"Does it concern me?" asked Pedgift Senior, mercilessly brief, and mercilessly
straight in coming to the point.
"It concerns a lady, sir--no, not a lady--a young man, I ought to say, in whom you
used to feel some interest. Oh, Mr. Pedgift, sir, what do you think! Mr. Armadale
and Miss Gwilt have gone up to London together to-day--alone, sir--alone in a
carriage reserved for their two selves. Do you think he's going to marry her? Do
you really think, like the rest of them, he's going to marry her?"
He put the question with a sudden flush in his face and a sudden energy in his
manner. His sense of the value of the lawyer's time, his conviction of the
greatness of the lawyer's condescension, his constitutional shyness and timidity--
all yielded together to his one overwhelming interest in hearing Mr. Pedgift's
answer. He was loud for the first time in his life in putting the question.
"After my experience of Mr. Armadale," said the lawyer, instantly hardening in
look and manner, "I believe him to be infatuated enough to marry Miss Gwilt a
dozen times over, if Miss Gwilt chose to ask him. Your news doesn't surprise me
in the least, Bashwood. I'm sorry for him. I can honestly say that, though he has
set my advice at defiance. And I'm more sorry still," he continued, softening again
as his mind reverted to his interview with Neelie under the trees of the park--"I'm
more sorry still for another person who shall be nameless. But what have I to do
with all this? And what on earth is the matter with you?" he resumed, noticing for
the first time the abject misery in Mr. Bashwood's manner, the blank despair in
Mr. Bashwood's face, which his answer had produced. "Are you ill? Is there
something behind the curtain that you're afraid to bring out? I don't understand it.
Have you come here--here in my private room, in business hours--with nothing to
tell me but that young Armadale has been fool enough to ruin his prospects for
life? Why, I foresaw it all weeks since, and what is more, I as good as told him so
at the last conversation I had with him in the great house."
At those last words, Mr. Bashwood suddenly rallied. The lawyer's passing
reference to the great house had led him back in a moment to the purpose that he
had in view.
"That's it, sir!" he said, eagerly; "that's what I wanted to speak to you about; that's
what I've been preparing in my mind. Mr. Pedgift, sir, the last time you were at
the great house, when you came away in your gig, you--you overtook me on the
"I dare say I did," remarked Pedgift, resignedly. "My mare happens to be a trifle
quicker on her legs than you are on yours, Bashwood. Go on, go on. We shall
come in time, I suppose, to what you are driving at."
"You stopped, and spoke to me, sir," proceeded Mr. Bashwood, advancing more
and more eagerly to his end. "You said you suspected me of feeling some
curiosity about Miss Gwilt, and you told me (I remember the exact words, sir)--
you told me to gratify my curiosity by all means, for you didn't object to it."
Pedgift Senior began for the first time to look interested in hearing more.
"I remember something of the sort," he replied; "and I also remember thinking it
rather remarkable that you should happen--we won't put it in any more offensive
way--to be exactly under Mr. Armadale's open window while I was talking to
him. It might have been accident, of course; but it looked rather more like