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Armadale by Wilkie Collins

Part 4 out of 17

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"Suppose you do?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What's that about the future?" persisted Allan. "I was looking
for the daylight; I didn't hear."

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

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

Midwinter suddenly stepped forward again, close to Allan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Five-and-thirty," he said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I can't tell it yet," returned Allan. "Wait a little till I'm my
own man again."

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

"Look at me for a moment, Allan," he said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Can you sleep after what has happened?" asked Allan.

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

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

"To ask you to tell me your dream."

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

"And _I_ want to know all about it."

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

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

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

CHAPTER V.

THE SHADOW OF THE FUTURE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Allan pointed at Midwinter with his fork.

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

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

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

"Stuff and nonsense!" cried Allan. "Throw it over here!"

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

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

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

"ALLAN ARMADALE'S DREAM.

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

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

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

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

"4. I waited.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I'll exert my memory with the greatest pleasure," said Allan.
"Where shall we start from?"

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

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

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

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

"What did you do on board the yacht?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"My father died before I was born."

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

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

"Was your father in your thoughts before you went to sleep?"
pursued Mr. Hawbury. "Was there any description of him--any
portrait of him at home--in your mind?"

"Of course there was!" cried Allan, suddenly seizing the lost
recollection. "Midwinter! you remember the miniature you found on
the floor of the cabin when we were putting the yacht to rights?
You said I didn't seem to value it; and I told you I did, because
it was a portrait of my father--"

"And was the face in the dream like the face in the miniature?"
asked Mr. Hawbury.

"Exactly like! I say, doctor, this is beginning to get
interesting!"

"What do you say now?" asked Mr. Hawbury, turning toward the
window again.

Midwinter hurriedly left his chair, and placed himself at the
table with Allan. Just as he had once already taken refuge from
the tyranny of his own superstition in the comfortable common
sense of Mr. Brock, so, with the same headlong eagerness, with
the same straightforward sincerity of purpose, he now took refuge
in the doctor's theory of dreams. "I say what my friend says," he
answered, flushing with a sudden enthusiasm; "this is beginning
to get interesting. Go on; pray go on."

The doctor looked at his strange guest more indulgently than he
had looked yet. "You are the only mystic I have met with," he
said, "who is willing to give fair evidence fair play. I don't
despair of converting you before our inquiry comes to an end. Let
us get on to the next set of events," he resumed, after referring
for a moment to the manuscript. "The interval of oblivion which
is described as succeeding the first of the appearances in the
dream may be easily disposed of. It means, in plain English, the
momentary cessation of the brain's intellectual action, while a
deeper wave of sleep flows over it, just as the sense of being
alone in the darkness, which follows, indicates the renewal of
that action, previous to the reproduction of another set of
impressions. Let us see what they are. A lonely pool, surrounded
by an open country; a sunset sky on the further side of the pool;
and the shadow of a woman on the near side. Very good; now for
it, Mr. Armadale! How did that pool get into your head? The open
country you saw on your way from Castletown to this place But we
have no pools or lakes hereabouts; and you can have seen none
recently elsewhere, for you came here after a cruise at sea. Must
we fall back on a picture, or a book, or a conversation with your
friend?"

Allan looked at Midwinter. "I don't remember talking about pools
or lakes," he said. "Do you?"

Instead of answering the question, Midwinter suddenly appealed to
the doctor.

"Have you got the last number of the Manx newspaper?" he asked.

The doctor produced it from the sideboard. Midwinter turned to
the page containing those extracts from the recently published
"Travels in Australia," which had roused Allan's, interest on the
previous evening, and the reading of which had ended by sending
his friend to sleep. There--in the passage describing the
sufferings of the travelers from thirst, and the subsequent
discovery which saved their lives--there, appearing at the climax
of the narrative, was the broad pool of water which had figured
in Allan's dream!

"Don't put away the paper," said the doctor, when Midwinter had
shown it to him, with the necessary explanation. "Before we are
at the end of the inquiry, it is quite possible we may want that
extract again. We have got at the pool. How about the sunset?
Nothing of that sort is referred to in the newspaper extract.
Search your memory again, Mr. Armadale; we want your waking
impression of a sunset, if you please."

Once more, Allan was at a loss for an answer; and, once more,
Midwinter's ready memory helped him through the difficulty.

"I think I can trace our way back to this impression, as I traced
our way back to the other," he said, addressing the doctor.
"After we got here yesterday afternoon, my friend and I took a
long walk over the hills--"

"That's it!" interposed Allan. "I remember. The sun was setting
as we came back to the hotel for supper, and it was such a
splendid red sky, we both stopped to look at it. And then we
talked about Mr. Brock, and wondered how far he had got on his
journey home. My memory may be a slow one at starting, doctor;
but when it's once set going, stop it if you can! I haven't half
done yet."

"Wait one minute, in mercy to Mr. Midwinter's memory and mine,"
said the doctor. "We have traced back to your waking impressions
the vision of the open country, the pool, and the sunset. But the
Shadow of the Woman has not been accounted for yet. Can you find
us the original of this mysterious figure in the dream
landscape?"

Allan relapsed into his former perplexity, and Midwinter waited
for what was to come, with his eyes fixed in breathless interest
on the doctor's face. For the first time there was unbroken
silence in the room. Mr. Hawbury looked interrogatively from
Allan to Allan's friend. Neither of them answered him. Between
the shadow and the shadow's substance there was a great gulf of
mystery, impenetrable alike to all three of them.

"Patience," said the doctor, composedly. "Let us leave the figure
by the pool for the present and try if we can't pick her up again
as we go on. Allow me to observe, Mr. Midwinter, that it is not
very easy to identify a shadow; but we won't despair. This
impalpable lady of the lake may take some consistency when we
next meet with her."

Midwinter made no reply. From that moment his interest in the
inquiry began to flag.

"What is the next scene in the dream?" pursued Mr. Hawbury,
referring to the manuscript. "Mr. Armadale finds himself in a
room. He is standing before a long window opening on a lawn and
flower-garden, and the rain is pattering against the glass. The
only thing he sees in the room is a little statue; and the only
company he has is the Shadow of a Man standing opposite to him.
The Shadow stretches out its arm, and the statue falls in
fragments on the floor; and the dreamer, in anger and distress
at the catastrophe (observe, gentlemen, that here the sleeper's
reasoning faculty wakes up a little, and the dream passes
rationally, for a moment, from cause to effect), stoops to look
at the broken pieces. When he looks up again, the scene has
vanished. That is to say, in the ebb and flow of sleep, it is the
turn of the flow now, and the brain rests a little. What's the
matter, Mr. Armadale? Has that restive memory of yours run away
with you again?"

"Yes," said Allan. "I'm off at full gallop. I've run the broken
statue to earth; it's nothing more nor less than a china
shepherdess I knocked off the mantel-piece in the hotel
coffee-room, when I rang the bell for supper last night. I say,
how well we get on; don't we? It's like guessing a riddle. Now,
then, Midwinter! your turn next."

"No!" said the doctor. "My turn, if you please. I claim the long
window, the garden, and the lawn, as my property. You will find
the long window, Mr. Armadale, in the next room. If you look out,
you'll see the garden and lawn in front of it; and, if you'll
exert that wonderful memory of yours, you will recollect that you
were good enough to take special and complimentary notice of my
smart French window and my neat garden, when I drove you and your
friend to Port St. Mary yesterday."

"Quite right," rejoined Allan; "so I did. But what about the rain
that fell in the dream? I haven't seen a drop of rain for the
last week."

Mr. Hawbury hesitated. The Manx newspaper which had been left on
the table caught his eye. "If we can think of nothing else," he
said, "let us try if we can't find the idea of the rain where we
found the idea of the pool." He looked through the extract
carefully. "I have got it!" he exclaimed. "Here is rain described
as having fallen on these thirsty Australian travelers, before
they discovered the pool. Behold the shower, Mr. Armadale, which
got into your mind when you read the extract to your friend last
night! And behold the dream, Mr. Midwinter, mixing up separate
waking impressions just as usual!"

"Can you find the waking impression which accounts for the human
figure at the window?" asked Midwinter; "or are we to pass over
the Shadow of the Man as we have passed over the Shadow of the
Woman already?"

He put the question with scrupulous courtesy of manner, but with
a tone of sarcasm in his voice which caught the doctor's ear, and
set up the doctor's controversial bristles on the instant.

"When you are picking up shells on the beach, Mr. Midwinter, you
usually begin with the shells that lie nearest at hand," he
rejoined. "We are picking up facts now; and those that are
easiest to get at are the facts we will take first. Let the
Shadow of the Man and the Shadow of the Woman pair off together
for the present; we won't lose sight of them, I promise you. All
in good time, my dear sir; all in good time!"

He, too, was polite, and he, too, was sarcastic. The short truce
between the opponents was at an end already. Midwinter returned
significantly to his former place by the window. The doctor
instantly turned his back on the window more significantly still.
Allan, who never quarreled with anybody's opinion, and never
looked below the surface of anybody's conduct, drummed cheerfully
on the table with the handle of his knife. "Go on, doctor!" he
called out; "my wonderful memory is as fresh as ever."

"Is it?" said Mr. Hawbury, referring again to the narrative of
the dream. "Do you remember what happened when you and I were
gossiping with the landlady at the bar of the hotel last night?"

"Of course I do! You were kind enough to hand me a glass of
brandy-and-water, which the landlady had just mixed for your own
drinking. And I was obliged to refuse it because, as I told you,
the taste of brandy always turns me sick and faint, mix it how
you please."

"Exactly so," returned the doctor. "And here is the incident
reproduced in the dream. You see the man's shadow and the woman's
shadow together this time. You hear the pouring out of liquid
(brandy from the hotel bottle, and water from the hotel jug); the
glass is handed by the woman-shadow (the landlady) to the
man-shadow (myself); the man-shadow hands it to you (exactly what
I did); and the faintness (which you had previously described to
me) follows in due course. I am shocked to identify these
mysterious appearances, Mr. Midwinter, with such miserably
unromantic originals as a woman who keeps a hotel, and a man who
physics a country district. But your friend himself will tell you
that the glass of brandy-and-water was prepared by the landlady,
and that it reached him by passing from her hand to mine. We have
picked up the shadows, exactly as I anticipated; and we have only
to account now--which may be done in two words--for the manner of
their appearance in the dream. After having tried to introduce
the waking impression of the doctor and the landlady separately,
in connection with the wrong set of circumstances, the dreaming
mind comes right at the third trial, and introduces the doctor
and the landlady together, in connection with the right set of
circumstances. There it is in a nutshell!--Permit me to hand you
back the manuscript, with my best thanks for your very complete
and striking confirmation of the rational theory of dreams."
Saying those words, Mr. Hawbury returned the written paper to
Midwinter, with the pitiless politeness of a conquering man.

"Wonderful! not a point missed anywhere from beginning to end!
By Jupiter!" cried Allan, with the ready reverence of intense
ignorance. "What a thing science is!"

"Not a point missed, as you say," remarked the doctor,
complacently. "And yet I doubt if we have succeeded in convincing
your friend."

"You have _not_ convinced me," said Midwinter. "But I don't
presume on that account to say that you are wrong."

He spoke quietly, almost sadly. The terrible conviction of the
supernatural origin of the dream, from which he had tried to
escape, had possessed itself of him again. All his interest in
the argument was at an end; all his sensitiveness to its
irritating influences was gone. In the case of any other man, Mr.
Hawbury would have been mollified by such a concession as his
adversary had now made to him; but he disliked Midwinter too
cordially to leave him in the peaceable enjoyment of an opinion
of his own.

"Do you admit," asked the doctor, more pugnaciously than ever,
"that I have traced back every event of the dream to a waking
impression which preceded it in Mr. Armadale's mind?"

"I have no wish to deny that you have done so," said Midwinter,
resignedly.

"Have I identified the shadows with their living originals?"

"You have identified them to your own satisfaction, and to my
friend's satisfaction. Not to mine."

"Not to yours? Can _you_ identify them?"

"No. I can only wait till the living originals stand revealed in
the future."

"Spoken like an oracle, Mr. Midwinter! Have you any idea at
present of who those living originals may be?"

"I have. I believe that coming events will identify the Shadow of
the Woman with a person whom my friend has not met with yet; and
the Shadow of the Man with myself."

Allan attempted to speak. The doctor stopped him. "Let us clearly
understand this," he said to Midwinter. "Leaving your own case
out of the question for the moment, may I ask how a shadow, which
has no distinguishing mark about it, is to be identified with a
living woman whom your friend doesn't know?"

Midwinter's color rose a little. He began to feel the lash of the
doctor's logic.

"The landscape picture of the dream has its distinguishing
marks," he replied; "and in that landscape the living woman will
appear when the living woman is first seen."

"The same thing will happen, I suppose," pursued the doctor,
"with the man-shadow which you persist in identifying with
yourself. You will be associated in the future with a statue
broken in your friend's presence, with a long window looking out
on a garden, and with a shower of rain pattering against the
glass? Do you say that?"

"I say that."

"And so again, I presume, with the next vision? You and the
mysterious woman will be brought together in some place now
unknown, and will present to Mr. Armadale some liquid yet
unnamed, which will turn him faint?--Do you seriously tell me
you believe this?"

"I seriously tell you I believe it."

"And, according to your view, these fulfillments of the dream
will mark the progress of certain coming events, in which Mr.
Armadale's happiness, or Mr. Armadale's safety, will be
dangerously involved?"

"That is my firm conviction."

The doctor rose, laid aside his moral dissecting-knife,
considered for a moment, and took it up again.

"One last question," he said. "Have you any reason to give for
going out of your way to adopt such a mystical view as this, when
an unanswerably rational explanation of the dream lies straight
before you?"

"No reason," replied Midwinter, "that I can give, either to you
or to my friend."

The doctor looked at his watch with the air of a man who is
suddenly reminded that he has been wasting his time.

"We have no common ground to start from," he said; "and if we
talk till doomsday, we should not agree. Excuse my leaving you
rather abruptly. It is later than I thought; and my morning's
batch of sick people are waiting for me in the surgery. I have
convinced _your_ mind, Mr. Armadale, at any rate; so the time we
have given to this discussion has not been altogether lost. Pray
stop here, and smoke your cigar. I shall be at your service again
in less than an hour." He nodded cordially to Allan, bowed
formally to Midwinter, and quitted the room.

As soon as the doctor's back was turned, Allan left his place at
the table, and appealed to his friend, with that irresistible
heartiness of manner which had always found its way to
Midwinter's sympathies, from the first day when they met at the
Somersetshire inn.

"Now the sparring-match between you and the doctor is over," said
Allan, "I have got two words to say on my side. Will you do
something for my sake which you won't do for your own?"

Midwinter's face brightened instantly. "I will do anything you
ask me," he said.

"Very well. Will you let the subject of the dream drop out of our
talk altogether from this time forth?"

"Yes, if you wish it."

"Will you go a step further? Will you leave off thinking about
the dream?"

"It's hard to leave off thinking about it, Allan. But I will
try."

"That's a good fellow! Now give me that trumpery bit of paper,
and let's tear it up, and have done with it."

He tried to snatch the manuscript out of his friend's hand; but
Midwinter was too quick for him, and kept it beyond his reach.

"Come! come!" pleaded Allan. "I've set my heart on lighting my
cigar with it."

Midwinter hesitated painfully. It was hard to resist Allan; but
he did resist him. "I'll wait a little," he said, "before you
light your cigar with it."

"How long? Till to-morrow?"

"Longer."

"Till we leave the Isle of Man?"

"Longer."

"Hang it--give me a plain answer to a plain question! How long
_will_ you wait?"

Midwinter carefully restored the paper to its place in his
pocketbook.

"I'll wait," he said, "till we get to Thorpe Ambrose."

THE END OF THE FIRST BOOK.

---------

BOOK THE SECOND

CHAPTER I.

LURKING MISCHIEF.

1. _From Ozias Midwinter to Mr. Brock_.

"Thorpe Ambrose, June 15, 1851.

"DEAR MR. BROCK--Only an hour since we reached this house, just
as the servants were locking up for the night. Allan has gone to
bed, worn out by our long day's journey, and has left me in the
room they call the library, to tell you the story of our journey
to Norfolk. Being better seasoned than he is to fatigues of all
kinds, my eyes are quite wakeful enough for writing a letter,
though the clock on the chimney-piece points to midnight, and we
have been traveling since ten in the morning.

"The last news you had of us was news sent by Allan from the Isle
of Man. If I am not mistaken, he wrote to tell you of the night
we passed on board the wrecked ship. Forgive me, dear Mr. Brock,
if I say nothing on that subject until time has helped me to
think of it with a quieter mind. The hard fight against myself
must all be fought over again; but I will win it yet, please God;
I will, indeed.

"There is no need to trouble you with any account of our
journeyings about the northern and western districts of the
island, or of the short cruises we took when the repairs of the
yacht were at last complete. It will be better if I get on at
once to the morning of yesterday, the fourteenth. We had come in
with the night-tide to Douglas Harbor, and, as soon as the
post-office was open; Allan, by my advice, sent on shore for
letters. The messenger returned with one letter only, and the
writer of it proved to be the former mistress of Thorpe
Ambrose--Mrs. Blanchard.

"You ought to be informed, I think, of the contents of this
letter, for it has seriously influenced Allan's plans. He loses
everything, sooner or later, as you know, and he has lost the
letter already. So I must give you the substance of what Mrs.
Blanchard wrote to him, as plainly as I can.

"The first page announced the departure of the ladies from Thorpe
Ambrose. They left on the day before yesterday, the thirteenth,
having, after much hesitation, finally decided on going abroad,
to visit some old friends settled in Italy, in the neighborhood
of Florence. It appears to be quite possible that Mrs. Blanchard
and her niece may settle there, too, if they can find a suitable
house and grounds to let. They both like the Italian country and
the Italian people, and they are well enough off to please
themselves. The elder lady has her jointure, and the younger is
in possession of all her father's fortune.

"The next page of the letter was, in Allan's opinion, far from a
pleasant page to read.

"After referring, in the most grateful terms, to the kindness
which had left her niece and herself free to leave their old home
at their own time, Mrs. Blanchard added that Allan's considerate
conduct had produced such a strongly favorable impression among
the friends and dependents of the family that they were desirous
of giving him a public reception on his arrival among them. A
preliminary meeting of the tenants on the estate and the
principal persons in the neighboring town had already been held
to discuss the arrangements, and a letter might be expected
shortly from the clergyman inquiring when it would suit Mr.
Armadale's convenience to take possession personally and publicly
of his estates in Norfolk.

"You will now be able to guess the cause of our sudden departure
from the Isle of Man. The first and foremost idea in your old
pupil's mind, as soon as he had read Mrs. Blanchard's account of
the proceedings at the meeting, was the idea of escaping the
public reception, and the one certain way he could see of
avoiding it was to start for Thorpe Ambrose before the
clergyman's letter could reach him.

"I tried hard to make him think a little before he acted an his
first impulse in this matter; but he only went on packing his
portmanteau in his own impenetrably good-humored way. In ten
minutes his luggage was ready, and in five minutes more he had
given the crew their directions for taking the yacht back to
Somersetshire. The steamer to Liverpool was alongside of us in
the harbor, and I had really no choice but to go on board with
him or to let him go by himself. I spare you the account of our
stormy voyage, of our detention at Liverpool, and of the trains
we missed on our journey across the country. You know that we
have got here safely, and that is enough. What the servants think
of the new squire's sudden appearance among them, without a word
of warning, is of no great consequence. What the committee for
arranging the public reception may think of it when the news
flies abroad to-morrow is, I am afraid, a more serious matter.

"Having already mentioned the servants, I may proceed to tell
you that the latter part of Mrs. Blanchard's letter was entirely
devoted to instructing Allan on the subject of the domestic
establishment which she has left behind her. It seems that all
the servants, indoors and out (with three exceptions), are
waiting here, on the chance that Allan will continue them in
their places. Two of these exceptions are readily accounted for:
Mrs. Blanchard's maid and Miss Blanchard's maid go abroad with
their mistresses. The third exceptional case is the case of the
upper housemaid; and here there is a little hitch. In plain
words, the housemaid has been sent away at a moment's notice,
for what Mrs. Blanchard rather mysteriously describes as 'levity
of conduct with a stranger.'

"I am afraid you will laugh at me, but I must confess the truth.
I have been made so distrustful (after what happened to us in the
Isle of Man) of even the most trifling misadventures which
connect themselves in any way with Allan's introduction to his
new life and prospects, that I have already questioned one of the
men-servants here about this apparently unimportant matter of the
housemaid's going away in disgrace.

"All I can learn is that a strange man had been noticed hanging
suspiciously about the grounds; that the housemaid was so ugly
a woman as to render it next to a certainty that he had some
underhand purpose to serve in making himself agreeable to her;
and that he has not as yet been seen again in the neighborhood
since the day of her dismissal. So much for the one servant who
has been turned out at Thorpe Ambrose. I can only hope there is
no trouble for Allan brewing in that quarter. As for the other
servants who remain, Mrs. Blanchard describes them, both men and
women, as perfectly trustworthy, and they will all, no doubt,
continue to occupy their present places.

"Having now done with Mrs. Blanchard's letter, my next duty is
to beg you, in Allan's name and with Allan's love, to come here
and stay with him at the earliest moment when you can leave
Somersetshire. Although I cannot presume to think that my own
wishes will have any special influence in determining you to
accept this invitation, I must nevertheless acknowledge that I
have a reason of my own for earnestly desiring to see you here.
Allan has innocently caused me a new anxiety about my future
relations with him, and I sorely need your advice to show me the
right way of setting that anxiety at rest.

"The difficulty which now perplexes me relates to the steward's
place at Thorpe Ambrose. Before to-day I only knew that Allan
had hit on some plan of his own for dealing with this matter,
rather strangely involving, among other results, the letting
of the cottage which was the old steward's place of abode, in
consequence of the new steward's contemplated residence in the
great house. A chance word in our conversation on the journey
here led Allan into speaking out more plainly than he had spoken
yet, and I heard to my unutterable astonishment that the person
who was at the bottom of the whole arrangement about the steward
was no other than myself!

"It is needless to tell you how I felt this new instance of
Allan's kindness. The first pleasure of hearing from his own lips
that I had deserved the strongest proof he could give of his
confidence in me was soon dashed by the pain which mixes itself
with all pleasure--at least, with all that I have ever known.
Never has my past life seemed so dreary to look back on as it
seems now, when I feel how entirely it has unfitted me to take
the place of all others that I should have liked to occupy in my
friend's service. I mustered courage to tell him that I had none
of the business knowledge and business experience which his
steward ought to possess. He generously met the objection by
telling me that I could learn; and he has promised to send to
London for the person who has already been employed for the time
being in the steward's office, and who will, therefore, be
perfectly competent to teach me.

"Do you, too, think I can learn? If you do, I will work day and
night to instruct myself. But if (as I am afraid) the steward's
duties are of far too serious a kind to be learned off-hand by a
man so young and so inexperienced as I am, then pray hasten your
journey to Thorpe Ambrose, and exert your influence over Allan
personally. Nothing less will induce him to pass me over, and to
employ a steward who is really fit to take the place. Pray, pray
act in this matter as you think best for Allan's interests.
Whatever disappointment I may feel, _he_ shall not see it.

"Believe me, dear Mr. Brock,

"Gratefuly yours,

"OZIAS MIDWINTER.

"P.S.--I open the envelope again to add one word more. If you
have heard or seen anything since your return to Somersetshire of
the woman in the black dress and the red shawl, I hope you will
not forget, when you write, to let me know it.

O. M."

2. _From Mrs. Oldershaw to Miss Gwilt_.

"Ladies' Toilet Repository, Diana Street, Pimlico,

Wednesday.

"MY DEAR LYDIA--To save the post, I write to you, after
a long day's worry at my place of business, on the business
letter-paper, having news since we last met which it seems
advisable to send you at the earliest opportunity.

"To begin at the beginning. After carefully considering the
thing, I am quite sure you will do wisely with young Armadale if
you hold your tongue about Madeira and all that happened there.
Your position was, no doubt, a very strong one with his mother.
You had privately helped her in playing a trick on her own
father; you had been ungratefully dismissed, at a pitiably tender
age, as soon as you had served her purpose; and, when you came
upon her suddenly, after a separation of more than twenty years,
you found her in failing health, with a grown-up son, whom she
had kept in total ignorance of the true story of her marriage.

"Have you any such advantages as these with the young gentleman
who has survived her? If he is not a born idiot he will decline
to believe your shocking aspersions on the memory of his mother;
and--seeing that you have no proofs at this distance of time to
meet him with--there is an end of your money-grubbing in the
golden Armadale diggings. Mind, I don't dispute that the old
lady's heavy debt of obligation, after what you did for her in
Madeira, is not paid yet; and that the son is the next person to
settle with you, now the mother has slipped through your fingers.
Only squeeze him the right way, my dear, that's what I venture to
suggest--squeeze him the right way.

"And which is the right way? That question brings me to my news.

"Have you thought again of that other notion of yours of trying
your hand on this lucky young gentleman, with nothing but your
own good looks and your own quick wits to help you? The idea hung
on my mind so strangely after you were gone that it ended in my
sending a little note to my lawyer, to have the will under which
young Armadale has got his fortune examined at Doctor's Commons.
The result turns out to be something infinitely more encouraging
than either you or I could possibly have hoped for. After the
lawyer's report to me, there cannot be a moment's doubt of what
you ought to do. In two words, Lydia, take the bull by the
horns--and marry him!

"I am quite serious. He is much better worth the venture than you
suppose. Only persuade him to make you Mrs. Armadale, and you may
set all after-discoveries at flat defiance. As long as he lives,
you can make your own terms with him; and, if he dies, the will
entitles you, in spite of anything he can say or do--with
children or without them--to an income chargeable on his estate
of _twelve hundred a year for life_. There is no doubt about
this; the lawyer himself has looked at the will. Of course, Mr.
Blanchard had his son and his son's widow in his eye when he made
the provision. But, as it is not limited to any one heir by name,
and not revoked anywhere, it now holds as good with young
Armadale as it would have held under other circumstances with Mr.
Blanchard's son. What a chance for you, after all the miseries
and the dangers you have gone through, to be mistress of Thorpe
Ambrose, if he lives; to have an income for life, if he dies!
Hook him, my poor dear; hook him at any sacrifice.

"I dare say you will make the same objection when you read this
which you made when we were talking about it the other day; I
mean the objection of your age.

"Now, my good creature, just listen to me. The question is--not
whether you were five-and-thirty last birthday; we will own the
dreadful truth, and say you were--but whether you do look, or
don't look, your real age. My opinion on this matter ought to be,
and is, one of the best opinions in London. I have had twenty
years experience among our charming sex in making up battered
old faces and wornout old figures to look like new, and I say
positively you don't look a day over thirty, if as much. If you
will follow my advice about dressing, and use one or two of my
applications privately, I guarantee to put you back three years
more. I will forfeit all the money I shall have to advance for
you in this matter, if, when I have ground you young again in my
wonderful mill, you look more than seven-and-twenty in any man's
eyes living--except, of course, when you wake anxious in the
small hours of the morning; and then, my dear, you will be old
and ugly in the retirement of your own room, and it won't matter.

"'But,' you may say, 'supposing all this, here I am, even with
your art to help me, looking a good six years older than he is;
and that is against me at starting.' Is it? Just think again.
Surely, your own experience must have shown you that the
commonest of all common weaknesses, in young fellows of this
Armadale's age, is to fall in love with women older than
themselves. Who are the men who really appreciate us in the bloom
of our youth (I'm sure I have cause to speak well of the bloom of
youth; I made fifty guineas to-day by putting it on the spotted
shoulders of a woman old enough to be your mother)--who are the
men, I say, who are ready to worship us when we are mere babies
of seventeen? The gay young gentlemen in the bloom of their own
youth? No! The cunning old wretches who are on the wrong side of
forty.

"And what is the moral of this, as the story-books say?

"The moral is that the chances, with such a head as you have got
on your shoulders, are all in your favor. If you feel your
present forlorn position, as I believe you do; if you know what
a charming woman (in the men's eyes) you can still be when you
please; and if all your resolution has really come back, after
that shocking outbreak of desperation on board the steamer
(natural enough, I own, under the dreadful provocation laid on
you), you will want no further persuasion from me to try this
experiment. Only to think of how things turn out! If the other
young booby had not jumped into the river after you, _this_ young
booby would never have had the estate. It really looks as if fate
had determined that you were to be Mrs. Armadale, of Thorpe
Ambrose; and who can control his fate, as the poet says?

"Send me one line to say Yes or No; and believe me your attached
old friend,

"MARIA OLDERSHAW."

3. _From Miss Gwilt to Mrs. Oldershaw_.

Richmond, Thursday.

'YOU OLD WRETCH--I won't say Yes or No till I have had a long,
long look at my glass first. If you had any real regard for
anybody but your wicked old self, you would know that the bare
idea of marrying again (after what I have gone through) is an
idea that makes my flesh creep.

"But there can be no harm in your sending me a little more
information while I am making up my mind. You have got twenty
pounds of mine still left out of those things you sold for me;
send ten pounds here for my expenses, in a post-office order, and
use the other ten for making private inquiries at Thorpe Ambrose.
I want to know when the two Blanchard women go away, and when
young Armadale stirs up the dead ashes in the family fire-place.
Are you quite sure he will turn out as easy to manage as you
think? If he takes after his hypocrite of a mother, I can tell
you this: Judas Iscariot has come to life again.

"I am very comfortable in this lodging. There are lovely flowers
in the garden, and the birds wake me in the morning delightfully.
I have hired a reasonably good piano. The only man I care two
straws about--don't be alarmed; he was laid in his grave many a
long year ago, under the name of BEETHOVEN--keeps me company, in
my lonely hours. The landlady would keep me company, too, if I
would only let her. I hate women. The new curate paid a visit to
the other lodger yesterday, and passed me on the lawn as he came
out. My eyes have lost nothing yet, at any rate, though I _am_
five-and-thirty; the poor man actually blushed when I looked at
him! What sort of color do you think he would have turned, if one
of the little birds in the garden had whispered in his ear, and
told him the true story of the charming Miss Gwilt?

"Good-by, Mother Oldershaw. I rather doubt whether I am yours, or
anybody's, affectionately; but we all tell lies at the bottoms of
our letters, don't we? If you are my attached old friend, I must,
of course, be yours affectionately.

"LYDIA GWILT.

"P.S.--Keep your odious powders and paints and washes for the
spotted shoulders of your customers; not one of them shall touch
my skin, I promise you. If you really want to be useful, try and
find out some quieting draught to keep me from grinding my teeth
in my sleep. I shall break them one of these nights; and then
what will become of my beauty, I wonder?"

4. _From Mrs. Oldershaw to Miss Gwilt_.

"Ladies' Toilet Repository, Tuesday.

"MY DEAR LYDIA--It is a thousand pities your letter was not
addressed to Mr. Armadale; your graceful audacity would have
charmed him. It doesn't affect me; I am so well used to audacity
in my way of life, you know. Why waste your sparkling wit, my
love, on your own impenetrable Oldershaw? It only splutters and
goes out. Will you try and be serious this next time? I have news
for you from Thorpe Ambrose, which is beyond a joke, and which
must not be trifled with.

"An hour after I got your letter I set the inquiries on foot. Not
knowing what consequences they might lead to, I thought it safest
to begin in the dark. Instead of employing any of the people whom
I have at my own disposal (who know you and know me), I went to
the Private Inquiry Office in Shadyside Place, and put the matter
in the inspector's hands, in the character of a perfect stranger,
and without mentioning you at all. This was not the cheapest way
of going to work, I own; but it was the safest way, which is of
much greater consequence.

"The inspector and I understood each other in ten minutes; and
the right person for the purpose--the most harmless looking young
man you ever saw in your life--was produced immediately. He left
for Thorpe Ambrose an hour after I saw him. I arranged to call at
the office on the afternoons of Saturday, Monday, and to-day for
news. There was no news till to-day; and there I found our
confidential agent just returned to town, and waiting to favor me
with a full account of his trip to Norfolk.

"First of all, let me quiet your mind about those two questions
of yours; I have got answers to both the one and the other. The
Blanchard women go away to foreign parts on the thirteenth, and
young Armadale is at this moment cruising somewhere at sea in his
yacht. There is talk at Thorpe Ambrose of giving him a public
reception, and of calling a meeting of the local grandees to
settle it all. The speechifying and fuss on these occasions
generally wastes plenty of time, and the public reception is not
thought likely to meet the new squire much before the end of the
month.

"If our messenger had done no more for us than this, I think he
would have earned his money. But the harmless young man is a
regular Jesuit at a private inquiry, with this great advantage
over all the Popish priests I have ever seen, that he has not got
his slyness written in his face.

"Having to get his information through the female servants in the
usual way, he addressed himself, with admirable discretion, to
the ugliest woman in the house. 'When they are nice-looking, and
can pick and choose,' as he neatly expressed it to me, 'they
waste a great deal of valuable time in deciding on a sweetheart.
When they are ugly, and haven't got the ghost of a chance of
choosing, they snap at a sweetheart, if he comes their way, like
a starved dog at a bone.' Acting on these excellent principles,
our confidential agent succeeded, after certain unavoidable
delays, in addressing himself to the upper housemaid at Thorpe
Ambrose, and took full possession of her confidence at the
first interview. Bearing his instructions carefully in mind,
he encouraged the woman to chatter, and was favored, of course,
with all the gossip of the servants' hall. The greater part of it
(as repeated to me) was of no earthly importance. But I listened
patiently, and was rewarded by a valuable discovery at last. Here
it is.

"It seems there is an ornamental cottage in the grounds at Thorpe
Ambrose. For some reason unknown, young Armadale has chosen to
let it, and a tenant has come in already. He is a poor half-pay
major in the army, named Milroy, a meek sort of man, by all
accounts, with a turn for occupying himself in mechanical
pursuits, and with a domestic incumbrance in the shape of a
bedridden wife, who has not been seen by anybody. Well, and what
of all this? you will ask, with that sparkling impatience which
becomes you so well. My dear Lydia, don't sparkle! The man's
family affairs seriously concern us both, for, as ill luck will
have it, the man has got a daughter!

"You may imagine how I questioned our agent, and how our agent
ransacked his memory, when I stumbled, in due course, on such
a discovery as this. If Heaven is responsible for women's
chattering tongues, Heaven be praised! From Miss Blanchard
to Miss Blanchard's maid; from Miss Blanchard's maid to Miss
Blanchard's aunt's maid; from Miss Blanchard's aunt's maid,
to the ugly housemaid; from the ugly housemaid to the
harmless-looking young man--so the stream of gossip trickled into
the right reservoir at last, and thirsty Mother Oldershaw has
drunk it all up.

"In plain English, my dear, this is how it stands. The major's
daughter is a minx just turned sixteen; lively and nice-looking
(hateful little wretch!), dowdy in her dress (thank Heaven!) and
deficient in her manners (thank Heaven again!). She has been
brought up at home. The governess who last had charge of her left
before her father moved to Thorpe Ambrose. Her education stands
woefully in want of a finishing touch, and the major doesn't
quite know what to do next. None of his friends can recommend him
a new governess and he doesn't like the notion of sending the
girl to school. So matters rest at present, on the major's own
showing; for so the major expressed himself at a morning call
which the father and daughter paid to the ladies at the great
house.

"You have now got my promised news, and you will have little
difficulty, I think, in agreeing with me that the Armadale
business must be settled at once, one way or the other. If, with
your hopeless prospects, and with what I may call your family
claim on this young fellow, you decide on giving him up, I shall
have the pleasure of sending you the balance of your account with
me (seven-and-twenty shillings), and shall then be free to devote
myself entirely to my own proper business. If, on the contrary,
you decide to try your luck at Thorpe Ambrose, then (there being
no kind of doubt that the major's minx will set her cap at the
young squire) I should be glad to hear how you mean to meet the
double difficulty of inflaming Mr. Armadale and extinguishing
Miss Milroy.

"Affectionately yours,

"MARIA OLDERSHAW.

5. _From Miss Gwilt to Mrs. Oldershaw.

(First Answer.)_

"Richmond, Wednesday Morning.

"MRS. OLDERSHAW--Send me my seven-and-twenty shillings, and
devote yourself to your own proper business. Yours, L. G."

6. _From Miss Gwilt to Mrs. Oldershaw.

(Second Answer.)_

"Richmond, Wednesday Night.

"DEAR OLD LOVE--Keep the seven-and-twenty shillings, and burn my
other letter. I have changed my mind.

"I wrote the first time after a horrible night. I write this time
after a ride on horseback, a tumbler of claret, and the breast of
a chicken. Is that explanation enough? Please say Yes, for I want
to go back to my piano.

"No; I can't go back yet; I must answer your question first. But
are you really so very simple as to suppose that I don't see
straight through you and your letter? You know that the major's
difficulty is our opportunity as well as I do; but you want me to
take the responsibility of making the first proposal, don't you?
Suppose I take it in your own roundabout way? Suppose I say,
'Pray don't ask me how I propose inflaming Mr. Armadale and
extinguishing Miss Milroy; the question is so shockingly abrupt
I really can't answer it. Ask me, instead, if it is the modest
ambition of my life to become Miss Milroy's governess?' Yes, if
you please, Mrs. Oldershaw, and if you will assist me by becoming
my reference.

"There it is for you! If some serious disaster happens (which is
quite possible), what a comfort it will be to remember that it
was all my fault!

"Now I have done this for you, will you do something for me. I
want to dream away the little time I am likely to have left here
in my own way. Be a merciful Mother Oldershaw, and spare me the
worry of looking at the Ins and Outs, and adding up the chances
For and Against, in this new venture of mine. Think for me, in
short, until I am obliged to think for myself.

"I had better not write any more, or I shall say something savage
that you won't like. I am in one of my tempers to-night. I want a
husband to vex, or a child to beat, or something of that sort. Do
you ever like to see the summer insects kill themselves in the
candle? I do, sometimes. Good-night, Mrs. Jezebel The longer you
can leave me here the better. The air agrees with me, and I am
looking charmingly.

"L. G."

7. _From Mrs. Oldershaw to Miss Gwilt_.

"Thursday.

"MY DEAR LYDIA--Some persons in my situation might be a little
offended at the tone of your last letter. But I am so fondly
attached to you! And when I love a person, it is so very hard, my
dear, for that person to offend me! Don't ride quite so far, and
only drink half a tumblerful of claret next time. I say no more.

"Shall we leave off our fencing-match and come to serious matters
now? How curiously hard it always seems to be for women to
understand each other, especially when they have got their pens
in their hands! But suppose we try.

"Well, then, to begin with: I gather from your letter that you
have wisely decided to try the Thorpe Ambrose experiment, and to
secure, if you can, an excellent position at starting by becoming
a member of Major Milroy's household. If the circumstances turn
against you, and some other woman gets the governess's place
(about which I shall have something more to say presently), you
will then have no choice but to make Mr. Armadale's acquaintance
in some other character. In any case, you will want my
assistance; and the first question, therefore, to set at rest
between us is the question of what I am willing to do, and what
I can do, to help you.

"A woman, my dear Lydia, with your appearance, your manners, your
abilities, and your education, can make almost any excursions
into society that she pleases if she only has money in her pocket
and a respectable reference to appeal to in cases of emergency.
As to the money, in the first place. I will engage to find it,
on condition of your remembering my assistance with adequate
pecuniary gratitude if you win the Armadale prize. Your promise
so to remember me, embodying the terms in plain figures, shall be
drawn out on paper by my own lawyer, so that we can sign and
settle at once when I see you in London.

"Next, as to the reference.

"Here, again, my services are at your disposal, on another
condition. It is this: that you present yourself at Thorpe
Ambrose, under the name to which you have returned ever since
that dreadful business of your marriage; I mean your own maiden
name of Gwilt. I have only one motive in insisting on this; I
wish to run no needless risks. My experience, as confidential
adviser of my customers, in various romantic cases of private
embarrassment, has shown me that an assumed name is, nine times
out of ten, a very unnecessary and a very dangerous form of
deception. Nothing could justify your assuming a name but the
fear of young Armadale's detecting you--a fear from which we are
fortunately relieved by his mother's own conduct in keeping your
early connection with her a profound secret from her son and from
everybody.

"The next, and last, perplexity to settle relates, my dear, to
the chances for and against your finding your way, in the
capacity of governess, into Major Milroy's house. Once inside the
door, with your knowledge of music and languages, if you can keep
your temper, you may be sure of keeping the place. The only
doubt, as things are now, is whether you can get it.

"In the major's present difficulty about his daughter's
education, the chances are, I think, in favor of his advertising
for a governess. Say he does advertise, what address will he give
for applicants to write to?

"If he gives an address in London, good-by to all chances in your
favor at once; for this plain reason, that we shall not be able
to pick out his advertisement from the advertisements of other
people who want governesses, and who will give them addresses in
London as well. If, on the other hand, our luck helps us, and he
refers his correspondents to a shop, post-office, or what not _at
Thorpe Ambrose_, there we have our advertiser as plainly picked
out for us as we can wish. In this last case, I have little or no
doubt--with me for your reference--of your finding your way into
the major's family circle. We have one great advantage over the
other women who will answer the advertisement. Thanks to my
inquiries on the spot, I know Major Milroy to be a poor man; and
we will fix the salary you ask at a figure that is sure to tempt
him. As for the style of the letter, if you and I together can't
write a modest and interesting application for the vacant place,
I should like to know who can?

"All this, however, is still in the future. For the present my
advice is, stay where you are, and dream to your heart's content,
till you hear from me again. I take in _The Times_ regularly, and
you may trust my wary eye not to miss the right advertisement. We
can luckily give the major time, without doing any injury to our
own interests; for there is no fear just yet of the girl's
getting the start of you. The public reception, as we know, won't
be ready till near the end of the month; and we may safely trust
young Armadale's vanity to keep him out of his new house until
his flatterers are all assembled to welcome him.

"It's odd, isn't it, to think how much depends on this half-pay
officer's decision? For my part, I shall wake every morning now
with the same question in my mind: If the major's advertisment
appears, which will the major say--Thorpe Ambrose, or London?

"Ever, my dear Lydia, affectionately yours,

"MARIA OLDERSHAW."

CHAPTER II.

ALLAN AS A LANDED GENTLEMAN.

Early on the morning after his first night's rest at Thorpe
Ambrose, Allan rose and surveyed the prospect from his bedroom
window, lost in the dense mental bewilderment of feeling himself
to be a stranger in his own house.

The bedroom looked out over the great front door, with its
portico, its terrace and flight of steps beyond, and, further
still, the broad sweep of the well-timbered park to close the
view. The morning mist nestled lightly about the distant trees;
and the cows were feeding sociably, close to the iron fence which
railed off the park from the drive in front of the house. "All
mine!" thought Allan, staring in blank amazement at the prospect
of his own possessions. "Hang me if I can beat it into my head
yet. All mine!"

He dressed, left his room, and walked along the corridor which
led to the staircase and hall, opening the doors in succession as
he passed them.

The rooms in this part of the house were bedrooms and
dressing-rooms, light, spacious, perfectly furnished; and all
empty, except the one bed-chamber next to Allan's, which had been
appropriated to Midwinter. He was still sleeping when his friend
looked in on him, having sat late into the night writing his
letter to Mr. Brock. Allan went on to the end of the first
corridor, turned at right angles into a second, and, that passed,
gained the head of the great staircase. "No romance here," he
said to himself, looking down the handsomely carpeted stone
stairs into the bright modern hall. "Nothing to startle
Midwinter's fidgety nerves in this house." There was nothing,
indeed; Allan's essentially superficial observation had not
misled him for once. The mansion of Thorpe Ambrose (built after
the pulling down of the dilapidated old manor-house) was barely
fifty years old. Nothing picturesque, nothing in the slightest
degree suggestive of mystery and romance, appeared in any part of
it. It was a purely conventional country house--the product of
the classical idea filtered judiciously through the commercial
English mind. Viewed on the outer side, it presented the
spectacle of a modern manufactory trying to look like an ancient
temple. Viewed on the inner side, it was a marvel of luxurious
comfort in every part of it, from basement to roof. "And quite
right, too," thought Allan, sauntering contentedly down the
broad, gently graduated stairs. "Deuce take all mystery and
romance! Let's be clean and comfortable, that's what I say."

Arrived in the hall, the new master of Thorpe Ambrose hesitated,
and looked about him, uncertain which way to turn next.

The four reception-rooms on the ground-floor opened into the
hall, two on either side. Allan tried the nearest door on his
right hand at a venture, and found himself in the drawing-room.
Here the first sign of life appeared, under life's most
attractive form. A young girl was in solitary possession of the
drawing-room. The duster in her hand appeared to associate her
with the domestic duties of the house; but at that particular
moment she was occupied in asserting the rights of nature over
the obligations of service. In other words, she was attentively
contemplating her own face in the glass over the mantelpiece.

"There! there! don't let me frighten you," said Allan, as the
girl started away from the glass, and stared at him in
unutterable confusion. "I quite agree with you, my dear; your
face is well worth looking at. Who are you? Oh, the housemaid.
And what's your name? Susan, eh? Come! I like your name, to begin
with. Do you know who I am, Susan? I'm your master, though you
may not think it. Your character? Oh, yes! Mrs. Blanchard gave
you a capital character. You shall stop here; don't be afraid.
And you'll be a good girl, Susan, and wear smart little caps and
aprons and bright ribbons, and you'll look nice and pretty, and
dust the furniture, won't you?" With this summary of a
housemaid's duties, Allan sauntered back into the hall, and found
more signs of life in that quarter. A man-servant appeared on
this occasion, and bowed, as became a vassal in a linen jacket,
before his liege lord in a wide-awake hat.

"And who may you be?" asked Allan. "Not the man who let us in
last night? Ah, I thought not. The second footman, eh? Character?
Oh, yes; capital character. Stop here, of course. You can valet
me, can you? Bother valeting me! I like to put on my own clothes,
and brush them, too, when they _are_ on; and, if I only knew how
to black my own boots, by George, I should like to do it! What
room's this? Morning-room, eh? And here's the dining-room, of
course. Good heavens, what a table! it's as long as my yacht, and
longer. I say, by-the-by, what's your name? Richard, is it? Well,
Richard, the vessel I sail in is a vessel of my own building!
What do you think of that? You look to me just the right sort of
man to be my steward on board. If you're not sick at sea--oh, you
_are_ sick at sea? Well, then, we'll say nothing more about it.
And what room is this? Ah, yes; the library, of course--more in
Mr. Midwinter's way than mine. Mr. Midwinter is the gentleman who
came here with me last night; and mind this, Richard, you're all
to show him as much attention as you show me. Where are we now?
What's this door at the back? Billiard-room and smoking-room, eh?
Jolly. Another door! and more stairs! Where do they go to? and
who's this coming up? Take your time, ma'am; you're not quite so
young as you were once--take your time."

The object of Allan's humane caution was a corpulent elderly
woman of the type called "motherly." Fourteen stairs were all
that separated her from the master of the house; she ascended
them with fourteen stoppages and fourteen sighs. Nature, various
in all things, is infinitely various in the female sex. There are
some women whose personal qualities reveal the Loves and the
Graces; and there are other women whose personal qualities
suggest the Perquisites and the Grease Pot. This was one of the
other women.

"Glad to see you looking so well, ma'am," said Allan, when the
cook, in the majesty of her office, stood proclaimed before him.
"Your name is Gripper, is it? I consider you, Mrs. Gripper, the
most valuable person in the house. For this reason, that nobody
in the house eats a heartier dinner every day than I do.
Directions? Oh, no; I've no directions to give. I leave all that
to you. Lots of strong soup, and joints done with the gravy in
them--there's my notion of good feeding, in two words. Steady!
Here's somebody else. Oh, to be sure--the butler! Another
valuable person. We'll go right through all the wine in the
cellar, Mr. Butler; and if I can't give you a sound opinion after
that, we'll persevere boldly, and go right through it again.
Talking of wine--halloo! here are more of them coming up stairs.
There! there! don't trouble yourselves. You've all got capital
characters, and you shall all stop here along with me. What was I
saying just now? Something about wine; so it was. I'll tell you
what, Mr. Butler, it isn't every day that a new master comes to
Thorpe Ambrose; and it's my wish that we should all start
together on the best possible terms. Let the servants have a
grand jollification downstairs to celebrate my arrival, and give
them what they like to drink my health in. It's a poor heart,
Mrs. Gripper, that never rejoices, isn't it? No; I won't look at
the cellar now: I want to go out, and get a breath of fresh air
before breakfast. Where's Richard? I say, have I got a garden
here? Which side of the house is it! That side, eh? You needn't
show me round. I'll go alone, Richard, and lose myself, if I can,
in my own property."

With those words Allan descended the terrace steps in front of
the house, whistling cheerfully. He had met the serious
responsibility of settling his domestic establishment to his own
entire satisfaction. "People talk of the difficulty of managing
their servants," thought Allan. "What on earth do they mean? I
don't see any difficulty at all." He opened an ornamental gate
leading out of the drive at the side of the house, and, following
the footman's directions, entered the shrubbery that sheltered
the Thorpe Ambrose gardens. "Nice shady sort of place for a
cigar," said Allan, as he sauntered along with his hands in his
pockets "I wish I could beat it into my head that it really
belongs to _me_."

The shrubbery opened on the broad expanse of a flower garden,

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