Armadale HTML version
Attracted by the book-shelves which he noticed on one of the walls, Midwinter
stepped into the room.
The books, few in number, did not detain him long; a glance at their backs was
enough without taking them down. The Waverley Novels, Tales by Miss
Edgeworth, and by Miss Edgeworth's many followers, the Poems of Mrs.
Hemans, with a few odd volumes of the illustrated gift-books of the period,
composed the bulk of the little library. Midwinter turned to leave the room, when
an object on one side of the window, which he had not previously noticed, caught
his attention and stopped him. It was a statuette standing on a bracket--a reduced
copy of the famous Niobe of the Florence Museum. He glanced from the statuette
to the window, with a sudden doubt which set his heart throbbing fast. It was a
French window. He looked out with a suspicion which he had not felt yet. The
view before him was the view of a lawn and garden. For a moment his mind
struggled blindly to escape the conclusion which had seized it, and struggled in
vain. Here, close round him and close before him--here, forcing him mercilessly
back from the happy present to the horrible past, was the room that Allan had seen
in the Second Vision of the Dream.
He waited, thinking and looking round him while he thought. There was
wonderfully little disturbance in his face and manner; he looked steadily from one
to the other of the few objects in the room, as if the discovery of it had saddened
rather than surprised him. Matting of some foreign sort covered the floor. Two
cane chairs and a plain table comprised the whole of the furniture. The walls were
plainly papered, and bare--broken to the eye in one place by a door leading into
the interior of the house; in another, by a small stove; in a third, by the book-
shelves which Midwinter had already noticed. He returned to the books, and this
time he took some of them down from the shelves.
The first that he opened contained lines in a woman's handwriting, traced in ink
that had faded with time. He read the inscription--"Jane Armadale, from her
beloved father. Thorpe Ambrose, October, 1828." In the second, third, and fourth
volumes that he opened, the same inscription re-appeared. His previous
knowledge of dates and persons helped him to draw the true inference from what
he saw. The books must have belonged to Allan's mother; and she must have
inscribed them with her name, in the interval of time between her return to Thorpe
Ambrose from Madeira and the birth of her son. Midwinter passed on to a volume
on another shelf--one of a series containing the writings of Mrs. Hemans. In this
case, the blank leaf at the beginning of the book was filled on both sides with a
copy of verses, the writing being still in Mrs. Armadale's hand. The verses were
headed "Farewell to Thorpe Ambrose," and were dated "March, 1829"--two
months only after Allan had been born.
Entirely without merit in itself, the only interest of the little poem was in the
domestic story that it told.
The very room in which Midwinter then stood was described--with the view on
the garden, the window made to open on it, the bookshelves, the Niobe, and other
more perishable ornaments which Time had destroyed. Here, at variance with her
brothers, shrinking from her friends, the widow of the murdered man had, on her
own acknowledgment, secluded herself, without other comfort than the love and