"Hurle Mere is where the governess will be, sir, if your coachman follows my
directions," pursued young Pedgift. "We have got nearly an hour's punting to do,
along the twists and turns of the narrow waters (which they call The Sounds here)
between this and Hurle Mere; and according to my calculations we must get on
board again in five minutes, if we are to be in time to meet the governess and to
meet your friend."
"We mustn't miss my friend on any account," said Allan; "or the governess,
either, of course. I'll tell the major."
Major Milroy was at that moment preparing to mount the wooden watch-tower of
the cottage to see the view. The ever useful Pedgift volunteered to go up with
him, and rattle off all the necessary local explanations in half the time which the
reed-cutter would occupy in describing his own neighborhood to a stranger.
Allan remained standing in front of the cottage, more quiet and more thoughtful
than usual. His interview with young Pedgift had brought his absent friend to his
memory for the first time since the picnic party had started. He was surprised that
Midwinter, so much in his thoughts on all other occasions, should have been so
long out of his thoughts now. Something troubled him, like a sense of self-
reproach, as his mind reverted to the faithful friend at home, toiling hard over the
steward's books, in his interests and for his sake. "Dear old fellow," thought
Allan, "I shall be so glad to see him at the Mere; the day's pleasure won't be
complete till he joins us!"
"Should I be right or wrong, Mr. Armadale, if I guessed that you were thinking of
somebody?" asked a voice, softly, behind him.
Allan turned, and found the major's daughter at his side. Miss Milroy (not
unmindful of a certain tender interview which had taken place behind a carriage)
had noticed her admirer standing thoughtfully by himself, and had determined on
giving him another opportunity, while her father and young Pedgift were at the
top of the watch-tower.
"You know everything," said Allan, smiling. "I was thinking of somebody."
Miss Milroy stole a glance at him--a glance of gentle encouragement. There could
be but one human creature in Mr. Armadale's mind after what had passed between
them that morning! It would be only an act of mercy to take him back again at
once to the interrupted conversation of a few hours since on the subject of names.
"I have been thinking of somebody, too," she said, half-inviting, half-repelling the
coming avowal. "If I tell you the first letter of my Somebody's name, will you tell
me the first letter of yours?"
"I will tell you anything you like," rejoined Allan, with the utmost enthusiasm.
She still shrank coquettishly from the very subject that she wanted to approach.
"Tell me your letter first," she said, in low tones, looking away from him.
Allan laughed. "M," he said, "is my first letter."
She started a little. Strange that he should be thinking of her by her surname
instead of her Christian name; but it mattered little as long as he was thinking of
"What is your letter?" asked Allan.
She blushed and smiled. "A--if you will have it!" she answered, in a reluctant
little whisper. She stole another look at him, and luxuriously protracted her