Armadale, by Wilkie Collins

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.”

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/c/collins/wilkie/c71a/chapter9.html

Last updated Thursday, March 13, 2014 at 21:30