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NEWS FROM NORFOLK.
_From Mr. Pedgift, Senior (Thorpe Ambrose), to Mr. Pedgift,
"High Street, December 20th.
"MY DEAR AUGUSTUS--Your letter reached me yesterday. You seem
to be making the most of your youth (as you call it) with a
vengeance. Well! enjoy your holiday. I made the most of my youth
when I was your age; and, wonderful to relate, I haven't
forgotten it yet!
"You ask me for a good budget of news, and especially for more
information about that mysterious business at the Sanitarium.
"Curiosity, my dear boy, is a quality which (in our profession
especially) sometimes leads to great results. I doubt, however,
if you will find it leading to much on this occasion. All I know
of the mystery of the Sanitarium, I know from Mr. Armadale: and
he is entirely in the dark on more than one point of importance.
I have already told you how they were entrapped into the house,
and how they passed the night there. To this I can now add that
something did certainly happen to Mr. Midwinter, which deprived
him of consciousness; and that the doctor, who appears to have
been mixed up in the matter, carried things with a high hand, and
insisted on taking his own course in his own Sanitarium. There is
not the least doubt that the miserable woman (however she might
have come by her death) was found dead--that a coroner's inquest
inquired into the circumstances--that the evidence showed her
to have entered the house as a patient--and that the medical
investigation ended in discovering that she had died of apoplexy.
My idea is that Mr. Midwinter had a motive of his own for not
coming forward with the evidence that he might have given. I have
also reason to suspect that Mr. Armadale, out of regard for him,
followed his lead, and that the verdict at the inquest (attaching
no blame to anybody) proceeded, like many other verdicts of the
same kind, from an entirely superficial investigation of the
"The key to the whole mystery is to be found, I firmly believe,
in that wretched woman's attempt to personate the character of
Mr. Armadale's widow when the news of his death appeared in the
papers. But what first set her on this, and by what inconceivable
process of deception she can have induced Mr. Midwinter to marry
her (as the certificate proves) under Mr. Armadale's name, is
more than Mr. Armadale himself knows. The point was not touched
at the inquest, for the simple reason that the inquest only
concerned itself with the circumstances attending her death.
Mr. Armadale, at his friend's request, saw Miss Blanchard, and
induced her to silence old Darch on the subject of the claim that
had been made relating to the widow's income. As the claim had
never been admitted, even our stiff-necked brother practitioner
consented for once to do as he was asked. The doctor's statement
that his patient was the widow of a gentleman named Armadale was
accordingly left unchallenged, and so the matter has been hushed
up. She is buried in the great cemetery, near the place where
she died. Nobody but Mr. Midwinter and Mr. Armadale (who insisted
on going with him) followed her to the grave; and nothing has
been inscribed on the tombstone but the initial letter of her
Christian name and the date of her death. So, after all the harm
she has done, she rests at last; and so the two men whom she has
injured have forgiven her.
"Is there more to say on this subject before we leave it? On
referring to your letter, I find you have raised one other point,
which may be worth a moment's notice.
"You ask if there is reason to suppose that the doctor comes out
of the matter with hands which are really as clean as they look?
My dear Augustus, I believe the doctor to have been at the bottom
of more of this mischief than we shall ever find out; and to have
profited by the self-imposed silence of Mr. Midwinter and Mr.
Armadale, as rogues perpetually profit by the misfortunes and
necessities of honest men. It is an ascertained fact that he
connived at the false statement about Miss Milroy, which
entrapped the two gentlemen into his house; and that one
circumstance (after my Old Bailey experience) is enough for _me_.
As to evidence against him, there is not a jot; and as to
Retribution overtaking him, I can only say I heartily hope
Retribution may prove, in the long run, to be the more cunning
customer of the two. There is not much prospect of it at present.
The doctor's friends and admirers are, I understand, about to
present him with a Testimonial, 'expressive of their sympathy
under the sad occurrence which has thrown a cloud over the
opening of his Sanitarium, and of their undiminished confidence
in his integrity and ability as a medical man.' We live,
Augustus, in an age eminently favorable to the growth of all
roguery which is careful enough to keep up appearances. In this
enlightened nineteenth century, I look upon the doctor as one of
our rising men.
"To turn now to pleasanter subjects than Sanitariums, I may tell
you that Miss Neelie is as good as well again, and is, in my
humble opinion, prettier than ever. She is staying in London
under the care of a female relative; and Mr. Armadale satisfies
her of the fact of his existence (in case she should forget it)
regularly every day. They are to be married in the spring,
unless Mrs. Milroy's death causes the ceremony to be postponed.
The medical men are of opinion that the poor lady is sinking
at last. It may be a question of weeks or a question of months,
they can say no more. She is greatly altered--quiet and gentle,
and anxiously affectionate with her husband and her child. But
in her case this happy change is, it seems, a sign of approaching
dissolution, from the medical point of view. There is a
difficulty in making the poor old, major understand this. He only
sees that she has gone back to the likeness of her better self
when he first married her; and he sits for hours by her bedside
now, and tells her about his wonderful clock.
"Mr. Midwinter, of whom you will next expect me to say something,
is improving rapidly. After causing some anxiety at first to the
medical men (who declared that he was suffering from a serious
nervous shock, produced by circumstances about which their
patient's obstinate silence kept them quite in the dark), he
has rallied, as only men of his sensitive temperament (to quote
the doctors again) can rally. He and Mr. Armadale are together
in a quiet lodging. I saw him last week when I was in London.
His face showed signs of wear and tear, very sad to see in so
young a man. But he spoke of himself and his future with
a courage and hopefulness which men of twice his years (if he has
suffered as I suspect him to have suffered) might have envied.
If I know anything of humanity, this is no common man; and we
shall hear of him yet in no common way.
"You will wonder how I came to be in London. I went up, with
a return ticket (from Saturday to Monday), about that matter
in dispute at our agent's. We had a tough fight; but, curiously
enough, a point occurred to me just as I got up to go; and I went
back to my chair, and settled the question in no time. Of course
I stayed at Our Hotel in Covent Garden. William, the waiter,
asked after you with the affection of a father; and Matilda,
the chamber-maid, said you almost persuaded her that last time
to have the hollow tooth taken out of her lower jaw. I had
the agent's second son (the young chap you nicknamed Mustapha,
when he made that dreadful mess about the Turkish Securities)
to dine with me on Sunday. A little incident happened in the
evening which may be worth recording, as it connected itself
with a certain old lady who was not 'at home' when you and Mr.
Armadale blundered on that house in Pimlico in the bygone time.
"Mustapha was like all the rest of you young men of the present
day--he got restless after dinner. 'Let's go to a public
amusement, Mr. Pedgift,' says he. 'Public amusement? Why,
it's Sunday evening!' says I. 'All right, sir,' says Mustapha.
'They stop acting on the stage, I grant you, on Sunday evening
--but they don't stop acting in the pulpit. Come and see the last
new Sunday performer of our time.' As he wouldn't have any more
wine, there was nothing else for it but to go.
"We went to a street at the West End, and found it blocked up
with carriages. If it hadn't been Sunday night, I should have
thought we were going to the opera. 'What did I tell you?' says
Mustapha, taking me up to an open door with a gas star outside
and a bill of the performance. I had just time to notice that
I was going to one of a series of 'Sunday Evening Discourses on
the Pomps and Vanities of the World, by A Sinner Who Has Served
Them,' when Mustapha jogged my elbow, and whispered, 'Half a
crown is the fashionable tip.' I found myself between two demure
and silent gentlemen, with plates in their hands, uncommonly well
filled already with the fashionable tip. Mustapha patronized one
plate, and I the other. We passed through two doors into a long
room, crammed with people. And there, on a platform at the
further end, holding forth to the audience, was--not a man, as I
had expected-- but a Woman, and that woman, MOTHER OLDERSHAW! You
never listened to anything more eloquent in your life. As long as
I heard her she was never once at a loss for a word anywhere.
I shall think less of oratory as a human accomplishment, for the
rest of my days, after that Sunday evening. As for the matter of
the sermon, I may describe it as a narrative of Mrs. Oldershaw's
experience among dilapidated women, profusely illustrated in the
pious and penitential style. You will ask what sort of audience
it was. Principally Women, Augustus--and, as I hope to be saved,
all the old harridans of the world of fashion whom Mother
Oldershaw had enameled in her time, sitting boldly in the front
places, with their cheeks ruddled with paint, in a state of
devout enjoyment wonderful to see! I left Mustapha to hear
the end of it. And I thought to myself, as I went out, of what
Shakespeare says somewhere, 'Lord, what fools we mortals be!'
"Have I anything more to tell you before I leave off? Only one
thing that I can remember.
"That wretched old Bashwood has confirmed the fears I told you I
had about him when he was brought back here from London. There is
no kind of doubt that he has really lost all the little reason he
ever had. He is perfectly harmless, and perfectly happy. And he
would do very well if we could only prevent him from going out in
his last new suit of clothes, smirking and smiling and inviting
everybody to his approaching marriage with the handsomest woman
in England. It ends of course in the boys pelting him, and
in his coming here crying to me, covered with mud. The moment
his clothes are cleaned again he falls back into his favorite
delusion, and struts about before the church gates, in the
character of a bridegroom, waiting for Miss Gwilt. We must get
the poor wretch taken care of somewhere for the rest of the
little time he has to live. Who would ever have thought of a man
at his age falling in love? And who would ever have believed that
the mischief that woman's beauty has done could have reached as
far in the downward direction as our superannuated old clerk?
"Good-by, for the present, my dear boy. If you see a particularly
handsome snuff-box in Paris, remember--though your father scorns
Testimonials--he doesn't object to receive a present from his
A. PEDGIFT, Sen.
"POSTSCRIPT.--I think it likely that the account you mention in
the French papers, of a fatal quarrel among some foreign sailors
in one of the Lipari Islands, and of the death of their captain,
among others, may really have been a quarrel among the scoundrels
who robbed Mr. Armadale and scuttled his yacht. _Those_ fellows,
luckily for society, can't always keep up appearances; and,
in their case, Rogues and Retribution do occasionally come into
collision with each other."
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