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Dream might be a vision realized, before the new day that now saw the two
Armadales together was a day that had passed over their heads--with these triple
bonds, wrought by his own superstition, fettering him at that moment as they had
never fettered him yet, he mercilessly spurred his resolution to the desperate effort
of rivaling, in Allan's presence, the gayety and good spirits of Allan himself.
He talked and laughed, and heaped his plate indiscriminately from every dish on
the breakfast-table. He made noisily merry with jests that had no humor, and
stories that had no point. He first astonished Allan, then amused him, then won
his easily encouraged confidence on the subject of Miss Milroy. He shouted with
laughter over the sudden development of Allan's views on marriage, until the
servants downstairs began to think that their master's strange friend had gone
mad. Lastly, he had accepted Allan's proposal that he should be presented to the
major's daughter, and judge of her for himself, as readily, nay, more readily than
it would have been accepted by the least diffident man living. There the two now
stood at the cottage gate --Midwinter's voice rising louder and louder over
Allan's-- Midwinter's natural manner disguised (how madly and miserably none
but he knew!) in a coarse masquerade of boldness--the outrageous, the
unendurable boldness of a shy man.
They were received in the parlor by the major's daughter, pending the arrival of
the major himself.
Allan attempted to present his friend in the usual form. To his astonishment,
Midwinter took the words flippantly out of his lips, and introduced himself to
Miss Milroy with a confident look, a hard laugh, and a clumsy assumption of ease
which presented him at his worst. His artificial spirits, lashed continuously into
higher and higher effervescence since the morning, were now mounting
hysterically beyond his own control. He looked and spoke with that terrible
freedom of license which is the necessary consequence, when a diffident man has
thrown off his reserve, of the very effort by which he has broken loose from his
own restraints. He involved himself in a confused medley of apologies that were
not wanted, and of compliments that might have overflattered the vanity of a
savage. He looked backward and forward from Miss Milroy to Allan, and
declared jocosely that he understood now why his friend's morning walks were
always taken in the same direction. He asked her questions about her mother, and
cut short the answers she gave him by remarks on the weather. In one breath, he
said she must feel the day insufferably hot, and in another he protested that he
quite envied her in her cool muslin dress.
The major came in.
Before he could say two words, Midwinter overwhelmed him with the same
frenzy of familiarity, and the same feverish fluency of speech. He expressed his
interest in Mrs. Milroy's health in terms which would have been exaggerated on
the lips of a friend of the family. He overflowed into a perfect flood of apologies
for disturbing the major at his mechanical pursuits. He quoted Allan's extravagant
account of the clock, and expressed his own anxiety to see it in terms more
extravagant still. He paraded his superficial book knowledge of the great clock at
Strasbourg, with far-fetched jests on the extraordinary automaton figures which
that clock puts in motion--on the procession of the Twelve Apostles, which walks