Armadale HTML version
"There! there! don't let me frighten you," said Allan, as the girl started away from
the glass, and stared at him in unutterable confusion. "I quite agree with you, my
dear; your face is well worth looking at. Who are you? Oh, the housemaid. And
what's your name? Susan, eh? Come! I like your name, to begin with. Do you
know who I am, Susan? I'm your master, though you may not think it. Your
character? Oh, yes! Mrs. Blanchard gave you a capital character. You shall stop
here; don't be afraid. And you'll be a good girl, Susan, and wear smart little caps
and aprons and bright ribbons, and you'll look nice and pretty, and dust the
furniture, won't you?" With this summary of a housemaid's duties, Allan
sauntered back into the hall, and found more signs of life in that quarter. A man-
servant appeared on this occasion, and bowed, as became a vassal in a linen
jacket, before his liege lord in a wide-awake hat.
"And who may you be?" asked Allan. "Not the man who let us in last night? Ah, I
thought not. The second footman, eh? Character? Oh, yes; capital character. Stop
here, of course. You can valet me, can you? Bother valeting me! I like to put on
my own clothes, and brush them, too, when they are on; and, if I only knew how
to black my own boots, by George, I should like to do it! What room's this?
Morning-room, eh? And here's the dining-room, of course. Good heavens, what a
table! it's as long as my yacht, and longer. I say, by-the-by, what's your name?
Richard, is it? Well, Richard, the vessel I sail in is a vessel of my own building!
What do you think of that? You look to me just the right sort of man to be my
steward on board. If you're not sick at sea--oh, you are sick at sea? Well, then,
we'll say nothing more about it. And what room is this? Ah, yes; the library, of
course--more in Mr. Midwinter's way than mine. Mr. Midwinter is the gentleman
who came here with me last night; and mind this, Richard, you're all to show him
as much attention as you show me. Where are we now? What's this door at the
back? Billiard-room and smoking-room, eh? Jolly. Another door! and more stairs!
Where do they go to? and who's this coming up? Take your time, ma'am; you're
not quite so young as you were once--take your time."
The object of Allan's humane caution was a corpulent elderly woman of the type
called "motherly." Fourteen stairs were all that separated her from the master of
the house; she ascended them with fourteen stoppages and fourteen sighs. Nature,
various in all things, is infinitely various in the female sex. There are some
women whose personal qualities reveal the Loves and the Graces; and there are
other women whose personal qualities suggest the Perquisites and the Grease Pot.
This was one of the other women.
"Glad to see you looking so well, ma'am," said Allan, when the cook, in the
majesty of her office, stood proclaimed before him. "Your name is Gripper, is it? I
consider you, Mrs. Gripper, the most valuable person in the house. For this
reason, that nobody in the house eats a heartier dinner every day than I do.
Directions? Oh, no; I've no directions to give. I leave all that to you. Lots of
strong soup, and joints done with the gravy in them--there's my notion of good
feeding, in two words. Steady! Here's somebody else. Oh, to be sure--the butler!
Another valuable person. We'll go right through all the wine in the cellar, Mr.
Butler; and if I can't give you a sound opinion after that, we'll persevere boldly,
and go right through it again. Talking of wine--halloo! here are more of them