Armadale HTML version
complimentary assurance that I had not cost either of them the slightest sacrifice
of his own pleasure. Midwinter declared that he was too completely worn out to
care for anything but the two great blessings, unattainable at the theater, of quiet
and fresh air. Armadale said--with an Englishman's exasperating pride in his own
stupidity wherever a matter of art is concerned--that he couldn't make head or tail
of the performance. The principal disappointment, he was good enough to add,
was mine, for I evidently understood foreign music, and enjoyed it. Ladies
generally did. His darling little Neelie--
"I was in no humor to be persecuted with his 'Darling Neelie' after what I had
gone through at the theater. It might have been the irritated state of my nerves, or
it might have been the eau-de-cologne flying to my head, but the bare mention of
the girl seemed to set me in a flame. I tried to turn Armadale's attention in the
direction of the supper-table. He was much obliged, but he had no appetite for
more. I offered him wine next, the wine of the country, which is all that our
poverty allows us to place on the table. He was much obliged again. The foreign
wine was very little more to his taste than the foreign music; but he would take
some because I asked him; and he would drink my health in the old-fashioned
way, with his best wishes for the happy time when we should all meet again at
Thorpe Ambrose, and when there would be a mistress to welcome me at the great
"Was he mad to persist in this way? No; his face answered for him. He was under
the impression that he was making himself particularly agreeable to me.
"I looked at Midwinter. He might have seen some reason for interfering to change
the conversation, if he had looked at me in return. But he sat silent in his chair,
irritable and overworked, with his eyes on the ground, thinking.
"I got up and went to the window. Still impenetrable to a sense of his own
clumsiness, Armadale followed me. If I had been strong enough to toss him out of
the window into the sea, I should certainly have done it at that moment. Not being
strong enough, I looked steadily at the view over the bay, and gave him a hint, the
broadest and rudest I could think of, to go.
"'A lovely night for a walk,' I said, 'if you are tempted to walk back to the hotel.'
"I doubt if he heard me. At any rate, I produced no sort of effect on him. He stood
staring sentimentally at the moonlight; and--there is really no other word to
express it--blew a sigh. I felt a presentiment of what was coming, unless I stopped
his mouth by speaking first.
"'With all your fondness for England,' I said, 'you must own that we have no such
moonlight as that at home.'
"He looked at me vacantly, and blew another sigh.
"'I wonder whether it is fine to-night in England as it is here?' he said. 'I wonder
whether my dear little girl at home is looking at the moonlight, and thinking of
"I could endure it no longer. I flew out at him at last.
"'Good heavens, Mr. Armadale!' I exclaimed, 'is there only one subject worth
mentioning, in the narrow little world you live in? I'm sick to death of Miss
Milroy. Do pray talk of something else?'