Armadale HTML version
a Christian again; I nodded kindly, and wished him good-morning. When I looked
round to wish Miss Neelie good-morning, too, she was gone. You seem restless,
Mr. Armadale," remarked Pedgift Senior, as Allan, feeling the sting of old
recollections, suddenly started out of his chair, and began pacing up and down the
room. "I won't try your patience much longer, sir; I am coming to the point."
"I beg your pardon, Mr. Pedgift," said Allan, returning to his seat, and trying to
look composedly at the lawyer through the intervening image of Neelie which the
lawyer had called up.
"Well, sir, I left the cottage," resumed Pedgift Senior. "Just as I turned the corner
from the garden into the park, whom should I stumble on but Miss Neelie herself,
evidently on the lookout for me. 'I want to speak to you for one moment, Mr.
Pedgift!' says she. 'Does Mr. Armadale think me mixed up in this matter?' She
was violently agitated--tears in her eyes, sir, of the sort which my legal experience
has not accustomed me to see. I quite forgot myself; I actually gave her my arm,
and led her away gently among the trees. (A nice position to find me in, if any of
the scandal-mongers of the town had happened to be walking in that direction!)
'My dear Miss Milroy,' says I, 'why should Mr. Armadale think you mixed up in
"You ought to have told her at once that I thought nothing of the kind!" exclaimed
Allan, indignantly. "Why did you leave her a moment in doubt about it?"
"Because I am a lawyer, Mr. Armadale," rejoined Pedgift Senior, dryly. "Even in
moments of sentiment, under convenient trees, with a pretty girl on my arm, I
can't entirely divest myself of my professional caution. Don't look distressed, sir,
pray! I set things right in due course of time. Before I left Miss Milroy, I told her,
in the plainest terms, no such idea had ever entered your head."
"Did she seem relieved?" asked Allan.
"She was able to dispense with the use of my arm, sir," replied old Pedgift, as
dryly as ever, "and to pledge me to inviolable secrecy on the subject of our
interview. She was particularly desirous that you should hear nothing about it. If
you are at all anxious on your side to know why I am now betraying her
confidence, I beg to inform you that her confidence related to no less a person
than the lady who favored you with a call just now--Miss Gwilt."
Allan, who had been once more restlessly pacing the room, stopped, and returned
to his chair.
"Is this serious?" he asked.
"Most serious, sir," returned Pedgift Senior. "I am betraying Miss Neelie's secret,
in Miss Neelie's own interest. Let us go back to that cautious question I put to her.
She found some little difficulty in answering it, for the reply involved her in a
narrative of the parting interview between her governess and herself. This is the
substance of it. The two were alone when Miss Gwilt took leave of her pupil; and
the words she used (as reported to me by Miss Neelie) were these. She said, 'Your
mother has declined to allow me to take leave of her. Do you decline too?' Miss
Neelie's answer was a remarkably sensible one for a girl of her age. 'We have not
been good friends,' she said, 'and I believe we are equally glad to part with each
other. But I have no wish to decline taking leave of you.' Saying that, she held out
her hand. Miss Gwilt stood looking at her steadily, without taking it, and