Allan went back to she cottage, and pleaded there for indulgence to Midwinter,
with an earnestness and simplicity which raised him immensely in the major's
estimation, but which totally failed to produce the same favorable impression on
Miss Milroy. Little as she herself suspected it, she was fond enough of Allan
already to be jealous of Allan's friend.
"How excessively absurd!" she thought, pettishly. "As if either papa or I
considered such a person of the slightest consequence!"
"You will kindly suspend your opinion, won't you, Major Milroy?" said Allan, in
his hearty way, at parting.
"With the greatest pleasure! " replied the major, cordially shaking hands.
"And you, too, Miss Milroy?" added Allan.
Miss Milroy made a mercilessly formal bow. "My opinion, Mr. Armadale, is not
of the slightest consequence."
Allan left the cottage, sorely puzzled to account for Miss Milroy's sudden
coolness toward him. His grand idea of conciliating the whole neighborhood by
becoming a married man underwent some modification as he closed the garden
gate behind him. The virtue called Prudence and the Squire of Thorpe Ambrose
became personally acquainted with each other, on this occasion, for the first time;
and Allan, entering headlong as usual on the high-road to moral improvement,
actually decided on doing nothing in a hurry!
A man who is entering on a course of reformation ought, if virtue is its own
reward, to be a man engaged in an essentially inspiriting pursuit. But virtue is not
always its own reward; and the way that leads to reformation is remarkably ill-
lighted for so respectable a thoroughfare. Allan seemed to have caught the
infection of his friend's despondency. As he walked home, he, too, began to
doubt--in his widely different way, and for his widely different reasons--whether
the life at Thorpe Ambrose was promising quite as fairly for the future as it had
promised at first.