gracefully cordial and friendly, as now, when the moment of departure had come.
The simple people of the house were quite moved at taking leave of her. She
insisted on shaking hands with the landlord--on speaking to him in her prettiest
way, and sunning him in her brightest smiles. "Come!" she said to the landlady,
"you have been so kind, you have been so like a mother to me, you must give me
a kiss at parting." She embraced the children all together in a lump, with a mixture
of humor and tenderness delightful to see, and left a shilling among them to buy a
cake. "If I was only rich enough to make it a sovereign," she whispered to the
mother, "how glad I should be!" The awkward lad who ran on errands stood
waiting at the fly door. He was clumsy, he was frowsy, he had a gaping mouth
and a turn-up nose; but the ineradicable female delight in being charming
accepted him, for all that, in the character of a last chance. "You dear, dingy
John!" she said, kindly, at the carriage door. "I am so poor I have only sixpence to
give you--with my very best wishes. Take my advice, John--grow to be a fine
man, and find yourself a nice sweetheart! Thank you a thousand times!" She gave
him a friendly little pat on the cheek with two of her gloved fingers, and smiled,
and nodded, and got into the fly.
"Armadale next!" she said to herself as the carriage drove off.
Allan's anxiety not to miss the train had brought him to the station in better time
than usual. After taking his ticket and putting his portmanteau under the porter's
charge, he was pacing the platform and thinking of Neelie, when he heard the
rustling of a lady's dress behind him, and, turning round to look, found himself
face to face with Miss Gwilt.
There was no escaping her this time. The station wall was on his right hand, and
the line was on his left; a tunnel was behind him, and Miss Gwilt was in front,
inquiring in her sweetest tones whether Mr. Armadale was going to London.
Allan colored scarlet with vexation and surprise. There he was obviously waiting
for the train; and there was his portmanteau close by, with his name on it, already
labeled for London! What answer but the true one could he make after that?
Could he let the train go without him, and lose the precious hours so vitally
important to Neelie and himself? Impossible! Allan helplessly confirmed the
printed statement on his portmanteau, and heartily wished himself at the other end
of the world as he said the words.
"How very fortunate!" rejoined Miss Gwilt. "I am going to London too. Might I
ask you Mr. Armadale (as you seem to be quite alone), to be my escort on the
Allan looked at the little assembly of travelers, and travelers' friends, collected on
the platform, near the booking-office door. They were all Thorpe Ambrose
people. He was probably known by sight, and Miss Gwilt was probably known by
sight, to every one of them. In sheer desperation, hesitating more awkwardly than
ever, he produced his cigar case. "I should be delighted," he said, with an
embarrassment which was almost an insult under the circumstances. "But I--I'm
what the people who get sick over a cigar call a slave to smoking."
"I delight in smoking!" said Miss Gwilt, with undiminished vivacity and good
humor. "It's one of the privileges of the men which I have always envied. I'm
afraid, Mr. Armadale, you must think I am forcing myself on you. It certainly