Armadale HTML version
anticipated when we have got him there. Say," remarked the doctor, raising his
eyes for the first time, and fixing them in steady inquiry on Miss Gwilt--"say that
he is bold, obstinate, what you please; and that he holds out--holds out for weeks
together, for months together, as men in similar situations to his have held out
before him. What follows? The risk of keeping him forcibly in concealment--of
suppressing him, if I may so express myself--increases at compound interest, and
becomes Enormous! My house is at this moment virtually ready for patients.
Patients may present themselves in a week's time. Patients may communicate with
Mr. Armadale, or Mr. Armadale may communicate with patients. A note may be
smuggled out of the house, and may reach the Commissioners in Lunacy. Even in
the case of an unlicensed establishment like mine, those gentlemen--no! those
chartered despots in a land of liberty--have only to apply to the Lord Chancellor
for an order, and to enter (by heavens, to enter My Sanitarium!) and search the
house from top to bottom at a moment's notice! I don't wish to despond; I don't
wish to alarm you; I don't pretend to say that the means we are taking to secure
your own safety are any other than the best means at our disposal. All I ask you to
do is to imagine the Commissioners in the house--and then to conceive the
consequences. The consequences!" repeated the doctor, getting sternly on his feet,
and taking up his hat as if he meant to leave the room.
"Have you anything more to say?" asked Miss Gwilt.
"Have you any remarks," rejoined the doctor, "to offer on your side?"
He stood, hat in hand, waiting. For a full minute the two looked at each other in
Miss Gwilt spoke first.
"I think I understand you," she said, suddenly recovering her composure.
"I beg your pardon," returned the doctor, with his hand to his ear. "What did you
"If you happened to catch another fly this morning," said Miss Gwilt, with a
bitterly sarcastic emphasis on the words, "I might be capable of shocking you by
another 'little joke.'"
The doctor held up both hands, in polite deprecation, and looked as if he was
beginning to recover his good humor again.
"Hard," he murmured, gently, "not to have forgiven me that unlucky blunder of
mine, even yet!"
"What else have you to say? I am waiting for you," said Miss Gwilt. She turned
her chair to the window scornfully, and took up her work again, as she spoke.
The doctor came behind her, and put his hand on the back of her chair.
"I have a question to ask, in the first place," he said; "and a measure of necessary
precaution to suggest, in the second. If you will honor me with your attention, I
will put the question first."
"I am listening."
"You know that Mr. Armadale is alive," pursued the doctor, "and you know that
he is coming back to England. Why do you continue to wear your widow's dress?"
She answered him without an instant's hesitation, steadily going on with her work.