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III.4. Allan At Bay
Two o'clock came; and Pedgift Junior, punctual to his time, came with it. His
vivacity of the morning had all sparkled out; he greeted Allan with his customary
politeness, but without his customary smile; and, when the headwaiter came in for
orders, his dismissal was instantly pronounced in words never yet heard to issue
from the lips of Pedgift in that hotel: "Nothing at present."
"You seem to be in low spirits," said Allan. "Can't we get our information? Can
nobody tell you anything about the house in Pimlico?"
"Three different people have told me about it, Mr. Armadale, and they have all
three said the same thing."
Allan eagerly drew his chair nearer to the place occupied by his traveling
companion. His reflections in the interval since they had last seen each other had
not tended to compose him. That strange connection, so easy to feel, so hard to
trace, between the difficulty of approaching Miss Gwilt's family circumstances
and the difficulty of approaching Miss Gwilt's reference, which had already
established itself in his thoughts, had by this time stealthily taken a firmer and
firmer hold on his mind. Doubts troubled him which he could neither understand
nor express. Curiosity filled him, which he half longed and half dreaded to satisfy.
"I am afraid I must trouble you with a question or two, sir, before I can come to
the point," said Pedgift Junior. "I don't want to force myself into your confidence.
I only want to see my way, in what looks to me like a very awkward business. Do
you mind telling me whether others besides yourself are interested in this inquiry
of ours?"
"Other people are interested in it," replied Allan. "There's no objection to telling
you that."
"Is there any other person who is the object of the inquiry besides Mrs.
Mandeville, herself?" pursued Pedgift, winding his way a little deeper into the
"Yes; there is another person," said Allan, answering rather unwillingly.
"Is the person a young woman, Mr. Armadale?"
Allan started. "How do you come to guess that?" he began, then checked himself,
when it was too late. "Don't ask me any more questions," he resumed. "I'm a bad
hand at defending myself against a sharp fellow like you; and I'm bound in honor
toward other people to keep the particulars of this business to myself."
Pedgift Junior had apparently heard enough for his purpose. He drew his chair, in
his turn, nearer to Allan. He was evidently anxious and embarrassed; but his
professional manner began to show itself again from sheer force of habit.
"I've done with my questions, sir," he said; "and I have something to say now on
my side. In my father's absence, perhaps you may be kindly disposed to consider
me as your legal adviser. If you will take my advice, you will not stir another step
in this inquiry."