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II.5. Mother Oldershaw On Her
1. From Mrs. Oldershaw (Diana Street, Pimlico) to Miss Gwilt (West Place, Old
"Ladies' Toilet Repository, June 20th,
Eight in the Evening.
"MY DEAR LYDIA--About three hours have passed, as well as I can remember,
since I pushed you unceremoniously inside my house in West Place, and, merely
telling you to wait till you saw me again, banged the door to between us, and left
you alone in the hall. I know your sensitive nature, my dear, and I am afraid you
have made up your mind by this time that never yet was a guest treated so
abominably by her hostess as I have treated you.
"The delay that has prevented me from explaining my strange conduct is, believe
me, a delay for which I am not to blame. One of the many delicate little
difficulties which beset so essentially confidential a business as mine occurred
here (as I have since discovered) while we were taking the air this afternoon in
Kensington Gardens. I see no chance of being able to get back to you for some
hours to come, and I have a word of very urgent caution for your private ear,
which has been too long delayed already. So I must use the spare minutes as they
come, and write.
"Here is caution the first. On no account venture outside the door again this
evening, and be very careful, while the daylight lasts, not to show yourself at any
of the front windows. I have reason to fear that a certain charming person now
staying with me may possibly be watched. Don't be alarmed, and don't be
impatient; you shall know why.
"I can only explain myself by going back to our unlucky meeting in the Gardens
with that reverend gentleman who was so obliging as to follow us both back to
my house.
"It crossed my mind, just as we were close to the door, that there might be a
motive for the parson's anxiety to trace us home, far less creditable to his taste,
and far more dangerous to both of us, than the motive you supposed him to have.
In plainer words, Lydia, I rather doubted whether you had met with another
admirer; and I strongly suspected that you had encountered another enemy instead
. There was no time to tell you this. There was only time to see you safe into the
house, and to make sure of the parson (in case my suspicions were right) by
treating him as he had treated us; I mean, by following him in his turn.
"I kept some little distance behind him at first, to turn the thing over in my mind,
and to be satisfied that my doubts were not misleading me. We have no
concealments from each other; and you shall know what my doubts were.
"I was not surprised at your recognizing him; he is not at all a common-looking
old man; and you had seen him twice in Somersetshire--once when you asked
your way of him to Mrs. Armadale's house, and once when you saw him again on