Armadale HTML version

I.1. The Mystery Of Ozias Midwinter
ON a warm May night, in the year eighteen hundred and fifty-one, the Reverend
Decimus Brock--at that time a visitor to the Isle of Man--retired to his bedroom at
Castletown, with a serious personal responsibility in close pursuit of him, and
with no distinct idea of the means by which he might relieve himself from the
pressure of his present circumstances.
The clergyman had reached that mature period of human life at which a sensible
man learns to decline (as often as his temper will let him) all useless conflict with
the tyranny of his own troubles. Abandoning any further effort to reach a decision
in the emergency that now beset him, Mr. Brock sat down placidly in his shirt
sleeves on the side of his bed, and applied his mind to consider next whether the
emergency itself was as serious as he had hitherto been inclined to think it.
Following this new way out of his perplexities, Mr. Brock found himself
unexpectedly traveling to the end in view by the least inspiriting of all human
journeys--a journey through the past years of his own life.
One by one the events of those years--all connected with the same little group of
characters, and all more or less answerable for the anxiety which was now
intruding itself between the clergyman and his night's rest--rose, in progressive
series, on Mr. Brock's memory. The first of the series took him back, through a
period of fourteen years, to his own rectory on the Somersetshire shores of the
Bristol Channel, and closeted him at a private interview with a lady who had paid
him a visit in the character of a total stranger to the parson and the place.
The lady's complexion was fair, the lady's figure was well preserved; she was still
a young woman, and she looked even younger than her age. There was a shade of
melancholy in her expression, and an undertone of suffering in her voice--enough,
in each case, to indicate that she had known trouble, but not enough to obtrude
that trouble on the notice of others. She brought with her a fine, fair-haired boy of
eight years old, whom she presented as her son, and who was sent out of the way,
at the beginning of the interview, to amuse himself in the rectory garden. Her card
had preceded her entrance into the study, and had announced her under the name
of "Mrs. Armadale." Mr. Brock began to feel interested in her before she had
opened her lips; and when the son had been dismissed, he awaited with some
anxiety to hear what the mother had to say to him.
Mrs. Armadale began by informing the rector that she was a widow. Her husband
had perished by shipwreck a short time after their union, on the voyage from
Madeira to Lisbon. She had been brought to England, after her affliction, under
her father's protection; and her child--a posthumous son--had been born on the
family estate in Norfolk. Her father's death, shortly afterward, had deprived her of
her only surviving parent, and had exposed her to neglect and misconstruction on
the part of her remaining relatives (two brothers), which had estranged her from
them, she feared, for the rest of her days. For some time past she had lived in the
neighboring county of Devonshire, devoting herself to the education of her boy,
who had now reached an age at which he required other than his mother's