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Armadale

his own composition, as he addressed it and sent it down to the messenger.
"Darch's hide must be a thick one," he said, "if he doesn't feel that!"
The sound of the wheels outside suddenly recalled him to the business of the day.
There was the carriage waiting to take him on his round of visits; and there was
Midwinter at his post, pacing to and fro on the drive.
"Read that," cried Allan, throwing out the lawyer's letter; "I've written him back a
smasher."
He bustled away to the wardrobe to get his coat. There was a wonderful change in
him; he felt little or no reluctance to pay the visits now. The pleasurable
excitement of answering Mr. Darth had put him in a fine aggressive frame of
mind for asserting himself in the neighborhood. "Whatever else they may say of
me, they shan't say I was afraid to face them." Heated red-hot with that idea, he
seized his hat and gloves, and hurrying out of the room, met Midwinter in the
corridor with the lawyer's letter in his hand.
"Keep up your spirits!" cried Allan, seeing the anxiety in his friend's face, and
misinterpreting the motive of it immediately. "If Darch can't be counted on to
send us a helping hand into the steward's office, Pedgift can."
"My dear Allan, I was not thinking of that; I was thinking of Mr. Darch's letter. I
don't defend this sour-tempered man; but I am afraid we must admit he has some
cause for complaint. Pray don't give him another chance of putting you in the
wrong. Where is your answer to his letter?"
"Gone!" replied Allan. "I always strike while the iron's hot--a word and a blow,
and the blow first, that's my way. Don't, there's a good fellow, don't fidget about
the steward's books and the rent-day. Here! here's a bunch of keys they gave me
last night: one of them opens the room where the steward's books are; go in and
read them till I come back. I give you my sacred word of honor I'll settle it all
with Pedgift before you see me again."
"One moment," interposed Midwinter, stopping him resolutely on his way out to
the carriage. "I say nothing against Mr. Pedgift's fitness to possess your
confidence, for I know nothing to justify me in distrusting him. But he has not
introduced himself to your notice in a very delicate way; and he has not
acknowledged (what is quite clear to my mind) that he knew of Mr. Darch's
unfriendly feeling toward you when he wrote. Wait a little before you go to this
stranger; wait till we can talk it over together to-night."
"Wait!" replied Allan. "Haven't I told you that I always strike while the iron's hot?
Trust my eye for character, old boy, I'll look Pedgift through and through, and act
accordingly. Don't keep me any longer, for Heaven's sake. I'm in a fine humor for
tackling the resident gentry; and if I don't go at once, I'm afraid it may wear off."
With that excellent reason for being in a hurry, Allan boisterously broke away.
Before it was possible to stop him again, he had jumped into the carriage and had
left the house.
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