Armadale HTML version

III.12. A Scandal At The Station
An hour later, the landlady at Miss Gwilt's lodgings was lost in astonishment, and
the clamorous tongues of the children were in a state of ungovernable revolt.
"Unforeseen circumstances" had suddenly obliged the tenant of the first floor to
terminate the occupation of her apartments, and to go to London that day by the
eleven o'clock train.
"Please to have a fly at the door at half-past ten," said Miss Gwilt, as the amazed
landlady followed her upstairs. "And excuse me, you good creature, if I beg and
pray not to be disturbed till the fly comes. "Once inside the room, she locked the
door, and then opened her writing-desk. "Now for my letter to the major!" she
said. "How shall I word it?"
A moment's consideration apparently decided her. Searching through her
collection of pens, she carefully selected the worst that could be found, and began
the letter by writing the date of the day on a soiled sheet of note-paper, in
crooked, clumsy characters, which ended in a blot made purposely with the
feather of the pen. Pausing, sometimes to think a little, sometimes to make
another blot, she completed the letter in these words:
"HON'D SIR--It is on my conscience to tell you something, which I think you
ought to know. You ought to know of the goings-on of Miss, your daughter, with
young Mister Armadale. I wish you to make sure, and, what is more, I advise you
to be quick about it, if she is going the way you want her to go, when she takes
her morning walk before breakfast. I scorn to make mischief, where there is true
love on both sides. But I don't think the young man means truly by Miss. What I
mean is, I think Miss only has his fancy. Another person, who shall be nameless
betwixt us, has his true heart. Please to pardon my not putting my name; I am only
a humble person, and it might get me into trouble. This is all at present, dear sir,
from yours,
"There!" said Miss Gwilt, as she folded the letter up. "If I had been a professed
novelist, I could hardly have written more naturally in the character of a servant
than that!" She wrote the necessary address to Major Milroy; looked admiringly
for the last time at the coarse and clumsy writing which her own delicate hand had
produced; and rose to post the letter herself, before she entered next on the serious
business of packing up. "Curious!" she thought, when the letter had been posted,
and she was back again making her traveling preparations in her own room; "here
I am, running headlong into a frightful risk--and I never was in better spirits in my
The boxes were ready when the fly was at the door, and Miss Gwilt was equipped
(as becomingly as usual) in her neat traveling costume. The thick veil, which she
was accustomed to wear in London, appeared on her country straw bonnet for the
first time." One meets such rude men occasionally in the railway," she said to the
landlady. "And though I dress quietly, my hair is so very remarkable." She was a
little paler than usual; but she had never been so sweet-tempered and engaging, so