Part 16 out of 17
"I want another day," she said, the moment the servant had closed
the door on her.
The doctor looked at her before he answered, and saw the danger
of driving her to extremities plainly expressed in her face.
"The time is getting on," he remonstrated, in his most persuasive
manner. "For all we know to the contrary, Mr. Armadale may be
"I want another day!" she repeated, loudly and passionately.
"Granted!" said the doctor, looking nervously toward the door.
"Don't be too loud--the servants may hear you. Mind!" he added,
"I depend on your honor not to press me for any further delay."
"You had better depend on my despair," she said, and left him.
The doctor chipped the shell of his egg, and laughed softly.
"Quite right, my dear!" he thought. "I remember where your
despair led you in past times; and I think I may trust it
to lead you the same way now."
At a quarter to eight o'clock that night Mr. Bashwood took up his
post of observation, as usual, on the platform of the terminus at
London Bridge. He was in the highest good spirits; he smiled and
smirked in irrepressible exultation. The sense that he held in
reserve a means of influence over Miss Gwilt, in virtue of his
knowledge of her past career, had had no share in effecting
the transformation that now appeared in him. It had upheld his
courage in his forlorn life at Thorpe Ambrose, and it had given
him that increased confidence of manner which Miss Gwilt herself
had noticed; but, from the moment when he had regained his old
place in her favor, it had vanished as a motive power in him,
annihilated by the electric shock of her touch and her look.
His vanity--the vanity which in men at his age is only despair
in disguise--had now lifted him to the seventh heaven of fatuous
happiness once more. He believed in her again as he believed in
the smart new winter overcoat that he wore--as he believed in
the dainty little cane (appropriate to the dawning dandyism of
lads in their teens) that he flourished in his hand. He hummed!
The worn-out old creature, who had not sung since his childhood,
hummed, as he paced the platform, the few fragments he could
remember of a worn-out old song.
The train was due as early as eight o'clock that night. At five
minutes past the hour the whistle sounded. In less than five
minutes more the passengers were getting out on the platform.
Following the instructions that had been given to him, Mr.
Bashwood made his way, as well as the crowd would let him, along
the line of carriages, and, discovering no familiar face on that
first investigation, joined the passengers for a second search
among them in the custom-house waiting-room next.
He had looked round the room, and had satisfied himself that the
persons occupying it were all strangers, when he heard a voice
behind him, exclaiming: "Can that be Mr. Bashwood!" He turned in
eager expectation, and found himself face to face with the last
man under heaven whom he had expected to see.
The man was MIDWINTER.
IN THE HOUSE.
Noticing Mr. Bashwood's confusion (after a moment's glance at
the change in his personal appearance), Midwinter spoke first.
"I see I have surprised you," he said. "You are looking,
I suppose, for somebody else? Have you heard from Allan? Is he
on his way home again already?"
The inquiry about Allan, though it would naturally have suggested
itself to any one in Midwinter's position at that moment, added
to Mr. Bashwood's confusion. Not knowing how else to extricate
himself from the critical position in which he was placed, he
took refuge in simple denial.
"I know nothing about Mr. Armadale--oh dear, no, sir, I know
nothing about Mr. Armadale," he answered, with needless eagerness
and hurry. "Welcome back to England, sir," he went on, changing
the subject in his nervously talkative manner. "I didn't know
you had been abroad. It's so long since we have had the
pleasure--since I have had the pleasure. Have you enjoyed
yourself, sir, in foreign parts? Such different manners from
ours--yes, yes, yes--such different manners from ours! Do you
make a long stay in England, now you have come back?"
"I hardly know," said Midwinter. "I have been obliged to alter
my plans, and to come to England unexpectedly." He hesitated
a little; his manner changed, and he added, in lower tones:
"A serious anxiety has brought me back. I can't say what my plans
will be until that anxiety is set at rest."
The light of a lamp fell on his face while he spoke, and Mr.
Bashwood observed, for the first time, that he looked sadly worn
"I'm sorry, sir--I'm sure I'm very sorry. If I could be of any
use--" suggested Mr. Bashwood, speaking under the influence in
some degree of his nervous politeness, and in some degree of his
remembrance of what Midwinter had done for him at Thorpe Ambrose
in the by-gone time.
Midwinter thanked him and turned away sadly. "I am afraid you
can be of no use, Mr. Bashwood--but I am obliged to you for
your offer, all the same." He stopped, and considered a little,
"Suppose she should _not_ be ill? Suppose some misfortune should
have happened?" he resumed, speaking to himself, and turning
again toward the steward. "If she has left her mother, some trace
of her _might_ be found by inquiring at Thorpe Ambrose."
Mr. Bashwood's curiosity was instantly aroused. The whole sex
was interesting to him now, for the sake of Miss Gwilt.
"A lady, sir?" he inquired. "Are you looking for a lady?"
"I am looking," said Midwinter, simply, "for my wife."
"Married, sir!" exclaimed Mr. Bashwood. "Married since I last
had the pleasure of seeing you! Might I take the liberty of
Midwinter's eyes dropped uneasily to the ground.
"You knew the lady in former times," he said. "I have married
The steward started back as he might have started back from
a loaded pistol leveled at his head. His eyes glared as if he
had suddenly lost his senses, and the nervous trembling to which
he was subject shook him from head to foot.
"What's the matter?" said Midwinter. There was no answer. "What
is there so very startling," he went on, a little impatiently,
"in Miss Gwilt's being my wife?"
"_Your_ wife?" repeated Mr. Bashwood, helplessly. "Mrs.
Armadale--!" He checked himself by a desperate effort, and
said no more.
The stupor of astonishment which possessed the steward was
instantly reflected in Midwinter's face. The name in which he
had secretly married his wife had passed the lips of the last
man in the world whom he would have dreamed of admitting into
his confidence! He took Mr. Bashwood by the arm, and led him away
to a quieter part of the terminus than the part of it in which
they had hitherto spoken to each other.
"You referred to my wife just now," he said; "and you spoke of
_Mrs. Armadale_ in the same breath. What do you mean by that?"
Again there was no answer. Utterly incapable of understanding
more than that he had involved himself in some serious
complication which was a complete mystery to him, Mr. Bashwood
struggled to extricate himself from the grasp that was laid
on him, and struggled in vain.
Midwinter sternly repeated the question. "I ask you again,"
he said, "what do you mean by it?"
"Nothing, sir! I give you my word of honor, I meant nothing!"
He felt the hand on his arm tightening its grasp; he saw, even
in the obscurity of the remote corner in which they stood, that
Midwinter's fiery temper was rising, and was not to be trifled
with. The extremity of his danger inspired him with the one ready
capacity that a timid man possesses when he is compelled by main
force to face an emergency--the capacity to lie. "I only meant
to say, sir," he burst out, with a desperate effort to look and
speak confidently, "that Mr. Armadale would be surprised--"
"You said _Mrs._ Armadale!"
"No, sir--on my word of honor, on my sacred word of honor, you
are mistaken--you are, indeed! I said _Mr._ Armadale--how could
I say anything else? Please to let me go, sir--I'm pressed for
time. I do assure you I'm dreadfully pressed for time!"
For a moment longer Midwinter maintained his hold, and in
that moment he decided what to do.
He had accurately stated his motive for returning to England as
proceeding from anxiety about his wife--anxiety naturally caused
(after the regular receipt of a letter from her every other, or
every third day) by the sudden cessation of the correspondence
between them on her side for a whole week. The first vaguely
terrible suspicion of some other reason for her silence than
the reason of accident or of illness, to which he had hitherto
attributed it, had struck through him like a sudden chill
the instant he heard the steward associate the name of "Mrs.
Armadale" with the idea of his wife. Little irregularities in
her correspondence with him, which he had thus far only thought
strange, now came back on his mind, and proclaimed themselves
to be suspicions as well. He had hitherto believed the reasons
she had given for referring him, when he answered her letters,
to no more definite address than an address at a post-office.
_Now_ he suspected her reasons of being excuses, for the first
time. He had hitherto resolved, on reaching London, to inquire
at the only place he knew of at which a clew to her could be
found--the address she had given him as the address at which
"her mother" lived. _Now_ (with a motive which he was afraid to
define even to himself, but which was strong enough to overbear
every other consideration in his mind) he determined, before all
things, to solve the mystery of Mr. Bashwood's familiarity with
a secret, which was a marriage secret between himself and his
wife. Any direct appeal to a man of the steward's disposition,
in the steward's present state of mind, would be evidently
useless. The weapon of deception was, in this case, a weapon
literally forced into Midwinter's hands. He let go of Mr.
Bashwood's arm, and accepted Mr. Bashwood's explanation.
"I beg your pardon," he said; "I have no doubt you are right.
Pray attribute my rudeness to over-anxiety and over-fatigue.
I wish you good-evening."
The station was by this time almost a solitude, the passengers
by the train being assembled at the examination of their luggage
in the custom-house waiting-room. It was no easy matter,
ostensibly to take leave of Mr. Bashwood, and really to keep him
in view. But Midwinter's early life with the gypsy master had
been of a nature to practice him in such stratagems as he was
now compelled to adopt. He walked away toward the waiting-room
by the line of empty carriages; opened the door of one of them,
as if to look after something that he had left behind, and
detected Mr. Bashwood making for the cab-rank on the opposite
side of the platform. In an instant Midwinter had crossed, and
had passed through the long row of vehicles, so as to skirt it
on the side furthest from the platform. He entered the second cab
by the left-hand door the moment after Mr. Bashwood had entered
the first cab by the right-hand door. "Double your fare, whatever
it is," he said to the driver, "if you keep the cab before you
in view, and follow it wherever it goes." In a minute more both
vehicles were on their way out of the station.
The clerk sat in the sentry-box at the gate, taking down
the destinations of the cabs as they passed. Midwinter heard
the man who was driving him call out "Hampstead!" as he went
by the clerk's window.
"Why did you say 'Hampstead'?" he asked, when they had left
"Because the man before me said 'Hampstead,' sir," answered
Over and over again, on the wearisome journey to the northwestern
suburb, Midwinter asked if the cab was still in sight. Over and
over again, the man answered, "Right in front of us."
It was between nine and ten o'clock when the driver pulled up
his horse at last. Midwinter got out, and saw the cab before them
waiting at a house door. As soon as he had satisfied himself
that the driver was the man whom Mr. Bashwood had hired, he paid
the promised reward, and dismissed his own cab.
He took a turn backward and forward before the door. The vaguely
terrible suspicion which had risen in his mind at the terminus
had forced itself by this time into a definite form which was
abhorrent to him. Without the shadow of an assignable reason for
it, he found himself blindly distrusting his wife's fidelity, and
blindly suspecting Mr. Bashwood of serving her in the capacity
of go-between. In sheer horror of his own morbid fancy, he
determined to take down the number of the house, and the name
of the street in which it stood; and then, in justice to his
wife, to return at once to the address which she had given him
as the address at which her mother lived. He had taken out his
pocket-book, and was on his way to the corner of the street,
when he observed the man who had driven Mr. Bashwood looking
at him with an expression of inquisitive surprise. The idea
of questioning the cab-driver, while he had the opportunity,
instantly occurred to him. He took a half-crown from his pocket
and put it into the man's ready hand.
"Has the gentleman whom you drove from the station gone into
that house?" he asked.
"Did you hear him inquire for anybody when the door was opened?"
"He asked for a lady, sir. Mrs.--" The man hesitated. "It wasn't
a common name, sir; I should know it again if I heard it."
"Was it 'Midwinter'?"
"That's it, sir. Mrs. Armadale."
"Are you sure it was 'Mrs.' and not 'Mr.'?"
"I'm as sure as a man can be who hasn't taken any particular
The doubt implied in that last answer decided Midwinter to
investigate the matter on the spot. He ascended the house steps.
As he raised his hand to the bell at the side of the door, the
violence of his agitation mastered him physically for the moment.
A strange sensation, as of something leaping up from his heart
to his brain, turned his head wildly giddy. He held by the house
railings and kept his face to the air, and resolutely waited till
he was steady again. Then he rang the bell.
"Is?"--he tried to ask for "Mrs. Armadale," when the maid-servant
had opened the door, but not even his resolution could force
the name to pass his lips--"is your mistress at home?" he asked.
The girl showed him into a back parlor, and presented him to
a little old lady, with an obliging manner and a bright pair
"There is some mistake," said Midwinter. "I wished to see--"
Once more he tried to utter the name, and once more he failed
to force it to his lips.
"Mrs. Armadale?" suggested the little old lady, with a smile.
"Show the gentleman upstairs, Jenny."
The girl led the way to the drawing-room floor.
"Any name, sir?"
Mr. Bashwood had barely completed his report of what had happened
at the terminus; Mr. Bashwood's imperious mistress was still
sitting speechless under the shock of the discovery that had
burst on her--when the door of the room opened; and, without
a word of warning to proceed him, Midwinter appeared on the
threshold. He took one step into the room, and mechanically
pushed the door to behind him. He stood in dead silence, and
confronted his wife, with a scrutiny that was terrible in its
unnatural self-possession, and that enveloped her steadily in
one comprehensive look from head to foot.
In dead silence on her side, she rose from her chair, In dead
silence she stood erect on the hearth-rug, and faced her husband
in widow's weeds. He took one step nearer to her, and stopped
again. He lifted his hand, and pointed with his lean brown finger
at her dress.
"What does that mean?" he asked, without losing his terrible
self-possession, and without moving his outstretched hand.
At the sound of his voice, the quick rise and fall of her
bosom--which had been the one outward betrayal thus far of
the inner agony that tortured her--suddenly stopped. She stood
impenetrably silent, breathlessly still--as if his question had
struck her dead, and his pointing hand had petrified her.
He advanced one step nearer, and reiterated his words in a voice
even lower and quieter than the voice in which he had spoken
One moment more of silence, one moment more of inaction, might
have been the salvation of her. But the fatal force of her
character triumphed at the crisis of her destiny, and his. White
and still, and haggard and old, she met the dreadful emergency
with a dreadful courage, and spoke the irrevocable words which
renounced him to his face.
"Mr. Midwinter," she said, in tones unnaturally hard and
unnaturally clear, "our acquaintance hardly entitles you to speak
to me in that manner." Those were her words. She never lifted
her eyes from the ground while she spoke them. When she had done,
the last faint vestige of color in her cheeks faded out.
There was a pause. Still steadily looking at her, he set himself
to fix the language she had used to him in his mind. "She calls
me 'Mr. Midwinter,'" he said, slowly, in a whisper. "She speaks
of 'our acquaintance.'" He waited a little and looked round the
room. His wandering eyes encountered Mr. Bashwood for the first
time. He saw the steward standing near the fireplace, trembling,
and watching him.
"I once did you a service," he said; "and you once told me you
were not an ungrateful man. Are you grateful enough to answer me
if I ask you something?"
He waited a little again. Mr. Bashwood still stood trembling
at the fireplace, silently watching him.
"I see you looking at me," he went on. "Is there some change in
me that I am not conscious of myself? Am I seeing things that you
don't see? Am I hearing words that you don't hear? Am I looking
or speaking like a man out of his senses?"
Again he waited, and again the silence was unbroken. His eyes
began to glitter; and the savage blood that he had inherited
from his mother rose dark and slow in his ashy cheeks.
"Is that woman," he asked, "the woman whom you once knew,
whose name was Miss Gwilt?"
Once more his wife collected her fatal courage. Once more
his wife spoke her fatal words.
"You compel me to repeat," she said, "that you are presuming
on our acquaintance, and that you are forgetting what is due
He turned upon her, with a savage suddenness which forced a cry
of alarm from Mr. Bashwood's lips.
"Are you, or are you not, My Wife?" he asked, through his set
She raised her eyes to his for the first time. Her lost spirit
looked at him, steadily defiant, out of the hell of its own
"I am _not_ your wife," she said.
He staggered back, with his hands groping for something to hold
by, like the hands of a man in the dark. He leaned heavily
against the wall of the room, and looked at the woman who had
slept on his bosom, and who had denied him to his face.
Mr. Bashwood stole panic-stricken to her side. "Go in there!" he
whispered, trying to draw her toward the folding-doors which led
into the next room. "For God's sake, be quick! He'll kill you!"
She put the old man back with her hand. She looked at him with
a sudden irradiation of her blank face. She answered him with
lips that struggled slowly into a frightful smile.
"_Let_ him kill me," she said.
As the words passed her lips, he sprang forward from the wall,
with a cry that rang through the house. The frenzy of a maddened
man flashed at her from his glassy eyes, and clutched at her in
his threatening hands. He came on till he was within arms-length
of her--and suddenly stood still. The black flush died out
of his face in the instant when he stopped. His eyelids fell,
his outstretched hands wavered and sank helpless. He dropped,
as the dead drop. He lay as the dead lie, in the arms of the wife
who had denied him.
She knelt on the floor, and rested his head on her knee. She
caught the arm of the steward hurrying to help her, with a hand
that closed round it like a vise. "Go for a doctor," she said,
"and keep the people of the house away till he comes." There was
that in her eye, there was that in her voice, which would have
warned any man living to obey her in silence. In silence Mr.
Bashwood submitted, and hurried out of the room.
The instant she was alone she raised him from her knee. With both
arms clasped round him, the miserable woman lifted his lifeless
face to hers and rocked him on her bosom in an agony of
tenderness beyond all relief in tears, in a passion of remorse
beyond all expression in words. In silence she held him to her
breast, in silence she devoured his forehead, his cheeks,
his lips, with kisses. Not a sound escaped her till she heard
the trampling footsteps outside, hurrying up the stairs. Then
a low moan burst from her lips, as she looked her last at him,
and lowered his head again to her knee, before the strangers
The landlady and the steward were the first persons whom she saw
when the door was opened. The medical man (a surgeon living in
the street) followed. The horror and the beauty of her face as
she looked up at him absorbed the surgeon's attention for the
moment, to the exclusion of everything else. She had to beckon
to him, she had to point to the senseless man, before she could
claim his attention for his patient and divert it from herself.
"Is he dead?" she asked.
The surgeon carried Midwinter to the sofa, and ordered
the windows to be opened. "It is a fainting fit," he said;
At that answer her strength failed her for the first time. She
drew a deep breath of relief, and leaned on the chimney-piece
for support. Mr. Bashwood was the only person present who noticed
that she was overcome. He led her to the opposite end of the
room, where there was an easy-chair, leaving the landlady to hand
the restoratives to the surgeon as they were wanted.
"Are you going to wait here till he recovers?" whispered the
steward, looking toward the sofa, and trembling as he looked.
The question forced her to a sense of her position--to a
knowledge of the merciless necessities which that position now
forced her to confront. With a heavy sigh she looked toward
the sofa, considered with herself for a moment, and answered Mr.
Bashwood's inquiry by a question on her side.
"Is the cab that brought you here from the railway still at
"Drive at once to the gates of the Sanitarium, and wait there
till I join you."
Mr. Bashwood hesitated. She lifted her eyes to his, and, with
a look, sent him out of the room.
"The gentleman is coming to, ma'am," said the landlady, as
the steward closed the door. "He has just breathed again."
She bowed in mute reply, rose, and considered with herself once
more--looked toward the sofa for the second time--then passed
through the folding-doors into her own room.
After a short lapse of time the surgeon drew back from the sofa
and motioned to the landlady to stand aside. The bodily recovery
of the patient was assured. There was nothing to be done now but
to wait, and let his mind slowly recall its sense of what had
"Where is she?" were the first words he said to the surgeon,
and the landlady anxiously watching him.
The landlady knocked at the folding-doors, and received no
answer. She went in, and found the room empty. A sheet of
note-paper was on the dressing-table, with the doctor's fee
placed on it. The paper contained these lines, evidently written
in great agitation or in great haste: "It is impossible for me
to remain here to-night, after what has happened. I will return
to-morrow to take away my luggage, and to pay what I owe you."
"Where is she?" Midwinter asked again, when the landlady returned
alone to the drawing-room.
"I don't believe it!"
The old lady's color rose. "If you know her handwriting, sir,"
she answered, handing him the sheet of note-paper, "perhaps you
may believe _that_?"
He looked at the paper. "I beg your pardon, ma'am," he said,
as he handed it back--"I beg your pardon, with all my heart."
There was something in his face as he spoke those words which
more than soothed the old lady's irritation: it touched her
with a sudden pity for the man who had offended her. "I am afraid
there is some dreadful trouble, sir, at the bottom of all this,"
she said, simply. "Do you wish me to give any message to the lady
when she comes back?"
Midwinter rose and steadied himself for a moment against
the sofa. "I will bring my own message to-morrow," he said.
"I must see her before she leaves your house."
The surgeon accompanied his patient into the street. "Can I see
you home?" he said, kindly. "You had better not walk, if it is
far. You mustn't overexert yourself; you mustn't catch a chill
this cold night."
Midwinter took his hand and thanked him. "I have been used to
hard walking and cold nights, sir," he said; "and I am not easily
worn out, even when I look so broken as I do now. If you will
tell me the nearest way out of these streets, I think the quiet
of the country and the quiet of the night will help me. I have
something serious to do to-morrow," he added, in a lower tone;
"and I can't rest or sleep till I have thought over it to-night."
The surgeon understood that he had no common man to deal with.
He gave the necessary directions without any further remark,
and parted with his patient at his own door.
Left by himself, Midwinter paused, and looked up at the heavens
in silence. The night had cleared, and the stars were out--the
stars which he had first learned to know from his gypsy master on
the hillside. For the first time his mind went back regretfully
to his boyish days. "Oh, for the old life!" he thought,
longingly. "I never knew till now how happy the old life was!"
He roused himself, and went on toward the open country. His face
darkened as he left the streets behind him and advanced into the
solitude and obscurity that lay beyond.
"She has denied her husband to-night," he said. "She shall know
her master to-morrow."
THE PURPLE FLASK.
The cab was waiting at the gates as Miss Gwilt approached the
Sanitarium. Mr. Bashwood got out and advanced to meet her. She
took his arm and led him aside a few steps, out of the cabman's
"Think what you like of me," she said, keeping her thick black
veil down over her face, "but don't speak to me to-night. Drive
back to your hotel as if nothing had happened. Meet the tidal
train to-morrow as usual, and come to me afterward at the
Sanitarium. Go without a word, and I shall believe there is one
man in the world who really loves me. Stay and ask questions,
and I shall bid you good-by at once and forever!"
She pointed to the cab. In a minute more it had left the
Sanitarium and was taking Mr. Bashwood back to his hotel.
She opened the iron gate and walked slowly up to the house door.
A shudder ran through her as she rang the bell. She laughed
bitterly. "Shivering again!" she said to herself. "Who would
have thought I had so much feeling left in me?"
For once in her life the doctor's face told the truth, when
the study door opened between ten and eleven at night, and
Miss Gwilt entered the room.
"Mercy on me!" he exclaimed, with a look of the blankest
bewilderment. "What does this mean?"
"It means," she answered, "that I have decided to-night instead
of deciding to-morrow. You, who know women so well, ought to know
that they act on impulse. I am here on an impulse. Take me or
leave me, just as you like."
"Take you or leave you?" repeated the doctor, recovering his
presence of mind. "My dear lady, what a dreadful way of putting
it! Your room shall be got ready instantly! Where is your
luggage? Will you let me send for it? No? You can do without your
luggage tonight? What admirable fortitude! You will fetch it
yourself to-morrow? What extraordinary independence! Do take off
your bonnet. Do draw in to the fire! What can I offer you?"
"Offer me the strongest sleeping draught you ever made in your
life," she replied. "And leave me alone till the time comes
to take it. I shall be your patient in earnest!" she added,
fiercely, as the doctor attempted to remonstrate. "I shall be
the maddest of the mad if you irritate me to-night!"
The Principal of the Sanitarium became gravely and briefly
professional in an instant.
"Sit down in that dark corner," he said. "Not a soul shall
disturb you. In half an hour you will find your room ready,
and your sleeping draught on the table."--"It's been a harder
struggle for her than I anticipated," he thought, as he left
the room, and crossed to his Dispensary on the opposite side of
the hall. "Good heavens, what business has she with a conscience,
after such a life as hers has been!"
The Dispensary was elaborately fitted up with all the latest
improvements in medical furniture. But one of the four walls of
the room was unoccupied by shelves, and here the vacant space was
filled by a handsome antique cabinet of carved wood, curiously
out of harmony, as an object, with the unornamented utilitarian
aspect of the place generally. On either side of the cabinet two
speaking-tubes were inserted in the wall, communicating with the
upper regions of the house, and labeled respectively "Resident
Dispenser" and "Head Nurse." Into the second of these tubes the
doctor spoke, on entering the room. An elderly woman appeared,
took her orders for preparing Mrs. Armadale's bed-chamber,
courtesied, and retired.
Left alone again in the Dispensary, the doctor unlocked the
center compartment of the cabinet, and disclosed a collection of
bottles inside, containing the various poisons used in medicine.
After taking out the laudanum wanted for the sleeping draught,
and placing it on the dispensary table, he went back to the
cabinet, looked into it for a little while, shook his head
doubtfully, and crossed to the open shelves on the opposite side
of the room.
Here, after more consideration, he took down one out of the row
of large chemical bottles before him, filled with a yellow
liquid; placing the bottle on the table, he returned to the
cabinet, and opened a side compartment, containing some specimens
of Bohemian glass-work. After measuring it with his eye, he took
from the specimens a handsome purple flask, high and narrow
in form, and closed by a glass stopper. This he filled with
the yellow liquid, leaving a small quantity only at the bottom
of the bottle, and locking up the flask again in the place from
which he had taken it. The bottle was next restored to its place,
after having been filled up with water from the cistern in
the Dispensary, mixed with certain chemical liquids in small
quantities, which restored it (so far as appearances went)
to the condition in which it had been when it was first removed
from the shelf. Having completed these mysterious proceedings,
the doctor laughed softly, and went back to his speaking-tubes
to summon the Resident Dispenser next.
The Resident Dispenser made his appearance shrouded in the
necessary white apron from his waist to his feet. The doctor
solemnly wrote a prescription for a composing draught, and
handed it to his assistant.
"Wanted immediately, Benjamin," he said in a soft and melancholy
voice. "A lady patient--Mrs. Armadale, Room No. 1, second floor.
Ah, dear, dear!" groaned the doctor, absently; "an anxious case,
Benjamin--an anxious case." He opened the brand-new ledger of the
establishment, and entered the Case at full length, with a brief
abstract of the prescription. "Have you done with the laudanum?
Put it back, and lock the cabinet, and give me the key. Is the
draught ready? Label it, 'To be taken at bedtime,' and give it
to the nurse, Benjamin--give it to the nurse."
While the doctor's lips were issuing these directions, the
doctor's hands were occupied in opening a drawer under the desk
on which the ledger was placed. He took out some gayly printed
cards of admission "to view the Sanitarium, between the hours of
two and four P.M.," and filled them up with the date of the next
day, "December 10th." When a dozen of the cards had been wrapped
up in a dozen lithographed letters of invitation, and inclosed
in a dozen envelopes, he next consulted a list of the families
resident in the neighborhood, and directed the envelopes from
the list. Ringing a bell this time, instead of speaking through
a tube, he summoned the man-servant, and gave him the letters, to
be delivered by hand the first thing the next morning. "I think
it will do," said the doctor, taking a turn in the Dispensary
when the servant had gone out--"I think it will do." While he was
still absorbed in his own reflections, the nurse re-appeared to
announce that the lady's room was ready; and the doctor thereupon
formally returned to the study to communicate the information
to Miss Gwilt.
She had not moved since he left her. She rose from her dark
corner when he made his announcement, and, without speaking
or raising her veil, glided out of the room like a ghost.
After a brief interval, the nurse came downstairs again, with
a word for her master's private ear.
"The lady has ordered me to call her to-morrow at seven o'clock,
sir," she said. "She means to fetch her luggage herself, and she
wants to have a cab at the door as soon as she is dressed. What
am I to do?"
"Do what the lady tells you," said the doctor. "She may be safely
trusted to return to the Sanitarium."
The breakfast hour at the Sanitarium was half-past eight o'clock.
By that time Miss Gwilt had settled everything at her lodgings,
and had returned with her luggage in her own possession. The
doctor was quite amazed at the promptitude of his patient.
"Why waste so much energy?" he asked, when they met at
the breakfast-table. "Why be in such a hurry, my dear lady,
when you had all the morning before you?"
"Mere restlessness!" she said, briefly. "The longer I live,
the more impatient I get."
The doctor, who had noticed before she spoke that her face looked
strangely pale and old that morning, observed, when she answered
him, that her expression--naturally mobile in no ordinary
degree--remained quite unaltered by the effort of speaking. There
was none of the usual animation on her lips, none of the usual
temper in her eyes. He had never seen her so impenetrably and
coldly composed as he saw her now. "She has made up her mind at
last," he thought. "I may say to her this morning what I couldn't
say to her last night."
He prefaced the coming remarks by a warning look at her widow's
"Now you have got your luggage," he began, gravely, "permit me
to suggest putting that cap away, and wearing another gown."
"Do you remember what you told me a day or two since?" asked
the doctor. "You said there was a chance of Mr. Armadale's dying
in my Sanitarium?"
"I will say it again, if you like."
"A more unlikely chance," pursued the doctor, deaf as ever to all
awkward interruptions, "it is hardly possible to imagine! But as
long as it is a chance at all, it is worth considering. Say,
then, that he dies--dies suddenly and unexpectedly, and makes a
Coroner's Inquest necessary in the house. What is our course in
that case? Our course is to preserve the characters to which we
have committed ourselves--you as his widow, and I as the witness
of your marriage--and, _in_ those characters, to court the
fullest inquiry. In the entirely improbable event of his dying
just when we want him to die, my idea--I might even say, my
resolution--is to admit that we knew of his resurrection from the
sea; and to acknowledge that we instructed Mr. Bashwood to entrap
him into this house, by means of a false statement about Miss
Milroy. When the inevitable questions follow, I propose to assert
that he exhibited symptoms of mental alienation shortly after
your marriage; that his delusion consisted in denying that you
were his wife, and in declaring that he was engaged to be married
to Miss Milroy; that you were in such terror of him on this
account, when you heard he was alive and coming back, as to be
in a state of nervous agitation that required my care; that at
your request, and to calm that nervous agitation, I saw him
professionally, and got him quietly into the house by a humoring
of his delusion, perfectly justifiable in such a case; and,
lastly, that I can certify his brain to have been affected by
one of those mysterious disorders, eminently incurable, eminently
fatal, in relation to which medical science is still in the dark.
Such a course as this (in the remotely possible event which we
are now supposing) would be, in your interests and mine,
unquestionably the right course to take; and such a dress as
_that_ is, just as certainly, under existing circumstances,
the wrong dress to wear."
"Shall I take it off at once?" she asked, rising from the
breakfast-table, without a word of remark on what had just
been said to her.
"Anytime before two o'clock to-day will do," said the doctor.
She looked at him with a languid curiosity--nothing more.
"Why before two?" she inquired.
"Because this is one of my 'Visitors' Days,' And the visitors'
time is from two to four."
"What have I to do with your visitors?"
"Simply this. I think it important that perfectly respectable and
perfectly disinterested witnesses should see you, in my house,
in the character of a lady who has come to consult me."
"Your motive seems rather far-fetched, Is it the only motive
you have in the matter?"
"My dear, dear lady!" remonstrated the doctor, "have I any
concealments from _you_? Surely, you ought to know me better
"Yes," she said, with a we ary contempt. "It's dull enough of me
not to understand you by this time. Send word upstairs when I am
wanted." She left him, and went back to her room.
Two o'clock came; and in a quarter of an hour afterward the
visitors had arrived. Short as the notice had been, cheerless as
the Sanitarium looked to spectators from without, the doctor's
invitation had been largely accepted, nevertheless, by the female
members of the families whom he had addressed. In the miserable
monotony of the lives led by a large section of the middle
classes of England, anything is welcome to the women which offers
them any sort of harmless refuge from the established tyranny of
the principle that all human happiness begins and ends at home.
While the imperious needs of a commercial country limited the
representatives of the male sex, among the doctor's visitors,
to one feeble old man and one sleepy little boy, the women, poor
souls, to the number of no less than sixteen--old and young,
married and single--had seized the golden opportunity of a plunge
into public life. Harmoniously united by the two common objects
which they all had in view--in the first place, to look at each
other, and, in the second place, to look at the Sanitarium--they
streamed in neatly dressed procession through the doctor's dreary
iron gates, with a thin varnish over them of assumed superiority
to all unladylike excitement, most significant and most pitiable
The proprietor of the Sanitarium received his visitors in the
hall with Miss Gwilt on his arm. The hungry eyes of every woman
in the company overlooked the doctor as if no such person had
existed; and, fixing on the strange lady, devoured her from head
to foot in an instant.
"My First Inmate," said the doctor, presenting Miss Gwilt. "This
lady only arrived late last night; and she takes the present
opportunity (the only one my morning's engagements have allowed
me to give her) of going over the Sanitarium.--Allow me, ma'am,"
he went on, releasing Miss Gwilt, and giving his arm to the
eldest lady among the visitors. "Shattered nerves--domestic
anxiety," he whispered, confidentially. "Sweet woman! sad case!"
He sighed softly, and led the old lady across the hall.
The flock of visitors followed, Miss Gwilt accompanying them in
silence, and walking alone--among them, but not of them--the last
"The grounds, ladies and gentlemen," said the doctor, wheeling
round, and addressing his audience from the foot of the stairs,
"are, as you have seen, in a partially unfinished condition.
Under any circumstances, I should lay little stress on the
grounds, having Hampstead Heath so near at hand, and carriage
exercise and horse exercise being parts of my System. In a lesser
degree, it is also necessary for me to ask your indulgence for
the basement floor, on which we now stand. The waiting-room and
study on that side, and the Dispensary on the other (to which I
shall presently ask your attention), are completed. But the large
drawing-room is still in the decorator's hands. In that room
(when the walls are dry--not a moment before) my inmates will
assemble for cheerful society. Nothing will be spared that
can improve, elevate, and adorn life at these happy little
gatherings. Every evening, for example, there will be music
for those who like it."
At this point there was a faint stir among the visitors. A mother
of a family interrupted the doctor. She begged to know whether
music "every evening" included Sunday evening; and, if so, what
music was performed?
"Sacred music, of course, ma'am," said the doctor. "Handel on
Sunday evening--and Haydn occasionally, when not too cheerful.
But, as I was about to say, music is not the only entertainment
offered to my nervous inmates. Amusing reading is provided for
those who prefer books."
There was another stir among the visitors. Another mother of
a family wished to know whether amusing reading meant novels.
"Only such novels as I have selected and perused myself, in
the first instance," said the doctor. "Nothing painful, ma'am!
There may be plenty that is painful in real life; but for that
very reason, we don't want it in books. The English novelist
who enters my house (no foreign novelist will be admitted)
must understand his art as the healthy-minded English reader
understands it in our time. He must know that our purer modern
taste, our higher modern morality, limits him to doing exactly
two things for us, when he writes us a book. All we want of him
is--occasionally to make us laugh; and invariably to make us
There was a third stir among the visitors--caused plainly this
time by approval of the sentiments which they had just heard. The
doctor, wisely cautious of disturbing the favorable impression
that he had produced, dropped the subject of the drawing-room,
and led the way upstairs. As before, the company followed; and,
as before, Miss Gwilt walked silently behind them, last of all.
One after another the ladies looked at her with the idea of
speaking, and saw something in her face, utterly unintelligible
to them, which checked the well-meant words on their lips. The
prevalent impression was that the Principal of the Sanitarium had
been delicately concealing the truth, and that his first inmate
The doctor led the way--with intervals of breathing-time accorded
to the old lady on his arm--straight to the top of the house.
Having collected his visitors in the corridor, and having waved
his hand indicatively at the numbered doors opening out of it
on either side, he invited the company to look into any or all
of the rooms at their own pleasure.
"Numbers one to four, ladies and gentlemen," said the doctor,
"include the dormitories of the attendants. Numbers four to eight
are rooms intended for the accommodation of the poorer class
of patients, whom I receive on terms which simply cover my
expenditure--nothing more. In the cases of these poorer persons
among my suffering fellow creatures, personal piety and the
recommendation of two clergymen are indispensable to admission.
Those are the only conditions I make; but those I insist on. Pray
observe that the rooms are all ventilated, and the bedsteads all
iron and kindly notice, as we descend again to the second floor,
that there is a door shutting off all communication between the
second story and the top story when necessary. The rooms on the
second floor, which we have now reached, are (with the exception
of my own room) entirely devoted to the reception of
lady-inmates--experience having convinced me that the greater
sensitiveness of the female constitution necessitates the higher
position of the sleeping apartment, with a view to the greater
purity and freer circulation of the air. Here the ladies
are established immediately under my care, while my assistant-
physician (whom I expect to arrive in a week's time) looks after
the gentlemen on the floor beneath. Observe, again, as we descend
to this lower, or first floor, a second door, closing all
communication at night between the two stories to every one but
the assistant physician and myself. And now that we have reached
the gentleman's part of the house, and that you have observed
for yourselves the regulations of the establishment, permit me
to introduce you to a specimen of my system of treatment next.
I can exemplify it practically, by introducing you to a room
fitted up, under my own direction, for the accommodation of
the most complicated cases of nervous suffering and nervous
delusion that can come under my care."
He threw open the door of a room at one extremity of the
corridor, numbered Four. "Look in, ladies and gentlemen," he
said; "and, if you see anything remarkable, pray mention it."
The room was not very large, but it was well lit by one broad
window. Comfortably furnished as a bedroom, it was only
remarkable among other rooms of the same sort in one way. It had
no fireplace. The visitors having noticed this, were informed
that the room was warmed in winter by means of hot water; and
were then invited back again into the corridor, to make the
discoveries, under professional direction, which they were unable
to make for themselves.
"A word, ladies and gentlemen," said the doctor; "literally
a word, on nervous derangement first. What is the process of
treatment, when, let us say, mental anxiety has broken you down,
and you apply to your doctor? He sees you, hears you, and gives
you two prescriptions. One is written on paper, and made up at
the chemist's. The other is administered by word of mouth, at
the propitious moment when the fee is ready; and consists in
a general recommendation to you to keep your mind easy. That
excellent advice given, your doctor leaves you to spare yourself
all earthly annoyances by your own unaided efforts, until he
calls again. Here my System steps in and helps you! When _I_
see the necessity of keeping your mind easy, I take the bull by
the horns and do it for you. I place you in a sphere of action
in which the ten thousand trifles which must, and do, irritate
nervous people at home are expressly considered and provided
against. I throw up impregnable moral intrenchments between Worry
and You. Find a door banging in _this_ house, if you can! Catch
a servant in _this_ house rattling the tea-things when he takes
away the tray! Discover barking dogs, crowing cocks, hammering
workmen, screeching children _here_--and I engage to close
My Sanitarium to-morrow! Are these nuisances laughing matters
to nervous people? Ask them! Can they escape these nuisances at
home? Ask them! Will ten minutes' irritation from a barking dog
or a screeching child undo every atom of good done to a nervous
sufferer by a month's medical treatment? There isn't a competent
doctor in England who will venture to deny it! On those plain
grounds my System is based. I assert the medical treatment
of nervous suffering to be entirely subsidiary to the moral
treatment of it. That moral treatment of it you find here. That
moral treatment, sedulously pursued throughout the day, follows
the sufferer into his room at night; and soothes, helps and cures
him, without his own knowledge--you shall see how."
The doctor paused to take breath and looked, for the first time
since the visitors had entered the house, at Miss Gwilt. For the
first time, on her side, she stepped forward among the audience,
and looked at him in return. After a momentary obstruction in
the shape of a cough, the doctor went on.
"Say, ladies and gentlemen," he proceeded, "that my patient
has just come in. His mind is one mass of nervous fancies and
caprices, which his friends (with the best possible intentions)
have been ignorantly irritating at home. They have been afraid
of him, for instance, at night. They have forced him to have
somebody to sleep in the room with him, or they have forbidden
him, in case of accidents, to lock his door. He comes to me
the first night, and says: 'Mind, I won't have anybody in my
room!'--'Certainly not!'--'I insist on locking my door.'--'By all
means!' In he goes, and locks his door; and there he is, soothed
and quieted, predisposed to confidence, predisposed to sleep,
by having his own way. 'This is all very well,' you may say; 'but
suppose something happens, suppose he has a fit in the night,
what then?' You shall see! Hallo, my young friend!" cried the
doctor, suddenly addressing the sleepy little boy. "Let's have
a game. You shall be the poor sick man, and I'll be the good
doctor. Go into that room and lock the door. There's a brave boy!
Have you locked it? Very good! Do you think I can't get at you
if I like? I wait till you're asleep--I press this little white
button, hidden here in the stencilled pattern of the outer
wall--the mortise of the lock inside falls back silently against
the door-post--and I walk into the room whenever I like. The same
plan is pursued with the window. My capricious patient won't open
it at night, when he ought. I humor him again. 'Shut it, dear
sir, by all means!' As soon as he is asleep, I pull the black
handle hidden here, in the corner of the wall. The window of
the room inside noiselessly opens, as you see. Say the patient's
caprice is the other way--he persists in opening the window when
he ought to shut it. Let him! by all means, let him! I pull
a second handle when he is snug in his bed, and the window
noiselessly closes in a moment. Nothing to irritate him,
ladies and gentlemen--absolutely nothing to irritate him! But
I haven't done with him yet. Epidemic disease, in spite of all
my precautions, may enter this Sanitarium, and may render the
purifying of the sick-room necessary. Or the patient's case may
be complicated by other than nervous malady--say, for instance,
asthmatic difficulty of breathing. In the one case, fumigation is
necessary; in the other, additional oxygen in the air will give
relief. The epidemic nervous patient says, 'I won't be smoked
under my own nose!' The asthmatic nervous patient gasps with
terror at the idea of a chemical explosion in his room. I
noiselessly fumigate one of them; I noiselessly oxygenize the
other, by means of a simple Apparatus fixed outside in the corner
here. It is protected by this wooden casing; it is locked with my
own key; and it communicates by means of a tube with the interior
of the room. Look at it!"
With a preliminary glance at Miss Gwilt, the doctor unlocked
the lid of the wooden casing, and disclosed inside nothing more
remarkable than a large stone jar, having a glass funnel, and
a pipe communicating with the wall, inserted in the cork which
closed the mouth of it. With another look at Miss Gwilt, the
doctor locked the lid again, and asked, in the blandest manner,
whether his System was intelligible now?
"I might introduce you to all sorts of other contrivances of the
same kind," he resumed, leading the way downstairs; "but it would
be only the same thing over and over again. A nervous patient who
always has his own way is a nervous patient who is never worried;
and a nervous patient who is never worried is a nervous patient
cured. There it is in a nutshell! Come and see the Dispensary,
ladies; the Dispensary and the kitchen next!"
Once more, Miss Gwilt dropped behind the visitors, and waited
alone--looking steadfastly at the Room which the doctor had
opened, and at the apparatus which the doctor had unlocked.
Again, without a word passing between them, she had understood
him. She knew, as well as if he had confessed it, that he was
craftily putting the necessary temptation in her way, before
witnesses who could speak to the superficially innocent acts
which they had seen, if anything serious happened. The apparatus,
originally constructed to serve the purpose of the doctor's
medical crotchets, was evidently to be put to some other use,
of which the doctor himself had probably never dreamed till now.
And the chances were that, before the day was over, that other
use would be privately revealed to her at the right moment, in
the presence of the right witness. "Armadale will die this time,"
she said to herself, as she went slowly down the stairs.
"The doctor will kill him, by my hands."
The visitors were in the Dispensary when she joined them. All
the ladies were admiring the beauty of the antique cabinet;
and, as a necessary consequence, all the ladies were desirous of
seeing what was inside. The doctor--after a preliminary look at
Miss Gwilt--good-humoredly shook his head. "There is nothing to
interest you inside," he said. "Nothing but rows of little shabby
bottles containing the poisons used in medicine which I keep
under lock and key. Come to the kitchen, ladies, and honor me
with your advice on domestic matters below stairs." He glanced
again at Miss Gwilt as the company crossed the hall, with a look
which said plainly, "Wait here."
In another quarter of an hour the doctor had expounded his views
on cookery and diet, and the visitors (duly furnished with
prospectuses) were taking leave of him at the door. "Quite an
intellectual treat!" they said to each other, as they streamed
out again in neatly dressed procession through the iron gates.
"And what a very superior man!"
The doctor turned back to the Dispensary, humming absently to
himself, and failing entirely to observe the corner of the hall
in which Miss Gwilt stood retired. After an instant's hesitation,
she followed him. The assistant was in the room when she entered
it--summoned by his employer the moment before.
"Doctor," she said, coldly and mechanically, as if she was
repeating a lesson, "I am as curious as the other ladies about
that pretty cabinet of yours. Now they are all gone, won't you
show the inside of it to _me_?"
The doctor laughed in his pleasantest manner.
"The old story," he said. "Blue-Beard's locked chamber, and
female curiosity! (Don't go, Benjamin, don't go.) My dear lady,
what interest can you possibly have in looking at a medical
bottle, simply because it happens to be a bottle of poison?"
She repeated her lesson for the second time.
"I have the interest of looking at it," she said, "and of
thinking, if it got into some people's hands, of the terrible
things it might do."
The doctor glanced at his assistant with a compassionate smile.
"Curious, Benjamin," he said, "the romantic view taken of these
drugs of ours by the unscientific mind! My dear lady," he added,
turning to Miss Gwilt, "if _that_ is the interest you attach to
looking at poisons, you needn't ask me to unlock my cabinet--you
need only look about you round the shelves of this room. There
are all sorts of medical liquids and substances in those bottles
--most innocent, most useful in themselves--which, in combination
with other substances and other liquids, become poisons as
terrible and as deadly as any that I have in my cabinet under
lock and key."
She looked at him for a moment, and creased to the opposite side
of the room.
"Show me one," she said,
Still smiling as good-humoredly as ever, the doctor humored
his nervous patient. He pointed to the bottle from which he
had privately removed the yellow liquid on the previous day,
and which he had filled up again with a carefully-colored
imitation in the shape of a mixture of his own.
"Do you see that bottle," he said--"that plump, round,
comfortable-looking bottle? Never mind the name of what is beside
it; let us stick to the bottle, and distinguish it, if you like,
by giving it a name of our own. Suppose we call it 'our Stout
Friend'? Very good. Our Stout Friend, by himself, is a most
harmless and useful medicine. He is freely dispensed every day
to tens of thousands of patients all over the civilized world.
He has made no romantic appearances in courts of law; he has
excited no breathless interest in novels; he has played no
terrifying part on the stage. There he is, an innocent,
inoffensive creature, who troubles nobody with the responsibility
of locking him up! _But_ bring him into contact with something
else--introduce him to the acquaintance of a certain common
mineral substance, of a universally accessible kind, broken into
fragments; provide yourself with (say) six doses of our Stout
Friend, and pour those doses consecutively on the fragments
I have mentioned, at intervals of not less than five minutes.
Quantities of little bubbles will rise at every pouring;
collect the gas in those bubbles, and convey it into a closed
chamber--and let Samson himself be in that closed chamber; our
stout Friend will kill him in half an hour! Will kill him slowly,
without his seeing anything, without his smelling anything,
without his feeling anything but sleepiness. Will kill him, and
tell the whole College of Surgeons nothing, if they examine him
after death, but that he died of apoplexy or congestion of the
lungs! What do you think of _that_, my dear lady, in the way of
mystery and romance? Is our harmless Stout Friend as interesting
_now_ as if he rejoiced in the terrible popular fame of the
Arsenic and the Strychnine which I keep locked up there? Don't
suppose I am exaggerating! Don't suppose I'm inventing a story
to put you off with, as the children say. Ask Benjamin there,"
said the doctor, appealing to his assistant, with his eyes fixed
on Miss Gwilt. "Ask Benjamin," he repeated, with the steadiest
emphasis on the next words, "if six doses from that bottle, at
intervals of five minutes each, would not, under the conditions
I have stated, produce the results I have described?"
The Resident Dispenser, modestly admiring Miss Gwilt at
a distance, started and colored up. He was plainly gratified by
the little attention which had included him in the conversation.
"The doctor is quite right, ma'am," he said, addressing Miss
Gwilt, with his best bow; "the production of the gas, extended
over half an hour, would be quite gradual enough. And," added the
Dispenser, silently appealing to his employer to let him exhibit
a little chemical knowledge on his own account, "the volume of
the gas would be sufficient at the end of the time--if I am not
mistaken, sir?--to be fatal to any person entering the room in
less than five minutes."
"Unquestionably, Benjamin," rejoined the doctor. "But I think we
have had enough of chemistry for the present," he added, turning
to Miss Gwilt. "With every desire, my dear lady, to gratify every
passing wish you may form, I venture to propose trying a more
cheerful subject. Suppose we leave the Dispensary, before it
suggests any more inquiries to that active mind of yours? No? You
want to see an experiment? You want to see how the little bubbles
are made? Well, well! there is no harm in that. We will let Mrs.
Armadale see the bubbles," continued the doctor, in the tone of
a parent humoring a spoiled child. "Try if you can find a few of
those fragments that we want, Benjamin. I dare say the workmen
(slovenly fellows!) have left something of the sort about the
house or the grounds."
The Resident Dispenser left the room.
As soon as his back was turned, the doctor began opening and
shutting drawers in various parts of the Dispensary, with the air
of a man who wants something in a hurry, and does not know where
to find it. "Bless my soul!" he exclaimed, suddenly stopping at
the drawer from which he had taken his cards of invitation on the
previous day, "what's this? A key? A duplicate key, as I'm alive,
of my fumigating apparatus upstairs! Oh dear, dear, how careless
I get," said the doctor, turning round briskly to Miss Gwilt. "I
hadn't the least idea that I possessed this second key. I should
never have missed it. I do assure you I should never have missed
it if anybody had taken it out of the drawer!" He bustled away
to the other end of the room--without closing the drawer, and
without taking away the duplicate key.
In silence, Miss Gwilt listened till he had done. In silence,
she glided to the drawer. In silence, she took the key and hid it
in her apron pocket.
The Dispenser came back, with the fragments required of him,
collected in a basin. "Thank you, Benjamin," said the doctor.
"Kindly cover them with water, while I get the bottle down."
As accidents sometimes happen in the most perfectly regulated
families, so clumsiness sometimes possesses itself of the most
perfectly disciplined hands. In the process of its transfer from
the shelf to the doctor, the bottle slipped and fell smashed to
pieces on the floor.
"Oh, my fingers and thumbs!" cried the doctor, with an air of
comic vexation, "what in the world do you mean by playing me such
a wicked trick as that? Well, well, well--it can't be helped.
Have we got any more of it, Benjamin?"
"Not a drop, sir."
"Not a drop!" echoed the doctor. "My dear madam, what excuses
can I offer you? My clumsiness has made our little experiment
impossible for to-day. Remind me to order some more to-morrow,
Benjamin, and don't think of troubling yourself to put that mess
to rights. I'll send the man here to mop it all up. Our Stout
Friend is harmless enough now, my dear lady--in combination
with a boarded floor and a coming mop! I'm so sorry; I really
am so sorry to have disappointed you." With those soothing words,
he offered his arm, and led Miss Gwilt out of the Dispensary.
"Have you done with me for the present?" she asked, when they
were in the hall.
"Oh, dear, dear, what a way of putting it!" exclaimed the doctor.
"Dinner at six," he added, with his politest emphasis, as she
turned from him in disdainful silence, and slowly mounted the
stairs to her own room.
A clock of the noiseless sort--incapable of offending irritable
nerves--was fixed in the wall, above the first-floor landing, at
the Sanitarium. At the moment when the hands pointed to a quarter
before six, the silence of the lonely upper regions was softly
broken by the rustling of Miss Gwilt's dress. She advanced along
the corridor of the first floor--paused at the covered apparatus
fixed outside the room numbered Four--listened for a moment--and
then unlocked the cover with the duplicate key.
The open lid cast a shadow over the inside of the casing. All she
saw at first was what she had seen already--the jar, and the pipe
and glass funnel inserted in the cork. She removed the funnel;
and, looking about her, observed on the window-sill close by
a wax-tipped wand used for lighting the gas. She took the wand,
and, introducing it through the aperture occupied by the funnel,
moved it to and fro in the jar. The faint splash of some liquid,
and the grating noise of certain hard substances which she was
stirring about, were the two sounds that caught her ear. She drew
out the wand, and cautiously touched the wet left on it with
the tip of her tongue. Caution was quite needless in this case.
The liquid was--water.
In putting the funnel back in its place, she noticed something
faintly shining in the obscurely lit vacant space at the side of
the jar. She drew it out, and produced a Purple Flask. The liquid
with which it was filled showed dark through the transparent
coloring of the glass; and fastened at regular intervals down one
side of the Flask were six thin strips of paper, which divided
the contents into six equal parts.
There was no doubt now that the apparatus had been secretly
prepared for her--the apparatus of which she alone (besides
the doctor) possessed the key.
She put back the Flask, and locked the cover of the casing.
For a moment she stood looking at it, with the key in her hand.
On a sudden, her lost color came back. On a sudden, its natural
animation returned, for the first time that day, to her face.
She turned and hurried breathlessly upstairs to her room on the
second floor. With eager hands she snatched her cloak out of the
wardrobe, and took her bonnet from the box. "I'm not in prison!"
she burst out, impetuously. "I've got the use of my limbs! I can
go--no matter where, as long as I am out of this house!"
With her cloak on her shoulders, with her bonnet in her hand, she
crossed the room to the door. A moment more--and she would have
been out in the passage. In that moment the remembrance flashed
back on her of the husband whom she had denied to his face. She
stopped instantly, and threw the cloak and bonnet from her on
the bed. "No!" she said; "the gulf is dug between us--the worst
There was a knock at the door. The doctor's voice outside
politely reminded her that it was six o'clock.
She opened the door, and stopped him on his way downstairs.
"What time is the train due to-night?" she asked, in a whisper.
"At ten," answered the doctor, in a voice which all the world
might hear, and welcome.
"What room is Mr. Armadale to have when he comes?"
"What room would you like him to have?"
The doctor kept up appearances to the very last.
"Number Four let it be," he said, graciously. "Provided,
of course, that Number Four is unoccupied at the time."
* * * * *
The evening wore on, and the night came.
At a few minutes before ten, Mr. Bashwood was again at his post,
once more on the watch for the coming of the tidal train.
The inspector on duty, who knew him by sight, and who had
personally ascertained that his regular attendance at the
terminus implied no designs on the purses and portmanteaus
of the passengers, noticed two new circumstances in connection
with Mr. Bashwood that night. In the first place, instead of
exhibiting his customary cheerfulness, he looked anxious and
depressed. In the second place, while he was watching for
the train, he was to all appearance being watched in his turn,
by a slim, dark, undersized man, who had left his luggage (marked
with the name of Midwinter) at the custom-house department
the evening before, and who had returned to have it examined
about half an hour since.
What had brought Midwinter to the terminus? And why was he,
too, waiting for the tidal train?
After straying as far as Hendon during his lonely walk of the
previous night, he had taken refuge at the village inn, and had
fallen asleep (from sheer exhaustion) toward those later hours
of the morning which were the hours that his wife's foresight had
turned to account. When he returned to the lodging, the landlady
could only inform him that her tenant had settled everything
with her, and had left (for what destination neither she nor
her servant could tell) more than two hours since.
Having given some little time to inquiries, the result of which
convinced him that the clew was lost so far, Midwinter had
quitted the house, and had pursued his way mechanically to the
busier and more central parts of the metropolis. With the light
now thrown on his wife's character, to call at the address she
had given him as the address at which her mother lived would be
plainly useless. He went on through the streets, resolute to
discover her, and trying vainly to see the means to his end, till
the sense of fatigue forced itself on him once more. Stopping
to rest and recruit his strength at the first hotel he came to,
a chance dispute between the waiter and a stranger about a lost
portmanteau reminded him of his own luggage, left at the
terminus, and instantly took his mind back to the circumstances
under which he and Mr. Bashwood had met. In a moment more,
the idea that he had been vainly seeking on his way through
the streets flashed on him. In a moment more, he had determined
to try the chance of finding the steward again on the watch for
the person whose arrival he had evidently expected by the
previous evening's train.
Ignorant of the report of Allan's death at sea; uninformed, at
the terrible interview with his wife, of the purpose which her
assumption of a widow's dress really had in view, Midwinter's
first vague suspicions of her fidelity had now inevitably
developed into the conviction that she was false. He could place
but one interpretation on her open disavowal of him, and on her
taking the name under which he had secretly married her. Her
conduct forced the conclusion on him that she was engaged in
some infamous intrigue; and that she had basely secured herself
beforehand in the position of all others in which she knew it
would be most odious and most repellent to him to claim his
authority over her. With that conviction he was now watching Mr.
Bashwood, firmly persuaded that his wife's hiding-place was known
to the vile servant of his wife's vices; and darkly suspecting,
as the time wore on, that the unknown man who had wronged him,
and the unknown traveler for whose arrival the steward was
waiting, were one and the same.
The train was late that night, and the carriages were more than
usually crowded when they arrived at last. Midwinter became
involved in the confusion on the platform, and in the effort
to extricate himself he lost sight of Mr. Bashwood for the first
A lapse of some few minutes had passed before he again discovered
the steward talking eagerly to a man in a loose shaggy coat,
whose back was turned toward him. Forgetful of all the cautions
and restraints which he had imposed on himself before the train
appeared, Midwinter instantly advanced on them. Mr. Bashwood saw
his threatening face as he came on, and fell back in silence.
The man in the loose coat turned to look where the steward was
looking, and disclosed to Midwinter, in the full light of the
station-lamp, Allan's face!
For the moment they both stood speechless, hand in hand, looking
at each other. Allan was the first to recover himself.
"Thank God for this!" he said, fervently. "I don't ask how you
came here: it's enough for me that you have come. Miserable news
has met me already, Midwinter. Nobody but you can comfort me, and
help me to bear it." His voice faltered over those last words,
and he said no more.
The tone in which he had spoken roused Midwinter to meet the
circumstances as they were, by appealing to the old grateful
interest in his friend which had once been the foremost interest
of his life. He mastered his personal misery for the first time
since it had fallen on him, and gently taking Allan aside, asked
what had happened.
The answer--after informing him of his friend's reported death
at sea--announced (on Mr. Bashwood's authority) that the news had
reached Miss Milroy, and that the deplorable result of the shock
thus inflicted had obliged the major to place his daughter in the
neighborhood of London, under medical care.
Before saying a word on his side, Midwinter looked distrustfully
behind him. Mr. Bashwood had followed them. Mr. Bashwood was
watching to see what they did next.
"Was he waiting your arrival here to tell you this about Miss
Milroy?" asked Midwinter, looking again from the steward to
"Yes," said Allan. "He has been kindly waiting here, night after
night, to meet me, and break the news to me."
Midwinter paused once more. The attempt to reconcile the
conclusion he had drawn from his wife's conduct with the
discovery that Allan was the man for whose arrival Mr. Bashwood
had been waiting was hopeless. The one present chance of
discovering a truer solution of the mystery was to press the
steward on the one available point in which he had laid himself
open to attack. He had positively denied on the previous evening
that he knew anything of Allan's movements, or that he had any
interest in Allan's return to England. Having detected Mr.
Bashwood in one lie told to himself. Midwinter instantly
suspected him of telling another to Allan. He seized the
opportunity of sifting the statement about Miss Milroy on
"How have you become acquainted with this sad news?" he inquired,
turning suddenly on Mr. Bashwood.
"Through the major, of course," said Allan, before the steward
"Who is the doctor who has the care of Miss Milroy?" persisted
Midwinter, still addressing Mr. Bashwood.
For the second time the steward made no reply. For the second
time, Allan answered for him.
"He is a man with a foreign name," said Allan. "He keeps a
Sanitarium near Hampstead. What did you say the place was called,
"Fairweather Vale, sir," said the steward, answering his
employer, as a matter of necessity, but answering very
The address of the Sanitarium instantly reminded Midwinter that
he had traced his wife to Fairweather Vale Villas the previous
night. He began to see light through the darkness, dimly, for
the first time. The instinct which comes with emergency, before
the slower process of reason can assert itself, brought him at a
leap to the conclusion that Mr. Bashwood--who had been certainly
acting under his wife's influence the previous day--might be
acting again under his wife's influence now. He persisted in
sifting the steward's statement, with the conviction growing
firmer and firmer in his mind that the statement was a lie,
and that his wife was concerned in it.
"Is the major in Norfolk?" he asked, "or is he near his daughter
"In Norfolk," said Mr. Bashwood. Having answered Allan's look
of inquiry, instead of Midwinter's spoken question, in those
words, he hesitated, looked Midwinter in the face for the first
time, and added, suddenly: "I object, if you please, to be
cross-examined, sir. I know what I have told Mr. Armadale, and
I know no more."
The words, and the voice in which they were spoken, were alike
at variance with Mr. Bashwood's usual language and Mr. Bashwood's
usual tone. There was a sullen depression in his face--there was
a furtive distrust and dislike in his eyes when they looked
at Midwinter, which Midwinter himself now noticed for the first
time. Before he could answer the steward's extraordinary
outbreak, Allan interfered.
"Don't think me impatient," he said; "but it's getting late;
it's a long way to Hampstead. I'm afraid the Sanitarium will be
Midwinter started. "You are not going to the Sanitarium
to-night!" he exclaimed.
Allan took his friend's hand and wrung it hard. "If you were
as fond of her as I am," he whispered, "you would take no rest,
you could get no sleep, till you had seen the doctor, and heard
the best and the worst he had to tell you. Poor dear little soul!
who knows, if she could only see me alive and well--" The tears
came into his eyes, and he turned away his head in silence.
Midwinter looked at the steward. "Stand back," he said. "I want
to speak to Mr. Armadale." There was something in his eye which
it was not safe to trifle with. Mr. Bashwood drew back out of
hearing, but not out of sight. Midwinter laid his hand fondly
on his friend's shoulder.
"Allan," he said, "I have reasons--" He stopped. Could the
reasons be given before he had fairly realized them himself;
at that time, too, and under those circumstances? Impossible!
"I have reasons," he resumed, "for advising you not to believe
too readily what Mr. Bashwood may say. Don't tell him this, but
take the warning."
Allan looked at his friend in astonishment. "It was you who
always liked Mr. Bashwood!" he exclaimed. "It was you who trusted
him, when he first came to the great house!"
"Perhaps I was wrong, Allan, and perhaps you were right. Will
you only wait till we can telegraph to Major Milroy and get
his answer? Will you only wait over the night?"
"I shall go mad if I wait over the night," said Allan. "You have
made me more anxious than I was before. If I am not to speak
about it to Bashwood, I must and will go to the Sanitarium,
and find out whether she is or is not there, from the doctor
Midwinter saw that it was useless. In Allan's interests there
was only one other course left to take. "Will you let me go with
you?" he asked.
Allan's face brightened for the first time. "You dear, good
fellow!" he exclaimed. "It was the very thing I was going to beg
of you myself."
Midwinter beckoned to the steward. "Mr. Armadale is going to
the Sanitarium," he said, "and I mean to accompany him. Get a cab
and come with us."
He waited, to see whether Mr. Bashwood would comply. Having been
strictly ordered, when Allan did arrive, not to lose sight of
him, and having, in his own interests, Midwinter's unexpected
appearance to explain to Miss Gwilt, the steward had no choice
but to comply. In sullen submission he did as he had been told.
The keys of Allan's baggage was given to the foreign traveling
servant whom he had brought with him, and the man was instructed
to wait his master's orders at the terminus hotel. In a minute
more the cab was on its way out of the station--with Midwinter
and Allan inside, and Mr. Bashwood by the driver on the box.
* * * * * *
Between eleven and twelve o'clock that night, Miss Gwilt,
standing alone at the window which lit the corridor of the
Sanitarium on the second floor, heard the roll of wheels coming
toward her. The sound, gathering rapidly in volume through the
silence of the lonely neighborhood, stopped at the iron gates. In
another minute she saw the cab draw up beneath her, at the house
The earlier night had been cloudy, but the sky was clearing now
and the moon was out. She opened the window to see and hear more
clearly. By the light of the moon she saw Allan get out of the
cab, and turn round to speak to some other person inside. The
answering voice told her, before he appeared in his turn, that
Armadale's companion was her husband.
The same petrifying influence that had fallen on her at the
interview with him of the previous day fell on her now. She stood
by the window, white and still, and haggard and old--as she had
stood when she first faced him in her widow's weeds.
Mr. Bashwood, stealing up alone to the second floor to make his
report, knew, the instant he set eyes on her, that the report
was needless. "It's not my fault," was all he said, as she slowly
turned her head and looked at him. "They met together, and there
was no parting them."
She drew a long breath, and motioned him to be silent. "Wait
a little," she said; "I know all about it."
Turning from him at those words, she slowly paced the corridor
to its furthest end; turned, and slowly came back to him with
frowning brow and drooping head--with all the grace and beauty
gone from her, but the inbred grace and beauty in the movement
of her limbs.
"Do you wish to speak to me?" she asked; her mind far away
from him, and her eyes looking at him vacantly as she put
He roused his courage as he had never roused it in her presence
"Don't drive me to despair!" he cried, with a startling
abruptness. "Don't look at me in that way, now I have found it
"What have you found out?" she asked, with a momentary surprise
on her face, which faded from it again before he could gather
breath enough to go on.
"Mr. Armadale is not the man who took you away from me," he
answered. "Mr. Midwinter is the man. I found it out in your face
yesterday. I see it in your face now. Why did you sign your name
'Armadale' when you wrote to me? Why do you call yourself 'Mrs.
He spoke those bold words at long intervals, with an effort to
resist her influence over him, pitiable and terrible to see.
She looked at him for the first time with softened eyes. "I wish
I had pitied you when we first met," she said, gently, "as I pity
He struggled desperately to go on and say the words to her
which he had strung himself to the pitch of saying on the drive
from the terminus. They were words which hinted darkly at his
knowledge of her past life; words which warned her--do what else
she might, commit what crimes she pleased--to think twice before
she deceived and deserted him again. In those terms he had vowed
to himself to address her. He had the phrases picked and chosen;
he had the sentences ranged and ordered in his mind; nothing
was wanting but to make the one crowning effort of speaking
them--and, even now, after all he had said and all he had dared,
the effort was more than he could compass! In helpless gratitude,
even for so little as her pity, he stood looking at her, and wept
the silent, womanish tears that fall from old men's eyes.
She took his hand and spoke to him--with marked forbearance,
but without the slightest sign of emotion on her side.
"You have waited already at my request," she said. "Wait till
to-morrow, and you will know all. If you trust nothing else that
I have told you, you may trust what I tell you now. _It will end
As she said the words, the doctor's step was heard on the stairs.
Mr. Bashwood drew back from her, with his heart beating fast in
unutterable expectation. "It will end to-night!" he repeated to
himself, under his breath, as he moved away toward the far end
of the corridor.
"Don't let me disturb you, sir," said the doctor, cheerfully,
as they met. "I have nothing to say to Mrs. Armadale but what
you or anybody may hear."
Mr. Bashwood went on, without answering, to the far end of the
corridor, still repeating to himself: "It will end to-night!" The
doctor, passing him in the opposite direction, joined Miss Gwilt.
"You have heard, no doubt," he began, in his blandest manner
and his roundest tones, "that Mr. Armadale has arrived. Permit
me to add, my dear lady, that there is not the least reason
for any nervous agitation on your part. He has been carefully
humored, and he is as quiet and manageable as his best friends
could wish. I have informed him that it is impossible to allow
him an interview with the young lady to-night; but that he may
count on seeing her (with the proper precautions) at the earliest
propitious hour, after she is awake to-morrow morning. As there
is no hotel near, and as the propitious hour may occur at
a moment's notice, it was clearly incumbent on me, under the
peculiar circumstances, to offer him the hospitality of the
Sanitarium. He has accepted it with the utmost gratitude; and
has thanked me in a most gentlemanly and touching manner for the
pains I have taken to set his mind at ease. Perfectly gratifying,
perfectly satisfactory, so far! But there has been a little
hitch--now happily got over---which I think it right to mention
to you before we all retire for the night."
Having paved the way in those words (and in Mr. Bashwood's
hearing) for the statement which he had previously announced
his intention of making, in the event of Allan's dying in the
Sanitarium, the doctor was about to proceed, when his attention
was attracted by a sound below like the trying of a door.
He instantly descended the stairs, and unlocked the door of
communication between the first and second floors, which he had
locked behind him on his way up. But the person who had tried
the door--if such a person there really had been--was too quick
for him. He looked along the corridor, and over the staircase
into the hall, and, discovering nothing, returned to Miss Gwilt,
after securing the door of communication behind him once more.
"Pardon me," he resumed, "I thought I heard something downstairs.
With regard to the little hitch that I adverted to just now,
permit me to inform you that Mr. Armadale has brought a friend
here with him, who bears the strange name of Midwinter. Do you
know the gentleman at all?" asked the doctor, with a suspicious
anxiety in his eyes, which strangely belied the elaborate
indifference of his tone.
"I know him to be an old friend of Mr. Armadale's," she said.
"Does he--?" Her voice failed her, and her eyes fell before the
doctor's steady scrutiny. She mastered the momentary weakness,
and finished her question. "Does he, too, stay here to-night?"
"Mr. Midwinter is a person of coarse manners and suspicious
temper," rejoined the doctor, steadily watching her. "He was
rude enough to insist on staying here as soon as Mr. Armadale
had accepted my invitation."
He paused to note the effect of those words on her. Left utterly
in the dark by the caution with which she had avoided mentioning
her husband's assumed name to him at their first interview,
the doctor's distrust of her was necessarily of the vaguest kind.
He had heard her voice fail her--he had seen her color change.
He suspected her of a mental reservation on the subject of
Midwinter--and of nothing more.
"Did you permit him to have his way?" she asked. "In your place,
I should have shown him the door."
The impenetrable composure of her tone warned the doctor that her
self-command was not to be further shaken that night. He resumed
the character of Mrs. Armadale's medical referee on the subject
of Mr. Armadale's mental health.
"If I had only had my own feelings to consult," he said, "I don't
disguise from you that I should (as you say) have shown Mr.
Midwinter the door. But on appealing to Mr. Armadale, I found he
was himself anxious not to be parted from his friend. Under those
circumstances, but one alternative was left--the alternative of
humoring him again. The responsibility of thwarting him--to say
nothing," added the doctor, drifting for a moment toward the
truth, "of my natural apprehension, with such a temper as his
friend's, of a scandal and disturbance in the house--was not to
be thought of for a moment. Mr. Midwinter accordingly remains
here for the night; and occupies (I ought to say, insists on
occupying) the next room to Mr. Armadale. Advise me, my dear
madam, in this emergency," concluded the doctor, with his loudest
emphasis. "What rooms shall we put them in, on the first floor?"
"Put Mr. Armadale in Number Four."
"And his friend next to him, in Number Three?" said the doctor.
"Well! well! well! perhaps they _are_ the most comfortable rooms.
I'll give my orders immediately. Don't hurry away, Mr. Bashwood,"
he called out, cheerfully, as he reached the top of the
staircase. "I have left the assistant physician's key on the
windowsill yonder, and Mrs. Armadale can let you out at the
staircase door whenever she pleases. Don't sit up late, Mrs.
Armadale! Yours is a nervous system that requires plenty of
sleep. 'Tired nature's sweet restorer, balmy sleep.' Grand line!
God bless you--good-night!"
Mr. Bashwood came back from the far end of the corridor--still
pondering, in unutterable expectation, on what was to come with
"Am I to go now?" he asked.
"No. You are to stay. I said you should know all if you waited
till the morning. Wait here."
He hesitated, and looked about him. "The doctor," he faltered.
"I thought the doctor said--"
"The doctor will interfere with nothing that I do in this house
to-night. I tell you to stay. There are empty rooms on the floor
above this. Take one of them."
Mr. Bashwood felt the trembling fit coming on him again as he
looked at her. "May I ask--?" he began.
"Ask nothing. I want you."
"Will you please to tell me--?"
"I will tell you nothing till the night is over and the morning
His curiosity conquered his fear. He persisted.
"Is it something dreadful?" he whispered. "Too dreadful to tell
She stamped her foot with a sudden outbreak of impatience.
"Go!" she said, snatching the key of the staircase door from
the window-sill. "You do quite right to distrust me--you do quite
right to follow me no further in the dark. Go before the house
is shut up. I can do without you." She led the way to the stairs,
with the key in one hand, and the candle in the other.
Mr. Bashwood followed her in silence. No one, knowing what he
knew of her earlier life, could have failed to perceive that
she was a woman driven to the last extremity, and standing
consciously on the brink of a Crime. In the first terror of
the discovery, he broke free from the hold she had on him: he
thought and acted like a man who had a will of his own again.
She put the key in the door, and turned to him before she opened
it, with the light of the candle on her face. "Forget me, and
forgive me," she said. "We meet no more."
She opened the door, and, standing inside it, after he had passed
her, gave him her hand. He had resisted her look, he had resisted
her words, but the magnetic fascination of her touch conquered
him at the final moment. "I can't leave you!" he said, holding
helplessly by the hand she had given him. "What must I do?"
"Come and see," she answered, without allowing him an instant
Closing her hand firmly on his, she led him along the first floor
corridor to the room numbered Four. "Notice that room," she
whispered. After a look over the stairs to see that they were
alone, she retraced her steps with him to the opposite extremity
of the corridor. Here, facing the window which lit the place at
the other end, was one little room, with a narrow grating in the
higher part of the door, intended for the sleeping apartment of
the doctor's deputy. From the position of this room, the grating
commanded a view of the bed-chambers down each side of the
corridor, and so enabled the deputy-physician to inform himself
of any irregular proceedings on the part of the patients under
his care, with little or no chance of being detected in watching
them. Miss Gwilt opened the door and led the way into the empty
"Wait here," she said, "while I go back upstairs; and lock
yourself in, if you like. You will be in the dark, but the gas
will be burning in the corridor. Keep at the grating, and make
sure that Mr. Armadale goes into the room I have just pointed out
to you, and that he doesn't leave it afterward. If you lose sight
of the room for a single moment before I come back, you will
repent it to the end of your life. If you do as I tell you, you
shall see me to-morrow, and claim your own reward. Quick with
your answer! Is it Yes or No?"
He could make no reply in words. He raised her hand to his lips,
and kissed it rapturously. She left him in the room. From his
place at the grating he saw her glide down the corridor to the
staircase door. She passed through it, and locked it. Then there
The next sound was the sound of the women-servants' voices. Two
of them came up to put the sheets on the beds in Number Three
and Number Four. The women were in high good-humor, laughing
and talking to each other through the open doors of the rooms.
The master's customers were coming in at last, they said, with a
vengeance; the house would soon begin to look cheerful, if things
went on like this.
After a little, the beds were got ready and the women returned
to the kitchen floor, on which the sleeping-rooms of the domestic
servants were all situated. Then there was silence again.
The next sound was the sound of the doctor's voice. He appeared
at the end of the corridor, showing Allan and Midwinter the way
to their rooms. They all went together into Number Four. After
a little, the doctor came out first. He waited till Midwinter
joined him, and pointed with a formal bow to the door of Number
Three. Midwinter entered the room without speaking, and shut
himself in. The doctor, left alone, withdrew to the staircase
door and unlocked it, then waited in the corridor, whistling
to himself softly, under his breath.
Voices pitched cautiously low became audible in a minute more
in the hall. The Resident Dispenser and the Head Nurse appeared,
on their way to the dormitories of the attendants at the top
of the house. The man bowed silently, and passed the doctor;
the woman courtesied silently, and followed the man. The doctor
acknowledged their salutations by a courteous wave of his hand;
and, once more left alone, paused a moment, still whistling
softly to himself, then walked to the door of Number Four,
and opened the case of the fumigating apparatus fixed near it
in the corner of the wall. As he lifted the lid and looked in,
his whistling ceased. He took a long purple bottle out, examined
it by the gas-light, put it back, and closed the case. This done,
he advanced on tiptoe to the open staircase door, passed through
it, and secured it on the inner side as usual.
Mr. Bashwood had seen him at the apparatus; Mr. Bashwood had
noticed the manner of his withdrawal through the staircase door.
Again the sense of an unutterable expectation throbbed at his
heart. A terror that was slow and cold and deadly crept into his
hands, and guided them in the dark to the key that had been left
for him in the inner side of the door. He turned it in vague
distrust of what might happen next, and waited.
The slow minutes passed, and nothing happened. The silence was
horrible; the solitude of the lonely corridor was a solitude
of invisible treacheries. He began to count to keep his mind
employed--to keep his own growing dread away from him. The
numbers, as he whispered them, followed each other slowly up to
a hundred, and still nothing happened. He had begun the second
hundred; he had got on to twenty--when, without a sound to betray
that he had been moving in his room, Midwinter suddenly appeared
in the corridor.
He stood for a moment and listened; he went to the stairs and
looked over into the hall beneath. Then, for the second time that
night, he tried the staircase door, and for the second time found
it fast. After a moment's reflection, he tried the doors of the
bedrooms on his right hand next, looked into one after the other,
and saw that they were empty, then came to the door of the end
room in which the steward was concealed. Here, again, the lock
resisted him. He listened, and looked up at the grating. No sound
was to be heard, no light was to be seen inside. "Shall I break
the door in," he said to himself, "and make sure? No; it would be
giving the doctor an excuse for turning me out of the house."
He moved away, and looked into the two empty rooms in the row
occupied by Allan and himself, then walked to the window at the
staircase end of the corridor. Here the case of the fumigating
apparatus attracted his attention. After trying vainly to open
it, his suspicion seemed to be aroused. He searched back along
the corridor, and observed that no object of a similar kind
appeared outside any of the other bed-chambers. Again at the
window, he looked again at the apparatus, and turned away from it
with a gesture which plainly indicated that he had tried, and
failed, to guess what it might be.
Baffled at all points, he still showed no sign of returning to
his bed-chamber. He stood at the window, with his eyes fixed on
the door of Allan's room, thinking. If Mr. Bashwood, furtively
watching him through the grating, could have seen him at that
moment in the mind as well as in the body, Mr. Bashwood's heart
might have throbbed even faster than it was throbbing now,
in expectation of the next event which Midwinter's decision
of the next minute was to bring forth.
On what was his mind occupied as he stood alone, at the dead of
night, in the strange house?
His mind was occupied in drawing its disconnected impressions
together, little by little, to one point. Convinced from the
first that some hidden danger threatened Allan in the Sanitarium,
his distrust--vaguely associated, thus far, with the place
itself; with his wife (whom he firmly believed to be now under
the same roof with him); with the doctor, who was as plainly in
her confidence as Mr. Bashwood himself--now narrowed its range,
and centered itself obstinately in Allan's room. Resigning all
further effort to connect his suspicion of a conspiracy against