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Armadale

I.2. The Man Revealed
THE first cool breathings of the coming dawn fluttered through the open window
as Mr. Brock read the closing lines of the Confession. He put it from him in
silence, without looking up. The first shock of discovery had struck his mind, and
had passed away again. At his age, and with his habits of thought, his grasp was
not strong enough to hold the whole revelation that had fallen on him. All his
heart, when he closed the manuscript, was with the memory of the woman who
had been the beloved friend of his later and happier life; all his thoughts were
busy with the miserable secret of her treason to her own father which the letter
had disclosed.
He was startled out of the narrow limits of his own little grief by the vibration of
the table at which he sat, under a hand that was laid on it heavily. The instinct of
reluctance was strong in him; but he conquered it, and looked up. There, silently
confronting him in the mixed light of the yellow candle flame and the faint gray
dawn, stood the castaway of the village inn--the inheritor of the fatal Armadale
name.
Mr. Brock shuddered as the terror of the present time and the darker terror yet of
the future that might be coming rushed back on him at the sight of the man's face.
The man saw it, and spoke first.
"Is my father's crime looking at you out of my eyes?" he asked. "Has the ghost of
the drowned man followed me into the room?"
The suffering and the passion that he was forcing back shook the hand that he still
kept on the table, and stifled the voice in which he spoke until it sank to a
whisper.
"I have no wish to treat you otherwise than justly and kindly," answered Mr.
Brock. "Do me justice on my side, and believe that I am incapable of cruelly
holding you responsible for your father's crime."
The reply seemed to compose him. He bowed his head in silence, and took up the
confession from the table.
"Have you read this through?" he asked, quietly.
"Every word of it, from first to last."
"Have I dealt openly with you so far. Has Ozias Midwinter--"
"Do you still call yourself by that name," interrupted Mr. Brock, "now your true
name is known to me?"
"Since I have read my father's confession," was the answer, "I like my ugly alias
better than ever. Allow me to repeat the question which I was about to put to you
a minute since: Has Ozias Midwinter done his best thus far to enlighten Mr.
Brock?"
The rector evaded a direct reply. "Few men in your position," he said, "would
have had the courage to show me that letter."
"Don't be too sure, sir, of the vagabond you picked up at the inn till you know a
little more of him than you know now. You have got the secret of my birth, but
you are not in possession yet of the story of my life. You ought to know it, and
 
 
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