copy of my marriage certificate, as a matter
of form with which I presumed it was customary to comply. The
letter was addressed to 'The Representatives of the late Allan
Armadale, Esq., Thorpe Ambrose, Norfolk.' And the doctor himself
carried it away, and put it in the post.

"I am not so excited and so impatient for results as I expected
to be, now that the first step is taken. The thought of Midwinter
haunts me like a ghost. I have been writing to him again--as
before, to keep up appearances. It will be my last letter,
I think. My courage feels shaken, my spirits get depressed,
when my thoughts go back to Turin. I am no more capable of facing
the consideration of Midwinter at this moment than I was in
the by-gone time, The day of reckoning with him, once distant
and doubtful, is a day that may come to me now, I know not how
soon. And here I am, trusting myself blindly to the chapter
of Accidents still!

"November 25th.--At two o'clock to-day the doctor called again
by appointment. He has been to his lawyers (of course without
taking them into our confidence) to put the case simply of
proving my marriage. The result confirms what he has already
told me. The pivot on which the whole matter will turn, if
my claim is disputed, will be the question of identity; and
it may be necessary for the witness to make his Declaration
in the magistrate's presence before the week is out.

"In this position of affairs, the doctor thinks it important
that we should be within easy reach of each other, and proposes
to find a quiet lodging for me in his neighborhood. I am quite
willing to go anywhere; for, among the other strange fancies that
have got possession of me, I have an idea that I shall feel more
completely lost to Midwinter if I move out of the neighborhood in
which his letters are addressed to me. I was awake and thinking
of him again last night This morning I have finally decided to
write to him no more.

"After staying half an hour, the doctor left me, having first
inquired whether I would like to accompany him to Hampstead to
look for lodgings. I informed him that I had some business of my
own which would keep me in London. He inquired what the business
was. 'You will see,' I said, 'to-morrow or next day.'

"I had a moment's nervous trembling when I was by myself again.
My business in London, besides being a serious business in
a woman's eyes, took my mind back to Midwinter in spite of me.
The prospect of removing to my new lodging had reminded me of
the necessity of dressing in my new character. The time had come
now for getting _my widow's weeds_.

"My first proceeding, after putting my bonnet on, was to provide
myself with money. I got what I wanted to fit me out for
the character of Armadale's widow by nothing less than the sale
of Armadale's own present to me on my marriage--the ruby ring!
It proved to be a more valuable jewel than I had supposed. I am
likely to be spared all money anxieties for some time to come.

"On leaving the jeweler's, I went to the great mourning shop
in Regent Street. In four-and-twenty hours (if I can give them
no more) they have engaged to dress me in my widow's costume from
head to foot. I had another feverish moment when I left the shop;
and, by way of further excitement on this agitating day, I found
a surprise in store for me on my return to the hotel. An elderly
gentleman was announced to be waiting to see me. I opened my
sitting-room door, and there was old Bashwood!

"He had got my letter that morning, and had started for London
by the next train to answer it in person. I had expected a great
deal from him, but I had certainly not expected _that_. It
flattered me. For the moment, I declare it flattered me!

"I pass over the wretched old creature's raptures and reproaches,
and groans and tears, and weary long prosings about the lonely
months he had passed at Thorpe Ambrose, brooding over my
desertion of him. He was quite eloquent at times; but I don't
want his eloquence here. It is needless to say that I put myself
right with him, and consulted his feelings before I asked him
for his news. What a blessing a woman's vanity is sometimes!
I almost forgot my risks and responsibilities in my anxieties
to be charming. For a minute or two I felt a warm little flutter
of triumph. And it was a triumph--even with an old man! In
a quarter of an hour I had him smirking and smiling, hanging on
my lightest words in an ecstasy, and answering all the questions
I put to him like a good little child.

"Here is his account of affairs at Thorpe Ambrose, as I gently
extracted it from him bit by bit:

"In the first place, the news of Armadale's death has reached
Miss Milroy. It has so completely overwhelmed her that her father
has been compelled to remove her from the school. She is back
at the cottage, and the doctor is in daily attendance. Do I pity
her? Yes! I pity her exactly as much as she once pitied me!

"In the next place, the state of affairs at the great house,
which I expected to find some difficulty in comprehending, turns
out to be quite intelligible, and certainly not discouraging
so far. Only yesterday, the lawyers on both sides came to an
understanding. Mr. Darch (the family solicitor of the Blanchards,
and Armadale's bitter enemy in past times) represents the
interests of Miss Blanchard, who (in the absence of any male
heir) is next heir to the estate, and who has, it appears, been
in London for some time past. Mr. Smart, of Norwich (originally
employed to overlook Bashwood), represents the deceased Armadale.
And this is what the two lawyers have settled between them.

"Mr. Darch, acting for Miss Blanchard, has claimed the possession
of the estate, and the right of receiving the rents at the
Christmas audit, in her name. Mr. Smart, on his side, has
admitted that there is great weight in the family solicitor's
application. He cannot see his way, as things are now, to
contesting the question of Armadale's death, and he will consent
to offer no resistance to the application, if Mr. Darch will
consent, on his side, to assume the responsibility of taking
possession in Miss Blanchard's name. This Mr. Darch has already
done; and the estate is now virtually in Miss Blanchard's
possession.

"One result of this course of proceeding will be (as Bashwood
thinks) to put Mr. Darch in the position of the person who really
decides on my claim to the widow's place and the widow's money.
The income being charged on the estate, it must come out of Miss
Blanchard's pocket; and the question of paying it would appear,
therefore, to be a question for Miss Blanchard's lawyer.
To-morrow will probably decide whether this view is the right
one, for my letter to Armadale's representatives will have been
delivered at the great house this morning.

"So much for what old Bashwood had to tell me. Having recovered
my influence over him, and possessed myself of all his
information so far, the next thing to consider was the right use
to turn him to in the future. He was entirely at my disposal, for
his place at the steward's office has been already taken by Miss
Blanchard's man of business, and he pleaded hard to be allowed to
stay and serve my interests in London. There would not have been
the least danger in letting him stay, for I had, as a matter of
course, left him undisturbed in his conviction that I really am
the widow of Armadale of Thorpe Ambrose. But with the doctor's
resources at my command, I wanted no assistance of any sort in
London; and it occurred to me that I might make Bashwood more
useful by sending him back to Norfolk to watch events there in
my interests.

"He looked sorely disappointed (having had an eye evidently to
paying his court to me in my widowed condition!) when I told him
of the conclusion at which I had arrived. But a few words of
persuasion, and a modest hint that he might cherish hopes in the
future if he served me obediently in the present, did wonders in
reconciling him to the necessity of meeting my wishes. He asked
helplessly for 'instructions' when it was time for him to leave
me and travel back by the evening train. I could give him none,
for I had no idea as yet of what the legal people might or might
not do. 'But suppose something happens,' he persisted, 'that I
don't understand, what am I to do, so far away from you?' I could
only give him one answer. 'Do nothing,' I said. 'Whatever it is,
hold your tongue about it, and write, or come up to London
immediately to consult me.' With those parting directions,
and with an understanding that we were to correspond regularly,
I let him kiss my hand, and sent him off to the train.

"Now that I am alone again, and able to think calmly of the
interview between me and my elderly admirer, I find myself
recalling a certain change in old Bashwood's manner which
puzzled me at the time, and which puzzles me still.

"Even in his first moments of agitation at seeing me, I thought
that his eyes rested on my face with a new kind of interest while
I was speaking to him. Besides this, he dropped a word or two
afterward, in telling me of his lonely life at Thorpe Ambrose,
which seemed to imply that he had been sustained in his solitude
by a feeling of confidence about his future relations with me
when we next met. If he had been a younger and a bolder man (and
if any such discovery had been possible), I should almost have
suspected him of having found out something about my past life
which had made him privately confident of controlling me, if
I showed any disposition to deceive and desert him again. But
such an idea as this in connection with old Bashwood is simply
absurd. Perhaps I am overexcited by the suspense and anxiety of
my present position? Perhaps the merest fancies and suspicions
are leading me astray? Let this be as it may, I have, at any
rate, more serious subjects than the subject of old Bashwood
to occupy me now. Tomorrow's post may tell me what Armadale's
representatives think of the claim of Armadale's widow.

"November 26th.--The answer has arrived this morning, in the form
(as Bashwood supposed) of a letter from Mr. Darch. The crabbed
old lawyer acknowledges my letter in three lines. Before he takes
any steps, or expresses any opinion on the subject, he wants
evidence of identity as well as the evidence of the certificate;
and he ventures to suggest that it may be desirable, before we
go any further, to refer him to my legal advisers.

"Two o'clock.--The doctor called shortly after twelve to say
that he had found a lodging for me within twenty minutes' walk
of the Sanitarium. In return for his news, I showed him Mr.
Darch's letter. He took it away at once to his lawyers, and came
back with the necessary information for my guidance. I have
answered Mr. Darch by sending him the address of my legal
advisers--otherwise, the doctor's lawyers--without making any
comment on the desire that he has expressed for additional
evidence of the marriage. This is all that can be done to-day.
To-morrow will bring with it events of greater interest, for
to-morrow the doctor is to make his Declaration before the
magistrate, and to-morrow I am to move to my new lodging in
my widow's weeds.

"November 27th.--Fairweather Vale Villas.--The Declaration has
been made, with all the necessary formalities. And I have taken
possession, in my widow's costume, of my new rooms.

"I ought to be excited by the opening of this new act in the
drama, and by the venturesome part that I am playing in it
myself. Strange to say, I am quiet and depressed. The thought of
Midwinter has followed me to my new abode, and is pressing on me
heavily at this moment. I have no fear of any accident happening,
in the interval that must still pass before I step publicly into
the place of Armadale's widow. But when that time comes, and when
Midwinter finds me (as sooner or later find me he must!) figuring
in my false character, and settled in the position that I have
usurped--_then_, I ask myself, What will happen? The answer still
comes as it first came to me this morning, when I put on my
widow's dress. Now, as then, the presentiment is fixed in my mind
that he will kill me. If it was not too late to draw back--
Absurd! I shall shut up my journal.

"November 28th.--The lawyers have heard from Mr. Darch, and have
sent him the Declaration by return of post.

"When the doctor brought me this news, I asked him whether
his lawyers were aware of my present address; and, finding that
he had not yet mentioned it to them, I begged that he would
continue to keep it a secret for the future. The doctor laughed.
'Are you afraid of Mr. Darch's stealing a march on us, and coming
to attack you personally?' he asked. I accepted the imputation,
as the easiest way of making him comply with my request. 'Yes,'
I said, 'I am afraid of Mr. Darch.'

"My spirits have risen since the doctor left me. There is a
pleasant sensation of security in feeling that no strangers are
in possession of my address. I am easy enough in my mind to-day
to notice how wonderfully well I look in my widow's weeds, and
to make myself agreeable to the people of the house.

"Midwinter disturbed me a little again last night; but I have got
over the ghastly delusion which possessed me yesterday. I know
better now than to dread violence from him when he discovers what
I have done. And there is still less fear of his stooping to
assert his claim to a woman who has practiced on him such
a deception as mine. The one serious trial that I shall be
put to when the day of reckoning comes will be the trial of
preserving my false character in his presence. I shall be safe
in his loathing and contempt for me, after that. On the day when
I have denied him to his face, I shall have seen the last of him
forever.

"Shall I be able to deny him to his face? Shall I be able to look
at him and speak to him as if he had never been more to me than
a friend? How do I know till the time comes? Was there ever such
an infatuated fool as I am, to be writing of him at all, when
writing only encourages me to think of him? I will make a new
resolution. From this time forth, his name shall appear no more
in these pages.

"Monday, December 1st.--The last month of the worn-out old year
1851! If I allowed myself to look back, what a miserable year
I should see added to all the other miserable years that are
gone! But I have made my resolution to look forward only, and
I mean to keep it.

"I have nothing to record of the last two days, except that
on the twenty-ninth I remembered Bashwood, and wrote to tell him
of my new address. This morning the lawyers heard again from
Mr. Darch. He acknowledges the receipt of the Declaration, but
postpones stating the decision at which he has arrived until he
has communicated with the trustees under the late Mr. Blanchard's
will, and has received his final instructions from his client,
Miss Blanchard. The doctor's lawyers declare that this last
letter is a mere device for gaining time--with what object they
are, of course, not in a position to guess. The doctor himself
says, facetiously, it is the usual lawyer's object of making
a long bill. My own idea is that Mr. Darch has his suspicions of
something wrong, and that his purpose in trying to gain time--

* * * * * * *

"Ten, at night.--I had written as far as that last unfinished
sentence (toward four in the afternoon) when I was startled by
hearing a cab drive up to the door. I went to the window, and
got there just in time to see old Bashwood getting out with
an activity of which I should never have supposed him capable.
So little did I anticipate the tremendous discovery that was
going to burst on me in another minute, that I turned to
the glass, and wondered what the susceptible old gentleman
would say to me in my widow's cap.

"The instant he entered the room, I saw that some serious
disaster had happened. His eyes were wild, his wig was awry.
He approached me with a strange mixture of eagerness and dismay.
'I've done as you told me,' he whispered, breathlessly. 'I've
held my tongue about it, and come straight to _you_!' He caught
me by the hand before I could speak, with a boldness quite new
in my experience of him. 'Oh how can I break it to you!' he burst
out. 'I'm beside myself when I think of it!'

"'When you _can_ speak,' I said, putting him into a chair,
'speak out. I see in your face that you bring me news I don't
look for from Thorpe Ambrose.'

"He put his hand into the breast-pocket of his coat, and drew out
a letter. He looked at the letter, and looked at me. 'New--new--
news you don't look for,' he stammered; 'but not from Thorpe
Ambrose!'

"'Not from Thorpe Ambrose!'

"'No. From the sea!'

"The first dawning of the truth broke on me at those words.
I couldn't speak--I could only hold out my hand to him for
the letter.

"He still shrank from giving it to me. 'I daren't! I daren't!'
he said to himself, vacantly. 'The shock of it might be the death
of her.'

"I snatched the letter from him. One glance at the writing on
the address was enough. My hands fell on my lap, with the letter
fast held in them. I sat petrified, without moving, without
speaking, without hearing a word of what Bashwood was saying
to me, and slowly realized the terrible truth. The man whose
widow I had claimed to be was a living man to confront me!
In vain I had mixed the drink at Naples--in vain I had betrayed
him into Manuel's hands. Twice I had set the deadly snare for
him, and twice Armadale had escaped me! "I came to my sense of
outward things again, and found Bashwood on his knees at my feet,
crying.

"'You look angry,' he murmured, helplessly. 'Are you angry with
_me_? Oh, if you only knew what hopes I had when we last saw
each other, and how cruelly that letter has dashed them all to
the ground!'

"I put the miserable old creature back from me, but very gently.
'Hush!' I said. 'Don't distress me now. I want composure; I want
to read the letter.'

"He went away submissively to the other end of the room. As soon
as my eye was off him, I heard him say to himself, with impotent
malignity, 'If the sea had been of my mind, the sea would have
drowned him!'

"One by one I slowly opened the folds of the letter; feeling,
while I did so, the strangest incapability of fixing my attention
on the very lines that I was burning to read. But why dwell any
longer on sensations which I can't describe? It will be more to
the purpose if I place the letter itself, for future reference,
on this page of my journal.

'Fiume, Illyria, November 21, 1851.

"MR. BASHWOOD--The address I date from will surprise you; and
you will be more surprised still when you hear how it is that
I come to write to you from a port on the Adriatic Sea.

"I have been the victim of a rascally attempt at robbery and
murder. The robbery has succeeded; and it is only through the
mercy of God that the murder did not succeed too.

"I hired a yacht rather more than a month ago at Naples; and
sailed (I am glad to think now) without any friend with me, for
Messina. From Messina I went for a cruise in the Adriatic. Two
days out we were caught in a storm. Storms get up in a hurry,
and go down in a hurry, in those parts. The vessel behaved nobly:
I declare I feel the tears in my eyes now, when I think of her
at the bottom of the sea! Toward sunset it began to moderate; and
by midnight, except for a long, smooth swell, the sea was as
quiet as need be. I went below, a little tired (having helped in
working the yacht while the gale lasted), and fell asleep in five
minutes. About two hours after, I was woke by something falling
into my cabin through a chink of the ventilator in the upper part
of the door. I jumped up, and found a bit of paper with a key
wrapped in it, and with writing on the inner side, in a hand
which it was not very easy to read.

"Up to this time I had not had the ghost of a suspicion that
I was alone at sea with a gang of murderous vagabonds (excepting
one only) who would stick at nothing. I had got on very well with
my sailing-master (the worst scoundrel of the lot), and better
still with his English mate. The sailors, being all foreigners,
I had very little to say to. They did their work, and no quarrels
and nothing unpleasant happened. If anybody had told me, before I
went to bed on the night after the storm, that the sailing-master
and the crew and the mate (who had been no better than the rest
of them at starting) were all in a conspiracy to rob me of
the money I had on board, and then to drown me in my own vessel
afterward, I should have laughed in his face. Just remember that;
and then fancy for yourself (for I'm sure I can't tell you) what
I must have thought when I opened the paper round the key, and
read what I now copy (from the mate's writing), as follows:

"'SIR--Stay in your bed till you hear a boat shove off from the
starboard side, or you are a dead man. Your money is stolen; and
in five minutes' time the yacht will be scuttled, and the cabin
hatch will be nailed down on you. Dead men tell no tales; and the
sailing-master's notion is to leave proofs afloat that the vessel
has foundered with all on board. It was his doing, to begin with,
and we were all in it. I can't find it in my heart not to give
you a chance for your life. It's a bad chance, but I can do no
more. I should be murdered myself if I didn't seem to go with the
rest. The key of your cabin door is thrown back to you, inside
this. Don't be alarmed when you hear the hammer above. I shall do
it, and I shall have short nails in my hand as well as long, and
use the short ones only. Wait till you hear the boat with all of
us shove off, and then pry up the cabin hatch with your back. The
vessel will float a quarter of an hour after the holes are bored
in her. Slip into the sea on the port side, and keep the vessel
between you and the boat. You will find plenty of loose lumber,
wrenched away on purpose, drifting about to hold on by. It's
a fine night and a smooth sea, and there's a chance that a ship
may pick you up while there's life left in you. I can do no
more.--Yours truly, J. M.'

"As I came to those last words, I heard the hammering down of
the hatch over my head. I don't suppose I'm more of a coward than
most people, but there was a moment when the sweat poured down me
like rain. I got to be my own man again before the hammering was
done, and found myself thinking of somebody very dear to me in
England. I said to myself: 'I'll have a try for my life, for her
sake, though the chances are dead against me.'

"I put a letter from that person I have mentioned into one of
the stoppered bottles of my dressing-case, along with the mate's
warning, in case I lived to see him again. I hung this, and
a flask of whisky, in a sling round my neck; and, after first
dressing myself in my confusion, thought better of it, and
stripped, again, for swimming, to my shirt and drawers. By the
time I had done that the hammering was over and there was such
a silence that I could hear the water bubbling into the scuttled
vessel amidships. The next noise was the noise of the boat
and the villains in her (always excepting my friend, the mate)
shoving off from the starboard side. I waited for the splash
of the oars in the water, and then got my back under the hatch.
The mate had kept his promise. I lifted it easily--crept across
the deck, under cover of the bulwarks, on all fours--and slipped
into the sea on the port side. Lots of things were floating
about. I took the first thing I came to--a hen-coop--and swam
away with it about a couple of hundred yards, keeping the yacht
between me and the boat. Having got that distance, I was seized
with a shivering fit, and I stopped (fearing the cramp next)
to take a pull at my flask. When I had closed the flask again,
I turned for a moment to look back, and saw the yacht in the act
of sinking. In a minute more there was nothing between me and
the boat but the pieces of wreck that had been purposely thrown
out to float. The moon was shining; and, if they had had a glass
in the boat, I believe they might have seen my head, though
I carefully kept the hen-coop between me and them.

"As it was, they laid on their oars; and I heard loud voices
among them disputing. After what seemed an age to me,
I discovered what the dispute was about. The boat's head was
suddenly turned my way. Some cleverer scoundrel than the rest
(the sailing-master, I dare say) had evidently persuaded them
to row back over the place where the yacht had gone down, and
make quite sure that I had gone down with her.

"They were more than half-way across the distance that separated
us, and I had given myself up for lost, when I heard a cry from
one of them, and saw the boat's progress suddenly checked. In
a minute or two more the boat's head was turned again; and they
rowed straight away from me like men rowing for their lives.

"I looked on one side toward the land, and saw nothing. I looked
on the other toward the sea, and discovered what the boat's
crew had discovered before me--a sail in the distance, growing
steadily brighter and bigger in the moonlight the longer I looked
at it. In a quarter of an hour more the vessel was within hail
of me, and the crew had got me on board.

"They were all foreigners, and they quite deafened me by their
jabber. I tried signs, but before I could make them understand me
I was seized with another shivering fit, and was carried below.
The vessel held on her course, I have no doubt, but I was in no
condition to know anything about it. Before morning I was in a
fever; and from that time I can remember nothing clearly till I
came to my senses at this place, and found myself under the care
of a Hungarian merchant, the consignee (as they call it) of the
coasting vessel that had picked me up. He speaks English as well
or better than I do; and he has treated me with a kindness which
I can find no words to praise. When he was a young man he was
in England himself, learning business, and he says he has
remembrances of our country which make his heart warm toward
an Englishman. He has fitted me out with clothes, and has lent me
the money to travel with, as soon as the doctor allows me to
start for home. Supposing I don't get a relapse, I shall be fit
to travel in a week's time from this. If I can catch the mail at
Trieste, and stand the fatigue, I shall be back again at Thorpe
Ambrose in a week or ten days at most after you get my letter.
You will agree with me that it is a terribly long letter. But
I can't help that. I seem to have lost my old knack at putting
things short, and finishing on the first page. However, I am near
the end now; for I have nothing left to mention but the reason
why I write about what has happened to me, instead of waiting
till I get home, and telling it all by word of mouth.

"I fancy my head is still muddled by my illness. At any rate,
it only struck me this morning that there is barely a chance
of some vessel having passed the place where the yacht foundered,
and having picked up the furniture, and other things wrenched out
of her and left to float. Some false report of my being drowned
may, in that case, have reached England. If this has happened
(which I hope to God may be an unfounded fear on my part), go
directly to Major Milroy at the cottage. Show him this letter
--I have written it quite as much for his eye as for yours--and
then give him the inclosed note, and ask him if he doesn't think
the circumstances justify me in hoping he will send it to Miss
Milroy. I can't explain why I don't write directly to the major,
or to Miss Milroy, instead of to you. I can only say there are
considerations I am bound in honor to respect, which oblige me
to act in this roundabout way.

"I don't ask you to answer this, for I shall be on my way home,
I hope, long before your letter could reach me in this
out-of-the-way place. Whatever you do, don't lose a moment
in going to Major Milroy. Go, on second thoughts, whether
the loss of the yacht is known in England or not.

"Yours truly, ALLAN ARMADALE."

"I looked up when I had come to the end of the letter, and saw,
for the first time, that Bashwood had left his chair and had
placed himself opposite to me. He was intently studying my face,
with the inquiring expression of a man who was trying to read
my thoughts. His eyes fell guiltily when they met mine, and he
shrank away to his chair. Believing, as he did, that I was really
married to Armadale, was he trying to discover whether the news
of Armadale's rescue from the sea was good news or bad news in
my estimation? It was no time then for entering into explanations
with him. The first thing to be done was to communicate instantly
with the doctor. I called Bashwood back to me and gave him my
hand.

"'You have done me a service,' I said, 'which makes us closer
friends than ever. I shall say more about this, and about other
matters of some interest to both of us, later in the day. I want
you now to lend me Mr. Armadale's letter (which I promise to
bring back) and to wait here till I return. Will you do that
for me, Mr. Bashwood?'

"He would do anything I asked him, he said. I went into the
bedroom and put on my bonnet and shawl.

"'Let me be quite sure of the facts before I leave you,'
I resumed, when I was ready to go out. 'You have not shown
this letter to anybody but me?'

"'Not a living soul has seen it but our two selves.'

"'What have you done with the note inclosed to Miss Milroy?'

"He produced it from his pocket. I ran it over rapidly--saw that
there was nothing in it of the slightest importance--and put it
in the fire on the spot. That done, I left Bashwood in the
sitting-room, and went to the Sanitarium, with Armadale's letter
in my hand.

"The doctor had gone out, and the servant was unable to say
positively at what time he would be back. I went into his study,
and wrote a line preparing him for the news I had brought with
me, which I sealed up, with Armadale's letter, in an envelope,
to await his return. Having told the servant I would call again
in an hour, I left the place.

"It was useless to go back to my lodgings and speak to Bashwood,
until I knew first what the doctor meant to do. I walked about
the neighborhood, up and down new streets and crescents and
squares, with a kind of dull, numbed feeling in me, which
prevented, not only all voluntary exercise of thought, but
all sensation of bodily fatigue. I remembered the same feeling
overpowering me, years ago, on the morning when the people of
the prison came to take me into court to be tried for my life.
All that frightful scene came back again to my mind in the
strangest manner, as if it had been a scene in which some other
person had figured. Once or twice I wondered, in a heavy,
senseless way, why they had not hanged me!

"When I went back to the Sanitarium, I was informed that
the doctor had returned half an hour since, and that he was
in his own room anxiously waiting to see me.

"I went into the study, and found him sitting close by the fire
with his head down and his hands on his knees. On the table near
him, beside Armadale's letter and my note, I saw, in the little
circle of light thrown by the reading-lamp, an open railway
guide. Was he meditating flight? It was impossible to tell from
his face, when he looked up at me, what he was meditating, or how
the shock had struck him when he first discovered that Armadale
was a living man.

"'Take a seat near the fire,' he said. 'It's very raw and cold
to-day.'

"I took a chair in silence. In silence, on his side, the doctor
sat rubbing his knees before the fire.

"'Have you nothing to say to me?' I asked.

"He rose, and suddenly removed the shade from the reading-lamp,
so that the light fell on my face.

"'You are not looking well,' he said. 'What's the matter?'

"'My head feels dull, and my eyes are heavy and hot,' I replied.
'The weather, I suppose.'

"It was strange how we both got further and further from the one
vitally important subject which we had both come together to
discuss!

"'I think a cup of tea would do you good,' remarked the doctor.

"I accepted his suggestion; and he ordered the tea. While it was
coming, he walked up and down the room, and I sat by the fire,
and not a word passed between us on either side.

"The tea revived me; and the doctor noticed a change for
the better in my face. He sat down opposite to me at the table,
and spoke out at last.

"'If I had ten thousand pounds at this moment,' he began,
'I would give the whole of it never to have compromised myself
in your desperate speculation on Mr. Armadale's death!'

"He said those words with an abruptness, almost with a violence,
which was strangely uncharacteristic of his ordinary manner.
Was he frightened himself, or was he trying to frighten me?
I determined to make him explain himself at the outset, so far as
I was concerned. 'Wait a moment, doctor,' I said. 'Do you hold me
responsible for what has happened?'

"'Certainly not,' he replied, stiffly. 'Neither you nor anybody
could have foreseen what has happened. When I say I would give
ten thousand pounds to be out of this business, I am blaming
nobody but myself. And when I tell you next that I, for one,
won't allow Mr. Armadale's resurrection from the sea to be the
ruin of me without a fight for it, I tell you, my dear madam, one
of the plainest truths I ever told to man or woman in the whole
course of my life. Don't suppose I am invidiously separating my
interests from yours in the common danger that now threatens us
both. I simply indicate the difference in the risk that we have
respectively run. _You_ have not sunk the whole of your resources
in establishing a Sanitarium; and _you_ have not made a false
declaration before a magistrate, which is punishable as perjury
by the law.'

"I interrupted him again. His selfishness did me more good than
his tea: it roused my temper effectually. 'Suppose we let your
risk and my risk alone, and come to the point,' I said. 'What do
you mean by making a fight for it? I see a railway guide on your
table. Does making a fight for it mean--running away?'

"'Running away?' repeated the doctor. 'You appear to forget
that every farthing I have in the world is embarked in this
establishment.'

"'You stop here, then?' I said.

"'Unquestionably!'

"'And what do you mean to do when Mr. Armadale comes
to England?'

"A solitary fly, the last of his race whom the winter had spared,
was buzzing feebly about the doctor's face. He caught it before
he answered me, and held it out across the table in his closed
hand.

"'If this fly's name was Armadale,' he said, 'and if you had got
him as I have got him now, what would _you_ do?'

"His eyes, fixed on my face up to this time, turned
significantly, as he ended this question, to my widow's dress.
I, too, looked at it when he looked. A thrill of the old deadly
hatred and the old deadly determination ran through me again.

"'I should kill him,' I said.

"The doctor started to his feet (with the fly still in his hand),
and looked at me--a little too theatrically--with an expression
of the utmost horror.

"'Kill him!' repeated the doctor, in a paroxysm of virtuous
alarm. 'Violence--murderous violence--in My Sanitarium! You
take my breath away!'

"I caught his eye while he was expressing himself in this
elaborately indignant manner, scrutinizing me with a searching
curiosity which was, to say the least of it, a little at variance
with the vehemence of his language and the warmth of his tone.
He laughed uneasily when our eyes met, and recovered his smoothly
confidential manner in the instant that elapsed before he spoke
again.

"'I beg a thousand pardons,' he said. 'I ought to have known
better than to take a lady too literally at her word. Permit me
to remind you, however, that the circumstances are too serious
for anything in the nature of--let us say, an exaggeration or a
joke. You shall hear what I propose, without further preface.' He
paused, and resumed his figurative use of the fly imprisoned in
his hand. 'Here is Mr. Armadale. I can let him out, or keep him
in, just as I please--and he knows it. I say to him,' continued
the doctor, facetiously addressing the fly, 'Give me proper
security, Mr. Armadale, that no proceedings of any sort shall be
taken against either this lady or myself, and I will let you out
of the hollow of my hand. Refuse--and, be the risk what it may,
I will keep you in." Can you doubt, my dear madam, what Mr.
Armadale's answer is, sooner or later, certain to be? Can you
doubt,' said the doctor, suiting the action to the word, and
letting the fly go, 'that it will end to the entire satisfaction
of all parties, in this way?'

"'I won't say at present,' I answered, 'whether I doubt or not.
Let me make sure that I understand you first. You propose, if I
am not mistaken, to shut the doors of this place on Mr. Armadale,
and not to let him out again until he has agreed to the terms
which it is our interest to impose on him? May I ask, in that
case, how you mean to make him walk into the trap that you have
set for him here?'

"'I propose,' said the doctor, with his hand on the railway
guide, 'ascertaining first at what time during every evening of
this month the tidal trains from Dover and Folkestone reach the
London Bridge terminus. And I propose, next, posting a person
whom Mr. Armadale knows, and whom you and I can trust, to wait
the arrival of the trains, and to meet our man at the moment
when he steps out of the railway carriage.'

"'Have you thought,' I inquired, 'of who the person is to be?'

"'I have thought,' said the doctor, taking up Armadale's letter
'of the person to whom this letter is addressed.'

"The answer startled me. Was it possible that he and Bashwood
knew one another? I put the question immediately.

"'Until to-day I never so much as heard of the gentleman's
name,' said the doctor. 'I have simply pursued the inductive
process of reasoning, for which we are indebted to the immortal
Bacon. How does this very important letter come into your
possession? I can't insult you by supposing it to have been
stolen. Consequently, it has come to you with the leave and
license of the person to whom it is addressed. Consequently,
that person is in your confidence. Consequently, he is the first
person I think of. You see the process? Very good. Permit me
a question or two, on the subject of Mr. Bashwood, before we
go on any further.'

"The doctor's questions went as straight to the point as usual.
My answers informed him that Mr. Bashwood stood toward Armadale
in the relation of steward; that he had received the letter
at Thorpe Ambrose that morning, and had brought it straight to
me by the first train; that he had not shown it, or spoken of it
before leaving, to Major Milroy or to any one else; that I had
not obtained this service at his hands by trusting him with
my secret; that I had communicated with him in the character of
Armadale's widow; that he had suppressed the letter, under those
circumstances, solely in obedience to a general caution I had
given him to keep his own counsel, if anything strange happened
at Thorpe Ambrose, until he had first consulted me; and, lastly,
that the reason why he had done as I told him in this matter, was
that in this matter, and in all others, Mr. Bashwood was blindly
devoted to my interests.

"At that point in the interrogatory, the doctor's eyes began
to look at me distrustfully behind the doctor's spectacles.

"'What is the secret of this blind devotion of Mr. Bashwood's
to your interests?' he asked.

"I hesitated for a moment--in pity to Bashwood, not in pity
to myself. 'If you must know,' I answered, 'Mr. Bashwood is
in love with me.'

"'Ay! ay!' exclaimed the doctor, with an air of relief. 'I begin
to understand now. Is he a young man?'

"'He is an old man.'

"The doctor laid himself back in his chair, and chuckled softly.
'Better and better!' he said. 'Here is the very man we want.
Who so fit as Mr. Armadale's steward to meet Mr. Armadale on his
return to London? And who so capable of influencing Mr. Bashwood
in the proper way as the charming object of Mr. Bashwood's
admiration?'

"There could be no doubt that Bashwood was the man to serve the
doctor's purpose, and that my influence was to be trusted to make
him serve it. The difficulty was not here: the difficulty was
in the unanswered question that I had put to the doctor a minute
since. I put it to him again.

"'Suppose Mr. Armadale's steward meets his employer at the
terminus,' I said. 'May I ask once more how Mr. Armadale is
to be persuaded to come here?'

"'Don't think me ungallant,' rejoined the doctor in his gentlest
manner, 'if I ask, on my side, how are men persuaded to do
nine-tenths of the foolish acts of their lives? They are
persuaded by your charming sex. The weak side of every man is the
woman's side of him. We have only to discover the woman's side of
Mr. Armadale--to tickle him on it gently--and to lead him our way
with a silken string. I observe here,' pursued the doctor,
opening Armadale's letter, 'a reference to a certain young lady,
which looks promising. Where is the note that Mr. Armadale speaks
of as addressed to Miss Milroy?'

"Instead of answering him, I started, in a sudden burst of
excitement, to my feet. The instant he mentioned Miss Milroy's
name all that I had heard from Bashwood of her illness, and
of the cause of it, rushed back into my memory. I saw the means
of decoying Armadale into the Sanitarium as plainly as I saw
the doctor on the other side of the table, wondering at the
extraordinary change in me. What a luxury it was to make Miss
Milroy serve my interests at last!

"'Never mind the note,' I said. 'It's burned, for fear of
accidents. I can tell you all (and more) than the note could
have told you. Miss Milroy cuts the knot! Miss Milroy ends
the difficulty! She is privately engaged to him. She has heard
the false report of his death; and she has been seriously ill
at Thorpe Ambrose ever since. When Bashwood meets him at the
station, the very first question he is certain to ask--'

"'I see!' exclaimed the doctor, anticipating me. 'Mr. Bashwood
has nothing to do but to help the truth with a touch of fiction.
When he tells his master that the false report has reached Miss
Milroy, he has only to add that the shock has affected her head,
and that she is here under medical care. Perfect! perfect! We
shall have him at the Sanitarium as fast as the fastest cab-horse
in London can bring him to us. And mind! no risk--no necessity
for trusting other people. This is not a mad-house; this is not
a licensed establishment; no doctors' certificates are necessary
here! My dear lady, I congratulate you; I congratulate myself.
Permit me to hand you the railway guide, with my best compliments
to Mr. Bashwood, and with the page turned down for him, as an
additional attention, at the right place.'

"Remembering how long I had kept Bashwood waiting for me, I took
the book at once, and wished the doctor good-evening without
further ceremony. As he politely opened the door for me, he
reverted, without the slightest necessity for doing so, and
without a word from me to lead to it, to the outburst of virtuous
alarm which had escaped him at the earlier part of our interview.

"'I do hope,' he said, 'that you will kindly forget and forgive
my extraordinary want of tact and perception when--in short,
when I caught the fly. I positively blush at my own stupidity
in putting a literal interpretation on a lady's little joke!
Violence in My Sanitarium!' exclaimed the doctor, with his eyes
once more fixed attentively on my face--'violence in this
enlightened nineteenth century! Was there ever anything so
ridiculous? Do fasten your cloak before you go out, it is so
cold and raw! Shall I escort you? Shall I send my servant? Ah,
you were always independent! always, if I may say so, a host
in yourself! May I call to-morrow morning, and hear what you
have settled with Mr. Bashwood?'

"I said yes, and got away from him at last. In a quarter of
an hour more I was back at my lodgings, and was informed by
the servant that 'the elderly gentleman' was still waiting
for me.

"I have not got the heart or the patience--I hardly know
which--to waste many words on what passed between me and
Bashwood. It was so easy, so degradingly easy, to pull the
strings of the poor old puppet in any way I pleased! I met none
of the difficulties which I should have been obliged to meet
in the case of a younger man, or of a man less infatuated
with admiration for me. I left the allusions to Miss Milroy
in Armadale's letter, which had naturally puzzled him, to be
explained at a future time. I never even troubled myself to
invent a plausible reason for wishing him to meet Armadale at
the terminus, and to entrap him by a stratagem into the doctor's
Sanitarium. All that I found it necessary to do was to refer
to what I had written to Mr. Bashwood, on my arrival in London,
and to what I had afterward said to him, when he came to answer
my letter personally at the hotel.

"'You know already,' I said, 'that my marriage has not been a
happy one. Draw your own conclusions from that; and don't press
me to tell you whether the news of Mr. Armadale's rescue from the
sea is, or is not, the welcome news that it ought to be to his
wife!' That was enough to put his withered old face in a glow,
and to set his withered old hopes growing again. I had only
to add, 'If you will do what I ask you to do, no matter how
incomprehensible and how mysterious my request may seem to be;
and if you will accept my assurances that you shall run no risk
yourself, and that you shall receive the proper explanations at
the proper time, you will have such a claim on my gratitude and
my regard as no man living has ever had yet!' I had only to say
those words, and to point them by a look and a stolen pressure
of his hand, and I had him at my feet, blindly eager to obey me.
If he could have seen what I thought of myself; but that doesn't
matter: he saw nothing.

"Hours have passed since I sent him away (pledged to secrecy,
possessed of his instructions, and provided with his time-table)
to the hotel near the terminus, at which he is to stay till
Armadale appears on the railway platform. The excitement of
the earlier part of the evening has all worn off; and the dull,
numbed sensation has got me again. Are my energies wearing out,
I wonder, just at the time when I most want them? Or is some
foreshadowing of disaster creeping over me which I don't yet
understand?

"I might be in a humor to sit here for some time longer, thinking
thoughts like these, and letting them find their way into words
at their own will and pleasure, if my Diary would only let me.
But my idle pen has been busy enough to make its way to the end
of the volume. I have reached the last morsel of space left on
the last page; and whether I like it or not, I must close the
book this time for good and all, when I close it to-night.

"Good-by, my old friend and companion of many a miserable day!
Having nothing else to be fond of, I half suspect myself of
having been unreasonably fond of _you_.

"What a fool I am!"

THE END OF THE FOURTH BOOK.

BOOK THE LAST.

CHAPTER I.

AT THE TERMINUS.

On the night of the 2d of December, Mr. Bashwood took up his post
of observation at the terminus of the South-eastern Railway for
the first time. It was an earlier date, by six days, than the
date which Allan had himself fixed for his return. But the
doctor, taking counsel of his medical experience, had considered
it just probable that "Mr. Armadale might be perverse enough,
at his enviable age, to recover sooner than his medical advisers
might have anticipated." For caution's sake, therefore, Mr.
Bashwood was instructed to begin watching the arrival of the
tidal trains on the day after he had received his employer's
letter.

From the 2d to the 7th of December, the steward waited punctually
on the platform, saw the trains come in, and satisfied himself,
evening after evening, that the travelers were all strangers to
him. From the 2d to the 7th of December, Miss Gwilt (to return to
the name under which she is best known in these pages) received
his daily report, sometimes delivered personally, sometimes sent
by letter. The doctor, to whom the reports were communicated,
received them in his turn with unabated confidence in the
precautions that had been adopted up to the morning of the 8th.
On that date the irritation of continued suspense had produced a
change for the worse in Miss Gwilt's variable temper, which was
perceptible to every one about her, and which, strangely enough,
was reflected by an equally marked change in the doctor's
manner when he came to pay his usual visit. By a coincidence
so extraordinary that his enemies might have suspected it of not
being a coincidence at all, the morning on which Miss Gwilt lost
her patience proved to be also the morning on which the doctor
lost his confidence for the first time.

"No news, of course," he said, sitting down with a heavy sigh.
"Well! well!"

Miss Gwilt looked up at him irritably from her work.

"You seem strangely depressed this morning," she said. "What are
you afraid of now?"

"The imputation of being afraid, madam," answered the doctor,
solemnly, "is not an imputation to cast rashly on any man--even
when he belongs to such an essentially peaceful profession as
mine. I am not afraid. I am (as you more correctly put it in
the first instance) strangely depressed. My nature is, as you
know, naturally sanguine, and I only see to-day what but for
my habitual hopefulness I might have seen, and ought to have
seen, a week since."

Miss Gwilt impatiently threw down her work. "If words cost
money," she said, "the luxury of talking would be rather an
expensive luxury in your case!"

"Which I might have seen, and ought to have seen," reiterated the
doctor, without taking the slightest notice of the interruption,
"a week since. To put it plainly, I feel by no means so certain
as I did that Mr. Armadale will consent, without a struggle, to
the terms which it is my interest (and in a minor degree yours)
to impose on him. Observe! I don't question our entrapping him
successfully into the Sanitarium: I only doubt whether he will
prove quite as manageable as I originally anticipated when we
have got him there. Say," remarked the doctor, raising his eyes
for the first time, and fixing them in steady inquiry on Miss
Gwilt--"say that he is bold, obstinate, what you please; and that
he holds out--holds out for weeks together, for months together,
as men in similar situations to his have held out before him.
What follows? The risk of keeping him forcibly in concealment--of
suppressing him, if I may so express myself--increases at
compound interest, and becomes Enormous! My house is at this
moment virtually ready for patients. Patients may present
themselves in a week's time. Patients may communicate with Mr.
Armadale, or Mr. Armadale may communicate with patients. A note
may be smuggled out of the house, and may reach the Commissioners
in Lunacy. Even in the case of an unlicensed establishment like
mine, those gentlemen--no! those chartered despots in a land of
liberty--have only to apply to the Lord Chancellor for an order,
and to enter (by heavens, to enter My Sanitarium!) and search the
house from top to bottom at a moment's notice! I don't wish to
despond; I don't wish to alarm you; I don't pretend to say that
the means we are taking to secure your own safety are any other
than the best means at our disposal. All I ask you to do is to
imagine the Commissioners in the house--and then to conceive the
consequences. The consequences!" repeated the doctor, getting
sternly on his feet, and taking up his hat as if he meant to
leave the room.

"Have you anything more to say?" asked Miss Gwilt.

"Have you any remarks," rejoined the doctor, "to offer on your
side?"

He stood, hat in hand, waiting. For a full minute the two looked
at each other in silence.

Miss Gwilt spoke first.

"I think I understand you," she said, suddenly recovering her
composure.

"I beg your pardon," returned the doctor, with his hand to
his ear. "What did you say?"

"Nothing."

"Nothing?"

"If you happened to catch another fly this morning," said Miss
Gwilt, with a bitterly sarcastic emphasis on the words, "I might
be capable of shocking you by another 'little joke.'"

The doctor held up both hands, in polite deprecation, and looked
as if he was beginning to recover his good humor again.

"Hard," he murmured, gently, "not to have forgiven me that
unlucky blunder of mine, even yet!"

"What else have you to say? I am waiting for you," said Miss
Gwilt. She turned her chair to the window scornfully, and took up
her work again, as she spoke.

The doctor came behind her, and put his hand on the back of
her chair.

"I have a question to ask, in the first place," he said; "and
a measure of necessary precaution to suggest, in the second. If
you will honor me with your attention, I will put the question
first."

"I am listening."

"You know that Mr. Armadale is alive," pursued the doctor, "and
you know that he is coming back to England. Why do you continue
to wear your widow's dress?"

She answered him without an instant's hesitation, steadily going
on with her work.

"Because I am of a sanguine disposition, like you. I mean to
trust to the chapter of accidents to the very last. Mr. Armadale
may die yet, on his way home."

"And suppose he gets home alive--what then?"

"Then there is another chance still left."

"What is it, pray?"

"He may die in your Sanitarium."

"Madam!" remonstrated the doctor, in the deep bass which he
reserved for his outbursts of virtuous indignation. "Wait! you
spoke of the chapter of accidents," he resumed, gliding back
into his softer conversational tones. "Yes! yes! of course.
I understand you this time. Even the healing art is at the mercy
of accidents; even such a Sanitarium as mine is liable to be
surprised by Death. Just so! just so!" said the doctor, conceding
the question with the utmost impartiality. "There _is_ the
chapter of accidents, I admit--if you choose to trust to it.
Mind! I say emphatically, _if_ you choose to trust to it."

There was another moment of silence--silence so profound that
nothing was audible in the room but the rapid _click_ of Miss
Gwilt's needle through her work.

"Go on," she said; "you haven't done yet."

"True!" said the doctor. "Having put my question, I have my
measure of precaution to impress on you next. You will see,
my dear madam, that I am not disposed to trust to the chapter
of accidents on my side. Reflection has convinced me that you
and I are not (logically speaking) so conveniently situated
as we might be in case of emergency. Cabs are, as yet, rare in
this rapidly improving neighborhood. I am twenty minutes' walk
from you; you are twenty minutes' walk from me. I know nothing
of Mr. Armadale's character; you know it well. It might be
necessary--vitally necessary--to appeal to your superior
knowledge of him at a moment's notice. And how am I to do that
unless we are within easy reach of each other, under the same
roof? In both our interests, I beg to invite you, my dear madam,
to become for a limited period an inmate of My Sanitarium."

Miss Gwilt's rapid needle suddenly stopped. "I understand you,"
she said again, as quietly as before.

"I beg your pardon," said the doctor, with another attack
of deafness, and with his hand once more at his ear.

She laughed to herself--a low, terrible laugh, which startled
even the doctor into taking his hand off the back of her chair.

"An inmate of your Sanitarium?" she repeated. "You consult
appearances in everything else; do you propose to consult
appearances in receiving me into your house?"

"Most assuredly!" replied the doctor, with enthusiasm. "I am
surprised at your asking me the question! Did you ever know
a man of any eminence in my profession who set appearances
at defiance? If you honor me by accepting my invitation, you
enter My Sanitarium in the most unimpeachable of all possible
characters--in the character of a Patient."

"When do you want my answer?"

"Can you decide to-day?"

"To-morrow?"

"Yes. Have you anything more to say?"

"Nothing more."

"Leave me, then. _I_ don't keep up appearances. I wish to be
alone, and I say so. Good-morning."

"Oh, the sex! the sex!" said the doctor, with his excellent
temper in perfect working order again. "So delightfully
impulsive! so charmingly reckless of what they say or how they
say it! 'Oh, woman, in our hours of ease, uncertain, coy, and
hard to please!' There! there! there! Good-morning!"

Miss Gwilt rose and looked after him contemptuously from
the window, when the street door had closed, and he had left
the house.

"Armadale himself drove me to it the first time," she said.
"Manuel drove me to it the second time.--You cowardly scoundrel!
shall I let _you_ drive me to it for the third time, and the
last?"

She turned from the window, and looked thoughtfully at her
widow's dress in the glass.

The hours of the day passed--and she decided nothing. The night
came--and she hesitated still. The new morning dawned--and the
terrible question was still unanswered.

By the early post there came a letter for her. It was Mr.
Bashwood's usual report. Again he had watched for Allan's
arrival, and again in vain.

"I'll have more time!" she determined, passionately. "No man
alive shall hurry me faster than I like!"

At breakfast that morning (the morning of the 9th) the doctor
was surprised in his study by a visit from Miss Gwilt.

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