Armadale HTML version
the view of the street before him. The next instant he started; his breath
quickened; he leaned, trembling and flushing, against the unfinished wall at his
side. A lady, still at some distance, was advancing toward him down the length of
the street. "She's coming!" he whispered, with a strange mixture of rapture and
fear, of alternating color and paleness, showing itself in his haggard face. "I wish I
was the ground she treads on! I wish I was the glove she's got on her hand!" He
burst ecstatically into those extravagant words, with a concentrated intensity of
delight in uttering them that actually shook his feeble figure from head to foot.
Smoothly and gracefully the lady glided nearer and nearer, until she revealed to
Mr. Bashwood's eyes, what Mr. Bashwood's instincts had recognized in the first
instance--the face of Miss Gwilt.
She was dressed with an exquisitely expressive economy of outlay. The plainest
straw bonnet procurable, trimmed sparingly with the cheapest white ribbon, was
on her head. Modest and tasteful poverty expressed itself in the speckless
cleanliness and the modestly proportioned skirts of her light "print" gown, and in
the scanty little mantilla of cheap black silk which she wore over it, edged with a
simple frilling of the same material. The luster of her terrible red hair showed
itself unshrinkingly in a plaited coronet above her forehead, and escaped in one
vagrant love-lock, perfectly curled, that dropped over her left shoulder. Her
gloves, fitting her like a second skin, were of the sober brown hue which is
slowest to show signs of use. One hand lifted her dress daintily above the
impurities of the road; the other held a little nosegay of the commonest garden
flowers. Noiselessly and smoothly she came on, with a gentle and regular
undulation of the print gown; with the love-lock softly lifted from moment to
moment in the evening breeze; with her head a little drooped, and her eyes on the
ground--in walk, and look, and manner, in every casual movement that escaped
her, expressing that subtle mixture of the voluptuous and the modest which, of the
many attractive extremes that meet in women, is in a man's eyes the most
irresistible of all.
"Mr. Bashwood!" she exclaimed, in loud, clear tones indicative of the utmost
astonishment, "what a surprise to find you here! I thought none but the wretched
inhabitants ever ventured near this side of the town. Hush!" she added quickly, in
a whisper. "You heard right when you heard that Mr. Armadale was going to have
me followed and watched. There's a man behind one of the houses. We must talk
out loud of indifferent things, and look as if we had met by accident. Ask me what
I am doing. Out loud! Directly! You shall never see me again, if you don't
instantly leave off trembling and do what I tell you!"
She spoke with a merciless tyranny of eye and voice--with a merciless use of her
power over the feeble creature whom she addressed. Mr. Bashwood obeyed her in
tones that quavered with agitation, and with eyes that devoured her beauty in a
strange fascination of terror and delight.
"I am trying to earn a little money by teaching music," she said, in the voice
intended to reach the spy's ears. "If you are able to recommend me any pupils, Mr.
Bashwood, your good word will oblige me. Have you been in the grounds to-
day?" she went on, dropping her voice again in a whisper. "Has Mr. Armadale
been near the cottage? Has Miss Milroy been out of the garden? No? Are you