seeing nothing but the total darkness in his own mind faithfully reflected by the
total darkness of the night.
"If I only had a friend to apply to!" thought the rector. "If I could only find some
one to help me in this miserable place!"
At the moment when the aspiration crossed his mind, it was suddenly answered
by a low knock at the door, and a voice said softly in the passage outside, "Let me
After an instant's pause to steady his nerves, Mr. Brock opened the door, and
found himself, at one o'clock in the morning, standing face to face on the
threshold of his own bedroom with Ozias Midwinter.
"Are you ill?" asked the rector, as soon as his astonishment would allow him to
"I have come here to make a clean breast of it!" was the strange answer. "Will you
let me in?"
With those words he walked into the room, his eyes on the ground, his lips ashy
pale, and his hand holding something hidden behind him.
"I saw the light under your door," he went on, without looking up, and without
moving his hand, "and I know the trouble on your mind which is keeping you
from your rest. You are going away to-morrow morning, and you don't like
leaving Mr. Armadale alone with a stranger like me."
Startled as he was, Mr. Brock saw the serious necessity of being plain with a man
who had come at that time, and had said those words to him.
"You have guessed right," he answered. "I stand in the place of a father to Allan
Armadale, and I am naturally unwilling to leave him, at his age, with a man whom
I don't know."
Ozias Midwinter took a step forward to the table. His wandering eyes rested on
the rector's New Testament, which was one of the objects lying on it.
"You have read that Book, in the years of a long life, to many congregations," he
said. "Has it taught you mercy to your miserable fellow-creatures?"
Without waiting to be answered, he looked Mr. Brock in the face for the first
time, and brought his hidden hand slowly into view.
"Read that," he said; "and, for Christ's sake, pity me when you know who I am."
He laid a letter of many pages on the table. It was the letter that Mr. Neal had
posted at Wildbad nineteen years since.