"The family did what the rest of the gentry did, sir," said the man, staring at his
master in utter bewilderment. "They gave dinner-parties and balls. And in fine
summer weather, sir, like this, they sometimes had lawn-parties and picnics--"
"That'll do!" shouted Allan. "A picnic's just the thing to please her. Richard,
you're an invaluable man; you may go downstairs again."
Richard retired wondering, and Richard's master seized his ready pen.
"DEAR MISS MILROY--Since I left you it has suddenly struck me that we might
have a picnic. A little change and amusement (what I should call a good shaking-
up, if I wasn't writing to a young lady) is just the thing for you, after being so long
indoors lately in Mrs. Milroy's room. A picnic is a change, and (when the wine is
good) amusement, too. Will you ask the major if he will consent to the picnic, and
come? And if you have got any friends in the neighborhood who like a picnic,
pray ask them too, for I have got none. It shall be your picnic, but I will provide
everything and take everybody. You shall choose the day, and we will picnic
where you like. I have set my heart on this picnic.
"Believe me, ever yours,
On reading over his composition before sealing it up, Allan frankly acknowledged
to himself, this time, that it was not quite faultless. " 'Picnic' comes in a little too
often," he said. "Never mind; if she likes the idea, she won't quarrel with that." He
sent off the letter on the spot, with strict instructions to the messenger to wait for a
In half an hour the answer came back on scented paper, without an erasure
anywhere, fragrant to smell, and beautiful to see.
The presentation of the naked truth is one of those exhibitions from which the
native delicacy of the female mind seems instinctively to revolt. Never were the
tables turned more completely than they were now turned on Allan by his fair
correspondent. Machiavelli himself would never have suspected, from Miss
Milroy's letter, how heartily she had repented her petulance to the young squire as
soon as his back was turned, and how extravagantly delighted she was when his
invitation was placed in her hands. Her letter was the composition of a model
young lady whose emotions are all kept under parental lock and key, and served
out for her judiciously as occasion may require. "Papa," appeared quite as
frequently in Miss Milroy's reply as "picnic" had appeared in Allan's invitation.
"Papa" had been as considerately kind as Mr. Armadale in wishing to procure her
a little change and amusement, and had offered to forego his usual quiet habits
and join the picnic. With "papa's" sanction, therefore, she accepted, with much
pleasure, Mr. Armadale's proposal; and, at "papa's" suggestion, she would
presume on Mr. Armadale's kindness to add two friends of theirs recently settled
at Thorpe Ambrose, to the picnic party--a widow lady and her son; the latter in
holy orders and in delicate health. If Tuesday next would suit Mr. Armadale,
Tuesday next would suit "papa"--being the first day he could spare from repairs
which were required by his clock. The rest, by "papa's" advice, she would beg to
leave entirely in Mr. Armadale's hands; and, in the meantime, she would remain,
with "papa's" compliments, Mr. Armadale's truly--ELEANOR MILROY."