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 teaching. Leaving out of the
question her own unwillingness to part with him, in her solitary
position, she was especially anxious that he should not be thrown
among strangers by being sent to school. Her darling project was
to bring him up privately at home, and to keep him, as he
advanced in years, from all contact with the temptations and the
dangers of the world.
With these objects in view, her longer sojourn in her own
locality (where the services of the resident clergyman, in the
capacity of tutor, were not obtainable) must come to an end. She
had made inquiries, had heard of a house that would suit her in
Mr. Brock's neighborhood, and had also been told that Mr. Brock
himself had formerly been in the habit of taking pupils.
Possessed of this information, she had ventured to present
herself, with references that vouched for her respectability, but
without a formal introduction; and she had now to ask whether (in
the event of her residing in the neighborhood) any terms that
could be offered would induce Mr. Brock to open his doors once
more to a pupil, and to allow that pupil to be her son.
If Mrs. Armadale had been a woman of no personal attractions, or
if Mr. Brock had been provided with an intrenchment to fight
behind in the shape of a wife, it is probable that the widow's
journey might have been taken in vain. As things really were, the
rector examined the references which were offered to him, and
asked time for consideration. When the time had expired, he did
what Mrs. Armadale wished him to do--he offered his back to the
burden, and let the mother load him with the responsibility of
This was the first event of the series; the date of it being the
year eighteen hundred and thirty-seven. Mr. Brock's memory,
traveling forward toward the present from that point, picked up
the second event in its turn, and stopped next at the year
eighteen hundred and forty-five.
The fishing-village on the Somersetshire coast was still the
scene, and the characters were once again--Mrs. Armadale and her
Through the eight years that had passed, Mr. Brock's
responsibility had rested on him lightly enough. The boy had
given his mother and his tutor but little trouble. He was
certainly slow over his books, but more from a constitutional
inability to fix his attention on his tasks than from want of
capacity to understand them. His temperament, it could not be
denied, was heedless to the last degree: he acted recklessly on
his first impulses, and rushed blindfold at all his conclusions.
On the other hand, it was to be said in his favor that his
disposition was open as the day; a more generous, affectionate,
sweet-tempered lad it would have been hard to find anywhere. A
certain quaint originality of character, and a natural
healthiness in all his tastes, carried him free of most of the
dangers to which his mother's system of education inevitably
exposed him. He had a thoroughly English love of the sea and of
all that belongs to it; and as he grew in years, there was no
luring him away from the water-side, and no keeping him out of
the boat-builder's yard. In course of time his mother caught him
actually working there, to her infinite annoyance and surprise,
as a volunteer. He acknowledged that his whole future ambition
was to have a yard of his own, and that his one present object
was to learn to build a boat for himself. Wisely foreseeing that
such a pursuit as this for his leisure hours was exactly what was
wanted to reconcile the lad to a position of isolation from
companions of his own rank and age, Mr. Brock prevailed on Mrs.
Armadale, with no small difficulty, to let her son have his way.
At the period of that second event in the clergyman's life with
his pupil which is now to be related, young Armadale had
practiced long enough in the builder's yard to have reached the
summit of his wishes, by laying with his own hands the keel of
his own boat.
Late on a certain summer day, not long after Allan had completed
his sixteenth year, Mr. Brock left his pupil hard at work in the
yard, and went to spend the evening with Mrs. Armadale, taking
the _Times_ newspaper with him in his hand.
The years that had passed since they had first met had long since
regulated the lives of the clergyman and his neighbor. The first
advances which Mr. Brock's growing admiration for the widow had
led him to make in the early days of their intercourse had been
met on her side by an appeal to his forbearance which had closed
his lips for the future. She had satisfied him, at once and
forever, that the one place in her heart which he could hope to
occupy was the place of a friend. He loved her well enough to
take what she would give him: friends they became, and friends
they remained from that time forth. No jealous dread of another
man's succeeding where he had failed imbittered the clergyman's
placid relations with the woman whom he loved. Of the few
resident gentlemen in the neighborhood, none were ever admitted
by Mrs. Armadale to more than the merest acquaintance with her.
Contentedly self-buried in her country retreat, she was proof
against every social attraction that would have tempted other
women in her position and at her age. Mr. Brock and his
newspaper, appearing with monotonous regularity at her tea-table
three times a week, told her all she knew or cared to know of the
great outer world which circled round the narrow and changeless
limits of her daily life.
On the evening in question Mr. Brock took the arm-chair in which
he always sat, accepted the one cup of tea which he always drank,
and opened the newspaper which he always read aloud to Mrs.
Armadale, who invariably listened to him reclining on the same
sofa, with the same sort of needle-work everlastingly in her
"Bless my soul!" cried the rector, with his voice in a new
octave, and his eyes fixed in astonishment on the first page of
No such introduction to the evening readings as this had ever
happened before in all Mrs. Armadale's experience as a listener.
She looked up from the sofa in a flutter of curiosity, and
besought her reverend friend to favor her with an explanation.
"I can hardly believe my own eyes," said Mr. Brock. "Here is an
advertisement, Mrs. Armadale, addressed to your son."
Without further preface, he read the advertisement as follows:
IF this should meet the eye of ALLAN ARMADALE, he is desired to
communicate, either personally or by letter, with Messrs. Hammick
and Ridge (Lincoln's Inn Fields, London), on business of
importance which seriously concerns him. Any one capable of
informing Messrs. E. and R. where the person herein advertised
can be found would confer a favor by doing the same. To prevent
mistakes, it is further notified that the missing Allan Armadale
is a youth aged fifteen years, and that this advertisement is
inserted at the instance of his family and friends.
"Another family, and other friends," said Mrs. Armadale. "The
person whose name appears in that advertisement is not my son."
The tone in which she spoke surprised Mr. Brock. The change in
her face, when he looked up, shocked him. Her delicate complexion
had faded away to a dull white; her eyes were averted from her
visitor with a strange mixture of confusion and alarm; she looked
an older woman than she was, by ten good years at least.
"The name is so very uncommon," said Mr. Brock, imagining he had
offended her, and trying to excuse himself. "It really seemed
impossible there could be two persons--"
"There _are_ two," interposed Mrs. Armadale. "Allan, as you know,
is sixteen years old. If you look back at the advertisement, you
will find the missing person described as being only fifteen.
Although he bears the same surname and the same Christian name,
he is, I thank God, in no way whatever related to my son. As long
as I live, it will be the object of my hopes and prayers that
Allan may never see him, may never even hear of him. My kind
friend, I see I surprise you: will you bear with me if I leave
these strange circumstances unexplained? There is past misfortune
and misery in my early life too painful for me to speak of, even
to _you_. Will you help me to bear the remembrance of it, by
never referring to this again? Will you do even more--will you
promise not to speak of it to Allan, and not to let that
newspaper fall in his way?"
Mr. Brock gave the pledge required of him, and considerately left
her to herself.
The rector had been too long and too truly attached to Mrs.
Armadale to be capable of regarding her with any unworthy
distrust. But it would be idle to deny that he felt disappointed
by her want of confidence in him, and that he looked
inquisitively at the advertisement more than once on his way back
to his own house.
It was clear enough, now, that Mrs. Armadale's motives for
burying her son as well as herself in the seclusion of a remote
country village was not so much to keep him under her own eye as
to keep him from discovery by his namesake. Why did she dread the
idea of their ever meeting? Was it a dread for herself, or a
dread for her son? Mr. Brock's loyal belief in his friend
rejected any solution of the difficulty which pointed at some
past misconduct of Mrs. Armadale's. That night he destroyed the
advertisement with his own hand; that night he resolved that the
subject should never be suffered to enter his mind again. There
was another Allan Armadale about the world, a stranger to his
pupil's blood, and a vagabond advertised in the public
newspapers. So much accident had revealed to him. More, for Mrs.
Armadale's sake, he had no wish to discover--and more he would
never seek to know.
This was the second in the series of events which dated from the
rector's connection with Mrs. Armadale and her son. Mr. Brock's
memory, traveling on nearer and nearer to present circumstances,
reached the third stage of its journey through the by-gone time,
and stopped at the year eighteen hundred and fifty, next.
The five years that had passed had made little if any change in
Allan's character. He had simply developed (to use his tutor's
own expression) from a boy of sixteen to a boy of twenty-one. He
was just as easy and open in his disposition as ever; just as
quaintly and inveterately good-humored; just as heedless in
following his own impulses, lead him where they might. His bias
toward the sea had strengthened with his advance to the years of
manhood. From building a boat, he had now got on--with two
journeymen at work under him--to building a decked vessel of
five-and-thirty tons. Mr. Brock had conscientiously tried to
divert him to higher aspirations; had taken him to Oxford, to see
what college life was like; had taken him to London, to expand
his mind by the spectacle of the great metropolis. The change had
diverted Allan, but had not altered him in the least. He was as
impenetrably superior to all worldly ambition as Diogenes
himself. "Which is best," asked this unconscious philosopher, "to
find out the way to be happy for yourself, or to let other people
try if they can find it out for you?" From that moment Mr. Brock
permitted his pupil's character to grow at its own rate of
development, and Allan went on uninterruptedly with the work of
Time, which had wrought so little change in the son, had not
passed harmless over the mother.
Mrs. Armadale's health was breaking fast. As her strength failed,
her temper altered for the worse: she grew more and more fretful,
more and more subject to morbid fears and fancies, more and more
reluctant to leave her own room. Since the appearance of the
advertisement five years since, nothing had happened to force her
memory back to the painful associations connected with her early
life. No word more on the forbidden topic had passed between the
rector and herself; no suspicion had ever been raised in Allan's
mind of the existence of his namesake; and yet, without the
shadow of a reason for any special anxiety, Mrs. Armadale had
become, of late years, obstinately and fretfully uneasy on the
subject of her son. More than once Mr. Brock dreaded a serious
disagreement between them; but Allan's natural sweetness of
temper, fortified by his love for his mother, carried him
triumphantly through all trials. Not a hard word or a harsh look
ever escaped him in her presence; he was unchangeably loving and
forbearing with her to the very last.
Such were the positions of the son, the mother, and the friend,
when the next notable event happened in the lives of the three.
On a dreary afternoon, early in the month of November, Mr. Brock
was disturbed over the composition of his sermon by a visit from
the landlord of the village inn.
After making his introductory apologies, the landlord stated the
urgent business on which he had come to the rectory clearly
A few hours since a young man had been brought to the inn by some
farm laborers in the neighborhood, who had found him wandering
about one of their master's fields in a disordered state of mind,
which looked to their eyes like downright madness. The landlord
had given the poor creature shelter while he sent for medical
help; and the doctor, on seeing him, had pronounced that he was
suffering from fever on the brain, and that his removal to the
nearest town at which a hospital or a work-house infirmary could
be found to receive him would in all probability be fatal to his
chances of recovery. After hearing this expression of opinion,
and after observing for himself that the stranger's only luggage
consisted of a small carpet-bag which had been found in the field
near him, the landlord had set off on the spot to consult the
rector, and to ask, in this serious emergency, what course he was
to take next.
Mr. Brock was the magistrate as well as the clergyman of the
district, and the course to be taken, in the first instance, was
to his mind clear enough. He put on his hat, and accompanied the
landlord back to the inn.
At the inn door they were joined by Allan, who had heard the news
through another channel, and who was waiting Mr. Brock's arrival,
to follow in the magistrate's train, and to see what the stranger
was like. The village surgeon joined them at the same moment, and
the four went into the inn together.
They found the landlord's son on one side, and the hostler on the
other, holding the man down in his chair. Young, slim, and
undersized, he was strong enough at that moment to make it a
matter of difficulty for the two to master him. His tawny
complexion, his large, bright brown eyes, and his black beard
gave him something of a foreign look. His dress was a little
worn, but his linen was clean. His dusky hands were wiry and
nervous, and were lividly discolored in more places than one by
the scars of old wounds. The toes of one of his feet, off which
he had kicked the shoe, grasped at the chair rail through his
stocking, with the sensitive muscular action which is only seen
in those who have been accustomed to go barefoot. In the frenzy
that now possessed him, it was impossible to notice, to any
useful purpose, more than this. After a whispered consultation
with Mr. Brock, the surgeon personally superintended the
patient's removal to a quiet bedroom at the back of the house.
Shortly afterward his clothes and his carpet-bag were sent
downstairs, and were searched, on the chance of finding a clew by
which to communicate with his friends, in the magistrate's
The carpet- bag contained nothing but a change of clothing, and
two books--the Plays of Sophocles, in the original Greek, and the
"Faust" of Goethe, in the original German. Both volumes were much
worn by reading, and on the fly-leaf of each were inscribed the
initials O. M. So much the bag revealed, and no more.
The clothes which the man wore when he was discovered in the
field were tried next. A purse (containing a sovereign and a few
shillings), a pipe, a tobacco pouch, a handkerchief, and a little
drinking-cup of horn were produced in succession. The next
object, and the last, was found crumpled up carelessly in the
breast-pocket of the coat. It was a written testimonial to
character, dated and signed, but without any address.
So far as this document could tell it, the stranger's story was a
sad one indeed. He had apparently been employed for a short time
as usher at a school, and had been turned adrift in the world, at
the outset of his illness, from the fear that the fever might be
infectious, and that the prosperity of the establishment might
suffer accordingly. Not the slightest imputation of any
misbehavior in his employment rested on him. On the contrary, the
schoolmaster had great pleasure in testifying to his capacity and
his character, and in expressing a fervent hope that he might
(under Providence) succeed in recovering his health in somebody
else's house. The written testimonial which afforded this glimpse
at the man's story served one purpose more: it connected him with
the initials on the books, and identified him to the magistrate
and the landlord under the strangely uncouth name of Ozias
Mr. Brock laid aside the testimonial, suspecting that the
schoolmaster had purposely abstained from writing his address on
it, with the view of escaping all responsibility in the event of
his usher's death. In any case, it was manifestly useless, under
existing circumstances, to think of tracing the poor wretch's
friends, if friends he had. To the inn he had been brought, and,
as a matter of common humanity, at the inn he must remain for the
present. The difficulty about expenses, if it came to the worst,
might possibly be met by charitable contributions from the
neighbors, or by a collection after a sermon at church. Assuring
the landlord that he would consider this part of the question and
would let him know the result, Mr. Brock quitted the inn, without
noticing for the moment that he had left Allan there behind him.
Before he had got fifty yards from the house his pupil overtook
him. Allan had been most uncharacteristically silent and serious
all through the search at the inn; but he had now recovered his
usual high spirits. A stranger would have set him down as wanting
in common feeling.
"This is a sad business," said the rector. "I really don't know
what to do for the best about that unfortunate man."
"You may make your mind quite easy, sir," said young Armadale, in
his off-hand way. "I settled it all with the landlord a minute
"You!" exclaimed Mr. Brock, in the utmost astonishment.
"I have merely given a few simple directions," pursued Allan.
"Our friend the usher is to have everything he requires, and is
to be treated like a prince; and when the doctor and the landlord
want their money they are to come to me."
"My dear Allan," Mr. Brock gently remonstrated, "when will you
learn to think before you act on those generous impulses of
yours? You are spending more money already on your yacht-building
than you can afford--"
"Only think! we laid the first planks of the deck the day before
yesterday," said Allan, flying off to the new subject in his
usual bird-witted way. "There's just enough of it done to walk
on, if you don't feel giddy. I'll help you up the ladder, Mr.
Brock, if you'll only come and try."
"Listen to me," persisted the rector. "I'm not talking about the
yacht now; that is to say, I am only referring to the yacht as
"And a very pretty illustration, too," remarked the incorrigible
Allan. "Find me a smarter little vessel of her size in all
England, and I'll give up yacht-building to-morrow. Whereabouts
were we in our conversation, sir? I'm rather afraid we have lost
"I am rather afraid one of us is in the habit of losing himself
every time he opens his lips," retorted Mr. Brock. "Come, come,
Allan, this is serious. You have been rendering yourself liable
for expenses which you may not be able to pay. Mind, I am far
from blaming you for your kind feeling toward this poor
"Don't be low-spirited about him, sir. He'll get over it--he'll
be all right again in a week or so. A capital fellow, I have not
the least doubt!" continued Allan, whose habit it was to believe
in everybody and to despair of nothing. "Suppose you ask him to
dinner when he gets well, Mr. Brock? I should like to find out
(when we are all three snug and friendly together over our wine,
you know) how he came by that extraordinary name of his. Ozias
Midwinter! Upon my life, his father ought to be ashamed of
"Will you answer me one question before I go in?" said the
rector, stopping in despair at his own gate. "This man's bill for
lodging and medical attendance may mount to twenty or thirty
pounds before he gets well again, if he ever does get well. How
are you to pay for it?"
"What's that the Chancellor of the Exchequer says when he finds
himself in a mess with his accounts, and doesn't see his way out
again?" asked Allan. "He always tells his honorable friend he is
quite willing to leave a something or other--"
"A margin?" suggested Mr. Brock.
"That's it," said Allan. "I'm like the Chancellor of the
Exchequer. I'm quite willing to leave a margin. The yacht (bless
her heart!) doesn't eat up everything. If I'm short by a pound or
two, don't be afraid, sir. There's no pride about me; I'll go
round with the hat, and get the balance in the neighborhood.
Deuce take the pounds, shillings, and pence! I wish they could
all three get rid of themselves, like the Bedouin brothers at the
show. Don't you remember the Bedouin brothers, Mr. Brock? 'Ali
will take a lighted torch, and jump down the throat of his
brother Muli; Muli will take a lighted torch, and jump down the
throat of his brother Hassan; and Hassan, taking a third lighted
torch, will conclude the performances by jumping down his own
throat, and leaving the spectators in total darkness.'
Wonderfully good, that--what I call real wit, with a fine strong
flavor about it. Wait a minute! Where are we? We have lost
ourselves again. Oh, I remember--money. What I can't beat into my
thick head," concluded Allan, quite unconscious that he was
preaching socialist doctrines to a clergyman; "is the meaning of
the fuss that's made about giving money away. Why can't the
people who have got money to spare give it to the people who
haven't got money to spare, and make things pleasant and
comfortable all the world over in that way? You're always telling
me to cultivate ideas, Mr. Brock There's an idea, and, upon my
life, I don't think it's a bad one."
Mr. Brock gave his pupil a good-humored poke with the end of his
stick. "Go back to your yacht," he said. "All the little
discretion you have got in that flighty head of yours is left on
board in your tool-chest. How that lad will end," pursued the
rector, when he was left by himself, "is more than any human
being can say. I almost wish I had never taken the responsibility
of him on my shoulders."
Three weeks passed before the stranger with the uncouth name was
pronounced to be at last on the way to recovery.
During this period Allan had made regular inquiries at the inn,
and, as soon as the sick man was allowed to see visitors, Allan
was the first who appeared at his bedside. So far Mr. Brock's
pupil had shown no more than a natural interest in one of the few
romantic circumstances which had varied the monotony of the
village life: he had committed no imprudence, and he had exposed
himself to no blame. But as the days passed, young Armadale's
visits to the inn began to lengthen considerably, and the surgeon
(a cautious elderly man) gave the rector a private hint to bestir
himself. Mr. Brock acted on the hint immediately, and discovered
that Allan had followed his usual impulses in his usual headlong
way. He had taken a violent fancy to the castaway usher and had
invited Ozias Midwinter to reside permanently in the neighborhood
in the new and interesting character of his bosom friend.
Before Mr. Brock could make up his mind how to act in this
emergency, he received a note from Allan's mother, begging him to
use his privilege as an old friend, and to pay her a visit in her
He found Mrs. Armadale suffering under violent nervous agitation,
caused entirely by a recent interview with her son. Allan had
been sitting with her all the morning, and had talked of nothing
but his new friend. The man with the horrible name (as poor Mrs.
Armadale described him) had questioned Allan, in a singularly
inquisitive manner, on the subject of himself and his family, but
had kept his own personal history entirely in the dark. At some
former period of his life he had been accustomed to the sea and
to sailing. Allan had, unfortunately, found this out, and a bond
of union between them was formed on the spot. With a merciless
distrust of the stranger--simply _because_ he was a
stranger--which appeared rather unreasonable to Mr. Brock, Mrs.
Armadale besought the rector to go to the inn without a moment's
loss of time, and never to rest until he had made the man give a
proper account of himself. "Find out everything about his father
and mother!" she said, in her vehement female way. "Make sure
before you leave him that he is not a vagabond roaming the
country under an assumed name."
"My dear lady," remonstrated the rector, obediently taking his
hat, "whatever else we may doubt, I really think we may feel sure
about the man's name! It is so remarkably ugly that it must be
genuine. No sane human being would _assume_ such a name as Ozias
"You may be quite right, and I may be quite wrong; but pray go
and see him," persisted Mrs. Armadale. "Go, and don't spare him,
Mr. Brock. How do we know that this illness of his may not have
been put on for a purpose?"
It was useless to reason with her. The whole College of
Physicians might have certified to the man's illness, and, in her
present frame of mind, Mrs. Armadale would have disbelieved the
College, one and all, from the president downward. Mr. Brock took
the wise way out of the difficulty--he said no more, and he set
off for the inn immediately.
Ozias Midwinter, recovering from brain-fever, was a startling
object to contemplate on a first view of him. His shaven head,
tied up in an old yellow silk handkerchief; his tawny, haggard
cheeks; his bright brown eyes, preternaturally large and wild;
his rough black beard; his long, supple, sinewy fingers, wasted
by suffering till they looked like claws--all tended to
discompose the rector at the outset of the interview. When the
first feeling of surprise had worn off, the impression that
followed it was not an agreeable one. Mr. Brock could not conceal
from himself that the stranger's manner was against him. The
general opinion has settled that, if a man is honest, he is bound
to assert it by looking straight at his fellow-creatures when he
speaks to them. If this man was honest, his eyes showed a
singular perversity in looking away and denying it. Possibly they
were affected in some degree by a nervous restlessness in his
organization, which appeared to pervade every fiber in his lean,
lithe body. The rector's healthy Anglo-Saxon flesh crept
responsively at every casual movement of the usher's supple brown
fingers, and every passing distortion of the usher's haggard
yellow face. "God forgive me!" thought Mr. Brock, with his mind
running on Allan and Allan's mother, "I wish I could see my way
to turning Ozias Midwinter adrift in the world again!"
The conversation which ensued between the two was a very guarded
one. Mr. Brock felt his way gently, and found himself, try where
he might, always kept politely, more or less, in the dark.
From first to last, the man's real character shrank back with a
savage shyness from the rector's touch. He started by an
assertion which it was impossible to look at him and believe--he
declared that he was only twenty years of age. All he could be
persuaded to say on the subject of the school was that the bare
recollection of it was horrible to him. He had only filled the
usher's situation for ten days when the first appearance of his
illness caused his dismissal. How he had reached the field in
which he had been found was more than he could say. He remembered
traveling a long distance by railway, with a purpose (if he had a
purpose) which it was now impossible to recall, and then
wandering coastward, on foot, all through the day, or all through
the night--he was not sure which. The sea kept running in his
mind when his mind began to give way. He had been employed on the
sea as a lad. He had left it, and had filled a situation at a
bookseller's in a country town. He had left the bookseller's, and
had tried the school. Now the school had turned him out, he must
try something else. It mattered little what he tried---failure
(for which nobody was ever to blame but himself) was sure to be
the end of it, sooner or later. Friends to assist him, he had
none to apply to; and as for relations, he wished to be excused
from speaking of them. For all he knew they might be dead, and
for all _they_ knew _he_ might be dead. That was a melancholy
acknowledgment to make at his time of life, there was no denying
it. It might tell against him in the opinions of others; and it
did tell against him, no doubt, in the opinion of the gentleman
who was talking to him at that moment.
These strange answers were given in a tone and manner far removed
from bitterness on the one side, or from indifference on the
other. Ozias Midwinter at twenty spoke of his life as Ozias
Midwinter at seventy might have spoken with a long weariness of
years on him which he had learned to bear patiently.
Two circumstances pleaded strongly against the distrust with
which, in sheer perplexity of mind, Mr. Brock blindly regarded
him. He had written to a savings-bank in a distant part of
England, had drawn his money, and had paid the doctor and the
landlord. A man of vulgar mind, after acting in this manner,
would have treated his obligations lightly when he had settled
his bills. Ozias Midwinter spoke of his obligations--and
especially of his obligation to Allan--with a fervor of
thankfulness which it was not surprising only, but absolutely
painful to witness. He showed a horrible sincerity of
astonishment at having been treated with common Christian
kindness in a Christian land. He spoke of Allan's having become
answerable for all the expenses of sheltering, nursing, and
curing him, with a savage rapture of gratitude and surprise which
burst out of him like a flash of lightning. "So help me God!"
cried the castaway usher, "I never met with the like of him: I
never heard of the like of him before!" In the next instant, the
one glimpse of light which the man had let in on his own
passionate nature was quenched again in darkness. His wandering
eyes, returning to their old trick, looked uneasily away from Mr.
Brock, and his voice dropped back once more into its unnatural
steadiness and quietness of tone. "I beg your pardon, sir," he
said. "I have been used to be hunted, and cheated, and starved.
Everything else comes strange to me. " Half attracted by the man,
half repelled by him, Mr. Brock, on rising to take leave,
impulsively offered his hand, and then, with a sudden misgiving,
confusedly drew it back again. "You meant that kindly, sir," said
Ozias Midwinter, with his own hands crossed resolutely behind
him. "I don't complain of your thinking better of it. A man who
can't give a proper account of himself is not a man for a
gentleman in your position to take by the hand."
Mr. Brock left the inn thoroughly puzzled. Before returning to
Mrs. Armadale he sent for her son. The chances were that the
guard had been off the stranger's tongue when he spoke to Allan,
and with Allan's frankness there was no fear of his concealing
anything that had passed between them from the rector's
Here again Mr. Brock's diplomacy achieved no useful results.
Once started on the subject of Ozias Midwinter, Allan rattled on
about his new friend in his usual easy, light-hearted way. But he
had really nothing of importance to tell, for nothing of
importance had been revealed to him. They had talked about
boat-building and sailing by the hour together, and Allan had got
some valuable hints. They had discussed (with diagrams to assist
them, and with more valuable hints for Allan) the serious
impending question of the launch of the yacht. On other occasions
they had diverged to other subjects--to more of them than Allan
could remember, on the spur of the moment. Had Midwinter said
nothing about his relations in the flow of all this friendly
talk? Nothing, except that they had not behaved well to him--hang
his relations! Was he at all sensitive on the subject of his own
odd name? Not the least in the world; he had set the example,
like a sensible fellow, of laughing at it himself.
Mr. Brock still persisted. He inquired next what Allan had seen
in the stranger to take such a fancy to? Allan had seen in
him--what he didn't see in people in general. He wasn't like all
the other fellows in the neighborhood. All the other fellows were
cut out on the same pattern. Every man of them was equally
healthy, muscular, loud, hard-hearted, clean-skinned, and rough;
every man of them drank the same draughts of beer, smoked the
same short pipes all day long, rode the best horse, shot over the
best dog, and put the best bottle of wine in England on his table
at night; every man of them sponged himself every morning in the
same sort of tub of cold water and bragged about it in frosty
weather in the same sort of way; every man of them thought
getting into debt a capital joke and betting on horse-races one
of the most meritorious actions that a human being can perform.
They were, no doubt, excellent fellows in their way; but the
worst of them was, they were all exactly alike. It was a perfect
godsend to meet with a man like Midwinter--a man who was not cut
out on the regular local pattern, and whose way in the world had
the one great merit (in those parts) of being a way of his own.
Leaving all remonstrances for a fitter opportunity, the rector
went back to Mrs. Armadale. He could not disguise from himself
that Allan's mother was the person really answerable for Allan's
present indiscretion. If the lad had seen a little less of the
small gentry in the neighborhood, and a little more of the great
outside world at home and abroad, the pleasure of cultivating
Ozias Midwinter's society might have had fewer attractions for
Conscious of the unsatisfactory result of his visit to the inn,
Mr. Brock felt some anxiety about the reception of his report
when he found himself once more in Mrs. Armadale's presence. His
forebodings were soon realized. Try as he might to make the best
of it, Mrs. Armadale seized on the one suspicious fact of the
usher's silence about himself as justifying the strongest
measures that could be taken to separate him from her son. If
the rector refused to interfere, she declared her intention of
writing to Ozias Midwinter with her own hand. Remonstrance
irritated her to such a pitch that she astounded Mr. Brock by
reverting to the forbidden subject of five years since, and
referring him to the conversation which had passed between them
when the advertisement had been discovered in the newspaper.
She passionately declared that the vagabond Armadale of that
advertisement, and the vagabond Midwinter at the village inn,
might, for all she know to the contrary, be one and the same.
Foreboding a serious disagreement between the mother and son
if the mother interfered, Mr. Brock undertook to see Midwinter
again, and to tell him plainly that he must give a proper account
of himself, or that his intimacy with Allan must cease. The two
concessions which he exacted from Mrs. Armadale in return were
that she should wait patiently until the doctor reported the man
fit to travel, and that she should be careful in the interval not
to mention the matter in any way to her son.
In a week's time Midwinter was able to drive out (with Allan for
his coachman) in the pony chaise belonging to the inn, and in ten
days the doctor privately reported him as fit to travel. Toward
the close of that tenth day, Mr. Brock met Allan and his new
friend enjoying the last gleams of wintry sunshine in one of the
inland lanes. He waited until the two had separated, and then
followed the usher on his way back to the inn.
The rector's resolution to speak pitilessly to the purpose was in
some danger of failing him as he drew nearer and nearer to the
friendless man, and saw how feebly he still walked, how loosely
his worn coat hung about him, and how heavily he leaned on his
cheap, clumsy stick. Humanely reluctant to say the decisive words
too precipitately, Mr. Brock tried him first with a little
compliment on the range of his reading, as shown by the volume of
Sophocles and the volume of Goethe which had been found in his
bag, and asked how long he had been acquainted with German and
Greek. The quick ear of Midwinter detected something wrong in the
tone of Mr. Brock's voice. He turned in the darkening twilight,
and looked suddenly and suspiciously in the rector's face.
"You have something to say to me," he answered; "and it is not
what you are saying now."
There was no help for it but to accept the challenge. Very
delicately, with many preparatory words, to which the other
listened in unbroken silence, Mr. Brock came little by little
nearer and nearer to the point. Long before he had really reached
it--long before a man of no more than ordinary sensibility would
have felt what was coming--Ozias Midwinter stood still in the
lane, and told the rector that he need say no more.
"I understand you, sir," said the usher. "Mr. Armadale has an
ascertained position in the world; Mr. Armadale has nothing to
conceal, and nothing to be ashamed of. I agree with you that I am
not a fit companion for him. The best return I can make for his
kindness is to presume on it no longer. You may depend on my
leaving this place to-morrow morning."
He spoke no word more; he would hear no word more. With a
self-control which, at his years and with his temperament, was
nothing less than marvelous, he civilly took off his hat, bowed,
and returned to the inn by himself
Mr. Brock slept badly that night. The issue of the interview in
the lane had made the problem of Ozias Midwinter a harder problem
to solve than ever.
Early the next morning a letter was brought to the rector from
the inn, and the messenger announced that the strange gentleman
had taken his departure. The letter inclosed an open note
addressed to Allan, and requested Allan's tutor (after first
reading it himself) to forward it or not at his own sole
discretion. The note was a startlingly short one; it began and
ended in a dozen words: "Don't blame Mr. Brock; Mr. Brock is
right. Thank you, and good-by.--O. M."
The rector forwarded the note to its proper destination, as a
matter of course, and sent a few lines to Mrs. Armadale at the
same time to quiet her anxiety by the news of the usher's
departure. This done, he waited the visit from his pupil, which
would probably follow the delivery of the note, in no very
tranquil frame of mind. There might or might not be some deep
motive at the bottom of Midwinter's conduct; but thus far it was
impossible to deny that he had behaved in such a manner as to
rebuke the rector's distrust, and to justify Allan's good opinion
The morning wore on, and young Armadale never appeared. After
looking for him vainly in the yard where the yacht was building,
Mr. Brock went to Mrs. Armadale's house, and there heard news
from the servant which turned his steps in the direction of the
inn. The landlord at once acknowledged the truth: young Mr.
Armadale had come there with an open letter in his hand, and
had insisted on being informed of the road which his friend had
taken. For the first time in the landlord's experience of him,
the young gentleman was out of temper; and the girl who waited
on the customers had stupidly mentioned a circumstance which had
added fuel to the fire. She had acknowledged having heard Mr.
Midwinter lock himself into his room overnight, and burst into
a violent fit of crying. That trifling particular had set Mr.
Armadale's face all of a flame; he had shouted and sworn; he had
rushed into the stables; and forced the hostler to saddle him a
horse, and had set off full gallop on the road that Ozias
Midwinter had taken before him.
After cautioning the landlord to keep Allan's conduct a secret if
any of Mrs. Armadale's servants came that morning to the inn, Mr.
Brock went home again, and waited anxiously to see what the day
would bring forth.
To his infinite relief his pupil appeared at the rectory late in
Allan looked and spoke with a dogged determination which was
quite new in his old friend's experience of him. Without waiting
to be questioned, he told his story in his usual straightforward
way. He had overtaken Midwinter on the road; and--after trying
vainly first to induce him to return, then to find out where he
was going to--had threatened to keep company with him for the
rest of the day, and had so extorted the confession that he was
going to try his luck in London. Having gained this point, Allan
had asked next for his friend's address in London, had been
entreated by the other not to press his request, had pressed it,
nevertheless, with all his might, and had got the address at last
by making an appeal to Midwinter's gratitude, for which (feeling
heartily ashamed of himself) he had afterward asked Midwinter's
pardon. "I like the poor fellow, and I won't give him up,"
concluded Allan, bringing his clinched fist down with a thump on
the rectory table. "Don't be afraid of my vexing my mother; I'll
leave you to speak to her, Mr. Brock, at your own time and in
your own way; and I'll just say this much more by way of bringing
the thing to an end. Here is the address safe in my pocket-book,
and here am I, standing firm for once on a resolution of my own.
I'll give you and my mother time to reconsider this; and, when
the time is up, if my friend Midwinter doesn't come to _me_, I'll
go to my friend Midwinter."
So the matter rested for the present; and such was the result of
turning the castaway usher adrift in the world again.
A month passed, and brought in the new year--'51. Overleaping
that short lapse of time, Mr. Brock paused, with a heavy heart,
at the next event; to his mind the one mournful, the one
memorable event of the series--Mrs. Armadale's death.
The first warning of the affliction that was near at hand had
followed close on the usher's departure in December, and had
arisen out of a circumstance which dwelt painfully on the
rector's memory from that time forth.
But three days after Midwinter had left for London, Mr. Brock was
accosted in the village by a neatly dressed woman, wearing a gown
and bonnet of black silk and a red Paisley shawl, who was a total
stranger to him, and who inquired the way to Mrs. Armadale's
house. She put the question without raising the thick black veil
that hung over her face. Mr. Brock, in giving her the necessary
directions, observed that she was a remarkably elegant and
graceful woman, and looked after her as she bowed and left him,
wondering who Mrs. Armadale's visitor could possibly be.
A quarter of an hour later the lady, still veiled as before,
passed Mr. Brock again close to the inn. She entered the house,
and spoke to the landlady. Seeing the landlord shortly afterward
hurrying round to the stables, Mr. Brock asked him if the lady
was going away. Yes; she had come from the railway in the
omnibus, but she was going back again more creditably in a
carriage of her own hiring, supplied by the inn.
The rector proceeded on his walk, rather surprised to find his
thoughts running inquisitively on a woman who was a stranger to
him. When he got home again, he found the village surgeon waiting
his return with an urgent message from Allan's mother. About an
hour since, the surgeon had been sent for in great haste to see
Mrs. Armadale. He had found her suffering from an alarming
nervous attack, brought on (as the servants suspected) by an
unexpected, and, possibly, an unwelcome visitor, who had called
that morning. The surgeon had done all that was needful, and had
no apprehension of any dangerous results. Finding his patient
eagerly desirous, on recovering herself, to see Mr. Brock
immediately, he had thought it important to humor her, and had
readily undertaken to call at the rectory with a message to that
Looking at Mrs. Armadale with a far deeper interest in her than
the surgeon's interest, Mr. Brock saw enough in her face, when it
turned toward him on his entering the room, to justify instant
and serious alarm. She allowed him no opportunity of soothing
her; she heeded none of his inquiries. Answers to certain
questions of her own were what she wanted, and what she was
determined to have: Had Mr. Brock seen the woman who had presumed
to visit her that morning? Yes. Had Allan seen her? No; Allan had
been at work since breakfast, and was at work still, in his yard
by the water-side.
This latter reply appeared to quiet Mrs. Armadale for the moment;
she put her next question--the most extraordinary question of the
three--more composedly: Did the rector think Allan would object
to leaving his vessel for the present, and to accompanying his
mother on a journey to look out for a new house in some other
part of England? In the greatest amazement Mr. Brock asked what
reason there could possibly be for leaving her present residence?
Mrs. Armadale's reason, when she gave it, only added to his
surprise. The woman's first visit might be followed by a second;
and rather than see her again, rather than run the risk of
Allan's seeing her and speaking to her, Mrs. Armadale would leave
England if necessary, and end her days in a foreign land. Taking
counsel of his experience as a magistrate, Mr. Brock inquired if
the woman had come to ask for money. Yes; respectably as she was
dressed, she had described herself as being "in distress"; had
asked for money, and had got it. But the money was of no
importance; the one thing needful was to get away before the
woman came again. More and more surprised, Mr. Brock ventured on
another question: Was it long since Mrs. Armadale and her visitor
had last met? Yes; longer than all Allan's lifetime--as long ago
as the year before Allan was born.
At that reply, the rector shifted his ground, and took counsel
next of his experience as a friend.
"Is this person," he asked, "connected in any way with the
painful remembrances of your early life?"
"Yes; with the painful remembrance of the time when I was
married," said Mrs. Armadale. "She was associated, as a mere
child, with a circumstance which I must think of with shame and
sorrow to my dying day."
Mr. Brock noticed the altered tone in which his old friend spoke,
and the unwillingness with which she gave her answer.
"Can you tell me more about her without referring to yourself?"
he went on. "I am sure I can protect you, if you will only help
me a little. Her name, for instance--you can tell me her name?"
Mrs. Armadale shook her head, "The name I knew her by," she said,
"would be of no use to you. She has been married since then; she
told me so herself."
"And without telling you her married name?"
"She refused to tell it."
"Do you know anything of her friends?"
"Only of her friends when she was a child. They called themselves
her uncle and aunt. They were low people, and they deserted her
at the school on my father's estate. We never heard any more of
"Did she remain under your father's care?"
"She remained under my care; that is to say, she traveled with
us. We were leaving England, just as that time, for Madeira. I
had my father's leave to take her with me, and to train the
wretch to be my maid--"
At those words Mrs. Armadale stopped confusedly. Mr. Brock tried
gently to lead her on. It was useless; she started up in violent
agitation, and walked excitedly backward and forward in the room.
"Don't ask me any more!" she cried out, in loud, angry tones. "I
parted with her when she was a girl of twelve years old. I never
saw her again, I never heard of her again, from that time to
this. I don't know how she has discovered me, after all the years
that have passed; I only know that she _has_ discovered me. She
will find her way to Allan next; she will poison my son's mind
against me. Help me to get away from her! help me to take Allan
away before she comes back!"
The rector asked no more questions; it would have been cruel to
press her further. The first necessity was to compose her by
promising compliance with all that she desired. The second was to
induce her to see another medical man. Mr. Brock contrived to
reach his end harmlessly in this latter case by reminding her
that she wanted strength to travel, and that her own medical
attendant might restore her all the more speedily to herself if
he were assisted by the best professional advice. Having overcome
her habitual reluctance to seeing strangers by this means, the
rector at once went to Allan; and, delicately concealing what
Mrs. Armadale had said at the interview, broke the news to him
that his mother was seriously ill. Allan would hear of no
messengers being sent for assistance: he drove off on the spot to
the railway, and telegraphed himself to Bristol for medical help.
On the next morning the help came, and Mr. Brock's worst fears
were confirmed. The village surgeon had fatally misunderstood
the case from the first, and the time was past now at which his
errors of treatment might have been set right. The shock of the
previous morning had completed the mischief. Mrs. Armadale's days
The son who dearly loved her, the old friend to whom her life
was precious, hoped vainly to the last. In a month from the
physician's visit all hope was over; and Allan shed the first
bitter tears of his life at his mother's grave.
She had died more peacefully than Mr. Brock had dared to hope,
leaving all her little fortune to her son, and committing him
solemnly to the care of her one friend on earth. The rector had
entreated her to let him write and try to reconcile her brothers
with her before it was too late. She had only answered sadly that
it was too late already. But one reference escaped her in her
last illness to those early sorrows which had weighed heavily on
all her after-life, and which had passed thrice already, like
shadows of evil, between the rector and herself. Even on her
deathbed she had shrunk from letting the light fall clearly on
the story of the past. She had looked at Allan kneeling by the
bedside, and had whispered to Mr. Brock: "_Never let his Namesake
come near him! Never let that Woman find him out_!" No word more
fell from her that touched on the misfortunes which had tried her
in the past, or on the dangers which she dreaded in the future.
The secret which she had kept from her son and from her friend
was a secret which she carried with her to the grave.
When the last offices of affection and respect had been
performed, Mr. Brock felt it his duty, as executor to the
deceased lady, to write to her brothers, and to give them
information of her death. Believing that he had to deal with
two men who would probably misinterpret his motives if he left
Allan's position unexplained, he was careful to remind them that
Mrs. Armadale's son was well provided for, and that the object of
his letter was simply to communicate the news of their sister's
decease. The two letters were dispatched toward the middle of
January, and by return of post the answers were received. The
first which the rector opened was written not by the elder
brother, but by the elder brother's only son. The young man had
succeeded to the estates in Norfolk on his father's death, some
little time since. He wrote in a frank and friendly spirit,
assuring Mr. Brock that, however strongly his father might have
been prejudiced against Mrs. Armadale, the hostile feeling had
never extended to her son. For himself, he had only to add that
he would be sincerely happy to welcome his cousin to Thorpe
Ambrose whenever his cousin came that way.
The second letter was a far less agreeable reply to receive
than the first. The younger brother was still alive, and still
resolute neither to forget nor forgive. He informed Mr. Brock
that his deceased sister's choice of a husband, and her conduct
to her father at the time of her marriage, had made any relations
of affection or esteem impossible, on his side, from that time
forth. Holding the opinions he did, it would be equally painful
to his nephew and himself if any personal intercourse took place
between them. He had adverted, as generally as possible, to the
nature of the differences which had kept him apart from his late
sister, in order to satisfy Mr. Brock's mind that a personal
acquaintance with young Mr. Armadale was, as a matter of
delicacy, quite out of the question and, having done this, he
would beg leave to close the correspondence.
Mr. Brock wisely destroyed the second letter on the spot, and,
after showing Allan his cousin's invitation, suggested that he
should go to Thorpe Ambrose as soon as he felt fit to present
himself to strangers.
Allan listened to the advice patiently enough; but he declined
to profit by it. "I will shake hands with my cousin willingly if
I ever meet him," he said; "but I will visit no family, and be
a guest in no house, in which my mother has been badly treated."
Mr. Brock remonstrated gently, and tried to put matters in their
proper light. Even at that time--even while he was still ignorant
of events which were then impending--Allan's strangely isolated
position in the world was a subject of serious anxiety to his old
friend and tutor. The proposed visit to Thorpe Ambrose opened the
very prospect of his making friends and connections suited to him
in rank and age which Mr. Brock most desired to see; but Allan
was not to be persuaded; he was obstinate and unreasonable; and
the rector had no alternative but to drop the subject.
One on another the weeks passed monotonously, and Allan showed
but little of the elasticity of his age and character in bearing
the affliction that had made him motherless. He finished and
launched his yacht; but his own journeymen remarked that the work
seemed to have lost its interest for him. It was not natural to
the young man to brood over his solitude and his grief as he was
brooding now. As the spring advanced, Mr. Brock began to feel
uneasy about the future, if Allan was not roused at once by
change of scene. After much pondering, the rector decided on
trying a trip to Paris, and on extending the journey southward
if his companion showed an interest in Continental traveling.
Allan's reception of the proposal made atonement for his
obstinacy in refusing to cultivate his cousin's acquaintance;
he was willing to go with Mr. Brock wherever Mr. Brock pleased.
The rector took him at his word, and in the middle of March the
two strangely assorted companions left for London on their way
Arrived in London, Mr. Brock found himself unexpectedly face to
face with a new anxiety. The unwelcome subject of Ozias
Midwinter, which had been buried in peace since the beginning of
December, rose to the surface again, and confronted the rector at
the very outset of his travels, more unmanageably than ever.
Mr. Brock's position in dealing with this difficult matter had
been hard enough to maintain when he had first meddled with it.
He now found himself with no vantage-ground left to stand on.
Events had so ordered it that the difference of opinion between
Allan and his mother on the subject of the usher was entirely
disassociated with the agitation which had hastened Mrs.
Armadale's death. Allan's resolution to say no irritating words,
and Mr. Brock's reluctance to touch on a disagreeable topic, had
kept them both silent about Midwinter in Mrs. Armadale's presence
during the three days which had intervened between that person's
departure and the appearance of the strange woman in the village.
In the period of suspense and suffering that had followed no
recurrence to the subject of the usher had been possible, and
none had taken place. Free from all mental disquietude on this
score, Allan had stoutly preserved his perverse interest in his
new friend. He had written to tell Midwinter of his affliction,
and he now proposed (unless the rector formally objected to it)
paying a visit to his friend before he started for Paris the next
What was Mr. Brock to do? There was no denying that Midwinter's
conduct had pleaded unanswerably against poor Mrs. Armadale's
unfounded distrust of him. If the rector, with no convincing
reason to allege against it, and with no right to interfere but
the right which Allan's courtesy gave him, declined to sanction
the proposed visit, then farewell to all the old sociability and
confidence between tutor and pupil on the contemplated tour.
Environed by difficulties, which might have been possibly worsted
by a less just and a less kind-hearted man, Mr. Brock said a
cautious word or two at parting, and (with more confidence in
Midwinter's discretion and self-denial than he quite liked to
acknowledge, even to himself) left Allan free to take his own
After whiling away an hour, during the interval of his pupil's
absence, by a walk in the streets, the rector returned to his
hotel, and, finding the newspaper disengaged in the coffee-room,
sat down absently to look over it. His eye, resting idly on the
title-page, was startled into instant attention by the very first
advertisement that it chanced to light on at the head of the
column. There was Allan's mysterious namesake again, figuring in
capital letters, and associated this time (in the character of a
dead man) with the offer of a pecuniary reward. Thus it ran:
SUPPOSED TO BE DEAD.--To parish clerks, sextons, and others.
Twenty Pounds reward will be paid to any person who can produce
evidence of the death of ALLAN ARMADALE, only son of the late
Allan Armadale, of Barbadoes, and born in Trinidad in the year
1830. Further particulars on application to Messrs. Hammick and
Ridge, Lincoln's Inn Fields, London.
Even Mr. Brock's essentially unimaginative mind began to stagger
superstitiously in the dark as he laid the newspaper down again.
Little by little a vague suspicion took possession of him that
the whole series of events which had followed the first
appearance of Allan's namesake in the newspaper six years since
was held together by some mysterious connection, and was tending
steadily to some unimaginable end. Without knowing why, he began
to feel uneasy at Allan's absence. Without knowing why, he became
impatient to get his pupil away from England before anything else
happened between night and morning.
In an hour more the rector was relieved of all immediate anxiety
by Allan's return to the hotel. The young man was vexed and out
of spirits. He had discovered Midwinter's lodgings, but he had
failed to find Midwinter himself. The only account his landlady
could give of him was that he had gone out at his customary time
to get his dinner at the nearest eating-house, and that he had
not returned, in accordance with his usual regular habits, at his
usual regular hour. Allan had therefore gone to inquire at the
eating-house, and had found, on describing him, that Midwinter
was well known there. It was his custom, on other days, to take
a frugal dinner, and to sit half an hour afterward reading the
newspaper. On this occasion, after dining, he had taken up the
paper as usual, had suddenly thrown it aside again, and had gone,
nobody knew where, in a violent hurry. No further information
being attainable, Allan had left a note at the lodgings, giving
his address at the hotel, and begging Midwinter to come and say
good-by before his departure for Paris.
The evening passed, and Allan's invisible friend never appeared.
The morning came, bringing no obstacles with it, and Mr. Brock
and his pupil left London. So far Fortune had declared herself at
last on the rector's side. Ozias Midwinter, after intrusively
rising to the surface, had conveniently dropped out of sight
again. What was to happen next?
Advancing once more, by three weeks only, from past to present,
Mr. Brock's memory took up the next event on the seventh of
April. To all appearance, the chain was now broken at last. The
new event had no recognizable connection (either to his mind or
to Allan's) with any of the persons who had appeared, or any of
the circumstances that had happened, in the by-gone time.
The travelers had as yet got no further than Paris. Allan's
spirits had risen with the change; and he had been made all the
readier to enjoy the novelty of the scene around him by receiving
a letter from Midwinter, containing news which Mr. Brock himself
acknowledged promised fairly for the future. The ex-usher had
been away on business when Allan had called at his lodgings,
having been led by an accidental circumstance to open
communications with his relatives on that day. The result had
taken him entirely by surprise: it had unexpectedly secured to
him a little income of his own for the rest of his life. His
future plans, now that this piece of good fortune had fallen to
his share, were still unsettled. But if Allan wished to hear what
he ultimately decided on, his agent in London (whose direction he
inclosed) would receive communications for him, and would furnish
Mr. Armadale at all future times with his address.
On receipt of this letter, Allan had seized the pen in his usual
headlong way, and had insisted on Midwinter's immediately joining
Mr. Brock and himself on their travels. The last days of March
passed, and no answer to the proposal was received. The first
days of April came, and on the seventh of the month there was a
letter for Allan at last on the breakfast-table. He snatched it
up, looked at the address, and threw the letter down again
impatiently. The handwriting was not Midwinter's. Allan finished
his breakfast before he cared to read what his correspondent had
to say to him.
The meal over, young Armadale lazily opened the letter. He began
it with an expression of supreme indifference. He finished it
with a sudden leap out of his chair, and a loud shout of
astonishment. Wondering, as he well might, at this extraordinary
outbreak, Mr. Brock took up the letter which Allan had tossed
across the table to him. Before he had come to the end of it, his
hands dropped helplessly on his knees, and the blank bewilderment
of his pupil's expression was accurately reflected on his own
If ever two men had good cause for being thrown completely off
their balance, Allan and the rector were those two. The letter
which had struck them both with the same shock of astonishment
did, beyond all question, contain an announcement which, on a
first discovery of it, was simply incredible. The news was from
Norfolk, and was to this effect. In little more than one week's
time death had mown down no less than three lives in the family
at Thorpe Ambrose, and Allan Armadale was at that moment heir to
an estate of eight thousand a year!
A second perusal of the letter enabled the rector and his
companion to master the details which had escaped them on a
The writer was the family lawyer at Thorpe Ambrose. After
announcing to Allan the deaths of his cousin Arthur at the age of
twenty-five, of his uncle Henry at the age of forty-eight, and of
his cousin John at the age of twenty-one, the lawyer proceeded to
give a brief abstract of the terms of the elder Mr. Blanchard's
will. The claims of male issue were, as is not unusual in such
cases, preferred to the claims of female issue. Failing Arthur
and his issue male, the estate was left to Henry and his issue
male. Failing them, it went to the issue male of Henry's sister;
and, in default of such issue, to the next heir male. As events
had happened, the two young men, Arthur and John, had died
unmarried, and Henry Blanchard had died, leaving no surviving
child but a daughter. Under these circumstances, Allan was the
next heir male pointed at by the will, and was now legally
successor to the Thorpe Ambrose estate. Having made this
extraordinary announcement, the lawyer requested to be favored
with Mr. Armadale's instructions, and added, in conclusion, that
he would be happy to furnish any further particulars that were
It was useless to waste time in wondering at an event which
neither Allan nor his mother had ever thought of as even remotely
possible. The only thing to be done was to go back to England at
once. The next day found the travelers installed once more in
their London hotel, and the day after the affair was placed in
the proper professional hands. The inevitable corresponding and
consulting ensued, and one by one the all-important particulars
flowed in, until the measure of information was pronounced to be
This was the strange story of the three deaths:
At the time when Mr. Brock had written to Mrs. Armadale's
relatives to announce the news of her decease (that is to say, in
the middle of the month of January), the family at Thorpe Ambrose
numbered five persons--Arthur Blanchard (in possession of the
estate), living in the great house with his mother; and Henry
Blanchard, the uncle, living in the neighborhood, a widower with
two children, a son and a daughter. To cement the family
connection still more closely, Arthur Blanchard was engaged to be
married to his cousin. The wedding was to be celebrated with
great local rejoicings in the coming summer, when the young lady
had completed her twentieth year.
The month of February had brought changes with it in the family
position. Observing signs of delicacy in the health of his son,
Mr. Henry Blanchard left Norfolk, taking the young man with him,
under medical advice, to try the climate of Italy. Early in the
ensuing month of March, Arthur Blanchard also left Thorpe
Ambrose, for a few days only, on business which required his
presence in London. The business took him into the City. Annoyed
by the endless impediments in the streets, he returned westward
by one of the river steamers, and, so returning, met his death.
As the steamer left the wharf, he noticed a woman near him who
had shown a singular hesitation in embarking, and who had been
the last of the passengers to take her place in the vessel. She
was neatly dressed in black silk, with a red Paisley shawl over
her shoulders, and she kept her face hidden behind a thick veil.
Arthur Blanchard was struck by the rare grace and elegance of her
figure, and he felt a young man's passing curiosity to see her
face. She neither lifted her veil nor turned her head his way.
After taking a few steps hesitatingly backward and forward on the
deck, she walked away on a sudden to the stern of the vessel. In
a minute more there was a cry of alarm from the man at the helm,
and the engines were stopped immediately. The woman had thrown
The passengers all rushed to the side of the vessel to look.
Arthur Blanchard alone, without an instant's hesitation, jumped
into the river. He was an excellent swimmer, and he reached the
woman as she rose again to the surface, after sinking for the
first time. Help was at hand, and they were both brought safely
ashore. The woman was taken to the nearest police station, and
was soon restored to her senses, her preserver giving his name
and address, as usual in such cases, to the inspector on duty,
who wisely recommended him to get into a warm bath, and to send
to his lodgings for dry clothes. Arthur Blanchard, who had never
known an hour's illness since he was a child, laughed at the
caution, and went back in a cab. The next day he was too ill
to attend the examination before the magistrate. A fortnight
afterward he was a dead man.
The news of the calamity reached Henry Blanchard and his son at
Milan, and within an hour of the time when they received it they
were on their way back to England. The snow on the Alps had
loosened earlier than usual that year, and the passes were
notoriously dangerous. The father and son, traveling in their own
carriage, were met on the mountain by the mail returning, after
sending the letters on by hand. Warnings which would have
produced their effect under any ordinary circumstances were now
vainly addressed to the two Englishmen. Their impatience to be
at home again, after the catastrophe which had befallen their
family, brooked no delay. Bribes lavishly offered to the
postilions, tempted them to go on. The carriage pursued its way,
and was lost to view in the mist. When it was seen again, it was
disinterred from the bottom of a precipice--the men, the horses,
and the vehicle all crushed together under the wreck and ruin of
So the three lives were mown down by death. So, in a clear
sequence of events, a woman's suicide-leap into a river had
opened to Allan Armadale the succession to the Thorpe Ambrose
Who was the woman? The man who saved her life never knew. The
magistrate who remanded her, the chaplain who exhorted her, the
reporter who exhibited her in print, never knew. It was recorded
of her with surprise that, though most respectably dressed, she
had nevertheless described herself as being "in distress." She
had expressed the deepest contrition, but had persisted in giving
a name which was on the face of it a false one; in telling a
commonplace story, which was manifestly an invention; and in
refusing to the last to furnish any clew to her friends. A lady
connected with a charitable institution ("interested by her
extreme elegance and beauty") had volunteered to take charge of
her, and to bring her into a better frame of mind . The first
day's experience of the penitent had been far from cheering, and
the second day's experience had been conclusive. She had left the
institution by stealth; and--though the visiting clergyman,
taking a special interest in the case, had caused special efforts
to be made--all search after her, from that time forth, had
While this useless investigation (undertaken at Allan's express
desire) was in progress, the lawyers had settled the preliminary
formalities connected with the succession to the property. All
that remained was for the new master of Thorpe Ambrose to decide
when he would personally establish himself on the estate of which
he was now the legal possessor.
Left necessarily to his own guidance in this matter, Allan
settled it for himself in his usual hot-headed, generous way.
He positively declined to take possession until Mrs. Blanchard
and her niece (who had been permitted thus far, as a matter of
courtesy, to remain in their old home) had recovered from the
calamity that had befallen them, and were fit to decide for
themselves what their future proceedings should be. A private
correspondence followed this resolution, comprehending, on
Allan's side, unlimited offers of everything he had to give (in
a house which he had not yet seen), and, on the ladies' side, a
discreetly reluctant readiness to profit by the young gentleman's
generosity in the matter of time. To the astonishment of his
legal advisers, Allan entered their office one morning,
accompanied by Mr. Brock, and announced, with perfect composure,
that the ladies had been good enough to take his own arrangements
off his hands, and that, in deference to their convenience, he
meant to defer establishing himself at Thorpe Ambrose till that
day two months. The lawyers stared at Allan, and Allan, returning
the compliment, stared at the lawyers.
"What on earth are you wondering at, gentlemen?" he inquired,
with a boyish bewilderment in his good-humored blue eyes. "Why
shouldn't I give the ladies their two months, if the ladies want
them? Let the poor things take their own time, and welcome. My
rights? and my position? Oh, pooh! pooh! I'm in no hurry to be
squire of the parish; it's not in my way. What do I mean to do
for the two months? What I should have done anyhow, whether the
ladies had stayed or not; I mean to go cruising at sea. That's
what _I_ like! I've got a new yacht at home in Somersetshire--a
yacht of my own building. And I'll tell you what, sir," continued
Allan, seizing the head partner by the arm in the fervor of his
friendly intentions, "you look sadly in want of a holiday in the
fresh air, and you shall come along with me on the trial trip of
my new vessel. And your partners, too, if they like. And the head
clerk, who is the best fellow I ever met with in my life. Plenty
of room--we'll all shake down together on the floor, and we'll
give Mr. Brock a rug on the cabin table. Thorpe Ambrose be
hanged! Do you mean to say, if you had built a vessel yourself
(as I have), you would go to any estate in the three kingdoms,
while your own little beauty was sitting like a duck on the water
at home, and waiting for you to try her? You legal gentlemen are
great hands at argument. What do you think of that argument? I
think it's unanswerable--and I'm off to Somersetshire to-morrow."
With those words, the new possessor of eight thousand a year
dashed into the head clerk's office, and invited that functionary
to a cruise on the high seas, with a smack on the shoulder which
was heard distinctly by his masters in the next room. The firm
looked in interrogative wonder at Mr. Brock. A client who could
see a position among the landed gentry of England waiting for
him, without being in a hurry to occupy it at the earliest
possible opportunity, was a client of whom they possessed no
"He must have been very oddly brought up," said the lawyers to
"Very oddly," said the rector to the lawyers.
A last leap over one month more brought Mr. Brock to the present
time--to the bedroom at Castletown, in which he was sitting
thinking, and to the anxiety which was obstinately intruding
itself between him and his night's rest. That anxiety was no
unfamiliar enemy to the rector's peace of mind. It had first
found him out in Somersetshire six months since, and it had now
followed him to the Isle of Man under the inveterately obtrusive
form of Ozias Midwinter.
The change in Allan's future prospects had worked no
corresponding alteration in his perverse fancy for the castaway
at the village inn. In the midst of the consultations with the
lawyers he had found time to visit Midwinter, and on the journey
back with the rector there was Allan's friend in the carriage,
returning with them to Somersetshire by Allan's own invitation.
The ex-usher's hair had grown again on his shaven skull, and his
dress showed the renovating influence of an accession of
pecuniary means, but in all other respects the man was unchanged.
He met Mr. Brock's distrust with the old uncomplaining
resignation to it; he maintained the same suspicious silence on
the subject of his relatives and his early life; he spoke of
Allan's kindness to him with the same undisciplined fervor of
gratitude and surprise. "I have done what I could, sir," he said
to Mr. Brock, while Allan was asleep in the railway carriage. "I
have kept out of Mr. Armadale's way, and I have not even answered
his last letter to me. More than that is more than I can do. I
don't ask you to consider my own feeling toward the only human
creature who has never suspected and never ill-treated me. I can
resist my own feeling, but I can't resist the young gentleman
himself. There's not another like him in the world. If we are to
be parted again, it must be his doing or yours--not mine. The
dog's master has whistled," said this strange man, with a
momentary outburst of the hidden passion in him, and a sudden
springing of angry tears in his wild brown eyes, "and it is hard,
sir, to blame the dog when the dog comes."
Once more Mr. Brock's humanity got the better of Mr. Brock's
caution. He determined to wait, and see what the coming days of
social intercourse might bring forth.
The days passed; the yacht was rigged and fitted for sea; a
cruise was arranged to the Welsh coast--and Midwinter the Secret
was the same Midwinter still. Confinement on board a little
vessel of five-and-thirty tons offered no great attraction to a
man of Mr. Brock's time of life. But he sailed on the trial trip
of the yacht nevertheless, rather than trust Allan alone with his
Would the close companionship of the three on their cruise tempt
the man into talking of his own affairs? No; he was ready enough
on other subjects, especially if Allan led the way to them. But
not a word escaped him about himself. Mr. Brock tried him with
questions about his recent inheritance, and was answered as he
had been answered once already at the Somersetshire inn. It was
a curious coincidence, Midwinter admitted, that Mr. Armadale's
prospects and his own prospects should both have unexpectedly
changed for the better about the same time. But there the
resemblance ended. It was no large fortune that had fallen
into his lap, though it was enough for his wants. It had not
reconciled him with his relations, for the money had not come to
him as a matter of kindness, but as a matter of right. As for the
circumstance which had led to his communicating with his family,
it was not worth mentioning, seeing that the temporary renewal of
intercourse which had followed had produced no friendly results.
Nothing had come of it but the money--and, with the money, an
anxiety which troubled him sometimes, when he woke in the small
hours of the morning.
At those last words he became suddenly silent, as if for once his
well-guarded tongue had betrayed him.
Mr. Brock seized the opportunity, and bluntly asked him what the
nature of the anxiety might be. Did it relate to money? No; it
related to a Letter which had been waiting for him for many
years. Had he received the letter? Not yet; it had been left
under charge of one of the partners in the firm which had managed
the business of his inheritance for him; the partner had been
absent from England; and the letter, locked up among his own
private papers, could not be got at till he returned. He was
expected back toward the latter part of that present May, and,
if Midwinter could be sure where the cruise would take them to
at the close of the month, he thought he would write and have
the letter forwarded. Had he any family reasons to be anxious
about it? None that he knew of; he was curious to see what had
been waiting for him for many years, and that was all. So he
answered the rector's questions, with his tawny face turned away
over the low bulwark of the yacht, and his fishing-line dragging
in his supple brown hands.
Favored by wind and weather, the little vessel had done wonders
on her trial trip. Before the period fixed for the duration of
the cruise had half expired, the yacht was as high up on the
Welsh coast as Holyhead; and Allan, eager for adventure in
unknown regions, had declared boldly for an extension of the
voyage northward to the Isle of Man. Having ascertained from
reliable authority that the weather really promised well for a
cruise in that quarter, and that, in the event of any unforeseen
necessity for return, the railway was accessible by the steamer
from Douglas to Liverpool, Mr. Brock agreed to his pupil's
proposal. By that night's post he wrote to Allan's lawyers and
to his own rectory, indicating Douglas in the Isle of Man as
the next address to which letters might be forwarded. At the
post-office he met Midwinter, who had just dropped a letter into
the box. Remembering what he had said on board the yacht, Mr.
Brock concluded that they had both taken the same precaution,
and had ordered their correspondence to be forwarded to the same
Late the next day they set sail for the Isle of Man.
For a few hours all went well; but sunset brought with it the
signs of a coming change. With the darkness the wind rose to a
gale, and the question whether Allan and his journeymen had or
had not built a stout sea-boat was seriously tested for the
first time. All that night, after trying vainly to bear up for
Holyhead, the little vessel kept the sea, and stood her trial
bravely. The next morning the Isle of Man was in view, and the
yacht was safe at Castletown. A survey by daylight of hull and
rigging showed that all the damage done might be set right again
in a week's time. The cruising party had accordingly remained at
Castletown, Allan being occupied in superintending the repairs,
Mr. Brock in exploring the neighborhood, and Midwinter in making
daily pilgrimages on foot to Douglas and back to inquire for
The first of the cruising party who received a letter was Allan.
"More worries from those everlasting lawyers," was all he said,
when he had read the letter, and had crumpled it up in his
pocket. The rector's turn came next, before the week's sojourn at
Castletown had expired. On the fifth day he found a letter from
Somersetshire waiting for him at the hotel. It had been brought
there by Midwinter, and it contained news which entirely
overthrew all Mr. Brock's holiday plans. The clergyman who had
undertaken to do duty for him in his absence had been
unexpectedly summoned home again; and Mr. Brock had no choice
(the day of the week being Friday) but to cross the next morning
from Douglass to Liverpool, and get back by railway on Saturday
night in time for Sunday's service.
Having read his letter, and resigned himself to his altered
circumstances as patiently as he might, the rector passed next to
a question that pressed for serious consideration in its turn.
Burdened with his heavy responsibility toward Allan, and
conscious of his own undiminished distrust of Allan's new friend,
how was he to act, in the emergency that now beset him, toward
the two young men who had been his companions on the cruise?
Mr. Brock had first asked himself that awkward question on the
Friday afternoon, and he was still trying vainly to answer it,
alone in his own room, at one o'clock on the Saturday morning. It
was then only the end of May, and the residence of the ladies at
Thorpe Ambrose (unless they chose to shorten it of their own
accord) would not expire till the middle of June. Even if the
repairs of the yacht had been completed (which was not the case),
there was no possible pretense for hurrying Allan back to
Somersetshire. But one other alternative remained--to leave him
where he was. In other words, to leave him, at the turning-point
of his life, under the sole influence of a man whom he had first
met with as a castaway at a village inn, and who was still, to
all practical purposes, a total stranger to him.
In despair of obtaining any better means of enlightenment to
guide his decision, Mr. Brock reverted to the impression which
Midwinter had produced on his own mind in the familiarity of the
Young as he was, the ex-usher had evidently lived a varied life.
He could speak of books like a man who had really enjoyed them;
he could take his turn at the helm like a sailor who knew his
duty; he could cook, and climb the rigging, and lay the cloth for
dinner, with an odd delight in the exhibition of his own
dexterity. The display of these, and other qualities like them,
as his spirits rose with the cruise, had revealed the secret of
his attraction for Allan plainly enough. But had all disclosures
rested there? Had the man let no chance light in on his character
in the rector's presence? Very little; and that little did not
set him forth in a morally alluring aspect. His way in the world
had lain evidently in doubtful places; familiarity with the small
villainies of vagabonds peeped out of him now and then; and, more
significant still, he habitually slept the light, suspicious
sleep of a man who has been accustomed to close his eyes in doubt
of the company under the same roof with him. Down to the very
latest moment of the rector's experience of him--down to that
present Friday night--his conduct had been persistently secret
and unaccountable to the very last. After bringing Mr. Brock's
letter to the hotel, he had mysterious disappeared from the house
without leaving any message for his companions, and without
letting anybody see whether he had or had not received a letter
himself. At nightfall he had come back stealthily in the
darkness, had been caught on the stairs by Allan, eager to tell
him of the change in the rector's plans, had listened to the news
without a word of remark! and had ended by sulkily locking
himself into his own room. What was there in his favor to set
against such revelations of his character as these--against his
wandering eyes, his obstinate reserve with the rector, his
ominous silence on the subject of family and friends? Little or
nothing: the sum of all his merits began and ended with his
gratitude to Allan.
Mr. Brock left his seat on the side of the bed, trimmed his
candle, and, still lost in his own thoughts, looked out absently
at the night. The change of place brought no new ideas with it.
His retrospect over his own past life had amply satisfied him
that his present sense of responsibility rested on no merely
fanciful grounds, and, having brought him to that point, had left
him there, standing at the window, and seeing nothing but the
total darkness in his own mind faithfully reflected by the total
darkness of the night.
"If I only had a friend to apply to!" thought the rector. "If I
could only find some one to help me in this miserable place!"
At the moment when the aspiration crossed his mind, it was
suddenly answered by a low knock at the door, and a voice said
softly in the passage outside, "Let me come in."
After an instant's pause to steady his nerves, Mr. Brock opened
the door, and found himself, at one o'clock in the morning,
standing face to face on the threshold of his own bedroom with
"Are you ill?" asked the rector, as soon as his astonishment
would allow him to speak.
"I have come here to make a clean breast of it!" was the strange
answer. "Will you let me in?"
With those words he walked into the room, his eyes on the ground,
his lips ashy pale, and his hand holding something hidden behind
"I saw the light under your door," he went on, without looking
up, and without moving his hand, "and I know the trouble on your
mind which is keeping you from your rest. You are going away
to-morrow morning, and you don't like leaving Mr. Armadale alone
with a stranger like me."
Startled as he was, Mr. Brock saw the serious necessity of being
plain with a man who had come at that time, and had said those
words to him.
"You have guessed right," he answered. "I stand in the place of a
father to Allan Armadale, and I am naturally unwilling to leave
him, at his age, with a man whom I don't know."
Ozias Midwinter took a step forward to the table. His wandering
eyes rested on the rector's New Testament, which was one of the
objects lying on it.
"You have read that Book, in the years of a long life, to many
congregations," he said. "Has it taught you mercy to your
Without waiting to be answered, he looked Mr. Brock in the face
for the first time, and brought his hidden hand slowly into view.
"Read that," he said; "and, for Christ's sake, pity me when you
know who I am."
He laid a letter of many pages on the table. It was the letter
that Mr. Neal had posted at Wildbad nineteen years since.