Armadale HTML version

"With all my heart," said Allan. "How?"
"Out of books, to be sure! There must be quantities of information in that
enormous library of yours at the great house. If you really love me, you won't
mind going over the backs of a few thousand books, for my sake!"
"I'll go over the backs of ten thousand!" cried Allan, warmly. "Would you mind
telling me what I'm to look for?"
"For 'Law,' to be sure! When it says 'Law' on the back, open it, and look inside for
Marriage--read every word of it--and then come here and explain it to me. What!
you don't think your head is to be trusted to do such a simple thing as that?"
"I'm certain it isn't," said Allan. "Can't you help me?"
"Of course I can, if you can't manage without me! Law may be hard, but it can't
be harder than music; and I must, and will, satisfy my mind. Bring me all the
books you can find, on Monday morning--in a wheelbarrow, if there are a good
many of them, and if you can't manage it in any other way."
The result of this conversation was Allan's appearance in the park, with a volume
of Blackstone's Commentaries under his arm, on the fatal Monday morning, when
Miss Gwilt's written engagement of marriage was placed in Midwinter's hands.
Here again, in this, as in all other human instances, the widely discordant
elements of the grotesque and the terrible were forced together by that subtle law
of contrast which is one of the laws of mortal life. Amid all the thickening
complications now impending over their heads--with the shadow of meditated
murder stealing toward one of them already from the lurking-place that hid Miss
Gwilt--the two sat down, unconscious of the future, with the book between them;
and applied themselves to the study of the law of marriage, with a grave
resolution to understand it, which, in two such students, was nothing less than a
burlesque in itself!
"Find the place," said Neelie, as soon as they were comfortably established. "We
must manage this by what they call a division of labor. You shall read, and I'll
take notes."
She produced forthwith a smart little pocket-book and pencil, and opened the
book in the middle, where there was a blank page on the right hand and the left.
At the top of the right-hand page she wrote the word Good. At the top of the left-
hand page she wrote the word Bad. "'Good' means where the law is on our side,"
she explained; "and 'Bad' means where the law is against us. We will have 'Good'
and 'Bad' opposite each other, all down the two pages; and when we get to the
bottom, we'll add them up, and act accordingly. They say girls have no heads for
business. Haven't they! Don't look at me--look at Blackstone, and begin."
"Would you mind giving one a kiss first?" asked Allan.
"I should mind it very much. In our serious situation, when we have both got to
exert our intellects, I wonder you can ask for such a thing!"
"That's why I asked for it," said the unblushing Allan. "I feel as if it would clear
my head."
"Oh, if it would clear your head, that's quite another thing! I must clear your head,
of course, at any sacrifice. Only one, mind," she whispered, coquettishly; "and
pray be careful of Blackstone, or you'll lose the place."