Armadale
by Wilkie Collins

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Prepared by James Rusk (jrusk@cyberramp.net)
Italics are indicated by underscores.





Armadale

by Wilkie Collins




TO

JOHN FORSTER.

In acknowledgment of the services which he has rendered to the
cause of literature by his "Life of Goldsmith;" and in
affectionate remembrance of a friendship which is associated with
some of the happiest years of my life.



READERS in general--on whose friendly reception experience has
given me some reason to rely--will, I venture to hope, appreciate
whatever merit there may be in this story without any prefatory
pleading for it on my part. They will, I think, see that it has
not been hastily meditated or idly wrought out. They will judge
it accordingly, and I ask no more.

Readers in particular will, I have some reason to suppose, be
here and there disturbed, perhaps even offended, by finding that
"Armadale" oversteps, in more than one direction, the narrow
limits within which they are disposed to restrict the development
of modern fiction--if they can.

Nothing that I could say to these persons here would help me with
them as Time will help me if my work lasts. I am not afraid of my
design being permanently misunderstood, provided the execution
has done it any sort of justice. Estimated by the clap-trap
morality of the present day, this may be a very daring book.
Judged by the Christian morality which is of all time, it is only
a book that is daring enough to speak the truth.

LONDON, April, 1866.



ARMADALE.

PROLOGUE.

CHAPTER I.

THE TRAVELERS.

IT was the opening of the season of eighteen hundred and
thirty-two, at the Baths of WILDBAD.

The evening shadows were beginning to gather over the quiet
little German town, and the diligence was expected every minute.
Before the door of the principal inn, waiting the arrival of the
first visitors of the year, were assembled the three notable
personages of Wildbad, accompanied by their wives--the mayor,
representing the inhabitants; the doctor, representing the
waters; the landlord, representing his own establishment. Beyond
this select circle, grouped snugly about the trim little square
in front of the inn, appeared the towns-people in general, mixed
here and there with the country people, in their quaint German
costume, placidly expectant of the diligence--the men in short
black jackets, tight black breeches, and three-cornered beaver
hats; the women with their long light hair hanging in one thickly
plaited tail behind them, and the waists of their short woolen
gowns inserted modestly in the region of their shoulder-blades.
Round the outer edge of the assemblage thus formed, flying
detachments of plump white-headed children careered in perpetual
motion; while, mysteriously apart from the rest of the
inhabitants, the musicians of the Baths stood collected in one
lost corner, waiting the appearance of the first visitors to play
the first tune of the season in the form of a serenade. The light
of a May evening was still bright on the tops of the great wooded
hills watching high over the town on the right hand and the left;
and the cool breeze that comes before sunset came keenly fragrant
here with the balsamic odor of the first of the Black Forest.