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Full text of "The woman in white"

■? 



WILKIE COLLINS'S NOVELS. 


Crown 8vo. cloth extra, 31. 61^. each ; post 8vo. boards, ^s. each ; 


cloth limp, 2^. 6ii. each. 


ANTONINA. 


THE Frozen deep. I 


BASIL. 


THE LAW AND THE LADY. 


HIDE AND SEEK. 


THE TWO DESTINIES. 


AFTER DARK. 


THE HAUNTED HOTEL. 


THE DEAD SECRET. 


THE FALLEN LEAVES. 


THE QUEEN OF HEARTS. 


JEZEBEL'S DAUGHTER. 


THE WOMAN IN WHITE. 


THE BLACK ROBE. 


NO NAME. 


HEART AND SCIENCE. 


MY MISCELLANIES. 


'I SAY NO." 


ARMADALE. 


A ROGUE'S LIFE. 


THE MOONSTONE. 


THE EVIL GENIUS. 


MAN AND WIFE. 


LITTLE NOVELS. 


POOR MISS FINCH. 


THE LEGACY OF CAIN. 


MISS OR MRS.? 


BLIND LOVE. 


THE NEW MAGDALEN. 




Popular Editions. Medium 


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THE WOMAN IN WHITE. 


1 THE MOONSTONE. 


THE WOMAN IN WHITE and T 


HE MOONSTONE in One Volume, 


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. cloth, 2S. 


London : CHATTO & WINDL 


S, III St. Martin's Lane,W.C. 



THE 



WOMAN IN WHITE 



PRINTED BY 

SrOTTISWOODE AND CO., NEW-STREET SQl'ARB 

LONDON 



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WILKl 



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WILKIE COLLINS 



THE 



WOMAN IN WHITE 



LIBRARY EDITION 



WITH A PORTRAIT 



LONDON 
CHATTO & WINDUS 
1896 






9 4 34 7 7 



TO 

BRYAN WALLER PROCTER 

FROM ONE OF HIS YOUNGER BRETHREN IN LITERATURE 
WHO SINCERELY VALUES HIS FRIENDSHIP 

AND WHO GRATEFULLY REMEMPERS 
MANY HAPPY HOURS SPENT IN HIS HOUSE 



PREFACE 



* The Woman in White ' has been received with such 
marked favour by a very large circle of readers, that this 
volume scarcely stands in need of any prefatory introduction 
on my part. All that it is necessary for me to say may be 
summed up in a few words. 

I have endeavoured, by careful correction and revision, to 
make my story as worthy as I could of a continuance of the 
public approval. Certain technical errors which had escaped 
me while I was writing the book are here rectified. None of 
these little blemishes in the slightest degree interfered with 
the interest of the narrative — but it was as well to remove 
them at the first opportunity, out of respect to my readers ; 
and in this edition, accordingly, they exist no more. 

Some doubts having been expressed, in certain captious 
quarters, about the correct presentation of the legal ' points ' 
incidental to the story, I may be permitted to mention that 
I spared no pains — in this instance, as in all others — to pre- 
serve myself from unintentionally misleading my readers. A 
solicitor of great experience in his profession most kindly and 
carefully guided my steps, whenever the course of the narra- 
tive led me into the labyrinth of the Law% Every doubtful 
question was submitted to this gentleman, before I ventured 
on putting pen to paper ; and all the proof-sheets which re- 
ferred to legal matters were corrected by his hand before the 
story was published. I can add, on high judicial authority, 
that these precautions were not taken in vain. The ' law ' in 
this book has been discussed, since its publication, by more 
than one competent tribunal, and has been decided to be 
sound. 

One word more, before I conclude, in acknowledgment of 
the heavy debt of gratitude which I owe to the reading public. 

ix a 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

It is no affectation on my part to say that the success of 
this book has been especially welcome to me, because it im- 
plied the recognition of a literary principle which has guided 
me since I first addressed my readers in the character of a 
novelist. 

I have always held the old-fashioned opinion that the 
primary object of a work of fiction should be to tell a story ; 
and I have never believed that the novelist who properly per- 
formed this first condition of his art, was in danger, on 
that account, of neglecting the delineation of character — for 
this plain reason, that the effect produced by any narrative of 
events is essentially dependent, not on the events themselves, 
but on the human interest which is directly connected with 
them. It may be possible, in novel-writing, to present 
characters successfully without telling a story ; but it is not 
possible to tell a story successfully without presenting charac- 
ters ; their existence, as recognisable realities, being the sole 
condition on which the story can be effectively told. The 
only narrative which can hope to lay a strong hold on the 
attention of readers, is a narrative which interests them about 
men and women — for the perfectly obvious reason that they 
are men and women themselves. 

The reception accorded to * The Woman in White ' has 
practically confirmed these opinions, and has satisfied me that 
I may trust to them in the future. Here is a novel which has 
met with a very kind reception, because it is a Story ; and 
here is a story, the interest of which — as I know by the testi- 
mony, voluntarily addressed to me, of the readers themselves 
— is never disconnected from the interest of character. 
'Laura,' 'Miss Halcombe,' and 'Anne Catherick ; ' 'Count 
Fosco,' ' Mr. Fairlie,' and ' Walter Hartright ; ' have made 
friends for me wherever they have made themselves known. 
I hope the time is not far distant when I may meet those 
friends again, and when I may try, through the medium of 
new characters, to awaken their interest in another story. 

Harley Street, London 
February 1861. 



CONTENTS 



THE FIRST EPOCH 

PAGE 

THE STORY BEGUN BY WALTER HARTRIGHT, OF CLEMENT'S 

INN, TEACHER OF DRAWING I 

THE STORY CONTINUED BY VINCENT GILMORE, OF CHANCERY 

LANE, SOLICITOR I09 

THE STORY CONTINUED BY MARIAN HALCOMBE, IN EXTRACTS 

FROM HER DIARY . . 14I 



THE SECOND EPOCH 

THE STORY CONTINUED BY MARIAN HALCOMBE . . . . 172 

THE STORY CONTINUED BY FREDERICK FAIRLIE, ESQ., OF 

LIMMERIDGE HOUSE 302 

THE STORY CONTINUED BY ELIZA MICHELSON, HOUSEKEEPER 

AT BLACKWATER PARK 319 

THE STORY CONTINUED IN SEVERAL NARRATIVES . . . 357 

I. The Narrative of Hester Tinhorn, Cook in the Service of 
Count Fosco. 2. The Narrative of the Doctor. 3. The 
Narrative of Jane Gould. 4. The Narrative of the Tomb- 
stone. 5. The Narrative of Walter Hartright. 
xi 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 



THE THIRD EPOCH 

PAGE 

THE STORY CONTIXUED BY WALTER HARTRIGHT . . . 369 

THE STORY COxVTINUED BY MRS. CATHERICK .... 475 

THE STORY CONTINUED BY WALTER H.\RTRICHT . . . 487 

THE STORY CONTINUED BY ISIDOR OTTAVIO BALDASSARE 

FOSCO 540 

THE STORY CONCLUDED BY WALTER HARTRIGHT . • • 553 



xn 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 



7he Story begun by Walter Hartright, of Clements fiitt, 
Teacher of Drauing 

I. 

This Is the storj of what a Woman's patience can endure, 
and what a Man's resolution can achieve. 

If the machinery of the Law could be depended on to 
tathom every case of suspicion, and to conduct every process 
of mquiry, with moderate assistance only from the lubricatino- 
mfluences of oil of gold, the events which fill these pao-et 
might have claimed their share of the public attention in a 
Court of Justice. 

But the Law is still, in certain inevitable cases, the pre- 
engaged servant of the long purse, -and the story is left to 
be told, for the first time, in this place. As the Judge miirht 
once have heard it, so the Reader shall hear it now. No cir 
cumstance of importance, from the beginning to the end of the 
disclosure, shall be related on hearsay evidence. When the 
writer of these introductory lines (Walter Hartright by name) 
happens to be more closely connected than others with the 
incidents to be recorded, he will describe them in his own 
person. When his experience fails, he will retire from the 
position of narrator, and his task will be continued, from the 
point at which he has left it off, by other persons who can 
speak to the circumstances under notice from their own 
knowledge, just as clearly and positively as he has spoken 
betore them. ^ 

Thus the story here presented will be told by more than 
one pen, as the story of an offence against the laws is told in 
Lourt by more than one witness— with the same object in 
both cases, to present the truth always in its most direct and 
most intelligible aspect, and to trace the course of one com- 
plete series of events, by making the persons who have been 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

most closely connected with them, at each successive stagfe, 
relate their own experience, word for word. 

Let Walter Hartright, teacher of drawing, aged twenty- 
eight years, be heard first. 

II 

It was the last day of July. The long hot summer was 
drawing to a close, and we, the weary pilgrims of the London 
pavement, were beginning to think of the cloud-shadows on 
the cornfields, and the autumn breezes on the seashore. 

For my own poor part, the fading summer left me out of 
health, out of spirits, and, if the truth must be told, out of 
money as well. During the past year I had not m.anaged my 
professional resources as carefully as usual, and my extrava- 
gance now limited me to the prospect of spending the autumn 
economically between my mother's cottage at Hampstead 
and my own chambers in town. 

The evening, I remember, was still and cloudy ; the 
London air was at its heaviest ; the distant hum of the 
street traffic was at its faintest ; the small pulse of the life 
within me and the great heart of the city around me seemed 
to be sinking in unison, languidly and more languidly, with 
the sinking sun. I roused myself from the book which I waa 
dreaming over rather than reading, and left my chambers to 
meet the cool night air in the suburbs. It was one of the 
two evenings in every week which I was accustomed to spend 
with my mother and my sister. So I turned my steps north- 
ward, in the direction of Hampstead. 

Events which I have yet to relate make it necessary to 
mention in this place that my father had been dead some 
years at the period of which I am now writing ; and that my 
sister Sarah and I were the sole survivors of a family of five 
children. My father was a drawing-master before me. His 
exertions had made him highly successful in his profession, 
and his affectionate anxiety to provide for the future of those 
who were dependent on his labours had impelled him, from 
the time of his marriage, to devote to the insuring of his life 
a much larger portion of his income than most men consider 
it necessary to set aside for that purpose. Thanks to his 
admirable prudence and self-denial, my mother and sister 
were left, after his death, as independent of the world as they 
had been during- his lifetime. I succeeded to his connection, 
and had every reason to feel grateful for the prospect that 
awaited me at my starting- in life. 

Z 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

The quiet twilig-ht was still trembling on the topmost 
ridges of the Heath, and the view of London below me had 
sunk into a black gulf in the shadow of the cloudy night, 
when I stood before the gate of my mother's cottage. I had 
hardly rung the bell before the house-door was opened 
violently ; my worthy Italian friend. Professor Pesca, ap- 
peared in the servant's place, and darted out joyously to re- 
ceive me, with a shrill foreign parody on an English cheer. 

On his own account, and, I must be allowed to add, on 
mine also, the Professor merits the honour of a formal intro- 
duction. Accident has made him the starting-point of the 
strange family story which it is the purpose of these pages to 
unfold. 

I had first become acquainted v/ith my Italian friend by 
meeting him at certain great houses, where he taught his own 
language and I taught drawing. All I then knew of the 
history of his life was that he had once held a situation in the 
University of Padua ; that he had left Italy for political 
reasons (the nature of which he uniformly declined to mention 
to anyone) ; and that he had been for many years respectably 
established in London as a teacher of languages. 

Without being actually a dwarf — for he was perfectly 
well-proportioned from head to foot — Pesca was, I think, 
the smallest human being I ever saw out of a show-room. 
Remarkable anywhere by his personal appearance, he was 
still further distinguished among the rank and file of man- 
kind by the harmless eccentricity of his character. The 
ruling idea of his life appeared to be that he was bound to 
show his gratitude to the country which had afforded him an 
asylum and a means of subsistence by doing his utmost to 
turn himself into an Englishman. Not content with paying 
the nation in general the compliment of invariably carrying 
an umbrella, and invariably wearing gaiters and a white hat, 
the Professor further aspired to become an Englishman in his 
habits and amusements, as well as in his personal appearance. 
Finding us distinguished as a nation by our love of athletic 
exercises, the little man, in the innocence of his heart, devoted 
himself impromptu to all our English sports and pastimes 
whenever he had the opportunity of joining them, firmly 
persuaded that he could adopt our national amusements of 
the field by an eff"ort of will, precisely as he had adopted our 
national gaiters and our national white hat. 

I had seen him risk his limbs blindly at a fox-hunt and in 
a cricket-field, and soon afterwards I saw him risk his life, 
just as blindly, in the sea at Brighton. 

3 B2 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

We had met there accidentally, and were bathing tog-ether. 
If we had been engaged in any exercise peculiar to my own 
nation, I should, of course, have looked after Pesca carefully ; 
but as foreigners are generally quite as well able to take care 
of themselves in the water as Englishmen, it never occurred 
to me that the art of swimming might merely add one more 
to the list of manly exercises which the Professor believed 
that he could learn impromptu. Soon after we had both 
struck out from shore I stopped, finding my friend did not 
gain on me, and turned round to look for him. To my 
horror and amazement I saw nothing between m.e and the 
beach but two little white arms, which struggled for an 
instant above the surface of the water, and then disappeared 
from view. When I dived for him the poor little man was lying 
quietly coiled up at the bottom in a hollow of shingle, looking 
by many degrees smaller than I had ever seen him look before. 
During the few minutes that elapsed while I was taking him 
in the air revived him, and he ascended the steps of the 
machine with my assistance. With the partial recovery of 
his animation came the return of his wonderful delusion on 
the subject of swimming. As soon as his chattering teeth 
would let him speak, he smiled vacantly, and said he thought 
it must have been the Cramp. 

When he had thoroughly recovered himself and had joined 
me on the beach, his warm Southern nature broke through 
all artificial English restraints in a moment. He overwhelmed 
me with the wildest expressions of affection— exclaimed pas- 
sionately, in his exaggerated Italian v/ay, that he would hold 
his life henceforth at my disposal— and declared that he 
should never be happy again until he had found an oppor- 
tunity of proving his gratitude by rendering me some service 
which I might remember, on my side, to the end of my days. 

I did my best to stop the torrent of his tears and protesta- 
tions by persisting in treating the whole adventure as a good 
subject for a joke, and succeeded at last, as I imagined, in 
lessening Pesca's overwhelming sense of obligation to me. 
Little did I think then — little did I think afterwards, when our 
pleasant holiday had drawn to an end — that the opportunity 
of serving me for which my grateful companion so ardently 
longed was soon to come, that he was eagerly to seize it on 
the instant, and that by so doing he was to turn the whole 
current of my existence into a new channel, and to alter me 
to myself almost past recognition. 

Yet so it was. If I had not dived for Professor Pesca 
when he lay under vrater on his shingle bed, I should, in all 

4 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

human probability, never have been connected with the story 
which these pages will relate — should never, perhaps, have 
heard even the name of the woman who has lived in all my 
thoughts, who has possessed herself of all my energies, who 
has become the one guiding influence that now directs the 
purpose of my life. 

Ill 

Pesca's face and manner, on the evening when we confronted 
each other at my mother's gate, were more than sufficient to 
inform me that something extraordinary had happened. It 
was quite useless, however, to ask him for an immediate 
explanation. I could only conjecture, while he was dragging 
me in by both hands, that (knowing my habits) he had come 
to the cottage to make sure of meeting me that night, and 
that he had some news to tell of an unusually agreeable kind. 

We both bounced into the parlour in a highly abrupt and 
undignified manner. My mother sat by the open window, 
laughing and fanning herself. Pesca was one of her especial 
favourites, and his wildest eccentricities were always pardon- 
able in her eyes. Poor dear soul ! from the first moment 
when she found out that the little Professor was deeply and 
gratefully attached to her son, she opened her heart to him 
unreservedly, and took all his puzzling foreign peculiarities for 
granted, without so much as attempting to understand any 
one of them. 

My sister Sarah, with all the advantages of youth, was, 
strangely enough, less pliable. She did full justice to Pesca's 
excellent qualities of heart ; but she could not accept him 
implicitly, as my mother accepted him, for my sake. Her 
insular notions of propriety rose in perpetual revolt against 
Pesca's constitutional contempt for appearances ; and she was 
always more or less undisguisedly astonished at her mother's 
familiarity with the eccentric little foreigner. I have ob- 
served, not only in my sister's case, but in the instances of 
others, that we of the young generation are nothing like so 
hearty and so impulsive as some of our elders. I constantly 
see old people flushed and excited by the prospect of some 
anticipated pleasure which altogether fails to ruffle the tran- 
quillity of their serene grandchildren. Are we, I wonder, 
quite such genuine bo3'S and girls now as our seniors were in 
their time ? Has the great advance in education taken rather 
too long a stride ; and are we, in these modern days, just the 
least trifle in the world too well brought up ? 

5 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

Without attempting to answer those questions decisively, 
I may at least record that I never saw my mother and my 
sister together in Pesca's society without finding my mother 
much the younger woman of the two. On this occasion, for 
example, while the old lady was laughing heartily over the 
boyish manner in which we tumbled into the parlour, Sarah 
was perturbedly picking up the broken pieces of a teacup, 
which the Professor had knocked off the table in his precipi- 
tate advance to meet me at the door. 

' I don't know what would have happened. Waiter,' said 
my mother, ' if you had delayed much longer. Pesca has 
been half-mad with impatience ; and I have been half-mad 
with curiosity. The Professor has brought some wonderful 
news with him, in which he says you are concerned ; and he 
has cruelly refused to give us the smallest hint of it till his 
friend Walter appeared.' 

' Very provoking ; it spoils the Set,' muttered Sarah to 
herself, mournfully absorbed over the ruins of the broken cup. 

While these words were being spoken, Pesca, happily and 
fussily unconscious of the irreparable wrong which the 
crockery had suffered at his hands, was dragging a large 
armchair to the opposite end of the room, so as to command 
us all three, in the character of a public speaker addressing 
an audience. Having turned the chair with its back towards 
us, he jumped into it on his knees, and excitably addressed 
his small congregation of three from an impromptu pulpit. 

' Now, my good dears,' began Pesca (who always said 

* good dears ' when he meant ' worthy friends '), ' listen to 
me. The time has come — I recite my good news — I speak 
at last.' 

* Hear, hear ! ' said my mother, humouring the joke. 
'The next thing he will break, mamma,' whispered Sarah, 

'will be the back of the best armchair.' 

' I go back into my life, and I address myself to the 
noblest of created beings,' continued Pesca, vehemently 
apostrophising my unworthy self over the top rail of the chair. 

* Who found me dead at the bottom of the sea (through 
Cramp) ; and who pulled me up to the top ; and what did I 
say when I got into my own life and my own clothes again ? ' 

* Much more than was at all necessary,' I answered, as 
doggedly as possible ; for the least encouragement in con- 
nection with this subject invariably let loose the Professor's 
emotions in a flood of tears. 

' I said,' persisted Pesca, * that my life belonged to my 
dear friend, Walter, for the rest of my days — and so it does. 

6 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

I said that I should never be happy ag-ahi till I had found the 
opportunity of doing a good Something for Walter — and I 
have never been contented with myself till this most blessed 
day. Now,' cried the enthusiastic little man at the top of his 
voice, * the overflowing happiness bursts out of me at every 
pore of my skin, like a perspiration ; for on my faith, and 
soul, and honour, the something is done at last, and the only 
word to say now is — Right-all-right.' 

It may be necessary to explain here that Pesca prided 
himself on being a perfect Englishman in his language, as 
well as in his dress, manners, and amusements. Having 
picked up a few of our most familiar colloquial expressions, he 
scattered them about over his conversation whenever they 
happened to occur to him, turning them, in his high relish for 
their sound and his general ignorance of their sense, into 
compound words and repetitions of his own, and always 
running them into each other, as if they consisted of one 
long syllable. 

' Among the fine London houses v.'here I teach the lan- 
guage of my native country,' said the Professor, rushing 
into his long-deferred explanation without another word of 
preface, 'there is one, mighty fine, in the big place called 
Portland. You all know where that is ? Yes, yes — course- 
of-course. The fine house, my good dears, has got inside it 
a fine family. A Mamma, fair and fat ; three young Misses, 
fair and fat ; two young Misters, fair and fat ; and a Papa, 
the fairest and the fattest of all, who is a mighty merchant, 
up to his eyes in gold — a fine man once, but seeing that he 
has got a naked head and two chins, fine no longer at the 
present time. Now mind ! I teach the sublime Dante to the 
young Misses, and ah ! — m3'-soul-bless-my-soul ! — it is not in 
human language to say how the sublime Dante puzzles the 
pretty heads of all three ! No matter — all in good time — 
and the more lessons the better for me. Now mind ! 
Imagine to yourselves that I am teaching the young Misses 
to-day, as usual. We are all four of us down together in 
the Hell of Dante. At the Seventh Circle — but no matter 
for that : all the Circles are alike to the three young Misses, 
fair and fat — at the Seventh Circle, nevertheless, my pupils 
are sticking fast ; and I, to set them going again, recite, 
explain, and blow myself up red-hot with useless enthusiasm, 
when — a creak of boots in the passage outside, and in comes 
the golden Papa, the mighty merchant with the naked head 
and the two chins. Ha ! my good dears, I am closer than 
you think for to the business now. Have you been patient 

7 



THE WOxMAN IN WHITE 

so far, or have you said to yourselves " Deuce-what-the- 
deuce ! Pesca is long-winded to-nig-ht ? " ' 

We declared that we were deeply interested. The Pro- 
fessor went on : 

' In his hand the g-olden Papa has a letter ; and after he 
has made his excuse for disturbing us in our Infernal Reg-ion 
with the common mortal Business of the house, he addresses 
himself to the three young- Misses, and beg-ins, as you 
English begin everything in this blessed world that you have 
to say, with a great O. " O, my dears," savs the mighty 

merchant, " I have got here a letter from my frie'nd, Mr. " 

(the name has slipped out of my mind ; but no matter ; we 
shall come back to that ; yes, yes— right-all-right). So the 
Papa says, " I have got a letter from my friend, the Mister ; 
and he wants a recommend from me of a drawing-master to 
go down to his house in the country." My-soul-bless-my- 
soul ! when I heard the golden Papa say those words, if I had 
been big enough to reach up to him I should have put my 
arms round his neck and pressed him to my bosom in a long 
and grateful hug. As it was, I only bounced upon my chair! 
My seat was on thorns, and my soul was on fire to speak ; 
but I held my tongue and let Papa go on. " Perhaps you 
know," says this good man of monev, twiddling his friend's 
letter this way and that in his golden fingers and thumbs, 
"perhaps you know, my dears, of a drawing-master that I 
can recommend ? " The three young Misses all look at each 
other, and then say (with the indispensable great O to be"-in), 

"O, dear no, Papa! But here is Mr. Pesca " At'' the 

mention of myself I can hold no longer— the thought of you, 
my good dears, mounts like blood to my head— I start from 
my seat, as if a spike had grown up from the ground through 
the bottom of my chair— I address myself to the mighty 
merchant, and I say (English phrase), " Dear sir, I have the 
man ! The first and foremost drawing-master of the world ! 
Recommend him by the post to-night, and send him off, bag 
and baggage " (English phrase again— ha !), "send him off, 
bag and baggage, by the train to-morrow ! " " Stop, stop," 
says Papa, " is he a foreigner or an Englishman ? " " Eng- 
lish to the bone of his back," I answer. "Respectable?" 
says Papa. " Sir," I say (for this last question of his out- 
rages me, and I have done being familiar with him), "Sir, 
the mimortal fire of genius burns in this Englishman's bosom,' 
and, what is more, his father had it before him ! " " Never 
mind," says the golden barbarian of a Papa, "never mind 
about his genius, Mr. Pesca. We don't want genius in this 

8 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

country unless it is accompanied by respectability — and then 
we are very glad to have it, very g"lad indeed. Can your 
friend produce testimonials — letters that speak to his cha- 
racter?" I wave my hand negligently. "Letters?" I 
say. "Ha! my-soul-bless-my-soul ! I should think so, 
indeed ! Volumes of letters and portfolios of testimonials, 
if you like?" "One or two will do," says this man of 
phlegm and money. " Let him send them to me, with 
his name and address. And — stop, stop, Mr. Pesca — ■ 
before you go to your friend, you had better take a note." 
" Bank-note !" I say, indignantly. *'No bank-note, if you 
please, till my brave Englishman has earned it first." 
" Bank-note ! " says Papa, in a great surprise, " who talked 
of bank-note ? I mean a note of the terms — a memorandum 
of what he is expected to do. Go on with your lesson, Mr. 
Pesca, and I will give you the necessary extract from my 
friend's letter." Down sits the man of merchandise and 
money to his pen, ink, and paper; and down I go once 
again into the Hell of Dante, with my three young Misses 
after me. In ten minutes' time the note is written, and the 
boots of Papa are creaking themselves away in the passage 
outside. From that moment, on my faith, and soul, and 
honour, I know nothing more ! The glorious thought that I 
have caught my opportunity at last, and that my grateful 
service for my dearest friend in the world is as good as done 
already, flies up into my head and makes me drunk. How I 
pull my young Misses and myself out of our Infernal Region 
again, how my other business is done afterwards, how my 
little bit of dinner slides itself down my throat, I know no 
more than a man in the moon. Enough for me, that here I 
am, with the mighty merchant's note in my hand, as large as 
life, as hot as fire, and as happy as a king ! Ha ! ha ! ha ! 
right-right-right-all-right ! ' Here the Professor waved the 
memorandum of terms over his head, and ended his long and 
voluble narrative with his shrill Italian parody on an English 
cheer. 

My mother rose the moment he had done, with flushed 
cheeks and brightened eyes. She caught the little man 
warmly by both hands. 

* My dear, good Pesca,' she said, * I never doubted your 
true affection for Walter — but I am more than ever persuaded 
of it now ! ' 

' I am sure we are very much obliged to Professor Pesca, 
for Walter's sake,' added Sarah. She half rose, while she 
spoke, as if to approach the armchair, in her turn ; but, 

9 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

observing that Pesca was rapturously kissing my mother's 
hands, looked serious, and resumed her seat. * If the fami- 
liar little man treats my mother in that way, how will he 
treat me? ' Faces sometimes tell truth ; and that was unques- 
tionably the thought in Sarah's mind, as she sat down again. 

Although I myself was gratefully sensible of the kindness 
of Pesca's motives, my spirits were hardly so much elevated 
as they ought to have been by the prospect of future employ- 
ment now placed before me. When the Professor had quite 
done with my mother's hand, and when I had warmly thanked 
him for his interference on my behalf, I asked to be allowed 
to look at the note of terms which his respectable patron 
had drawn up for my inspection. 

Pesca handed me the paper, with a triumphant flourish of 
the hand. 

* Read ! ' said the little man, majestically. ' I promise you, 
my friend, the writing of the golden Papa speaks with a 
tongue of trumpets for itself.' 

The note of terms was plain, straightforward, and com- 
prehensive, at any rate. It informed me. 

First, That Frederick Fairlie, Esq., of Limmeridge House, 
Cumberland, wanted to engage the services of a thoroughly 
competent drawing-master, for a period of four months 
certain. 

Secondly, That the duties which the master was expected 
to perform would be of a twofold kind. He was to super- 
intend the instruction of two young ladies in the art of paint- 
ing in water-colours ; and he was to devote his leisure time, 
afterwards, to the business of repairing and mounting a 
valuable collection of drawings, which had been suffered to 
fall into a condition of total neglect. 

Thirdly, That the terms offered to the person who should 
undertake and properly perform these duties were four 
guineas a week ; that he was to reside at Limmeridge House ; 
and that he was to be treated there on the footing of a 
gentleman. 

Fourthly, and lastly. That no person need think of apply- 
ing for this situation unless he could furnish the most un- 
exceptionable references to character and abilities. The 
references were to be sent to Mr. Fairlie's friend in London, 
who was empowered to conclude all necessary arrangements. 
These instructions were followed by the name and address of 
Pesca's employer in Portland-place — and there the note, or 
memorandum, ended. 

The prospect which this offer of an engagement held out 

lo 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

was certainly an attractive one. The employment was 
likely to be both easy and agreeable ; it was proposed to me 
at the autumn time of the year, when I Avas least occupied ; 
and the terms, judging by my personal experience in my 
profession, were surprisingly liberal. I knew this ; I knew 
that I ought to consider myself very fortunate if I succeeded 
in securing the offered employment — and yet, no sooner had I 
read the memorandum than I felt an inexplicable unwilling- 
ness within me to stir in the matter. I had never in the 
whole of my previous experience found my duty and my 
inclination so painfully and so unaccountably at variance as I 
found them now. 

* Oh, Walter, your father never had such a chance as 
this ! ' said my mother, when she had read the note of terms 
and had handed it back to me. 

' Such distinguished people to know,' remarked Sarah, 
straightening herself in her chair ; ' and on such gratifying 
terms of equality too ! ' 

* Yes, yes ; the terms, in every sense, are tempting 
enough,' I replied, impatiently. ' But before I send in my 
testimonials, I should like a little time to consider ' 

' Consider ! ' exclaimed my mother. ' W^hy, Walter, 
what is the matter with you ? ' 

' Consider ! ' echoed my sister. * What a very extra- 
ordinary thing to say, under the circumstances ! ' 

* Consider ! ' chimed in the Professor. * What is there to 
consider about ? Answer me this ! Have you not been 
complaining of your health, and have you not been longing 
for what you call a smack of the country breeze ? Well ! 
there in your hand is the paper that offers you perpetual 
choking mouthfuls of country breeze, for four months' time. 
Is it not so ? Ha ? Again — you want money. Well ! Is 
four golden guineas a week nothing ? My-soul-bless-my- 
soul ! only give it to me — and my boots shall creak like the 
golden Papa's, with a sense of the overpowering richness of 
the man who walks in them ! Four guineas a week, and, 
more than that, the charming society of two young Misses ; 
and, more than that, your bed, your breakfast, your dinner, 
your gorging English teas and lunches and drinks of foaming 
beer, all for nothing — why, Walter, my dear good friend — ■ 
deuce-what-the-deuce ! — for the first time in my life I have 
not eyes enough in my head to look, and wonder at you ! ' 

Neither my mother's evident astonishment at my be- 
haviour, nor Pesca's fervid enumeration of the advantages 
offered to me by the new employment, had any effect in 

II 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

shaking my unreasonable disinclination to go to Limmeridge 
House. After starting all the petty objections that I could 
think of to going to Cumberland ; and after hearing them 
answered, one after another, to my own complete discom- 
fiture, I tried to set up a last obstacle by asking what was to 
become of my pupils in London, while I was teaching Mr. 
Fairlie's young ladies to sketch from nature. The obvious 
answer to this was, that the greater part of them would be 
away on their autumn travels, and that the few who remained 
at home might be confided to the care of one of my brother 
drawing-masters, whose pupils I had once taken off his hands 
under similar circumstances. My sister reminded me that 
this gentleman had expressly placed his services at my 
disposal, during the present season, in case I wished to leave 
town ; my mother seriously appealed to me not to let an idle 
caprice stand in the way of my own interests and my own 
health ; and Pesca piteously entreated that I would not 
wound him to the heart, by rejecting the first grateful offer of 
service that he had been able to make to the friend who had 
saved his life. 

The evident sincerity and affection which inspired these 
remonstrances would have influenced any man with an atom 
of good feeling in his composition. Though I could not 
conquer my own unaccountable perversity, I had at least 
virtue enough to be heartily ashamed of it, and to end the 
discussion pleasantly by giving way, and promising to do all 
that was wanted of me. 

The rest of the evening passed merrily enough in 
humorous anticipations of my coming life with the two young 
ladies in Cumberland. Pesca, inspired by our national 
grog, which appeared to get into his head, in the most 
marvellous manner, five minutes after it had gone down his 
throat, asserted his claims to be considered a complete 
Englishman by making a series of speeches in rapid succes- 
sion ; proposing my mother's health, my sister's health, my 
health, and the healths, in mass, of Mr. Fairlie and the two 
young Misses ; pathetically returning thanks himself, immedi- 
ately afterwards, for the whole party. ' A secret, W^alter,' said 
my little friend confidentially, as we walked home together. 
' I am flushed by the recollection of my own eloquence. My 
soul bursts itself with ambition. One of these days, I go into 
your noble Parliament. It is the dream of my whole life to 
be Honourable Pesca, M.P. ! ' 

The next morning I sent my testimonials to the Professor's 
employer in Portland-place. Three days passed ; and I 

12 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

concluded, with secret satisfaction, that my papers had not 
been found sufficiently explicit. On the fourth day, however, 
an answer came. It announced that Mr. Fairlie accepted my 
services, and requested me to start for Cumberland imme- 
diately. All the necessary instructions for my journey were 
carefully and clearly added in a postscript. 

I made my arrangements, unwilling-ly enough, for leaving 
London early the next day. Towards evening Pesca looked 
in, on his way to a dinner-party, to bid me good-bye. 

' I shall dry my tears in your absence,' said the Professor, 
gaily, ' with this glorious thought. It is my auspicious hand 
that has given the first push to your fortune in the world. Go, 
my friend ! When your sun shines in Cumberland (English 
proverb), in the name of heaven, make your hay. Marry one 
of the two young Misses ; become Honourable Hartright, 
M.P. ; and when you are on the top of the ladder, remember 
that Pesca, at the bottom, has done it all ! ' 

I tried to laugh with my little friend over his parting jest, 
but my spirits were not to be commanded. Something jarred 
in me almost painfully, while he was speaking his light 
farev\-eli v»'ords. 

When I was left alone again, nothing remained to be 
dene but to walk to the Hampstead Cottage and bid my 
mother and Sarah gcod-bye. 



IV 

The heat had been painfully oppressive all day ; and it was 
now a close and sultry night. 

My mother and sister had spoken so many last words, 
and had begged me to wait another five minutes so many 
times, that it was nearly midnight when the servant locked 
the garden-gate behind me. I walked forward a few paces 
on the shortest way back to London ; then stopped and 
hesitated. 

The moon was full and broad in the dark blue starless 
sky ; and the broken ground of the Heath looked wild enough, 
in the mysterious light, to be hundreds of miles away from 
the great city that lay beneath it. The idea of descending 
any sooner than I could help into the heat and gloom of 
London repelled me. The prospect of going to bed in my 
airless chambers, and the prospect of gradual suffocation, 
seemed, in my present restless frame of mind and body, to be 
one and the same thing. I determined to stroll home in the 

Is 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

purer air, by the most roundabout way I could take ; to 
follow the white v.-inding- paths across the lonely Heath ; and 
to approach London through its most open suburb by striking 
into the Finchley-road, and so getting back, in the cool of 
the new niorning, by the western side of the Regent's Park. 

I wound my way down slowly over the Heath, enjoying 
the divine stillness of the scene, and admiring the soft alter- 
nations of light and shade as they follov/ed each other over 
the broken ground on every side of me. So long as I was 
proceeding through this first and prettiest part of my night- 
walk, my mind remained passively open to the impressions 
produced by the view ; and I thought but little on any 
subject— indeed, so far as my own sensations were concerned, 
I can hardly say that I thought at all. 

But when I had left the Heath, and had turned into the 
by-road, where there was less to see, the ideas naturally 
engendered by the approaching change in my habits and 
occupations gradually drew more and more of my attention 
exclusively to themselves. By the time I had arrived at the 
end of the road, I had become completely absorbed in my 
own fanciful visions of Limmeridge House, of Mr. Fairlie, and 
of the tv/o ladies whose practice in the art of water-colour 
painting I was so soon to superintend. 

I had now arrived at that particular point of my walk 
where four roads met — the road to Hampstead, along which 
I had returned ; the road to Finchley ; the road to West 
End ; and the road back to London. I had mechanically 
turned in this latter direction, and was strolling along the 
lonely high-road — idly wondering, I remember, what the 
Cumberland young ladies would look like — when, in one 
moment, every drop of blood in my body was brought to a 
stop by the touch of a hand laid lightly and suddenly on my 
shoulder from behind me. 

I turned on the instant, with my fingers tightening round 
the handle of my stick. 

There, in the middle of the broad, bright high-road^there, 
as if it had that moment sprung out of the earth or dropped 
from the heaven — stood the figure of a solitary Woman, 
dressed from head to foot in white garments ; her face bent 
in grave inquiry on mine, her hand pointing to the dark cloud 
over London, as I faced her. 

I was far too seriously startled by the suddenness with 
which this extraordinary apparition stood before me, in the 
dead of night and in that lonely place, to ask what she wanted. 
The strange woman spoke first. 

14 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

* Is that the road to London ? ' she said. 

I looked attentively at her, as she put that singular 
question to me. It was then nearly one o'clock. All I could 
discern distinctly by the moonlight, was a colourless, youth- 
ful face, meagre and sharp to look at, about the cheeks and 
chin ; large, grave, wistfully-attentive eyes ; nervous, un- 
certain lips ; and light hair of a pale, brownish-yellow hue. 
There was nothing wild, nothing immodest in her manner : 
it was quiet and self-controlled, a little melancholy and a 
little touched by suspicion ; not exactly the manner of a lady, 
and, at the same time, not the manner of a woman in the 
humblest rank of life. The voice, little as I had yet heard of 
it, had something curiously still and mechanical in its tones, 
and the utterance was remarkably rapid. She held a small 
bag in her hand : and her dress — bonnet, shawl, and gown 
all of white — was, so far as I could guess, certainly not 
composed of very delicate or very expensive materials. Her 
figure was slight, and rather above the average height — her 
gait and actions free from the slightest approach to extra- 
vagance. This was all that I could observe of her, in the dim 
light and under the perplexingly-strange circumstances of our 
meeting. What sort of a woman she was, and how she came 
to be out alone in the high-road, an hour after midnight, 
I altogether failed to guess. The one thing of which I felt 
certain was, that the grossest of mankind could not hav-e 
misconstrued her motive in speaking, even at that suspiciously 
late hour and in that suspiciously lonely place. 

' Did you hear me ? ' she said, still quietly and rapidly, 
and without the least fretfulness or impatience. ' I asked if 
that was the way to London.' 

* Yes,' I replied, ' that is the way : it leads to St. John's 
Wood and the Regent's Park. You must excuse my not 
answering you before. I was rather startled by your sudden 
appearance in the road ; and I am, even now, quite unable to 
account for it.' 

* You don't suspect me of doing anything wrong, do you ? 
I have done nothing wrong. I have met with an accident — 
I am very unfortunate in being here alone so late. Why do 
you suspect me of doing wrong ? ' 

She spoke with unnecessary earnestness and agitation, 
and shrank back from me several paces. I did my best to 
reassure her. 

* Pray don't suppose that I have any idea of suspecting 
you,' I said, ' or any other wish than to be of assistance to 
you, if I can. I only wondered at your appearance in the 

15 



THE WOI^IAN IN WHITE 

road, because it seemed to me to be empty the instant before 
1 saw you. 

She turned, and pointed back to a place at the junction of 
the road to Lonaon and the road to Hampstead, where there 
was a gap m the hedge. 

• I heard you coming,' she said, ' and hid there to see what 
sort of man you \yere, before I risked speaking. I doubted 
and feared about it till you passed ; and then I was obliged 
to steal after you, and touch you.' ^ 

Steal after me and touch me ? Why not call to me ? 
Strange, to say the least of it. 

' May I trust you ? ' she asked. ' You don't think the 
worse of me because I have met with an accident?' She 
stopped m confusion ; shifted her bag from one hand to the 
other ; and sighed bitterly. 

The londiness and helplessness of the woman touched me. 
The natural impulse to assist her and to spare her, got The 
better of the judgment the caution, the worldly tact, vvh ch 
an older wiser, and colder man might have summoned to help 
him in this strange emergency. P 

' u'-}r u^""^ ^'"'! ""^ ^°- ^">' harmless purpose,' I said. 
If It troubles you to explain j-our strange situation to me 
don t think of returning to the subject again. I have no 
right to ask you for any explanations. Tdl me how I can 
help you ; and if I can, I will.' ^w i can 

' You are very kind, and I am very, very thankful to have 
met you. The first touch of womanly tenderness that I hid 
heard from her trembled in her voice as she said the words 
but no tears glistened in those large, wistfully-attentive eves 
of hers, which were still fixed on me. ' I have only been' in 

and I know nothing about that side of it, yonder Can I 
get a fly or a carriage of any kind ? Is it too late ? ' I don't 
know. If you could show me where to get a fly-and if ySu 
will only promise not to interfere with me, and to let me 
leave you, when and how I please-I have a friend in London 
who will be gad to receive me-I want nothing else-S 
you promise ? ° " 

She looked anxiously up and down the road ; shifted her 

wofd'"^' Win To "" '""t^" '''' ^^^-' -Peated the 
words. Will you promise :> ' and looked hard in my face 

^wth a pleading fear and confusion that it troubled me to 

What could I do ? Here was a stranger utterlv and 
helplessly at my inercy-^and that stranger a forlorn woman. 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

No house was near ; no one was passing whom I could 
consult ; and no earthly right existed on my part to give me 
a power of control over her, even if I had known how to 
exercise it. I trace these lines, self-distrustfullv, with the 
shadows of after-events darkening the very paper 'l write on • 
and still I say, what could I do ? ' 

What I did do, was to try and gain time by questioning her. 

' Are you sure that your friend in London will receive you 
at such a late hour as this .^ ' I said. 

' Quite sure. Only say you will let me leave you when 
and how I please— only say you won't interfere with me. 
Will you promise ? ' 

As she repeated the words for the third time, she came 
close to me and laid her hand, with a sudden gentle 
stealthmess, on my bosom— a thin hand ; a cold hand (when 
I removed it with mine), even on that sultry night. Remember 
that I was young ; remember that the hand which touched 
me was a woman's. 

* Will you promise ? ' 

•Yes.' 

One word ! The little familiar word that is on every- 
body's lips, every hour in the day. Oh me ! and I tremble, 
now, when I write it. 

We set our faces towards London, and walked on together 
in the first still hour of the new day— I, and this woman, 
\yhose name, whose character, whose story, whose objects in> 
life, whose very presence by my side, at that moment, were 
fathomless mysteries to me. It was like a dream. Was I 
Walter Hartright ? Was this the well-known, uneventful 
road, where holiday people strolled on Sundays? Had I 
really left, little more than an hour since, the quiet, decent, 
conventionally-domestic atmosphere of my mother's cottage ? 
I was too bewildered— too conscious also of a vague sense* of 
something like self-reproach — to speak to my strange com- 
panion for some minutes. It was her voice again that first 
broke the silence between us. 

' I want to ask you something,' she said, suddenly. * Do 
you know many people in London ? ' 

' Yes, a great many.' 

' Many men of rank and title ? ' There was an un- 
mistakable tone of suspicion in the strange question. I hesi- 
tated about answering it. 

' Some,' I said, after a moment's silence. 

' Many '—she came to a full stop, and looked me 
searchmgly in the face—' many men of the rank of Baronet ? ' 

17 c 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

Too much astonished to reply, I questioned her in my turn. 

* Why do you ask ? ' 

* Because I hope, for my own sake, there is one Baronet 
that you don't know.' 

* Will you tell me his name ? ' 

' I can't — I daren't — I forget myself, when I mention it.' 
She spoke loudly and almost fiercely, raised her clenched hand 
in the air, and shook it passionately ; then, on a sudden, con- 
trolled herself again, and added, in tones lowered to a whisper : 
' Tell me which of them you know.' 

I could hardly refuse to humour her in such a trifle, and 
I mentioned three names. Tv/o, the names of fathers of 
families whose daughters I taught ; one, the nam.e of a 
bachelor who had once taken me a cruise in his yacht, to 
make sketches for him. 

' Ah ! you don'^ know him,' she said, with a sigh of relief. 
* Are you a man of rank and title yourself ? ' 

' Far from it. I am only a drawing-master.' 

As the reply passed my lips — a little bitterly, perhaps — she 
took my arm with the abruptness which characterised all her 
actions. 

' Not a man of rank and title,' she repeated to herself. 
' Thank God ! I may trust /n'm.' 

I had hitherto contrived to master my curiosity out of 
consideration for my companion ; but it got the better of me, 
now. 

' I am afraid you have serious reason to complain of some 
man of rank and title ? ' I said. ' I am afraid the Baronet, 
whose name you are unwilling to mention to me, has done 
you some grievous wTong? Is he the cause of your being 
out here at this strange time of night ? ' 

' Don't ask me ; don't make me talk of it,' she answered. 
' I'm not fit, now. I have been cruelly used and cruelly 
wronged. You will be kinder than ever, if you will walk on 
fast, and not speak to me. I sadly want to quiet myself, if I 
can.' 

We moved forward again at a quick pace ; and for half 
an hour, at least, not a word passed on either side. From 
time to time, being forbidden to make any more inquiries, I 
stole a look at her face. It was always the same ; the lips 
close shut, the brow frowning, the eyes looking straight for- 
ward, eagerly and yet absently. We had reached the first 
houses, and were close on the new Wesleyan College, before 
her set features relaxed, and she spoke once more. 

* Do you live in London ? ' she said. 

i8 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

*Yes.' As I answered, it struck me that she might have 
formed some intention of appealing- to m^e for assistance or 
advice, and that I ought to spare her a possible disappoint- 
ment by warning her of my approaching absence from home. 
So I added : * But to-morrow I shall be away from London 
for some time. I am going into the country.' 

' Where ? ' she asked. ' North, or south ? ' 

'North — to Cumberland.' 

* Cumberland ! ' she repeated the word tenderly. ' Ah ! I 
vv'ish I was going there too. I was once happy in Cumber- 
land.' 

I tried again to lift the veil that hung between this 
woman and me. 

' Perhaps you were born,' I said, ' in the beautiful Lake 
country.' 

' No,' she answered. ' I was born in Hampshire ; but I 
once^went to school for a little while in Cumberland. Lakes ? 
I don't remember any lakes. It's Limmeridge village, and 
Limmeridge House, I should like to see again.' 

It was my turn, now, to stop suddenly. In the excited 
state of my curiosity, at that moment, the chance reference 
to Mr. Fairlie's place of residence, on the lips of my strange 
companion, staggered me with astonishment. 

' Did you hear anybody calling after us ? ' she asked, look- 
ing up and down the road affrightedly, the instant I stopped. 

* No, no. I was only struck by the name of Limmeridge 
House — I heard it mentioned by some Cumberland people a 
few days since.' 

* Ah ! not jny people. Mrs. Fairlie is dead ; and her hus- 
band is dead ; and their little girl may be married and gone 
away by this time. I can't say who lives at Limmeridge now. 
If any more are left there of that name, I only know I love 
them, for Mrs. Fairlie's sake.' 

She seemed about to say more ; but while she was speak- 
ing, we came within view of the turnpike, at the top of tlie 
Avenue-road. Her hand tightened round my arm, and she 
looked anxiously at the gate before us. 

' Is the turnpike man looking out ? ' she asked. 

He was not looking out ; no one else was near the place 
when we passed through the gate. The sight of the gas- 
lamps and liouses seem.ed to agitate her, and to make her im- 
patient. 

' This is London,' she said. ' Do you see any carriage I 
can get ? I am tired and frightened. I want to shut myself 
in, and be driven away.' 

19 C2 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

I explained to her that we must walk a little further to gfct 
to a cabstand, unless we were fortunate enoug-h to meet with 
an empty vehicle ; and then tried to resume the subject of 
Cumberland. It was useless. The idea of shutting- herself 
in, and being- driven away, had now g-ot full possession of her 
mind. She could think and talk of nothing else. 

W^e had hardly proceeded a third of the way down the 
Avenue-road, when I saw a cab draw up at a house a few 
doors below us, on the opposite side of the way. A g-entle- 
man got out and let himself in at the garden door. I hailed 
the cab, as the driver mounted the box again. When we 
crossed the road, my companion's impatience increased to 
such an extent that she almost forced me to run. 

' It's so late,' she said. ' I am only in a hurry because it's 
so late.' 

' I can't take you, sir, if you're not going towards Totten- 
ham-court-road,' said the driver, civilly, when I opened the 
cab door. * My horse is dead beat, and I can't get him no 
further than the stable.' 

'Yes, yes. That will do for me. I'm going that way — • 
I'm going that way.' She spoke with breathless eagerness, 
and pressed by me into the cab. 

I had assured myself that the man was sober i:s well as 
civil, before I let her enter the vehicle. And now, when she 
was seated inside, I entreated her to let me see her set down 
safely at her destination. 

' No, no, no,' she said, vehemently. ' I'm quite safe, and 
quite happy now. If you are a gentleman, remember your 
promise. Let him drive on, till I stop him. Thank you — oh ! 
thank you, thank you ! ' 

My hand was on the cab door. She caught it in hers, 
kissed it, and pushed it away. The cab drove off at the same 
moment — I started into the road, with some vague idea of 
stopping it again, I hardly knew why — hesitated from dread 
of frightening and distressing her — called, at last, but not 
loudly enough to attract the driver's attention. The sound 
of the wheels grew fainter in the distance — the cab melted 
into the black shadows on the road — the woman in white was 
gone. 

Ten minutes, or more, had passed. I was still on the 
same side of the way ; now mechanically walking forward a 
few paces ; now stopping again absently. At one moment, I 
found myself doubting the reality of my own adventure ; at 
another, I was perplexed and distressed by an uneasy sense 

20 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

of having done wrong-, which yet left me confusedly ig-norant 
of how I could have done right. I hardly knew where I was 
going, or what I meant to do next ; I was conscious of 
nothmgr but the confusion of my own thoughts, when I was 
abruptly recalled to myself— awakened I might almost say- 
by the sound of rapidly approaching wheels close behind me. 
I was on the dark side of the road, in the thick shadow of 
some garden trees, when I stopped to look round. On the 
opposite, and lighter side of the way, a short distance below 
me, a policeman was strolling along in the direction of the 
Regent's Park. 

The carriage passed me— an open chaise driven by two 
men. -^ 

'Stop ! ' cried one. ' There's a policeman. Let's ask him.' 

The horse was instantly pulled up, a few yards beyond the 
dark place where I stood. 

' Policeman ! ' cried the first speaker. ' Have you seen a 
woman pass this way ? ' 

' What sort of woman, sir ? ' 

* A woman in a lavender-coloured gown ' 

' No, no,' interposed the second man. ' The clothes we 
gave her were found on her bed. She must have gone away 
in the clothes she wore when she came to us. In white 
policeman. A woman in white.' ' 

' I haven't seen her, sir.' 

* If you, or any of your men meet with the woman, stop 
her, and send her in careful keeping to that address. I'll pay 
all expenses, and a fair reward into the bargain.' 

The policeman looked at the card that was handed down 
to him. 

I Why are we to stop her, sir ? What has she done ? ' 
' Done ! She has escaped from my Asylum. Don't for- 
get : a woman in white. Drive on.' 



V 

* She has escaped from my Asylum ! ' 

I cannot say with truth that the terrible inference which 
those words suggested flashed upon me like a new revelation, 
borne of the strange questions put to me by the woman in 
white, after my ill-considered promise to leave her free to 
act as she pleased, had suggested the conclusion either that 
she was naturally flighty and unsettled, or that some recent 
shock of terror had disturbed the balance of her faculties. 

21 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

But the idea of absolute insanity which we all associate with 
the very name of an Asylum, had, I can honestly declare, 
never occurred to me, in connexion Vvith her. I had seen 
nothing, in her language or her actions, to justify it at the 
time ; and, even with the new light thrown on her by the 
words which the straiiger had addressed to the policeman, I 
could see nothing to justify it now. 

What had I done ? Assisted the victim of the most 
horrible of all false imprisonments to escape ; or cast loose 
on the wide world of London an unfortunate creature, whose 
actions it was my duty, and every man's duty, mercifully to 
control ? I turned sick at heart when the question occurred 
to me, and when I felt self-reproachfully that it v/as asked 
too late. 

In the disturbed state of my mind, it was useless to think 
of going to bed, when I at last got back to my chambers 
in Clement's Inn. Before many hours elapsed it would be 
necessary to start on my journey to Cumberland. I sat 
down and tried, first to sketch, then to read — but the 
woman in white got between me and my pencil, between me 
and my book. Had the forlorn creature come to any harm ? 
That was my first thought, though I shrank selfishly from 
confronting it. Other thoughts followed, on which it was 
less harrowing to dwell. Where had she stopped the cab ? 
What had become of her now ? Had she been traced and 
captured by the men in the chaise ? Or was she still capable 
of controlling her own actions ; and were we two following 
our widely-parted roads towards one point in the mysterious 
future, at which we were to meet once more ? 

It was a relief when the hour cam.e to lock my door, to 
bid farewell to London pursuits, London pupils, and London 
friends, and to be in movement again towards new interests 
and a new life. Even the bustle and confusion at the railway 
terminus, so wearisome and bewildering at other times, roused 
me and did me good. 

My travelling instructions directed me to go to Carlisle, 
and then to diverge by a branch railway which ran in the 
direction of the coast. As a misfortune to begin with, our 
engine broke down between Lancaster and Carlisle. The 
delay occasioned by this accident caused me to be too late 
for the branch train, by which I was to have gone on im- 
mediately. I had to wait some hours ; and when a later 
train finally deposited me at the nearest station to LImmerldge 
House, it was past ten, and the night was so dark that I 

22 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

could hardly see my way to the pony-chaise which Mr. Fairlie 
had ordered to be in waiting- for me. 

The driver was evidently discomposed by the lateness of 
my arrival. He was in that state of highly-respectful sulki- 
ness which is peculiar to English servants. We drove away 
slowly through the darkness in perfect silence. The roads 
were bad, and the dense obscurity of the night increased 
the difficulty of getting over the ground quickly. It was, by 
my watch, nearly an hour and a half from the time of our 
leaving the station before I heard the sound of the sea in 
the distance, and the crunch of our wheels on a smooth 
gravel drive. We had passed one gate before entering the 
drive, and we passed another before we drew up at the house. 
I was received by a solemn man-servant out of livery, was 
informed that the family had retired for the night, and was 
then led into a large and lofty room where my supper Vv'as 
awaiting me, in a forlorn manner, at one extremity of a lone- 
some mahog-any wilderness of dining-table. 

I was too tired and out of spirits to eat or drink much, 
especially with the solemn servant waiting on me as elabo- 
rately as if a small dinner-party had arrived at the house 
instead of a solitary man. In a quarter of an hour I was 
ready to be taken up to my bedchamber. The solemn servant 
conducted me into a prettily furnished room— said, ' Break- 
fast at nine o'clock, sir ' — looked all round him to see that 
everything was in its proper place — -and noiselessly withdrev\\ 

' What shall I see in my dreams to-night ? ' I thought to 
myself, as I put out the candle ; ' the woman in white ? or 
the unknown inhabitants of this Cumberland mansion ? ' It 
was a strange sensation to be sleeping in the house, like a 
friend of the family, and yet not to know one of the inmates 
even by sight ! 

VI 

When I rose the next morning and drew up my blind, the 
sea opened before me joyously under the broad August 
sunlight, and the distant coast of Scotland fringed the horizon 
with its lines of melting blue. 

The view was such a surprise, and such a change to me, 
after my weary London experience of brick and mortar 
landscape, that I seemed to burst into a new life and a new 
set of thoughts the moment I looked at it. A confused 
sensation of having suddenly lost my familiarity with the 
past, without acquiring any additional clearness of idea i»> 

23 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

reference to the present or the future, took possession of my 
mind. Circumstances that were but a few days old, faded 
back in my memory, as if they had happened months and 
months since. Pesca's quaint announcement of the means 
by which he had procured me my present employment ; the 
farewell evening- I had passed with my mother and sister ; 
even my mysterious adventure on the way home from Hamp- 
stead — had all become like events which might have occurred 
at some former epoch of my existence. Although the 
woman in white was still in my mind, the image of her 
seemed to have grown dull and faint already. 

A little before nine o'clock I descended to the ground- 
floor of the house. The solemn man-servant of the night 
before met me wandering- among the passages, and com- 
passionately showed me the way to the breakfast-room. 

My first glance round me, as the man opened the door, 
disclosed a well-furnished breakfast-table, standing in the 
middle of a long room, with many windows in it. I looked 
from the table to the window farthest from me, and saw 
a lady standing- at it, with her back turned towards me. 
The instant my eyes rested on her, I was struck by the rare 
beauty of her form, and by the unaffected grace of her 
attitude. Her figure was tall, yet not too tall ; comely and 
well-developed, yet not fat ; her head set on her shoulders 
with an easy, pliant firmness ; her waist, perfection in the 
eyes of a man, for it occupied its natural place, it filled out 
its natural circle, it was visibly and delightfully undeformed 
by stays. She had not heard my entrance into the room ; 
and I allowed myself the luxury of admiring- her for a few 
moments, before I moved one of the chairs near me, as the 
least embarrassing means of attracting her attention. She 
turned towards me immediately. The easy elegance of 
every movement of her limbs and body as soon as she began 
to advance from the far end of the room, set me in a flutter 
of expectation to see her face clearly. She left the window 
— and I said to myself. The lady is dark. She moved 
forward a few steps — and I said to myself, The lady is 
young. She approached nearer — and I said to myself (with 
a sense of surprise which words fail me to express), The lady 
is ugly ! 

Never was the old conventional maxim, that Nature 
cannot err, more flatly contradicted — never was the fair 
promise of a lovely figure more strangely and startlingly belied 
by the face and head that crowned it. The lady's complexion 
was almost swarthy, and the dark down on her upper lip 

24 



THE Vv^OMAN IN WHITE 

was almost a moustache. She had a large, firm, masculine 
mouth and jaw ; prominent, piercing, resolute brown eyes ; 
and thick, coal-black hair, growing unusually low down on 
her forehead. Her expression — bright, frank, and intelligent 
— appeared, while she was silent, to be altogether wanting 
in those feminine attractions of gentleness and pliability, 
without which the beauty of the handsomest woman alive is 
beauty incomplete. To see such a face as this set on 
shoulders that a sculptor would have longed to model — to be 
charmed by the modest graces of action through which the 
symmetrical limbs betrayed their beauty when they moved, 
and then to be almost repelled by the masculine form and 
masculine look of the features in which the perfectly shaped 
figure ended — was to feel a sensation oddly akin to the 
helpless discomfort familiar to us all in sleep, when we 
recognise yet cannot reconcile the anomalies and contradic- 
tions of a dream. 

' Mr. Hartright ? ' said the lady interrogatively ; her dark 
face lighting up with a smile, and softening and growing 
womanly the moment she began to speak. * We resigned 
all hope of you last night, and went to bed as usual. Accept 
my apologies for our apparent want of attention ; and allow 
me to introduce myself as one of your pupils. Shall we 
shake hands ? I suppose we must come to it sooner or later 
— and why not sooner ? ' 

These odd words of welcome were spoken in a clear, 
ringing, pleasant voice. The offered hand— rather large, 
but beautifully formed — was given to me with the easy, 
unaffected self-reliance of a highly-bred woman. We sat 
down together at the breakfast-table in as cordial and custom- 
ary a manner as if we had known each other for years, 
and had met at Limmeridge House to talk over old times 
by previous appointment. 

' I hope you come here good-humouredly determined to 
make the best of your position,' continued the lady. ' You 
will have to begin this morning by putting up with no other 
company at breakfast than mine. My sister is in her own 
room, nursing that essentially feminine malady, a slight 
headache ; and her old governess, Mrs. Vesey, is charitably 
attending on her with restorative tea. My uncle, Mr. Fairlie, 
never joins us at any of our meals : he is an invalid, and 
keeps bachelor state in his own apartments. There is nobody 
else in the house but me. Two young ladies have been 
staying here, but they went away yesterday, in despair ; and 
no wonder. All through their visit (in consequence of Mr. 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

Fairlie's invalid condition) we produced no such convenience 
in the house as a flirtable, danceable, small-talkable creature 
of the male sex ; and the consequence was, we did nothing 
but quarrel, especially at dinner-time. How can you expect 
four women to dine together alone every day, and not quarrel ? 
We are such fools, we can't entertain each other at table. 
You see I don't think much of my own sex, Mr. Hartright — 
v.'hich will you have, tea or coffee ? — no woman does think 
much of her own sex, although few of them confess it as 
freely as I do. Dear me, you look puzzled. Why ? Are 
you wondering what yovi will have for breakfast ? or are you 
surprised at my careless way of talking ? In the first case, 
I advise you, as a friend, to have nothing to do with that 
cold ham at your elbow, and to wait till the omelette comes 
in. In the second case, I will give you some tea to compose 
your spirits, and do all a woman can (which is very little, by- 
the-by) to hold my tongue.' 

She handed me my cup of tea, laughing gaily. Her light 
flow of talk, and her lively familiarity of manner with a total 
stranger, were accompanied by an unaffected naturalness and 
an easy inborn confidence in herself and her position, which 
would have secured her the respect of the most audacious 
man breathing. While it was impossible to be formal and 
reserved in her company, it was more than impossible to take 
the faintest vestige of a liberty with her, even in thought. 
I felt this instinctively, even while I caught the infection of 
her own bright gaiety of spirits — even while I did my best to 
answer her in her ov/n frank, lively way. 

' Yes, yes,' she said, when I had suggested the only ex- 
planation I could offer, to account for my perplexed looks, 
' I understand. You are such a perfect stranger in the house, 
that you are puzzled by my familiar references to the Vv^orthy 
inhabitants. Natural enough : I ought to have thought of it 
before. At any rate, I can set it right now. Suppose I 
begin with myself, so as to get done with that part of the 
subject as soon as possible ? My name is Marian Halcombe ; 
and I am as inaccurate, as women usually are, in calling Mr. 
Fairlie my uncle, and Miss Fairlie my sister. My mother 
was twice married : the first time to Mr. Halcombe, my 
father ; the second time to Mr. Fairlie, my half-sister's father. 
Except that we are both orphans, we are in every respect as 
unlike each other as possible. My father was a poor man, 
and Miss Fairlie's father was a rich man. I have got nothing, 
and she has a fortune. I am dark and ugly, and she is fair 
and pretty. Everybody thinks me crabbed and odd (with 

26 



I 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

perfect justice) ; and everybody thinks her sweet-tempered 
and charming' (with more justice still). In short, she is an 

ang-el ; and I am Try some of that marmalade, Mr. 

Hartright, and finish the sentence, in the name of female pro- 
priety, for yourself. What am I to tell you about Mr. 
Fairlie ? Upon my honour, I hardly know. He is sure to 
send for you after breakfast, and you can study him for your- 
self. In the meantime, I may inform you, first, that he is 
the late Mr. Fairlie's younger brother ; secondly, that he is a 
single man ; and, thirdly, that he is Miss Fairlie's guardian. 
I won't live without her, and she can't live without me ; and 
that is how I come to be at Limmeridge House. My sister 
and I are honestly fond of each other ; which, you will say, 
is perfectly unaccountable, under the circumstances, and I 
quite agree with you — but so it is. You must please both of 
us, Mr. Hartright, or please neither of us : and, what is still 
more trying, you will be throvs^n entirely upon our society. 
Mrs. Vesey is an excellent person, who possesses all the 
cardinal virtues, and counts for nothing ; and Mr. Fairlie is 
too great an invalid to be a companion for anybody. I don't 
know what is the matter vvith him, and the doctors don't 
know what is the matter with him, and he doesn't know 
himself what is the matter with him. We all say it's on the 
nerves, and we none of us know what we mean when we say 
it. However, I advise you to humour his little peculiarities, 
when you see him to-day. Admire his collection of coins, 
prints, and water-colour drawings, and you will win his 
heart. Upon my word, if you can be contented with a quiet 
country life, I don't see why you should not get on very well 
here. From breakfast to lunch, Mr. Fairlie's drawings wijl 
occupy you. After lunch. Miss Fairlie and I shoulder our 
sketch-books, and go out to misrepresent nature, under your 
directions. Drawing is her favourite whim, mind, not mine. 
Women can't draw — their minds are too flighty, and their 
eyes are too inattentive. No matter — my sister likes it ; so 
I waste paint and spoil paper, for her sake, as composedly as 
any woman in England. As for the evenings, I think we can 
help you through them. Miss Fairlie plays delightfully. For 
my own poor part, I don't know one note of music from the 
other ; but I can match you at chess, backgammon, ^cart6, 
and (with the inevitable female drawbacks) even at billiards 
as well. What do you think of the programme ? Can you 
reconcile yourself to our quiet, regular life ? or do you mean 
to be restless, and secretly thirst for change and adventure, 
in the humdrum atm.osphere of Limmeridge House ? ' 

27 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

She had run on thus far, in her gracefully bantering- way, 
With no other interruptions on my part than the unimportant 
replies which politeness required of me. The turn of the ex- 
pression, however, in her last question, or rather the one 
chance word, ' adventure,' lightly as it fell from her lips, 
recalled my thoughts to my meeting with the woman in white, 
and urged me to discover the connection which the stranger's 
own reference to Mrs. Fairlie informed me must once have 
existed between the nameless fugitive from the Asylum, and 
the former mistress of Limmeridge House. 

' Even if I were the most restless of mankind,' I said, ' I 
should be in no danger of thirsting after adventures for some 
time to come. The very night before I arrived at this house, 
I met with an adventure ; and the wonder and excitement of 
it, I can assure you, Miss Halcombe, will last me for the 
whole term of my stay in Cumberland, if not for a much 
longer period.' 

' You don't say so, Mr. Hartright ! May I hear it ? ' 

' You have a claim to hear it. The chief person in the 
adventure was a total stranger to me, and may perhaps be 
a total stranger to you ; but she certainly mentioned the name 
of the late Mrs. Fairlie in terms of the sincerest g-ratitude and 
regard.' 

' Mentioned my mother's name ! You interest me inde- 
scribably. Pray go on.' 

I at once related the circumstances under which I had met 
the woman in white, exactly as they had occurred ; and I re- 
peated what she had said to me about Mrs. Fairlie and 
Limmeridge House, word for word. 

Miss Halcombe's bright resolute eyes looked eagerly into 
mine, from the beginning of the narrative to the end. Her 
face expressed vivid interest and astonishment, but nothing- 
more. She was evidently as far from knowing of any clue to 
the mystery as I was myself. 

' Are you quite sure of those words referring to my 
mother ? ' she asked. 

' Quite sure,' I replied. ' Whoever she may be, the 
woman was once at school in the village of Limmeridge, was 
treated with especial kindness by Mrs. Fairlie, and, in grateful 
remembrance of that kindness, feels an affectionate interest 
in all surviving members of the family. She knew that Mrs. 
Fairlie and her husband were both dead ; and she spoke of 
Miss Fairlie as if they had known each other when they were 
children.' 

28 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

'You said, I Lhink, that .-^hc denied bcloiiirinf'- to this 
place t ° ^ 

* Yes, she told me she came from Hampshire.' 

* And you entirely failed to find out her name ? ' 

* Entirely.' 

'Yery strange. I think you were quite justified, Mr. 
Hartright, m giving the poor creature her liberty, for she 
seems to have done nothing in your presence to show herself 
unnt to enjoy it. But I wish you had been a little mora 
resolute about findmg out her name. We must really clear 
up this mystery, in some way. You had better not speak of 
It yet to Mr. Fairhe, or to my sister. They are both of them, 
I am certain, quite as ignorant of who the woman is, and of 
what her past history in connexion with us can be, as I am 
myself. But they are also, in widely different ways, rather 
ner\'ous and sensitive ; and you would onlv fidget one and 
alarm the other to no purpose. As for myself, I am all aflame 
with curiosity, and I devote my whole energies to the business 
of discovery from this moment. When my mother came here 
after her second marriage, she certainly established the 
village school just as it exists at the present time. But the 
old teachers are all dead, or gone elsewhere ; and no enlighten- 
ment is to be hoped for from that quarter. The only other 

alternative I can think of ' 

At this point we were interrupted bv the entrance of the 
servant, with a message from Mr. Fairl'ie, intimating that he 
would be glad to see me, as soon as I had done breakfast. 

* Wait in the hall,' said Miss Halcombe, answering the 
servant for me, in her quick, ready way. * Mr. Hartright will 
come out directly. I was about to say,' she went on, address- 
ing me again, ' that my sister and I have a large collection of 
my mother's letters, addressed to my father and to hers. In 
the absence of any other means of getting information, I will 
pass the morning in looking over my mother's correspondence 
with Mr. Fairlie. He was fond of London, and was con- 
stantly away from his country home ; and she v.as accustomed, 
at such times, to write and report to him how things went on 
at Limmeridge. Her letters are full of references to the 
school in which she took so strong an interest ; and I think 
It more than likely that I may have discovered something 
when we meet again. The luncheon hour is two, Mr. Hart- 
right. I shall have the pleasure of introducing you to my 
sister by that time, and we will occupy the afternoon in driving 
round the neighbourhood and showing you all our pet points 
of view. Till two o'clock, then, farewell.' 

29 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

She nodded to me with the hvely grace, the delightful refine- 
ment of familiarity, which characterised all that she did and 
all that she said ; and disappeared by a door at the lower end 
of the room. As soon as she had left me, I turned my steps 
towards the hall, and followed the servant on my way, for the 
first time, to the presence of Mr. Fairlie. 

VII 

My conductor led me up-stairs into a passage which took us 
back to the bedchamber in which I had slept during the past 
night ; and opening the door next to it, begged me to look 
in. 

* I have my master's orders to show you your own sitting- 
room, sir,' said the man, ' and to inquire if you approve of 
the situation and the light.' 

I must have been hard to please, indeed, if I had not 
approved of the room, and of everything about it. The bow- 
window looked out on the same lovely view which I had 
admired, in the morning, from my bedroom. The furniture 
was the perfection of luxury and beauty ; the table in the 
centre was bright with gaily bound books, elegant conveni- 
ences for writing, and beautiful flowers ; the second table, near 
the windov/, was covered with all the necessary materials for 
mounting water-colour drawings, and had a little easel 
attached to it, which I could expand or fold up at will ; the 
walls were hung with gaily tinted chintz ; and the floor was 
spread with Indian matting in maize-colour and red. It was 
the prettiest and most luxurious little sitting-room I had ever 
seen ; and I admired it with the warmest enthusiasm. 

The solemn servant was far too highly trained to betray 
the slightest satisfaction. He bowed with icy deference when 
my terms of eulogy were all exhausted, and silently opened 
the door for me to go out into the passage again. 

We turned a corner, and entered a long second passage, 
ascended a short flight of stairs at the end, crossed a small 
circular upper hall, and stopped in front of a door covered 
u'lth dark baize. The servant opened this door, and led me 
on a few yards to a second ; opened that also, and disclosed 
two curtains of pale sea-green silk hanging before us ; raised 
one of them noiselessly ; softly uttered the words, * Mr. Hart- 
right,' and left me. 

I found myself in a large, lofty room, with a magnificent 
carved ceiling, and with a carpet over the floor, so thick and 
soft that it felt like piles of velvet under my feet. One side 

30 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

of the room was occupied by a long- bookcase of some rare 
inlaid wood that was quite new to me. It was not more than 
six feet high, and the top was adorned with statuettes in 
marble, ranged at regular distances one from the other. On 
the opposite side stood two antique cabinets ; and between 
them, and above them, hung a picture of the Virgin and Child, 
protected by glass, and bearing Raphael's name on the gilt 
tablet at the bottom of the frame. On my right hand and on 
my left, as I stood inside the door, were chiffoniers and little 
stands in buhl and marqueterie, loaded with figures in Dres- 
den china, with rare vases, ivory ornaments, and toys and 
curiosities that sparkled at all points with gold, silver, and 
precious stones. At the lower end of the room, opposite to 
mc, the windows were concealed and the sunlight was 
tempered by large blinds of the same pale sea-green colour as 
the curtains over the door. The light thus produced was 
dcliciously soft, mysterious, and subdued ; it fell equally upon 
all the objects in the room ; it helped to intensify the deep 
silence, and the air of profound seclusion tliat possessed the 
place ; and it surrounded, with an appropriate halo of repose, 
the solitary figure of the master of the house, leaning back, 
listlessly composed, in a large easy-chair, with a reading-easel 
fastened on one of its arms, and a little table on the other. 

If a man's personal appearance, when he is out of his 
dressing-room, and when he has passed forty, can be accepted 
as a safe guide to his time of life — which is more than doubtful 
— Mr, Fairlie's age, when I saw him, might have been reason- 
ably computed at over fifty and under sixty years. His beard- 
less face was thin, v.-orn, and transparently pale, but not 
wrinkled ; his nose was high and hooked ; his eyes were of a 
dim grayish blue, large, prominent, and rather red round the 
rims of the eyelids ; his hair was scanty, soft to look at, and 
of that light sandy colour which is the last to disclose its own 
changes towards gray. He was dressed in a dark frock-coat, 
of some substance much thinner than cloth, and in waistcoat 
and trousers of spotless white. His feet were effeminately 
small, and were clad in buff-coloured silk stockings, and little 
womanish bronze-leather slippers. Two rings adorned his 
white delicate hands, the value of which even my inexperienced 
observation detected to be all but priceless. Upon the whole, 
he had a frail, languidly- fretful, over-refined look — something 
singularly and unpleasantly delicate in its association with a 
man, and, at the same time, something which could by no 
possibility have looked natural and appropriate if it had been 
transferred to the personal appearance of a woman. My 

31 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

morning's experience of Miss Halcombe had predisposed me 
to be pleased with everybody in the house ; but my sympa- 
thies shut themselves up resolutely at the first sight of Mr. 
Fairlie. 

On approaching nearer to him, I discovered that he was not 
so entirely without occupation as I had at first supposed. 
Placed amid the other rare and beautiful objects on a large 
round table near him, was a dwarf cabinet in ebony and silver, 
containing coins of all shapes and sizes, set out in little 
drawers lined with dark purple velvet. One of these drawers 
lay on the small table attached to his chair ; and near it were 
some tiny jewellers' brushes, a washleather * stump,' and 
a little bottle of liquid, all waiting to be used in various ways 
for the removal of any accidental impurities which might be 
discovered on the coins. His frail white fingers were listlessly 
toying with something which looked, to my uninstructed eyes, 
like a dirty pewter medal with ragged edges, when I advanced 
within a respectful distance of his chair, and stopped to make 
my bow. 

' So glad to possess you at Limmeridge, Mr. Hartright,' 
he said in a querulous, croaking voice, which combined, in 
anything but an agreeable manner, a discordantly high tone 
with a drowsily languid utterance. ' Pray sit down. And 
don't trouble yourself to move the chair, please. In the 
wretched state of my nerv'es, movement of any kind is ex- 
quisitely painful to me. Have you seen your studio ? Will 
it do ? ' 

* I have just come from seeing the room, Mr. Fairlie ; and 
I assure you ' 

He stopped me in the middle of the sentence, by closing his 
eyes, and holding up one of his white hands imploringly, I 
paused in astonishment ; and the croaking voice honoured me 
with this explanation : 

' Pray excuse me. But could you contrive to speak in a 
lower key ? In the wretched state of my nerves, loud sound 
of any kind is indescribable torture to me. You will pardon 
an invalid ? I only say to you what the lamentable state of 
my health obliges me to say to everybody. Yes. And you 
really like the room ? ' 

' I could wish for nothing prettier and nothing more com- 
fortable,' I answered, dropping my voice, and beginning to 
discover already that Mr. Fairlie's selfish aflfectation and Mr. 
Fairlie's wretched nerves meant one and the same thing. 

' So glad. You will find your position here, Mr. Hartright, 
properly recognised. There is none of the horrid English 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

barbarity of feeling- about the social position of an artist, In 
this house. So much of my early life has been passed abroad, 
that I have quite cast my insular skin in that respect. I wish 
I could say the same of the gentry — detestable word, but I 
suppose I must use it — of the gentry in the neighbourhood. 
They are sad Goths in Art, Mr. Hartright. People, I do 
assure you, who would have opened their eyes in astonishment, 
if they had seen Charles the Fifth pick up Titian's brush for him. 
Do you mind putting this tray of coins back in the cabinet, 
and giving me the next one to it ? In the wretched state of 
my nerves, exertion of any kind is unspeakably disagreeable 
to me. Yes. Thank you.' 

As a practical commentary on the liberal social theory 
which he had just favoured me by illustrating, Mr. Fairlie's 
cool request rather amused me. I put back one drawer and 
gave him the other, with all possible politeness. He began 
trifling with the new set of coins and the little brushes imme- 
diately ; languidly looking at them and admiring them all the 
time he was speaking to me. 

' A thousand thanks and a thousand excuses. Do you like 
coins ? Yes ? So glad we have another taste in common 
besides our taste for Art. Now, about the pecuniary arrange- 
ments between us — do tell me — are they satisfactory ? ' 

' Most satisfactory, Mr. Fairlie.' 

' So glad. And — what next ? Ah ! I remember. Yes. 
In reference to the consideration which you are good enough 
to accept for giving me the benefit of your accomplishments 
in art, my steward will wait on you at the end of the first week, 
to ascertain your wishes. And — what next ? Curious, is it 
not ? I had a great deal more to say ; and I appear to have 
quite forgotten it. Do you mind touching the bell ? In that 
corner. Yes. Thank you.' 

I rang ; and a new servant noiselessly made his appearance 
— a foreigner, with a set smile and perfectly brushed hair — a 
valet every inch of him. 

' Louis,' said Mr. Fairlie, dreamily dusting the tips of his 
fingers with one of the tiny brushes for the coins, * I made 
some entries in my tablettes this morning. Find my tablettes. 
A thousand pardons, Mr. Hartright, I'm afraid I bore you.' 

As he wearily closed his eyes again, before I could answer, 
and as he did most assuredly bore me, I sat silent, and looked 
up at the Madonna and Child by Raphael. In the m.ean time, 
the valet left the room, and returned shortly with a little ivory 
book. Mr. Fairlie, after first relieving himself by a g-entle 
sigh, let the book drop open with one hand, and held up the 

n ^ n 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

tiny brush with the other, as a sign to the servant to wait for 
further orders. 

* Yes. Just so ! ' said Mr. Fairlie, consulting the tablettes. 
* Louis, take down that portfoHo.' He pointed, as he spoke, 
to several portfolios placed near the window, on mahogany 
stands. ' No. Not the one with the green back — that con- 
tains my Rembrandt etchings, Mr. Hartright. Do you like 
etchings ? Yes ? So glad we have another taste in common. 
The portfolio with the red back, Louis. Don't drop it ! You 
have no idea of the tortures I should suffer, Mr. Hartright, 
if Louis dropped that portfolio. Is it safe on the chair? Do 
you think it safe, Mr. Hartright ? Yes ? So glad. Will 
you oblige me by looking at the drawings, if you really think 
they are quite safe. Louis, go away. What an ass you 
are. Don't you see me holding the tablettes ? Do you 
suppose I want to hold them ? Then why not relieve me of 
the tablettes without being told ? A thousand pardons, Mr. 
Hartright ; servants are such asses, are they not ? Do tell 
me — what do you think of the drawings ? They have come 
from a sale in a shocking state — I thought they smelt of 
horrid dealers' and brokers' fingers when I looked at them 
last. Can you undertake them ? ' 

Although my nerves were not delicate enough to detect 
the odour of plebeian fingers which had offended Mr. Fairlie's 
nostrils, my taste was sufficiently educated to enable me to 
appreciate the value of the drawings, while I turned them 
over. They were, for the most part, really fine specimens of 
English water-colour Art ; and they had deserved much 
better treatment at the hands of their former possessor than 
they appeared to have received. 

'The drawings,' I answered, 'require careful straining 
and mounting ; and. In my opinion, they are well worth ' 

'I beg your pardon,' interposed Mr. Fairlie. 'Do you 
mind my closing my eyes while you speak ? Even this light 
is too much for them. Yes ? ' 

'I was about to say that the drawings are well worth all 
the time and trouble ' 

Mr. Fairlie suddenly opened his eyes again, and rolled them 
with an expression of helpless alarm in the direction of the 
window. 

' I entreat you to excuse me, Mr. Hartright,' he said in 
a feeble flutter. ' But surely I hear some horrid children in 
the garden — my private garden — below ? ' 

' I can't say, Mr. Fairlie. I heard nothing myself.' 

* Oblige me — you have been so very good in humouring 

34 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

rrty poor nerves — oblige me by lifting- up a corner of the blind. 
Don't let the sun in on me, Mr. Hartright ! Have you got 
the blind up ? Yes ? Then will you be so very kind as to 
look into the garden and make quite sure ? ' 

I complied with this new request. The garden was care- 
fully walled in, all round. Not a human creature, large or 
small, appeared in any part of the sacred seclusion. I 
reported that gratifying fact to Mr. Fairlie. 

* A thousand thanks. My fancy, I suppose. There are 
no children, thank Heaven, in the house ; but the servants 
(persons born without nerves) will encourage the children 
from the village. Such brats — oh, dear me, such brats ! 
Shall I confess it, Mr. Hartright ? — I sadly want a reform 
in the construction of children. Nature's only idea seems to 
be to make them machines for the production of incessant 
noise. Surely our delightful Raffaello's conception is infinitely 
preferable ? ' 

He pointed to the picture of the Madonna, the upper part 
of which represented the conventional cherubs of Italian Art, 
celestially provided with sitting accommodation for their chins, 
on balloons of buff-coloured cloud. 

* Quite a model family ! ' said Mr. Fairlie, leering at the 
cherubs. * Such nice round faces, and such nice soft wings, 
and — nothing else. No dirty little legs to run about on, and 
no noisy little lungs to scream with. How immeasurably 
superior to the existing construction ! I will close my eyes 
again, if you will allow me. And you really can manage the 
drawings ? So glad. Is there anything else to settle ? if 
there is, I think I have forgotten it. Shall we ring for Louis 
again ? ' 

Being, by this time, quite as anxious, on my side, as Mr. 
Fairlie evidently was on his, to bring the interview to a 
speedy conclusion, I thought I would try to render the 
summoning of the servant unnecessary, by offering the 
requisite suggestion on my own responsibility. 

* The only point, Mr. P'airlie, that remains to be discussed,' 
I said, * refers, I think, to the instruction in sketching v.hicli 
I am engaged to communicate to the two young ladies.' 

' Ah ! just so,' said Mr. Fairlie. ' I wish I felt strong 
enough to go into that part of the arrangement — but I don't. 
The ladies, who profit by your kind services, Mr. Hartright, 
must settle, and decide and so on, for themselves. My niece 
is fond of your charming art. She knows just enough about 
it to be conscious of her own sad defects. Please take pains 
with her. Yes. Is there anything else ? No. We quite 

35 i>2 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

understand each other — don't we ? I have no right to detahi 
you any longer from your delightful pursuit — have I ? So 
pleasant to have settled everything — such a sensible relief to 
have done business. Do you mind ringing for Louis to carry 
the portfolio to your own room ? ' 

' I will carry it there, myself, Mr, Fairlie, if you will allow 
me.' 

' Will you really ? Are you strong enough ? How nice 
to be so strong ! Are you sure you won't drop it ? So glad 
to possess you at Limmeridge, Mr. Hartright. I am such a 
sufferer that I hardly dare hope to enjoy much of your society. 
Would you mind taking great pains not to let the doors bang, 
and not to drop the portfolio ? Thank you. Gently with the 
curtains, please — the slightest noise from them goes through 
me like a knife. Yes. Good morning ! ' 

When the sea-green curtains were closed, and when the 
two baize doors were shut behind me, I stopped for a moment 
in the little circular hall beyond, and drew a long, luxurious 
breath of relief. It was like coming to the surface of the 
water after deep diving, to find myself once more on the out- 
side of Mr. Fairlie's room. 

As soon as I was comfortably established for the morning 
in my pretty little studio, the first resolution at which I arrived 
was to turn my steps no more in the direction of the apart- 
ments occupied by the master of the house, except in the very 
improbable event of his honouring me with a special invitation 
to pay him another visit. Having settled this satisfactory 
plan of future conduct, ill reference to Mr. Fairlie, I soon 
recovered the serenity of temper of which my employer's 
haughty familiarity and impudent politeness had, for the 
moment, deprived me. The remaining hours of the morning 
passed away pleasantly enough, in looking over the drawings, 
arranging them in sets, trimming their ragged edges, and 
accomplishing the other necessary preparations in anticipation 
of the business of mounting them. I ought, perhaps, to have 
made more progress than this ; but, as the luncheon time 
drew near, I grew restless and unsettled, and felt unable to 
fix my attention on work, even though that work was only of 
the humble manual kind. 

At two o'clock, I descended again to the breakfast-room, 
a little anxiously. Expectations of some interest were 
connected with my approaching reappearance in that part of 
the house. My introduction to Miss Fairlie was now close at 
hand ; and, if Miss Halcombe's search through her mother's 

36 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

letters had produced the result which she anticipated, the 
time had come for clearing up the mystery of the woman in 
white. 

VIII. 

When * enterea the room, I found Miss Halcombe and an 
elderly lady seated at the luncheon-table. 

The elderly lady, when I was presented to her, proved to 
be Miss Fairlie's former g-overness, Mrs. Vesey, who had 
been briefly described to me by my lively companion at the 
breakfast-table, as possessed of * all the cardinal virtues, and 
counting for nothing.' I can do little more than offer my 
humble testimony to the truthfulness of Miss Halcombe's 
sketch of the old lady's character. Mrs. Vesey looked the 
personification of human composure, and female amiability. 
A calm enjoyment of a calm existence beamed in drowsy 
smiles on her plump, placid face. Some of us rush through 
life, and some of us saunter through life. Mrs. Vesey sat 
through life. Sat in the house, early and late ; sat in the 
garden ; sat in unexpected window-seats in passages ; sat 
(on a camp-stool) when her friends tried to take her out walk- 
ing ; sat before she looked at anything, before she talked of 
anything, before she answered, Yes, or No, to the commonest 
question — always with the same serene smile on her lips, the 
same vacantly attentive turn of her head, the same snugly- 
comfortable position of her hands and arms, under every 
possible change of domestic circumstances. A mild, a com- 
pliant, an unutterably tranquil and harmless old lady, who 
never by any chance suggested the idea that she had been 
actually alive since the hour of her birth. Nature has so 
much to do in this world, and is engaged in generating such 
a vast variety of co-existent productions, that she must surely 
be now and then too flurried and confused to distinguish 
between the different processes that she is carrying on at the 
same time. Starting from this point of view, it will always 
remain my private persuasion that Nature was absorbed in 
making cabbages when Mrs. Vesey was born, and that the 
good lady suff'ered the consequences of a vegetable preoccu- 
pation in the mind of the Mother of us all. 

* Now, Mrs. Vesey,' said Miss Halcombe, looking brighter, 
sharper, and readier than ever, by contrast with the undemon- 
strative old lady at her side, ' what will vou have ? A 
cutlet ? ' 

Mrs. Vesey crossed her dimpled hands on the edge of the 
table ; smiled placidly ; and said, ' Yes, dear.' 

37 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

* What is that opposite Mr. Hartright ? Boiled chicken, 
is it not ? I thought you Hked boiled chicken better than 
cutlet, Mrs. Vesey ? ' 

Mrs. Vesey took her dimpled hands off the edg-e of the 
table and crossed them on her lap instead ; nodded contem- 
platively at the boiled chicken, and said, ' Yes, dear.' 

' Well, but which will you have, to-day ? Shall Mr. Hart- 
right give you some chicken ? or shall I give you some 
cutlet ? ' 

Mrs. Vesey put one of her dimpled hands back again on 
the edge of the table ; hesitated drowsily ; and said, ' Which 
you please, dear.' 

* Mercy on me ! it's a question for your taste, my good 
lady, not for mine. Suppose you have a little of both ? and 
suppose you begin with the chicken, because Mr. Hartright 
looks devoured by anxiety to carve for you.' 

Mrs. Vesey put the other dimpled hand back on the edge 
of the table ; brightened dimly, one moment ; went out again, 
the next ; bowed obediently, and said, ' If you please, sir.' 

Surely a mild, a compliant, an unutterably tranquil and 
harmless old lady ? But enough, perhaps, for the present, of 
Mrs. Vesey. 

All this time, there were no signs of Miss Fairlie. We 
finished our luncheon ; and still she never appeared. Miss 
Halcombe, whose quick eye nothing escaped, noticed the 
looks that I cast, from time to time, in the direction of the 
door. 

'I understand you, Mr. Hartright,' she said; 'you are 
wondering what has become of your other pupil. She has 
been down stairs, and has got over her headache ; but has not 
sufficiently recovered her appetite to join us at lunch. If you 
will put yourself under my charge, I think I can undertake to 
find her somewhere in the garden.' 

She took up a parasol, lying on a chair near her, and led 
the way out, by a long window at the bottom of the room, 
which opened on to the lawn. It is almost unnecessary to 
say that we left Mrs. Vesey still seated at the table, with her 
dimpled hands still crossed on the edge of it ; apparently 
settled in that position for the rest of the afternoon. 

As we crossed the law^n. Miss Halcombe looked at me 
significantly, and shook her head. 

'That mysterious adventure of yours,' she said, 'still 
remains involved in its own appropriate midnight darkness. 
I have been all the morning looking over my mother's letters, 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

and I have made no discoveries yet. However, don't despair, 
Mr. Hartright. This is a matter of curiosity ; and you have 
g"0t a woman for your ally. Under such conditions success is 
certain, sooner or later. The letters are not exhausted. I 
have three packets still left, and you may confidently rely on 
my spending the whole evening over them.' 

Here, then, was one of my anticipations of the morning still 
unfulfilled. I began to wonder, next, whether my introduction 
to Miss Fairlie would disappoint the expectations that I had 
been forming of her since breakfast-time. 

* And how did 3'ou get on with Mr. Fairlie ? ' inquired Miss 
Halcombe, as we left the lawn and turned into a shrubbery. 
'Was he particularly nervous this morning? Never mind 
considering about your answer, Mr. Hartright. The mere 
fact of )'our being obliged to consider is enough forme. I see 
in your face that he 7vas particularly nervous ; and, as I am 
amiably unwilling to throw you into the same condition, I ask 
no more.' 

We turned off into a winding path while she was speaking, 
and approached a pretty summer-house, built of wood, in the 
form of a miniature Swiss chalet. The one room of the 
summer-house, as we ascended the steps of the door, was 
occupied by a young lady. She was standing near a rustic 
table, looking out at the inland view of moor and hill presented 
by a gap in the trees, and absently turning over the leaves of 
a little sketch-book that lay at her side. This was Miss 
Fairlie. 

How can I describe her? How can I separate her from 
my own sensations, and from all that has happened in the 
later time ? How can I see her again as she looked when my 
eyes first rested on her — as she should look, now, to the 
eyes that are about to see her in these pages ? 

The water-colour drawing that I made of Laura Fairlie, at 
an after period, in the place and attitude in which I first saw 
her, lies on my desk while I write. I look at it, and there 
dawns upon me brightly, from the dark greenish-brown 
background of the summer-house, a light, youthful figure, 
clothed in a simple muslin dress, the pattern of it formed by 
broad alternate stripes of delicate blue and white. A scarf 
of the same material sits crisply and closely round her 
shoulders, and a little straw hat of the natural colour, plainly 
and sparingly trimmed with ribbon to match the gown, covers 
her head, and throws its soft pearly shadow over the upper 
part of her face. Her hair is of so faint and pale a brown — not 
flaxen, and yet almost as light ; not golden, and yet almost as 

39 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

glossy — that it nearly melts, here and there, nito the shadow of 
the hat. It is plainly parted and drawn back over her ears, and 
the line of it ripples naturally as it crosses her forehead. The 
eyebrows are rather darker than the hair ; and the eyes are of 
that soft, limpid, turquoise blue, so often sung by the poets, so 
seldom seen in real life. Lovely eyes in colour, lovely eyes in 
form — large and tender and quietly thoughtful — but beautiful 
above all things in the clear truthfulness of look that dwells in 
their inmost depths, and shines through all their changes of 
expression with the light of a purer and a better world. The 
charm — most gently and yet most distinctly expressed — which 
they shed over the whole face, so covers and transforms its 
little natural human blemishes elsewhere, that it is difficult to 
estimate the relative merits and defects of the other features. 
It is hard to see that the lower part of the face is too delicately 
refined away towards the cliin to be in full and fair proportion 
with the upper part ; that the nose, in escaping the aquiline 
bend (always hard and cruel in a woman, no matter how 
abstractedly perfect it maj' be), has erred a little in the other 
extreme, and has missed the ideal straightness of line ; and 
that the sweet, sensitive lips are subject to a slight nervous 
contraction, when she smiles, which draws them upward a 
little at one corner, towards the cheek. It might be possible 
to note these blemishes in another woman's face, but it is not 
easy to dwell on them in hers, so subtly are they connected 
with all that is individual and characteristic in her expression, 
and so closely does the expression depend for its full play and 
life, in every other feature, on the moving impulse of the eyes. 
Does my poor portrait of her, my fond, patient labour of 
long and happy days, show me these things ? Ah, how few 
of them are in the dim mechanical drawing, and how many in 
the mind with which I regard it ! A fair, delicate girl, in a 
pretty light dress, trifling with the leaves of a sketch-book, 
while she looks up from it with truthful, innocent blue eyes 
— that is all the drawing can say ; all, perhaps, that even the 
deeper reach of thought and pen can say in their language, 
either. The woman who first gives life, light, and form to 
our shadowy conceptions of beauty, fills a void in our spiritual 
nature that has remained unknown to us till she appeared. 
Sympathies that lie too deep for words, too deep almost for 
thoughts, are touched, at such times, by other charms than 
those which the senses feel and which the resources of ex- 
pression can realise. The mystery which underlies the beauty 
of women is never raised above the reach of all expression 
until it has claimed kindred with the deeper mystery in our own 

40 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

souls. Then, and then only, has it passed beyond the narrow 
region on which light falls, in this world, from the pencil and 
the pen. 

Think of her as you thought of the first woman who 
quickened the pulses within you that the rest of her sex had 
no art to stir. Let the kind, candid blue eyes meet yours, as 
they met mine, with the one matchless look which we both 
remember so well. Let her voice speak the music that you 
once loved best, attuned as sweetly to your ear as to mine. 
Let her footstep, as she comes and goes, in these pages, be 
like that other footstep to whose airy fall your own heart once 
beat time. Take her as the visionary nursling of your own 
fancy ; and she will grow upon you, all the more clearly, as 
the living woman who dwells in mine. 

Among the sensations that crowded on me, when my eyes 
first looked upon her — familiar sensations which we all know, 
which spring to life in most of our hearts, die again in so 
many, and renew their bright existence in so few — there was 
one that troubled and perplexed me ; one that seemed 
strangely inconsistent and unaccountably out of place in Miss 
Fairlie's presence. 

Mingling with the vivid impression produced by the charm 
of her fair face and head, her sweet expression, and her win- 
ning simplicity of manner, was another impression, which, in 
a shadowy way, suggested to me the idea of something 
wanting. At one time it seemed like something wanting in 
her ; at another, like something wanting in myself, which 
hindered me from understanding her as I ought. The im- 
pression was always strongest, in the most contradictory 
manner, when she looked at me ; or, in other words, when I 
was most conscious of the harmony and charm of her face, 
and yet, at the same time, most troubled by the sense of an 
incompleteness which it was impossible to discover. Some- 
thing wanting, something wanting — and where it was, and 
what it was, I could not say. 

The effect of this curious caprice of fancy (as I thought it 
then) was not of a nature to set me at my ease, during a 
first interview with Miss Fairlie. The few kind words of 
welcome which she spoke found me hardly self-possessed 
enough to thank her in the customary phrases of reply. 
Observing my hesitation, and no doubt attributing it, natu- 
rally enough, to some momentary shyness on my part, Miss 
Halcombe took the business of talking, as easily and readily 
as usual, into her own hands. 

' Look there, Mr. Hartright,' she said, pointing to the 

41 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

sketch-book on the table, and to the Httle delicate wandering 
hand that was still trifling vv'ith it. ' Surely you will acknow- 
ledge that your model pupil is found at last ? The moment she 
hears that you are in the house, she seizes her inestimable 
sketch-book, looks universal Nature straight in the face, .and 
longs to begin ! ' 

Miss Fairlie laughed with a ready good-humour, which 
broke out as brightly as if it had been part of the sunshine 
above us, over her lovely face. 

' I must not take credit to myself where no credit is due,' 
she said, her clear, truthful blue eyes looking alternately at 
Miss Halcombe and at me. ' Fond as I am of drawing, I am 
so conscious of my own ignorance that I am more afraid than 
anxious to begin. Now I know you are here, Mr. Hartright, 
I find myself looking over my sketches, as I used to look over 
my lessons when I was a little girl, and when I was sadly 
afraid that I should turn out not fit to be heard.' 

She made the confession very prettily and simply, and, with 
quaint, childish earnestness, drew the sketch-book away close 
to her own side of the table. Miss Halcombe cut the knot of the 
little embarrassment forthwith, in her resolute, downright way. 

'Good, bad, or indifferent,' she said, ' the pupil's sketches 
must pass through the fiery ordeal of the master's judgment — ■ 
and there's an end of it. Suppose we take them with us in 
the carriage, Laura, and let Mr. Hartright see them, for 
the first time, under circumstances of perpetual jolting and 
interruption ? If we can only confuse him all through the 
drive, between Nature as it is, when he looks up at the view, 
and Nature as it is not, when he looks down again at our 
sketch-books, we shall drive him into the last desperate 
refuge of paying us compliments, and shall slip through his 
professional fingers with our pet feathers of vanity all un- 
ruffled.' 

' I hope Mr. Hartright will pay me no compliments,' 
said Miss Fairlie, as we all left the summer-house. 

' May I venture to inquire why you express that hope ? ' 
I asked. 

' Because I shall believe all that you say to me,' she 
answered, simply. In those few words she unconsciously 
gave me the key to her whole character ; to that generous 
trust in others which, in her nature, grew innocently out of 
the sense of her own truth. I only knew it intuitively then. 
I know it by experience now. 

We merely waited to rouse good Mrs. Vesey from the 
place which she still occupied at the deserted luncheon-table, 

42 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

before we entered the open carriage for our promised drive 
The old lady and Miss Halcombe occupied the back seat ; 
and Miss Fairlie and I sat together in front, with the sketch- 
book open between us, fairly exhibited at last to my pro- 
fessional eyes. .All serious criticism on the drawings, even if 
I had been disposed to volunteer it, was rendered impossible 
by Miss Halcombe's lively resolution to see nothing but the 
ridiculous side of the Fine Arts, as practised by herself, her 
sister, and ladies in general. I can remember the conversa- 
tion that passed far more easily than the sketches that I 
mechanically looked over. That part of the talk, especially, 
in which Miss Fairlie took any share is still as vividly impressed 
on my memory as if I had heard it only a few hours ago. 

Yes ! let me acknowledge that, on this first day, I let the 
charm of her presence lure me from the recollection of myself 
and my position. The most trifling of the questions that she 
put to me, on the subject of using her pencil and mixing her 
colours ; the slightest alterations of expression in the lovely 
eyes that looked into mine, with such an earnest desire to 
learn all that I could teach, and to discover all that I could 
show, attracted more of my attention than the finest view we 
passed through, or the grandest changes of light and shade, 
as they flowed into each other over the v/aving moorland and 
the level beach. At any time, and under any circumstances 
of human interest, is it not strange to see how little real hold 
the objects of the natural world amid which v.e live can gain 
on our hearts and minds ? We go to Nature for comfort in 
trouble, and sympathy in joy, only in books. Admiration 
of those beauties of the inanimate world, which modern 
poetry so largely and so eloquently describes, is not, even in 
the best of us, one of the original instincts of our nature. As 
children, we none of us possess it. No uninstructed man or 
woman possesses it. Those whose lives are most exclusively 
passed amid the ever-changing wonders of sea and land are 
also those who are most universally insensible to every aspect 
of Nature not directly associated with the human interest of 
their calling. Our capacity of appreciating the beauties of 
the earth we live on is, in truth, one of the civilised accom- 
plishments which we all learn, as an Art ; and, more, that 
very capacity is rarely practised by any of us except when our 
minds are most indolent and most unoccupied. How much 
share have the attractions of Nature ever had in the pleasurable 
or painful interests and emotions of ourselves or our friends ? 
What space do they ever occupy in the thousand little narra- 
tives of personal experience which pass every day by word of 

43 



THE WOMAN IN WHITL 

mouth from one of us to the other? All that our mhids can 
compass, all that our hearts can learn, can be accomplished 
with equal certainty, equal profit, and equal satisfaction to 
ourselves, in the poorest as in the richest prospect that the 
face of the earth can show. There is surely a reason for this 
want of inborn sympathy between the creature and the crea- 
tion around it, a reason which may perhaps be found in the 
widely differing- destinies of man and his earthly sphere. The 
grandest mountain prospect that the eye can range over is 
appointed to annihilation. The smallest human interest that 
the pure heart can feel is appointed to immortality. 

We had been out nearly three hours, when the carnage 
again passed through the gates of Limmeridge House. 

On our way back, I had let the ladies settle for themselves 
the first point of view which they were to sketch, under my 
instructions, on the afternoon of the next day. When they 
withdrew to dress for dinner, and when I was alone again in 
my little sitting-room, my spirits seemed to leave me on a 
sudden. I felt ill at ease and dissatisfied with myself, I 
hardly knew why. Perhaps I was now conscious, for the 
first time, of having enjoyed our drive too much in the char- 
acter of a guest, and too little in the character of a drawing- 
master. Perhaps that strange sense of something wanting, 
either in Miss Fairlie or in myself, which had perplexed me 
when I was first introduced to her, haunted me still. Any- 
how, it was a relief to my spirits when the dinner-hour called 
me out of my solitude, and took me back to the society of 
the ladies of the house. 

I was struck, on entering the drawing-room, by the 
curious contrast, rather in material than in colour, of the 
dresses which they now wore. While Mrs. Vesey and Miss 
Halcombe were richly clad (each in the manner most be- 
coming to her age), the first in silver-gray, and the second in 
that delicate primrose-yellow colour which matches so well 
with a dark complexion and black hair. Miss Fairlie was 
unpretendingly and almost poorly dressed in plain w'hite 
muslin. It was spotlessly pure : it was beautifully put on ; 
but still it was the sort of dress which the wife or daughter 
of a poor man might have worn ; and it made her, so far as 
externals went, look less affluent in circumstances than her 
own governess. At a later period, when I learnt to know 
more of Miss Fairlie's character, I discovered that this curious 
contrast, on the wrong side, was due to her natural delicacy 
of feeling and natural intensity of aversion to the slightest 
personal display of her own wealth. Neither Mrs. Vesey nor 

44 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

Miss Halcombe could ever induce her to let the advantage in 
dress desert the two ladies who were poor, to lean to the side 
of the one lady who was rich. 

When the dinner was over, we returned together to the 
drawing-room. Although Mr. Fairlie (emulating the magni- 
ficent condescension of the monarch who had picked up Titian's 
brush for him) had instructed his butler to consult my wishes 
in relation to the wine that I might prefer after dinner, I was 
resolute enough to resist the temptation of sitting in solitary 
grandeur among bottles of my own choosing, and sensible 
enough to ask the ladies' permission to leave the table with 
them habitually, on the civilised foreign plan, during the 
period of my residence at Limmeridge House. 

The drawing-room, to which we had now withdrawn for 
the rest of the evening, was on the ground-floor, and was of 
the same shape and size as the breakfast-room. Large glass 
doors at the lower end opened on to a terrace, beautifully 
ornamented along its whole length with a profusion of flowers. 
The soft, hazy twilight was just shading leaf and blossom 
alike into harmony with its own sober hues, as we entered 
the room ; and the sweet evening scent of the flowers met us 
with its fragrant welcome through the open glass doors. 
Good Mrs. Vesey (always the first of the party to sit down) 
took possession of an arm-chair in a corner, and dozed off" 
comfortably to sleep. At my request. Miss Fairlie placed 
herself at the piano. As I followed her to a seat near the 
instrument, I saw Miss Halcombe retire into a recess of one 
of the side windows, to proceed with the search through her 
mother's letters by the last quiet rays of the evening light. 

How vividly that peaceful home-picture of the drawing- 
room comes back to me while I write ! From the place 
where I sat I could see Miss Halcombe's graceful figure, half 
of it in soft light, half in mysterious shadow, bending intently 
over the letters in her lap ; while, nearer to me, the fair 
profile of the player at the piano was just delicately defined 
against the faintly deepening background of the inner wall of 
the room. Outside, on the terrace, the clustering flowers and 
long grasses and creepers waved so gently in the light 
evening air, that the sound of their rustling never reached us. 
The sky was without a cloud ; and the dawning mystery of 
moonlight began to tremble already in the region of the 
eastern heaven. The sense of peace and seclusion soothed 
all thought and feeling into a rapt, unearthly repose ; and the 
balmy quiet that deepened ever with the deepening light, 
seemed to hover over us with a gentler influence still, when 

45 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

there stole upon it from the piano the heavenly tenderness of 
the music of Mozart. It was an evening of sights and sounds 
never to forget. 

We all sat silent in the places we had chosen — Mrs. Vesey 
still sleeping, Miss Fairlie still playing, Miss Halcombe still 
reading — till the light failed us. By this time the moon had 
stolen round to the terrace, and soft, mysterious rays of light 
were slanting already across the lower end of the room. The 
change from the twilight obscurity was so beautiful, that we 
banished the lamps, by common consent, when the servant 
brought them in ; and kept the large room unlighted, except 
by the glimmer of the two candles at the piano. 

For half an hour more, the music still went on. After 
that, the beauty of the moonlight view on the terrace tempted 
Miss Fairlie out to look at it, and I followed her. When the 
candles at the piano had been lighted, Miss Halcombe had 
changed her place, so as to continue her examination of the 
letters by their assistance. We left her, on a low chair, at 
one side of the instrument, so absorbed over her reading that 
she did not seem to notice when we moved. 

We had been out on the terrace together, just in front of 
the glass doors, hardly so long as five minutes, I should 
think ; and Miss Fairlie was, by my advice, just tying her 
white handkerchief over her head as a precaution against the 
night air — when I heard Miss Halcombe's voice — low, eager, 
and altered from its natural lively tone — pronounce my name. 

* Mr. Hartright,' she said, ' will you come here for a 
minute ? I want to speak to you.' 

I entered the room again immediately. The piano stood 
about halfway down along the inner wall. On the side of 
the instrument farthest from the terrace. Miss Halcombe was 
sitting with the letters scattered on her lap, and with one in 
her hand selected from them, and held close to the candle. 
On the side nearest to the terrace there stood a low ottoman, 
on which I took my place. In this position, I was not far 
from the glass doors ; and I could see Miss Fairlie plainly, as 
she passed and repassed the opening on to the terrace ; walk- 
ing slowly from end to end of it in the full radiance of the 
moon. 

* I want you to listen while I read the concluding passages 
in this letter,' said Miss Halcombe. 'Tell me if you think 
they throw any light upon your strange adventure on the road 
to London. The letter is addressed by my mother to her 
second husband, Mr. Fairlie ; and the date refers to a period 
of between eleven and twelve years since. At that time, Mr. 

46 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

and Mrs. Fairlie, and my half-sister Laura, had been living- 
for years in this house ; and I was away from them, com- 
pleting' my education at a school in Paris.' 

She looked and spoke earnestly, and, as I thought, a little 
uneasily, as well. At the moment when she raised the letter 
to the candle before beginning to read it, Miss Fairlie passed 
us on the terrace, looked in for a moment, and, seeing that 
we were engaged, slowly v.-alked on. 

Miss Halcombe began to read, as follows : 

' '* You will be tired, my dear Philip, of hearing perpetu- 
ally about my schools and my scholars. Lay the blame, 
pray, on the dull uniformity of life at Limmeridge, and not on 
me. Besides, this time, I have something really interesting 
to tell you about a new scholar. 

' " You know old Mrs. Kempe, at the village shop. Well, 
after years of ailing, the doctor has at last given her up, and 
she is dying slowly, day by day. Her only living relation, a 
sister, arrived last week to take care of her. This sister 
comes all the way from Hampshire — her name is Mrs. 
Catherick. Four days ago Mrs. Catherick came here to see 
me, and brought her only child v/ith her, a sweet little girl 
about a year older than our darling Laura " ' 

As the last sentence fell from the reader's lips. Miss Fairlie 
passed us on the terrace once more. She was softly singing 
to herself one of the melodies which she had been playing 
earlier in the evening. Miss Halcombe waited till she had 
passed out of sight again ; and then went on with the letter : 

***Mrs. Catherick is a decent, well-behaved, respectable 
woman ; middle aged, and with the remains of having been 
moderately, only moderately, nice-looking. There is some- 
thing in her manner and in her appearance, however, which I 
can't make out. She is reserved about herself to the point 
of downright secrecy ; and there is a look in her face — I can't 
describe it — which suggests to me that she has something on 
her mind. She is altogether what you would call a walking 
mystery. Her errand at Limmeridge House, however, was 
simple enough. When she left Hampshire to nurse her sister, 
Mrs. Kempe, through her last illness, she had been obliged to 
bring her daughter with her, through having no one at home 
to take care of the little girl. Mrs. Kempe may die in a 
week's time, or may linger on for months ; and Mrs. Cathe- 
rick's object was to ask me to let her daughter, Anne, have 

47 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

the benefit of attending my school ; subject to the condition 
of her being removed from it to go home again with her 
mother, after Mrs. Kempe's death. I consented at once, and 
when Laura and I v/ent out for our walk, we took the little 
girl (who is just eleven years old) to the school, that very 
day." ' 

Once more. Miss Fairlie's figure, bright and soft in its 
snowy muslin dress — her face prettily framed by the white 
folds of the handkerchief which she had tied under her chin — 
passed by us in the moonlight. Once more. Miss Halcombe 
waited till she was out of sight ; and then went on : 

' " I have taken a violent fancy, Philip, to my new scholar, 
for a reason which I mean to keep till the last for the sake of 
surprising you. Her mother having told me as little about 
the child as she told me of herself, I was left to discover 
(which I did on the first day when we tried her at lessons) 
that the poor little thing's intellect is not developed as it 
ought to be at her age. Seeing this, I had her up to the 
house the next day, and privately arranged with the doctor 
to come and watch her and question her, and tell me what he 
thought. His opinion is that she will grow out of it. But 
he says her careful bringing-up at school is a matter of great 
importance just now, because her unusual slowness in acquir- 
ing ideas implies an unusual tenacity in keeping them, when 
they are once received into her mind. Now, my love, you 
must not imagine, in your off-hand way, that I have been 
attaching myself to an idiot. This poor little Anne Catherick 
is a sweet, affectionate, grateful girl ; and says the quaintest, 
prettiest things (as you shall judge by an instance), in the 
most oddly sudden, surprised, half-frightened way. Although 
she is dressed very neatly, her clothes show a sad want of 
taste in colour and pattern. So I arranged, yesterday, that 
some of our darling Laura's old white frocks and white hats 
should be altered for Anne Catherick ; explaining to her that 
little girls of her complexion looked neater and better all in 
white than in anything else. She hesitated and seemed 
puzzled for a minute ; then flushed up, and appeared to 
understand. Her little hand clasped mine suddenly. She 
kissed it, Philip ; and said (oh, so earnestly !), ' I will always 
wear white as long as I live. It will help me to remember 
you, ma'am, and to think that I am pleasing you still, when 
I go away and see you no more.' This is only one specimen 
of the quaint things she says so prettily. Poor little soul ! 

48 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

She shall have a stock of white frocks, made with g-ood deep 
tucks, to let out for her as she grows " ' 

Miss Halcombe paused, and looked at me across the piano. 

' Did the forlorn woman whom 3-ou met in the hi^h-road 
seem young-?' she asked. 'Young- enough to be two or 
three-and-twenty ? ' 

* Yes, Miss Halcombe, as young as that.' 

• And she was strangely dressed, from head to foot, all in 
white ? ' 

' All in white.' 

\Vhile the answer was passing- my lips. Miss Fairlie 
glided mto view on the terrace, for the third time. Instead 
ot proceeding^ on her walk, she stopped, with her back turned 
towards us ; and, leaning on the balustrade of the terrace, 
looked down into the garden bevond. Mv eyes fixed upon 
the white gleam of her muslin gown and 'head-dress in the 
moonlight, and a sensation, for which I can find no name— a 
sensation that quickened my pulse, and raised a fluttering- at 
my heart — beg-an to steal over me. '^ 

' All in white ? ' Miss Halcombe repeated. ' The most 
Important sentences in the letter, Mr. Hartright, are those at 
the end, which I will read to you immediateV. But I can't 
help dwelling- a little upon 'the coincidence of the white 
costume of the woman you met, and the white frocks which 
produced that strange answer from my mother's little scholar. 
The doctor may have been wrong when he discovered the 
child's defects of intellect, and predicted that she would 
"grow out of them." She may never have g-rown out of 
them ; and the old grateful fancy about dressing- in white, 
which was a serious feeling- to 'the girl, mav be a serious 
feeling to the woman still.' 

I said a few words in answer— I hardly know what. All 
my attention was concentrated on the white gleam of Miss 
Fairlie's muslin dress. 

'Listen to the last sentences of the letter,' said Miss 
Halcombe. * I think they will surprise you.' 

As she raised the lett'er to the light of the candle, Miss 
Fairlie turned from the balustrade, looked doubtfully up and 
down the terrace, advanced a step towards the glass doors, 
and then stopped, facing us. 

Meanwhile, Miss Halcombe read me the last sentences to 
which she had referred : 

• " And now, my love, seeing tliat I am at the end of my 

49 E 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

paper, now for the real reason, the surprising reason, for my 
fondness for Httle Anne Catherick. My dear Philip, althoug-h 
she is not half so pretty, she is nevertheless, by one of those 
extraordinary caprices of accidental resemblance which one 
sometimes sees, the living likeness, in her hair, her com- 
plexion, the colour of her eyes, and the shape of her face "' 

I started up from the ottoman, before Miss Halcombe 
could pronounce the next words. A thrill of the same feeling 
which ran through me when the touch was laid upon my 
shoulder on the lonely high-road, chilled me again. 

There stood Miss Fairlie, a white figure, alone In the 
moonlight ; in her attitude, in the turn of her head, in her 
complexion, in the shape of her face, the living image, at 
that distance and under those circumstances, of the woman 
in white ! The doubt which had troubled my mind for hours 
and hours past, flashed into conviction in an instant. That 
' something wanting ' was my own recognition of the ominous 
likeness between the fugitive from the asylum and my pupil 
at Limmeridge House. 

' You see it ! ' said Miss Halcombe. She dropped the use- 
less letter, and her eyes flashed as they met mine. * Vou see 
it now, as my mother saw it eleven years since ! ' 

' I see it — more unwillingly than I can say. To associate 
that forlorn, friendless, lost woman, even by an accidental like- 
ness only, with Miss Fairlie, seems like casting a shadow on 
the future of the bright creature who stands looking at us 
now. Let me lose the impression again, as soon as possible. 
Call her in, out of the dreary moonlight — pray call her in ! ' 

' Mr. Hartright, you surprise me. Whatever women may 
be, I thought that men, in the nineteenth century, were above 
superstition.* 

' Pray call her In ! ' 

' Hush, hush ! She Is coming of her own accord. Say 
nothing in her presence. Let this discovery of the likeness 
be kept a secret between you and me. Come in, Laura ; 
come in, and wake Mrs. Vesey with the piano. Mr. Hartright 
is petitioning for some more music, and he wants it, this time, 
of the lightest and liveliest kind.' 

IX. 

So ended my eventful first day at Limmeridge House. 

Miss Halcombe and I kept our secret. After the discovery 
of the likeness no fresh light seemed destined to break over 
the mystery of the woman in white. At the first safe oppor- 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

tunity Miss Halcombe cautiously led her half-sister to speak 
of their mother, of old times, and of Anne Catherick. Miss 
Fairlie's recollections of the little scholar at Limmeridge were, 
however, only of the most vague and general kind. She re- 
membered the likeness between herself and her mother's 
favourite pupil, as something which had been supposed to 
exist in past times ; but she did not refer to the gift of the 
white dresses, or to the singular form of words in which the 
child had artlessly expressed her gratitude for them. She 
remembered that Anne had remained at Limmeridge for a few 
months only, and had then left it to go back to her home in 
Hampshire ; but she could not say whether the mother and 
daughter had ever returned, or had ever been heard of after- 
wards. No further search, on Miss Halcombe's part, through 
the few letters of Mrs. Fairlie's writing which she had left 
unread, assisted in clearing up the uncertainties still left to 
perplex us. We had identified the unhappy woman whom I 
had met in the night-time, with Anne Catherick — we had 
made some advance, at least, towards connecting the prob- 
r.bly defecti\e condition of the poor creature's intellect with 
the peculiarity of her being dressed all in white, and with the 
continuance, in her maturer years, of her childish gratitude 
towards Mrs. Fairlie — atid there, so far as we knew at that 
rime, our discoveries had ended. 

The days passed on, the weeks passed on ; and the track 
of the golden autumn wound its bright way visibly through 
the green summer of the trees. Peaceful, fast-flowing, happy 
time ! my story glides by you now, as swiftly as you once 
glided by me. Of all the treasures of enjoyment that you 
poured so freely into my heart, how much is left me that has 
purpose and value enough to be written on this page ? 
Nothing but the saddest of all confessions that a man can 
make — the confession of his own folly. 

The secret which that confession discloses should be told 
with little effort, for it has indirectly escaped me already. The 
poor weak words which have failed to describe Miss Fairlie, 
have succeeded in betraying the sensations she awakened in 
me. It is so with us all. Our words are giants when they 
do us an injury, and dwarfs when they do us a service. 

I loved her. 

Ah ! how well I know all the sadness and all the mockery 
that is contained in those three words. I can sigh over my 
mournful confession with the tenderest woman who reads it 
and pities me. I can laugh at it as bitterly as the hardest 

51 E3 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

man who tosses ir from him. in contempt. I loved her ! Feel 
for me, or despise me, I confess it with the same immovable 
resolution to own the truth. 

Was there no excuse for me ? There was some excuse to 
be found, surely, in the conditions under which my term of 
hired service was passed at Limmeridge House. 

My morning- hours succeeded each other calmly in tb.e 
quiet and seclusion of my own room. I had just work enough 
to do, in mounting my employer's drawings, to keep my hands 
and eyes pleasurably employed, while my mind was left free 
to enjoy the dangerous luxury of its own unbridled thoughts. 
A perilous solitude, for it lasted long enough to enervate, not 
long enough to fortify me. A perilous solitude, for it was fol- 
lowed by afternoons and evening's spent, day after day and week 
after week, alone in the society of two women, one of whom 
possessed all the accomplishments of grace, wit, and high- 
breeding, the other all the charms of beauty, gentleness, and 
simple truth, that can purify and subdue the heart of man. 
Not a day passed, in that dangerous intimacy of teacher and 
pupil, in which my hand v/as not close to Miss Fairlie's ; my 
cheek, as we bent together over her sketch-book, almost 
touching hers. The more attentively she watched every 
movement of my brush, the more closely I was breathing the 
perfume of her hair, and the warm fragrance of her breath. 
It was part of my service, to live in the very light of her eyes 
— at one time to be bending over her, so close to her bosom 
as to tremble at the thought of touching- it ; at another, to 
feel her bending over me, bending so close to see what I was 
about, that her voice sank low when she spoke to me, and 
her ribbons brushed my cheek in the wind before she could 
draw them back. 

The evenings which followed the sketching excursions of 
the afternoon, varied, rather than checked, these innocent, 
these inevitable familiarities. My natural fondness for the 
music which she played with such tender feeling, such delicate 
womanly taste, and her natural enjoyment of giving me back, 
by the practice of her art, the pleasure which I had offered to 
her by the practice of mine, only wove another tie which drew 
us closer and closer to one another. The accidents of con- 
versation ; the simple habits which regulated even such a 
little thing as the position of our places at table ; the play 
of Miss Halcombe's ever-ready raillery, always directed 
against my anxiety, as teacher, while it sparkled over her 
enthusiasm as pupil ; the harmless expression of poor Mrs. 
Vesey's drowsy approval which connected Miss Fairlie and 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

me as two model j-oung people who never disturbed her — 
every one of these trifles, and many more, combined to fold 
us together in the same domestic atmosphere, and to lead us 
both insensibly to the same hopeless end. 

I should have remembered my position, and have put 
myself secretly on my guard. I did so ; but not till it was 
too late. All the discretion, all the experience, which had 
availed me with other women, and secured me against other 
temptations, failed me with her. It had been my profession, 
for years past, to be in this close contact with young girls of 
all ages, and of all orders of beauty. I had accepted the 
position as part of my calling in life •, I had trained myself to 
leave all the sympathies natural to my age in my employer's 
outer hall, as coolly as I left my umbrella there before I 
went up-stairs. I had long since learnt to understand, com- 
posedly and as a matter of course, that my situation in life 
was considered a guarantee against any of my female pupils 
feeling more than the most ordinary interest in me, and that 
I was admitted among beautiful and captivating women, 
much as a harmless domestic animal is admitted among them. 
This guardian experience I had gained early ; this guardian 
experience had sternly and strictly guided me straight along 
my own poor narrow path, without once letting me stray 
aside, to the right hand or to the left. And now, I and my 
trusty talisman were parted for the first time. Yes, my hardly- 
earned self-control was as completely lost to me as if I had 
never possessed it ; lost to me, as it is lost every day to other 
men, in other critical situations, where women are concerned. I 
know, now, that I should have questioned myself from the first. 
I should have asked why any room in the house was better 
than home to me when she entered it, and barren as a desert 
when she went out again — why I always noticed and remem- 
bered the little changes in her dress that I had noticed and 
remembered in no other woman's before — why I saw her, 
heard her, and touched her (when we shook hands at night 
and morning) as I had never seen, heard, and touched any 
other woman in my life ? I should have looked into my own 
heart, and found this new growth springing up there, and 
plucked it out while it was young. W^hy was this easiest, 
simplest work of self-culture always too much for me ? The 
explanation has been written already in the three words that 
were many enough, and plain enough, for my confession. I 
loved her. 

The days passed, the weeks passed ; it was approaching 
the third month of my stay in Cumberland. The delicious 

53 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

monotony of life in our calm seclusion, flowed on with me 
like a smooth stream -with a swimmer who glides down the 
current. All memory of the past, all thought of the future, 
all sense of the falseness and hopelessness of my own position, 
lay hushed within me into deceitful rest. Lulled by the 
Syren-song that my own heart sung to me, with eyes shut to 
all sight, and ears closed to all sound of danger, I drifted 
nearer and nearer to the fatal rocks. The warning that 
aroused me at last, and startled me into sudden, self-accusing 
consciousness of my own weakness, was the plainest, the 
truest, the kindest of all warnings, for it came silently from her. 

We had parted one night, as usual. No word had fallen 
from my lips, at that time or at any time before it, that could 
betray me or startle her into sudden knowledge of the truth. 
But, when we met again in the morning, a change had come 
over her — a change that told me all. 

I shrank then — I shrink still — from invading the innermost 
sanctuary of her heart, and laying it open to others, as 1 have 
laid open my own. Let it be enough to say that the time 
when she first surprised my secret, was, I firmly believe, the 
time when she first surprised her own, and the time, also, 
when she changed towards me in the interval of one night. 
Her nature, too truthful to deceive others, was too noble to 
deceive itself. When the doubt that I had hushed asleep, 
first laid its weary weight on her heart, the true face owned 
all, and said, in its own frank simple language — I am sorry 
for him ; I am sorry for myself. 

It said this, and more, which I could not then interpret. 
I understood but too well the change in her manner, to 
greater kindness and quicker readiness in interpreting all my 
wishes, before others — to constraint and sadness, and nervous 
anxiety to absorb herself in the first occupation she could seize 
on, whenever we happened to be left together alone. I under- 
stood why the sweet sensitive lips smiled so rarely and so 
restrainedly now ; and why the clear blue eyes looked at me, 
sometimes with the pity of an angel, sometimes with the 
innocent perplexity of a child. But the change meant more 
than this. There was a coldness in her hand, there was an 
unnatural immobility in her face, there was in all her move- 
ments the mute expression of constant fear and clinging self- 
reproach. The sensations that I could trace to herself and to 
me, the unacknowledged sensations that we were feeling in 
common, were not these. There were certain elements of the 
change in her that Vvere still secretly drawing us together, 
and others that were, as secretly, beginning to drive us apart. 

54 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

In my doubt and perplexity, in my vague suspicion of 
something' hidden which I was left to find by my ow^n unaided 
efforts, I examined Miss Halcombe's looks and manner for 
enlightenment. Living in such intimacy as ours, no serious 
alteration could take place in any one of us which did not sym- 
pathetically affect the others. The change in Miss Fairlie 
was reflected in her half-sister. Although not a word escaped 
Miss Halcombe which hinted at an altered state of feeling 
towards myself, her penetrating eyes had contracted a new 
habit of always watching me. Sometimes, the look was like 
suppressed anger ; sometimes, like suppressed dread ; some- 
times, like neither — like nothing, in short, which I could 
understand. A week elapsed, weaving us all three still in this 
position of secret constraint towards one another. My 
situation, aggravated by the sense of my own miserable 
weakness and forgetfulness of myself, now too late awakened 
in me, was becoming intolerable. I felt that I must cast off 
the oppression under which I was living, at once and for ever 
— yet how to act for the best, or what to say first, was more 
than I could tell. 

From this position of helplessness and humiliation, I was 
rescued by Miss Halcombe. Her lips told me the bitter, the 
necessary, the unexpected truth ; her hearty kindness sus- 
tained me under the shock cf hearing it ; her sensr and 
courage turned to its right use an event which threatened the 
worst that could happen, to me and to others, in Limmeridge 
House. 

X. 

It was on a Thursday in the week, and nearly at the end 
of the third month of my sojourn in Cumberland. 

In the morning, when I went down into the breakfast- 
room, at the usual hour. Miss Halcombe, for the first time 
since I had known her, was absent from her customary place 
at the table. 

Miss Fairlie was out on the lawn. She bowed to me, but 
did not come in. Not a word had dropped from my lips, or 
from hers, that could unsettle either of us — and yet the same 
unacknowledged sense of embarrassment made us shrink 
alike from meeting one another alone. She waited on the 
lawn ; and I waited in the breakfast-room, till Mrs. Vesey or 
Miss Halcombe came in. How quickly I should have joined 
her : how readily we should have shaken hands, and glided 
into our customary talk, only a fortnight ago, 

55 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

In a few minutes, Miss Halcombe entered. She had a 
preoccupied look, and she made her apologies for being late, 
rather absently. 

' I have been detained,' she said, ' by a consultation with 
Mr. Fairlie on a domestic matter which he wished to speak to 
me about.' 

Miss Fairlie came in from the garden ; and the usual 
morning greeting passed between us. Her hand struck 
colder to mine than ever. She did not look at me ; and she 
was very pale. Even Mrs. Vesey noticed it, when she entered 
the room a moment after. 

' I suppose it is the change in the wind,' said the old lady. 
The winter is coming — ah, my love, the winter is coming 
soon ! ' 

In her heart and in mine it had come already ! 

Our morning meal — once so full of pleasant good-humoured 
discussion of the plans for the day — was short and silent. 
Miss Fairlie seemed to feel the oppression of the long pauses 
in the conversation ; and looked appealingly to her sister to fill 
them up. Miss Halcombe, after once or twice hesitating and 
checking herself, in a most uncharacteristic manner, spoke at 
last. 

* I have seen your uncle this morning, Laura,' she said. 
* He thinks the purple room is the one that ought to be got 
ready ; and he confirms what I told you. Monday is the day — 
not Tuesday.' 

While these words were being spoken. Miss Fairlie looked 
down at the table beneath her. Her fingers moved nervously 
among the crumbs that were scattered on the cloth. The 
paleness on her cheeks spread to her lips, and the lips them- 
selves trembled visibly. I was not the only person present 
who noticed this. Miss Halcombe saw it, too ; and at once 
set us the example of rising from table 

Mrs. Vesey and Miss Fairlie left the room together. The 
kind sorrowful blue eyes looked at me, for a moment, with 
the prescient sadness of a coming and a long farewell. I felt 
the answering pang in my own heart — the pang that told me 
I must lose her soon, and love her the more unchangeably for 
the loss. 

I turned towards the garden, when the door had closed on 
her. Miss Halcombe was standing with her hat in her hand, 
and her shawl over her arm, by the large window that led out 
to the lawn, and was looking at me attentively. 

' Have you any leisure time to spare,' she asked, ' before 
you begin to work in vour own room ? ' 

56 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

* Certainly, Miss Halcombe. I have always time at your 
service.' 

' I want to say a word to you in private, Mr. Hartright. 
Get your hat, and come out into the garden. We are not likely 
to be disturbed there at this hour in the morning.' 

As we stepped out on to the lawn, one of the under-gar- 
deners — a mere lad — passed us on his way to the house, with 
a letter in his hand. Miss Halcombe stopped him. 

' Is that letter for me ? ' she asked. 

' Nay, miss ; it's just said to be for Miss Fairlie,' answered 
the lad, holding out the letter as he spoke. 

Miss Halcombe took it from him, and looked at the 
address. 

* A strange handwriting,' she said to herself ' Who can 
Laura's correspondent be ? Where did you get this ? ' she 
continued, addressing the gardener. 

' Well, miss,' said the lad, ' I just got it from a woman.' 
' What woman ? ' 

* A woman well stricken in age.' 

' Oh, an old woman. Any one }Ou knew ? ' 

* I canna' tak' it on m3ser to say that she was other than 
a stranger to me.' 

* Which way did she go ? ' 

'That gate,' said the undcr-gardener, turning with great 
deliberation towards the south, and embracing the whole of 
that part of England with one comprehensive sweep of his 
arm. 

' Curious,' said Miss Halcombe ; ' I suppose it must be a 
begging-letter. There,' she added, handing the letter back to 
the lad, * take it to the house, and give it to one of the servants. 
And now, Mr. Hartright, if you have no objection, let us walk 
this way.' 

She led me across the lav/n, along the same path by which 
I had followed her on the day after my arrival at Limmeridge. 
At the little summer-house in which Laura Fairlie and I had 
first seen each other, she stopped, and broke the silence which 
she had steadily maintained while we were walking together. 

' What I have to say to you, I can say here.' 

With those words, she entered the summer-house, took 
one of the chairs at the little round table inside, and signed to 
me to take the other. I suspected what was coming when 
she spoke to me in the breakfast-room ; I felt certain of it 
now. 

' Mr. Hartright,' she said, * I am going to begin by making 
^ frank evvowal to you. I am going to say — without phrase- 

57 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

making", which I detest ; or paying compliments, which I 
heartily despise — that I have come, in the course of your resi- 
dence with us, to feel a strong- friendly regard for you. I was 
predisposed in your favour when you first told me of your 
conduct towards that unhappy woman whom you met under 
such remarkable circumstances. Your management of the 
affair might not have been prudent ; but it showed the self- 
control, the delicacy, and the compassion of a man who was 
naturally a gentleman. It made me expect good things from 
you ; and you have not disappointed my expectations.' 

She paused — but held up her hand at the same time, as a 
sign that she awaited no answer from me before she proceeded. 
When I entered the summer-house, no thought was in me of 
the woman in white. But, now. Miss Halcombe's own words 
had put the memory of my adventure back in my mind. It 
remained there throughout the interview — remained, and not 
without a result. 

' As your friend,' she proceeded, * I am going to tell you, 
at once, in my own plain, blunt, downright language, that I 
have discovered your secret — without help, or hint, mind, from 
any one else. Mr. Hartright, you have thoughtlessly allowed 
yourself to form an attachment — a serious and devoted attach- 
ment, I am afraid — to my sister, Laura. I don't put you to 
the pain of confessing it, in so many words, because I see and 
know that you are too honest to deny it. I don't even blame 
you — I pity you for opening your heart to a hopeless affection. 
You have not attempted to take any underhand advantage— 
you have not spoken to my sister in secret. You are guilty 
of weakness and want of attention to your own best interests, 
but of nothing worse. If you had acted, in any single respect, 
less delicately and less modestly, I should have told you to 
leave the house, without an instant's notice, or an instant's 
consultation of anybody. As it is, I blame the misfortune of 
your years and your position — I don't blame you. Shake 
hands — I have given you pain ; I am going to give you more ; 
but there is no help for it — shake hands with your friend, 
Marian Halcombe, first.' 

The sudden kindness — the warm, high-minded, fearless 
sympathy which met me on such mercifully-equal terms, which 
appealed with such delicate and generous abruptness straight 
to my heart, my honour, and my courage, overcame me in 
an instant. I tried to look at her, when she took my hand, 
but my eyes were dim. I tried to thank her, but my voice 
failed me. 

' Listen to me,' she said, considerately avoiding all notice 

58 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

of my loss of self-control. * Listen to me, and let us g^et it 
over at once. It is a real true relief to me that I am not 
obliged, in what I have now to say, to enter into the question — 
the hard and cruel question as I think it — of social inequalities. 
Circumstances which will try vo?i to the quick, spare jne the 
ungracious necessity of paining a man who has lived in friendly 
intimacy under the same roof with myself by any humiliating 
reference to matters of rank and station. You must leave 
Limmeridge House, Mr. Hartrig-ht, before more harm is done. 
It is my duty to say that to you ; and it would be equally my 
duty to say it, under precisely the same serious necessity, if 
you were the representative of the oldest and wealthiest 
family in England. You must leave us, not because you are 
a teacher of drawing ' 

She waited a moment ; turned her face full on me ; and, 
reaching across the table, laid her hand firmly on my arm. 

' Not because you are a teacher of drawing,' she repeated, 
' but because Laura Fairlie is engaged to be married.' 

The last word went like a bullet to my heart. My arm 
lost all sensation of the hand that grasped it. I never moved 
and never spoke. The sharp autumn breeze that scattered 
the dead leaves at our feet, came as cold to me, on a sudden, 
as if my own mad hopes were dead leaves, too, whirled away by 
the wind like the rest. Hopes ! Betrothed, or not betrothed, 
she was equally far from 7fie. Would other men have remem- 
bered that in my place? Not if they had loved her as I did. 

The pang passed ; and nothing but the dull numbing pain 
of it remained. I felt Miss Halcombe's hand again, tightening 
its hold on my arm — I raised my head, and looked at her. 
Her large black eyes were rooted on me, watching the white 
change on ray face, which I felt, and which she saw. 

' Crush it ! ' she said. ' Here, where you first saw her, 
crush it ! Don't shrink under it like a woman. Tear it out ; 
trample it under foot like a man ! ' 

The suppressed vehemence with which she spoke ; the 
strength which her will — concentrated in the look she fixed on 
me, and in the hold on my arm that she had not yet relin- 
quished — communicated to mine, steadied me. We both 
waited for a minute, in silence. At the end of that time, I had 
justified her generous faith in my manhood ; I had, outwardly 
at least, recovered my self-control. 

' Are you yourself again ? ' 

' Enough myself. Miss Halcombe, to ask your pardon and 
hers. Enough myself, to be guided by your advice, and to 
prove my gratitude in that way, if I can prove it in no other.' 

59 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

*You have proved it already,' she answered, * by those 
words. Mr, Hartright, concealment is at an end between us. 
I cannot affect to hide from yon, what my sister has uncon- 
sciously shown to me. You must leave us for her sake, as 
well as for your own. Your presence here, your necessary 
intimacy with us, harmless as it has been, God knows, in all 
other respects, has unsteadied her and made her wretched. 
I, who love her better than my own life — I, who have 
learnt to believe in that pure, noble innocent nature as I 
believe in my religion — know but too well the secret misery 
of self-reproach that she has been suffering, since the first 
shadow of a feeling disloyal to her marriage engagement entered 
her heart in spite of her. I don't say — it would be useless to 
attempt to say it, after what has happened — that her engage- 
ment has ever had a strong hold on her affections. It is an 
engagement of honour, not of love — her father sanctioned it 
on his death-bed, two years since — she herself neither 
welcomed it, nor shrank from it — she was content to make it. 
Till you came here, she was in the position of hundreds of 
other women, who marry men without being greatly attracted 
to them or greatly repelled by them, and who learn to love 
them (when they don't learn to hate !) after marriage, instead 
of before. I hope more earnestly than words can say — and 
you should have the self-sacrificing courage to hope too — that 
the new thoughts and feelings which have disturbed the old 
calmness and the old content, have not taken root too deeply 
to be ever removed. Your absence (if I had less belief in your 
honour, and your courage, and your sense, I should not trust 
to them as I am trusting now) — your absence will help my 
efforts ; and time will help us all three. It is something to know 
that my first confidence in you was not all misplaced. It is some- 
thing to know that you will not be less honest, less manly, less 
considerate towards the pupil whose relation to yourself you 
have had the misfortune to forget, than towards the stranger 
and the outcast whose appeal to you was not made in vain.' 

Again the chance reference to the woman in white ! Was 
there no possibility of speaking of Miss Fairlie and of me 
without raising the memory of Anne Catherick, and setting 
her between us like a fatality that it was hopeless to avoid ? 

' Tell me what apology I can make to Mr. Fairlie for break- 
ing my engagement,' I said. 'Tell me when to go after that 
apology is accepted. I promise implicit obedience to you and 
to your advice.' 

'Time is, every way, of importance,' she answered. 'You 
heard me refer this rnorning to Monday next, and to the 

^60 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

necessity of setting the purple room in order. The visitor 
whom we expect on Monday ' 

I could not wait for her to be more expUcit. Knowing what 
I knew now, the memory of Miss Fairlie's look and manner 
at the breakfast-table told me that the expected visitor at 
Limmeridge House was her future husband. I tried to force 
it back ; but something rose within me at that moment 
stronger than my own will ; and I interrupted Miss 
Halcombe. 

' Let me go to-dav,' I said, bitterly. ' The sooner the 
better.' 

* No ; not to-day,' she replied. ' The only reason you can 
assign to Mr. Fairlle for your departure, before the end of 
your engagement, must be that an unforeseen necessity com- 
pels you to ask his permission to return at once to London. 
You must wait till to-morrow to tell him that, at the time 
v\^hen the post comies In, because he will then understand the 
sudden change In your plans, by associating it with the arrival 
of a letter from London. It Is miserable and sickening to de- 
scend to deceit, even of the most harmless kind — but I know 
Mr. Fairlie, and if you once excite his suspicions that you are 
trifling with him, he will refuse to release you. Speak to him 
on Friday morning ; occupy yourself afterwards {for the sake 
of your own interests with your employer), in leaving your 
unfinished work In as little confusion as possible ; and quit 
this place on Saturday. It will be time enough, then, Mr. 
Hartright, for you, and for all of us.' 

Before I could assure her that she might depend on my 
acting In the strictest accordance with her wishes, we were 
both startled by advancing footsteps In the shrubbery. 
Some one was coming from the house to seek for us ! I felt 
the blood rush Into my cheeks, and then leave them again. 
Could the third person who was fast approaching us, at such 
a time and under such circumstances, be Miss Fairlie ? 

It was a relief — so sadly, so hopelessly was my position 
towards her changed already — It was absolutely a relief to 
me, when the person who had disturbed us appeared at the 
entrance of the summer-house, and proved to be only Miss 
Fairlie's maid. 

' Could I speak to you for a moment, miss ? ' said the 
girl, in rather a flurried, unsettled manner. 

Miss Halcombe descended the steps into the shrubbery, 
and walked aside a few paces vvith the maid. 

Left by myself, my mind reverted, with a sense of forlorn 
wretchedness which it is not in any words that I can find to 

6i 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

describe, to my approaching return to the solitude and the 
despair of my lonely London home. Thoughts of my kind 
old mother, and of my sister, who had rejoiced with her so 
innocently over my prospects in Cumberland — thoughts whose 
long banishment from my heart it was now my shame and my 
reproach to realise for the first time — came back to me with 
the loving mournfulness of old, neglected friends. My 
mother and my sister, what would they feel when I returned 
to them from my broken engagement, with the confession of 
my miserable secret — they who had parted from me so hope- 
fully on that last happy night in the Hampstead cottage ! 

Anne Catherick again ! Even the memcfry of the farewell 
evening with my mother and my sister could not return to 
me now, unconnected with that Other memory of the moon- 
light walk back to London. What did it mean ? W^ere that 
woman and I to meet once more ? It was possible, at the 
least. Did she know that I lived in London ? Yes ; I had 
told her so, either before or after that strange question of 
hers, when she had asked me so distrustfully if I knew many 
men of the rank of Baronet. Either before or after — my 
mind was not calm enough, then, to remember which. 

A few minutes elapsed before Miss Halcombc dismissed 
the maid and came back to me. She, too, looked flurried 
and unsettled, now. 

' We have arranged all that is necessary, Mr. Hartright,' 
she said. * We have understood each other, as friends 
should ; and we may go back at once to the house. To tell 
you the truth, I am uneasy about Laura. She has sent to 
say she wants to see me directly ; and the maid reports 
that her mistress is apparently very much agitated by a letter 
that she has received this morning — the same letter, no doubt, 
which I sent on to the house before we came here.' 

We retraced our steps together hastily along the shrub- 
bery path. Although Miss Halcombe had ended all that she 
thought it necessary to say, on her side, I had not ended all 
that I wanted to say on mine. From the moment when I had 
discovered that the expected visitor at Limmeridge was Miss 
Fairlie's future husband, I had felt a bitter curiosity, a burn- 
ing envious eagerness, to know who he was. It was possible 
that a future opportunity of putting the question might not 
easily offer ; so I risked asking it on our way back to the 
house. 

' Now that you are kind enough to tell me we have under- 
stood each other. Miss Halcombe,' I said ; ' nov/ that you are 
sure of my gratitude for your forbearance and my obedience 

62 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

to your wishes, may I venture to ask who ' — (I hesitated ; I 
had forced myself to think of him, but it was harder still to 
speak of him, as her promised husband) — ' who the gentleman 
engaged to Miss Fairlie, is? ' 

Her mind was evidently occupied with the message she 
had received from her sister. She answered, in a hasty, 
absent way : 

' A gentleman of large property, in Hampshire.' 

Hampshire ! Anne Catherick's native place. Again, and 
yet again, the woman in white. There 7vas a fatality in it. 

' And his name ? ' I said, as quietly and indifferently as I 
could. 

' Sir Percival Glyde.' 

Sir — Sir Percival ! Anne Catherick's question — that sus- 
picious question about the men of the rank of Baronet whom 
I might happen to know — had hardly been dismissed from my 
mind by Miss Halcohibe's return to me in the summer-house, 
before it v/as recalled again by her own answer. I stopped 
suddenly, and looked at her. 

' Sir Percival Glyde,' she repeated, imagining that I had 
not heard her former reply. 

' Knight, or Baronet ? ' I asked v/ith an agitation that I 
could hide no longer. 

She paused for a moment, and then answered, rather 
coldly : 

* Baronet, of course.' 

XI. 

Not a word more was said, on either side, as we walked 
back to the house. Miss Halcombe hastened immediately to 
her sister's room ; and I withdrew to my studio to set in order 
all of Mr. Fairlie's drawings that I had not yet mounted and 
restored before I resigned them to the care of other hands. 
Thoughts that I had hitherto restrained, thoughts that made 
my position harder than ever to -endure, crowded on me now 
that I was alone. 

She was engaged to be married ; and her future husband 
was Sir Percival Glyde. A man of the rank of baronet, and 
the owner of property in Hampshire. 

There were hundreds of baronets in England, and dozens 
of landowners in Hampshire. Judging by the ordinary rules 
of evidence, I had not the shadow of a reason, thus far, for 
connecting Sir Percival Glyde with the suspicious v.^ords of 
inquiry that had been spoken to me by the woman in white. 

63 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

And yet, I did connect him with them. Was it because he had 
now become associated in my mind with Miss Fairhe ; Miss 
Fairlie being, in her turn, associated with Anne Catherick, 
since the nig-ht when I had discovered the ominous hkeness 
between them ? Had the events of the morning- so unnerved 
me already that I was at the mercy of any dehision which 
common chances and common coincidences might suggest to 
my imagination ? Impossible to say. I could only feel that 
what had passed between Miss Halcombe and myself, on our 
way from the summer-house, had affected me very strangely. 
The foreboding of some undiscoverable danger lying hid from 
us all in the darkness of the future, was strong on me. The 
doubt whether I was not linked already to a chain of events 
which even my approaching departure from Cumberland 
would be powerless to snap asunder — the doubt whether we 
any of us saw the end as the end would really be — gathered 
more and more darkly over my mind. Poignant as it was, the 
sense of suffering caused by the miserable end of my brief, 
presumptuous love, seemed to be blunted and deadened by the 
still stronger sense of something obscurely impending, some- 
thing invisibly threatening, that Time was holding over our 
heads. 

I had been engaged with the drawings little more than 
half an hour, when there was a knock at the door. It opened, 
on my answering ; and, to my surprise, Miss Halcombe entered 
the room. 

Her manner was angry and agitated. She caught up a 
chair for herself before I could give her one ; and sat down in 
it, close at my side. 

* Mr. Hartright,' she said, * I had hoped that all painful 
subjects of conversation were exhausted between us, for to- 
day at least. But it is not to be so. There Is some imder- 
hand villainy at work to frighten my sister about her approach- 
ing marriage. You saw me send the gardener on to the 
house, with a letter addressed, In a strange handwriting, to 
Miss Fairlie ? ' 

' Certainly.* 

' The letter Is an anonymous letter — a vile attempt to 
Injure Sir Perclval Clyde in my sister's estimation. It has so 
agitated and alarmed her that I have had the greatest possible 
difficulty In composing her spirits sufficiently to allow me to 
leave her room and come here. I know this is a family matter 
on which I ought not to consult you, and In which you can 
feel no concern or Interest ' 

' I beg vour pardon, Miss Halcombe. I feel the strongest, 

^4 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

possible concern and interest in anything that affects Miss 
Fairlie's happiness or yours.' 

' I am g-lad to hear you say so. You are the only person 
in the house, or out of it, who can advise me. Mr. Fairlie, in 
his state of health and with his horror of difficulties and mys- 
teries of all kinds, is not to be thought of. The clergyman is 
a good, weak man, who knows nothing out of the routine of his 
duties ; and our neighbours are just the sort of comfortable, 
jog-trot acquaintances whom one cannot disturb in times of 
trouble and danger. What I want to know is this : ought I, 
at once, to take such steps as I can to discover the writer of 
the letter ? or ought I to wait, and apply to Mr. Fairlie's legal 
adviser to-morrow ? It is a question — perhaps a very im- 
portant one — of gaining or losing a day. Tell me what you 
think, Mr. Hartright. If necessity had not already obliged 
me to take you into my confidence under very delicate circum- 
stances, even my helpless situation would, perhaps, be no 
excuse for me. But, as things are, I cannot surely be wrong, 
after all that has passed between us, in forgetting that you 
are a friend of only three months' standing.' 

She gave me the letter. It began abruptly, without any 
preliminary form of address, as follows : 

* Do you believe in dreams ? I hope, for your own sake, 
that you do. See what Scripture says about dreams and 
their fulfilment (Genesis xl. 8, xli; 25 ; Daniel iv. 18-25) 5 
and take the warning I send you before it is too late. 

' Last night, I dreamed about you. Miss Fairlie. I 
dreamed that I was standing inside the communion rails of a 
church : I on one side of the altar-table, and the clergyman, 
with his surplice and his prayer-book, on the other. 

' After a time, there walked towards us, down the aisle of 
the church, a man and a woman, coming to be married. You 
were the woman. You looked so pretty and innocent in your 
beautiful white silk dress, and your long white lace veil, that 
my heart felt for you and the tears came into my eyes. 

' They were tears of pity, young lady, that heaven blesses ; 
and, instead of falling from my e3-es like the every-day tears 
that we all of us shed, they turned into two rays of light which 
slanted nearer and nearer to the man standing at the altar 
with you, till they touched his breast. The two rays sprang 
in arches like two rainbows, between me and him. I looked 
along them ; and I saw down into his inmost heart. 

' The outside of the man you were marrying was fair 
enousfh to see. He was neither tall, nor short — he was a 

63 F 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

little below the middle size. A light, active, high-spirited 
man — about five-and-forty years old, to look at. He had a 
pale face, and was bald over the forehead, but had dark hair 
on the rest of his head. His beard vvas shaven on his chin, 
but was let to grow, of a fine rich brown, on his cheeks and 
his upper lip. His eyes were brown too, and very bright ; 
his nose straight and handsome and delicate enough to have 
done for a woman's. His hands the same. He was troubled 
from time to time with a dry hacking cough ; and when he 
put up his white right hand to his mouth, he showed the 
red scar of an old wound across the back of it. Have I 
dreamt of the right man ? You know best. Miss Fairlie ; 
and you can say if I was deceived or not. Read next, what 
I saw beneath the outside — I entreat you, read, and profit. 

* I looked along the two rays of light ; and I saw down 
into his inmost heart. It .was black as night ; and on it were 
written, in the red flaming letters which are the handwriting 
of the fallen angel: "Without pity and without remorse. 
He has strewn with misery the paths of others, and he will 
live to strew with misery the path of this woman by his side." 
I read that ; and then the rays of light shifted and pointed 
over his shoulder ; and there, behind him, stood a fiend, 
laughing. And the rays of light shifted once more, and 
pointed over your shoulder ; and there, behind you, stood an 
angel weeping. And the rays of light shifted for the third 
time, and pointed straight between you and that man. They 
widened and widened, thrusting you both asunder, one from 
the other. And the clergyman looked for the marriage-service 
in vain : it was gone out of the book, and he shut up the 
leaves, and put it from him in despair. And I woke with my 
eyes full of tears and my heart beating — for / believe in 
dreams. 

'Believe, too, Miss Fairlie — I beg of you, for your own 
sake, believe as I do. Joseph and Daniel, and others in 
Scripture, believed in dreams. Inquire into the past life of 
that man with the scar on his hand, before you say the words 
that make you his miserable wife. I don't give you this 
warning on my account, but on yours. I have an interest in 
your well-being that will live as long as I draw breath. Your 
mother's daughter has a tender place in my heart — for your 
mother was my first, my best, my only friend.' 

There, the extraordinary letter ended, without signature of 
any sort. 

The handwriting aflforded no prospect of a clue. It was 

66 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

traced on ruled lines, in the cramped, conventional, copybook 
character, technically termed ' small hand.' It was feeble and 
faint, and defaced by blots, but had otherwise nothing to 
distinguish it. 

* That is not an illiterate letter,' said Miss Halcombe, ' and, 
at the same time, it is surely too incoherent to be the letter 
of an educated person in the higher ranks of life. The refer- 
ence to the bridal dress and veil, and other little expressions, 
seem to point to it as the production of some woman. What 
do you think, Mr. Hartright? ' 

' I think so too. It seems to me to be not only the letter 
of a woman, but of a woman whose mind must be ' 

' Deranged ? ' suggested Miss Halcombe. ' It struck me 
in that light, too.' 

I did not answer. While I was speaking, my eyes rested 
on the last sentence of the letter : * Your mother's daughter 
has a tender place in my heart — for your mother was my first, 
my best, my only friend.' Those words and the doubt which 
had just escaped me as to the sanity of the writer of the letter, 
acting together on my mind, suggested an idea, which I was 
literally afraid to express openly, or even to encourage secretly. 
I began to doubt whether my own faculties were not in danger 
of losing their balance. It seemed almost like a monomania 
to be tracing back everything strange that happened, every- 
thing unexpected that v>'as said, always to the same hidden 
source and the same sinister influence. I resolved, this time, 
in defence of my own courage and my own sense, to come to 
no de-cision that plain fact did not warrant, and to turn my 
back resolutely on everything that tempted me in the shape 
of surmise. 

' If we have any chance of tracing the person who has 
written this,' I said, returning the letter to Miss Halcombe, 
' there can be no harm in seizing our opportunity the moment 
it offers. I think we ought to speak to the gardener again 
about the elderly v\-oman who gave him the letter, and then 
to continue our inquiries in the village. But first let me ask 
a question. You mentioned just now the alternative of con- 
sulting Mr. Fairlie's legal adviser to-morrow. Is there no 
possibility of communicating with him earlier ? Why not to- 
day ? ' 

' I can only explain,' replied Miss Halcombe, ' by entering 
into certain particulars, connected w-ith my sister's marriage 
engagement, w'hich I did not think it necessary or desirable 
to mention to you this morning. One of Sir Percival Glyde's 
objects in coming here, on Monday, is to fix the period of 

67 F2 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

his marriage, which has hitherto been left quite unsettled. 
He is anxious that the event should take place before the end 
of the year.' 

' Does Miss Fairlie know of that wish ? ' I asked, eagerly. 

' She has no suspicion of it ; and, after what has 
happened, I shall not take the responsibility upon myself of 
enlightening her. Sir Percival has only mentioned his views 
to Mr. Fairlie, who has told me himself that he is ready and 
anxious, as Laura's guardian, to forward them. He has 
written to London, to the family solicitor, Mr. Gilmore. 
Mr. Gilmore happens to be away in Glasgow on business ; 
and he has replied by proposing to stop at Limmeridge 
House, on his way back to town. He will arrive to-morrow, 
and will stay with us a few days, so as to allow Sir Percival 
time to plead his own cause. If he succeeds, Mr. Gilmore 
will then return to London, taking with him his instructions 
for my sister's marriage-settlement. You understand now, 
Mr. Hartright, why I speak of waiting to take legal advice 
until to-morrow ? Mr. Gilmore is the old and tried friend of 
two generations of Fairlies ; and wc can trust him, as we 
could trust no one else.' 

The marriage-settlement ! The mere hearing of those 
two words stung me with a jealous despair that was poison 
to my higher and better instincts. I began to think — it is 
hard to confess this, but I must suppress nothing from 
beginning to end of the terrible story that I now stand com- 
mitted to reveal— I began to think, with a hateful eagerness 
of hope, of the vague charges against Sir Percival Glyde 
which the anonymous letter contained. What if those wild 
accusations rested on a foundation of truth ? What if their 
truth could be proved before the fatal words of consent were 
spoken, and the marriage-settlement was drawn ? I have 
tried to think, since, that the feeling which then animated me 
began and ended in pure devotion to Miss Fairlie's interests. 
But I have never succeeded in deceiving myself into believing 
it ; and I must not now attempt to deceive others. The 
feeling began and ended in reckless, vindictive, hopeless 
hatred of the man who was to marry her. 

* If we are to find out anything,' I said, speaking under 
the new influence which was now directing me, ' we had 
better not let another minute slip by us unemployed. I can 
only suggest, once more, the propriety of questioning the 
gardener a second time, and of inquiring in the village 
immediately afterwards.' 

' I think I m.ay be of help to vou in both cases,' said Miss 

68' 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

Halcombe, rising. * Let us go, Mr. Hartright, at once, and 
do the best we can together.' 

I had the door in my hand to open it for her — but I 
stopped, on a sudden, to ask an important question before 
we set forth. 

' One of the paragraphs of the anonymous letter,' I said, 
' contains some sentences of minute personal description. 
Sir Percival Clyde's name is not mentioned, I know — but 
does that description at all resemble him ? ' 

' Accurately ; even in stating his age to be forty-five ' 

Forty-five ; and she was not yet twenty-one ! Men of 
his age married wives of her age every day : and experience 
had shown those marriages to be often the happiest ones. 
I knew that — and yet even the mention of his age, when I 
contrasted it with hers, added to my blind hatred and dis- 
trust of him. 

'Accurately,' Miss Halcombe continued, 'even to the 
scar on his right hand, which is the scar of a wound that he 
received years since when he was travelling in Italy. There 
can be no doubt that every peculiarity of his personal 
appearance is thoroughly well known to the writer of the 
letter.' 

' Even a cough that he is troubled with is mentioned, if I 
remember right ? ' 

' Yes, and mentioned correctly. He treats it lightly him- 
self, though it sometimes makes his friends anxious about 
him.' 

' I suppose no whispers have ever been heard against his 
character ? ' 

' Mr. Hartright ! I hope you are not unjust enough to 
let that infamous letter influence you ? ' 

I felt the blood rush into my cheeks, for I knew that it 
had influenced me. 

'I hope not,' I answered, confusedly. 'Perhaps I Lad 
no right to ask the question.' 

' 1 am not sorry you asked it,' she said, ' for it enables me 
to do justice to Sir Percival's reputation. Not a whisper, 
Mr. Hartright, has ever reached me, or my family, against 
him. He has fought successfully two contested elections ; 
and has come out of the ordeal unscathed. A man who 
can do that, in England, is a man whose character is estab- 
lished.' 

I opened the door for her in silence, and followed her out. 
She had not convinced me. If the recording angel had come 
down from heaven to confirm her, and had opened his book 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

to my mortal eyes, the recording angel would not have 
convhiced me. 

We found the gardener at work as usual. No amount of 
questioning could extract a single answer of any importance 
from the lad's impenetrable stupidity. The woman who had 
given him the letter was an elderly woman ; she had not 
spoken a word to him ; and she had gone away towards the 
south in a great hurry. That was all the gardener could tell 
us. 

The village lay southward of the house. So to the village 
we went next. 

XII. 

Our inquiries at Limmeridge were patiently pursued in all 
directions, and among all sorts and conditions of people. 
But nothing came of them. Three of the villagers did 
certainly assure us that they had seen the woman ; but as 
they were quite unable to describe her, and quite incapable of 
agreeing about the exact direction in which she was proceed- 
ing when they last saw her, these three bright exceptions to 
the general rule of total ignorance afforded no more real 
assistance to us than the mass of their unhelpful and unob- 
servant neighbours. 

The course of our useless investigations brought us, in 
time, to the end of the village at which the schools established 
by Mrs. Fairlie were situated. As we passed the side of the 
building appropriated to the use of the boys, I suggested the 
propriety of making a last inquiry of the schoolmaster, whom 
we might presume to be, in virtue of his office, the most 
intelligent man in the place. 

' I am afraid the schoolmaster must have been occupied 
with his scholars,' said Miss Halcombe, 'just at the time 
when the woman passed through the village, and returned 
again. However we can but try.' 

We entered the playground enclosure, and walked by the 
schoolroom window, to get round to the door, which was 
situated at the back of the building. I stopped for a moment 
at the window and looked in. 

The schoolmaster was sitting at his high desk, with his 
back to me, apparently haranguing the pupils, who were all 
gathered together in front of him, with one exception. The 
one exception was a sturdy white-headed boy, standing apart 
from all the rest on a stool in a corner — a forlorn little Crusoe, 
isolated in his own desert island of solitary penal disgrace. 

The door, when we got round to it, was ajar ; and the 

70 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

schoolmaster's voice reached us plainly, as we both stopped 
for a minute under the porch. 

' Now, boys,' said the voice, ' mind what I tell you. If I 
hear another word spoken about ghosts in this school, it will 
be the worst for all of you. There are no such things as 
ghosts ; and, therefore, any boy who believes in ghosts 
believes in what can't possibly be ; and a boy who belongs to 
Limmeridge School, and believes in what can't possibly be, 
sets up his back against reason and discipline, and must be 
punished accordingly. You all see Jacob Postlethwaite stand- 
ing up on the stool there in disgrace. He has been punished, 
not because he said he saw a ghost last night, but because 
he is too impudent and too obstinate to listen to reason ; and 
because he persists in saying he saw the ghost after I have 
told him that no such thing can possibly be. If nothing else 
w'ill do, I mean to cane the ghost out of Jacob Postlethwaite ; 
and if the thing spreads among any of the rest of you, I mean 
to go a step farther, and cane the ghost out of the whole 
school.' 

* We seem to have chosen an awkv/ard moment for our 
visit,' said Miss Halcombe, pushing open the door, at the 
end of the schoolmaster's address, and leading the way in. 

Our appearance produced a strong sensation among the 
boys. They appeared to think that we had arrived for the 
express purpose of seeing Jacob Postlethwaite caned. 

' Go home all of you to dinner,' said the schoolmaster, 
* except Jacob. Jacob must stop where he is ; and the ghost 
may bring him his dinner, if the ghost pleases.' 

Jacob's fortitude deserted him at the double disappearance 
of his schoolfellows and his prospect of dinner. He took_ his 
hands out of his pockets, looked hard at his knuckles, raised 
them with great deliberation to his eyes, and, when they got 
there, ground them round and round slowly, accompanying 
the action by short spasms of sniffing, which followed each 
other at regular intervals — the nasal minute guns of juvenile 
distress. 

' We came here to ask you a question, Mr. Dempster,' 
said Miss Halcombe, addressing the schoolmaster ; ' and Ave 
little expected to find you occupied in exorcising a ghost. 
What does it all mean ? What has really happened ? ' 

' That wicked boy has been frightening the whole school, 
Miss Halcombe, by declaring that he saw a ghost yesterday 
evening,' answered the master. ' And he still persists in his 
absurd story, in spite of all that I can say to him.' 

* Most extraordinary,' said Miss Halcombe. * I should 

71 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

not have thought it possible that any of the boys had Imagina- 
tion enough to see a ghost. This is a new accession indeed 
to the hard labour of forming the youthful mind at Limme- 
ridge — and I heartily wish you well through it, Mr. Dempster. 
In the mean time, let me explain why you see me here, and 
what it is I want.' 

She then put the same question to the schoolmaster, which 
we had asked already of almost every one else in the village. 
It was met by the same discouraging answer. Mr. Dempster 
had not set eyes on the stranger of whom we were in search. 

' We may as well return to the house, Mr. Hartright,' 
said Miss Halcombe ; ' the information we want is evidently 
not to be found.' 

She had bowed to Mr. Dempster, and was about to leave 
the schoolroom, when the forlorn position of Jacob Postle- 
thwaite, piteously sniffing on the stool of penitence, attracted 
her attention as she passed him, and made her stop good- 
humouredly to speak a w^ord to the little prisoner before she 
opened the door. 

' You foolish boy,' she said, 'why don't you beg Mr. 
Dempster's pardon, and hold your tongue about the ghost ? ' 

* Eh ! — but I saw t' ghaist,' persisted Jacob Postlethwaite, 
with a stare of terror and a burst of tears. 

' Stuff and nonsense ! You saw nothing of the kind. 
Ghost indeed ! What ghost ' 

* I beg your pardon, Miss Halcombe,' interposed the 
schoolmaster, a little uneasily — ' but I think you had better 
not question the boy. The obstinate folly of his story is be- 
yond all belief ; and you might lead him into ignorantly — — * 

' Ignorantl}^, what?' inquired Miss Halcombe, sharply. 

' Ignorantly shocking your feelings,' said Mr. Dempster, 
looking very much discomposed. 

' Upon my word, Mr. Dempster, you pay my feelings a 
great compliment in thinking them weak enough to be 
shocked by such an urchin as that ! ' She turned with an air 
of satirical defiance to little Jacob, and began to question 
him directly. ' Come ! ' she said ; ' I mean to know all about 
this. You naughty boy, when did you see the ghost ? ' 

' Yester'een, at the gloaming,' replied Jacob. 

' Oh ! you saw it yesterday evening, in the twilight ? 
And what was it like ? ' 

' Arl in white — as a ghaist should be,' answered the ghost- 
seer, with a confidence beyond his years. 

' And where was it ? ' 

* Away yander, in t' kirkyard — where a ghaist ought to be.* 

72 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

*As a "ghaist" should be — where a "ghaist" ought to 
be — why, you little fool, you talk as If the manners and 
customs of ghosts had been familiar to you from your infancy ! 
You have got your story at your fingers' ends, at any rate. 
I suppose I shall hear next that you can actually tell me 
whose ghost it was ? ' 

' Eh ! but I just can,' replied Jacob, nodding his head with 
an air of gloomy triumph. 

Mr. Dempster had already tried several times to speak, 
while Miss Halcombe was examining his pupil ; and he now 
interposed resolutely enough to make himself heard. 

' Excuse me. Miss Halcombe,' he said, ' if I venture to say 
that you are only encouraging the boy by asking him these 
questions.' 

' I will merely ask one more, Mr. Dempster, and then I 
shall be quite satisfied. Well,' she continued, turning to the 
boy, * and whose ghost was it ? ' 

*T' ghaist of Mistress Falrlie,' answered Jacob in a 
whisper. 

The effect which this extraordinary reply produced on 
Miss Halcombe, fully justified the anxiety which the school- 
master had shown to prevent her from hearing it. Her face 
crimsoned with indignation — she turned upon little Jacob with 
an angry suddenness which terrified him into a fresh burst 
of tears — opened her lips to speak to him — then controlled 
herself — and addressed the master instead of the boy. 

' It is useless,' she said, ' to hold such a child as that 
responsible for what he says. I have little doubt that the 
idea has been put into his head by others. If there are 
people in this village, Mr. Dempster, who have forgotten 
the respect and gratitude due from every soul in it to my 
mother's memory, I will find them out ; and, if I have any 
influence with Mr. Fairlie, they shall suffer for it.' 

* I hope — indeed, I am sure. Miss Halcombe — that you 
are mistaken,' said the schoolmaster. 'The matter begins 
and ends with the boy's own perversity and folly. He saw, 
or thought he saw, a woman in white, yesterday evening, as 
he was passing the churchyard ; and the figure, real or 
fancied, was standing by the marble cross, which he and 
every one else in Limmeridge knows to be the monument 
over Mrs. Fairlie's grave. These two circumstances are 
surely sufficient to have suggested to the boy himself the 
answer which has so naturally shocked you ? ' 

Although iSIiss Halcombe did not seem to be convinced, 
she evidently felt that the schoolmaster's statement of the 

73 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

case was too sensible to be openly combated. She merely 
replied by thanking him for his attention, and by promising 
to see him again when her doubts were satisfied. This said, 
she bowed, and led the way out of the schoolroom. 

Throughout the whole of this strange scene, I had stood 
apart, listening attentively, and drawing my own conclusions. 
As soon as we were alone again, Miss Halcombe asked me if 
I had formed any opinion on what I had heard. 

' A very strong opinion,' I answered ; ' the boy's storj-, as 
I believe, has a foundation in fact. I confess I am anxious 
to see the monument over Mrs. Fairlie's grave, and to 
examine the ground about it.' 

' You shall see the grave.' 

She paused after making that reply, and reflected a little 
as we walked on. * What has happened in the schoolroom,' 
she resumed, ' has so completely distracted my attention from 
the subject of the letter, that I feel a little bewildered when I 
try to return to it. Must we give up all idea of making any 
further inquiries, and wait to place the thing in Mr. Gilmore's 
hands, to-morrow? ' 

' By no means, Miss Halcombe. What has happened in 
the schoolroom encourages me to persevere in the investiga- 
tion.' 

* Why does it encourage you ? ' 

* Because it strengthens a suspicion I felt, when you gave 
me the letter to read.' 

* I suppose you had your reasons, Mr. Hartright, for 
concealing that suspicion from me till this moment ? ' 

' I was afraid to encourage it in myself. I thought it was 
utterly preposterous — I distrusted it as the result of some 
perversity in my own imagination. But I can do so no longer. 
Not only the boy's own answers to your questions, but even 
a chance expression that dropped from the schoolmaster's 
lips in explaining his story, have forced the idea back into 
my mind. Events may yet prove that idea to be a delusion, 
Miss Halcombe ; but the belief is strong in me, at this moment, 
that t+ie fancied ghost in the churchyard, and the writer of 
the anonymous letter, are one and the same person.' 

She stopped, turned pale, and looked me eagerly in the 
face. 

* What person ? ' 

* The schoolmaster unconsciously told you. When he 
spoke of the figure that the boy saw in the churchyard, he 
called it " a woman in white." ' 

* Not Anne Catherick ! ' 

74 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

' Yes, Anne Catherick.' 

She put her hand throug-h my arm, and leaned on it 
heavily. 

' I don't know why,' she said, in low tones, ' but there is 
something in this suspicion of yours that seems to startle and 

unnerve me. I feel ' She stopped, and tried to laugh it 

off. ' Mr. Hartright,' she went on, ' I will show you the 
grave, and then go back at once to the house. I had better 
not leave Laura too long- alone. I had better go back, and 
sit with her.' 

We were close to the churchyard when she spoke. The 
church, a dreary building of gray stone, was situated in a 
little valley, so as to be sheltered from the bleak winds blow- 
ing- over the moorland all round it. The burial-ground 
advanced, from the side of the church, a little way up the 
slope of the hill. It was surrounded by a rough, low stone 
wall, and was bare and open to the sky, except at one 
extremity, where a brook trickled down the stony hill side, 
and a clump of dwarf trees threw their narrow shadows 
over the short, meagre grass. Just beyond the brook and 
the trees, and not far from one of the three stone stiles which 
afforded entrance, at various points, to the churchyard, rose 
the white marble cross that distinguished Mrs. Fairlie's grave 
^from the humbler monuments scattered about it. 

* I need go no farther with you,' said Miss Halcombe, 
pointing to the grave. * You will let me know if you find 
anything to confirm the idea you have just mentioned to me. 
Let us meet again at the house.' 

She left me. I descended at once to the churchyard, and 
crossed the stile which led directly to Mrs. Fairlie's grave. 

The grass about it was too short, and the ground too 
hard, to show any marks of footsteps. Disappointed thus 
far, I next looked attentively at the cross, and at the square 
block of marble below it, on which the inscription was cut. 

The natural whiteness of the cross was a little clouded, 
here and there, by weather-stains ; and rather more than one 
half of the square block beneath it, on the side which bore 
the inscription, was in the same condition. The other half, 
however, attracted my attention at once by its singular free- 
dom from stain or impurity of any kind. I looked closer, 
and saw that it had been cleaned — recently cleaned, in a 
downward direction from top to bottom. The boundary line 
between the part that had been cleaned and the part that had 
not, was traceable wherever the inscription left a blank space 
of marble — sharply traceable as a line that had been produced 

75 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

by artificial means. Who had beg-un the cleansing- of the 
marble, and who had left it unfinished ? 

I looked about me, wondering how the question was to 
be solved. No sign of a habitation could be discerned from 
the point at which I was standing : the burial-ground was 
left in the lonely possession of the dead. I returned to the 
church, and walked round it till I came to the back of the 
building ; then crossed the boundary wall beyond, by another 
of the stone stiles ; and found myself at the head of a path 
leading down into a deserted stone quarry. Against one 
side of the quarry a little two room cottage was built ; and 
just outside the door an old woman was engaged in washing. 

I walked up to her, and entered into conversation about 
the church and burial-ground. She was ready enough to 
talk ; and almost the first words she said informed me that 
her husband filled the two offices of clerk and sexton. I said 
a few words next in praise of Mrs. Fairlie's monument. The 
old woman shook her head, and told me I had not seen it at 
its best. It was her husband's business to look after it ; but 
he had been so ailing and weak, for months and months past, 
that he had hardly been able to crawl into church on Sundays 
to do his duty ; and the monument had been neglected in 
consequence. He was getting a little better now ; and, in a 
week or ten days' time, he hoped to be strong enough to set 
to work and clean it. 

This information — extracted from a long rambling answer, 
in the broadest Cumberland dialect — told me all that I most 
wanted to know. I gave the poor woman a trifle, and 
returned at once to Limmeridge House. 

The partial cleansing of the monument had evidently been 
accomplished by a strange hand. Connecting what I had 
discovered, thus far, with what I had suspected after hearing 
the story of the ghost seen at twilight, I wanted nothing 
more to confirm my resolution to watch Mrs. Fairlie's grave, 
in secret, that evening ; returning to it at sunset, and wait- 
ing within sight of it till the night fell. The work of clean- 
sing the monument had been left unfinished ; and the person 
by whom it had been begun might return to complete it. 

On getting back to the house, I informed Miss Halcombe 
of what I intended to do. She looked surprised and uneasy, 
while I was explaining my purpose ; but she made no positive 
objection to the execution of it. She only said, ' I hope it 
may end well.' Just as she was leaving me again, I stopped 
her to inquire, as calmly as I could, after Miss Fairlie's 
health. She was in better spirits ; and Miss Halcombe 

76 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

hoped she might be induced to take a little walking* exercise 
while the afternoon sun lasted. 

I returned to my own room, to resume setting the draw- 
ings in order. It was necessary to do this, and doubly neces- 
sary to keep my mind employed on anything that would help 
to distract my attention from myself, and from the hopeless 
future that lay before me. From time to time, I paused in 
my work to look out of window and watch the sky as the 
sun sank nearer and nearer to the horizon. On one of those 
occasions I saw a figure on the broad gravel walk under my 
window. It was Miss Fairlie. 

I had not seen her since the morning ; and I had hardly 
spoken to her then. Another day at Limmeridge was all that 
remained to me ; and after that day my eyes might never 
look on her again. This thought was enough to hold me at 
the window. I had sufficient consideration for her, to 
arrange the blind so that she might not see me if she looked 
up ; but I had no strength to resist the temptation of letting 
my eyes, at least, follow her as far as they could on her walk. 

She was dressed in a brown cloak, with a plain black silk 
gown under it. On her head was the same simple straw hat 
which she had worn on the morning when we first met. A 
veil was attached to it now, which hid her face from me. By 
her side, trotted a little Italian greyhound, the pet companion 
of all her walks, smartly dressed in a scarlet cloth wrapper, 
to keep the sharp air from his delicate skin. She did not 
seem to notice the dog. She walked straight forward, with 
her head drooping a little, and her arms folded in her cloak. 
The dead leaves which had whirled in the wind before me, 
v/hen I had heard of her marriage engagement in the morning, 
whirled in the wind before her, and rose and fell and scat- 
tered themselves at her feet, as she walked en in the pale 
waning sunlight. The dog shivered and trembled, and 
pressed against her dress impatiently for notice and encour- 
agement. But she never heeded him. She walked on, 
farther and farther away from me, with the dead leaves 
whirling about her on the path — walked on, till my aching 
eyes could see her no more, and I was left alone again with 
my own heavy heart. 

In another hour's time, I had done my work, and the 
sunset was at hand. I got my hat and coat in the hall, and 
slipped out of the house without meeting anyone. 

The clouds were wild in the western heaven, and the wind 
blew chill from the sea. Far as the shore was, the sound of 
the surf swept over the intervening moorland, and beat 

77 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

drearily in my ears, when I entered the churchyard. Not a 
living creature was in sight. The place looked lonelier than 
ever, as I chose my position, and waited and watched, with 
my eyes on the white cross that rose over Mrs. Fairlie's 
grave. 

XIII. 

The exposed situation of the churchyard had obliged me to 
be cautious in choosing the position 'that I was to occupy. 

The main entrance to the church was on the side next to 
the burial-ground ; and the door was screened by a porch 
walled in on either side. After some little hesitation, caused 
by natural reluctance to conceal myself, indispensable as that 
concealment was to the object in view, I had resolved on 
entering the porch. A loophole window was pierced in each 
of its side walls. Through one of these windows I could see 
Mrs. Fairlie's grave. The other looked towards the stone 
quarry in which the sexton's cottage was built. Before me, 
fronting the porch entrance, was a patch of bare burial- 
ground, a line of low stone wall, and a strip of lonely brown 
hill, with the sunset clouds sailing heavily over it before the 
strong, steady wind. No living creature was visible or 
audible— no bird flew by me ; no dog barked from the sexton's 
cottage. The pauses in the dull beating of the surf were 
filled up by the dreary rustling of the dwarf trees near the 
grave, and the cold faint bubble of the brook over its stony 
bed. A dreary scene and a dreary hour. My spirits sank 
fast as I counted out the minutes of the evening in my hidino-- 
place under the church porch. 

It was not tvvilight yet— the light of the setting sun still 
lingered in the heavens, and little more than the first half- 
hour of my solitary watch had elapsed— when I heard foot- 
steps, and a voice. The footsteps were approaching from 
the other side of the church ; and the voice was a woman's. 

' Don't you fret, my dear, about the letter,' said the voice. 
' I gave it to the lad quite safe, and the lad he took it from me 
without a word. He vvent his way and I went mine ; and 
not a living soul followed me, afterwards— that I'll warrant.' 

These words strung up my attention to a pitch of expectation 
that was almost painful. There was a pause of silence, but 
the footsteps still advanced. In another moment, two persons, 
both women, passed within my range of view from the porch 
window. They were walking straight towards the grave ; 
and therefore they had their backs turned towards me. 

78 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

One of the women was dressed in a bonnet and shawl. 
The other wore a long travelling-cloak of a dark-blue colour, 
with the hood drawn over her head. A few inches of her 
gown were visible below the cloak. My heart beat fast as I 
noted the colour — it was white. 

After advancing about halt-vv-ay between the church and 
the grave, they stopped ; and the woman in the cloak turned 
her head towards her companion. But her side face, which 
a bonnet might now have allowed me to see, was hidden by 
the heavy, projecting edge of the hood. 

' Mind you keep that comfortable warm cloak on,' said 
the same voice which I had already heard — the voice of the 
woman in the shawl. ' Mrs. Todd is right about your look- 
ing too particular, yesterday, all in white. I'll walk about 
a little, while you're here ; churchyards being not at all in my 
way, whatever they may be in yours. Finish what you want 
to do, before I come back ; and let us be sure and get home 
again before night.' 

W^ith those words, she turned about, and retracing her 
steps, advanced with her face towards me. It was the face 
of an elderly woman, brown, rugged, and healthy, with 
nothing dishonest or suspicious in the look of it. Close to 
the church, she stopped to pull her shawl closer round her. 

' Queer,' she said to herself, ' always queer, with her 
whims and her ways, ever since I can remember her. Harm- 
less, though — as harmless, poor soul, as a little child.' 

She sighed ; looked about the burial-ground nervously ; 
shook her head as if the dreary prospect by no means pleased 
her ; and disappeared round the corner of the church. 

I doubted for a moment whether I ought to follow and 
speak to her, or not. My intense anxiety to find myself face 
to face with her companion helped me to decide in the nega- 
tive. I could ensure seeing the woman in the shawl by 
waiting near the churchyard until she came back — although 
it seemed more than doubtful whether she could give me the 
information of which I was in search. The person who had 
delivered the letter was of little consequence. The person 
who had written it was the one centre of interest, and the 
one source of information ; and that person I now felt con- 
vinced v/as before me in the churchyard. 

While these ideas were passing through my mind, I saw 
the woman in the cloak approach close to the grave, and 
stand looking at it for a little while. She then glanced all 
round her, and, taking a white linen cloth or handkerchief 
from under her cloak, turned aside towards the brook. The 

P 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

little stream ran into the churchyard under a tiny archway in 
the bottom of the wall, and ran out again, after a winding 
course of a few dozen yards, under a similar opening. She 
dipped the cloth in the water, and returned to the grave. I 
saw her kiss the white cross ; then kneel down before the 
inscription, and apply her wet cloth to the cleansing of it- 
After considering how I could show myself with the least 
possible chance of frightening her, I resolved to cross the 
wall before me, to skirt round it outside, and to enter the 
churchyard again by the stile near the grave, in order that 
she might see me as I approached. She was so absorbed 
over her employment that she did not hear me coming until I 
had stepped over the stile. Then she looked up, started to 
her feet with a faint cry, and stood facing me in speechless 
and motionless terror. 

' Don't be frightened,' I said. * Surely, you remember 
me?' 

I stopped while I spoke— then advanced a few steps 
gently — then stopped again — and so approached by little 
and little, till I was close to her. If there had been any 
doubt still left in my mind, it must have been now set at 
rest. There, speaking affrightedly for itself — there was the 
same face confronting me over Mrs. Fairlie's grave, which 
had first looked into mine on the high-road by night. 

' You remember me ? ' I said. ' We met very late, and I 
helped you to find the way to London. Surely you have not 
forgotten that ? ' 

Her features relaxed, and she drew a heavy breath of 
relief. I saw the new life of recognition stirring slowly 
under the deathlike stillness which fear had set on her face. 

' Don't attempt to speak to me, just 3'et,' I went on. 
* Take time to recover yourself — take time to feel quite 
certain that I am a friend.' 

'You are very kind to me,' she murmured. * As kind 
now, as you were then.' 

She stopped, and I kept silence on my side. I was not 
granting time for composure to her only, I was gaining time 
also for myself. Under the wan wild evening light, that 
woman and I were met together again ; a grave between us, 
the dead about us, the lonesome hills closing us round on 
every side. The time, the place, the circumstances under 
which v.'e now stood face to face in the evening stillness of 
that dreary valley ; the life-long interests which might hang 
suspended on the next chance words that passed between 
us ; the sense that, for aught I knew to the contrary, the 

80 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

whole future of Laura Fairlie's life might be determined, for 
good or for evil, by my winning or losing the confidence of 
the forlorn creature who stood trembling by her mother's grave 
— all threatened to shake the steadiness and the self-control 
on which every inch of the progress I might yet make now 
depended. I tried hard, as I felt this, to possess myself of 
all my resources ; I did my utmost to turn the few moments 
for reflection to the best account. 

'Are you calmer, now? ' I said, as soon as I thought it 
time to speak again. ' Can you talk to me, without feeling 
frightened, and without forgetting that I am a friend ? ' 

' How did you come here ? ' she asked, without noticing 
what I had just said to her. 

' Don't you remember my telling you, when we last met, 
that I was going to Cumberland ? I have been in Cumber- 
land ever since ; I have been staying all the time at Lim- 
meridge House.' 

' At Limmeridge House ! ' Her pale face brightened as 
she repeated the words ; her wandering eyes fixed on me 
with a sudden interest. ' Ah, how happy you must have 
been ! ' she said, looking at me eagerly without a shadow 
of its former distrust left in her expression. 

I took advantage of her newl3-aroused confidence in me, 
to observe her face, with an attention and a curiosity which 
I had hitherto restrained myself from showing, for caution's 
sake. I looked at her, with my mind full of that other lovely 
face which had so ominously recalled her to my memory on 
the terrace by moonlight. I had seen Anne Catherick's 
likeness in Miss Fairlie. I now saw Miss Fairlie's likeness 
in Anne Catherick — saw it all the more clearly because the 
points of dissimilarity between the two were presented to me 
as well as the points of resemblance. In the general outline 
of the countenance and general proportion of the features ; 
in the colour of the hair and in the little nervous uncertainty 
about the lips ; in the height and size of the figure, and the 
carriage of the head and body, the likeness appeared even 
more startling than I had ever felt it to be yet. But there 
the resemblance ended, and the dissimilarity, in details, began. 
The delicate beauty of Miss Fairlie's complexion, the trans- 
parent clearness of her eyes, the smooth purity of her skin, 
the tender bloom of colour on her lips, w'ere all missing from 
the worn, weary face that was now turned towards mine. 
Although I hated myself even for thinking such a thing, still, 
while I looked at the woman before me, the idea would force 
itself into my mind that one sad change, in the future, was 

8i G 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

all that was wanting to make the likeness complete, which I 
now saw to be so imperfect in detail. If ever sorrow and 
suffering set their profaning marks on the youth and beauty 
of Miss Fairlie's face, then, and then only, Anne Catherick 
and she would be the twin-sisters of chance resemblance, the 
living reflexions of one another. 

I shuddered at the thought. There was something 
horrible in the blind unreasoning distrust of the future which 
the mere passage of it through my mind seemed to imply. 
It was a welcom.e interruption to be roused by feeling Anne 
Catherick's hand laid on my shoulder. The touch was as 
stealthy and as sudden as that other touch, which had 
petrified me from head to foot on the night when we first 
met. 

' You are looking at me ; and you are thinking of some- 
thing,' she said with her strange, breathless rapidity of 
utterance. ' What is it ? ' 

' Nothing extraordinary,' I answered. ' I was only 
wondering how you came here.' 

* I came with a friend who is very good to me. I have 
only been here two days.' 

* And you found your way to this place yesterday ? ' 

* How do you know that ? ' 
' I only guessed it.' 

She turned from me, and knelt down before the inscrip- 
tion once more. 

' Where should I go, if not here ? ' she said. ' The friend 
who w^as better than a mother to me, is the only friend I have 
to visit at Limmeridge. Oh, it makes my heart ache to see a 
stain on her tomb ! It ought to be kept white as snow, for 
her sake. I was tempted to begin cleaning it yesterday ; and 
I can't help coming back to go on with it to-day. Is there 
anything wrong in that ? I hope not. Surely nothing can 
be wrong that I do for Mrs. Fairlie's sake ? ' 

The old grateful sense of her benefactress's kindness was 
evidently the ruling idea still in the poor creature's mind — the 
narrov/ mind which had but too plainly opened to no other 
lasting impression since that first impression of her younger 
and happier days. I saw that my best chance of winning her 
confidence lay in encouraging her to proceed with the artless 
employment which she had come into the burial-ground to 
pursue. She resumed it at once, on my telling her she might 
do so ; touching the hard marble as tenderly as if it had 
been a sentient thing, and whispering the words of the 
inscription to herself, over and over again, as if the lost days 

82 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

of her g^irlhood had returned and she was patiently learning- 
her lesson once more at Mrs. Fairlie's knees. 

' Should you v/onder very much,' I said, preparing- the 
way as cautiously as I could for the questions that were to 
come, * if I owned that it is a satisfaction to me, as well as a 
surprise, to see you here ? I felt very uneasy about you after 
you left me in the cab.' 

She looked up quickly and suspiciously. 

' Uneasy,' she repeated. * Why ? ' 

' A strange thing happened., after we parted, that night. 
Two men overtook me in a chaise. They did not see where 
I was standing ; but they stopped near me, and spoke to a 
policeman, on the other side of the way.' 

She instantly suspended her employment. The hand 
holding the damp cloth with which she had been cleaning 
the inscription, dropped to her side. The other hand grasped 
the marble cross at the head of the grave. Her face turned 
towards me slowly, with the blank look of terror set rigidly 
on it once more. I went on at all hazards ; it was too late 
now to draw back. 

' The two men spoke to the policeman,' I said, * and 
asked him if he had seen you. He had not seen you ; and 
then one of the men spoke again, and said you had escaped 
from his Asylum.' 

She sprang to her feet, as if niy last words had set the 
pursuers on her track. 

* Stop ! and hear the end,' I cried. * Stop ! and you shall 
know hov/ I befriended yov.. A word from me would have 
told the men which way you had gone — and I never spoke 
that word. I helped your escape — I made it safe and certain. 
Think, try to think. Try to understand what I tell you.' 

My manner seemed to influence her more than my words. 
She made an effort to grasp the new idea. Her hands shifted 
the damp cloth hesitatingly from one to the other, exactly as 
they had shifted the little travelling-bag on the night when I 
first saw her. Slowly the purpose of my words seemed to 
force its way through the confusion and agitation of her 
mind. Slowly, her features relaxed, and her eyes looked at 
me with their expression gaining in curiosity what it was 
fast losing in fear. 

' Vou don't think I ought to be back in the Asylum, do 
you ? ' she said. 

' Certainly not. I am glad you escaped from it ; I am 
glad I helped you.' 

'Yes, yes ; you did help me indeed ; you helped me at 

83 g2 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

the hard part,' she went on, a little vacantly. ' It was easy 
to escape, or I should not have got away. They never 
suspected me as they suspected the others. I was so quiet, 
and so obedient, and so easily frightened. The finding 
London was the hard part ; and there you helped me. Did I 
thank you at the time ? I thank you now, very kindly.' 

' Was the Asylum far from where )Ou met me ? Come ! 
show that you believe me to be your friend, and tell me 
where it was.' 

She mentioned the place — a private Asylum, as its 
situation informed me ; a private Asylum not very far from 
the spot where I had seen her — and then, with evident sus- 
picion of the use to which I might put her answer, 
anxiously repeated her former inquiry : ' Von don't think I 
ought to be taken back, do you ? ' 

* Once again, I am glad you escaped ; I am glad you 
prospered well, after you left me,' I answered. ' You said 
you had a friend in London to go to. Did you find the friend ? ' 

* Yes. It was very late ; but there was a girl up at 
needlework in the house, and she helped me to rouse Mrs. 
Clements. Mrs. Clements is my friend. A good, kind 
woman, but not like Mrs. Fairlie. Ah, no, nobody is like 
Mrs. Fairlie ! ' 

* Is Mrs. Clements an old friend of yours ? Have you 
known her a long time ? ' 

* Yes ; she was a neighbour of ours once, at home, iil 
Hampshire ; and liked me, and took care of me when I was a 
little girl. Years ago, when she Avent away from us, she 
wrote down in my prayer-book for me, where she was going 
to live in London, and she said, " If you are ever in trouble, 
Anne, come to me. I have no husband alive to say me nay, 
and no children to look after ; and I will take care of you." 
Kind words, were they not? I suppose I remember them 
because they were kind. It's little enough I remember 
besides — little enough, little enough ! ' 

' Had you no father or mother to take care of you ? ' 

' Father ? I never saw him ; I never heard mother speak 
of him. Father.^ Ah, dear ! he is dead I suppose.' 

' And your mother ? ' 

' I don't get on well with her. \\'e are a trouble and a 
fear to each other.' 

A trouble and a fear to each other ! At those words, the 
suspicion crossed my mind, for the first time, that her mother 
might be the person who had placed her under restraint. 

' Don't ask me about mother,' she went on. ' I'd rather 

§4 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

talk of Mrs. Clements. Mrs. Clements is like you, she 
doesn't think that I ought to be back in the Asylum ; and she 
is as glad as you are that I escaped from it. She cried over 
my misfortune, and said it must be kept secret from every- 
body.' 

Her * misfortune.' In what sense was she using that 
word ? In a sense which might explain her motive in writing 
the anonymous letter? In a sense which might show it to 
be the too common and too customary motive that has led 
many a woman to interpose anonymous hindrances to the 
marriage of the man who has ruined her ? I resolved to 
attempt the clearing up of this doubt, before more words 
passed between us on either side. 

* What misfortune ? ' I asked. 

' The misfortune of my being shut up,' she answered, 
with every appearance of feeling surprised at my question. 
* What other misfortune could there be ? ' 

I determined to persist, as delicately and forbearingly as 
possible. It was of very great importance that I should be 
absolutely sure of every step in the investigation which I now 
gained in advance. 

' There is another misfortune,' I said, ' to which a woman 
may be liable, and by which she may suffer life-long sorrow 
and shame.' 

' What is it ? ' she asked, eagerly. 

' The misfortune of believing too innocently in her own 
virtue, and in the faith and honour of the man she loves,' I 
answered. 

She looked up at me, with the artless bewilderment of a 
child. Not the slightest confusion or change of colour ; not 
the faintest trace of any secret consciousness of shame 
struggling to the surface, appeared in her face — that face 
which betrayed every other emotion with such transparent 
clearness. No words that ever were spoken could have 
assured me, as her look and manner now assured me, that 
the motive which I had assigned for her writing the letter and 
sending it to Miss Fairlie was plainly and distinctly the 
wrong one. That doubt, at any rate, was now set at rest ; 
but the very removal of it opened a new prospect of un- 
certainty. The letter, as I knew from positive testimony, 
pointed at Sir Percival Clyde, though it did not name him. 
She must havehadsome strongmotive,originatinginsomedeep 
sense of injury, for secretly denouncing him to Miss Fairlie, 
in such terms as she had employed — and that motive was 
unquestionably not to be traced to the loss of her innocence 

as 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

and her character. Whatever wrong he might have inflicted 
on her was not of that nature. Of what nature could it be ? 

' I don't understand you,' she said, after evidently trying- 
hard, and trying in vain to discover the meaning of the 
words I had last said to her. 

* Never mind,' I answered. ' Let us go on with what we 
were talking about. Tell me how long you stayed with Mrs. 
Clements in London, and how you came here.' 

'How long?' she repeated. *I stayed with Mrs. 
Clements till we both came to this place, two days ago.' 

' You are living in the village, then ? ' I said. * It is 
strange I should not have heard of you, though you have 
only been here two days ' 

' No, no ; not in the village. Three miles away at a farm. 
Do you know the farm ? They call it Todd's Corner.' 

I remembered the place perfectly ; we had often passed by 
it in our drives. It was one of the oldest farms in the neigh- 
bourhood, situated in a solitary, sheltered spot, inland at the 
junction of two hills. 

' They are relations of Mrs. Clements at Todd's Corner,' 
she went on, * and they had often asked her to go and see 
them. She said she would go, and take me with her, for the 
quiet and the fresh air. It was very kind, was it not ? I 
would have gone anywhere to be quiet, and safe, and out of 
the way. But when I heard that Todd's Corner was near 
Limmeridge — oh ! I was so happy I would have Avalked all 
the way barefoot to get there, and see the schools and the 
village and Limmeridge House again. They are very good 
people at Todd's Corner. I hope I shall stay there a long 
time. There is only one thing I don't like about them, and 
don't like about Mrs. Clements ' 

' What is it ? ' 

' They will tease me about dressing all in white — they say 
it looks so particular. How do they know? Mrs. Fairlie 
knew best. Mrs. Fairlie would never have made me wear 
this ugly blue cloak ! Ah ! she was fond of white in her life- 
time ; and here is white stone about her grave — and I am 
making it whiter for her sake. She often wore white herself; 
and she always dressed her little daughter in white. Is Miss 
Fairlie well and happy ? Does she wear white now, as she 
used when she was a girl ? ' 

Her voice sank when she put the questions about Miss 
Fairlie ; and she turned her head farther and farther away 
from me. I thought I detected, in the alteration of her 
manner, an uneasy consciousness of the risk she had run in 

86 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

sending the anonymous letter ; and I instantly determined 
so to frame my answer as to surprise her into owning it. 

' Miss Fairlie is not very well or very happy this morning,' 
I said. 

She murmured a few words ; but they were spoken so 
confusedly, and in such a low tone, that I could not even 
guess at what they meant. 

' Did you ask me why J.Iiss Fairlie was neither well nor 
happy this morning ? ' I continued. 

' No,' she said, quickly and eagerly — ' oh, no, I never 
asked that.' 

' I will tell you without your asking,' I went on. ' Miss 
Fairlie has received your letter.' 

She had been dov/n on her knees for some little time past, 
carefully removing the last weather-stains left about the 
inscription while Vv^e were speaking together. The first 
sentence of the words I had just addressed to her made her 
pause in her occupation, and turn slowly without rising from 
her knees, so as to face me. The second sentence literally 
petrified her. The cloth she had been holding dropped from 
her hands ; her lips fell apart ; all the little colour that there 
w^as naturally in her face left it in an instant. 

' How do you know ? ' she said, faintly. ' Who showed 
it to you ? ' The blood rushed back into her face — rushed 
overwhelmingly, as the sense rushed upon her mind that her 
own words had betrayed her. She struck her hands together 
in despair. 'I never wrote it,' she gasped, affrightedly ; ' I 
know nothing about it ! ' 

'Yes,' I said, 'you wrote it, and you know about it. It 
was wrong to send such a letter ; it was wrong to frighten 
Miss Fairlie. If you had anything to say that it was right 
and necessary for her to hear, you should have gone yourself 
to Limmeridge House ; you should have spoken to the young 
lady with your own lips.' 

She crouched down over the flat stone of the grave, till 
her face w-as hidden on it ; and made no reply. 

' Miss Fairlie will be as good and kind to you as her mother 
was, if you mean well,' I went on. 'Miss Fairlie will keep 
your secret, and not let you come to any harm. Will you see 
her to-morrow at the farm ? Will you meet her in the garden 
at Limmeridge House ? ' 

' Oh, if I could die, and be hidden and at rest with yon!' 
Her lips murmured the words close on the grave-stone ; 
murmured them in tones of passionate endearment, to the 
dead remains beneath. ' Yoii know how I love your child, 

87 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

for your sake ! Oh, Mrs, Fairlie ! Mrs. Fairlie ! tell me how 
to save her. Be my* darling- and my mother once more, and 
tell me what to do for the best.' 

I heard her lips kissing the stone : I saw her hands 
beating- on it passionately. The sound and the sight deeply 
affected me. I stooped down, and took the poor helpless 
hands tenderly in mine, and tried to soothe her. 

It was useless. She snatched her hands from me, and 
never moved her face from the stone. Seeing the urgent 
necessity of quieting her at any hazard and by any means, I 
appealed to the only anxiety that she appeared to feel, in con- 
nexion with me and with my opinion of her — the anxiety to 
convince me of her fitness to be mistress of her own actions. 

' Come, come,' I said, gently. ' Try to compose yourself, 
or you will make me alter my opinion of you. Don't let me 
think that the person who put you in the Asylum, might have 
had some excuse — — ' 

The next words died away on my lips. The instant I 
risked that chance reference to the person who had put her 
in the Asylum, she sprang up on her knees. A most extra- 
ordinary and startling change passed over her. Her face, at 
all ordinary times so touching to look at, in its nervous 
sensitiveness, weakness, and uncertainty, became suddenly 
darkened by an expression of maniacally intense hatred and 
fear, which communicated a wild, unnatural force to every 
feature. Her eyes dilated in the dim evening light, like the 
eyes of a wild animal. She caught up the cloth that had 
fallen at her side, as if it had been a living creature that she 
could kill, and crushed it in both her hands with such con- 
vulsive strength that the few drops of moisture left in it 
trickled down on the stone beneath her. 

' Talk of something else,' she said, whispering through 
her teeth. ' I shall lose myself if you talk of that.' 

Every vestige of the gentler thoughts which had filled her 
mind hardly a minute since seemed to be swept from it now. 
It was evident that the impression left by Mrs. Fairlie's 
kindness was not, as I had supposed, the only strong impres- 
sion on her memor}-. With the grateful remembrance of her 
school-days at Limmeridge, there existed the vindictive 
remembrance of the wrong inflicted on her by her confinement 
in the Asylum. Who had done that wrong ? Could it really 
be her mother ? 

It was hard to give up pursuing- the inquiry to that final 
point ; but I forced myself to abandon all idea of continuing 
it. Seeing her as I saw her now, it would have been cruel to 

88 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

think of anything but the necessity and the humanity of 
restoring- her composure. 

' I will talk of nothing to distress you,' I said, soothingly. 

' You want something,' she answered, sharply and sus- 
piciously. * Don't look at me like that. Speak to me ; tell 
me what you want.' 

' I only want you to quiet yourself, and, when you are 
calmer, to think over what I have said.' 

' Said ? ' She paused ; twisted the cloth in her hands, 
backwards and forwards ; and whispered to herself, ' What 
is it he said ? ' She turned again towards me, and shook her 
head impatiently. ' Why don't you help me ? ' she asked, with 
angry suddenness. 

' Yes, yes,' I said ; ' I will help you ; and 5'ou will soon 
remember. I asked you to see Miss Fairlie to-morrow, and 
to tell her the truth about the letter.' 

' Ah ! Miss Fairlie — Fairlie — Fairlie ' 

The mere utterance of the loved, familiar name seemed to 
quiet her. Her face softened and grew like itself again. 

' You need have no fear of Miss Fairlie,' I continued ; 
' and no fear of getting into trouble through the letter. She 
knows so much about it already, that you will have no 
difficulty in telling her all. There can be little necessity for 
concealment where there is hardly anything left to conceal. 
You mention no names in the letter ; but Miss Fairlie 
knows that the person you write of is Sir Percival Glyde ' 

The instant I pronounced that name she started to her 
feet ; and a scream burst from her that rang through the 
churchyard and made my heart leap in me with the terror 
of it. The dark deformity of the expression which had 
just left her face, lowered on it once more, with doubled and 
trebled intensity. The shriek at the name, the reiterated 
look of hatred and fear that instantly followed, told all. Not 
even a last doubt now remained. Her mother was guiltless 
of imprisoning her in the Asylum. A man had shut her up 
— and that man w^as Sir Percival Glyde. 

The scream had reached other ears than mine. On one 
side, I heard the door of the sexton's cottage open ; on the 
other, I heard the voice of her companion, the woman in the 
shawl, the woman whom she had spoken of as Mrs. 
Clements. 

' I'm coming ! I'm coming ! ' cried the voice from behind 
the clump of dwarf trees. 

In a moment more, Mrs. Clements hurried into view. 
* Who are you ?' she cried, facing me resolutely, as she 

89 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

set her foot on the stile. * How dare you frighten a poor 
helpless woman like that ? ' 

She was at Anne CaLherick's side, and had put one arm 
around her, before I could answer. ' What is it, my dear ? ' 
she said. ' What has he done to you ? ' 

* Nothing,' the poor creature answered. ' Nothing. I'm 
only frightened.' 

Mrs. Clements turned on me with a fearless indignation, 
for which I respected her. 

* I should be heartily ashamed of myself if I deserved that 
angry look,' I said. 'But I do not deserve it. I have 
unfortunately startled her, without intending it. This is not 
the first time she has seen me. Ask her yourself, and she 
will tell you that I am incapable of willingly harming her or 
any woman.' 

I spoke distinctly, so that Anne Catherick might hear and 
understand me : and I saw that the words and their meaning 
had reached her. 

* Yes, yes,' she said; *he was good to me once; 

he helped me ' She whispered the rest into her friend's 

ear. 

' Strange, indeed ! ' said Mrs. Clements, with a look of 
perplexity. ' It makes all the difference, though. I'm 
sorry I spoke so rough to you, sir ; but you must own that 
appearances looked suspicious to a stranger. It's more my 
fault than yours, for humouring her whims, and letting her 
be alone in such a place as this. Come, my dear — come 
home now.' 

I thought the good woman looked a little uneasy at the 
prospect of the walk back, and I offered to go with them 
imtil they were both within sight of home. Mrs. Clements 
thanked me civilly, and declined. She said they were sure to 
meet some of the farm-labourers, as soon as they got to the 
moor. 

' Try to forgive me,' I said, when Anne Catherick took 
her friend's arm to go away. Innocent as I had been of any 
intention to terrify and agitate her, my heart smote me as I 
looked at the poor, pale, frightened face. 

' I will try,' she answered. ' But )ou know too much ; 
I'm afraid you'll always frighten me now.' 

Mrs. Clements glanced at me, and shook her head 
pityingly. 

'Good night, sir,' she said. 'You couldn't help it, 
I know ; but I wish it was me you had frightened, and not 
her.' 

90 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

They moved away a few steps. I thought they had left 
me ; but Anne suddenly stopped, and separated herself from 
her friend. 

' Wait a little,' she said. ' I must say good-by.' 

She returned to the grave, rested both hands tenderly on 
the marble cross, and kissed it. 

' I'm better now,' she sighed, looking up at me quietly. 
* I forgive you.' 

She joined her companion again, and they left the burial- 
ground. I saw them stop near the church, and speak to the 
sexton's wife, who had come from the cottage, and had 
waited, watching us from a distance. Then they went on 
again up the path that led to the moor. I looked after Anne 
Catherick as she disappeared, till all trace of her had faded in 
the twilight — looked as anxiously and sorrowfully as if that 
was the last I was to see in this weary world of the woman 
in white. 

XIV. 

Half an hour later, I was back at the house, and was inform- 
ing Miss Halcombe of all that had happened. 

She listened to me from beginning to end, with a steady, 
silent attention, which, in a woman of her temperament 
and disposition, was the strongest proof that could be offered 
of the serious manner in which my narrative affected her. 

' My mind misgives me,' was all she said when I had 
done. ' My mind misgives me sadly about the future.' 

' The future may depend,' I suggested, ' on the use we 
make of the present. It is not improbable that Anne 
Catherick may speak more readily and unreservedly to 
a woman than she has spoken to me. If Miss Fairlie ' 

' Not to be thought of for a moment,' interposed Miss 
Halcombe, in her most decided manner. 

'Let me suggest, then,' I continued, 'that you should 
see Anne Catherick yourself, and do all you can to win 
her confidence. For my own part, I shrink from the idea of 
alarming the poor creature a second time, as I have most 
unhappily alarmed her already. Do you see any objection to 
accompanying me to the farm-house to-morrow ? ' 

' None whatever. I will go anywhere and do anything 
to serve Laura's interests. What did you say the place was 
called ? ' 

' You must know it well. It is called Todd's Corner.' 

* Certainly. Todd's Corner is one of Mr. Fairlie's farms. 

91 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

Our dairymaid here is the farmer's second daughter. She 
g-oes backwards and forwards constantly, between this house 
and her father's farm ; and she may have heard or seen 
something- which it may be useful to us to know. Shall I 
ascertain, at once, if the girl is down stairs ? ' 

She rang the bell, and sent the servant with his message. 
He returned, and announced that the dairymaid was then at 
the farm. She had not been there for the last three days ; 
and the housekeeper had given her leave to go home, for an 
hour or two, that evening. 

' I can speak to her to-morrow,' said Miss Halcombe, 
when the servant had left the room again. ' In the mean 
time, let me thoroughly understand the object to be gained 
by my interview with Anne Catherick. Is there no doubt in 
your mind that the person who confined her in the Asylum 
vv'as Sir Percival Glyde ? ' 

' There is not the shadow of a doubt. The only mystery 
that remains, is the mystery of his motive. Looking to the 
great difference between his station in life and hers, which 
seems to preclude all idea of the most distant relationship 
between them, it is of the last importance — even assuming 
that she really required to be placed under restraint — to know 
why he should have been the person to assume the serious 
responsibility of shutting her up ' 

' In a private Asylum, I think you said ? ' 

' Yes, in a private Asylum, where a sum of money which 
no poor person could afford to give, must have been paid for 
her maintenance as a patient.' 

' I see where the doubt lies, Mr. Hartright ; and I promise 
you that it shall be set at rest, whether Anne Catherick assists 
us to-morrow or not. Sir Percival Glyde shall not be long in 
this house without satisfying Mr. Gilmore, and satisfying me. 
M}' sister's future is my dearest care in life ; and I have 
iniiuence enough over her to give me some power, where her 
marriage is concerned, in the disposal of it.' 

We parted for the night. 

After breakfast, the next mornmg, an obstacle, which the 
events of the evening before had put out of my memory, 
interposed to prevent our proceeding immediately to the 
farm. This was my last day at Limmeridge House ; and it 
was necessary, as soon as the post came in, to follow Miss 
Halcombe's advice, and to ask Mr. Fairlie's permission to 
shorten my engagement by a month, in consideration of an 
unforeseen necessity for my return to London. 

93 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

Fortunately for the probabilit)^ of this excuse, so far as 
appearances were concerned, the post broug-ht me two 
letters from London friends, that morning. I took them 
away at once to my own room ; and sent the servant with 
a message to Mr. Fairlie, requesting to know when I could 
see him on a matter of business. 

I awaited the man's return, free from the slightest feeling 
of anxiety about the manner in which his master might 
receive my application. With Mr. Fairlie's leave or without 
it, I must go. The consciousness of having now taken the 
first step on the dreary journey which was henceforth to 
separate my life from Miss Fairlie's seemed to have blunted 
my sensibility to every consideration connected with myself. 
I had done with my poor man's touchy pride ; I had done 
with all my little artist vanities. No insolence of Mr. Fairlie's, 
if he chose to be insolent, could wound me now. 

The servant returned with a message for which I was not 
unprepared. Mr. Fairlie regretted that the state of his 
health, on that particular morning, was such as to preclude 
all hope of his having the pleasure of receiving me. He 
begged, therefore, that I would accept his apologies, and 
kindly communicate what I had to say, in the form of a 
letter. Similar messages to this had reached me, at various 
intervals, during my three months' residence in the house. 
Throughout the whole of that period, Mr. Fairlie had been 
rejoiced to ' possess ' me, but had never been well enough to 
see me for a second time. The servant took every fresh 
batch of drawings that I mounted and restored, back to his 
master, with my ' respects ; ' and returned empty-handed 
with Mr. Fairlie's ' kind compliments,' ' best thanks,' and 
* sincere regrets ' that the state of his health still obliged him 
to remain a solitary prisoner in his own room. A more 
satisfactory arrangement to both sides could not possibly 
have been adopted. It would be hard to say which of us, 
under the circumstances, felt the most grateful sense of 
obligation to Mr. Fairlie's accommodating nerves. 

I sat down at once to write the letter, expressing myself 
in it as civilly, as clearly, and as briefly as possible. Mr. 
Fairlie did not hurry his reply. Nearly an hour elapsed 
before the answer was placed in my hands. It was written 
vrith beautiful regularity and neatness of character, in violet- 
coloured ink, on note-paper as smooth as ivory and almost 
as thick as cardboard ; and it addressed me in these terms : — 

' Mr. Fairlie's compliments to Mr. Ilartright. Mr. Fairlie 

93 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

is more surprised and disappointed than he can say (in the 
present state of his health) by Mr. Hartright's application. 
Mr. Fairlie is not a man of business, but he has consulted 
his steward, who is, and that person confirms Mr. Fairlie's 
opinion that Mr. Hartrig-ht's request to be allowed to break 
his engagement cannot be justified by any necessity whatever, 
excepting perhaps a case of life and death. If the highly- 
appreciative feeling towards Art and its professors, which it 
is the consolation and happiness of Mr. Fairlie's suffering 
existence to cultivate, could be easily shaken, Mr. Hartright's 
present proceeding would have shaken it. It has not done 
so — except in the instance of Mr. Hartright himself. 

* Having stated his opinion — so far, that is to say, as 
acute nervous suffering will allow him to state anything — 
Mr. Fairlie has nothing to add but the expression of his 
decision, in reference to the highly irregular application that 
has been made to him. Perfect repose of body and mind 
being to the last degree important in his case, Mr. Fairlie 
will not suffer Mr. Hartright to disturb that repose by 
remaining in the house under circumstances of an essentially 
irritating nature to both sides. Accordingly, Mr. Fairlie 
waives his right of refusal, pvirely with a view to the 
preservation of his own tranquillity — and informs Mr. Hart- 
right that he may go.' 

I folded the letter up, and put it away with my other 
papers. The time had been when I should have resented it 
as an insult : I accepted it, now, as a written release from 
my engagement. It was off my mind, it was almost out of 
my memory, when I went down stairs to the breakfast-room, 
and informed Miss Halcombe that I was ready to walk with 
her to the farm. 

' Has Mr. Fairlie given j'ou a satisfactory answer ? ' she 
asked, as we left the house. 

' He has allowed me to go. Miss Halcombe.' 

She looked up at me quickly ; and then, for the first 
time since I had known her, took my arm of her ov\-n accord. 
No vv^ords could have expressed so delicately that she under- 
stood how the permission to leave my employment had been 
granted, and that she gave me her sympathy, not as my 
superior, but as my friend. I had not felt the man's insolent 
letter ; but I felt deeply the woman's atoning kindness. 

On our way to the farm we arranged that Miss Halcombe 
was to enter the house alone, and that I was to wait outside, 
within call. We adopted this mode of proceeding from an 

94 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

apprehension that my presence, after what had happened in 
the churchyard the evening- before, might have the effect of 
renewing Anne Catherick's nervous dread, and of rendering 
her additionally distrustful of the advances of a lady who was 
a stranger to her. Miss Halcombe left me, with the inten- 
tion of speaking, in the first instance, to the farmer's wife (of 
v/hose friendly readiness to help her in any way she w^as well 
assured), while I waited for her in the near neighbourhood of 
the house. 

I had fully expected to be left alone, for some time. To 
my surprise, however, little more than five minutes had 
elapsed, before Miss Halcombe returned. 

' Does Anne Catherick refuse to see you ? ' I asked in 
astonishment. 

* Anne Catherick is gone,' replied Miss Halcombe. 
' Gone ! ' 

* Gone, with Mrs. Clements. They both left the farm at 
eight o'clock this morning.' 

I could say nothing — I could only feci that our last chance 
of discovery had gone with them. 

* All that Mrs. Todd knows about her guests, I know,' 
Miss Halcombe went on ; ' and it leaves me, as it leaves her, 
in the dark. They both came back safe, last night, after 
they left you, and they passed the first part of the evening 
with Mr. Todd's family, as usual. Just before supper-time, 
however, Anne Catherick startled them all by being suddenly 
seized with faintness. She had had a similar attack, of a less 
alarming kind, on the day she arrived at the farm ; and Mrs. 
Todd had connected it, on that occasion, with something she 
was reading at the time in our local newspaper, which lay on 
the farm table, and which she had taken up only a minute or 
two before.' 

' Does Mrs. Todd know what particular passage in the 
newspaper affected her in that way ? ' I inquired. 

* No,' replied Miss Halcombe. * She had looked it over, 
and had seen nothing in it to agitate any one. I asked leave, 
hovv-ever, to look it over in my turn ; and at the very first 
page I opened, I found that the editor had enriched his small 
stock of news by drawing upon our family affairs, and had 
published my sister's marriage engagement, among his other 
announcements, copied from the London papers, of Marriages 
in High Life. I concluded at once that this was the paragraph 
which had so strangely affected Anne Catherick ; and I 
thought I saw in it, also, the origin of the letter v/hich she 
sent to our house the next day.' 

95 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

' There can be no doubt in either case. But what did you 
hear about her second attack of faintness yesterday evening? ' 

' Nothing-. The cause of it is a complete mystery. There 
was no stranger in the room. The only visitor was our 
dairymaid, who, as I told you, is one of Mr. Todd's daughters; 
and the only conversation was the usual gossip about local 
affairs. They heard her cry out, and saw her turn deadly 
pale, without the slightest apparent reason. Mrs. Todd and 
Mrs. Clements took her up-stairs ; and Mrs. Clements re- 
mained with her. They were heard talking together until 
long after the usual bedtime ; and, early this morning, Mrs. 
Clements took Mrs. Todd aside, and amazed her beyond all 
power of expression, by saying that they must go. The only 
explanation Mrs. Todd could extract from her guest was, 
that something had happened, which was not the fault of 
any one at the farm-house, but which was serious enough to 
make Anne Catherick resolve to leave Limmeridge imme- 
diately. It was quite useless to press Mrs. Clements to be 
more explicit. She only shook her head, and said that, for 
Anne's sake, she must beg and pray that no one would ques- 
tion her. All she could repeat, with every appearance of 
being seriously agitated herself, was that Anne must go, that 
she must go with her, and that the destination to which they 
might both betake themselves must be kept a secret from 
everybody. I spare you the recital of Mrs. Todd's hospitable 
remonstrances and refusals. It ended in her driving them 
both to the nearest station, more than three hours since. She 
tried hard, on the way, to get them to speak more plainly ; 
but without success. And she set them down outside the 
station-door, so hurt and offended by the unceremonious 
abruptness of their departure and their unfriendly reluctance 
to place the least confidence in her, that she drove away in 
anger, without so much as stopping to bid them good-by. 
That is exactly what has taken place. Search your own 
memory, Mr. Hartright, and tell me if anything happened in 
the burial-ground yesterday evening which can at all account 
for the extraordinary departure of those two women this 
morning.' 

* I should like to account first. Miss Halcombe, for the 
sudden change in Anne Catherick which alarmed them at the 
farm-house, hours after she and I had parted, and when time 
enough had elapsed to quiet any violent agitation that I might 
have been unfortunate enough to cause. Did you inquire 
particularly about the gossip which was going on in the room 
when she turned faint ? ' 

96 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

/Yes. But Mrs. Todd's household affairs seem to have 
divided her attention, that evening-, with the talk in the farm- 
house parlour. She could only tell me that it was "just the 
news "—meaning-, I suppose, that they all talked as usual 
about each other.' 

'The dairymaid's memory may be better than her mother's,' 
I said. ' It may be as well for you to speak to the g-irl, Miss 
Halcombe, as soon as we get back.' 

My suggestion was acted on the moment we returned to 
the house. Miss Halcombe led me round to the servant's 
offices, and we found the girl in the dairy, with her sleeves 
tucked up to her shoulders, cleaning- a large milk-pan, and 
singing blithely over her work. 

' I have brought this gentleman to see your dairv, 
Hannah,' said Miss Halcombe. ' It is one of the sights of 
the house, and it always does you credit.' 

The girl blushed and curtseyed, and said, shvly, that she 
hoped she always did her best to keep things neat and clean. 

\\Ve have just come from your father's,' Miss Halcombe 
continued. ' You were there vesterday evening, I hear ; and 
you found visitors at the house ? ' 

' Yes, miss.' 

' One of them was taken faint and ill, I am told ? I sup- 
pose nothing was said or done to frighten her ? You were 
not talking of anything very terrible were }'ou ? ' 

\Ob, no, miss ! ' said the girl, laughing. « We were only 
talking of the news.' 

'Your sisters told you the news at Todd's Corner. I 
suppose?' 

' Yes, miss.* 

I And you told them the news at Limmeridge House ? ' 
_ '^Qs, miss. And I'm quite sure nothing was said to 
trighten the poor thing, for I was talking when she was taken 
111. It gave me quite a turn, miss, to see it, never having been 
taken faint myself.' 

Before any more questions could be put to her, she was 
called away to receive a basket of eggs at the dairy door. 
As she left us, I whispered to Miss Halcombe : 

'Ask her if she happened to mention, last night, that 
visitors were expected at Limmeridge House.' 

Miss Halcombe showed me, by a look, that she undcstocd, 

and put the question as scon as the dairymaid returned to us! 

,'^^' y^^> ^■"'ss ; I mentioned that,' said the girl simplv! 

1 ne company coming, and the accident to the brindled cow, 

was all the news I had to take to the farm.' 

97 H 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

* Did 3-ou mention names ? Did 3-011 tell them that Sir 
Percival Glyde was expected on Monday ? ' 

* Yes, miss — I told them Sir Percival Glyde was coming-. 
I hope there was no harm in it ; I hope I didn't do wrong-.' 

' Oh no, no harm. Come, Mr. Hartright ; Hannah will 
begin to think us in the way, if we interrupt her any longer 
over her work.' 

We stopped and looked at one another, the moment wc 
were alone again. 

' Is there any doubt in j-our mind, fiotv, Miss Halcombc ? ' 

* Sir Percival Glyde shall remove that doubt, Mr. Hart- 
right — or, Laura Fairlic shall never be his wife.' 



XV. 

As we walked round to the front of the house, a fly from the 
railway approached us along the drive. Miss Halcombe 
waited on the door steps until the fly drew up ; and then 
advanced to shake hands with an old gentleman, who got 
out briskly the moment the steps were let down. Mr. 
Gilmore had arrived. 

I looked at him, when we were introduced to each other, 
with an interest and a curiosity wh.ich I could hardly conceal. 
This old man was to remain at Limmeridge House after I 
had left it ; he was to hear Sir Percival Glyde's explanation, 
and was to give Miss Halcombe the assistance of his ex- 
perience in forming her judgment ; he was to wait until the 
question of the marriage was set at rest ; and his hand, if that 
question were decided in the affirmative, was to draw the 
settlement which bound Miss Fairlie irrevocably to her en- 
g-agement. Even then, when I knew nothing by comparison 
with what I know now, I looked at the family lawyer with 
an interest which I had never felt before in the presence of 
any man breathing who was a total stranger to me. 

In external appearance, Mr. Gilmore was the exact oppo- 
site of the conventional idea of an old lawyer. His com- 
plexion was florid ; his white hair was worn rather long and 
kept carefully brushed ; his black coat, waistcoat, and 
trousers, fitted him with perfect neatness ; his white cravat 
was carefully tied ; and his lavender-coloured kid gloves 
might have adorned the hands of a fashionable clergyman, 
without fear and without reproach. His manners were plea- 
santly marked by the formal grace and refinement of the old 
school of politeness, quickened by the invigorating sharpness 

98 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

and readiness of a man whose business in life oblig-es him 
always to keep his faculties in good working- order. A san- 
guine constitution and fair prospects to begin with ; a long 
subsequent career of creditable and comfortable prosperity ; 
a cheerful, diligent, widely-respected old age — such were the 
general impressions I derived from my introduction to Mr. 
Gilmore ; and it is but fair to him to add, that the know- 
ledge I gained by later and better experience only tended to 
confirm them. 

I left the old gentleman and Miss Halcombe to enter the 
house together, and to talk of family matters undisturbed by 
the restraint of a stranger's presence. They crossed the hall 
on their way to the drawing-room ; and I descended the 
steps again, to wander about the garden alone. 

My hours were numbered at Limmeridge House ; my de- 
parture the next morning was irrevocably settled ; my share 
in the investigation which the anonymous letter had rendered 
necessary, was at an end. No harm could be done to any one 
but myself, if I let my heart loose again, for the little time 
that was left me, from the cold cruelty of restraint v.-hich 
necessity had forced me to inflict upon it, and took my fare- 
well of the scenes which were associated with the brief dream- 
timie of my happiness and my love. 

I turned instinctively to the walk beneath my study- 
window, where I had seen her the evening before with her 
little dog ; and followed the path which her dear feet had 
trodden so often, till I came to the wicket gate that led into 
her rose garden. The winter bareness spread drearily over 
it, now. The flowers that she had taught me to distinguish 
by their names, the flowers that I had taught her to paint 
from, were gone ; and the tiny white paths that led between 
the beds, were damp and green already. I went on to the 
avenue of trees, where we had breathed together the warm 
fragrance of August evenings ; where we had admired 
together the myriad combinations of shade and sunlight that 
dappled the ground at our feet. The leaves fell about me 
from the groaning branches, and the earthy decay in the 
atm.osphere chilled me to the bones. A little farther on, and 
I was out of the grounds, and following the lane that wound 
gently upward to the nearest hills. The old felled tree by the 
wayside, on which we had sat to rest, was sodden with rain ; 
and the tuft of ferns and grasses which I had drawn for her, 
nestling under the rough stone wall in front of us, had turned 
to a pool of water, stagnating round an island of draggled 
weeds. I gained the summit of the hill ; and looked at the 

99. 



h2 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

view which we had so often admired in the happier time. It 
was cold and barren — it was no longer the view that I re- 
membered. The sunshine of her presence was far from me ; 
the charm of her voice no longer murmured in my ear. She 
had talked to me, on the spot from which I now looked down, 
of her father, who was her last surviving parent ; had told 
me how fond of each other they had been, and how sadly she 
missed him still, when she entered certain rooms in the house, 
and when she took up forgotten occupations and amusements 
with which he had been associated. Was the view that I had 
seen, while listening to those words, the view that I saw now, 
standing on the hill-top by myself? I turned, and left it ; I 
wound my way back again, over the moor, and round the 
sandhills, down to the beach. There was the white rage of 
the surf, and the multitudinous glory of the leaping waves — 
but where was the place on which she had once drawn idle 
figures with her parasol in the sand ; the place where we had 
sat together, while she talked to me about myself and my 
home, while she asked me a woman's minutely observant 
questions about my mother and my sister, and innocently 
wondered whether I should ever leave my lonely chambers 
and have a wife and a house of my own ? Wind and wave had 
long since smoothed out the trace of her which she had left 
in those marks on the sand. I looked over the wide monotony 
of the sea-side prospect, and the place in which we two had 
idled away the sunny hours, was as lost to me as if I had 
never known it, as strange to me as if I stood already on a 
foreign shore. 

The empty silence of the beach struck cold to my heart. 
I returned to the house and the garden, where traces were 
left to speak of her at every turn. 

On the west terrace walk, I met Mr. Gilmore. He was 
evidently in search of me, for he quickened his pace when we 
caught sight of each other. The state of my spirits little 
fitted me for the society of a stranger. But the meeting was 
inevitable ; and I resigned myself to make the best of it. 

* You are the very person I wanted to see,' said the old 
gentleman. ' I had two words to say to you, my dear sir ; 
and, if you have no objection, I will avail myself of the present 
opportunity. To put it plainly, Miss Halcombe and I have 
been talking over family affairs — affairs which are the cause 
of my being here — and, in the course of our conversation, she 
was naturally led to tell me of this unpleasant matter con- 
nected with the anonymous letter, and of the share which you 
have most creditably and properly taken In the proceedings 

loo 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

so far. That share, I quite understand, gives you an interest 
which you might not otherwise have felt, in knowing that the 
future management of the investigation, which you have 
begun, will be placed in safe hands. My dear sir, make 
yourself quite easy on that point — it will be placed in my 
hands.' 

* You are, in every way, Mr. Gilmore, much fitter to advise 
and to act in the matter than I am. Is it an indiscretion, on 
my part, to ask if you have decided yet on a course of pro- 
ceeding ? ' 

' So far as it is possible to decide, Mr. Hartright, I have 
decided. I mean to send a copy of the letter, accompanied 
by a statement of the circumstances, to Sir Percival Clyde's 
solicitor in London, with whom I have some acquaintance. 
The letter itself, I shall keep here, to show to Sir Percival as 
soon as he arrives. The tracing of the two women, I have 
already provided for, by sending one of Mr. Fairlie's servants 
— a confidential person — to the station to make inquiries : the 
man has his money and his directions, and he will follow the 
women in the event of his finding any clue. This is all that 
can be done until Sir Percival comes on Monday. I have no 
doubt myself that ev^ery explanation which can be expected 
from a gentleman and a man of honour, he will readily give. 
Sir Percival stands very high, sir — an eminent position, a 
reputation above suspicion — I feel quite easy about results ; 
quite easy, I am rejoiced to assure you. Things of this sort 
happen constantly in my experience. Anonymous letters — 
unfortunate woman — sad state of society. I don't deny that 
there are peculiar complications in this case ; but the case 
itself is, most unhappily, common — common.' 

' I am afraid, Mr. Gilmore, I have the misfortune to differ 
from you in the view I take of the case.' 

' Just so, my dear sir — just so. I am an old man ; and I 
take the practical view. You are a young man ; and you 
take the romantic view. Let us not dispute about our views. 
I live, professionally, in an atmosphere of disputation, Mr. 
Hartright ; and I am only too glad to escape from it, as I am 
escaping here. We will wait for events — yes, yes, yes ; we 
will wait for events. Charming place, this. Cood shooting? 
Probably not — none of Mr. Fairlie's land is preserved, I think. 
Charming place, though ; and delightful people. You draw 
and paint, I hear, Mr. Hartright ? Enviable accompHshment. 
What style ? ' 

We dropped into general conversation — or, rather, Mr. 
Gilmore talked, and I listened. My attention was far from 

lOI 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

him, and from the topics on which he discoursed so fluently. 
The solitary walk of the last two hours had wrought its effect 
on me — it had set the idea in my mind of hastening my de- 
parture from Limmeridg-e House. Why should I prolong the 
hard trial of saying" farewell by one unnecessary minute ? 
What further service was required of me by any one ? There 
was no useful purpose to be served by my stay in Cumber- 
land ; there was no restriction of time in the permission to 
leave which my employer had granted to me. Why not end 
it, there and then ? 

I determined to end it. There were some hours of day- 
light still left — there was no reason why my journey back to 
London should not begin on that afternoon. I made the first 
civil excuse that occurred to me for leaving Mr. Gilmore ; 
and returned at once to the house. 

On my way up to my own room, I met Miss Halcombe 
on the stairs. She saw, by the hurry of my movements and 
the change in my manner, that I had some new purpose in 
view ; and asked what had happened. 

I told her the reasons which induced me to think of 
hastening my departure, exactly as I have told them here. 

' No, no,' she said, earnestly and kindly, ' leave us like a 
friend ; break bread with us once more. Stay here and 
dine ; stay here and help us to spend our last evening with 
you as happily, as like our first evenings, as we can. It is 

my invitation ; Mrs. Vesey's invitation ' she hesitated a 

little, and then added, * Laura's invitation as well.' 

I promised to remain. God knows I had no wish to leave 
even the shadow of a sorrowful impression with any one of 
them. 

My own room was the best place for me till the dinner 
bell rang. I waited there till it was time to go down stairs. 

I had not spoken to Miss Fairlie — I had not even seen her 
— all that day. The first meeting with her, when I entered 
the drawing-room, was a hard trial to her self-control and to 
mine. She, too, had done her best to make our last evening 
renew the golden bygone time — the time that could never 
come again. She had put on the dress which I used to 
admire more than any other that she possessed — a dark blue 
silk, trimmed quaintly and prettily with old-fashioned lace ; 
she came forward to meet me with her former readiness ; she 
gave me her hand with the frank, innocent good will of 
happier days. The cold fingers that trembled round mine ; 
the pale cheeks with a bright red spot burning in the midst 
of them ; the faint smile that struggled to live on her lips and 

I02 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

died away from them while I looked at it, told me at what 
sacrifice of herself her outward composure was maintained. 
My heart could take her no closer to me, or I should have 
loved her then as I had never loved her yet. 

Mr. Gilmore was a great assistance to us. He was in 
high good humour, and he led the conversation with un- 
flagging spirit. Miss Halcombe seconded him resolutely ; 
and I did all I could to follow her example. The kind blue eyes, 
whose slightest changes of expression I had learnt to interpret 
so well, looked at me appealingly when we first sat down to 
table. Help my sister — the sweet anxious face seemed to 
say — help my sister and you will help me. 

We got through the dinner, to all outward appearance at 
least, happily enough. When the ladies had risen from table, 
and Mr. Gilmore and I were left alone in the dining-room, a 
new interest presented itself to occupy our attention, and to 
give me an opportunity of quieting myself by a few minutes 
of needful and welcome silence. The servant who had been 
despatched to trace Anne Catherick and Mrs. Clements, re- 
turned with his report, and was shown into the dining-room 
immediately. 

' Well,' said Mr. Gilmore, * what have you found out ? ' 

' I have found out, sir,' answered the man, ' that both the 
women took tickets, at our station here, for Carlisle.' 

' You went to Carlisle, of course, when you heard 
that ? ' 

' I did, sir ; but I am sorry to say I could find no further 
trace of them.' 

' You inquired at the railway ? ' 

* Yes, sir.' 

* And at the different inns ? ' 
' Yes, sir.' 

* And you left the statement I wrote for you, at the police 
station ? ' 

« I did, sir.' 

* Well, my friend, you have done all you could, and I 
have done all I could ; and there the matter must rest till 
further notice. We have played our trump cards, Mr. Hart- 
right,' continued the old gentleman, when the servant had 
withdrawn. ' For the present, at least, the women have out- 
manoeuvred us ; and our only resource, now, is to wait till 
Sir Percival Clyde comes here on Monday next. Won't you 
fill your glass again ? Good bottle of port, that — sound, 
substantial, old wine. I have got better in my own cellar, 
though.' 

103 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

We returned to the drawincr-room — the room in which 
the happiest evenings of my life had been passed ; the room 
which, after this last night, I was never to see again. Its 
aspect was altered since the days had shortened and the 
weather had grown cold. The glass doors on the terrace 
side were closed, and hidden by thick curtains. Instead of 
the soft twilight obscurity, in which we used to sit, the bright 
radiant glow of lamplight now dazzled my eyes. All was 
changed — in-doors and out, all was changed. 

Miss Halcombe and Mr. Gilmore sat down together at 
the card-table ; Mrs. Vesey took her customary chair. There 
v/as no restraint on the disposal of their evening ; and I felt 
the restraint on the disposal of mine all the more painfully 
from observing it. I saw Miss Fairlie lingering near the 
music stand. The time had been when I might have joined 
her there. I waited irresolutely — I knew neither where to go 
nor what to do next. She cast one quick glance at me, took 
a piece of music suddenly from the stand, and came towards 
me of her own accord. 

' Shall I play some of those little melodies of Mozart's, 
which you used to like so much ? ' she asked, opening the 
music nervously, and looking down at it while she spoke. 

Before I could thank her, she hastened to the piano. The 
chair near it, which I had always been accustomed to occupy, 
stood empty. She struck a few chords — then glanced round 
at me — then looked back again at her music. 

' Won't you take your old place ? ' she said, speaking very 
abruptly, and in very low tones. 

* I may take it on the last night,' I answered. 

She did not reply : she kept her attention riveted on the 
music — music which she knew by memory, which she had 
played over and over again, in former times, without the 
book. I only knew that she had heard me, I only knew that 
she was aware of my being close to her, by seeing the red 
spot on the cheek that was nearest to me, fade out, and the 
face grow pale all over. 

' I am very sorry you are going,' she said, her voice 
almost sinking to a whisper ; her eyes looking more and 
more intently at the music ; her fingers flying over the keys 
of the piano with a strange feverish energy which I had never 
noticed in her before. 

' I shall remember those kind words, Miss Fairlie, long 
after to-morrow has come and gone.' 

The paleness grew whiter on her face, and she turned it 
farther away from me. 

104 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

* Don't speak of to-morrow,' she said. ' Let the music 
speak to us of to-night, in a happier language than 
ours.' 

Her Hps trembled — a faint sigh fluttered from them, 
which she tried vainly to suppress. Her fingers wavered on 
the piano ; she struck a false note ; confused herself in trying 
to set it right ; and dropped her hands angrily on her lap. 
Miss Halcombe and Mr. Gilmore looked up in astonishment 
from the card-table at which they were playing. Even Mrs. 
Vesey, dozing in her chair, woke at the sudden cessation of 
the music, and inquired what had happened. 

* You play at whist, Mr. Hartright ? ' asked Miss 
Halcombe, with her eyes directed significantly at the place 
I occupied. 

I knew what she meant ; I knew she was right ; and I 
rose at once to go to the card-table. As I left the piano. 
Miss Fairlie turned a page of the music, and touched the 
keys again with a surer hand. 

' I ivill play it,' she said, striking the notes almost passion- 
ately. * I will play it on the last night. ' 

' Come, Mrs. Vesey,' said Miss Halcombe ; * Mr. Gilmore 
and I are tired of ^cart6 — come and be Mr. Hartright's 
partner at whist.' 

The old lawyer smiled satirically. His had been the 
winning hand ; and he had just turned up a king. He 
evidently attributed Miss Halcombe's abrupt change in the 
card-table arrangements to a lady's inability to play the 
losing game. 

The rest of the evening passed without a word or a look 
from her. She kept her place at the piano ; and I kept 
mine at the card-table. She played unlntermittingly — played 
as if the music was her only refuge from herself. Sometimes, 
her fingers touched the notes with a lingering fondness, a 
soft, plaintive, dying tenderness, unutterably beautiful and 
mournful to hear — sometimes, they faltered and failed her, 
or hurried over the instrument mechanically, as if their task 
was a burden to them. But still, change and waver as they 
might in the expression they imparted to the music, their 
resolution to play never faltered. She only rose from the 
piano when we all rose to say good night. 

Mrs. Vesey was the nearest to the door, and the first to 
shake hands with me. 

' I shall not see you again, Mr. Hartright,' said the old 
lady. * I am truly sorry you are going away. You have 
been very kind and attentive ; and an old woman, like me, 

105 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

feels kindness and attention. I wish you happy, sir — I wish 
you a kind good-by.' 

Mr. Gilmore came next. 

* I hope we shall have a future opportunity of bettering^ 
our acquaintance, Mr. Hartright. You quite understand 
about that little matter of business being- safe in my hands ? 
Yes, yes, of course. Bless me, how cold it is ! Don't let 
me keep you at the door. Bon voyage, my dear sir — bon 
voyage, as the French say.' 

Miss Halcombe followed. 

* Half-past seven to-morrow morning,' she said ; then 
added, in a whisper, ' I have heard and seen more than you 
think. Your conduct to-night has made me your friend for 
life.' 

Miss Fairlie came last. I could not trust myself to look 
at her, when I took her hand, and when I thought of the 
next morning. 

' My departure must be a very early one,' I said. ' I 
shall be gone. Miss Fairlie, before you ' 

' No, no,' she interposed, hastily ; ' not before I am out 
of my room., I shall be down to breakfast with Marian. I 
am not so ungrateful, not so forgetful of the past three 
months ' 

Her voice failed her ; her hand closed gently round mine — 
then dropped it suddenly. Before I could say, ' Good night,' 
she was gone. 

The end comes fast to meet me— comes inevitably, as the 
light of the last morning came at Limmeridge House. 

It was barely half-past seven when I went down stairs — 
but I found them both at the breakfast-table waiting for me. 
In the chill air, in the dim light, in the gloomy morning silence 
of the house, we three sat down together, and tried to eat, tried 
to talk. The struggle to preserve appearances was hopeless 
and useless ; and I rose to end it. 

As I held out my hand, as Miss Halcombe, who was 
nearest to me, took it, Miss Fairlie turned away suddenly, 
and hurried from the room. 

'Better so,' said Miss Halcombe, when the door had 
closed — * better so, for you and for her.' 

I waited a moment before I could speak — it was hard to 
lose her, without a parting word, or a parting look. I con- 
trolled myself; I tried to take leave of Miss Halcombe in 
fitting terms ; but all the farewell words I would fain have 
spoken, dwindled to one sentence. 

io6 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

' Have r deserved that you should write to me ? ' was all 
I could say. 

* You have nobly deserved everything- that I can do for 
you, as long as we both live. Whatever the end is, you shall 
know it.' 

' And if I can ever be of help again, at any future time, 
long- after the memory of my presumption and my folly is 
forgotten — — -' 

I could add no more. Jdy voice faltered, my eyes 
moistened, in spite of me. 

She caught me by both hands — she pressed them with the 
strong, steady grasp of a man— her dark eyes glittered — her 
brown complexion flushed deep— the force and energy of her 
face glowed and grew beautiful with the pure inner light of 
her generosity and her pity. 

' I will trust you— if ever the time comes, I will trust you 
as my friend and her friend ; as my brother and her brother.' 
She stopped ; drew me nearer to her — the fearless, noble 
creature — touched my forehead, sister-like, with her lips ; 
and called me by my Christian name. ' God bless you, 
Walter ! ' she said. ' W^ait here alone, and compose yourself 
— I had better not stay for both our sakes ; I had better see 
you go from the balcony upstairs.' 

She left the room. I turned away towards the window, 
where nothing faced me but the lonely autumn landscape — I 
turned away to master myself, before I, too, left the room in 
my turn, and left it for ever. 

A minute passed — it could hardly have been more — when 
I heard the door open again softly ; and the rustling of a 
woman's dress on the carpet, moved towards me. My heart 
beat violently as I turned round. Miss Fairlie was approach- 
ing me from the farther end of the room. 

She stopped and hesitated, when our eyes met, and when 
she saw that we were alone. Then, with that courage 
which women lose so often in the small emergency, and so 
seldom in the great, she came on nearer to me, strangely pale 
and strangely quiet, drawing one hand after her along the 
table by which she walked, and holding something at her 
side, in the other, which was hidden by the folds of her dress. 
* I only went into the drawing-room,' she said, 'to look 
for this. It may remind you of your visit here, and of the 
friends you leave behind you. You told me I had improved 

very much when I did it — and I thought you might like ' 

She turned her head away, and offered me a little sketch 
drawn throughout by her ov\'n pencil, of the summer-house 

107 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

In which we had first met. The paper trembled in her hand 
as she held it out to me — trembled in mine, as I took it from 
her, 

I was afraid to say what I felt — I only answered : ' It 
shall never leave me ; all m}' life long- it shall be the treasure 
that I prize most. I am very g-rateful for it — very grateful to 
yoii, for not letting- me go away without bidding- you good-by.' 

' Oh ! ' she said, innocently, ' how could I let you ^o, after 
we have passed so many happy days together ! ' 

* Those days may never return, Miss Fairlie — my way of 
life and yours are very far apart. But if a time should come, 
when the devotion of my whole heart and soul and strength 
will give you a moment's happiness, or spare you a moment's 
sorrow, will you try to remember the poor drawing-master 
who has taught you ? Miss Halcombe has promised to trust 
me — will you promise, too ? ' 

The farewell sadness in the kind blue eyes shone dimly 
through her gathering tears. 

' I promise it,' she said, in broken tones. ' Oh, don't look 
at me like that ! I promise it with all my heart.' 

I ventured a little nearer to her, and held out my hand. 

* You have many friends who love you, Miss Fairlie. 
Your happy future is the dear object of many hopes. May 
I say, at parting, that it is the dear object of my hopes too ? ' 

The tears flowed fast down her checks. She rested one 
trembling hand on the table to steady herself, while she gave 
me the other. I took it in mine — I held it fast. My head 
drooped over it, my t^ars fell dn it, my lips pressed it — not in 
love ; oh, not in love, at that last moment, but in the agony 
and the self-abandonment bf despair. 

' For God's sake, leave me ! ' she said faintly. 

The confession of her heart's secret burst from her in those 
pleading words. I had no right to hear them, no right to 
answer them : they were the words that banished me, 
in the name of her sacred weakness, from the room. It 
was all over. I dropped her hand ; I said no more. The 
blinding tears shut her out from my eyes, and I dashed 
them away to look at her for the last time. One look as 
she sank into a chair, as her arms fell on the table, as her 
fair head dropped on them wearily. One farewell look ; and 
the door had closed upon her— the gre^it gulf of separation had 
opened between us — the image of Laura Fairlie was a memory 
of the past already 

The End of Hartrighfs Narrative. 
1 08 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 



The Story continued by Vincent Gilmore, of Chancery Lane, 
Solicitor, 

I. 

I WRITE these lines at the request of my friend, Mr. Walter 
Hartright. They are intended to convey a description of 
certain events which seriously affected Miss Fairlie's interests, 
and which took place after the period of Mr. Hartright's 
departure from Limmeridge House. 

There is no need for me to say whether my own opinion 
does or does not sanction the disclosure of the remarkable 
family story, of which my narrative forms an important com- 
ponent part. Mr. Hartright has taken that responsibility on 
himself ; and circumstances yet to be related will show that 
he has amply earned the right to do so, if he chooses to 
exercise it. The plan he has adopted for presenting the 
story to others, in the most truthful and most vivid manner, 
requires that it should be told, at each successive stage in 
the march of events, by the persons who were directly con- 
cerned in those events at the time of their occurrence. My 
appearance here, as narrator, is the necessary consequence of 
this arrangement. I was present during the sojourn of Sir 
Percival Glyde in Cumberland, and was personally concerned 
in one important result of his short residence under Mr. 
Fairlie's roof. It is my duty, therefore, to add these new 
links to the chain of events, and to take up the chain itself at 
the point where, for the present only, Mr. Hartright has 
dropped it. 

I arrived at Limmeridge House, on Friday the second of 
November. 

My object v/as to remain at Mr. Fairlie's until the arrival 
of Sir Percival Glyde. If that event led to the appointment 
of any given day for Sir Percival's union with Miss Fairlie, I 
was to take the necessary instructions back with me to 
London, and to occupy myself in drawing the lady's marriage- 
settlement. 

On the Friday I was not favoured by Mr. Fairlie with an 
interview. He had been, or had fancied himself to be, an 
invalid for years past ; and he was not well enough to 
receive m.e. Miss Halconibe was the first member of the 
family whom I saw. She met me at the house door ; and 
introduced me to Mr. Hartright, who had been staying at 
Limmeridge for some time past. 

109 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

I did not see Miss Fairlie until later in the day, at dinner 
time. Slie was not looking- well, and I was sorry to observe 
it. She is a sweet, lovable girl, as amiable and attentive to 
every one about her as her excellent mother used to be — 
though, personally speaking, she takes after her father. 
Mrs. Fairlie had dark eyes and hair ; and her elder daughter, 
Miss Halcombe, strongly reminds me of her. Miss Fairlie 
played to us in the evening — not so well as usual, I thought. 
We had a rubber at whist ; a mere profanation, so far as 
play was concerned, of that noble game. I had been 
favourably impressed by Mr. Hartright, on our first intro- 
duction to one another ; but I soon discovered that he was 
not free from the social failings incidental to his ag^e. There 
are three things that none of the young men of the present 
generation can do. They can't sit over their wine ; they 
can't play at whist ; and they can't pay a lady a compliment. 
Mr. Hartright was no exception to the general rule. Other- 
wise, even in those early days and on that short acquaintance, 
he struck me as being a modest and g-entlemanlike young 
man. 

So the Friday passed. I say nothing about the more 
serious matters which engaged my attention on that day — 
the anonymous letter to Miss Fairlie ; the measures I thought 
it right to adopt when the matter was mentioned to me ; and 
the conviction I entertained that every possible explanation of 
the circumstances would be readily afforded by Sir Percival 
Glyde, having all been fully noticed, as I understand, in the 
narrative v.hich precedes this. 

On the Saturday, Mr, Hartright had left before I got 
down to breakfast. Miss Fairlie kept her room all day ; and 
Miss Halcombe appeared to me to be out of spirits. The 
house was not what it used to be in the time of Mr. and Mrs. 
Philip Fairlie. I took a v/alk by myself in the forenoon : and 
looked about at some of the places which I first saw when I 
was staying- at Limmeridge to transact family business, more 
than thirty years since. They were not what they used to be 
either. 

At two o'clock Mr. Fairlie sent to say he vras well enough 
to see me. He had not altered, at any rate, since I first 
knew him. His talk was to the same purpose as usual — all 
about himself and his ailments, his wonderful coins, and his 
matchless Rembrandt etchings. The moment I tried to spe 
of the business that had brought me to his house, he shut ^'^ 
eyes and said I ' upset ' him. I persisted in upsetting him by 
returning again and again to the subject. All I could ascer- 

IIO 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

tain was tliat he looked on his niece's marriagfe as a settled 
thing, that her tather had sanctioned it, that he sanctioned it 
himself, that it was a desirable marriage, and that he should 
be personally rejoiced when the worry of it was over. As to 
the settlements, if I would consult his niece, and afterwards 
dive as deeply as I pleased into my own knowledge of the 
family affairs, and get everything ready, and limit his share 
in the business, as guardian, to saying, Yes, at the right 
moment — why of course he would meet my views, and every- 
body else's views, with infinite pleasure. In the mean time, 
there I saw him, a helpless sufferer, confined to his room. 
Did I think he looked as if he wanted teasing ? No. Then 
why tease him ? 

I might, perhaps, have been a little astonished at this 
extraordinary absence of all self-assertion on Mr. Fairlie's 
part, in the character of guardian, if my knowledge of the 
family affairs had not been sufficient to remind me that he 
was a single man, and that he had nothing more than a. life- 
interest in the Limmeridge property. As matters stood, 
therefore, I was neither surprised nor disappointed at the 
result of the interview. Mr. Fairlie had simply justified my 
expectations — and there was an end of it. 

Sunday was a dull day, out of doors and in. A letter 
arrived for me from Sir Percival Clyde's solicitor, acknow- 
ledging the receipt of my copy of the anonymous letter, and 
my accompanying statement of the case. Miss Fairlie joined 
us in the afternoon, looking pale and depressed, and alto- 
gether unlike herself. I had some talk with her, and ventured 
on a delicate allusion to Sir Percival. She listened, and said 
nothing. All other subjects she pursued willingly ; but this 
subject she aliovvcd to drop. I began to doubt whether she 
might not be repenting of her engagement — ^just as young 
ladies often do, when repentance comes too late. 

On Monday Sir Percival Glyde arrived. 

I found him to be a most prepossessing man, so far as 
manners and appearance were concerned. He looked rather 
older than I had expected ; his head being bald over the fore- 
head, and his face somewhat marked and w^orn. But his 
movements were as active and his spirits as high as a young 
man's. His meeting with Miss Halcombe was delightfully 
hearty and unaffected ; and his reception of me, upon my 
being presented to him, was so easy and pleasant that v/e 
got on together like old friends. Miss Fairlie was not with 
us when he arrived, but she entered the room about ten 
minutes afterwards. Sir Percival rose and paid his compli- 

III 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

ments with perfect grace. His evident concern on seeing the 
change for the worse in the young lady's looks was expressed 
with a mixture of tenderness and respect, with an unassuming 
delicacy of tone, voice, and manner, which did equal credit to 
his good breeding and his good sense. I was rather 
surprised, under these circumstances, to see that Miss Fairlie 
continued to be constrained and uneasy in his presence, and 
that she took the first opportunity of leaving the room again. 
Sir Percival neither noticed the restraint in her reception of 
him, nor her sudden withdrawal from our society. He had 
not obtruded his attentions on her while she was present, and 
he did not embarrass Miss Halcombe by any allusion to her 
departure when she was gone. His tact and taste were never 
at fault on this or on any other occasion while I was in his 
company at Limmeridge House. 

As soon as Miss Fairlie had left the room, he spared us all 
embarrassment on the subject of the anonymous letter, by 
adverting to it of his own accord. He had stopped in London 
on his way from Hampshire ; had seen his solicitor ; had 
read the documents forwarded by me ; and had travelled on 
to Cumberland, anxious to satisfy our minds by the speediest 
and the fullest explanation that words could convey. On 
hearing him express himself to this effect, I offered him the 
original letter which I had kept for his inspection. He 
thanked me, and declined to look at it ; saying that he had 
seen the copy, and that he was quite willing to leave the 
original in our hands. 

The statement itself, on which he immediately entered, 
was as simple and satisfactory as I had all along anticipated 
it would be. 

Mrs. Catherick, he informed us, had, in past years, laid 
him under some obligations for faithful services rendered to 
his family connexions and to himself. She had been doubly 
unfortunate in being married to a husband who had deserted 
her, and in having an only child whose mental faculties had 
been in a disturbed condition from a very early age. Although 
her marriage had removed her to a part of Hampshire far 
distant from the neighbourhood in which Sir Percival's 
property was situated, he had taken care not to lose sight of 
her ; his friendly reeling towards the poor woman, in consider- 
ation of her past services, having been greatly strengthened 
by his admiration of the patience and courage with which she 
supported her calamities. In course of time, the symptoms 
of mental affliction in her unhappy daughter increased to such 
a serious extent, as to make it a matter of necessity to place 

113 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

her under proper medical care. Mrs. Catherick herself 
recognised this necessity ; but she also felt the prejudice 
common to persons occupying her respectable station, against 
allowing her child to be admitted, as a pauper, into a public 
Asylum. Sir Percival had respected this prejudice, as he 
respected honest independence of feeling in any rank of life ; 
and had resolved to mark his grateful sense of Mrs. Cather- 
ick's early attachment to the interests of himself and his 
family, by defraying the expense of her daughter's mainten- 
ance in a trustworthy private Asylum. To her mother's 
regret, and to his own regret, the unfortunate creature had 
discovered the share which circumstances had induced him to 
take in placing her under restraint, and had conceived the 
most intense hatred and distrust of him in consequence. To 
that hatred and distrust — which had expressed itself in various 
ways in the Asylum — the anonymous letter, written after her 
escape, was plainly attributable. If Miss Haljombe's or Mr. 
Gilmore's recollection of the document did not confirm that 
view, or if they wished for any additional particulars about 
the Asylum (the address of which he mentioned, as well as the 
names and addresses of the two doctors on whose certificates 
the patient was admitted), he was ready to answer any 
question and to clear up any uncertainty. He had done his 
duty to the unhappy young woman, by instructing his solici- 
tor to spare no expense in tracing her, and in restoring her 
once more to medical care ; and he was now only anxious to 
do his duty towards Miss Fairlie and tovrards her family, in 
the same plain, straightforward way. 

I was the first to speak in answer to this appeal. My own 
course was plain to me. It is the great beauty of the Law 
that it can dispute any human statement, made under any 
circumstances, and reduced to any form. If I had felt 
professionally called upon to set up a case against Sir Percival 
Glyde, on the strength of his own explanation, I could have 
done so beyond all doubt. But my duty did not lie in this 
direction : my function was of the purely judicial kind. I was 
to weigh the explanation we had just heard ; to allow all due 
force to the high reputation of the gentleman who ofi^ered it ; 
and to decide honestly whether the probabilities, on Sir 
Percival's own showing, were plainly with him, or plainly 
against him. My own conviction was that they were plainly 
with him ; and I accordingly declared that his explanation 
was, to my mind, unquestionably a satisfactory one. 

Miss Halcombe, after looking- at me very earnestly, said a 
few words, on her side, to the same effect — with a certain 

U3 i 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

hesitation of manner, however, which the circumstances did 
not seem to me to warrant. I am unable to say, positively, 
whether Sir Percival noticed this or not. My opinion is that 
he did ; seeing that he pointedly resumed the subject, although 
he might, now, with all propriety, have allowed it to drop. 

' If my plain statement of facts had only been addressed 
to Mr. Gilmore,' he said, ' I should consider any further 
reference to this unhappy matter as unnecessary. I may 
fairly expect Mr. Gilmore, as a gentleman, to believe me on 
my word ; and when he has done me that justice, all discussion 
of the subject between us has come to an end. But my position 
with a lady is not the same. I owe to her, what I would 
concede to no man alive — a proof oi the truth of my assertion. 
You cannot ask for that proof, Miss Halcombe ; and it is 
therefore my duty to you, and still more to Miss Fairlie, to 
offer it. May I beg that you will write at once to the mother 
of this unfortunate woman — to Mrs. Catherick — to ask for 
ner testimony in support of the explanation which I have 
just offered to you.' 

I saw Miss Halcombe change colour, and look a little un- 
easy. Sir Percival's suggestion, politely as it was expressed, 
appeared to her, as it appeared to me, to point, very delicately, 
at the hesitation which her manner had betrayed a moment or 
two since. 

' I hope, Sir Percival, you don't do me the injustice to 
suppose that I distrust you,' she said, quickly. 

* Certainly not. Miss Halcombe. I make my proposal 
purely as an act of attention to yon. Will you excuse my 
obstinacy if I still venture to press it?' 

He walked to the writing-table, as he spoke ; drew a chair 
to it ; and opened the paper case. 

' Let me beg you to write the note,' he said, ' as a favour 
to me. It need not occupy you more than a few minutes. 
You have only to ask Mrs. Catherick two questions. First, if 
her daughter was placed in the Asylum with her knowledge 
and approval. Secondly, if the share I took in the matter 
was such as to merit the expression of her gratitude towards 
myself? Mr. Gilmore's mind is at ease on this unpleasant 
subject ; and your mind is at ease — pray set my mind at 
ease also, by writing the note.' 

* You oblige me to grant your request, Sir Percival, when 
I would much rather refuse it.' With those words Miss 
Halcombe rose from her place and went to the writing-table. 
Sir Percival thanked her, handed her a pen, and then v/alked 
away towards the fireplace. Miss Fairlie's little Italian grey- 

J14 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

hound was lying- on the rug. He held out his hand, and 
called to the dog g^ood-humouredly. 

' Come, Nina,' he said ; * we remember each other, don't 
we ? ' 

The little beast, cowardly and cross-grained as pet-dogs 
usually are, looked up at him sharply, shrank away from his 
outstretched hand, whined, shivered, and hid itself under a 
sofa. It was scarcely possible that he could have been put out 
by such a trifle as a dog's reception of him — but I observed, 
nevertheless, that he walked away towards the window very 
suddenly. Perhaps his temper is irritable at times? If so, I 
can sympathise with him. My temper is irritable at times, 
too. 

Miss Halcombe was not long in writing the note. When 
it was done, she rose from the writing-table, and handed the 
open sheet of paper to Sir Percival. He bowed ; took it 
from her ; folded it up immediately, without looking at the 
contents ; sealed it ; wrote the address ; and handed it back 
to her in silence. I never saw anything- more gracefully 
and more becomingly done, in my life. 

' You insist on my posting this letter, Sir Percival ? ' said 
Miss Halcombe. 

' I beg you will post it,' he ansv/ered. * And now that it 
is written and sealed up, allow me to ask one or two last 
questions about the unhappy woman to whom it refers. I 
have read the communication which Mr. Gilmore kindly ad- 
dressed to my solicitor, describing the circumstances under 
which the writer of the anonymous letter was identified. But 
there are certain points to which that statement does not refer. 
Did Anne Catherick see Miss Fairlie?' 

* Certainly not,' replied Miss Halcombe. 

* Did she see you ? ' 
'No.' 

' She saw nobody from the house, then, except a certain 
Mr. Hartright, who accidentally met with her in the church- 
yard here ? ' 

' Nobody else.' 

' Mr. Hartright was employed at LImmeridge as a draw- 
ing-master, I believe ? Is he a member of one of the Water- 
Colour Societies ? ' 

'I believe he is,' answered Miss Halcombe. 

He paused for a moment, as if he was thinking over the 
last answer, and then added : 

' Did you find out where Anne Catherick was living, when 
she was in this neighbourhood ? ' 

11^ I 2 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

* Yes. At a farm on the moor, called Todd's Corner.' 

* It is a duty we all owe to the poor creature herself to trace 
her,' continued Sir Percival. ' She may have said something" 
at Todd's Corner which may help us to find her. I will go 
there, and make inquiries on the chance. In the mean time, 
as I cannot prevail on myself to discuss this painful subject 
with Miss Fairlie, may I beg, Miss Halcombe, that you will 
kindly undertake to give her the necessary explanation, de- 
ferring it of course until you have received the reply to that 
note.' 

Miss Halcombe promised to comply with his request. He 
thanked her — nodded pleasantly — and left us, to go and 
establish himself in his own room. As he opened the door, 
the cross-grained greyhound poked out her sharp muzzle from 
under the sofa, and barked and snapped at him. 

*A good morning's work, Miss Halcombe,' I said, as 
soon as we were alone. ' Here is an anxious day well ended 
already.' 

'Yes,' she answered ; 'no doubt. I am very glad your 
mind is satisfied.' 

' My mind ! Surely, with that note in your hand, your 
mind is at ease, too ? ' 

' Oh, yes — how can it be otherwise ? I know the thing 
could not be,' she went on, speaking more to herself than to 
me ; ' but I almost wish Walter Hartright had stayed here 
long enough to be present at the explanation, and to hear the 
proposal to me to wTite this note.' 

I was a little surprised — perhaps a little piqued, also, by 
these last words. 

' Events, it is true, connected Mr. Hartright very remark- 
ably with the affair of the letter,' I said ; ' and I readily admit 
that he conducted himself, all things considered, with great 
delicacy and discretion. But I am quite at a loss to under- 
stand what useful influence his presence could have exercised 
in relation to the effect of Sir Percival's statement on your mind 
or mine.' 

* It was only a fancy,' she said, absently. ' There is no 
need to discuss it, Mr. Gilmore. Your experience ought to be, 
and is, the best guide I can desire.' 

I did not altogether like her thrusting the whole responsi- 
bility, in this marked manner, on my shoulders. If Mr. Fairlie 
had done it, I should not have been surprised. But resolute, 
clear-minded Miss Halcombe, was the very last person in the 
world whom I should have expected to find shrinking from the 
expression of an opinion of her own. 

ii6 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

' If any doubts still trouble you,' I said, ' why not mention 
them to me at once ? Tell me plainly, have you any reason to 
distrust Sir Percival Clyde ? ' 

'None whatever.' 

* Do you see anything improbable, or contradictory, in his 
explanation ? * 

' How can I say I do, after the proof he has offered me of 
the truth of it ? Can there be better testimony in his favour, 
Mr. Gilmore, than the testimony of the woman's mother ? ' 

* None better. If the answer to your note of inquiry proves 
to be satisfactory, I, for one, cannot see what more any friend 
of Sir Percival's can possibly expect from him.' 

* Then we will post the note,* she said, rising to leave the 
room, ' and dismiss all further reference to the subject, until 
the answer arrives. Don't attach any weight to my hesitation. 
I can give no better reason for it than that I have been over- 
anxious about Laura lately ; and anxiety, Mr. Cilmore, un- 
settles the strongest of us.' 

She left me abruptly : her naturally firm voice faltering as 
she spoke those last words. A sensitive, vehement, passionate 
nature — a woman of ten thousand in these trivial, superficial 
times. I had known her from her earliest years ; I had seen 
her tested, as she grew up, in more than one trjang family 
crisis, and my long experience made me attach an importance 
to her hesitation under the circumstances here detailed, which 
I should certainly not have felt in the case of another woman. 
I could see no cause for any uneasiness or any doubt ; but she 
had made me a little uneasy, and a little doubtful, nevertheless. 
In my youth, I should have chafed and fretted under the irri- 
tation of my own unreasonable state of mind. In my age, I 
knew better ; and went out philosophically to walk it off. 



II. 

We all met again at dinner-time. 

Sir Percival was in such boisterous high spirits that I 
hardly recognised him as the same man whose quiet tact, 
refinement, and good sense had impressed me so strongly at 
the interview of the morning. The only trace of his former 
self that I could detect, reappeared, every now and then, in 
his manner towards Miss Fairlie. A look or a word from her, 
suspended his loudest laugh, checked his gayest flow of talk, 
and rendered him all attention to her, and to no one else at 
table, in an instant. Although he never openly tried to draw 

:i7 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

her into the conversation, he never lost the slig-htest chance 
she gave him of letting- her drift into it by accident, and of 
saying- the words to her, under those favourable circumstances, 
v/hich a man with less tact and delicacy would have pointedly 
addressed to her the moment they occurred to him. Rather to 
my surprise, Miss Fairlie appeared to be sensible of his atten- 
tions, without being moved by them. She was a little con- 
fused from time to time, when he lool<ed at her, or spoke to 
her ; but she never warmed towards him. Rank, fortune, good 
breeding, good looks, the respect of a gentleman, and the 
devotion of a lover were all humbly placed at her feet, and, so 
far as appearances went, were all offered in vain. 

On the next day, the Tuesday, Sir Percival went in the 
morning (taking one of the servants with him as a guide) to 
Todd's Corner. His inquiries, as I afterwards heard, led to no 
results. On his return, he had an interview with Mr. Fairlie ; 
and in the afternoon he and Miss Halcombe rode out together. 
Nothing else happened worthy of record. The evening passed 
as usual. There was no change in Sir Percival, and no 
change in Miss Fairlie. 

The Wednesday's post brought with it an event— the reply 
from Mrs. Catherick. I took a copy of the document, which I 
have preserved, and which I may as well present in this place. 
It ran as follows : — • 

* Madam, — I beg to acknowledge the receipt of your letter, 
inquiring whether my daughter, Anne, was placed under 
medical superintendence with my knowledge and approval, 
and whether the share taken in the matter by Sir Percival 
Clyde was such as to merit the expression of my gratitude 
tov/ards that gentleman. Be pleased to accept my answer in 
the affirmative to both those questions, and believe me to 
remain, your obedient servant, 

'Jane Anne Catherick.' 

Short, sharp, and to the point : in form, rather a business- 
like letter for a woman to write ; in substance, as plain a 
confirmation as could be desired of Sir Percival Clyde's state- 
ment. This was my opinion, and with certain minor reserva- 
tions. Miss Halcombe's opinion also. Sir Percival, when the 
letter was shown to him, did not appear to be struck by the 
sharp, short tone of it. He told us that Mrs. Catherick was 
a woman of few words, a clear-headed, straightforward, un- 
imaginative person, who wrote briefly and plainly, just as she 
spoke. 

ii8 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

The next duty to be accomplished, now that the answer 
had been received, was to acquaint Miss Fairlie with Sir 
Percival's explanation. Miss Halcombe had undertaken to 
do this, and had left the room to g"o to her sister, when she 
suddenly returned again, and sat down by the easy-chair in 
which I was reading the newspaper. Sir Percival had gone 
out a minute before, to look at the stables, and no one was in 
the room but ourselves. 

* I suppose we have really and truly done all we can ? ' she 
said, turning and twisting Mrs. Catherick's letter in her 
hand. 

' If we are friends of Sir Percival's, who know him and 
trust him, we have done all, and more than all, that is neces- 
sary,' I answered, a little annoyed by this return of her hesita- 
tion. ' But if we are enemies who suspect him ' 

'That alternative is not even to be thought of,' she inter- 
posed. ' We are Sir Percival's friends ; and, if generosity 
and forbearance can add to our regard for him, we ought to 
be Sir Percival's admirers as well. You know that he saw 
Mr. Fairlie yesterday, and that he afterwards went out with 
me ? ' 

' Yes. I saw you riding away together.' 
' We began the ride by talking about Anne Catherick, and 
about the singular manner in which Mr. Hartright met with 
her. But we soon dropped that subject ; and Sir Percival 
spoke next, in the most unselfish terms, of his engagement 
with Laura. He said he had observed that she was out of 
spirits, and he was willing, if not informed to the contrary, to 
attribute to that cause the alteration in her manner towards 
him during his present visit. If, however, there was any 
more serious reason for the change, he would entreat that no 
constraint might be placed on her inclinations either by Mr. 
Fairlie or by me. AH he asked, in that case, was that she 
■would recall to mind, for the last time, what the circumstances 
were under which the engagement between them was made, 
and what his conduct had been from the beginning of the 
courtship to the present time. If, after due reflection on those 
two subjects, she seriously desired that he should withdraw 
his pretensions to the honour of becoming her husband — and 
if she v/ould tell him so plainly, with her own lips— he would 
sacrifice himself by leaving her perfectly free to withdraw from 
the engagement.' 

' No man could say more than that. Miss Halcombe. As 
to my experience, few men in his situation would have said 
as much.' 

119 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

She paused after I had spoken those words, and looked at 
me with a singular expression of perplexity and distress. 

' I accuse nobody and I suspect nothing,' she broke out, 
abruptly. ' But I cannot and will not accept the responsibility 
of persuading Laura to this marriage.' 

' That is exactly the course which Sir Percival Glyde has 
himself requested you to take,' I replied, in astonishment. 
' He has begged you not to force her inclinations.' 

' And he indirectly obliges me to force them, if I give her 
his message.' 

* How can that possibly be ? ' 

' Consult your own knowledge of Laura, Mr. Gilmore. 
If I tell her to reflect on the circumstances of her engagement, 
I at once appeal to two of the strongest feelings in her nature 
— to her love for her father's memory, and to her strict regard 
for truth. You know that she never broke a promise in her 
life ; you know that she entered on this engagement at the 
beginning of her father's fatal illness, and that he spoke 
hopefully and happily of her marriage to Sir Percival Glyde on 
his death-bed.' 

I own that I was a little shocked at this view of the case. 

' Surely,' I said, 'you don't mean to infer that when Sir 
Percival spoke to you yesterday, he speculated on such a result 
as you have just mentioned ? ' 

Her frank, fearless face answered for her before she 
spoke. 

* Do you think I would remain an instant in the company 
of any man whom I suspected of such baseness as that ? ' she 
asked, angrily. 

I liked to feel her hearty indignation flash out on me in 
that way. We see so much malice and so little indignation 
in my profession. 

' In that case,' I said, ' excuse me if I tell you, in our legal 
phrase, that you are travelling out of the record. Whatever 
the consequences may be. Sir Percival has a right to expect 
that your sister should carefully consider her engagement 
from every reasonable point of view before she claims her 
release from it. If that unlucky letter has prejudiced her 
against him, go at once, and tell her that he has cleared him- 
self in your eyes and in mine. What objection can she urge 
against him after that ? What excuse can she possibly have 
for changing her mind about a man whom she had virtually 
accepted for her husband more than two years ago ? ' 

' In the eyes of law and reason, Mr. Gilmore, no excuse, I 
dare say. If she still hesitates, and if I still hesitate, you 

I20 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

must attribute our strang-e conduct, if you like, to caprice in 
both cases, and we must bear the imputation as well as we can.' 

With those words, she suddenly rose, and left me. When 
a sensible woman has a serious question put to her, and 
evades it by a flippant answer, it is a sure sign, in ninety-nine 
cases out of a hundred, that she has something to conceal. 
I returned to the perusal of the newspaper, strongly suspect- 
ing that Miss Halcombe and Miss Fairlie had a secret between 
them which they were keeping from Sir Percival and keeping 
from me. I thought this hard on both of us — especially on 
Sir Percival. 

My doubts — or, to speak more correctly, my convictions 
• — were confirmed by Miss Halcombe's language and manner, 
when I saw her again later in the day. She was suspiciously 
brief and reserved in telling me the result of her interview 
with her sister. Miss Fairlie, it appeared, had listened 
quietly while the affair of the letter was placed before her in 
the right point of view ; but when Miss Halcombe next pro- 
ceeded to say that the object of Sir Percival's visit at Lim- 
meridge was to prevail on her to let a day be fixed for the 
marriage, she checked all further reference to the subject by 
begging for time. If Sir Percival would consent to spare her 
for the present, she would undertake to give him his final 
answer, before the end of the year. She pleaded for this 
delay with such anxiety and agitation, that Miss Halcombe 
had promised to use her influence, if necessary, to obtain it ; 
and there, at Miss Fairlie's earnest entreaty, all further dis- 
cussion of the marriage question had ended. 

The purely temporary arrangement thus proposed might 
have been convenient enough to the young lady ; but it 
proved somewhat embarrassing to the writer of these lines. 
That morning's post had brought a letter from my partner, 
which obliged me to return to town the next day, by the 
afternoon train. It was extremely probable that I should 
find no second opportunity of presenting myself at Limmeridge 
House during the remainder of the year. In that case, sup- 
posing Miss Fairlie ultimately decided on holding to her 
engagement, my necessary personal communication with her, 
before I drew her settlement, would become something like a 
downright impossibility ; and we should be obliged to commit 
to writing questions which ought always to be discussed on both 
sides by word of mouth. I said nothing about this difficulty, 
until Sir Percival had been consulted on the subject of the de- 
sired delay. He was too gallant a gentleman not to grant the 
request immediately. When Miss Halcombe informed me of 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

this I told her that I must absolutely speak to her sister, before 
I left Limmeridg"e ; and it was, therefore, arranged that I 
should see Miss Fairlie in her own sitting-room, the next 
morning. She did not come down to dinner, or join us in 
the evening. Indisposition was the excuse ; and I thought 
Sir Percival looked, as well he might, a little annoyed when 
he heard of it. 

The next morning, as soon as breakfast was over, I went 
up to Miss Fairlie's sitting-room. The poor girl looked so 
pale and sad, and came forward to welcome me so readily 
and prettily, that the resolution to lecture her on her caprice 
and indecision, which I had been forming all the waj' up- 
stairs, failed me on the spot. I led her back to the chair 
from which she had risen, and placed myself opposite to her. 
Her cross-grained pet greyhound was in the room, and I fully 
expected a barking and snapping reception. Strange to say, 
the whimsical little brute falsified my expectations by jumping 
into my lap, and poking its sharp muzzle familiarly into my 
hand the moment I sat down. 

' You used often to sit on my knee when you. were a 
child, my dear,' I said, 'and now your little dog seems 
determined to succeed you in the vacant throne. Is that 
pretty drawing your doing ? ' 

I pointed to a little album, Vv^hich lay on the table by her 
side, and which she had evidently been looking over when I 
came in. The page that lay open had a small Avater-colour 
landscape very neatly mounted on it. This was the drawing 
which had suggested my question : an idle question enough — 
but how could I begin to talk of business to her the moment 
I opened my lips ? 

' No,' she said, looking away from the drawing rather con- 
fusedly ; ' it is not my doing.' 

Her fingers had a restless habit, which I remembered in 
her as a child, of always playing with the first thing that came 
to hand, whenever any one was talking to her. On this 
occasion they wandered to the album, and toyed absently 
about the margin of the little water-colour drawing. The ex- 
pression of melancholy deepened on her face. She did not 
look at the drawing, or look at me. Her eyes moved uneasily 
from object to object in the room ; betraying plainly that she 
suspected what my purpose was in coming to speak to her. 
Seeing that, I thought it best to get to the purpose with as 
little delay as possible. 

' One of the errands, my dear, which brings me here is to 
bid you good-by,' I began. * I must get back to London 



THE WOMAN IN WHITEi 

to-day : and, before I leave, I want to have a Vv-ord with you 
on the subject of }Our ov^^i affairs.' 

' I am very sorry you are going-, Mr. Gihnore,' she said, 
looking- at me kindly. ' It is like the happy old times to have 
you here.' 

* I hope I may be able to come back, and recall those 
pleasant memories once more,' I continued ; ' but as there is 
some uncertainty about the future, I must take my oppor- 
tunity when I can get it, and speak to you now. I am your 
old lawyer and your old friend ; and I may remind you, I am 
sure, without offence, of the possibility of your marrying- Sir 
Percival Clyde.' 

She took her hand oft" the little album as suddenly as if it 
had turned hot and burnt her. Her fingers twined together 
nervously in her lap ; her eyes looked down again at the 
floor ; and an expression of constraint settled on her face 
which looked ahnost like an expression of pain. 

' Is it absolutely necessary to speak of my marriage 
engagement ? ' she asked, in low tones. 

' It is necessary to refer to it,' I answered ; 'but not to 
dwell on it. Let us merely say that you may marry, or that 
you may not marry. In the first case, I must be prepared, 
beforehand, to draw your settlement ; and I ought not to do 
that without, as a matter of politeness, first consulting you. 
This may be my only chance of hearing what your wishes 
are. Let us, therefore, suppose the case of your marrying, 
and let me inform you, in as few words as possible, what 
your position is now, and what you may make it, if you 
please, in the future.' 

I explained to her the object of a marriage-settlement ; 
and then told her exactl)^ what her prospects v.'^ere — in the 
first place, on her coming of age, and, in the second place, 
on the decease of her uncle — marking the distinction between 
the property in which she had a life interest onlj', and the 
property which was left at her own control. She listened 
attentively, with the constrained expression still on her face, 
and her hands still nervously clasped together in her lap. 

'And now,' I said, in conclusion, ' tell me if you can think 
of any condition which, in the case we have supposed, you 
would wish me to make for you— subject, of course, to your 
guardian's approval, as you are not yet of age.' 

She moved uneasily in her chair — then looked in my face, 
on a sudden very earnestly. 

' If it does happen,' she began, faintly ; ' if I am 

' If you are married,' I added, helping her out. 

123 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

* Don't let him part me from Marian,' she cried, with a 
sudden outbreak of energy. ' Oh, Mr. Gilmore, pray make 
it law that Marian is to live with me ! ' 

Under other circumstances I might perhaps have been 
amused at this essentially feminine interpretation of my 
question, and of the long explanation which had preceded it. 
But her looks and tones, when she spoke, were of a kind to 
make me more than serious- — they distressed me. Her 
words, few as they were, betrayed a desperate clinging to 
the past which boded ill for the future. 

' Your having Marian Halcombe to live with you, can 
easily be settled by private arrangement,' I said. ' You 
hardly understood my question, I think. It referred to your 
own property — to the disposal of your money. Supposing 
you were to make a will, when you come of age, who would 
you like the money to go to ? ' 

' Marian has been mother and sister both to me,' said the 
good, affectionate girl, her pretty blue eyes glistening while 
she spoke. ' May I leave it to Marian, Mr. Gilmore?' 

* Certainly, my love,' I answered. * But remember what 
a large sum it is. Would you like it all to go to Miss 
Halcombe? ' 

She hesitated ; her colour came and went ; and her hand 
stole back again to the little album. 

' Not all of it,' she said. ' There is some one else, besides 
Marian ' 

She stopped ; her colour heightened ; and the fingers of 
the hand that rested upon the album beat gently on the 
margin of the drawing, as if her memory had set them 
going mechanically with the remembrance of a favourite tune. 

* You mean some other member of the family besides 
Miss Halcombe ? ' I suggested, seeing her at a loss to 
proceed. 

The heightening colour spread to her forehead and her 
neck, and the nervous fingers suddenly clasped themselves 
fast round the edge of the book. 

'There is some one else,' she said, not noticing my last 
words, though she had evidently heard them ; ' there is some 
one else who might like a little keepsake, if — if I might leave 
it. There would be no harm, if I should die first ' 

She paused again. The colour that had spread over her 
cheeks suddenly, as suddenly left them. The hand on the 
album resigned its hold, trembled a little, and moved the 
book away from her. She looked at me for an instant — then 
turned her head aside in the chair. Her handkerchief fell to 

124 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

the floof as she changed her position, and she hurriedly hid 
her face from me in her hands. 

Sad ! To remember her, as I did, the Hvehest, happiest 
child that ever laughed the day through ; and to see her now, 
in the flower of her age and her beauty, so broken and so 
brought down as this ! 

In the distress that she caused me, I forgot the years that 
had passed, and the change they had made in our position 
towards one another. I moved my chair close to her, and 
picked up her handkerchief from the carpet, and drew her 
hands from her face gently. ' Don't cry, my love,' I said, and 
dried the tears that were gathering in her eyes, with my own 
hand, as if she had been the little Laura Fairlie of ten long 
years ago. 

It was the best way I could have taken to compose her. 
She laid her head on my shoulder, and smiled faintly through 
her tears. 

' I am very sorry for forgetting myself,' she said, artlessly. 
' I have not been well — I have felt sadly weak and nervous 
lately ; and I often cry without reason when I am alone. I 
am better now ; I can answer you as I ought, Mr. Gilmore, I 
can indeed.' 

' No, no, my dear,' I replied ; ' we will consider the subject 
as done with for the present. You have said enough to 
sanction my taking the best possible care of your interests ; 
and we can settle details at another opportunity. Let us have 
done with business, now, and talk of something else.' 

I led her at once into speaking on other topics. In ten 
minutes' time, she was in better spirits ; and I rose to take 
my leave. 

' Come here again,' she said earnestly. * I will try to he 
worthier of your kind feeling for me and for my interests if 
you will only come again.' 

Still clinging to the past — that past which I represented 
to her, in my way, as Miss Halcombe did in hers ! It troubled 
me sorely to see her looking back, at the beginning of her 
career, just as I look back at the end of mine. 

* If I do come again, I hope I shall find you better,' I said 
— ' better and happier. God bless you, my dear ! ' 

She only answered by putting up her cheek to me to be 
kissed. Even lawyers have hearts ; and mine ached a little 
as I took leave of her. 

The whole interview between us had hardly lasted more 
than half an hour — she had not breathed a word, in my 
presence, to explain the mystery of her evident distress and 

12!; 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

dismay at the prospect of her marriage — and yet she had con- 
trived to win me over to her side of the question, I neither 
knew how nor why. I had entered the room, feehng- that Sir 
Percival Glyde had fair reason to complain of the m.anner in 
which she was treating him. I left it, secretly hoping that 
matters might end in her taking him at his word and claim- 
ing her release. A man of my age and experience ought to 
have known better than to vacillate in this unreasonable 
manner. I can make no excuse for myself ; I can only tell 
the truth, and say — so it was. 

The hour for my departure was now drawing near. I 
sent to Mr. Fairlie to say that I would wait on him to take 
leave if he liked, but that he must excuse my being rather in 
a hurry. He sent a message back, written in pencil on a slip 
of paper : ' Kind love and best wishes, dear Giimore. Hurry 
of any kind is inexpressibly injurious to me. Pray take care 
of yourself. Good-by.' 

Just before I left, I saw Miss Halcombe, for a moment, 
alone. 

' Have you said all you wanted to Laura ? ' she asked. 

* Yes,' I replied. * She is very weak and nervous — I am 
glad she has you to take care of her.' 

Miss Halcombe's sharp eyes studied my face attentively. 

* You are altering your opinion about Laura,' she said. 
' You are readier to make allowances for her than you were 
yesterday.' 

No sensible man ever engages, unprepared, in a fencing 
match of words with a woman. I only answered : 

' Let me know what happens. I will do nothing till I 
hear from you.' 

She still looked hard in my face. * I wish it was all over, 
and well over, Mr. Giimore — and so do you.' With those 
words she left me. 

Sir Percival most politely insisted on seeing me to the 
carriage door. 

' If you are ever in my neighbourhood,' he said, ' pray don't 
forget that I am sincerely anxious to improve our acquaint- 
ance. The tried and trusted old friend of this family will be 
always a welcome visitor in any house of mine.' 

A really irresistible man — courteous, considerate, delight- 
fully free from pride — a gentleman, every inch of him. As I 
drove away to the station, I felt as if I could cheerfully do 
anything to promote the interests of Sir Percival Gylde — any- 
thing in the world, except drawing the marriage-settlement of 
his wife. 

126 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

III. 

A WEEK passed, after my return to London, without the receipt 
of any communication from Miss Halcombe. 

On the eighth day, a letter in her handwriting was placed 
among the other letters on my table. 

It announced that Sir Percival Gylde had been definitely 
accepted, and that the marriage was to take place, as he had 
originally desired, before the end of the year. In all probability 
the ceremony would be performed during the last fortnight 
in December. Miss Fairlie's twenty-first birthday was late 
in March. She would, therefore, by this arrangement, become 
Sir Percival's wife about three months before she was of age. 

I ought not to hav'e been surprised, I ought not to have 
been sorry; but I was surprised and sorry, nevertheless. 
Some little disappointment, caused by the unsatisfactory 
shortness of Miss Halcombe's letter, mingled itself with these 
feelings, and contributed its share towards upsetting my 
serenity for the da}'. In six lines my correspondent announced 
the proposed marriage ; in three more, she told me that Sir 
Percival had left Cumberland to return to his house in 
Hampshire ; and in two concluding sentences she informed 
me, first, that Laura was sadly in want of change and cheer- 
ful society ; secondly, that she had resolved to try the effect 
of some such change forthwith, by taking her sister away 
with her on a visit to certain old friends in Yorkshire. There 
the letter ended, without a word to explain what the circum- 
stances were which had decided Miss Fairlle to accept Sir 
Percival Glyde in one short week from the time when I had 
last seen her. 

At a later period, the cause of this sudden determination 
was fully explained to me. It is not my business to relate 
it imperfectly, on hearsay evidence. The circumstances came 
within the personal experience of Miss Halcombe ; and, when 
her narrative succeeds mine, she will describe them in every 
particular, exactly as they happened. In the mean time, the 
plain duty for me to perform — before I, in my turn, lay down my 
pen and withdraw from the story — is to relate the one remain- 
ing event connected with Miss Fairlie's proposed marriage in 
which I was concerned, namely, the drawing of the settlement. 

It is impossible to refer intelligibly to this document, with- 
out first entering into certain particulars, in relation to the 
bride's pecuniary affairs. I will try to make my explanation 
briefly and plainly, and to keep it free from professional ob- 
scurities and technicalities. The matter is of the utmost im- 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

portance. I warn all readers of these lines that Miss Fairlie's 
inheritance is a very serious part of Miss Fairlie's story ; and 
that Mr, Gilmore's experience, in this particular, must be 
their experience also, if they wish to understand the narratives 
which are yet to come. 

Miss Fairlie's expectations, then, were of a twofold kind ; 
comprising- her possible inheritance of real property, or land, 
when her uncle died, and her absolute inheritance of personal 
property, or money, when she came of age. 
Let us take the land first. 

In the time of Miss Fairlie's paternal grandfather (whom 
we will call Mr. Fairlie, the elder) the entailed succession to 
the Limmeridge estate stood thus : 

Mr. Fairlie, the elder, died and left three sons, Philip, 
Frederick, and Arthur. As eldest son, Philip succeeded to the 
estate. If he died without leaving a son, the property went 
to the second brother, Frederick. And if Frederick died also 
without leaving a son, the property went to the third brother, 
Arthur. 

As events turned out, Mr. Philip Fairlie died leaving an 
only daughter, the Laura of this story ; and the estate, in con- 
sequence, went, in course of law, to the second brother, 
Frederick, a single man. The third brother, Arthur, had died 
many years before the decease of Philip, leaving a son and a 
daughter. The son, at the age of eighteen, was drowned at 
Oxford. His death left Laura, the daughter of Mr. Philip 
Fairlie, presumptive heiress to the estate ; with every chance 
of succeeding to it, in the ordinary course of nature, on her 
Uncle Frederick's death, if the said Frederick died without 
leaving- male issue. 

Except in the event, then, of Mr. Frederick Fairlie's 
marrying and leaving an heir (the two very last things in the 
world that he was likely to do), his niece, Laura, would have 
the property on his death ; possessing, it must be remembered, 
nothing more than a life-interest in it. If she died single, or 
died childless, the estate would revert to her cousin Magdalen, 
the daughter of Mr. Arthur Fairlie. If she married, with a 
proper settlement — or, in other words, with the settlement I 
meant to make for her — the income from the estate (a good 
three thousand a year) would, during her lifetime, be at her 
own disposal. If she died before her husband, he would natur- 
ally expect to be left in the enjoyment of the income, for his 
lifetime. If she had a son, that son would be the heir, to the 
exclusion of her cousin Magdalen. Thus, Sir Percival's pros- 
pects in marrying Miss Fairlie (so far as his wife's expectations 

128 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

from real property were concerned) promised him these two 
advantages, on Mr. Frederick Fairlie's death : First, the use 
of three thousand a year (by his wife's permission, while she 
lived, and, in his own right, on her death, if he survived 
her) ; and, secondly, the inheritance of Limmeridge for his 
son, if he had one. 

So much for the landed property, and for the disposal of 
the income from it, on the occasion of Miss Fairlie's marriage. 
Thus far, no difficulty or difference of opinion on the lady's 
settlement was at all likely to arise between Sir Percival's 
lawyer and myself. 

The personal estate, or, in other words, the money to 
which Miss Fairlie would become entitled on reaching the 
age of twenty-one years, is the next point to consider. 

This part of her inheritance was, in itself, a comfortable 
little fortune. It was derived under her father's will, and it 
amounted to the sum of twenty thousand pounds. Besides 
this, she had a life interest in ten thousand pounds more ; 
which latter amount was to go, on her decease, to her 
aunt Eleanor, her father's only sister. It will greatly assist 
in setting the family affairs before the reader in the clearest 
possible light, if I stop here for a moment, to explain why the 
aunt had been kept waiting for her legacy until the death of 
the niece. 

Mr. Philip Fairlie had lived on excellent terms with his 
sister Eleanor, as long as she remained a single woman. 
But when her marriage took place, somewhat late in life, and 
when that marriage united her to an Italian gentleman, 
named Fosco — or, rather, to an Italian nobleman, seeing that 
he rejoiced in the title of Count — Mr. Fairlie disapproved of 
her conduct so strongly that he ceased to hold any com- 
munication with her, and even went the length of striking her 
name out of his will. The other members of the family all 
thought this serious manifestation of resentment at his 
sister's marriage more or less unreasonable. Count Fosco, 
though not a rich man, was not a penniless adventurer either. 
He had a small, but sutBcient income of his own ; he had 
lived many years in England ; and he held an excellent position 
in society. These recommendations, however, availed nothing 
with Mr. Fairlie. In many of his opinions he was an English- 
man of the old school ; and he hated a foreigner, simply and 
solely because he was a foreigner. The utmost that he could 
be prevailed on to do, in after years, mainly at Miss Fairlie's 
intercession, was to restore his sister's name to its former 
place in his will, but to keep her waiting for her legacy by 

129 K 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

giving the income of the money to his daughter for life, and 
the money itself, if her aunt died before her, to her cousin 
Magdalen. Considering the relative ages of the two ladies, 
the aunt's chance, in the ordinary course of nature, of receiv- 
ing the ten thousand pounds, was thus rendered doubtful in 
the extreme ; and Madame Fosco resented her brother's treat- 
ment of her as unjustly as usual in such cases, by refusing to 
see her niece, and declining to believe that Miss Fairlie's 
intercession had ever been exerted to restore her name to Mr. 
Fairlie's will. 

Such was the history of the ten thousand pounds. Here 
again no difficulty could arise with Sir Percival's legal adviser. 
The income would be at the wife's disposal, and the principal 
would go to her aunt, or her cousin, on her death. 

All preliminary explanations being now cleared out of the 
way, I come, at last, to the real knot of the case — to the 
twenty thousand pounds. 

This sum was absolutely Miss Fairlie's own, on her com- 
pleting her twenty-first year ; and the whole future disposition 
of it depended, in the first instance, on the conditions I could 
obtain for her in her marriage-settlement. The other clauses 
contained in that document were of a formal kind, and need 
not be recited here. But the clause relating to the money is 
too important to be passed over. A few lines will be sufficient 
to give the necessary abstract of it. 

My stipulation in regard to the twenty thousand pounds, 
was simply this : The whole amount was to be settled so as 
to give the income to the lady for her life ; afterwards to Sir 
Percival for his life ; and the principal to the children of the 
marriage. In default of issue, the principal was to be disposed 
of as the lad)^ might by her will direct, for which purpose I 
reserved to her the right of making a will. The effect of 
these conditions may be thus summed up. If Lady Glyde 
died without leaving children, her half-sister Miss Halcombe, 
and any other relatives or friends whom she might be anxious 
to benefit, would, on her husband's death, divide among them 
such shares of her money as she desired them to have. If, 
on the other hand, she died, leaving children, then their 
interest, naturally and necessarily, superseded all other 
interests whatsoever. This was the clause ; and no one who 
reads it, can fail, I think, to agree with me that it meted out 
equal justice to all parties. 

We shall see how my proposals were met on the husband's 
side. 

At the time when Miss Halcombe's letter reached me, I 

130 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

was even more busily occupied than usual. But I contrived 
to make leisure for the settlement. I had drawn it, and had 
sent it for approval to Sir Percival's solicitor, in less than a 
week from the time when Miss Halcombe had informed me 
of the proposed marriage. 

After a lapse of two days, the document was returned to 
me, with notes and remarks of the baronet's lawyer. His 
objections, in general, proved to be of the most trifling and 
technical kind, until he came to the clause relating to the 
twenty thousand pounds. Against this, there were double 
lines drawn in red ink, and the following note was appended 
to them : 

' Not admissible. The principal to go to Sir Percival 
Clyde, in the event of his surviving Lady Glyde, and there 
being no issue.' 

That is to say, not one farthing of the twenty thousand 
pounds was to go to Miss Halcombe, or to any other relative 
or friend of Lady Glyde's. The whole sum, if she left no 
children, was to slip into the pockets of her husband. 

The answer I wrote to this audacious proposal was as 
short and sharp as I could make it. ' My dear sir. Miss 
Fairlie's settlement. I maintain the clause to which you 
object, exactly as it stands. Yours truly.' The rejoinder 
came back in a quarter of an hour. ' My dear sir. Miss 
Fairlie's settlement. I maintain the red ink to which you 
object, exactly as it stands. Yours truly.' In the detestable 
slang of the day, we were now both 'at a dead-lock,' and 
nothing was left for it but to refer to our clients on either side. 

As matters stood, my client — Miss Fairlie not having yet 
completed her twenty-first year — Mr. Frederick Fairlie, was 
her guardian. I wrote by that day's post and put the case 
before him exactly as it stood ; not only urging every argu- 
ment I could think of to induce him to maintain the clause as 
I had drawn it, but stating to him plainly the mercenary motive 
which was at the bottom of the opposition to my settlement 
of the twenty thousand pounds. The knowledge of Sir 
Percival's affairs which I had necessarily gained when the 
provisions of the deed on liis side were submitted in due 
course to my examination, had but too plainly informed me 
that the debts on his estate were enormous, and thathis income, 
though nominally a large one, was, virtually, for a man in his 
position, next to nothing. The want of ready money was the 
practical necessity of Sir Percival's existence ; and his lawyer's 
note on the clause in the settlement was nothing but the 
frankly selfish expression of it. 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

Mr. Fairlie's answer reached me by return of post, and 
proved to be wandering- and irrelevant in the extreme. Turned 
into plain English, it practically expressed itself to this effect : 
' Would dear Gilmore be so very obliging as not to worry his 
friend and client about such a trifle as a remote contingency ? 
Was it likely that a young woman of twenty-one would die 
before a man of forty-five, and die without children ? On the 
other hand, in such a miserable world as this, was it pos- 
sible to over-estimate the value of peace and quietness ? If 
those two heavenly blessings were offered in exchange for 
such an earthly trifle as a remote chance of twenty thousand 
pounds, was it not a fair bargain ? Surely, yes. Then why 
not make it? ' 

I threw the letter away in disgust. Just as it had fluttered 
to the ground, there was a knock at my door ; and Sir 
Percival's solicitor, Mr. Merriman, was shown in. There are 
many varieties of sharp practitioners in this world, but, I think, 
the hardest of all to deal with are the men who overreach you 
under the disguise of inveterate good humour. A fat, well-fed, 
smiling, friendly man of business is of all parties to a bargain 
the most hopeless to deal with. Mr. Merriman was one of 
this class. 

' And how is good Mr. Gilmore ? ' he began, all in a glow 
with the warmth of his own amiability. ' Glad to see you, 
sir, in such excellent health. I was passing your door ; and 
I thought I would look in, in case you might have something 
to say to me. Do — now pray do let us settle this little dif- 
ference of ours by word of mouth, if we can ! Have you 
heard from your client yet ? ' 

' Yes. Have you heard from yours ? ' 

' My dear, good sir ! I wish I had heard from him to any 
purpose — I wish, Vv-ith all my heart, the responsibility was 
off my shoulders ; but he is obstinate, — or, let me rather say, 
resolute — and he won't take it oft'. "Merriman, I leave de- 
tails to you. Do what you think right for my interests ; and 
consider me as having personally withdrawn from the business 
until it is all over." Those were Sir Percival's words a fort- 
night ago ; and all I can get him to do now is to repeat them. 
I am not a hard man, Mr. Gilmore, as you know. Personally 
and privately, I do assure you, I should like to sponge out 
that note of mine at this very moment. But if Sir Percival 
won't go into the matter, if Sir Percival will blindly leave all 
his interests in my sole care, what course can I possibly take 
except the course of asserting them ? My hands are bound — - 
don't you see, my dear sir? — my hands are bound.' 

132 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

* You maintain your note on the clause, then, to the 
letter ? ' I said. 

' Yes— deuce take it ! I have no other alternative.' He 
walked to the fireplace, and warmed himself, humming- the 
fag- end of a tune in a rich convivial bass voice. ' What does 
your side say ? ' he went on ; ' now pray tell me — what does 
your side say ? ' 

I was ashamed to tell him. I attempted to gain time — nay, 
I did v/orse. My legal instincts got the better of me ; and I 
even tried to bargain. 

' Twenty thousand pounds is rather a large sum to be 
given up by the lady's friends at two days' notice,' I said. 

' Very true,' replied Mr. Merriman, looking- down 
thoughtfully at his boots. ' Properly put, sir — most properly 
put !"' 

' A compromise, recognising the interests of the lady's 
family as well as the interests of the husband might not, 
perhaps, have frightened my client quite so much.' I went on. 
' Come ! come ! this contingency resolves itself into a matter 
of bargaining after all. What is the least you will take ? ' 

' The least we will take,' said Mr. Merriman, ' is nineteen- 
thousand-nine-hundred-and- ninety -nine-pounds-nineteen-shil- 
lings-and-eleven-pence-three-farthings. Ha ! ha ! ha ! Ex- 
cuse me, Mr. Gilrnore. I m.ust have my little joke.' 

'Little enough!' I remarked. 'The joke is just worth 
the odd farthing it was made for.' 

Mr. Merriman was delighted. He laughed over my retort 
till the room rang again. I was not half so good-humoured, 
on my side ; I came back to business, and closed the inter- 
view. 

'This is Friday,' I said. 'Give us till Tuesday next for 
our final answer.' 

' By all means,' replied Mr. Merriman. ' Longer, my dear 
sir, if you like.' He took up his hat to go; and then 
addressed me again. ' By the wa)',' he said, ' your clients in 
Cumberland have not heard anything- more of the woman who 
wrote the anonymous letter, have they ? ' 

'Nothing more,' I answered. ' Have you found no trace 
of her ? ' 

' Not yet,' said my legal friend. ' But we don't despair. 
Sir Percival has his suspicions that Somebody is keeping- her 
in hiding ; and we are having that Somebody watched.' 

' You mean the old woman who was with her in Cumber- 
land,' I said. 

' Quite another party, sir,' answered Mr. Merriman, 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

* We don't happen to have laid hands on the old woman yet. 
Our Somebody is a man. We have got him close under our 
eye here in London : and we strongly suspect he had something- 
to do with helping her in the first instance to escape from the 
Asylum. Sir Percival wanted to question him, at once, but I 
said, *' No. Questioning him will only put him on his guard : 
watch him, and wait." We shall see what happens. A 
dangerous woman to be at large, Mr. Gilmore ; nobody knows 
what she may do next. I wish you good morning, sir. On 
Tuesday next I shall hope for the pleasure of hearing from 
you.' He smiled amiably and went out. 

My mind had been rather absent during the latter part of 
the conversation v/ith my legal friend. I was so anxious 
about the matter of the settlement, that I had little attention 
to give to any other subject ; and, the moment I was left 
alone again, I began to think over what my next proceeding 
ought to be. 

In the case of any other client, I should have acted on my 
instructions, however personally distasteful to me, and have 
given up the point about the twenty thousand pounds on the 
spot. But I could not act with this business-like indifference 
towards Miss Fairlie. I had an honest feeling of aflfection 
and admiration for her ; I remembered gratefully that her 
father had been the kindest patron and friend to me that ever 
man had ; I had felt towards her, while I was drawing the 
settlement, as I might have felt, if I had not been an old 
bachelor, towards a daughter of my own ; and I was determined 
to spare no personal sacrifice in her service and where her 
interests were concerned. Writing a second time to Mr. 
Fairlie was not to be thought of; it would only be giving him 
a second opportunity of slipping through my fingers. Seeing 
him and personally remonstrating with him, might possibly 
be of more use. The next day was Saturday, I determined to 
take a return ticket, and jolt my old bones down to Cumber- 
land, on the chance of persuading him to adopt the just, the 
independent, and the honourable course. It wfis a poor 
chance enough, no doubt ; but, vv^hen I had tried it, my con- 
science would be at ease. I should then have done all that a 
man in my position could do to serve the interests of my old 
friend's only child. 

The weather on Saturday was beautiful, a west Vvind and 
a bright sun. Having felt latterly a return of that fulness and 
oppression of the head, against which my doctor warned me so 
seriously more than two years since, I resolved to take the 
opportunity of getting a little extra exercise, by sending my bag 

134 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

on before me, and walking to the terminus in Euston-square. 
As I came out into Holborn, a gentleman walking by rapidly, 
stopped and spoke to me. It was Mr. Walter Hartright. 

If he had not been the first to greet me, I should certainly 
have passed him.. He was so changed that I hardly knew him 
again. His face looked pale and haggard — his manner was 
hurried and uncertain — and his dress, which I remembered as 
neat and gentlemanlike when I saw him at Limmeridge, was 
so slovenly now, that I should really have been ashamed of the 
appearance of it on one of my own clerks. 

' Have you been long back from Cumberland ? ' he asked. 
' I heard from Miss Halcombe lately. I am aware that Sir 
Percival Clyde's explanation has been considered satisfactor3\ 
Will the marriage take place soon ? Do you happen to know, 
Mr. Gilmore ? ' 

He spoke so fast, and crowded his questions together so 
strangely and confusedly that I could hardly follow^ himi. 
However accidentally intimate he might have been with the 
famiily at Limmeridge, I could not see that he had any right 
to expect information on their private affairs ; and I determined 
to drop him, as ea.sily as might be, on the subject of Miss 
Fairlie's marriage. 

' Time will show, Mr. Hartright,' I said — 'time will shov/. 
I dare say if we look out for the marriage in the papers we 
shall not be far wrong. Excuse my noticing it — but I am sorry 
to see you not looking so well as you were wiien we last 
met.' 

A momentary nervous contraction quivered about his lips 
and eyes, and made me half reproach myself for having 
answered him in such a sigiiificantly guarded manner. 

' I had no right to ask about her marriage,' he said, bitterly. 
* I must wait to see it in the newspapers like other people. 
Yes,' he went on, before I could make any apologies, ' I have 
not been well lately. I am going to another country, to try a 
change of scene and occupation. Miss Halcombe has kindly 
assisted me with her influence, and my testimonials have been 
found satisfactory. It is a long distance off — but I don't care 
where I go, what the climate is, or how long I am away.' He 
looked about him, v.-hile he said this, at the throng of strangers 
passing us by on either side, in a strange, suspicious manner, 
as if he thought that some of them might be v.-atching us. 

' I wish you well through it, and safe back again,' I said ; 
and then added, so as not to keep him altogether at arm's 
length on the subject of the Fairlies, ' I am going down to 
Limm.eridge to-day on business. Miss Halcombe and Miss 

135 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

Fairlie are away just now, on a visit to some friends in 
Yorkshire.' 

His eyes brightened, and he seemed about to say something 
in answer ; but the same momentary nervous spasm crossed his 
face again. He took my hand, pressed it hard, and disappeared 
among the crowd, without saying another word. Though he 
was Uttle more than a stranger to me, I waited for a moment, 
looking after him almost with a feeling of regret. I had 
gained, in m,y profession, sufficient experience of young men, 
to know what the outward signs and tokens were of their 
beginning to go wrong ; and, when I resumed my walk to the 
railway, I am sorry to say I felt more than doubtful about 
Mr. Hartright's future. 

IV. 

Leaving by an early train, I got to Limmerldge in time for 
dinner. The house was oppressively empty and dull. I had 
expected that good Mrs. Vesey would have been company for 
me in the absence of the young ladies ; but she was confined to 
her room by a cold. The servants were so surprised at seeing 
me that they hurried and bustled absurdly, and made all sorts 
of annoying mistakes. Even the butler, who was old enough 
to have known better, brought me a bottle of port that was 
chilled. The reports of Mr. Fairlie's health were just as usual ; 
and when I sent up a message to announce my arrival, I was 
told that he would be delighted to see me the next morning, 
but that the sudden news of my appearance had prostrated 
him with palpitations for the rest of the evening. The wind 
howled dismally all night, and strange cracking and groaning 
noises sounded here, there, and everywhere in the empty house. 
I slept as wretchedly as possible ; and got up, in a mighty bad 
humour, to breakfast by myself the next morning. 

At ten o'clock I was conducted to Mr. Fairlie's apart- 
ments. He was in his usual room, his usual chair, and his 
usual aggravating state of mind and body. When I went in, 
his valet was standing before him, holding up for inspection a 
heavy volume of etchings, as long and as broad as my office 
writing-desk. The miserable foreigner grinned in the most 
abject manner, and looked ready to drop with fatigue, while 
liis master composedly turned over the etchings, and brought 
their hidden beauties to light with the help of a magnifying 
glass. 

* You very best or good old friends,' said Mr. Fairlie, 
leaning back lazily before he could look at me, ' are you qm'ie 

136 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

well ? How nice of you to come here and see me in my 
solitude. Dear Gilmore ! ' 

I had expected that the valet would be dismissed when I 
appeared ; but nothing of the sort happened. There he 
stood, in front of his master's chair, trembling under the 
weight of the etchings ; and there Mr. Fairlie sat, serenely 
twirling the magnifying glass between his white fingers and 
thumbs. 

' I have come to speak to you on a very important matter,' 
I said ; * and you will therefore excuse me, if I suggest that we 
had better be alone.' 

The unfortunate valet looked at me gratefully. Mr. 
Fairlie faintly repeated my last three words, ' better be 
alone,' with every appearance of the utmost possible astonish- 
ment. 

I was in no humour for trifling ; and I resolved to make 
him understand what I meant. 

' Oblige me by giving that man permission to withdraw,' 
I said, pointing to the valet. 

Mr. Fairlie arched his e3-ebrows, and pursed up his lips, 
in sarcastic surprise. 

* Man ? ' he repeated. ' You provoking old Gilmore, 
what can you possibly mean by calling him a man ? He's 
nothing of the sort. He might have been a man half an hour 
ago, before I wanted my etchings ; and he may be a man 
half an hour hence, when I don't want them any longer. At 
present he is simply a portfolio stand. Why object, Gilmore, 
to a portfolio stand ? ' 

' I do object. For the third time, Mr. Fairlie, I beg that 
we may be alone.' 

My tone and manner left him no alternative but to comply 
with my request. He looked at the servant, and pointed 
peevishly to a chair at his side. 

' Put down the etchings and go away,' he said. * Don't 
upset me by losing my place. Have you, or have you not, 
lost my place ? Are you sure you have not ? And have you 
put my hand-bell quite within my reach ? Yes ? Then, why 
the devil don't you go ? ' 

The valet went out. Mr. Fairlie twisted himself round in 
his chair, polished the magnifying glass with his delicate 
cambric handkerchief, and indulged himself with a sidelong 
inspection of the open volume of etchings. It was not 
easy to keep my temper under these circumstances ; but I 
did keep it. 

' I have come here at great personal inconvenience,' I 

137 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

said, * to serve the interests of your niece and your family ; 
and I think I have estabhshed some slight claim to be 
favoured with your attention in return.' 

' Don't bully me ! ' exclaimed Mr. Fairlie, falling- back 
helplessly in the chair, and closing his eyes. ' Please don't 
bully me. I'm not strong enough.' 

I was determined not to let him provoke me, for Laura 
Fairlie's sake. 

'My object,' I went on, 'is to entreat you to reconsider 
your letter, and not to force me to abandon the just rights of 
your niece, and of all who belong to her. Let me state the 
case to you once more, and for the last time.' 

Mr. Fairlie shook his head and sighed piteously. 

' This is heartless of you, Gilmore — very heartless,' he said. 
* Never mind ; g;o on.' 

I put all the points to him carefully ; I set the matter 
before him in every conceivable light. He lay back in the 
chair the whole time I Vv^as speaking, with, his eyes closed. 
W^hen I had done, he opened them indolently, took his silver 
smelling-bottle from the table, and sniffed at it with an air of 
gentle relish. 

' Good Gilmore ! ' he said, between the sniffs, ' how very 
nice this is of you ! Hov/ you reconcile one to human 
nature ! ' 

' Give me a plain answer to a plain question, Mr. Fairlie. 
I tell you again, Sir Percival Glyde has no shadow of a claim 
to expect more than the income of the money. The money 
itself, if your niece has no children, ought to be under her 
control, and to return to her family. If you stand firm, Sir 
Percival must give way — he must give way, I tell you, or he 
exposes himself to the base imputation of marrying Miss 
Fairlie entirely from mercenary motives.' 

Mr, Fairlie shook the silver smelling-bottle at me pla}-- 
fully. 

' You dear old Gilmore ; how you do hate rank and family, 
don't you ? How you detest Glyde, because he happens to 
be a baronet. What a Radical you are — oh, dear me, what 
a Radical you are ! ' 

A Radical ! ! ! I could put up with a good deal of provo- 
cation, but, after holding the soundest Conservative principles 
all my life, I could nof put up with being called a Radical. 
?»iy blood boiled at it — I started out of my chair — I was 
speechless with indignation. 

' Don't shake the room ! ' cried Mr. Fairlie — ' for Heaven's 
sake, don't shake the room ! Worthiest of all possible 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

Gilmores, I meant no offence. My own views are so ex- 
tremely liberal that I think I am a Radical myself. Yes. 
We are a pair of Radicals. Please don't be angry. I can't 
quarrel — I haven't stamina enoug-h. Shall we drop the sub- 
ject ? Yes. Come and look at these sweet etching's. Do 
let me teach you to understand the heavenly pearliness ot 
these lines. Do, now, there's a good Gilmore ! ' 

While he was maundering- on in this way I was, for- 
tunately for my own self-respect, returning to my senses. 
When I spoke again I was composed enough to treat his 
impertinence with the silent contempt that it deserved. 

' You are entirely wrong, sir,' I said, ' in supposing that 
I speak from any prejudice against Sir Percival Glyde. I 
may regret that he has so unreservedly resigned himself in 
this matter to his lawyer's direction as to make any appeal 
to himself impossible ; but I am not prejudiced against him. 
What I have said would equally apply to any other man in 
his situation, high or low. The principle I maintain is a 
recognised principle. If you were to apply at the nearest 
town here, to the first respectable solicitor you could find, he 
would tell you, as a stranger, what I tell you, as a friend. 
He would inform you that it is against all rule to abandon the 
lady's m.oney entirely to the man she marries. He would 
decline, on grounds of common legal caution, to give the 
husband, under any circumstances whatever, an interest of 
twenty thousand pounds in his wife's death.' 

'Would he really, Gilmore ? ' said Mr. Fairlie. * If he 
said anything half so horrid I do assure you I should tinkle 
my bell for Louis, and have him sent out of the house 
immediately.' 

' You shall not irritate me, Mr. Fairlie-— for your niece's 
sake and for her father's sake, you shall not irritate me. 
You shall take the whole responsibility of this discreditable 
settlement on your own shoulders before I leave the 
room.' 

* Don't ! — now please don't ! ' said Mr. Fairlie. ^ * Think 
how precious your time is, Gilmore ; and don't throw It av\'ay. 
I would dispute with you if I could, but I can't — I haven't 
stamina enough. You want to upset me, to upset yourself, 
to upset Glyde, and to upset Laura ; and — oh, dear me '.—all 
for the sake of the very last thing in the world that is likely 
to happen. No, dear friend — in the interests of peace and 
quietness, positively No ! ' 

' I am to understand, then, that you hold by the determina- 
tion expressed in your letter ? ' 

139 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

* Yes, please. So glad we understand each other at last. 
Sit down again— do ! ' 

I walked at once to the door ; and Mr. Fairlie resignedly 
' tinkled ' his hand-bell. Before I left the room I turned 
round and addressed him for the last time. 

'Whatever happens in the future, sir,' I said, 'remember 
that my plain duty of warning you has been performed. As 
the faithful friend and servant of your family, I tell you, at 
parting, that no daughter of mine should be married to any 
man alive under such a settlement as you are forcing me to 
make for Miss Fairlie.' 

The door opened behind me, and the valet stood waiting 
on the threshold. 

' Louis,' said Mr. Fairlie, ' show Mr. Gilmore out, and 
then come back and hold up my etchings for me again. 
Make them give you a good lunch down stairs. Do, Gilmore, 
make my idle beasts of servants give you a good lunch ! ' 

I was too much disgusted to reply ; I turned on my heel, 
and left him in silence. There was an up train at two o'clock 
in the afternoon ; and by that train I returned to London. 

On the Tuesday I sent in the altered settlement, which 
practically disinherited the very persons whom Miss Fairlie's 
own lips had informed me she was most anxious to benefit. 
I had no choice. Another lawyer would have drawn up the 
deed if I had refused to undertake it. 

My task is done. My personal share in the events of the 
family story extends no farther than the point which I have 
just reached. Other pens than mine will describe the strange 
circumstances which are now shortly to follow. Seriously 
and sorrowfully, I close this brief record. Seriously and 
sorrowfully, I repeat here the parting words that I spoke at 
Limmeridge House : — No daughter of mine should have been 
married to any man alive under such a settlement as I was 
compelled to make for Laura Fairlie. 

Tlie End of Mi'. Gilmore' s Narrative 



140 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 



The Sto>y continued by Mariam Halcombe, in Extracts from 
lier Diary. 

I. 

Limmeridge House, Nov. Stli. 
* * *• •* * * ^ 

Tins morning; Mr. Gilmore left us. 

Hjs interview with Laura had evidently grieved and 
surprised him more than he liked to confess. ^I felt afraid, 
from his look and manner when we parted, that she mioht 
have inadvertently betrayed to him the real secret of her 
depression and my anxiety. This doubt grew on me so, after 
he had gone, that I declined riding out w'ith Sir Percival, and 
went up to Laura's room instead. 

I have been sadly distrustful of myself, In this difficult and 
lamentable matter, ever since I found out my own ignorance 
of the strength of Laura's unhappy attachment. I ought to 
have known that the delicacy and forbearance and sense of 
honour which drew me to poor Hartright, and made me so 
smcerely admire and respect him, were just the qualities to 
appeal most irresistibly to Laura's natural sensitiveness and 
naturaigenerosity of nature. And yet, until she opened her 
heart to me of her own accord, I had no suspicion that this 
new feeling had taken root so deeplv. I once thought time 
and care might remove it. I now fear that it will remain with 
her and alter her for life. The discovery that I have com- 
mitted such an error in judgment as this, makes me hesitate 
about everything else. I hesitate about Sir Percival, in the 
face of the plainest proofs. I hesitate even in speaking to 
Laura. On this very morning, I doubted, with my hand on 
the door, whether I should ask her the questions I had come 
to put, or not. 

When I went into her room, I found her walking up and 
down in great impatience. She looked flushed and excited ; 
and she came forv/ard at once, and spoke to me before I could 
open my lips. 

' I wanted you,' she said. ' Come and sit down on the 
sofa w^ith me. Marian ! I can bear this no longer— I must 
and will end it.' 

There vi^as too much colour in her cheeks, too much 
energy in her manner, too much firmness in her voice. The 

t Tlie passages omitted, here and elsewhere, in Miss Halcomb'-'s Diary 
are only those which bear no reference to Miss Fairlie or to any of the persons 
With whom she is associated in these pages. 

141 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

little book of Hartrig-ht's drawings — the fatal book that she 
will dream over whenever she is alone — was in one of her 
hands. I began by gently and firmly taking it from her, and 
putting it out of sight on a side-table. 

' Tell me quietly, my darling-, what you wish to do,' I said. 
' Has Mr. Gilmore been advising you ? ' 

She shook her head. ' No, not in what I am thinking of 
now. He was very kind and good to me, Marian, — and I am 
ashamed to say I distressed him by crying. I am miserably 
helpless ; I can't control myself. For my own sake and fof 
all our sakes, I must have courage enough to end it.' 

' Do you mean courage enough to claim your release ? ' I 
asked. 

' No,' she said, simply, * Courage, dear, to tell the truth.' 

She put her arms round my neck, and rested her head 
quietly on my bosom. On the opposite wall hung the minia- 
ture portrait of her father. I bent over her, and saw that she 
was looking at it while her head lay on my breast. 

' I can never claim my release from my engagement,' she 
went on. ' Whatever way it ends, it must end wretchedly 
for ?ne. All I can do, Marian, is not to add the remembrance 
that I have broken my promise and forgotten my father's 
dying- words, to make that wretchedness worse.' 

' W^hat is it you propose, then ? ' I asked. 

* To tell Sir Percival Glyde the truth, with my own lips,' 
she ansv.-ered, ' and to lei him release me, if he vv'ill, not 
because I ask him, but because he knov.'s all.' 

' What do you mean, Laura, by " all ? " Sir Percival Vv-ill 
know enough (he has told me so himself) if he knows that the 
engagement is opposed to your own wishes,' 

' Can I tell him that, when the engagement was made for me 
by my father, with my own consent ? I should have kept my 
promise ; not happily, I am afraid, but still contentedly — ' 
she stopped, turned her face to me, and laid her cheek 
close against mine — ' I should have kept my engagement, 
Marian, if another love had not grown up in my heart, which 
was not there when I first promised to be Sir Percival's v/ife,' 

* Laura ! you will never lower yourself by making a con- 
fession to him ? ' 

' I shall lower myself, indeed, if I gain my release by 
hiding- from him what he has a right to know,' 

* He has not the shadow of a right to know it ! ' 

' Wrong, Marian, wrong ! I ought to deceive no one — • 
least of all the man to whom my father gave me, and to whom 
I g-ave myself.' She put her lips to mine, and kissed me, 

143 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

* My own love,' she said, softly, * you are so much too fond 
or" me and so much too proud of me, that you forget, in my 
case, what you would remember in your own. Better that Sir 
Percival should doubt my motives and misjudge my conduct if 
he will, than that I should be first false to him in thought, 
and then mean enough to serve my own interests by hiding 
the falsehood.' 

I held her away from me in astonishment. For the first 
tim.e in our lives, v.-e had changed places ; the resolution was 
all on her side, the hesitation all on mine. I looked into the 
pale, quiet, resigned young face ; I saw the pure, innocent 
heart, in the loving eyes that looked back at me — and the 
poor worldly cautions and objections that rose to my lips, 
dwindled and died away in their own emptiness. I hung my 
head in silence. In her place, the despicably small pride which 
makes so many women deceitful, would have been my pride, 
and would have made me deceitful, too. 

' Don't be angry with me, Marian,' she said, mistaking my 
silence. 

I only answered by drawing her close to me again. I was 
afraid of crying if I spoke. My tears do not flow so easily as 
they ought — they come almost like men's tears, with sobs 
ihat seem to tear me in pieces, and that frighten every one 
about me. 

' I have thought of this, love, for many days,' she went on, 
twining and twisting my hair with that childish restlessness 
in her lingers, v.-hich poor Mrs. Vesey still tries so patiently 
and so vainly to cure her of — ' I have thought of it very 
seriously, and I can be sure of my courage, when my own 
conscience tells me I am riglit. Let me speak to him to- 
morrow — in your presence, Marian. I will say nothing that 
is wrong, nothing that you or I need be ashamed of — but, oh, it 
will ease my heart so to end this miserable concealment ! 
Only let me know and feel that I have no deception to answer 
for on my side ; and then, v.'hen he has heard what I have to 
say, let him act towards me as he will.* 

She sighed, and put her head back in its old position on 
my bosom. Sad misgivings about what the end would be, 
v.eighed upon my mind ; but, still distrusting myself, I told 
her that I would do as she wished. She thanked me, and we 
passed gradually into talking of other things. 

At dinner she joined us again, and v\-as more easy and 
more herself with Sir Percival, than I have seen her yet. In 
the evening she went to the piano, choosing new music of the 
dexterous, tuneless, florid kind. The lovely old melodies of 

143 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

Mozart, which poor Hartright was so fond of, she has nevef 
played since he left. The book is no longer in the music-stand. 
She took the volume away herself, so that nobody might find 
it out and ask her to play from it. 

I had no opportunity of discovering whether her purpose 
of the morning had changed or not, until she wished Sir 
Percival good-night — and then her own words informed me 
that it was unaltered. She said, very quietly, that she wished 
to speak to him, after breakfast, and that he would find her 
in her sitting-room with me. He changed colour at those 
words, and I felt his hand trembling a little when it came to 
my turn to take it. The event of the next morning would 
decide his future life ; and he evidently knew it. 

I went in, as usual, through the door between our two 
bed-rooms, to bid Laura good-night before she went to sleep. 
In stooping over her to kiss her, I saw the little book of 
Hartright's drawings half hidden under her pillow, just in the 
place where she used to hide her favourite toys when she was 
a child. I could not find it in my heart to say anything ; but 
I pointed to the book and shook my head. She reached both 
hands up to my cheeks, and drew my face down to hers till 
our lips met. 

' Leave it there to-night,' she whispered ; ' to-morrow may 
be cruel, and may make me say good-by to it for ever.' 

gth. — The first event of the morning was not of a kind to 
raise my spirits ; a letter arrived for me, from poor Walter 
Hartright. It is the answer to mine, describing the manner 
in which Sir Percival cleared himself of the suspicions raised 
by Anne Catherick's letter. He writes shortly and bitterly 
about Sir Percival's explanations ; only saying that he has no 
right to off"er an opinion on the conduct of those who are above 
him. This is sad ; but his occasional references to himself 
grieve me still more. He says that the eff"ort to return to his 
old habits and pursuits, grows harder instead of easier to him, 
every day ; and he implores me, if I have any interest, to 
exert it to get him emplo3'ment that will necessitate his ab- 
sence from England, and take him among new scenes and 
new people. I have been made all the readier to comply with 
this request, by a passage at the end of his letter, which 
has almost alarmed me. 

After mentioning that he has neither seen nor heard any- 
thing of Anne Catherick, he suddenly breaks off", and hints in 
the most abrupt, mysterious manner, that he has been per- 
petually watched and followed by strange men ever since he 

144 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 



eturned to London. He acknowledges that he cannot prove 
this extraordinarj' suspicion by fixin- on any particular ner- 
sons; but he declares that the suspicion itself is pesenrto 

as It his one fixed idea about Laura was becoming too much for 
nis muid I will write immediately to some of my mother's 
mfluential old friends in London, and press his claims on their 
notice. Change of scene and change of occupation may really 
be the salvation of him at this crisis in his life 
. Greatly to my relief, Sir Percival sent an apology for not 
joining us at breakfast. He had taken an early cup of coffee 

lertPr' °'''?/°r' """"i !^','''^.'. "''" ""-^-^d there in writing 
letters. At eleven o'clock, if that hour was convenient he 

mI^'s Hakombe ^°''°"' ""^ ''^""'^'"^ """ ^^'^^ ^^''""^ '^"^ 

My eyes were on Laura's face while the message was 
being delivered. _ I had found her unaccountably quiet and 
composed on going into her room in the morning f and so she 
remamed all through breakfast. Even when we" were sitting 
together on the sofa in her room, waiting for Sir Percival she 
still preserved her self-control. ' ^ 

' Don't be afraid of me, Marian,' was all she said : ' I may 
forget mysdf with an old friend like Mr. Gilmore, or with a 

Percival Glv^e!' '"" '' '"' ^ ""^ ""' ^°'^^' "^^^^^^ ^^^^^ Si? 
I looked at her, and listened to her in silent surprise 
Through all the jears of our close intimacy, this passive force 

he sdf Jmro'"f^"'H'>" '^^^d-^/-- -e^hidde'n even from 
herself, till o^e found it, and suftering called it forth. 

As the clock on the mantelpiece struck eleven. Sir Percival 

knocked at the door,_ and came in. There was suppressed 

anxiety and agitation in every line of his face. The drv sham 

cough, which teases him at most times, seemed to be troubline 

him more incessantly than ever. He sat down opposite to u! 

a ht f boti; '"' n "'" ^"T""'i '>• '"^^ ' looked'attentive" 
at Lhem both, and he was the paler of the tAvo 

He said a few unimportant words, with a visible effort to 

preserve his customary ease of manner. But his voice was no° 

o be steadied and the restless uneasiness in his eyes was o 

to be concealed. He must have felt this himself; for he 

at^f-Sn'^ in^ v"^'^l°^ " '"^^^-^^^' ^"d S^^'^ tip even the 
attempt to hide his embarrassment any longer 

addJes7eVh?m.'"' "" """""^ ""' '^"^ ^^^^"^ ^^^^^ Laura 
' I v.ish to speak to you, Sir Percival,' she said, 'on a 

M5 L 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

subject that is very important to us both. My sister is here, 
because her presence helps me, and gives me confidence. She 
has not suggested one word of what I am going to say : I 
speak from my own thoughts, not from hers. I am sure 
you will be kind enough to understand that, before I go any 
farther ? ' 

Sir Percival bowed. She had proceeded thus far, with per- 
fect outward tranquillity, and perfect propriety of manner. She 
looked at him, and he looked at her. They seemed, at the 
outset at least, resolved to understand one another plainly. 

' I have heard from Marian,' she went on, ' that I have 
only to claim my release from our engagement, to obtain that 
release from you. It was forbearing and generous on your 
part, Sir Percival, to send me such a message. It is only 
doing you justice to say that I am grateful for the offer ; 
and I hope and believe that it is only doing myself justice 
to tell you that I decline to accept it.' 

His attentive face relaxed a little. But I saw one of his 
feet, softly, quietly, incessantly beating on the carpet under 
the table ; and I felt that he was secretly as anxious as 
ever. 

'I have not forgotten,' she said, 'that you asked my 
father's permission before you honoured me with a proposal of 
marriage. Perhaps, you have not forgotten, either, what I 
said when I consented to our engagement ? I ventured to tell 
you that my father's influence and advice had mainly decided 
me to give you my promise, i was guided by my father, 
because I had always found him the truest of all advisers, the 
best and fondest of all protectors and friends. I have lost him 
i\o\v ; I have only his memory to love ; but my faith in that 
dear dead friend has never been shaken. I believe, at this 
moment, as truly as I ever believed, that he knew what was 
best, and that his hopes and wishes ought to be my hopes and 
wishes too.' 

Her voice trembled, for the first time. Her restless fingers 
stole their way into my lap, and held fast by one of my hands. 
There was another moment of silence ; and then Sir Percival 
spoke. 

' May I ask,' he said, ' if I lia"\'e ever proved myself un- 
Avorthy of the trust, which it lias been hitherto my greatest 
honour and greatest happiness to possess ? ' 

' I have found nothing in your conduct to blame,' she an- 
swered. ' You have ahvays treated me with the same delicacy 
and the same forbearance. You have deserved my trust ; and, 
what is of far more importance in my estimation, you have 

146 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

h1:":r4„^^'^„'^ex?us™terf,l h'^'^'' "'"= »--- V- 

from our present position. Xe'b re-- n^ of'n^ r" ''""■'"S' 
....;^t _be entire., yonr wish anS l:^':^:^::'^^^^ 

..a J^s '^§ °L^s r t:;;^^"'^ ^'°"-' ' «- -^^ 

sMe,fo^rwUMra;i:l''i. ' ^''''^' --"" --' "-- be, on „,„ 

CO.C?. "iri^ir: oriL^si^^'hid^j.iV^o' ""■'t'" ^™-"'»' 

alone , beg?t„ to be .(JiZtt '"tfs To.;:'"" "^^ "^^^ 
'The^''n°c,a:l4'n™7sr;1'rr4''',^ 

colour! '^He'raisel tte^arm fhi"h'^' ""V '"^ "P^ '-' "«- 

I have heard,' she said, 'and I believe if iwi). f ^ 
and truest of all affections ]< tul % \^ '^' ^r?*^ the fondest 

ought to bear to ler husLa" d Wh ''''°" ''^^^^"^ ^ ^^"^^^a" 
tha^t affection Js mb'L '^t, "f Ycouir.^fd^'"''"' '^^^"' 

^^^3r£?^Si^"---=^^He 

table. NoJ a ,m,scl? of h ^P"'. ^'^'''^ ^^" '^'^ ^g-"'"^ '-^t the 
a muscle of hun mo^•ed. The fingers of the hand 

T 1 — 



L 2 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

which supported his head were dented deep in his hair. They 
might have expressed hidden anger, or hidden grief — it was 
hard to say which — there was no significant trembUng in 
them. There was nothing, absolutely nothing to tell the 
secret of his thoughts at that moment — the moment which 
was the crisis of his life and the crisis of hers. 

I was determined to make him declare himself, for Laura's 
sake. 

' Sir Percival ! ' I interposed, sharply, * have you nothing 
to say, when my sister has said so much ? More, in my 
opinion,' I added, my unlucky temper getting the better of 
me, ' than any man alive, in your position, has a right to hear 
from her.' 

That last rash sentence opened a way for him by which to 
escape me if he chose ; and he instantly took advantage of it. 

' Pardon me, Miss Halcombe,' he said, still keeping his 
hand over his face — ' pardon me, if I remind you that I have 
claimed no suoh right.' 

The few plain words which would have brought him back 
to the point from which he had wandered, were just on my 
lips, when Laura checked me by speaking again. 

' I hope I have not made my painful acknowledgment in 
vain,' she continued. ' I hope it has secvired me your entire 
confidence in what I have still to say ? ' 

' Pray be assured of it.' He made that brief repl}', warmly ; 
dropping his hand on the table, while he spoke, and turning 
towards us again. Whatever outward change had passed 
over him, was gone now. His face was eager and expectant 
— it expressed nothing but the most intense anxiety to hear 
her next words. 

' I wish you to understand that I have not spoken from 
any selfish motive,' she said. * If you leave me. Sir Percival, 
after what you have just heard, you do not leave me to marry 
another man — you only allow me to remain a single woman 
for the rest of my life. My fault towards you has begun and 
ended in my own thoughts. It can never go any farther. 

No word has passed She hesitated, in doubt about the 

expression she should use next ; hesitated, in a momentary 
confusion which it was very sad and very painful to see. 
'No word has passed,' she patiently and resolutely resumed, 
* between myself and the person to whom I am now referring 
for the first and last time in your presence of my feelings 
towards him, or of his feelings towards me— no word ever 
can pass — neither he nor I are likely, in this world, to meet 
again. I earnestly beg you to spare me from saying any 

148 



THE WOMAN IX WHITE 

more, and to believe me, on my word, in what I have just 
told you. It is the truth, Sir Percival— the truth which / 
think my promised husband has a claim to hear, at any sacri- 
fice of my own feelings. I trust to his generosity to pardon 
me, and to his honour to keep my secret.' 

' Both those trusts are sacred to me,' he said, ' and both 
shall be sacredly kept.' 

After answering in those terms, he paused, and looked at 
her, as if he was waiting to hear more. 

' I have said all I wish to say,' she added, quietly — ' I 
have said more than enough to justify you hi withdrawing 
from your engagement.' 

' You have said more than enough,' he answered, ' to make 
it the dearest object of my life to keep the engagement.' 
With those words he rose from his chair, and advanced a 
fev.' steps towards the place where she was sitting. 

She started violently, and a faint cry of surprise escaped 
her. Every word she had spoken had innocently betrayed 
her purity and truth to a man who thoroughly understood the 
priceless value of a pure and true woman. Her own noble 
conduct had been the hidden enemy, throughout, of all the 
hopes she had trusted to it. I had dreaded this from the? 
first. I would have prevented it, if she had allowed me the 
smallest chance of doing so. I even waited and watched, 
now, when the harm was done, for a word from Sir Percival 
that would give me the opportunity of putting him in the 
wrong. 

* You have left it to 7ne, Miss Fairlie, to resign you,' he 
continued. ' I am not heartless enough to resign a woman 
who has just shown herself to be the noblest of her sex.' 

He spoke with such warmth and feeling, with sucH 
passionate enthusiasm and yet with such perfect delicacy, 
that she raised her head, flushed up a little, and looked at 
him with sudden animation and spirit. 

' No ! ' she said, firmly. ' The most wretched of her sex, 
if she must give herself in marriage when she cannot give 
her love.' 

• May she not give it in the future,' he asked, ' if the one 
object of her husband's life is to deserve it ? ' 

' Never ! ' she answered. ' If you still persist in main- 
taining our engagement, I may be your true and faithful 
wife, Sir Percival — your loving wife, if I know my own heart, 
never ! ' 

She looked so irresistibly beautiful as she said those brave 
words that no man alive could have steeled his heart against 

149 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

her, I tried hard to feel that Sir Percival was to blame, and 
to say so ; but my womanhood would pity him, in spite of 
myself. 

' I gratefully accept your faith and truth,' he said. 'The 
least that you can offer is more to me than the utmost that I 
could hope for from any other woman in the world.' 

Her left hand still held mine ; but her right hand hung 
listlessly at her side. He raised it gently to his lips — touched 
it with them, rather than kissed it — bowed to me — and then, 
with perfect delicacy and discretion, silently quitted the room. 

She neither moved, nor said a word, when he was gone 
— she sat by me cold and still, with her eyes fixed on the 
ground. I saw it was hopeless and useless to speak ; and I 
only put my arm round her, and held her to me in silence. 
We remained together so, for what seemed a long and weary 
time — so long and so weary, that I gre\v uneasy and spoke 
to her softly, in the hope of producing a change. 

The sound of my voice seemed to startle her into con- 
sciousness. She suddenly drew herself away from me, and 
rose to her feet. 

' I must submit, Marian, as well as I can,' she said. ' My 
new life has its hard duties ; and one of them begins to-day.' 

As she spoke, she went to a side-table near the window, 
on which her sketching materials were placed ; gathered 
them together carefully ; and put them in a drawer of her 
cabinet. She locked the drawer, and brought the key to me. 

' I must part from everything that reminds me of him,* 
she said. ' Keep the key v/herever you please — I shall never 
want it again.' 

Before I could say a word, she had turned away to her 
bookcase, and had taken from it the album that contained 
Walter Hartright's drawings. She hesitated for a moment, 
holding the little volume fondly in her hands — then lifted it to 
her lips and kissed it. 

' Oh, Laura ! Laura ! ' I said, not angrily, not reprovingly 
— with nothing but sorrow in ni}' voice, and nothing but 
sorrow in my heart. 

* It is the last time, Marian,' she pleaded. ' I am bidding 
it good-bye for ever.' 

She laid the book on the table, and drew out the comb 
that fastened her hair. It fell, in its matchless beauty, over 
her back and shoulders, and dropped round her, far below 
her waist. She separated one long, thin lock from the rest, 
cut it off, and pinned it carefully, in the form of a circle, on 
the first blank page of the album. The moment it was fas- 

150 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

lened, she closed the volume hurriedly, and placed it in my 
hands. 

' You write to him, and he writes to you,' she said. 
' While I am alive, if he asks after me, always tell him I am 
well, and never say I am unhappy. Don't distress him, 
^larian — for my sake, don't distress him. If I die first, 
promise you will give him this little book of his drawings, 
with my hair in it. There can be no harm, when I am gone, 
in telling him that I put it there with my own hands. And 
say — oh, Marian, say for me, then, what I can never say for 
myself — say I loved him ! ' 

She flung her arms round my neck, and whispered the 
last words in my ear with a passionate delight in uttering 
them which it almost broke my heart to hear. All the long 
restraint she had imposed on herself, gave way in that first 
last outburst of tenderness. She broke from me with hysteri- 
cal vehemence, and threw herself on the sofa, in a paroxysm 
of sobs and tears that shook her from head to foot. 

I tried vainly to soothe her and reason with her ; she was 
past being soothed, and past being reasoned with. It was 
the sad, sudden end for us two, of this memorable day. 
When the fit had worn itself out, she was too exhausted to 
speak. She slumbered towards the afternoon ; and I put 
away the book of drawings so that she might not see it when 
she woke. My face was calm, whatever my heart might be, 
when she opened her eyes again and looked at me. We 
said no more to each other about the distressing interview of 
the morning. Sir Percival's name was not mentioned. 
Walter Hartright was not alluded to again by either of us 
for the remainder of the day. 

loth. — Finding that she was composed and like herself, 
this morning, I returned to the painful subject of yesterday, 
for the sole purpose of imploring her to let me speak to Sir 
Percival and Mr. Fairlie, more plainly and strongly than she 
could speak to either of them herself, about this lamentable 
marriage. She interposed, gently but firmly, in the middle of 
my remonstrances. 

' I left yesterday to decide,' she said ; ' and yesterday /las 
decided. It is too late to go back.' 

Sir Percival spoke to me this afternoon, about what had 
passed in Laura's room. He assured me that the un- 
paralleled trust she had placed in him had awakened such an 
answering conviction of her innocence and integrity in his 
mind, that he was guiltless of having felt even a moment's 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

unworthy jealousy, either at the time when he was in her 
presence, or afterwards when he had withdrawn from it. 
Deeply as he lamented the unfortunate attachment which had 
hindered the progress he might otherwise have made in her 
esteem and regard, he firmly believed that it had remained 
unacknowledged in the past, and that it would remain, under 
all changes of circumstance which it was possible to contem- 
plate, unacknowledged in the future. This was his absolute 
conviction ; and the strongest proof he could give of it was 
the assurance, which he now offered, that he felt no curiosity 
to know whether the attachment was of recent date or not, 
or who had been the object of it. His implicit confidence in 
Miss Fairlie made him satisfied with what she had thought 
fit to say to him, and he was honestly innocent of the slightest 
feeling of anxiety to hear more. 

He waited, after saying those words, and looked at me. 
I was so conscious of my unreasonable prejudice against him 
— so conscious of an unworthy suspicion, that he might be 
speculating on my impulsively answering the very questions 
which he had just described himself as resolved not to ask — 
that I evaded all reference to this part of the subject with 
something like a feeling of confusion on my own part. At 
the same time, I was resolved not to lose even the smallest 
opportunity of trying to plead Laura's cause ; and I told him 
boldly that I regretted his generosity had not carried him 
one step farther, and induced him to withdraw from the 
engagement altogether. 

Here, again, he disarmed me by not attempting to defend 
himself. He would merely beg me to remember the difference 
there was between his allowing Miss Fairlie to give him up, 
which was a matter of submission only, and his forcing 
himself to give up Miss Fairlie, which was, in other words, 
asking him to be the suicide of his own hopes. Her conduct 
of the day before had so strengthened the unchangeable love 
and admiration of two long years, that all active contention 
against those feelings, on his part, was henceforth entirely 
out of his power. I must think him weak, selfish, unfeeling 
towards the very woman whom he idolised, and he must 
bow to my opinion as resignedly as he could ; only putting 
it to me, at the same time, whether her future as a single 
woman, pining under an unhappily placed attachment Avhich 
she could never acknowledge, could be said to promise her a 
much brighter prospect than her future as the wife of a man 
who worshipped the very ground she walked on ? In the 
last case there was hope from time, however slight it might 

1^2 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

be — In the first case, on her own showing-, there was no hope 
at all. 

I answered him — more because my tongue is a woman's, 
and must answer, than because I had anything convincing to 
say. It was only too plain that the course Laura had adopted 
the day before, had offered him the advantage if he chose to 
take it — and that he liad chosen to take it. I felt this at the 
time, and I feel it just as strongly now, while I write these 
lines, in my own room. The one hope left, is that his motives 
really spring, as he says they do, from the irresistible strength 
of his attachment to Laura. 

Before I close my diary for to-night, I must record that I 
wrote to-day in poor Hartright's interest, to two of my 
mother's old friends in London — both men of influence and 
position. If they can do anything for him, I am quite sure 
they will. Except Laura, I never was more anxious about 
any one than I am now about Walter. All that has happened 
since he left us has only increased my strong regard and 
sympathy for him. I hope I am doing right in trying to help 
him to employment abroad — I hope, most earnestly and 
anxiously, that it will end well. 

nth. — Sir Percival had an interview with Mr. Fairlie ; 
and I was sent for to join them. 

I found Mr. Fairlie greatly relieved at the prospect of the 
' family worry ' (as he was pleased to describe his niece's 
marriage) being settled at last. So far, I did not feel called 
on to say anything to him about my own opinion ; but when 
he proceeded, in his most aggravatingly languid manner, to 
suggest that the time for the marriage had better be settled 
next, in accordance with Sir Percival's wishes, I enjoyed the 
satisfaction of assailing Mr. Fairlie's nerves with as strong a 
protest against hurrying Laura's decision as I could put into 
words. Sir Percival immediately assured me that he felt the 
force of my objection, and begged me to believe that the 
proposal had not been made in consequence of any interference 
on his part. Mr. Fairlie leaned back in his chair, closed his 
eyes, said we both of us did honour to human nature, and 
then repeated his suggestion, as coolly as if neither Sir Per- 
cival nor I had said a word in opposition to it. It ended in 
my flatly declining to mention the subject to Laura, unless 
she first approached it of her own accord. I left the room at 
once after making that declaration. Sir Percival looked 
seriously embarrassed and distressed. Mr. Fairlie stretched 
out his lazy legs on his velvet footstool ; and said, ' Dear 

153 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

Marian ! how I envy you your robust nervous system ! Don't 
bang- the door ! ' 

On going to Laura's room, I found that she had asked for 
me, and that Mrs. Vesey had informed her that I was with 
Mr. Fairlie. She inquired at once what I had been w-anted 
for ; and I told her all that had passed, without attempting 
to conceal the vexation and annoyance that I really felt. 
Her answer surprised and distressed me inexpressibly ; it 
was the very last reply that I should have expected her to 
make. 

* My uncle is right,' she said. ' I have caused trouble 
and anxiety enough to you, and to all about me. Let me 
cause no more, Marian — let Sir Percival decide.' 

I remonstrated w^armly : but nothing that I could say 
moved her. 

* I am held to my engagement,' she replied ; ' I have 
broken with my old life. The evil day will not come the less 
surely because I put it off". No, Marian ! once again, my 
uncle is right. I have caused trouble enough and anxiety 
enough ; and I will cause no more.' 

She used to be pliability itself; but she was now inflexibly 
passive in her resignation — I might almost say in her despair. 
Dearly as I love her, I should have been less pained if she 
had been violently agitated ; it was so shockingly unlike her 
natural character to see her as cold and insensible as I saw 
her now. 

1 2th. — Sir Percival put some questions to me, at breakfast, 
about Laura, which left me no choice but to tell him what 
she had said. 

While we were talking, she herself came down and joined 
us. She was just as unnaturally composed in Sir Percival's 
presence as she had been in mine. When breakfast was 
over, he had an opportunity of saying a few words to her 
privately, in a recess of one of the windows. They were not 
more than two or three minutes together ; and, on their 
separating, she left the room with Mrs. Vesey, while Sir 
Percival came to me. He said he had entreated her to 
favour him by maintaining her privilege of fixing the time 
for the marriage at her own will and pleasure. In reply, she 
had merely expressed her acknowledgments, and had desired 
him to mention what his washes were to Miss Halcombe. 

I have no patience to write more. In this instance, as in 
every other, Sir Percival has carried his point, with the 
utmost possible credit to himself, in spite of everything that 

154 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

I can say or do. His wishes are now, what they were, ol 
course, when he first came here ; and Laura having resigned 
herself to the one inevitable sacrifice of the marriage, remains 
as coldly hopeless and enduring as ever. In parting with the 
little occupations and relics that reminded her of Hartright, 
she seems to have parted with all her tenderness and all her 
impressibility. It is only three o'clock in the afternoon 
while I write these lines, and Sir Percival has left us already, 
in the happy hurry of a bridegroom, to prepare for the bride's 
reception at his house in Hampshire. Unless some extra- 
ordinary event happens to prevent it, they will be married 
exactly at the time when he wished to be married — before 
the end of the year. My very fingers burn as I write it ! 

13th.— A sleepless night, through uneasiness about Laura. 
Towards the morning, I came to a resolution to try what 
change of scene would do to rouse her. She cannot surely 
remain in her present torpor of insensibility, if I take her 
away from Limmeridge and surround her with the pleasant 
faces of old friends ? After some consideration, I decided on 
writing to the Arnolds, in Yorkshire. They are simple, kind- 
h.earted, hospitable people ; and she has known them from 
lier childhood. When I had put the letter in the post-bag, 
I told her what I had done. It would have been a relief to 
me if she had shown the spirit to resist and object. But no 
^she only said, * I will go anywhere with you, Marian. I 
dare say you are right — I dare say the change will do me good.' 

14th. — I v.Tote to Mr. Gilmore, informing him that there 
was really a prospect of this miserable marriage taking place, 
and also mentioning my idea of trying what change of scene 
would do for Laura. I had no heart to go into particulars. 
Time enough for them, when we get nearer to the end of the 
year. 

15th. — Three letters for me. The first, from the Arnolds, 
full of delight at the prospect of seeing Laura and me. The 
second, from one of the gentlemen to whom I wrote on 
Walter Hartrlght's behalf, informing me that he has been 
fortunate enough to find an opportunity of complying with my 
request. The third, from Walter himself, thanking me, poor 
fellov/, in the warmest terms, for giving him an opportunity 
of leaving his home, his country, and his friends. A private 
expedition to make excavations among the ruined cities of 
Central America is, it seems, about to sail from Liverpool 

155 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

The draughtsman who had been already appointed to accom- 
pany it, has lost heart, and withdrawn at the eleventh hour ; 
and Walter is to fill his place. He is to be engaged for six 
months certain, from the time of the landing in Honduras, 
and for a year afterwards, if the excavations are successful, 
and if the funds hold out. His letter ends with a promise to 
write me a farewell line, when they are all on board ship, and 
when the pilot leaves them. I can only hope and pray 
earnestly that he and I are both acting in this matter for the 
best. It seems such a serious step for him to take, that the 
mere contemplation of it startles me. And yet, in his un- 
happy position, how can I expect him, or wish him, to remain 
at home ? 

i6th. — The carriage is at the door. Laura and I set out 
on our visit to the Arnolds to-day. 

* * * i' -:;; * 

Polesdean Lodge, Yorkshire. 
23rd. — A week in these new scenes and among these kind- 
hearted people has done her some good, though not so much 
as 1 had hoped. I have resolved to prolong our stay for 
another week at least. It is useless to go back to Limmeridge, 
till there is an absolute necessity for our return. 

24th. — Sad news by this morning's post. The expedition 
to Central America sailed on the twenty-first. We have 
parted with a true man ; we have lost a faithful friend. 
Walter Hartright has left England. 

25th. — Sad news yesterday ; ominous news to-day. Sir 
Percival Glyde has written to Mr. Fairlie ; and Mr. Fairlie 
has written to Laura and me, to recall us to Limmeridge 
immediately. 

What can this mean ? Has the day for the marriage been 
fixed in our absence ? 



IL 

Limmeridge House. 

November 27th. — My forebodings are realised. The marriage 
is fixed for the twenty-second of December. 

The day after we left for Polesdean Lodge, Sir Percival 
wrote, it seems, to Mr. Fairlie, to say that the necessary 
repairs and alterations in his house in Hampshire would 

i=;6 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

occupy a much long'er time in completion than he had 
orig"inally anticipated. The proper estimates were to be sub- 
mitted to him as soon as possible ; and it would greatly 
facilitate his entering- into definite arrang-ements with the 
workpeople, if he could be informed of the exact period at 
which the wedding- ceremony might be expected to take place. 
He could then make all his calculations in reference to time, 
besides writing- the necessary apologies to friends who had 
been engaged to visit him that winter, and who could not, of 
course, be received when the house was in the hands of the 
workmen. 

To this letter jMr. Fairlie had replied by requesting Sir 
Percival himself to suggest a day for the marriage, subject to 
Miss Fairlie's approval, which her guardian willingly under- 
took to do his best to obtain. Sir Percival wrote back by 
the next post, and proposed (in accordance with his own 
views and wishes, from the first) the latter part of December 
—perhaps the twenty-second, or twenty-fourth, or any other 
day that the lady and her guardian might prefer. The lady not 
being at hand to speak for herself, her guardian had decided, 
in her absence, on the earliest day mentioned — the twenty- 
second of December — and had WTitten to recall us to Lim- 
meridge in consequence. 

After explaining these particulars to me at a private 
interview yesterday Mr. Fairlie suggested, in his most amiable 
manner, that I should open the necessarj' negotiations to-day. 
Feeling that resistance was useless, unless I could first 
obtain Laura's authority to make it, I consented to speak to 
her, but declared, at the same time, that I would on no con- 
sideration undertake to gain her consent to Sir Percival's 
wishes. Mr. Fairlie complimented me on my ' excellent 
conscience,' much as he v.-ould have complimented me, if we 
had been out walking, on my ' excellent constitution,' and 
seemed perfectly satisfied, so far, with having simply shifted 
one more family responsibility from his own shoulders to mine. 

This morning, I spoke to Laura as I had promised. The 
composure — I may almost say, the insensibility — which she 
has so strangely and so resolutely maintained ever since 
Sir Percival left us, was not proof against the shock of 
the news I had to tell her. She turned pale, and trembled 
violently. 

' Not so soon ! ' she pleaded. ' Oh, Marian, not so soon ! ' 

The slightest hint she could give was enough for me. I 
rose to leave the room, and fight her battle for her at once 
with Mr. Fairlie. 

157 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

Just as my hand was on the door, she caught fast hold of 
my dress, and stopped me. 

' Let me go ! ' I said. ' My tongue burns to tell your 
uncle that he and Sir Percival are not to have it all their own 
way.' 

She sighed bitterly, and still held my dress. 

' No ! ' she said, faintly. ' Too late, Marian, too late ! ' 

'Not a minute too late,' I retorted. 'The question of 
time is our question — and trust me, Laura, to take a woman's 
full advantage of it.' 

I unclasped her hand from my gown while I spoke ; but 
she slipped both her arms round my waist at the same 
moinent, and held me more effectually than ever. 

' It will only involve us in more trouble and more con- 
fusion,' she said. ' It will set you and my uncle at variance, 
and bring Sir Percival here again with fresh causes of com- 
plaint ' 

' So much the better ! ' I cried out, passionately. ' Who 
cares for his causes of complaint ? Are you to break your 
heart to set his mind at ease ? No man under heaven 
deserves these sacrifices from us women. Men ! They are 
the enemies of our innocence and our peace— they drag 
us away from our parents' love and our sisters' friendship — 
they take us body and soul to themselves, and fasten our 
helpless lives to theirs as they chain up a dog to his kennel. 
And what does the best of them give us in return ? Let me 
go, Laura— I'm mad when I think of it ! ' 

The tears — miserable, weak, women's tears of vexation 
and rage — started to my eyes. She smiled sadly ; and put 
her handkerchief over my face, to hide for me the betrayal of 
my own weakness — the weakness of all others which she 
knew that I most despised. 

' Oh, Marian ! ' she said. ' You crying ! Think what you 
would say to me, if the places were changed, and if those 
tears were mine. All your love and courage and devotion 
v.'ill not alter what must happen, sooner or later. Let my 
uncle have his v/ay. Let us have no more troubles and 
heart-burnings that any sacrifice of mine can prevent. Say 
you will live with me, Marian, Vv'hen I am married— and say 
no more.' 

But I did say more. I forced back the contemptible tears 
that were no relief to me, and that only distressed her ; 
and reasoned and pleaded as calmly as I could. It was of no 
avail. She made me twice repeat the promise to live with her 
when she was married, and then suddenlv asked a question 

i5« 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

which turned my sorrow and my sympathy for her into a new 
direction. 

'While we were at Polesdean,' she said, 'you had a 
letter, Marian ' 

Her altered tone ; the abrupt manner in which she looked 
away from me, and hid her face on my shoulder ; the hesita- 
tion which silenced her before she had completed her question, 
all told me, but too plainly, to whom the half-expressed 
inquiry pointed. 

M thought, Laura, that you and I were never to refer to 
him again,' I said, gently. 

You had a letter from him ? ' she persisted. 

* Yes,' I replied, 'if you must know it.' 

* Do you mean to write to him again ? ' 

I hesitated. I had been afraid to tell her of his absence 
from England, or of the manner in which my exertions to serve 
his new hopes and projects had connected me with his depar- 
ture. What answer could I make ? He was gone where no 
letters could reach him for months, perhaps for3ears, to come. 

' Suppose I do mean to write to him again,' I said, at last. 
' What then, Laura ? ' 

Her cheek grew burning hot against my neck ; and her 
arms trembled and tightened round me. 

' Don't tell him about the iiveiify-sccond,^ she whispered. 
* Promise, Marian — pray promise you will not even mention 
my name to him when you write next.' 

I gave the promise. No words can say how sorrowfully I 
gave it. She instantly took her arm from my waist, walked 
away to the window, and stood looking out, with her back to 
me. After a moment she spoke once more, but without turn- 
ing round, without allowing me to catch the smallest glimpse 
of her face. 

' Are you going to my uncle's room ? ' she asked. ' Will 
you say that I consent to whatever arrangement he may think 
best ? Never mind leaving me, Marian. I shall be better 
alone for a little while.' 

I went out. If, as soon as I got into the passage, I could 
have transported Mr. Fairlie and Sir Percival Glj'de to the 
uttermost ends of the earth, by lifting one of my fingers, that 
finger would haA'e been raised without an instant's hesitation. 
For once my un'nappy temper now stood my friend. I should 
have broken down altogether and burst into a violent fit of 
crying, if my tears had not been all burnt up in the heat of my 
anger. As it was, I dashed into Mr. Fairlie's room— called 
to him as harshly as possible, ' Laura consents to the twenty- 

159 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

second ' — and dashed out again without waiting for a word of 
answer. I banged the door after me ; and I hope I shattered 
Mr. Fairlie's nervous system for the rest of the day. 

28th. — This morning, I read poor Hartright's farewell letter 
over again, a doubt having crossed my mind since yesterday, 
whether I am acting wisely in concealing the fact of his 
departure from Laura. 

On reflection, I still think I am right. The allusions in 
his letter to the preparations made for the expedition to 
Central America, all show that the leaders of it know it to be 
dangerous. If the discovery of this makes vie uneasy, w^hat 
would it make her? It is bad enough to feel that his depar- 
ture has deprived us of the friend of all others to whose devo- 
tion we could trust, in the hour of need, if ever that hour 
comes and finds us helpless. But it is far worse to know that 
he has gone from us to face the perils of a bad climate, a wild 
country, and a disturbed population. Surely it would be a 
cruel candour to tell Laura this, without a pressing and a 
positive necessity for it ? 

I almost doubt whether I ought not to go a step farther, 
and burn the letter at once, for fear of its one day faUing into 
v.Tong hands. It not only refers to Laura in terms which 
ought to remain a secret for ever between the writer and me ; 
but it reiterates his suspicion — so obstinate, so unaccountable, 
and so alarming — that he has been secretly watched since he 
left Limmeridge. He declares that he saw the faces of the 
two strange men, who followed him about the streets of 
London, watching him among the crowd which gathered at 
Liverpool to see the expedition embark ; and he positively 
asserts that he heard the name of Anne Catherick pronounced 
behind him, as he got into the boat. His own words are, 
' These events have a meaning, these events must lead to a 
result. The mystery of Anne Catherick is not cleared up yet. 
She may never cross my path again ; but if ever she crosses 
yours, make better use of the opportunity, Miss Halcombe, 
than I made of it. I speak on strong conviction ; I entreat 
you to remember what I say.' These are his own expressions. 
There is no danger of my forgetting them — my memory is 
only too ready to dwell on any words of Hartright's that refer 
to Anne Catherick. But there is danger in my keeping the 
letter. The merest accident might place it at the mercy of 
strangers. I may fall ill ; I may die. Better to burn it at 
once, and have one anxiety the less. 

It is burnt ! The ashes of his farewell letter — the last he 

1 60 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

may ever write to me — lie in a few black fragm^ents on the 
hearth. Is this the sad end to all that sad story ? Oh, not 
the end — surely, surely not the end already ! 

29th. — The preparations for the marriag"e have begun. 
The dressmaker has come to receive her orders. Laura is 
perfectly impassive, perfectly careless about the question of 
all others in which a woman's personal interests are most 
closely bound up. She has left it all to the dressmaker and 
to me. If poor Hartright had been the baronet, and the 
husband of her father's choice, how differently she would have 
behaved ! How anxious and capricious she would have been ; 
and what a hard task the best of dressmakers would have 
found it to please her ! 

30th. — We hear every day from Sir Percival. The last 
news is, that the alterations in his house will occupy from four 
to six months, before they can be properly completed. If 
painters, paper-hangers, and vipholsterers could make happi- 
ness as well as splendour, I should be interested about their 
proceedings in Laura's future home. As it is, the only part 
of Sir Percival's last letter which does not leave me as it 
found me, perfectly indifferent to all his plans and projects, is 
the part which refers to the wedding tour. He proposes, as 
Laura is delicate, and as the winter threatens to be unusually 
severe, to take her to Rome, and to remain in Italy until the 
early part of next summer. If this plan should not be 
approved, he is equally ready, although he has no establish- 
ment of his own in town, to spend ihe season in London, in 
the most suitable furnished house that can be obtained for the 
purpose. 

Putting myself and my own feelings entirely out of the 
question (which it is my duty to do, and which I have done), 
I, for one, have no doubt of the propriety of adopting the first 
of these proposals. In either case, a separation between Laura 
and mc is inevitable. It will be a longer separation, in the 
event of their going abroad, than it would be in the event of 
their remaining in London — but we must set against this 
disadvantage, the benefit to Laura on the other side, of 
passing the winter in a mild climate, and, more than that, the 
immense assistance in raising her spirits, and reconciling her 
to her new existence, which the mere wonder and excitement 
of travelling for the first time in her life in the most interesting 
country in the world, must surely afford. She is not of a 
disposition to find resources in the conventional gaieties and 

161 u 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

excitements of London. They would only make the first 
oppression of this lamentable marriage fall the heavier on her. 
I dread the beginning of her new life more than words can 
tell ; but I see some hope for her if she travels— none if she 
remains at home. 

It is strange to look back at this latest entry in my journal, 
and to find that I am writing of the marriage and the parting 
with Laura, as people write of a settled thing. It seems so cold 
and so unfeeling to be looking at the future already in this 
cruelly composed way. But what other way is possible, now 
that the time is drawing so near? Before another month is 
over our heads, she will be his Laura instead of mine ! His 
Laura ! I am as little able to realise the idea which those 
two words convey — -my mind feels almost as dulled and 
stunned by it— as if writing of her marriage were like writing 
of her death. 

December ist. — A sad, sad day; a day that I have no 
heart to describe at any length. After weakly putting it off, 
last night, I was obliged to speak to her this morning of Sir 
Pcrcival's proposal about the wedding tour. 

In the full conviction that I should be with her, Avherever 
she went, the poor child — for a child she is still in many 
things — was almost happy at the prospect of seeing the 
wonders of Florence and Rome and Naples. It nearly broke 
my heart to dispel her delusion, and to bring her face to face 
with the hard truth. I was obliged to tell her that no man 
tolerates a rival — not even a woman rival— in his wife's 
affections, when he first marries, whatever he may do after- 
wards. I was obliged to warn her, that my chance of living 
v/ith her permanently under her own roof, depended entirely 
on my not arousing Sir Percival's jealousy and distrust by 
standing between them at the beginning of their marriage, in 
the position of the chosen depositary of his wife's closest 
secrets. Drop by drop, I poured the profaning bitterness of 
this world's wisdom into that pure heart and that innocent 
mind, while every higher and better feeling within me 
recoiled from my miserable task. It is over now. She has 
learnt her hard, her inevitable lesson. The simple illusions of 
her girlhood are gone ; and my hand has stripped them off. 
Better mine than his — that is all my consolation — better mine 
than his. 

So the first proposal is the proposal accepted. They are 
to go to Italy, and I am to arrange, with Sir Percival's per- 
mission, for meeting them and staying with them, when they 

162 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

return to England. In other words, I am to ask a personal 
favour, for the first time in my life, and to ask it of the man 
of all others to whom I least desire to owe a serious obligation 
of any kind. Well ! I think I could do even more than that, 
for Laura's sake. 

2nd. — On looking back, I find myself always referring to 
Sir Percival in disparaging terms. In the turn affairs have 
now taken, I must and will root out my prejudice against 
him.. I cannot think how it first got into my mind. It 
certainly never existed in former times. 

Is it Laura's reluctance to become his wife that has set 
me against him ? Have Hartright's perfectly intelligible 
prejudices infected me without my suspecting their influence ? 
Does that letter of Anne Catherick's still leave a lurking 
distrust in my mind, in spite of Sir Percival's explanation, 
and of the proof in my possession of the truth of it ? I cannot 
account for the state of my own feelings : the one thing I am 
certain of is, that it is my duty— doubly my duty, now— not to 
wrong Sir Percival by unjustly distrusting him. If it has got 
to be a habit with me always to write of him in the same 
unfavourable manner, I must and will break myself of this 
vniworthy tendency, even though the effort should force me to 
close the pages of my journal till the marriage is over ! I am 
seriously dissatisfied with myself — I will write no more to-day. 

December i6th. — A whole fortnight has passed ; and T 
have not once opened these pages. I have been long enough 
away from my journal, to come back to it, with a healthier and 
better mind, I hope, so far as Sir Percival is concerned. 

There is not much to record of the past two weeks. The 
dresses are almost all finished ; and the new travelling trunks 
have been sent here from London. Poor dear Laura hardly 
leaves me for a moment, all day ; and, last night, when 
neither of us could sleep, she came and crept into my bed to 
talk to me there. ' I shall lose you so soon, Marian,' she 
said ; ' I must make the most of you while I can.' 

They are to be married at Limmeridge Church ; and, 
thank Heaven, not one of the neighbours is to be invited to 
the ceremony. The only visitor will be our old friend, Mr. 
Arnold, who is to come from Polesdean, to give Laura away ; 
her uncle being far too delicate to trust himself outside the 
door in such inclement weather as we now have. If I were 
not determined, from this day forth, to see nothing but the 
bright side of our prospects, the melancholy absence of any 

163 M 2 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

male relative of Laura's, at the most important moment of 
her life, would make me very gloomy and very distrustful of 
the future. But I have done with gloom and distrust — that is 
to say, I have done with writing- about either the one or the 
other in this journal. 

Sir Percival is to arrive to-morrow. He offered, in case 
we wished to treat him on terms of rigid etiquette, to write 
and ask our clergyman to grant him the hospitality of the 
rectory, during the short period of his sojourn at Limmeridge, 
before the marriage. Under the circumstances, neither Mr. 
Fairlie nor I thought it at all necessary for us to trouble 
ourselves about attending to trifling form.s and ceremonies. 
In our wild moorland country, and in this great lonely house, 
we may well claim to be beyond the reach of the trivial 
conventionalities which hamper people in other places. I 
wrote to Sir Percival to thank him for his polite offer, and to 
beg that he vrould occupy his old rooms, just as usual, at 
Limmeridge House. 

17th. — He arrived to-day, looking, as I thought, a little 
worn and anxious, but still talking and laughing like a man in 
the best possible spirits. He brought v/ith him some really 
beautiful presents, in jewelry, which Laura received with her 
best grace, and, outwardly at least, with perfect self-posses- 
sion. The only sign I can detect of the struggle it must cost 
her to preserve appearances at this trying time, expresses 
itself in a sudden unwillingness, on her part, ever to be left 
alone. Instead of retreating to her own room, as usual, she 
seems to dread going there. When I went upstairs to-day, 
after lunch, to put on my bonnet for a walk, she volunteered 
to join me ; and, again, before dinner, she threw the door 
open between our two rooms, so that we might talk to each 
other while we were dressing. ' Keep me always doing 
something,' she said; 'keep me always in company with 
somebody. Don't let me think — that is all I ask now, Marian 
— don't let me think.' 

This sad change in her only increases her attractions for 
Sir Percival. He interprets it, I can see, to his own advantage. 
There is a feverish flush in her cheeks, a feverish brightness 
in her eyes, which he welcomes as the return of her beauty 
and the recovery of her spirits. She talked to-day at dinner 
with a gaiety and carelessness so false, so shockingly out of 
her character, that I secretly longed to silence her and take 
her away. Sir Percival's delight and surprise appeared to be 
beyond all expression. The anxiety which I had noticed on 

164 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

his face when he arrived, totally disappeared from it ; and he 
looked, even to my eyes, a good ten 3-ears younger than he 
really is. 

There can be no doubt — though some strange perversity 
prevents me from seeing it myself — there can be no doubt 
that Laura's future husband is a very handsome man. 
Regular features form a personal advantage to begin with — ■ 
and he has them. Bright brown eyes, either in man or 
woman, are a great attraction — and he has them. Even 
baldness, when it is only baldness over the forehead (as in his 
case), is rather becoming, than not, in a man, for it heightens 
the head and adds to the intelligence of the face. Grace and 
ease of movement ; untiring animation of manner ; ready, 
pliant, conversational powers — all these are unquestionable 
merits, and all these he certainly possesses. Surely Mr. 
Gilmore, ignorant as he is of Laura's secret, was not to blame 
for feeling surprised that she should repent of her marriage 
engagement ? Any one else in his place, would have shared 
our good old friend's opinion. If I were asked, at this moment, 
to say plainly what defects I have discovered in Sir Percival, 
I could only point out two. One, his incessant restlessness 
and excitability — which may be caused, naturally enough, by 
unusual energy of character. The other, his short, sharp, 
ill-tempered manner of speaking to the servants — w^hich may 
be only a bad habit, after all. No : I. cannot dispute it, and I 
will not dispute it — Sir Percival is a very handsome and a 
very agreeable man. There ! I have written it down, at last, 
and I am glad it's over. 

i8th. — Feeling weary and depressed, this morning, I left 
Laura with Mrs. Vesey, and w'ent out alone for one of my 
brisk mid-day walks, which I have discontinued too much of 
late. I took the dry airy road, over the moor, that leads to 
Todd's Corner. After having been out half an hour, I was 
excessively surprised to see Sir Percival approaching me from 
the direction of the farm. He was walking rapidly, swinging 
his stick ; his head erect as usual, and his shooting jacket 
flying open in the wind. When we met, he did not wait for 
me to ask any questions — he told me, at once, that he had 
been to the farm to inquire if Mr. or Mrs. Todd had received 
any tidings, since his last visit to Limmeridge, of Anne 
Catherick. 

' You found, of course, that they had heard nothing ? ' I 
said, 

* Nothing whatever,' he replied. ' I begin to be seriously 

165 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

afraid that we have lost her. Do you happen to know,' he 
continued, looking me in the face very attentively, * if the 
artist — Mr. Hartright — is in a position to give us any farther 
Information ? ' 

' He has neither heard of her, nor seen her, since lie left 
Cumberland,' I answered. 

' Very sad,' said Sir Percival, speaking like a man who 
was disappointed, and yet, oddly enough, looking, at the 
same time, like a man who was relieved. ' It Is Impossible to 
say what misfortunes may not have happened to the miserable 
creature. I am Inexpressibly annoyed at the failure of all my 
efforts to restore her to the care and protection which she so 
urgently needs.' 

This time he really looked annoyed. I said a few sym- 
pathising words, and we then talked of other subjects, on our 
way back to the house. Surely, my chance meeting with him 
on the moor has disclosed another favourable trait In his 
character ? Surely, It was singularly considerate and un- 
selfish of him to think of Anne Catherick on the eve of his 
marriage, and to go all the way to Todd's Corner to make 
Inquiries about her, when he might have passed the time so 
much more agreeably in Laura's society ? Considering that 
he can only have acted from motives of pure charity, his con- 
duct, under the circumstances, shows unusual good feeling, 
and deserves extraordinary praise. Well ! I give him extra- 
ordinary praise — and there's an end of It. 

19th. — More discoveries In the Inexhaustible mine of Sir 
Percival's virtues. 

To-day, I approached the subject of my proposed sojourn 
under his wife's roof, w^hen he brings her back to England. 
I had hardly dropped my first hint In this direction, before he 
caught me warml)' by the hand, and said I had made the very 
off"er to him, which he had been, on his side, most anxious to 
make to me. I was the companion of all others w'nom he 
most sincerely longed to secure for his wife ; and he begged 
me to believe that I had conferred a lasting favour on him by 
making the proposal to live with Laura after her marriage, 
exactly as I had always lived with her before it. 

When I had thanked him, In her name and mine, for his 
considerate kindness to both of us, we passed next to the 
subject of his wedding tour, and began to talk of the English 
society in Rome to which Laura was to be introduced. He 
ran over the names of several friends whom he expected to 
meet abroad this winter. They were all English, as well as I 

166 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

can remember, with one exception. The one exception was 
Count Fosco. 

The mention of the Count's name, and the discovery that 
he and his wife are hkely to meet the bride and bridegroom 
on the continent, puts Laura's marriage, for the first time, in 
a distinctly favourable hght. It is Hkely to be the means of 
healing a family feud. Hitherto Madame Fosco has chosen 
to forget her obligations as Laura's aunt, out of sheer spite 
against the late Mr. Fairlie for his conduct in the affair of the 
legacy. Now, however, she can persist in this course of con- 
duct no longer. Sir Percival and Count Fosco are old and 
fast friends, and their wiv^es will have no choice but to meet 
on civil terms. Madame Fosco, in her maiden days, was one 
of the most impertinent women I ever met with — capricious, 
exacting, and vain to the last degree of absurdity. If her 
husband has succeeded in bringing her to her senses, he 
deserves the gratitude of every member of the family — and 
he may have mine to begin with. 

I am becoming anxious to know the Count. He is the 
most intimate friend of Laura's husband ; and, in that 
capacity, he excites my strongest interest. Neither Laura 
nor 1 have ever seen him. All I know of him is that his acci- 
dental presence, years ago, on the steps of the Trinitj'i del 
Monte at Rome, assisted Sir Percival's escape from robbery 
and assassination, at the critical moment when he was 
wounded in the hand, and might, the next instant, have been 
wounded in the heart. I remember also that, at the time of 
the late Mr. Fairlie's absurd objections to his sister's 
marriage, the Count wrote him a very temperate and sensible 
letter on the subject, which, I am ashamed to say, remained un- 
answered. This is all I know of Sir Percival's friend. I wonder 
if he will ever come to England ? I wonder if I shall like him ? 

My pen is running away into mere speculation. Let me 
return to sober matter of fact. It is certain that Sir Percival's 
reception of my venturesome proposal to live with his wife, 
was more than kind, it was almost affectionate. I am sure 
Laura's husband will have no reason to complain of me, if I 
can only go on as I have begun. I have already declared 
him to be handsome, agreeable, full of good feeling towards 
the unfortunate, and full of affectionate kindness towards me. 
Really, I hardly know myself again, in my new character of 
Sir Percival's warmest friend. 

20th. — I hate Sir Percival ! I flatly deny his good looks. 
I consider him to be eminently ill-tempered and disagreeable, 

167 



THE WOiMAN IN WHITE 

and totally wanting in kindness and g'ood feeling. Last 
night, the cards for the married couple were sent home. 
Laura opened the packet, and saw her future name in print, 
for the first time. Sir Percival looked over her shoulder 
familiarly at the new card which had already transformed 
Miss Fairlie into Lady Clyde— smiled with the most odious 
self-complacency — and whispered something in her ear. I 
don't know what it was — Laura has refused to tell me — but I 
saw her face turn to such a deadly whiteness that I thought 
she would have fainted. He took no notice of the change : 
he seemed to be barbarously unconscious that he had said 
anything to pain her. All my old feelings of hostility towards 
liim revi\ed on the instant ; and all the hours that have 
passed, since, have done nothing to dissipate them. I am 
more unreasonable and more unjust than ever. In three 
words — how glibly my pen writes them ! — in three words, I 
hate him. 

2ist.— Have the anxieties of this anxious time shaken me 
a little, at last ? I have been writing, for the last few days, 
in a tone of levity which. Heaven knows, is far enough from 
my heart, and which it has rather shocked me to discover on 
looking back at the entries in my journal. 

Perhaps I may have caught the feverish excitement of 
Laura's spirits, for the last week. If so, the fit has already 
passed away from me, and has left me in a very strange 
state of mind. A persistent idea has been forcing itself on my 
attention, ever since last night, that something will yet happen 
to prevent the marriage. What has produced this singular 
fancy? Is it the indirect result of my apprehensions for 
Laura's future ? Or has it been unconsciously suggested to 
me by the increasing restlessness and irritability which I have 
certainly observed in Sir Percival's manner as the wedding- 
day draws nearer and nearer ? Impossible to say. I know 
that I have the idea — surely the wildest idea, under the cir- 
cumstances, that ever entered a woman's head ? — but try as 
I may, I cannot trace it back to its source. 

This last day has been all confusion and wretchedness. 
How can I write about it ? — and yet, I must write. Any- 
thing is better than brooding over my own gloomy thoughts. 

Kind Mrs. Vesey, whom we have all too much overlooked 
and forgotten of late, innocently caused us a sad morning to 
begin with. She has been, for months past, secretly making 
a warm Shetland shawl for her dear pupil — a most beautiful 
and surprising piece of work to be done by a woman at her 

1 68 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

age and with her habits. The gift was presented this morn- 
ing ; and poor warm-hearted Laura completely broke down 
when the shawl was put proudly on her shoulders by the 
loving old friend and guardian of her motherless childhood. 
I was hardly allowed time to quiet them both, or even to dry 
my own eyes, when I was sent for by Mr. Fairlie, to be 
favoured with a long recital of his arrangements for the pre- 
servation of his own tranquillity on the wedding-day. 

' Dear Laura ' was to receive his present— a shabby ring, 
with her affectionate uncle's hair for an ornament, instead of 
a precious stone, and with a heartless French inscription, 
inside, about congenial sentiments and eternal friendship — 
' dear Laura ' was to receive this tender tribute from my hands 
immediately, so that she might have plenty of time to recover 
from the agitation produced by the gift, before she appeared 
in Mr. Fairlie's presence. ' Dear Laura ' was to pay him a 
little visit that evening, and to be kind enough not to make a 
scene. ' Dear Laura ' was to pay him another little visit in 
her wedding-dress, the next morning, and to be kind enough, 
again, not to make a scene. ' Dear Laura ' was to look in 
once more, for the third time, before going away, but without 
harrowing his feelings by saying lohen she was going away, and 
without tears — ' in the name of pity, in the name of everything, 
dear Marian, that is most affectionate and most domestic 
and most delightfully and charmingly self-composed, witlwnt 
tears! ' I was so exasperated by this miserable selfish trifling, 
at such a time, that I should certainly have shocked Mr. Fair- 
lie by some of the hardest and rudest truths he has ever heard 
in his life, if the arrival of Mr. Arnold from Polesdean had 
not called me away to new duties down stairs. 

The rest of the day is indescribable. I believe no one in 
the house really knew how it passed. The confusion of small 
events, all huddled together one on the other, bewildered 
everybody. There were dresses sent home, that had been 
forgotten ; there were trunks to be packed and unpacked and 
packed again ; there were presents from friends far and near, 
friends high and low. We were all needlessly hurried ; all 
nervously expectant of the morrow. Sir Percival, especially, 
was too restless, now, to remain five minutes together in the 
same place. That short, sharp cough of his troubled him 
more than ever. He was in and out of doors all day long : 
and he seemed to grow so inquisitive, on a sudden, that he 
questioned the very strangers who came on small errands to 
the house. Add to all this, the one perpetual thought, in 
Laura's mind and mine, that we were to part the next day, 

169 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

and the haunting dread, unexpressed by either of us, and yet 
ever present to both, that this deplorable marriage mig-ht 
prove to be the one fatal error of her life and the one hope- 
less sorrow of mine. For the first time in all the years of our 
close and happy intercourse we almost avoided looking- each 
other in the face ; and we refrained, by common consent, from 
speaking- together in private, through the whole evening. I 
can dwell on it no longer. Whatever future sorrows may be 
in store for me, I shall always look back on this twenty-first 
of December as the most comfortless and most miserable day 
of my life. 

I am writing these lines in the solitude of my own room, 
long after midnight ; having just come back from a stolen 
look at Laura in her pretty little white bed — the bed she has 
occupied since the days of her girlhood. 

There she lay, unconscious that I was looking at her — 
quiet, more quiet than I had dared to hope, but not sleeping. 
The glimmer of the night-light showed me that her eyes v/ere 
only partially closed : the traces of tears glistened between 
her eyelids. My little keepsake — only a brooch — lay on the 
table at her bedside, with her prayer-book, and the miniature 
portrait of her father which she takes with her wherever she 
goes. I waited a moment, looking at her from behind her 
pillow, as she lay beneath me, with one arm and hand resting 
on the white coverlid, so still, so quietly breathing, that the 
frill on her night-dress never moved — I waited, looking at 
her, as I have seen her thousands of times, as I shall never 
see her again — and then stole back to my room. My own 
love ! with all your wealth, and all your beauty, how friend- 
less you are ! The one man who would give his heart's life 
to serve you, is far away, tossing, this stormy night, on the 
awful sea. Who else is left to you ? No father, no brother 
— no living creature but the helpless, viseless woman who 
writes these sad lines, and watches by you for the morning, 
in sorrow that she cannot compose, in. doubt that she cannot 
conquer. Oh, what a trust is to be placed in that man's 
hands to-morrow ! If ever he forgets it ; if ever he injures a 
hair of her head ! 

The Twenty-second of December. Seven o'clock. A 
wild unsettled morning. She has just risen — better and 
calmer, now that the time has come, than she was yesterday. 



Ten o'clock. She is dressed. We have kissed each other ; 
we have promised each other not to lose courage. I. am 

170 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

away for a moment in my own room. In the whirl and 
confusion of my thoughts, I can detect that strange fancy of 
some hindrance happening to stop the marriage, still hanging 
about my mind. Is it hanging about his mind, too ? 1 see 
him from the window, moving hither and thither uneasily 
among the carriages at the door. — How can I write such 
folly ! The marriage is a certainty. In less than half an hour 
we start for the church. 



Eleven o'clock. It is all over. They are married. 



Three o'clock. They are gone ! I am blind with crying 
—I can write no more 



O 



\The First Epoch of I he Story closes here] 



lit 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 



THE SECOND EPOCH. 



The Stoy continued hy Marian IIalcomp.e. 



BLickwater Park, Hampshire. 

June nth, 1850. — Six months to look back on — six long", 
lonely months, since Laura and I last saw each other ! 

How many days have I still to wait ? Only one ! To- 
morrow, the twelfth, the travellers return to England. I can 
hardly realise my own happiness ; I can hardly believe that 
the next four-and-twenty hours v.ill complete the last day of 
separation between Laura and me. 

She and her husband have been in Italy all the winter, and 
afterwards in the Tyrol. They come back, accompanied by 
Count Fosco and his wife, who propose to settle somewhere 
in the neighbourhood of London, and who have engaged to 
stay at Blackwater Park for the summer months before 
deciding on a place of residence. So long as Laura returns, 
no matter who returns with her. Sir Percival may fill the 
house from floor to ceiling, if he likes, on condition that his 
wife and I inhabit it together. 

Meanwhile, here I am, established at Blackwater Park ; 
* the ancient and interesting seat ' (as the county history 
obligingly informs me) 'of Sir Percival Clyde, Bart.' — and 
the future abiding-place (as I may now venture to add on my 
account) of plain Marian Halcombe, spinster, now settled in 
a snug little sitting-room, with a cup of tea by her side, and 
all her earthly possessions ranged round her in three boxes 
and a bag. 

I left Limmeridge yesterday ; having received Laura's 
delightful letter from Paris, the day before. I had been 
previously uncertain whether I was to meet them in London, 

172 . 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

or in Hampshire ; but this last letter informed me, that Sir 
Percival proposed to land at Southampton, and to travel 
straight on to his country-house. He has spent so much money 
abroad, that he has none left to defray the expenses of living- in 
London, for the remainder of the season ; and he is economi- 
cally resolved to pass the summer and autumn quietly at 
Blackwater. Laura has had more than enough of excitement 
and change of scene ; and is pleased at the prospect of 
country tranquillity and retirement which her husband's 
prudence provides for her. As for me, I am ready to be 
happy anywhere in her society. We are all, therefore, well 
contented in our various ways, to begin with. 

Last night, I slept in London, and was delayed there so 
long, to-day, by various calls and commissions, that I did not 
reach Blackwater, this evening, till after dusk. 

Judging by my vague impressions of the place, thus far, 
it is the exact opposite of Limmeridge. 

The house is situated on a dead flat, and seems to be shut 
in — almost suffocated, to my north-country notions, by trees. 
I have seen nobody, but the man-servant who opened the door 
to me, and the housekeeper, a very civil person who showed 
me the way to my own room, and got me my tea. I have a 
nice little boudoir and bedroom, at the end of a long passage 
on the first floor. The servants' and some of the spare rooms 
are on the second floor ; and all the living rooms are on the 
ground floor. I have not seen one of them yet, and I know 
nothing about the house, except that one wing of it is said 
to be five hundred years old, that it had a moat round it 
once, and that it gets its name of Blackwater from a lake in 
the park. 

Eleven o'clock has just struck, in a ghostly and solemn 
manner, from a turret over the centre of the house, which I 
saw when I came in. A large dog has been woke, appa- 
rently by the sound of the bell, and is howling and yawning 
drearil}-, somewhere round a corner. I hear echoing foot- 
steps in the passages below, and the iron thumping of bolls 
and bars at the house door. The servants are evidently going 
to bed. Shall I follow their example ? 

No : I am not half sleepy enough. Sleepy, did I say ? 
I feel as if I should never close my eyes again. The bare 
anticipation of seeing that dear face and hearing that well- 
known voice to-morrow, keeps me in a perpetual fever of ex- 
citement. If I only had the privileges of a man, I would 
order out Sir Percival's best horse instantly, and tear away 
on a night-gallop, eastward, to meet the rising sun— a long, 

17.^ 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

hard, heavy, ceaseless gallop of hours and hours, like the 
famous hig-hwayman's ride to York. Being-, however, nothing 
but a woman, condemned to patience, propriety, and petticoats, 
for life, I must respect the housekeeper's opinions, and try to 
compose myself in some feeble and feminine way. 

Reading is out of the question — I can't fix my attention on 
books. Let me try if I can write myself into sleepiness and 
fatigue. My journal has been very much neglected of late. 
What can I recall — standing, as 1 now do, on the threshold 
of a new life — of persons and events, of chances and changes, 
during the past six months — the long, weary, empty interval 
since Laura's wedding-day ? 

Walter Hartright is uppermost in my memory ; and he 
passes first in the shadowy procession of my absent friends. 
I received a few lines from him, after the landing of the 
expedition in Honduras, written more cheerfully and hope- 
fully than he has written yet. A month or six weeks later, I 
saw an extract from an American newspaper, describing the 
departure of the adventurers on their inland journey. They 
were last seen entering a wild primeval forest, each man witli 
his rifle on his shoulder and his baggage at his back. Since 
that time, civilisation has lost all trace of them. Not a line 
more have I received from Walter ; not a fragment of news 
from the expedition has appeared in any of the public journals. 

The same dense, disheartening obscurity hangs over the 
fate and fortunes of Anne Catherick, and her companion, Mrs. 
Clements. Nothing whatever has been heard of either of 
them. Whether they are in the country or out of it, whether 
they are living or dead, no one knows. Even Sir Percival's 
solicitor has lost all hope, and has ordered the useless search 
after the fugitives to be finally given up. 

Our good old friend Mr. Gilmore has met with a sad check 
in his active professional career. Early in the spring, we were 
alarmed by hearing that he had been found insensible at his 
desk, and that the seizure was pronounced to be an apoplec- 
tic fit. He had been long complaining of fulness and oppres- 
sion in the head ; and his doctor had warned him of the con- 
sequences that would follow his persistency in continuing to 
work, early and late, as if he v/as still a j-cung man. The 
result now is that he has been positively ordered to keep out 
of his office for a year to come, at least, and to seek repose of 
body and relief of mind by altogether changing his usual 
mode of life. The business is left, accordingly, to be carried 
on by his partner ; and he is, himself, at this moment, away 

174 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

in Germany, visiting- some relations who are settled there in 
mercantile pursuits. Thus, another true friend, and trust- 
worthy adviser, is lost to us — lost, I earnestly hope and trust, 
for a time only. 

Poor Mrs. Vesey travelled with me, as far as London. It 
was impossible to abandon her to solitude at Limmeridge, 
after Laura and I had both left the house ; and we have 
arranged that she is to live with an unmarried younger sister 
of hers, who keeps a school at Clapham. She is to come 
here this autumn to visit her pupil — I might almost say her 
adopted child. I saw the good old lady safe to her destina- 
tion ; and left her in the care of her relative, quietly happy 
at the prospect of seeing Laura again, in a few months' time. 

As for Mr. Fairlie, I believe I am guilty of no injustice if 
I describe him as being unutterably relieved by having the 
house clear of us women. The idea of his missing his niece 
is simply preposterous — he used to let months pass, in the 
old times, without attempting to see her — and, in my case 
and Mrs. Vesey's, I take leave to consider his telling us both 
that he was half heart-broken at our departure, to be equiva- 
lent to a confession that he was secretly rejoiced to get rid of 
us. His last caprice has led him to keep two photographers 
incessantly employed in producing sun-pictures of all the 
treasures and curiosities in his possession. One complete 
copy of the collection of the photographs is to be presented to 
the Mechanics' Institution of Carlisle, mounted on the finest 
cardboard, with ostentatious red-letter inscriptions under- 
neath. ' Madonna and Child, by Raphael. In the possession 
of Frederick Fairlie, Esquire.' ' Copper coin of the period of 
Tiglath Pileser. In the possession of Frederick Fairlie, 
Esquire.' 'Unique Rembrandt etching. Known all over 
Europe, as The Sfnudge, from a printer's blot in the corner 
which exists in no other copy. Valued at three hundred 
guineas. In the possession of Frederick Fairlie, Esquire.' 
Dozens of photographs of this sort, and all inscribed in this 
manner, were completed before I left Cumberland ; and 
hundreds more remain to be done. With this new interest to 
occupy him, Mr. Fairlie will be a happy man for months and 
months to come ; and the two unfortunate photographers will 
share the social martyrdom which he has hitherto inflicted on 
his valet alone. 

So much for the persons and events which hold the fore- 
most place in my memory. What, next, of the one person 
who holds the foremost place in my heart ? Laura has been 
present to my thoughts all the while I have been writing these 

175 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

lines. What can I recall of her, during the past six months, 
before I close my journal for the night ? 

I have only her letters to guide me ; and, on the most 
important of all the questions which our correspondence can 
discuss, every one of those letters leaves me in the dark. 

Does he treat her kindly ? Is she happier now than she 
was when I parted with her on the wedding-day ? All my 
letters have contained these two inquiries, put more or less 
directly, now in one form, and now in another ; and all, on 
that point only, have remained without reply, or have been 
answered as if my questions merely related to the state 
of her health. She informs me, over and over again, that she 
is perfectly well ; that travelling agrees with her ; that she is 
getting through the winter, for the first time in her life, 
Avithout catching cold — but not a word can I find anywhere 
which tells me plainly that she is reconciled to her marriage, 
and that she can now look back to the twenty-second of 
December without any bitter feelings of repentance and re- 
gret. The name of her husband is only mentioned in her 
letters, as she might mention the name of a friend who was 
travelling with them, and who had undertaken to make all the 
arrangements for the journey. ' Sir Percival ' has settled that 
we leave on such a day ; ' Sir Percival ' has decided that we 
travel by such a road. Sometimes she writes, ' Percival ' 
only, but very seldom — in nine cases out of ten, she gives him 
his title. 

I cannot find that his habits and opinions have changed 
and coloured hers in any single particular. The usual moral 
transformation which is insensibly wrought in a young, fresh, 
sensitive woman by her marriage, seems never to have taken 
place in Laura. She writes of her own thoughts and impres- 
sions, amid all the wonders she has seen, exactly as she might 
have written to some one else, if I had been travelling with 
her instead of her husband. I see no betrayal anywhere, of 
sympathy of any kind existing between them. Even when 
she wanders from the subject of her travels, and occupies her- 
self with the prospects that await her in England, her specu- 
lations are busied with her future as my sister, and persis- 
tently neglect to notice her future as Sir Percival's wife. In 
all this, there is no under-tone of complaint, to warn me that 
she is absolutely unhappy in her married life. The impression 
I have derived from our correspondence does not, thank God, 
lead me to any such distressing conclusion as that. I only 
see a sad torpor, an unchangeable indifference, v/hen I turn 
my mind from her in the old character of a sister, and look at 

176 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

ot a wife In ocher words, it is always Laura Fairlie who has 
^een writing to me for the last six months, and never Lady 

U.J!"^ u'^^^^ l'^^"''^ '''^''^^' "^^'^ maintains on the subject of 
hei husband's character and conduct, she preserves with 
almost equal resolution in the few references which her later 
Coun? pCsco" '"^ '" "''"'' ""^ ^'' husband's bosom friend. 
For some unexplained reason, the Count and his wife 
appear to have chang-ed their plans abruptly, at the end of 
last autumn and to have gone to Vienna, i,.st;ad of goin . o 
Rome, at which latter place Sir Percival had expected to find 
them when he left England. They only quitted Vienna in le 
spnng, and travelled as far as the Tyrol to meet the brkle and 
bridegroom on their homeward journev. Laura writes readHv 
enough about the meeting with Madame Fosco, and assures 
me that she has found her aunt so much changed for he 
better-so much quieter and so much more sensibte as a wife 
hanshe was as a single woman-that I shall hardly know 
her again when I see her here. But, on the subject of Com 
<osco (who interests me infinitely more than his-'wifet Lau a 
IS provokingly circumspect and silent. She only says that 1 e 

of hlmis until I T""' ''' '''?■ "'^^ '^" "^ ''''^' '-'■ -P--'Oi 
oMiim IS, until I have seen him, and formed my own opinion 

...!^'''''i° ;''-'' ''''"'^' ^""'"''^ '^^ f^^ the Count. Laura has 
nffth' /-/p' "'?T ^''^'''^y ^'^^" "^°st people do in late? 
and i^Vnm ?^-^' '''''''''■ ^^^"^^-'^-S a friend by instinct 
and, ,f I am right ,n assuming that her first impression of 
Count Fosco has not been favourable, I, for one, L in some 
danger of doubting and distrusting that illustrious foreiTer 
before I have so much as set eyes on him. But, patience 
patience ; this uncertainty, and many uncertainties more' 

in TSr "' "7h -"^^T- ^r"^-^^-^'--^^ -e all my doXs 
in a fair way of being cleared up, sooner or later. 

Ivvelve o'clock has struck; and I have just come back to 
close these pages after looking out at my open window 
few tL ; ' IP\ 'moonless night. The stars are dull and 
tew The trees that shut out the view on all sides lool- 
dimly black and solid in the distance, like a great wale;- 
Irhn' f^fS' '^'^ "'^f ^ "- ^^ ^'""Ss, faint and fafoff ; and the 
echoes of the great clock hum in the airless calm, fon- aftei- 

viH fo't '%k''7 '"''''i- ^ ^^-^"^^^ how Black v^ater P H 
^vlll look in the daytime ? I don't altogether like it bv nio-ht 

^77 ' n" 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

I2th. — A day of investigations and discoveries — a more 
Interesting day, for many reasons, than I had ventured to 
anticipate. 

I began my sight-seeing, of course, with the house. 

The main body of the building is of the time of that higlily 
over-rated woman. Queen EHzabeth. On the ground floor, 
there are two hugely long galleries, with low ceilings, lying 
parallel with each other, and rendered additionally dark and 
dismal by hideous family portraits — every one of v»^hich I 
should like to burn. The rooms on the floor above the two gal- 
leries, are kept in tolerable repair, but are very seldom used. 
The civil housekeeper, who acted as my guide, off'ered to 
show me over them ; but considerately added that she feared 
I should find them rather out of order. My respect for the 
integrity of my own petticoats and stockings, infinitely exceeds 
my respect for all the Elizabethan bedrooms in the kingdom ; 
so I positively declined exploring the upper regions of dust and 
dirt at the risk of soiling my nice clean clothes. The house- 
keeper said, ' I am quite of your opinion, miss ; ' and appeared 
to think me the most sensible woman she had met with for a 
long time past. 

So much, then, for the main building. Two wings are 
added, at either end of it. The half-ruined wing on the left 
(as you approach the house) was once a place of residence 
standing by itself, and was built in the fourteenth century. 
One of Sir Percival's maternal ancestors — I don't remember, 
and don't care, which — tacked on the main building, at right 
angles to it, in the aforesaid Queen Elizabeth's tim.e. The 
housekeeper told me that the architecture of 'the old wing,' 
both outside and inside, was considered remarkably fine by 
good judges. On further investigation, I discovered that 
good judges could only exercise their abilities on Sir Percival's 
piece of antiquity by previously dismissing from their minds 
all fear of damp, darkness, and rats. Under these circum- 
stances, I unhesitatingly acknowledged myself to be no judge 
at all ; and suggested that we should treat ' the old wing ' 
precisely as we had previously treated the Elizabethan bed- 
rooms. Once more, the housekeeper said, ' I am quite of 
your opinion, miss ; ' and once more she looked at me, with 
undisguised admiration of my extraordinary common sense. 

We went, next, to the wing on the right, which v/as built, 
by way of completing the wonderful architectural jumble at 
Blackwater Park, in the time of George the Second. 

This is the habitable part of the house, which has been 
repaired and redecorated, inside, on Laura's account. My 

178 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

two rooms, and all the good bedrooms besides, are on the 
first floor ; and the basement contains a drawing-room, a 
dining-room, a morning-room, a library, and a pretty little 
boudoir for Laura — all very nicely ornamented in the bright 
modern way, and all very elegantly furnished with the 
delightful modern luxuries. None of the rooms are anything 
like so large and airy as our rooms at Limmeridge ; but they 
all look pleasant to live in. I was terribly afraid, from what 
I had heard of Blackwater Park, of fatiguing antique chairs, 
and dismal stained glass, and musty, frouzy hangings, and all 
the barbarous lumber which people born without a sense of 
comfort accumulate about them, in defiance of the considera- 
tion due to the convenience of their friends. It is an inex 
pressible relief to find that the nineteenth century has invaded 
this strange future home of mine, and has swept the dirty 
* good old times ' out of the way of our daily life. 

I dawdled away the morning — part of the time in the 
rooms down stairs ; and part, out of doors, in the great 
square which is foi'med by the three sides of the house, and 
by the lofty iron railings and gates which protect it in front. 
A large circular fishpond, with stone sides, and an allegorical 
leaden monster in the middle, occupies the centre of the 
square. The pond itself is full of gold and silver fish, and 
is encircled by a broad belt of the softest turf I ever walked 
on. I loitered here, on the shady side, pleasantly enough, till 
luncheon time ; and, after that, took my broad straw hat, and 
wandered out alone, in the warm lovely sunlight, to explore 
the grounds. 

Daylight confirmed the impression which I had felt the 
night before, of there being too many trees at Blackwater. 
The house is stifled by them. They are, for the most part, 
young, and planted far too thickly. I suspect there must have 
been a ruinous cutting down of timber, all over the estate, 
before Sir Percival's time, and an angry anxiety, on the part of 
the next possessor, to fill up all the gaps as thickly and rapidly 
as possible. After looking about me, in front of the house, I 
observed a flower-garden on my left hand, and walked 
tov.'ards it, to see what I could discover in that direction. 

On a nearer view, the garden proved to be small and poor 
and ill kept. I left it behind me, opened a little gate in a 
ring fence, and found myself in a plantation of fir-trees. 

A pretty, winding path, artificially made, led me on among 
the trees ; and my north-country experience soon informed 
me that I was approaching sandy heathy ground. After a 
walk of more than half a mile, I should think, among the 

179 1^2 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

firs, the path took a sharp turn ; the trees abruptly ceased to 
appear on either side of me ; and I found myself standing 
suddenly on the margin of a vast open space, and looking 
down at the Blackwater lake from which the house takes its 
name. 

The ground, shelving away below me, was all sand, with 
a few little heathy hillocks to break the monotony of it in 
certain places. The lake itself had evidently once flowed to 
the spot on which I stood, and had been gradually wasted 
and dried up to less than a third of its former size. I saw its 
still, stagnant waters, a quarter of a mile away from me in 
the hollow, separated into pools and ponds, by twining reeds 
and rushes, and little knolls of earth. On the farther bank 
from me, the trees rose thickly again, and shut out the view, 
and cast their black shadows on the sluggish, shallow water. 
As I walked down to the lake, I saw that the ground on its 
farther side was damp and marshy, overgrown Avith rank 
grass and dismal willows. The water, which was clear 
enough on the open sandy side, where the sun shone, looked 
black and poisonous opposite to me, where it lay deeper 
under the shade of the spongy banks, and the rank over- 
hanging thickets and tangled trees. The frogs were croaking, 
and the rats were slipping in and out of the shadowy water, 
like live shadows themselves, as I got nearer to the marshy 
side of the lake. I saw here, lying half in and half out of 
the water, the rotten wreck of an old overturned boat, with a 
sickly spot of sunlight glimmering through a gap in the trees 
on its dry surface, and a snake basking in the midst of the 
spot, fantastically coiled, and treacherously still. Far and 
near, the view suggested the same dreary impressions of 
solitude and decay ; and the glorious brightness of the 
summer sky overhead, seemed only to deepen and harden the 
gloom and barrenness of the wilderness on which it shone. 
I turned and retraced my steps to the high, heathy ground ; 
directing them a little aside from my former path, towards a 
shabby old wooden shed, which stood on the outer skirt of 
the fir plantation, and which had hitherto been too un- 
important to share my notice with the wide, wild prospect of 
the lake. 

On approaching the ihed, I found that it had once been a 
boat-house, and that an attempt had apparently been made to 
convert it afterwards into a sort of rude arbour, by placing 
inside it a firwood seat, a few stools, and a table. I entered 
the place, and sat down for a little while, to rest and get my 
breath again. 

180 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

I had not been in the boat-house more than a minute, when 
it struck me that the sound of my own quick breathing- was 
very strangely eclioed by something beneath me. I Hstened 
intently for a moment, and heard a low, thick, sobbing breath 
that seemed to come from the ground under the seat which I 
was occupying. My nerves are not easily shaken by trifles ; 
but, on this occasion, I started to my feet in a fright — called 
out — received no answer — summoned back my recreant 
courage — and looked under the seat. 

There, crouched up in the farthest corner, lay the forlorn 
cause of my terror, in the shape of a poor little dog— a black 
and white spaniel. The creature moaned feebly when I 
looked at it and called to it, but never stiri'ed. I moved 
av/ay the seat and looked closer. The poor little dog's eyes 
were glazing fast, and there were spots of blood on its glossy- 
white side. The misery of a weak, helpless, dumb creature is 
surely one of the saddest of all the mournful sights which 
this world can show. I lifted the poor dog in my arms as 
g'cntly as I could, and contrived a sort of make-shift hammock 
for him to lie in, by gathering up the front of my dress all 
round him. In this way, I took the creature, as painlessly as 
possible, and as fast as possible, back to the house. 

Finding no one in the hall, I went up at once to my own 
sitting-room, made a bed for the dog- with one of my old 
shawls, and rang the bell. The largest and fattest of all 
possible housemaids answered it, in a state of cheerful 
stupidity which would have provoked the patience of a saint. 
The girl's fat, shapeless face actually stretched into a broad 
grin, at the sight of the wounded creature on the floor. 

' What do you see there to laugh at ? ' I asked, as angrily 
as if she had been a servant of my ov/n. ' Do you know 
whose dog it is ? * 

* No, miss, that I certainly don't.' She stopped, and 
looked down at the spaniel's injured side — brightened 
suddenly with the irradiation of a new idea — and, pointing to 
the wound with a chuckle of satisfaction, said, ' That's 
Baxter's doings, that is.' 

I was so exasperated that I could have boxed her ears. 
' Baxter ? ' I said. ' Who is the brute you call Baxter ? ' 

The girl grinned again, more cheerfully than ever. ' Bless 
you, miss ! Baxter's the keeper ; and when he finds strange 
dogs hunting about, he takes and shoots 'em. It's keeper's 
dooty, miss. I think that dog will die. Here's where he's 
been shot, ain't it? That's Baxter's doings, that is. 
Baxter's doings, miss, and Baxter's dooty.' 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

I was almost wicked enough to wish that Baxter had shot 
the housemaid instead of the dog. Seeing that it was quite 
useless to expect this densely impenetrable personage to 
give me any help in relieving the suffering creature at our 
feet, I told her to request the housekeeper's attendance with 
my compliments. She went out exactly as she had come 
in, grinning from ear to ear. As the door closed on her, she 
said to herself, softly, ' It's Baxter's doings and Baxter's 
dooty — that's what it is.' 

The housekeeper, a persoii of some education and in- 
telligence, thoughtfully brought up-stairs with her some milk 
and some warm water. The instant she saw the dog on the 
floor, she started and changed colour. 

* Why, Lord bless me,' cried the housekeeper, * that must 
be Mrs. Catherick's dog ! ' 

* Whose ? ' I asked, in the utmost astonishment. 

' Mrs. Catherick's. You seem to know Mrs. Catherlck, 
Miss Halcombe ? ' 

* Not personally. But I have heard of her. Does she 
live here ? Has she had any news of her daughter ? ' 

' No, Miss Halcombe. She came here to ask for news.' 
' When ? * 

* Only yesterday. She said some one had reported that a 
stranger answering to the description of her daughter had 
been seen in our neighbourhood. No such report has reached 
us here ; and no such report was known in the village, A\^hen 
I sent to make inquiries there on Mrs. Catherick's account. 
She certainly brought this poor little dog with her vv'hen she 
came ; and I saw it trot out after her when she went away. 
I suppose the creature strayed into the plantations, and got 
shot. Where did you find it, Miss Halcombe ? ' 

' In the old shed that looks out on the lake.' 
' Ah, yes, that is the plantation side, and the poor thing 
dragged itself, I suppose, to the nearest shelter, as dogs 
will, to die. If you can moisten its lips with the milk, Miss 
Halcombe, I will w'ash the clotted hair from the wound. I 
am very much afraid it is too late to do any good. However, 
we can but try.' 

Mrs. Catherick ! The namie still rang in my ears, as if 
the housekeeper had only that moment surprised me by 
uttering it. While we were attending to the dog, the words 
of Walter Hartright's caution to me returned to my memory. 
* If ever Anne Catherlck crosses your path, m.ake better use 
of the opportunity, Miss Halcombe, than I made of it,' The 
finding of the wounded spaniel had led me already to the 

182 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

discovery of Mrs. Catherlck's visit to Blackwater Park ; and 
that event might lead, in its turn, to something- more. I 
determined to make the most of the chance which was 
now offered to me, and to gain as much information as I 
could. 

* Did you say that Mrs. Catherick lived anywhere in this 
neighbourhood ? ' I asked. 

* Oh, dear, no,' said the housekeeper. * She lives at 
\Velmingham, quite at the other end of the country — five- 
and-twenty miles off at least,' 

* I suppose you have known Mrs. Catherick for som.e 
years ? ' 

' On the contrary, Miss Halcombe : I never saw her 
before she came here, yesterda}-. I had heard of her, of 
course, because I had heard of Sir Percival's kindness in 
putting her daughter under medical care. Mrs. Catherick is 
rather a strange person in her manners, but extremely re- 
spectable-looking. She seemed sorely put out, when she 
found that there was no foundation — none, at least, that any 
of HS could discover — for the report of her daughter having 
been seen in this neighbourhood.' 

' I am rather interested about Mrs. Catherick,' I went on, 
continuing the conversation as long as possible. ' I wish I 
had arrived here soon enough to see her yesterday. Did she 
stay for any length of time ? ' 

' Yes,' said the housekeeper, ' she stayed for some time. 
And I think she would have remained longer, if I had not 
been called away to speak to a strange gentleman — a gentle- 
man who came to ask when Sir Percival was expected back. 
Mrs. Catherick got up and left at once, when she heard the 
maid tell me what the visitor's errand was. She said to me, 
at parting, that there was no need to tell Sir Percival of her 
coming here. I thought that rather an odd remark to make, 
especially to a person in my responsible situation.' 

I thought it an odd remark, too. Sir Percival had cer- 
tainly led me to believe, at Limmeridge, that the most perfect 
confidence existed between himself and Mrs. Catherick. If 
that was the case, why should she be anxious to have her 
visit at Blackwater Park kept a secret from him ? 

' Probably,' I said, seeing that the housekeeper expected 
me to give my opinion on Mrs. Catherick's parting words ; 
* probably, she thought the announcement of her visit might 
vex Sir Percival to no purpose, by reminding him that her 
lost daughter was not found yet. Did she talk much on 
that subject ? ' 

183 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

' Very little,' replied the housekeeper. * She talked prin- 
cipally of Sir Percival, and asked a great many questions 
about where he had been travelling', and what sort of a lady 
his new wife was. She seemed to be more soured and put 
out than distressed, by failing to find any traces of her 
daughter in these parts. "I give her up," were the last 
words she said that I can remember; "I give her up, 
ma'am, for lost." And from that, she passed at once to her 
questions about Lady Glyde ; wanting to know if she was a 
handsome, amiable lady, comely and healthy and young — ■ 
Ah, dear ! I thought how it would end. Look, Miss Hal- 
combe ! the poor thing is out of its misery at last ! ' 

The dog was dead. It had given a faint, sobbing cry, it 
had suffered an instant's convulsion of the limbs, just as 
those last words, ' comely and healthy and young,' dropped 
from the housekeeper's lips. The change had happened with 
startling suddenness — in one moment the creature lay lifeless 
under our hands. 

Eight o'clock. I have just returned from dining down 
stairs, in solitary state. The sunset is burning redly on the 
wilderness of trees that I see from my window ; and I am 
poring over my journal again, to calm my impatience for the 
return of the travellers. They ought to have arrived, by my 
calculations, before this. How still and lonely the house is in 
the drowsy evening quiet ! Oh, me ! how many minutes 
more before I hear the carriage wheels and run down stairs to 
find myself in Laura's arms ? 

The poor little dog ! I wish my first day at Blackwater 
Park had not been associated with death — though it is only 
the death of a stray animal. 

Welmingham — I see, on looking back through these private 
pages of mine, that Welmingham is the name of the place 
where Mrs. Catherick lives. Her note is still in my posses- 
sion, the note in answer to that letter about her unhappy 
daughter which Sir Percival obliged me to write. One of 
these days, when I can find a safe opportunity, I will take the 
note with me by way of introduction, and try what I can 
make of Mrs. Catherick at a personal interview. I don't 
understand her wishing to conceal her visit to this place from 
Sir Percival's knowledge ; and I don't feel half so sure, as the 
housekeeper seems to do, that her daughter Anne is not in 
the neighbourhood, after all. What would Walter Hartright 
have said in this emergency ? Poor, dear Hartright ! I am 
beginning to feel the want of his honest advice and his willing 
help, already. 

184 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

Surely, I heard something^. Was It a bustle of footsteps 
below stairs ? Yes ! I hear the horses' feet ; I hear the rolling- 
wheels 

II. 

June 15th. — The confusion of their arrival has had time to 
subside. Two days have elapsed since the return of the 
travellers ; and that interval has sufficed to put the new 
machinery of our lives at Blackwater Park in fair working 
order. I may now return to my journal, with some little 
chance of being able to continue the entries in it as collectedly 
as usual. 

I think I must begin by putting down an odd remark, 
which has suggested itself to me since Laura came back. 

When two members of a family, or two intimate friends, are 
separated, and one goes abroad and one remains at home, the 
return of the relative or friend who has been travelling, always 
seems to place the relative or friend who has been staying at 
home at a painful disadvantage, when the two first meet. 
The sudden encounter of the new thoughts and new habits 
eagerly gained in the one case, with the old thoughts and 
old habits passively preserved in the other, seems, at first, to 
part the sympathies of the most loving relatives and the 
fondest friends, and to set a sudden strangeness, unexpected 
by both and uncontrollable by both, between them on either 
side. After the first happiness of my meeting with Laura was 
over, after we had sat down together, hand in hand, to recover 
breath enough and calmness enough to talk, I felt this strange- 
ness instantly, and I could see that she felt it too. It has 
partially worn away, now that we have fallen back into most 
of our old habits ; and it will probably disappear before long. 
But it has certainly had an influence over the first impressions 
that I have formed of her, now that we are living together 
again — for which reason only I have thought fit to mention 
it here. 

She has found me unaltered ; but I have found her 
changed. 

Changed in person, and, in one respect, changed in 
character, I cannot absolutely say that she is less beautiful 
than she used to be : I can only say that she is less beautiful 

to 77ie. 

Others, who do not look at her with my eyes and my 
recollections, would probably think her improved. There is 
more colour, and more decision and roundness of outline in 
her face than there u§ed to be ; and her figure seems more 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

firmly set, and more sure and easy in all its movements than 
it was in her maiden days. But I miss something- v/hen I look 
at her — something- that once belonged to the happy, innocent 
life of Laura Fairlie, and that I cannot find in Lady Glyde. 
There was, in the old times, a freshness, a softness, an ever- 
varying and yet ever-remaining- tenderness of beauty in her 
face, the charm of which it is not possible to express in words 
— or, as poor Hartright used often to say, in painting, either. 
This is gone. I thought I saw the faint reflexion of it, for a 
moment, when she turned pale under the agitation of our 
sudden meeting, on the evening of her return ; but it has 
never reappeared since. None of her letters had prepared me 
for a personal change in her. On the contrary, they had led 
me to expect that her marriage had left her, in appearance at 
least, quite unaltered. Perhaps, I read her letters wrongly, 
in the past, and am now reading her face wrongly, in the 
present ? No matter ! Whether her beauty has gained, or 
whether it has lost, in the last six months, the separation, 
either way, has made her own dear self more precious to me 
than ever — and that is one good result of her marriage, at 
any rate ! 

The second change, the change that I have observed in her 
character, has not surprised me, because I was prepared for 
it, in this case, by the tone of her letters. Now that she is 
at home again, I find her just as unwilling to enter into any 
details on the subject of her married life, as I had previously 
found her, all through the time of our separation, when we 
could only communicate with each other by writing. At the 
first approach I made to the forbidden topic, she put her hand 
on my lips, with a look and gesture which touchingly, almost 
painfully, recalled to my memory the days of her girlhood and 
the happy bygone time when there were no secrets between us. 

* Whenever you and I are together, Marian,' she said, 
* we shall both be happier and easier with one another, if we 
accept my married life for what it is, and say and think 
as little about it as possible. I would tell j^ou everything, 
darling-, about m.yself,' she went on, nervously buckling and 
unbuckling the ribbon round my waist, ' if my confidences 
could only end there. But they could not — they would lead 
me into confidences about my husband, too ; and, now I am 
married, I think I had better avoid them, for his sake, and 
for your sake, and for mine. I don't say that they would 
distress you, or distress me — I wouldn't have you think that 
for the world. But — I want to be so happy, now I haye g-ot 

you back again ; and I want you to be so happy too ' 

1 86 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

She broke off abruptly, and looked round the room, my own 
sitting--room, in which we were talking-. ' Ah ! ' she cried, 
clapping her hands with a bright smile of recognition, 
' another old friend found already ! Your bookcase, Marian 
— )-our dear-little-shabby-old-satin-wood bookcase — how glad 
I am you brought it with you from Limmeridge ! And the 
horrid, heavy, man's umbrella, that you always would walk 
out with when it rained ! And, first and foremost of all, your 
own dear, dark, clever, gipsy-face, looking at me just as usual ! 
It is so like home again to be here. How can w^e make it 
more like home still ? I will put my father's portrait in your 
room instead of in mine — and I will keep all my little treasures 
from Limmeridge here— and we will pass hours and hours 
every day with these four friendly walls round us. Oh, 
Marian ! ' she said, suddenly seating herself on a footstool at 
my knees, and looking up earnestly in my face, ' promise you 
will never marry, and leave me. It is selfish to say so, but 
you are so much better off as a single woman — unless — unless 
you are very fond of your husband — but you won't be very 
fond of anybody but me, will you ? ' She stopped again ; 
crossed my hands on my lap ; and laid her face on them. 
' Have you been writing many letters, and receiving many 
letters, lately?' she asked, in low, suddenly-altered tones. I 
understood what the question meant ; but I thought it my 
duty not to encourage her by meeting her half way. ' Have 
you heard from him ? ' she went on, coaxing me to forgive 
the more direct appeal on which she now^ ventured, by kissing 
my hands, upon which her face still rested. ' Is he well and 
happy, and getting on in his profession ? Has he recovered 
himself — and forg'otten me ? ' 

She should not liave asked those questions. She should 
have remembered her own resolution, on the morning w^hen 
Sir Percival held her to her marriage engagement, and when 
she resigned the book of Hartright's drawings into my hands 
for ever. But, ah me ! where is the faultless human creature 
who can persevere in a good resolution, without sometimes 
failing and falling back ? Where is the woman who has ever 
really torn from her heart the image that has been once fixed 
in it by a true love ? Books tell us that such unearthly crea- 
tures have existed — but what does our own experience say in 
answer to books ? 

I made no attempt to remonstrate with her : perhaps, 
because I sincerely appreciated the fearless candour which let 
me see, what other women in her position might have had 
reasons for concealing even from their dearest friends— 

187 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

perhaps, because I felt, in my own heart and conscience, that, 
in her place I should have asked the same questions and had 
the same thoughts. All I could honestly do was to reply that 
I had not written to him or heard from him lately, and then 
to turn the conversation to less dangerous topics. 

There has been much to sadden me in our interview — m}'' 
first confidential interview with her since her return. The 
change w^iich her marriage has produced in our relations 
tow^ards each other, by placing a forbidden subject between 
us, for the first time in our lives ; the melancholy conviction 
of the dearth of all warmth of feeling, of all close sympathy, 
between her husband and herself, which her own unwilling 
words now force on my mind ; the distressing discovery that 
the influence of that ill-fated attachment still remains (no 
matter how innocently, how harmlessly) rooted as deeply as 
ever in her heart — all these are disclosures to sadden any 
W'Oman who loves her as dearly, and feels for her as acutely, 
as I do. 

There is only one consolation to set against them — a con- 
solation that ought to comfort me, and that does comfort me. 
All the graces and gentlenesses of her character; all the frank 
affection of her nature ; all the sweet, simple, womanly charms 
which used to make her the darling and delight of every one 
who approached her, have come back to me with herself. Of 
my other impressions I am sometimes a little inclined to 
doubt. Of this last, best, happiest of all impressions, I grow 
more and more certain, every hour in the day. 

Let me turn, now, from her to her travelling companions. 
Her husband must engage my attention first. What have I 
observed in Sir Percival, since his return, to improve my 
opinion of him ? 

I can hardly say. Small vexations and annoj'ances seem 
to have beset him since he came back : and no man, under 
those circumstances, is ever presented at his best. He looks, 
as I think, thinner than he was when he left England. His 
wearisome cough and his comfortless restlessness have 
certainly increased. His manner — at least, his manner 
towards me — is much more abrupt than it used to be. He 
greeted me, on the evening of his return, with little or no- 
thing of the ceremony and civility of former times — no polite 
speeches of w^elcome — no appearance of extraordinary grati- 
fication at seeing me — nothing but a short shake of the hand, 
and a sharp ' How-d'ye-do, Miss Halcombe — glad to see you 
again.' He seemed to accept me as one of the necessary 
fixtures of Blackwater Park ; to be satisfied at finding me 

i88 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

established in my proper place ; and then to pass me over 
altogether. 

Most men show something- of their dispositions in their 
own houses, which they have concealed elsewhere ; and Sir 
Percival has already displayed a mania for order and regu- 
larity', which is quite a new revelation of him, so far as my 
previous knowledge of his character is concerned. If I take 
a book from the library and leave it on the table, he follows 
me, and puts it back again. If I rise from a chair, and let it 
remain where I have been sitting, he carefully restores it to 
its proper place against the wall. He picks up stray flower- 
blossoms from the carpet, and mutters to himself as discon- 
tentedly as if they were hot cinders burning holes in it ; and 
he storms at the servants, if there is a crease in the tablecloth, 
or a knife missing from its place at the dinner-table, as 
fiercely as if the}' had personally insulted him. 

I have already referred to the small annoyances which 
appear to have troubled him since his return. Much of the 
alteration for the worse which I have noticed in him, may be 
due to these. I try to persuade myself that it is so, because 
I am anxious not to be disheartened already about the future. 
It is certainly trying to any man's temper to be met by a vexa- 
tion the moment he sets foot in his own house again, after a 
long absence ; and this annoying circumstance did really 
happen to Sir Percival in my presence. 

On the evening of their arrival, the housekeeper followed 
me into the hall to receive her master and mistress and their 
guests. The instant he saw her. Sir Percival asked if any one 
had called lately. The housekeeper mentioned to him, in 
reply, what she had previously mentioned to me, the visit of 
the strange gentleman to make inquiries about the time of her 
master's return. He asked immediately for the gentleman's 
name. No name had been left. The gentleman's business ? 
No business had been mentioned. What was the gentleman 
like ? The housekeeper tried to describe him ; but failed to 
distinguish the nameless visitor by any personal peculiarity 
which her master could recognise. Sir Percival frowned, 
stamped angrily on the floor, and walked on into the house, 
taking no notice of anybody. Why he should have been so 
discomposed by a trifle I cannot say — but he was seriously 
discomposed, beyond all doubt. 

Upon the whole, it will be best, perhaps, if I abstain from 
forming a decisive opinion of his manners, language, and con- 
duct in his own house, until time has enabled him to shake oft' 
the anxieties, whatever they mav be, v.-hich now evidently 

189 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

trouble his mind in secret. I will turn over to a new page ; 
and my pen shall let Laura's husband alone for the present. 

The two guests — the Count and Countess Fosco — come 
next in my catalogue. I will dispose of the Countess first, so 
as to have done with the woman as soon as possible. 

Laura was certainly not chargeable with any exaggeration, 
in writing me word that I should hardly recognise her aunt 
again, when we met. Never before have I beheld such a change 
produced in a woman by her marriage as has been produced 
in Madame Fosco. 

As Eleanor Fairlie (aged seven-and-thirty), she was always 
talking pretentious nonsense, and ahvays worrying the un- 
fortunate men with every small exaction which a vain and 
foolish woman can impose on long'-sufTering male humanity. 
As Madame Fosco (aged three-and-forty), she sits for hours 
together without saying a word, frozen up in the strangest 
manner in herself. The hideously ridiculous love-locks which 
used to hang on either side of her face, are now replaced by 
stiff little rows of very short curls, of the sort that one sees in 
old-fashioned wigs. A plain, matronly cap covers her head, 
and makes her look, for the first time in her life, since I re- 
member her, like a decent woman. Nobody (putting her 
husband out of the question, of course) now sees in her, 
what everybody once saw — I mean the structure of the female 
skeleton, in the upper regions of the collar-bones and the 
shoulder-blades. Clad in quiet black or gray gowns, made 
high round the throat — dresses that she would have laughed 
at, or screamed at, as the whim of the moment inclined her, 
in her maiden days — she sits speechless in corners ; her dry 
white hands (so dry that the pores of her skin look chalky) 
incessantly engaged, either in monotonous embroidery work, 
or in rolling up endless little cigarettes for the Count's own 
particular smoking. On the few occasions when her cold 
blue eyes are off her v\'ork, they are generally turned on 
her husband, with the look of mute submissive inquiry 
which we are all familiar with in the eyes of a faithful 
dog. The only approach to an inward thaw which I have yet 
detected under her outer covering of icy constraint, has be- 
trayed itself, once or twice, in the form of a suppressed tigerish 
jealousy of any woman in the house (the maids included) to 
whom the Count speaks, or on whom he looks with anything 
approaching to special interest or attention. Except in this 
one particular, she is ahvays, morning, noon, and night, in- 
doors and out, fair weather or foul, as cold as a statue, and 
as impenetrable as the stone out of v/hich it is cut. For the 

190 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

common purposes of society tlie extraordinary chang-e thus 
produced in her, is, beyond all doubt, a change for the better, 
seeing- that it has transformed her into a civil, silent, unob- 
trusive woman, who is never in the way. How far she is 
really reformed or deteriorated in her secret self, is another 
question. I have once or twice seen sudden changes of ex- 
pression on her pinched lips, and heard sudden inflexions of tone 
in her calm voice, which have led me to suspect that her pre- 
sent state of suppression may have sealed up something dan- 
g;erous in her nature, which used to evaporate harmlessly in 
the freedom of her former life. It is quite possible that I may 
be altogether wrong in this idea. My own impression, how- 
ever, is, that I am right. Time will show. 

And the magician who has wrought this wonderful trans- 
formation — the foreign husband who has tamed this once way- 
ward Englishwoman till her own relations hardly know her 
again — the Count himself? What of the Count ? 

This, in two words : He looks like a man who could tame 
anything. If he had married a tigress, instead of a woman, 
he would have tamed the tigress. If he had married 7nc, I 
should have made his cigarettes as his wife does — I should 
have held my tongue when he looked at me, as she holds hers. 

I am almost afraid to confess it, even to these secret pages. 
The man has interested me, has attracted me, has forced me 
to like him. In two short days, he has made his way straight 
into my favourable estimation — and hov>' he has worked the 
miracle, is more than I can tell. 

It absolutely startles me, now he is in my mind, to find 
how plainly I see him ! — hov/ much more plainly than I see 
Sir Percival, or Mr. Fairlie, or Walter Hartright, or any other 
absent person of whom I think, with the one exception of 
Laura herself ! I can hear his voice, as if he was speaking at 
this moment. I know what his conversation was yesterday, as 
well as if I was hearing it now. How am I to describe him ? 
There are peculiarities in his personal appearance, his habits, 
and his amusements, which I should blame in the boldest 
terms, or ridicule in the most merciless m.anner, if I had seen 
them in another man. Wliat is it that makes me unable to 
blame them, or to ridicule them in him ? 

For example, he is immensely fat. Before this time, I 
have always especially disliked corpulent humanity. I have 
always maintained that the popular notion of connecting- 
excessive grossness of size and excessive good-humour as 
inseparable allies, was equivalent to declaring, ei-ther that 
no people but amiable people ever get fat, or that the acci- 

191 ' 



THE WOMAN IN WHIT£ 

dental addition of so many pounds of flesh has a directly 
favourable influence over the disposition of the person on 
whose body they accumulate. I have invariably combated 
both these absurd assertiens by quoting- examples of fat people 
who were as mean, vicious, and cruel, as the leanest and the 
worst of their neighbours. I have asked whether Henry the 
Eighth was an amiable character ? whether Pope Alexander 
the Sixth was a good man ? Whether Mr. Murderer and 
Mrs. Murderess Manning were not both unusually stout 
people ? Whether hired nurses, proverbially as cruel a set of 
women as are to be found in all England, were not, for the 
most part, also as fat a set of women as are to be found in all 
England ? — and so on, through dozens of other examples, 
modern and ancient, native and foreign, high and low. 
Holding these strong opinions on the subject with might and 
main, as I do at this moment, here, nevertheless, is Count 
Fosco, as fat as Henry the Eighth himself, established in my 
favour, at one day's notice, without let or hindrance from his 
own odious corpulence. Marvellous indeed ! 

Is it his face that has recommended him ? 

It may be his face. He is a most remarkable likeness, on 
a large scale, of the Great Napoleon. His features have 
Napoleon's magnificent regularity : his expression recalls the 
grandly calm, immovable power of the Great Soldier's face. 
This striking resemblance certainly impressed me, to begin 
with ; but there is something in him besides the resemblance, 
which has impressed me more. I think the influence I am 
now trying to find, is in his eyes. They are the most un- 
fathomable gray eyes I ever saw : and they have at times a 
cold, clear, beautiful, irresistible glitter in them, which forces 
me to look at him, and yet causes me sensations, when I do 
look, which I would rather not feel. Other parts of his face 
and head have their strange peculiarities. His complexion, 
for instance, has a singular sallow-fairness, so much at vari- 
ance with the dark-brown colour of his hair, that I suspect 
the hair of being a wig ; and his face, closely shaven all over, is 
smoother and freer from all marks and wrinkles than mine, 
though (according to Sir Percival's account of him) he is close 
on sixty years of age. But these are not the prominent per- 
sonal characteristics which distinguish him, to my mind, from 
all the other men I have ever seen. The marked peculiarity 
which singles him out from the rank and file of humanity, lies 
entirely, so far as I can tell at present, in the extraordinary ex- 
pression and extraordinary power of his eyes. 

His manner, and his command of our language, may also 

192 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

have assisted him, in some degree, to estabhsh himself in my 
good opinion. He has that quiet deference, that look of 
pleased, attentive interest, in listening to a woman, and that 
secret gentleness in his voice, in speaking to a woman, which, 
say vv^hat we may, we can none of us resist. Here, too, his 
unusual command of the English language necessarily helps 
him. I had often heard of the extraordinary aptitude which 
many Italians show in mastering our strong, hard, Northern 
speech ; but, until I saw Count Fosco, I had never supposed 
it possible that any foreigner could have spoken English as he 
speaks it. There are timies when it is almost impossible to 
detect, by his accent, that he is not a countryman of our own ; 
and, as for fluency, there are very few born Englishmen who 
can talk with as few stoppages and repetitions as the Count. 
He may construct his sentences, more or less, in the foreign 
way ; but I have never yet heard him use a wrong expression, 
or hesitate for a moment in his choice of a word. 

All the smallest characteristics of this strange man have 
something strikingly original and perplexingly contradictory 
in them. Fat as he is, and old as he is, his movements are 
astonishingly light and easy. He is as noiseless in a room 
as any of us women ; and, more than that, with all his look of 
unmistakable mental firmness and power, he is as nervously 
sensitive as the weakest of us. He starts at chance noises 
as inveterately as Laura herself. He winced and shuddered 
yesterday, when Sir Percival beat one of the spaniels, so that 
I felt ashamed of my own want of tenderness and sensibility, 
by comparison with the Count. 

The relation of this last incident reminds me of one of his 
most curious peculiarities, which I have not yet mentioned — 
his extraordinary fondness for pet animals. 

Some of these he has left on the Continent, but he has 
brought with him to this house a cockatoo, two canary-birds, 
and a whole family of white mice. He attends to all the 
necessities of these strange favourites himself, and he has 
taught the creatures to be surprisingly fond of him, and 
familiar with him. The cockatoo, a most vicious and 
treacherous bird towards every one else, absolutely seems to 
love him. When he lets it out of its cage, it hops on to his 
knee, and claws its way up his great big body, and rubs its 
top-knot against his sallow double chin in the most caressing 
manner imaginable. He has only to set the doors of the 
canaries' cages open, and to call them ; and the pretty little 
cleverly trained creatures perch fearlessly on his hand, mount 
his fat outstretched fingers one bv one, when he tells them to 

193' o 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

* go up-stairs/ and sing together as if they would burst their 
throats with dehght, when they get to the top finger. His 
white mice Hve in a little pagoda of gaily-painted wirework, 
designed and made by himself. They are almost as tame as 
the canaries, and they are perpetually let out, like the canaries. 
They crawl all over him, popping in and out of his waistcoat, 
and sitting in couples, white as snow, on his capacious 
shoulders. He seems to be even fonder of his mice than of 
his other pets, smiles at them, kisses them, and calls them by 
all sorts of endearing names. If it be possible to suppose an 
Englishman with any taste for such childish interests and 
amusements as these, that Englishman would certainly feel 
rather ashamed of them, and would be anxious to apologise 
for them, in the company of grown-up people. But the Count, 
apparently sees nothing ridiculous in the amazing contrast 
between his colossal self and his frail little pets. He would 
blandly kiss his white mice, and twitter to his canary-birds, 
amid an assembly of English fox-hunters, and would only 
pity them as barbarians wheii they were all laughing their 
loudest at him. 

It seems hardly credible, while I am writing it down, but 
it is certainly true, that this same man, who has all the fond- 
ness of an old maid for his cockatoo, and all the small dex- 
terities of an organ-boy in managing his white mice, can talk, 
when anything happens to rouse him,^ with a daring indepen- 
dence of thought, a knowledge of books in every language, 
and an experience of society in half the capitals of Europe, 
which would make him the prominent personage of any 
assembly in the civilized world. This trainer of canary-birds, 
this architect of a pagoda for white mice, is (as Sir Percival 
himself has told me) one of the first experimental chemists 
living, and has discovered, among other wonderful inventions, 
a means of petrifying the body after death, so as to preserve 
it, as hard as marble, to the end of time. This fat, indolent, 
elderly man, whose nerves are sb'finely strung that he starts 
at chance noises, and winces when he sees a house-spaniel 
get a whipping, went into the stable-yard on the morning 
after his arrival, and put his hand on the head of a chained 
bloodhound — a beast so savage that the very groom v.'ho feeds 
him keeps out of his reach. His wife and I were present, and 
I shall not forget the scene that followed, short as it was. 

' Mind that dog, sir,' said the groom ; ' he flies at every- 
body ! ' ' He does that, my friend,' replied the Count, quietly, 
' because everybody is afraid of him. Let us see if he flies at 
me.^ And he laid his plump, yellow-white fingers, on which 

194 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

the canary-birds had been perchnig ten mhiutes before, upon 
the formidable brute's head ; and looked him straight in the 
eyes. * You big dogs are all cowards,' he said, addressing 
the animal contemptuously, with his face and the dog's within 
an inch of each other. ' You would kill a poor cat, you 
infernal coward. You would fly at a starving beggar, you 
infernal coward. Anything that you can surprise unawares — ■ 
anything that is afraid of your big body, and your wicked 
white teeth, and your slobbering, bloodthirsty mouth, is the 
thing you like to fly at. You could throttle me at this moment, 
)-ou mean, miserable bully ; and you daren't so much as look 
me in the face, because I'm not afraid of you. Will you think 
better of it, and try your teeth in my fat neck ? Bah ! not you ! ' 
He turned away, laughing at the astonishment of the men in 
the yard ; and the dog crept back meekly to his kennel. ' Ah ! 
my nice waistcoat ! ' he said, pathetically. ' I am sorry I 
came here. Some of that brute's slobber has got on my 
pretty clean v/aistcoat.' Those words express another of his 
incomprehensible oddities. , He is as fond of fine clothes as 
the veriest fool in existence ; and has appeared in four mag- 
nificent waistcoats, already — all of light garish colours, and 
all immensely large even for him — in the two days of his 
residence at Blackwater Park. 

His tact and cleverness in small things are quite as notice- 
able as the singular inconsistencies in his character, and the 
childish triviality of his ordinary tastes and pursuits. 

I can see already that he means to live on excellent terms 
with all of us, during the period of his sojourn in this place. 
He has evidently discovered that Laura secretly dislikes him 
(she confessed as much to me, when I pressed her on the 
subject) — but he has also found out that she is extravagantly 
fond of flowers. Whenever she wants a nosegay, he has got 
one to give her, gathered and arranged by himself; and, 
greatly to my amusement, he is always cunningly provided 
with a duplicate, composedof exactly the same flowers, grouped 
in exactly the same way, to appease his icily jealous wife, before 
she can so much as think herself aggrieved. His management 
of the Countess (in public) is a sight to see. He bow^s to her ; 
he habitually addresses her as * my angel ; ' he carries his 
canaries to pay her little visits on his fingers, and to sing to 
her ; he kisses her hand, when she gives him his cigarettes ; he 
presents her with sugar-plums, in return, which he puts into 
her mouth playfully, from a box in his pocket. The rod of iron 
with which he rules her never appears in company — it is a 
private rod, and is always kept up-stairs, 

195 3 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

His method of recommending himself to vie, is entirely 
different. He flatters my vanity, by talking- to me as seriously 
and sensibly as if I was a man. Yes ! I can find him out 
when I am away from him ; I know he flatters my vanity, 
when I think of him up here, in my ov/n room — and yet, when 
I go down stairs, and get into his company again, he will blind 
me again, and I shall be flattered again, just as if I had never 
found him out at all ! He can manage me, as he manages his 
wife and Laura, as he managed the bloodhound in the stable- 
yard, as he manages Sir Percival himself, every hour in the 
day. * My good Percival ! how I like your rough English 
humour ! ' — ' My good Percival ! how I enjoy your solid 
English sense ! ' He puts the rudest remarks Sir Percival can 
make on his effeminate tastes and amusements, quietly away 
from him in that manner — always calling the baronet by his 
Christian name ; smiling at him with the calmest superiority ; 
patting him on the shoulder ; and bearing with him be- 
nignantly, as a good-humoured father bears with a wayward 
son. 

The interest which I really cannot help feeling in this 
strangely original man, has led me to question Sir Percival 
about his past life. 

Sir Percival either knov.'s little, or will tell me little, about 
it. He and the Count first met many years ago, at Rome, 
under the dangerous circumstances to which I have alluded 
elsewhere. Since that time, they have been perpetually 
together in London, in Paris, and in Vienna — but never in 
Italy again ; the Count having, oddly enough, not crossed the 
frontiers of his native country for years past. Perhaps, he has 
been made the victim of some political persecution ? At all 
events, he seems to be patriotically anxious not to lose sight 
of any of his own countrymen who may happen to be in 
England. On the evening of his arrival, he asked how far we 
were from the nearest town, and whether we knew of any 
Italian gentlemen who might happen to be settled there. He 
is certainly in correspondence with people on the Continent, 
for his letters have all sorts of odd stamps on them ; and I 
saw one for him, this morning, waiting in his place at the 
breakfast-table, with a huge ofiicial-looking seal on it. Per- 
haps he is in correspondence v^ith his government ? And yet, 
that is hardly to be reconciled, either, with my other idea that 
he may be a political exile. 

How much I seem to have written about Count Fosco ! 
And what does it all amount to ? — as poor, dear Mr. Gilmore 
would ask, in his impenetrable business-like way. I can only 

196 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

repeat that I do assuredly feel, even on this short acquahitance, 
a strange, half-willing, half-unwilling liking for the Count. 
He seems to have established over me the same sort of as- 
cendancy which he has evidently gained over Sir Percival. 
Free, and even rude, as he may occasionally be in his manner 
towards his fat friend, Sir Percival is nevertheless afraid, as I 
can plainly see, of giving any serious offence to the Count. I 
wonder whether I am afraid, too ? I certainly never saw a 
man, in all my experience, whom I should be so sorry to have 
for an enemy. Is this because I like him, or because I am 
afraid of him ? Cln sa ? — as Count Fosco might say in his 
own language. Who knows ? 

June i6th. — Something to chronicle, to-day, besides my 
own ideas and impressions. A visitor has arrived — quite un- 
known to Laura and to me ; and, apparently, quite unexpected 
by Sir Percival. 

We were all at lunch, in the room with the new French 
windows that open into the verandah ; and the Count (who 
devours pastry as I have never yet seen it devoured by any 
human beings but girls at boarding-schools) had just amused 
us by asking gravely for his fourth tart— when the servant 
entered, to announce the visitor. 

' Mr. Merriman has just come, Sir Percival, and wishes to 
see you immediately.' 

Sir Percival started, and looked at the man, with an ex- 
pression of angry alarm. 

* Mr. Merriman ? ' he repeated as if he thought his own 
ears must have deceived him. 

'Yes, Sir Percival: Mr. Merriman, from London.' 
' Where is he ? ' 

* In the library. Sir Percival.' 

He left the table the instant the last answer was given ; 
and hurried out of the room without saying a word to any of 
us. 

* Who is Mr. Merriman ? ' asked Laura, appealing to me. 

* I have not the least idea,' was all I could say in reply. 
The Count had finished his fourth tart, and had gone to 

a side-table to look after his vicious cockatoo. He turned 
round to us, uith the bird perched on his shoulder. 

* Mr. Merriman is Sir Percival's solicitor,' he said quietly. 
Sir Percival's solicitor. It was a perfectly straightforward 

answer to Laura's question ; and yet, under the circumstances, 
it was not satisfactory. If Mr. Merriman had been specially 
sent for by his client, there would have been nothing very 

197 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

wonderful in his leaving town to obey the summons. But 
when a lawyer travels from London to Hampshire, without 
being sent for, and when his arrival at a gentleman's house 
seriously startles the gentleman himself, it may be safely 
taken for granted that the legal visitor is the bearer of some 
very important and very unexpected news — news which m^ay 
be either very good or very bad, but which cannot, in either 
case, be of the common every-day kind. 

Laura and I sat silent at the table, for a quarter of an 
hour or more, wondering uneasily what had happened, and 
waiting for the chance of Sir Percival's speedy return. There 
were no signs of his return ; and we rose to leave the room. 

The Count, attentive as usual, advanced from the corner 
in which he had been feeding his cockatoo, with the bird still 
perched on his shoulder, and opened the door for us. Laura 
and Madame Fosco v.-ent out first. Just as I was on the point 
of following them, he made a sign with his hand, and spoke 
to me, before I passed him, in the oddest manner. 

'Yes,' he said ; quietly answering the vuiexpressed idea at 
that moment in my mind, as if I had plainly confided it to 
him in so many words — ' yes. Miss Halcombe ; something has 
happened.' 

I was on the point of answering, ' I never said so.' But 
the vicious cockatoo ruffled his clipped wings, and gave a 
screech that set all my nerves on edge in an instant, and made 
me only too glad to get out of the room. 

I joined Laura at the foot of the stairs. The thought in 
her mind was the same as the thought in mine, which Count 
Fosco had surprised— and, when she spoke, her words were 
almost the echo of his. She, too, said to me, secretly, that 
she was afraid something had happened. 



III. 

June i6th. — I have a fev/ lines more to add to this day's 
entry before I ^o to bed to-night. 

About two hours after Sir Percival rose from the luncheon- 
table to receive his solicitor, Mr. Merriman, in the library, I 
left my room, alone, to take a walk in the plantations. Just 
as I was at the end of the landing, the library door opened, 
and the two gentlemen came out. Thinking it best not to 
disturb them by appearing on the stairs, I resolved to defer 
going down till they had crossed the hall. Although they 
spoke to each other in guarded tones, their words were prO' 

iq8 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

nounced with sufiicient distinctness cf utterance to reach my 
cars. 

' Make your mind easy, Sir Pcrcival,' I heard the lawyer 
say. ' It all rests with Lady Glyde.' 

I had turned to go back to my own room, for a minute or 
two ; but the sound of Laura's name, on the lips of a stranger, 
stopped me instantly. I dare say it was very wrong- and very 
discreditable to listen— but vv^here is the woman, in the whole 
range of our sex, who can regulate her actions by the abstract 
principles of honour, when those principles point one way, 
and when her affections, and the interests which grow out of 
them, point the other ? 

I listened ; and, under similar circumstances, I would 
listen again — yes ! with my ear at the keyhole, if I could not 
possibly manage it in any other way. 

' You quite understand. Sir Percival ? ' the lawyer went 
on. ' Lady Glyde is to sign her name in the presence of a 
witness — or of two witnesses, if you wish to be particularly 
careful— and is then to put her finger on the seal, and say, 
" I deliver this as my act and deed." If that is done in a week's 
time, the arrangement will be perfectly successful, and the 
anxiety will be all over. If not ' 

• W^hat do you mean by "if not.'*"' asked Sir Percival, 
angrily. ' If the thing ??ins^ be done, it s/ia/l be done. I 
promise you that, Merriman.' 

' Just so. Sir Percival — just so ; but there are two alterna- 
tives in all transactions ; and we lawyers like to look both of 
them in the face boldly. If through any extraordinary circum- 
stance the arrangement should 720/ be made, I think I may be 
able to get the parties to accept bills at three months. But 
how the money is to be raised when the bills fall due ' 

* Damn the bills ! The money is only to be got in one 
way ; and in that way, I tell you again, it s/ia/l be got. Take 
a glass of wine, Merriman, before you go.^ 

' Much obliged, Sir Percival ; I have not a moment to lose 
if I am to catch the up-train. You will let me know as soon 
as the arrangement is complete ? and you will not forget the 
caution I recommended ' 

' Of course I won't. There's the dog-cart at the door for 
you. My groom will get you to the station in no time. 
Benjamin, drive like mad ! Jump in. If Mr. Merriman 
misses the train, you lose your place. Hold fast, Merriman, 
and if you are upset, trust to the devil to save his own.' 
With that parting benediction, the baronet turned about, and 
walked back to the library. 

199 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

I had not heard much ; but the little that had reached my 
ears was enough to make me feel uneasy. The ' something- ' 
that ' had happened,' was but too plainly a serious money- 
embarrassment ; and Sir Percival's relief from it depended 
upon Laura. The prospect of seeing her involved in her 
husband's secret difficulties filled me with dismay, exaggerated, 
no doubt, by my ignorance of business and my settled distrust 
of Sir Percival. Instead of going out, as I proposed, I went 
back immediately to Laura's room to tell her what I had 
heard. 

She received my bad news so composedly as to surprise 
me. She evidently knows more of her husband's character 
and her husband's embarrassments than I have suspected up 
to this time. 

' I feared as much,' she said, ' when I heard of that strange 
gentleman who called, and declined to leave his name.' 

' Who do you think the gentleman was, then ? ' I asked. 

'Some person who has heavy claims on Sir Percival,' she 
answered ; ' and who has been the cause of Mr. Merriman's 
visit here to-day.' 

' Do you know anything about those claims ? ' 

' No ; I know no particulars.' 

' You will sign nothing, Laura, without first looking at 
it?' 

* Certainly not, Marian. Whatever I can harmlessly and 
honestly do to help him I will do — for the sake of making your 
life and mine, love, as easy and as happy as possible. But I 
will do nothing, ignorantly, which we might, one day, have 
reason to feel ashamed of. Let us say no more about it, now. 
You have got your hat on — suppose we go and dream 
away the afternoon in the grounds ? ' 

On leaving the house we directed our steps to the nearest 
shade. 

As we passed an open space among the trees in front of 
the house, there was Count Fosco, slowly walking back- 
wards and forwards on the grass, sunning himself in the full 
blaze of the hot June afternoon. He had a broad straw 
hat on, with a violet coloured ribbon round it. A blue blouse, 
with profuse white fancy-work over the bosom, covered his 
prodigious body, and was girt about the place where his waist 
might once have been, with a broad scarlet leather belt. 
Nankeen trousers, displaying more white fancy-work over the 
ankles, and purple morocco slippers, adorned his lower 
extremities. He was singing Figaro's famous song in the 
Barber of Seville, with that crisply fluent vocalisation which is 

20Q 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

never heard from any other than an ItaHan throat ; accom- 
panying- himself on the concertina, which he played with 
ecstatic throwing-s-up of his arms, and graceful twistings and 
turnings of his head, like a fat St. Cecilia masquerading in 
male attire. ' Figaro quk ! Figaro \k ! Figaro su ! Figaro giu ! ' 
sang the Count, jauntily tossing up the concertina at arm's 
length, and bowing to us, on one side of the instrument, with 
the airy grace and elegance of Figaro himself at twenty years 
of age. 

' Take my word for It, Laura, that man knows something- 
of Sir Percival's embarrassments,' I said, as we returned the 
Count's salutation from a safe distance. 

' What makes you think that ? ' she asked. 

'How should he have known, otherwise, that Mr. Merriman 
was Sir Percival's solicitor ? ' I rejoined. ' Besides, when I 
followed you out of the luncheon-room he told me, without 
a single word of inquiry on my part, that something had 
happened. Depend upon it, he knows more than we do.' 

' Don't ask him any questions, if he does. Don't take him 
into our confidence ! ' 

' You seem to dislike him, Laura, in a very determined 
manner. What has he said or done to justify you ? ' 

' Nothing, Marian. On the contrary, he was all kindness 
and attention on our journey home, and he several times 
checked Sir Percival's outbreaks of temper, in the most con- 
siderate manner towards jne. Perhaps, I dislike him because 
he has so much more power over my husband than I have. 
Perhaps it hurts my pride to be under any obligations to his 
interference. All I know is, that I do dislike him.' 

The rest of the day and evening passed quietly 
enough. The Count and I played at chess. For the first two 
games he politely allowed me to conquer him ; and then, when 
he saw that I had found him out, begged my pardon, and, at 
the third game, checkmated me in ten minutes. Sir Percival 
never once referred, all through the evening, to the lawyer's 
visit. But either that event, or something else, had produced 
a singular alteration for the better in him. He was as polite 
and agreeable to all of us, as he used to be in the days of his 
probation at Limmeridge ; and he was so amazingly atten- 
tive and kind to his wife, that even icy Madame Fosco 
was roused into looking at him with a grave surprise. What 
does this mean ? I think I can guess ; I am afraid Laura can 
guess ; and I am sure Count Fosco knows. I caught Sir 
Percival looking at him for approval more than once in the 
course of the evening. 

20I 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

June lyth. — A day of events. I most fervently hope I may 
not have to add, a day of disasters as well. 

Sir Percival was as silent at breakfast as he had been the 
evening- before, on the subject of the mysterious ' arrangemient' 
(as the lawyer called it), which is hanging- over our heads. An 
hour afterwards, however, he suddenly entered the morning- 
room, where his wife and I v.-ere waiting, with our hats 
on, for Madame Fosco to join us ; and inquired for the 
Count. 

' We expect to see him here directly,' I said. 

* The fact is,' Sir Percival went on, walking nervousl}' 
about the room, ' I want Fosco and his wife in the library, for 
a mere business formality ; and I want you there, Laura, for 
a minute, too.' He stopped, and appeared to notice, for 
the first time, that we were in our walking costume. ' Have 
just come in ? ' he asked, ' or were you just going out ? ' 

' We were all thinking of going to the lake this morning,' 
said Laura. ' But if you have any other arrangement to 
propose- 



' No, no,' he answered, hastily. 'My arrangement can 
wait. After lunch will do as well for it, as after breakfast. 
All going to the lake, eh ? A good idea. Let's have an idle 
morning ; I'll be one of the party.' 

There was no mistaking his manner, even if it had been 
possible to mistake the uncharacteristic readiness which his 
words expressed, to submit his own plans and projects to 
the convenience of others. He was evidently relieved at 
finding an excuse for delaying the business formality in the 
library, to which his own words had referred. My heart sank 
within me, as I drew the inevitable inference. 

The Count and his wife joined us, at that moment. The 
lady had her husband's embroidered tobacco-pouch, and her 
store of paper in her hand, for the manufacture of the eternal 
cigarettes. The gentleman, dressed, as visual, in his blouse 
and straw hat, carried the gay little pagoda-cage, with his 
darling white mice in it, and smiled on them, and on us, with 
a bland amiability which it was impossible to resist. 

' With your kind permission,' said the Count, * I Avill take 
my small family here — my poor-little-harmless-pretty-Mouseys, 
out for an airing along with us. There are dogs about the 
house, and shall I leave my forlorn white children at the 
mercies of the dogs ? Ah, never ! ' 

He chirruped paternally at his small white children 
through the bars of the pagoda ; and we all left the house for 
the lake, 

202 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

In the plantation, Sir Perclval strayed away from us. It 
seems to be part of his restless disposition always to separate 
himself from his companions on these occasions, and always 
to occupy himself, when he is alone, in cutting new walking- 
sticks for his own use. The mere act of cutting- and lopping, 
at hazard, appears to please him. He has filled the house 
with walking-sticks of his own making, not one of which he 
ever takes up for a second time. When they have been once 
used, his interest in them is all exhausted, and he thinks of 
nothing but going on, and making more. 

At the old boat-house, he joined us again. I will put 
down the conversation that ensued, when we were all settled 
in our places, exactly as it passed. It is an important con- 
versation, so far as I am concerned, for it has seriously dis- 
posed me to distrust the influence which Count Fosco has 
exercised over my thoughts and feelings, and to resist it, for 
the future, as resolutely as I can. 

The boat-house was large enough to hold us all ; but Sir 
Percival remained outside, trimming the last new stick with 
his pocket-axe. We three women found plenty of room on 
the large seat. Laura took her work, and Madame Fosco 
began her cigarettes. I, as usual, had nothing to do. My 
hands always were, and always will be, as awkward as a 
man's. The Count good humouredly took a stool many sizes 
too small for him, and balanced himself on it with his back 
against the side of the shed, which creaked and groaned 
under his weight. He put the pagoda-cage on his lap, and 
let out the mice to crawl over him as usual. They are pretty, 
innocent-looking little creatures ; but the sight of them, creep- 
ing about a man's body is, for some reason, not pleasant to 
me. It excites a strange, responsive creeping in my own 
nerves ; and suggests hideous ideas of men dying in prison, 
with the crawling creatures of the dungeon preying on them 
undisturbed. 

The morning was windy and cloudy ; and the rapid alter- 
nations of shadow and sunlight over the waste of the lake, 
made the view look doubly wild, weird, and g'loomy. 

* Some people call that picturesque,' said Sir Percival, 
pointing over the wide prospect with his half-finished walk- 
ing-stick. ' I call it a blot on a gentleman's property. In 
my great-grandfather's time, the lake flowed to this place. 
Look at it now ! It is not four feet deep anywhere, and it is 
all puddles and pools. I wish I could afford to drain it, and 
plant it all over. My bailiff (a superstitious idiot) says he is 
quite sure the lake has a curse on it, like the Dead Sea. 

203 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

What do you think, Fosco? It looks just the place for a 
murder, doesn't it ? ' 

' My good Percival ! ' remonstrated the Count. ' What is 
your solid English sense thinking of ? The water is too 
shallow to hide the body ; and there is sand everywhere to 
print off the murderer's footsteps. It is, upon the whole, 
the very worst place for a murder that I ever set my eyes 
on.' 

' Humbug ! ' said Sir Percival, cutting away fiercely at his 
stick. ' You know what I mean. The dreary scenery — the 
lonely situation. If you choose to understand me, you can — 
if you don't choose, I am not going to trouble myself to 
explain my meaning.' 

'And why not,' asked the Count, "when your meaning 
can be explained by anybody in two words ? If a fool was 
going to commit a murder, your lake is the first place he 
would choose for it. If a wise man was going to comm.it a 
murder, your lake is the last place he would choose for it. Is 
that your meaning? If it is, there is your explanation for 
you, ready made. Take it, Percival, with your good Fosco's 
blessing.' 

Laura looked at the Count, with her dislike for him 
appearing a little too plainly in her face. He was so busy 
with his mice that he did not notice her. 

' I am sorry to hear the lake-view connected with anything 
so horrible as the idea of murder,' she said. 'And if Count 
Fosco must divide murderers into classes, I think he has 
been very unfortunate in his choice of expressions. To 
describe them as fools only, seems like treating them with an 
indulgence to which they have no claim. And to describe 
them as wise men, sounds to me like a downright contra- 
diction in terms. I have always heard that truly wise men 
are truly good men, and have a horror of crime.' 

' My dear lady,' said the Count, ' those are admirable 
sentiments ; and I have seen them stated at the tops of copy- 
books.' He lifted one of the white mice in the palm of his 
hand, and spoke to it in his whimsical way. ' My pretty 
little smooth white rascal,' he said, 'here is a moral lesson 
for you. A truly wise Mouse is a truly good Mouse. Men- 
tion that, if you please, to your companions, and never gnaw 
at the bars of your cage again as long as you live.' 

' It is easy to turn everything into ridicule,' said Laura, 
resolutely ; ' but you will not find it quite so easy. Count 
Fosco, to give me an instance of a wise man who has been a 
great criminal.' 

204 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

The Count shrug-ged his huge shoulders, and smiled on 
Laura in the friendliest manner. 

' Most true ! ' he said. ' The fool's crime is the crime that 
is found out ; and the wise man's crime is the crime that is 
not found out. If I could give you an instance, it would not 
be the instance of a wise man. Dear Lady Glyde, your sound 
English common sense has been too much for me. It is 
checkmate for me this time, Miss Halcombe — ha ? ' 

' Stand to your guns, Laura,' sneered Sir Percival, who 
had been listening in his place at the door. ' Tell him, next, 
that crimes cause their own detection. There's another bit of 
copy-book morality for you, Fosco. Crimes cause their own 
detection. What infernal humbug ! ' 

' I believe it to be true,' said Laura, quietly. 

Sir Percival burst out laughing ; so violently, so out- 
rageously, that he quite startled us all — the Count more than 
any of us. 

*I believe it, too,' I said, coming to Laura's rescue. 

Sir Percival, who had been unaccountably amused at his 
wife's remark, was, just as unaccountably, irritated by mine. 
He struck the new stick savagely on the sand, and walked 
away from us. 

' Poor dear Percival ! ' cried Count Fosco, looking after 
him gaily : ' he is the victim of English spleen. But, my dear 
Miss Halcombe, my dear Lady Glyde, do you really believe 
that crimes cause their own detection ? And you, my angel,' 
he continued, turning to his wife, who had not uttered a 
word yet, ' do you think so too ? ' 

' I wait to be instructed,' replied the Countess, in tones of 
freezing reproof, intended for Laura and me, ' before I venture 
on giving my opinion in the presence of well-informed men.' 

' Do you, indeed ? ' I said. ' I remember the time, 
Countess, when you advocated the Rights of Women — and 
freedom of female opinion was one of them.' 

' What is your view of the subject. Count ? ' asked 
Madame Fosco, calmly proceeding with her cigarettes, and 
not taking the least notice of me. 

The Count stroked one of his white mice reflectively with 
his chubby little finger before he answered. 

' It is truly wonderful,' he said, ' how easily Society can 
console itself for the worst of its shortcomings with a little bit 
of clap-trap. The machinery it has set up for the detection 
of crime is miserably ineffective — and yet only invent a moral 
epigram, saying that it works well, and you bhnd everybody 
to its blunders, from that moment. Crimes cause their own 

205 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

detection, do they ? And murder will out (another moral 
epigram), will it ? Ask Coroners who sit at inquests in larg'e 
towns if that is true. Lady Glyde. Ask secretaries of life- 
assurance companies, if that is true. Miss Halcombe. Read 
your own public journals. In the few cases that get into the 
newspapers, are there not instances of slain bodies found, and 
no murderers ever discovered ? Multiply the cases that are 
reported by the cases that are 710^ reported, and the bodies 
that are found by the bodies that are iiol found ; and what 
conclusion do you come to ? This, That there are foolish 
criminals who are discovered, and wise criminals who escape. 
The hiding- of a crime, or the detection of a crime, what is it ? 
A trial of skill between the police on one side, and the indi- 
vidual on the other. When the criminal is a brutal, ignorant 
fool, the police, in nine cases out of ten, win. When the 
criminal is a resolute, educated, hig'hly-intelligent man, the 
police, in nine cases out of ten, lose. If the police win, you 
generally hear all about it. If the police lose, you generally 
hear nothing. And on this tottering foundation you build up 
your comfortable moral maxim that Crime causes its own de- 
tection ! Yes — all the crime j'o it know of. And, what of the 
rest ? ' 

' Devilish true, and very well put,' cried a voice at the 
entrance of the boat-house. Sir Percival had recovered his 
equanimity, and had come back while we were listening to the 
Count. 

' Some of it may be true,' I said ; * and all of it may be 
very well put. But I don't see why Count Fosco should 
celebrate the victory of the criminal over society with so much 
exultation, or why you. Sir Percival, should applaud him so 
loudly for doing it.' 

' Do you hear that, Fosco ? ' asked Sir Percival. ' Take my 
advice, and make your peace with your audience. Tell them 
Virtue's a fine thing — they like that, I can promise you.' 

The Count laughed, inwardly and silently ; and tv/o of 
the white mice in his waistcoat, alarmed by the internal con- 
vulsion going on beneath them, darted out in a violent hurry, 
and scrambled into their cage again. 

'The ladies, my good Percival, shall tell me about virtue,' 
he said. ' They are better authorities than I am ; for they 
know what virtue is, and I don't.' 

' You hear him ? ' said Sir Percival. ' Isn't it awful ? ' 

' It is true,' said the Count, quietly. ' I am a citizen of the 
world, and I have met, in my time, with so many different 
sorts of virtue, that I am puzzled, in my old age, to say 

206 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

which is the rig-ht sort and which is the wrono-. Here, in 
England, there is one virtue. And there, in China, there is 
another virtue. And John Enghshman says my virtue is the 
genuine virtue. And John Chinaman says my virtue is the 
g:enuine virtue. And I say Yes to one, or No to the other 
and am just as much bewildered about it in the case of John 
with the top-boots as I am in the case of John with the pio-tail 
Ah, nice little Mousey ! come, kiss me. What is youf'^o wn 
private notion of a virtuous man, my pret-pret-pretty ? A 
man Avho keeps you warm, and gives vou plenty to eat. 
And a g-ood notion, too, for it is intelligible, at the least.' 

'Stay a minute. Count,' I interposed. ' Acceptino-'your 
illustration, surely we have one unquestionable virtue in 
England, which is wanting- in China. The Chinese authorities 
kill thousands of innocent people, on the most frivolous pre- 
texts. We, in England, are free from all guilt of that kind— 
we commit no such dreadful crime— we abhor reckless blood- 
shed, with all our hearts.' 

' Quite right, Marian,' said Laura. ' Well thought of, and 
well expressed.' 

_ ' Pray allow the Count to proceed,' said Madame Fosco 
with stern civility. ' You will find, voung ladies, that he 
never speaks without having excellent 'reasons for all that he 
sa3's. 

'Thank you, my angel,' replied the Count. 'Have a 
bonbon:^' He took out of his pocket a prettv little inlaid 
box, and placed it open on the table. ' Chocolat a la Vanille ' 
cried the impenetrable man, cheerfully rattling the sv.-eatmeits 
in the box, and bowing all round. ' Offered by Fosco as an 
act of homage to the charming society.' 

_ ' Be good enough to go on, Count,' said his wife, with a 
spiteful reference to myself. ' Oblige me by answering Miss 
Halcombe. ^ 

^ 'Miss Halcombe is unanswerable,' replied the polite Italian 
— that IS to say, so far as she goes. Yes ! I agree with her. 
John Bull does abhor the crimes of John Chinaman He is 
the quickest old gentleman at finding out the faults that are 
his neighbours', and the slowest old gentleman at findino- out 
the faults that are his own, who exists on the face of creation, 
is he so very nnich_ better in his way, than the people whom 
he condemns in their way ? English society, Miss Halcombe, 
IS as often the accomplice, as it is the enemy of crime. Yes ' 
yes . Crime is in this country what crime is in other countries 
—a good friend to a man and to those about him as often as 
It IS an enemy. A great rascal provides for his wife and family. 

207 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

The worse he is, the more he makes them the objects for youf 
sympathy. He often provides, also, for himself. A proflii^ate 
spendthrift who is alway borrowing money, will get more from 
his friends than the rigidly honest man who only borrows of 
them once, under pressure of the direst want. In the one case, 
the friends will not be at all surprised, and they will give. In 
the other case, they will be very much surprised, and they will 
hesitate. Is the prison that Mr. Scoundrel lives in, at the end 
of his career, a more uncomfortable place than the workhouse 
that Mr. Honesty lives in, at the end of his career ? When 
John-Howard-Philanthropist wants to relieve misery, he goes 
to find it in prisons, where crime is wretched — not in huts and 
hovels, where virtue is wretched too. Who is the English 
poet who has won the most universal sympathy — who makes 
the easiest of all subjects for pathetic writing and pathetic 
painting? That nice young person who began life with a for- 
gery, and ended it by a suicide — your dear, romantic, inter- 
esting Chatterton. Which gets on best, do you think, of two 
poor starving dressmakers — the woman who resists tempta- 
tion, and is honest, or the woman who falls under temptation, 
and steals ? You all know that the stealing is the making of 
that second woman's fortune — it advertises her from length to 
breadth of good-humoured, charitable England — and she is 
relieved, as the breaker of a commandment, when she would 
have been left to starve, as the keeper of it. Come here, my 
jolly little Mouse ! Hey ! presto ! pass ! I transform you, 
for the time being, into a respectable lady. Stop there, in 
the palm of my great big hand, my dear, and listen. You 
marry the poor man whom you love. Mouse ; and one half 
your friends pity, and the other half blame you. And, now, 
on the contrary, you sell yourself for gold to a man you don't 
care for ; and all your friends rejoice over you ; and a minister 
of public worship sanctions the base horror of the vilest of all 
human bargains ; and smiles and smirks afterwards at your 
table, if you are polite enough to ask him to breakfast. Hey ! 
presto ! pass ! Be a mouse again, and squeak. If you con- 
tinue to be a lady much longer, I shall have you telling me 
that Society abhors crime — and then. Mouse, I shall doubt if 
your own eyes and ears are really of any use to you. Ah ! I 
am a bad man, Lady Glyde, am I not ? I say what other 
people only think ; and when all the rest of the world is in a 
conspiracy to accept the mask for the true face, mine is the 
rash hand that tears off the plump pasteboard, and shows the 
bare bones beneath. I will get up on my big elephant's legs, 
before I do mvself any more harm in your amiable estimations 

?o8 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

-I will get up, and take a little airy walk of my own Dear 
ladies, as your excellent Sheridan said, I ^o-Ld leavJ^^f^ 
character behind me.' ^ ^^^ "^^ 

He got up ; put the cagfe on the table ; and paused for n 
moment, to count the mice in it. ' One two, tCe four 

Heaven' il'the'fifth' 'th' ^' '^^''°^' ' f'^'^^ "^ thT'nar^f 
am|bTe'o?alf-!mfBU':ir^^^^^^^^^^ -^^--' ^^^ -st 

be am'us'ld ^The Tn' ^ ^''^ rl" ^"^- ^f^^^^^-^ble disposition to 
oe amused 1 he Count's o^hb cynicism had revealed a new 
aspect of his nature from which we both recoiled But It was 
impossible to resist the comical distress of so very lar "e a nT^n 
at the loss of so very small a mouse. We lau4ed fn sni^^ 
ot ourselves; and when Madame Fosco rose to set 'the 
example of leaving the boat-house empty, so that her hus 
r^^^J^lT-" '' '^ ^" -"-^-^ -™-' we rosellsS"to 

dis.^ts^t^j^£^t^tusru:^n^^:t^Sat^tj\^^-^ 

occup3-mg: He pulled aside the bai::hTfook tL 1 tttanima] 
up m his hand; and then suddenly stopped, on his knees' 
lrj:.ealhr'^ ^^ ^ ^'^^^^^"•-- ^'-^ - ^'^e ,round"P 
couW hard^vnut hI° ^"' ^'\^Sfn., his hand shook so that he 

sfr^PerdV.! h' f'^'-'J' ^ ''^^'''^^'' ' ^^'"^''-^^ •' ^^^^ here.' 

fh^eTolnt-o^his^titr^ ''- ^^^^^^- outi^-airS 

into^rboat-h^u":.""' "°"- ' ^"'^^^^^' J-"^'n^ carelessly 
'Do you see nothing-, there ? ' said the Count catchin- 

roSTo fh'^''" '^°"^'' ^^"'-^'^ °"^ '^--^' and pdntii^ with 
the other to the place near which he had found the mouse 

I see plenty of dry sand,' answered Sir Perc va ' and i 
spot of dirt in the middle of it ' rercuai , and a 



p 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

Everybody was astonished, and everybody's eyes were 
fixed on me inquiringly. 

' How do you know that ? ' asked Sir Percival, speaking- 
first. 

' I found the dog here, dying, on the day when you all 
returned from abroad,' I replied. 'The poor creature had 
strayed into the plantation, and had been shot by your 
keeper.' 

' Whose dog was it ? ' inquired Sir Percival. * Not one 
of mine ? ' 

' Did you try to save the poor thing ? ' asked Laura, 
earnestly. ' Surely you tried to save it, Marian ? ' 

'Yes,' I said ; 'the housekeeper and I both did our best 
— but the dog was mortally wounded, and he died under our 
hands.' 

' Whose dog was it ? ' persisted Sir Percival, repeating 
his question a little irritably. ' One of mine ? ' 

' No ; not one of yours.' 

' Whose then ? Did the housekeeper know ? ' 

The housekeeper's report of Mrs. Catherick's desire to 
conceal her visit to Blackwater Park from Sir Percival's 
knowledge, recurred to my memory the moment he put that 
last question : and I half doubted the discretion of ansv.'ering 
it. But, in my anxiety to quiet the general alarm, I had 
thoughtlessly advanced too far to draw back, except at the 
risk of exciting suspicion which might only make matters 
Vv'orse. There was nothing for it but to answer at once, 
without reference to results. 

'Yes,' I said. 'The housekeeper knevv*. She told me it 
was Mrs. Catherick's dog.' 

Sir Percival had hitherto remained at the inner end of the 
boat-house with Count Fosco, while I spoke to him from the 
door. But the instant Mrs. Catherick's name passed my lips, 
he pushed by the Count roughly, and placed himself face to 
face with me, under the open daylight. 

' How came the housekeeper to know it v.as Mrs. 
Catherick's dog ? ' he asked, fixing his eyes on mine with a 
frowning interest and attention, which half angered, half 
startled me. 

' She knew it,' I said, quietly, ' because Mrs. Catherick 
brought the dog with her ? ' 

' Brought it with her ? Where did she bring it v.ith 
her?' 

'To this house.' 

* What the devil did Mrs. Catherick want at this house ? ' 

2IO 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

The manner in which he put the question was even more 
offensive than the lang^uage in which he expressed it. i 
marked my sense of his want of common poUteness, by 
silently turning away from him. 

Just as I moved, the Count's persuasive hand was laid on 
his shoulder, and the Count's mellifluous voice interposed to 
quiet him. 

' My dear Percival !— gently — gently.' 

Sir Percival looked round in his angriest manner. The 
Count only smiled, and repeated the soothing application. 

' Gently, my good friend — gently ! ' 

Sir Percival hesitated— followed me a few steps — and, to 
my great surprise, ofl'ered me an apolog)-. 

' I beg your pardon, Miss Halcombe,' he said. ' I have 
been out of order lately ; and I am afraid I am a little irrit- 
able. But I should like to know what Mrs. Catherick could 
possibly want here. When did she come ? Was the house- 
keeper the only person who saw her ? ' 

' The only person,' I answered, 'so far as I know.' 

The Count interposed again. 

'In that case, why not question the housekeeper?' he 
said. ' Why not go, Percival, to the fountain-head of 
information at once ? ' 

' Quite right ! ' said Sir Percival. ' Of course the house- 
keeper is the first person to question. Excessively stupid of 
me not to see it myself.' With those words, he instantly left 
us to return to the house. 

The motive of the Count's interference, which had puzzled 
me at first, betrayed itself when Sir Percival's back was 
turned. He had a host of questions to put to me about Mrs. 
Catherick, and the cause of her visit to Blackwater Park, 
which he could scarcely have asked in his friend's presence. 
I made my answers as short as I civilly could — for I had 
already determined to check the least approach to any ex- 
changing of confidences between Count Fosco and myself. 
Laura, however, unconsciously helped him to extract all my 
information, by making inquiries herself, which left me no 
alternative but to reply to her, or to appear in the very 
unenviable and very false character of a depository of Sir 
Percival's secrets. The end of it was, that, in about ten 
minutes' time, t'ne Count knew as much as I know of Mrs. 
Catherick, and of the events Vv-hich have so strangely con- 
nected us with her daughter, Anne, from the time when Hart- 
right met with her, to this day. 

211 P 2 



THE WGMAK IN WHITE 

The effect of my information on him was, in one respect, 
curious enough. 

Intimately as he knows Sir Percival, and closely as he 
appears to be associated with Sir Percival's private affairs in 
general, he is certainly as far as I am from knowing anything 
of the true story of Anne Catherick. The unsolved mystery 
in connexion with this unhappy woman is now rendered 
doubly suspicious, in my eyes, by the absolute conviction 
which I feel, that the clue to it has been hidden by Sir Percival 
from the most intimate friend he has in the world. It was 
impossible to mistake the eager curiosity of the Count's look 
and manner while he drank in greedily every v»'ord that fell 
from my lips. There are many kinds of curiosity, I know — 
but there is no misinterpreting the curiosity of blank surprise : 
if I ever saw it in my life, I saw it in the Count's face. 

While the questions and answers were going on, we had 
all been strolling quietly back, through the plantation. As 
soon as we reached the house, the first object that we saw in 
front of it was Sir Percival's dog-cart, with the horse put to 
and the groom waiting by it in his stable-jacket. If these 
unexpected appearances were to be trusted, the examination 
of the housekeeper had produced important results alread)-. 

'A fine horse, my friend,' said the Count, addressing the 
groom with the most engaging familiarity of manner. ' You 
are going to drive out ? ' 

' I am not going, sir,' replied the man, looking at his 
stable-jacket, and evidently v\'ondering whether the foreign 
gentleman took it for his livery. ' My master drives him- 
self.' 

* Aha ! ' said the Count, * does he indeed ? I wonder he 
gives himself the trouble when he has got you to drive for 
him. Is he going to fatigue that nice, shining, pretty horse 
by taking him very far, to-day ? ' 

' I don't know, sir,' answered the man. 'The horse is a 
mare, if you please, sir. She's the highest-couraged thing 
we've got in the stables. Her name's Brown Pvlolly, sir ; and 
she'll go till she drops. Sir Percival usually takes Isaac of 
York for the short distances.' 

' And your shining courageous Brown Molly for the long ? ' 

' Yes, sir.' 

' Logical inference, Miss Halcombe,' continued the Count, 
wheeling round briskly, and addressing me : ' Sir Percival is 
going a long distance to-day.' 

I made no repl}^ I had my own inferences to draw, from 
what I knew through the housekeeper and from what I saw 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

before me ; and I did not choose to share them with Count 
Fosco. 

When Sir Percival was in Cumberland (I thought to my- 
self), he walked away a long distance, on Anne's account, to 
question the family at Todd's Corner. Now he is in Hamp- 
shire, is he going to drive away a long distance, on Anne's 
account again, to question Mrs. Catherick at Welmingham ? 

We all entered the house. As we crossed the hall. Sir 
Percival came out from the library to meet us. He looked 
hurried and pale and anxious — but, for all that, he was in his 
most polite mood, when he spoke to us. 

' I am sori-y to say, I am obliged to leave you,' he began — 
' a long drive — a matter that I can't very vv^ell put off. I shall 
be back in good time to-morrow — but, before I go, I should 
like that little business-formality, which I spoke of this morn- 
ing, to be settled. Laura, will you come into the library ? 
It vvon't take a minute — a mere formality. Countess, may I 
trouble you also ? I want you and the Countess, Fosco, to be 
witnesses to a signature — nothing more. Come in at once, 
and get it over.' 

He held the library door open until they had passed in, 
followed them, and shut it softly. 

I remained, for a moment afterwards, standing alone in 
the hall, with my heart beating fast, and my mind misgiving 
me sadly. Then, I went on to the staircase, and ascended 
slowly to my ov/n room. 

IV. 

June 17th. — Just as my hand was on the door of my room, I 
heard Sir Percival's voice calling to me from below. 

' I must beg you to come down stairs again,' he said. * It 
is Fosco's fault. Miss Halcombe, not mine. He has started 
some nonsensical objection to his wife being one of the 
witnesses, and has obliged me to ask you to join us in the 
library.' 

I entered the room immediately with Sir Percival. Laura 
was waiting by the writing-table, twisting and turning her 
garden hat uneasily in her hands. Madame Fosco sat near 
her, in an arm-chair, imperturbably admiring her husband, 
who stood by himself at the other end of the library, picking off 
the dead leaves from the flowers in the windov/. 

The moment I appeared, the Count advanced to meet me, 
and to offer his explanations. 

'A thousand pardons, Miss Halcombe,' he said. 'You 

21^ 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

know the character which is given to my countrymen by the 
Eng-lish ? We ItaHans are all wily and suspicious by nature, 
in the estimation of the good John Bull. Set me down, if you 
please, as being- no better than the rest of my race. I am a 
wily Italian and a suspicious Italian. You have thought so 
yourself, dear lady, have you not ? Well ! it is part of my 
wiliness and part of my suspicion to object to Madame Fosco 
being a witness to Lady Clyde's signature, when I am also a 
witness myself.' 

* There is not the shadow of a reason for his objection,' 
interposed Sir Percival. ' I have explained to him that the 
law of England allows Madame Fosco to witness a signature 
as well as her husband.' 

' I admit it,' resumed the Count. ' The law of England 
says, Yes — but the conscience of Fosco says, No.' He spread 
out his fat fingers on the bosom of his blouse, and bowed 
solemnly, as if he wished to introduce his conscience to us all, 
in the character of an illustrious addition to the society. 
'What this document which Lady Clyde is about to sign, 
may be,' he continued, ' I neither know nor desire to know. I 
only say this : circumstances may happen in the future which 
may oblige Percival, or his representatives, to appeal to the 
two witnesses ; in which case it is certainly desirable that 
those witnesses should represent two opinions which are 
perfectly independent the one of the other. This cannot 
be if my wife signs as well as mj'self, because we have but 
one opinion between us, and that opinion is mine. I will 
not have it cast in my teeth, at some future day, that Madame 
Fosco acted under my coercion, and was, in plain fact, no 
witness at all. I speak in Percival's interest when I propose 
that my name shall appear (as the nearest friend of the 
husband), and your name, Miss Halcombe (as the nearest 
friend of the wife). I am a Jesuit, if you please to think so — 
a splitter of straws — a man of trifles and crotchets and 
scruples — but you will humour me, I hope, in merciful con- 
sideration for my suspicious Italian character, and my uneasy 
Italian conscience.' He bowed again, stepped back a few 
paces, and withdrew his conscience from our society as 
politely as he had introduced it. 

The Count's scruples might have been honourable and 
reasonable enough ; but there was something in his manner of 
expressing them which increased my unwillingness to be 
concerned in the business of the signature. No consideration 
of less importance than my consideration for Laura, would 
have induced me to consent to be a witness at all. One look, 

214 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

however, at her anxious face, decided me to risk anything" 
rather than desert her. 

' I will readily remain in the room,' I said. 'And if I find 
no reason for starting- any small scruples, on my side, you 
may rely on me as a witness.' 

Sir Percival looked at me sharpl}-, as if he was about to 
say something. But, at the same moment, Madame Fosco 
attracted his attention by rising from her chair. She had 
caught her husband's eye, and had evidently received her 
orders to leave the room. 

' You needn't go,' said Sir Percival. 

Madame Fosco looked for her orders again, g-ot them 
again, said she would prefer leaving- us to our business, and 
resolutely walked out. The Count lit a cigarette, went back 
to the flowers in the window, and puft'ed little jets of smoke 
at the leaves, in a state of the deepest anxiety about killing 
the insects. 

Meanwhile, Sir Percival unlocked a cupboard beneath one 
of the bookcases, and produced from it a piece of parchment 
folded, long-wise, many times over. He placed it on the 
table, opened the last fold only, and kept his hand on the 
rest. The last fold displayed a strip of blank parchment with 
little wafers stuck on it at certain places. Every line of 
the writing was hidden in the part v.hich he still held folded 
up under his hand. Laura and I looked at each other. Her 
face was pale — but it showed no indecision and no fear. 

Sir Percival dipped a pen in ink, and handed it to his 
wife. 

' Sign your name, there,' he said, pointing to the place. 
' You and Fosco are to sign afterwards. Miss Halcombe, 
opposite those two wafers. Come here, Fosco ! witnessing- 
a signature is not to be done by mooning out of window and 
smoking into the flowers.' 

The Count threw away his cigarette, and joined us at the 
table, with his hands carelessly thrust into the scarlet belt of 
his blouse, and his eyes steadily fixed on Sir Percival's face. 
Laura, who was on the other side of her husband, with the 
pen in her hand, looked at him, too. He stood between 
them, holding the folded parchment down firmly on the table, 
and glancing across at me, as I sat opposite to him, with such 
a sinister mixture of suspicion and embarrassment in his face, 
that he looked more like a prisoner at the bar than a gentle- 
man in his own house. 

' Sign there,' he repeated, turning suddenly on Laura, and 
pointing once more to the place on the parchment. 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

* What is it I am to sign ? ' she asked, quietly. 

' I have no time to explain,' he answered. 'The dog-cart 
is at the door ; and I must go directly. Besides, if I had 
time, you wouldn't understand. It is a purely formal docu- 
ment — full of legal technicalities, and all that sort of thing. 
Come ! come ! sign your name, and let us have done as soon 
as possible.' 

' I ought surely to know what I am signing. Sir Percival, 
before I write my name ? ' 

' Nonsense ! What have women to do with business ? I 
tell you again, you can't understand it.' 

' At any rate, let me try to understand it. Whenever Mr. 
Gilmore had any business for me to do, he always explained 
it, first ; and I always understood him.' 

' I dare say he did. He was your servant, and was obliged 
to explain. I am your husband, and am not obliged. How 
much longer do you mean to keep me here ? I tell you again, 
there is no time for reading anything : the dog-cart is waiting 
at the door. Once for all, will you sign, or will you not ? ' 

She still had the pen in her hand ; but she made no 
approach to signing her name with it. 

' If my signature pledges me to anything,' she said, 
* surely, I have some claim to know what that pledge is ? ' 

He lifted up the parchment, and struck it angrily on the 
table. 

' Speak out ! ' he said. ' You were always famous for 
telling the truth. Never mind Miss Halcombe, never mind 
Fosco — say, in plain terms, you distrust me.' 

The Count took one of his hands out of his belt, and laid 
it on Sir Percival's shoulder. Sir Percival shook it off 
irritably. The Count put it on again with unruffled com- 
posure. 

' Control your unfortunate temper, Percival,' he said. 
' Lady Clyde is right.' 

' Right ! ' cried Sir Percival. ' A wife right in distrusting 
her husband ! ' 

' It is unjust and cruel to accuse me of distrusting you,' 
said Laura. ' Ask Marian if I am not justified in wanting to 
know what this writing requires of me, before I sign it? ' 

' I won't have any appeals made to Miss Halcombe,' re- 
torted Sir Percival. ' Miss Halcombe has nothing to do with 
the matter.' 

I had not spoken hitherto, and I would much rather not 
have spoken now. But the expression of distress in Laura's 
face when she turned it towards me, and the insolent injustice 

216 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

of her husband's conduct, left me no other alternative than to 
give my opinion, for her sake, as soon as I was asked for it. 

' Excuse me, Sir Percival,' I said — ' but, as one of the 
witnesses to the signature, I venture to think that I have 
something- to do with the matter. Laura's objection seems 
to me a perfectly fair one ; and, speaking for myself only, I 
cannot assume the responsibility of witnessing her signature, 
unless she first understands what the writing is which you 
wish her to sign.' 

' A cool declaration, upon my soul ! ' cried Sir Percival. 
' The next time you invite yourself to a man's house. Miss 
Halcombe, I recommend you not to repay his hospitality by 
taking his wife's side against him in a matter that doesn't 
concern you.' 

I started to my feet as suddenly as if he had struck me. 
If I had been a man, I would have knocked him down on the 
threshold of his own door, and liave left his house, never on 
any earthly consideration to enter it again. But I was only 
a woman — and I loved his wife so dearly ! 

Thank God, that faithful love helped me, and I sat down 
again, without saying a word. She knew what I had suf- 
fered and what I had suppressed. She ran round to me, with 
the tears streaming from her eyes. ' Oh, Marian ! ' she 
whispered softly. ' If my mother had been alive, she could 
have done no more for me ! ' 

' Come back and sign ! ' cried Sir Percival, froni the other 
side of the table. 

' Shall I ? ' she asked in my ear ; ' I will, if you tell me.' 

' No,' I answered. ' The right and the truth are with 
you — sign nothing, vmless you have read it first.' 

' Come back and sign ! ' he reiterated, in his loudest and 
angriest tones. 

The Count, who had watched Laura and me with a close 
and silent attention, interposed for the second time. 

' Percival ! ' he said. ' / remember that I am in the 
presence of ladies. Be good enough, if yovi please, to re- 
member it, too.' 

Sir Percival turned on him, speechless with passion. The 
Count's firm hand slowly tightened its grasp on his shoulder, 
and the Count's steady voice, quietly repeated, ' Be good 
enough, if you please, to remember it, too.' 

They both looked at each other : Sir Percival slowly drew 
his shoulder from under the Count's hand ; slowly turned his 
face away from the Count's eyes ; doggedly looked down for 
a little while at the parchment on the table ; and then spoke, 

217 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

with the sullen submission of a tamed animal, rather than the 
becoming- resignation of a convinced nian, 

' I don't want to offend anybody,' he said, ' but my wife's 
obstinacy is enough to try the patience of a saint. I have 
told her this is merely a formal document — and what more 
can she want ? You may say vvhat you please ; but it is no 
part of a woman's duty to set her husband at defiance. Once 
more, Lady Glyde, and for the last time, will you sign or v\'ill 
you not ? ' 

Laura returned to his side of the table, and took up the 
pen again. 

' I will sign Vv'ith pleasure,' she said, ' if you will only treat 
me as a responsible being. I care little what sacrifice is 
required of me, if it will aR'ect no one else, and lead to no ill 
results ' 

' Who talked of a sacrifice being required of you ? ' he 
broke in, with a half-suppressed return of his former violence. 

' I only meant,' she resumed, ' that I would refuse no 
concession which I could honourably make. If I have a 
scruple about signing my name to an engagement of which I 
know nothing, Vv'hy should you visit it on me so severely ? 
It is rather hard, I think, to treat Count Fosco's scruples so 
much more indulgently than you have treated mine.' 

This unfortunate, yet most natural, reference to the Count's 
extraordinary power over her husband, indirect as it v/as, set 
Sir Percival's smouldering temper on fire again in an Instant. 

' Scruples ! ' he repeated. ' Your scruples ! It Is rather 
late In the day for you to be scrupulous. I should have 
thought you had got over all weakness of that sort, when 
you made a virtue of necessity by marrying me.^ 

The Instant he spoke those words, Laura threvv down the 
pen — looked at him with an expression in her eyes, which 
throughout all my experience of her, I had never seen In them 
before — and turned her back on him in dead silence. 

This strong expression of the most open and the most 
bitter contempt, was so entirely unlike herself, so utterly out 
of her character, that It silenced us all. There was something 
hidden, beyond a doubt, under the mere surface-brutality 
of the words which her husband had just addressed to her. 
There was some lurking insult beneath them, of which I was 
wholly ignorant, but v.hich had left the mark of Its profanation 
so plainly on her face that even a stranger might have seen it. 

The Count, who was no stranger, saw It as distinctly as 
I did. When I left my chair to join Laura, I heard him 
whisper under his breath to Sir Percival : ' You Idiot ! ' 

218 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

Laura walked before me to the door as I advanced ; and, 
at the same time, her husband spoke to her once more. 

' You positively refuse, then, to give me your signature ? ' 
he said, in the altered tone of a man Avho was conscious that 
he had let his own licence of language seriously injure him. 

' After what you have just said to me,' she replied, firmly, 
' I refuse my signature until I have read every line in that 
parchment from the first word to the last. Come away, 
Marian, we hav^e remained here long enough.' 

' One moment ! ' interposed the Count, before Sir Percival 
could speak again — ' one moment. Lady Clyde, I implore 
you ! ' 

Laura would have left the room without noticing him ; 
but I stopped her. 

' Don't make an enemy of the Count ! ' I whispered. 
' Whatever you do, don't make an enemy of the Count ! ' 

She yielded to me. I closed the door again ; and we 
stood near it, waiting. Sir Percival sat down at the table, 
with his elbow on the folded parchment, and his head resting 
on his clenched fist. The Count stood between us — master 
of the dreadful position in which we were placed, as he was 
master of everything else. 

' Lady Clyde,' he said, with a gentleness which seemed to 
address itself to our forlorn situation instead of to ourselves, 
' pray pardon me, if I venture to oft'er one suggestion ; and 
pray believe that I speak cut of my profound respect and my 
friendly regard for the mistress of this house.' He turned 
sharply towards Sir Percival. ' Is it absolutely necessary,' 
he asked, ' that this thing here, under your elbow, should be 
signed to-day ? ' 

' It is necessary to my plans and wishes,' returned the 
other, sulkily. ' But that consideration, as you may have 
noticed, has no influence with Lady Clyde.' 

' Answer my plain question, plainly. Can the business of 
the signature be put off till to-morrow — Yes or No ? ' 

' Yes — if you will have it so.' 

' Then, what are you wasting your time for, here ? Let the 
signature wait till to-morrow — let it wait till you come back.' 

Sir Percival looked up with a frown and an oath. 

'You are taking a tone with me that I don't like,' he said. 
' A tone I won't bear from any man.' 

' I am advising you for your good,' returned the Count, 
with a smile of quiet contempt. ' Give yourself time ; give 
Lady Clyde time. Have you forgotten that your dog-cart is 
waiting at the door ? My tone surprises you — ha ? I dare 

219 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

say it does — it is the tone of a man who can keep his temper. 
How many doses of good advice have I given you in my time ? 
More than you can count. Have I ever been wrong- ? I defy 
you to quote me an instance of it. Go ! take }'our diive. 
The matter of the signature can wait till to-morrow. Let it 
wait — and renew it when you come back.' 

Sir Percival hesitated, and looked at his watch. His 
anxiety about the secret journey which he was to take that 
day, revived by the Count's words, was now evidently dis- 
puting possession of his mind with his anxiety to obtain 
Laura's signature. He considered for a little Avhile ; and 
then got up from his chair. 

* It is easy to argue me down,' he said, ' when I have no 
time to answer you. I will take your advice, Fosco — not 
because I want it, or believe in it, but because I can't stop 
here any longer.' He paused, and looked round darkly at his 
wife. ' If you don't give me your signature when I come 

back to-morrow ! ' The rest was lost in the noise of his 

opening the book-case cupboard again, and locking- up the 
parchment once more. He took his hat and gloves off the 
table, and made for the door. Laura and I drew back to let 
him pass. ' Rem.ember to-morrow ! ' he said to his wife ; 
and w'ent out. 

We waited to give him time to cross the hall, and drive 
away. The Count approached us while we were standing 
near the door. 

' You have just seen Percival at his worst, Miss Halcombe,' 
he said. 'As his old friend, I am sorry for him and ashamed 
of him. As his old friend, I promise you that he shall not 
break out to-morrow in the same disgraceful manner in which 
he has broken out to-day.' 

Laura had taken my arm while he was speaking, and she 
pressed it significantly when he had done. It would have 
been a hard trial to any woman to stand by and see the office 
of apologist for her husband's misconduct quietly assumed by 
his male friend in her own house — and it was a trial to her. 
I thanked the Count civilly, and led her out. Yes ! I thanked 
him : for I felt already, with a sense of inexpressible helpless- 
ness and humiliation, that it was either his interest or his 
caprice to make sure of my continuing to reside at Blackwater 
Park; and I knew after Sir Percival 's conduct to me, that 
without the support of the Count's influence, I could not hope 
to remain there. His influence, the influence of all others 
that I dreaded most, was actually the one tie which now 
held me to Laura in the hour of her utmost need ! 

?20 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

We heard the wheels of the dog-cart crashing" on the 
gravel of the drive as we came into the hall. Sir Percival 
had started on his journey. 

' Where is he going to, Marian ? ' Laura whispered. 
* Every fresh thing he does, seems to terrify me about the 
future. Have you any suspicions ? ' 

After what she had undergone that morning, I was un- 
willing to tell her my suspicions. 

' How should I know his secrets,' I said, evasively. 

* I wonder if the housekeeper knows ? ' she persisted. 

' Certainly not,' I replied. ' She must be quite as ignorant 
as we are. ' 

Laura shook her head doubtfully. 

' Did you not hear from the housekeeper that there was 
a report of Anne Catherick having been seen in this neigh- 
bourhood ? Don't you think he may have gone away to look 
for her ? ' 

' I would rather compose myself, Laura, by not thinking 
about it, at all ; and, after what has happened, you had 
better follow my example. Come into my room, and rest 
and quiet yourself a little.' 

We sat down together close to the window, and let the 
fragrant summer air breathe over our faces. 

'I am ashamed to look at you, Marian,' she said, 'after 
what you submitted to down stairs, for my sake. Oh, my 
own love, I am almost heartbroken, when I think of it ! 
But I will try to make it up to you — I will indeed ! ' 

' Hush ! Hush ! ' I replied ; ' don't talk so. What is the 
trifling mortification of m}^ pride compared to the dreadful 
sacrifice of your happiness ? ' 

'You heard what he said to me?' she went on, quickly 
and vehemently. ' You heard the words — but you don't 
know what they meant — you don't know why I threw down 
the pen and turned my back on him.' She rose in sudden 
agitation, and walked about the room. ' I have kept many 
things from your knowledge, Marian, for fear of distressing 
you, and making you unhappy at the outset of our new lives. 
You don't know how he has used me. And yet, you ought 
to know, for j-ou saw how he used me to-day. You heard 
him sneer at my presuming to be scrupulous ; you heard him 
say I had made a virtue of necessity in marrj'ing him.' She 
sat down again ; her face flushed deeply, and her hands 
twisted and twined together in her lap. ' I can't tell you 
about it now,' she said ; ' I shall burst out crying if I tell you 
now — later, Marian, when I am more sure of myself. My 

221 



THE WOiMAN IN WHITE 

poor head aches, darling — aches, aches, aches. Where is 
your smelling-bottle ? Let me talk to you about yourself. 
I wish I had given him my signature, for your sake. Shall I 
give it to him, to-mori'ow ? I would rather compromise myself 
than compromise you. After your taking my part against 
him, he will lay all the blame on you, if I refuse again. 
What shall we do ? Oh, for a friend to help us and advise 
us ! — a friend we could really trust ! ' 

She sighed bitterly. I saw in her face that she was think- 
ing of Hartright — saw it the more plainly because her last 
words set me thinking of him, too. In six months only from 
her marriage, we v^^anted the faithful service he had ofTeredto 
us in his farevvell words. How little I once thought that 
we should ever want it at all ! 

' We must do what we can to help ourselves,' I said. 
* Let us try to talk it over calmly, Laura — let us do all in our 
power to decide for the best.' 

Putting what she knew of her husband's embarrassments, 
and v.'hat I had heard of his conversation with the lawyer, 
together, we arrived necessarily at the conclusion that the 
parchment in the library had been drawn up for the purpose 
of borrowing money, and that Laura's signature was abso- 
lutely necessary to fit it for the attainment of Sir Percival's 
object. 

The second question, concerning the nature of the legal 
contract by which the money was to be o'otained, and the 
degree of personal responsibility to which Laura might sub- 
ject herself if she sigmed it in the dark, involved considerations 
which lay far beyond any knowledge and experience that 
either of us possessed. My own convictions led me to 
believe that the hidden contents of the parchment concealed 
a transaction of the meanest and the most fraudulent kind. 

I had not formed this conclusion in consequence of Sir 
Percival's refusal to show the writing, or to explain it ; for 
that refusal might well have proceeded from his obstinate 
disposition and his domineering temper alone. My sole 
motive for distrusting his honesty, sprang from the change 
which I had observed in his language and his manners at 
Blackv/ater Park, a change which convinced me that he had 
been acting a part throughout the whole period of his proba- 
tion at Limmeridge House. His elaborate delicacy ; his 
ceremonious politeness, which harmonized so agreeably v/ith 
Mr. Gilmore's old-fashioned notions ; his modesty with 
Laura, his candour with me, his moderation with Mr. Fairlie 
— all these were the artifices of a mean, cunning, and brutal 

222 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

man, who had dropped his disguise when his practised duplicity 
had gained its end, and had openly shown himself in the 
Hbrary, on that very day. I say nothing of the grief which 
this discovery caused me on Laura's account, for it is not to 
be expressed by any words of mine. I only refer to it at all, 
because it decided me to oppose her signing the parchment, 
whatever the consequences might be, unless she was first 
made acquainted with the contents. 

Under these circumstances, the one chance for us when 
to-morrow came, was to be provided with an objection to 
giving the signature, which might rest on sufficiently firm 
commercial or legal grounds to shake Sir Percival's resolu- 
tion, and to make him suspect that v\'e two women under- 
stood the laws and obligations of business as well as himself. 

After some pondering, I determined to write to the only 
honest man within reach whom we could trust to help us dis- 
creetly, in our forlorn situation. Tha.t man was Mr. Gilmore's 
partner — Mr. Kyrle — who conducted the business, nov»^ that 
our old friend had been obliged to withdraw from it, and to 
leave London on account of his health. I explained to Laura 
that I had Mr. Gilmore's ovv-n authority for placing implicit 
confidence in his partner's integrity, discretion, and accurate 
knowledge of all her affairs ; and, with her full approval, I 
sat down at once to write the letter. 

I began by stating our position to Mr. Kyrle exactly as it 
v\-as ; and then asked for his advice in return, expressed in 
plain, downright terms, which we could comprehend with- 
out any clanger of misinterpretations and mistakes. My 
letter was as short as I could possibly make it, and was, 
I hope, unencumbered by needless apologies and needless 
details. 

Just as I was about to put the address on the envelope, 
an obstacle was discovered by Laura, which in the effort and 
pre-occupation of writing, had escaped my mind altogether. 

' How are we to get the answer in time ? ' she asked. 
' Your letter will not be delivered in London before to-morrow 
morning ; and the post will not bring the reply here till the 
morning after.' 

The only way of overcoming this difficulty was to have 
the ansv/er brought to us from the lav.-yer's office by a special 
messenger. I wrote a postscript to that effect, begging that 
the messenger might be despatched with the reply by the 
eleven o'clock morning train, which would bring him to our 
station at twenty minutes past one, and so enable him to 
reach Blackwater Park by two o'clock at the latest. He was 

223 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

to be directed to ask for me, to answer no questions addressed 
to him by any one else, and to deliver his letter into no hands 
but mine. 

* In case Sir Percival should come back to-morrow before 
two o'clock,' I said to Laura, ' the wisest plan for you to 
adopt is to be out in the grounds, all the morning-, with your 
book or your work, and not to appear at the house till the 
messenger has had time to arrive with the letter. I will wait 
here for him, all the morning, to guard against any misad- 
ventures or mistakes. By following this arrangement I hope 
and believe we shall avoid being taken by surprise. Let us 
go down to the drawing-room now. We may excite suspicion 
if we remain shut up together too long.' 

' Suspicion ? ' she repeated. ' Whose suspicion can we 
excite, now that Sir Percival has left the house ? Do you 
mean Count Fosco ? ' 

'Perhaps I do, Laura.' 

* You are beginning to dislike him as much as I do, 
Marian.' 

' No ; not to dislike him. Dislike is always, more or less, 
associated with contempt — I can see nothing in the Count to 
despise.' 

* You are not afraid of him, are you ? ' 

* Perhaps I am — a little.' 

* Afraid of him, after his interference in our favour to-day !' 
' Yes. I am more afraid of his interference than I am of 

Sir Percival's violence. Remember what I said to you in the 
library. Whatever you do, Laura, don't make an enemy of 
the Count ! ' 

We went down stairs. Laura entered the drawing-room ; 
while I proceeded across the hall, with my letter in my hand, 
to put it into the post-bag, which hung against the wall 
opposite to me. 

The house door was open ; and, as I crossed past it, I 
saw Count Fosco and his wnt'e standing talking together on 
the steps outside, with their faces turned towards me. 

The Countess came into the hall, rather hastily, and asked 
if I had leisure enough for five minutes' private conversation. 
Feeling a little surprised by such an appeal from such a 
person, I put my letter into the bag, and replied that I was 
quite at her disposal. She took my arm with unaccustomed 
friendliness and familiarity ; and instead of leading me into 
an empty room, drew me out with her to the belt of turf 
which surrounded the large fish-pond. 

As we passed the Count on the steps, he bowed and 

224 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

smiled, and then went at once into the house ; pushing- the 
hall-door to after him, but not actually closing it. 

The Countess walked me gently round the fish-pond. I 
expected to be made the depositary of some extraordinary 
confidence ; and I was astonished to find that Madame 
Fosco's communication for my private ear was nothing more 
than a polite assurance o( her sympathy for me, after what 
had happened in the library. Her husband had told her of 
all that had passed, and of the insolent manner in which Sir 
Percival had spoken to me. This information had so shocked 
and distressed her, on my account and on Laura's, that she 
had made up her mind, if anything of the sort happened 
again, to mark her sense of Sir Percival's outrageous conduct 
by leaving the house. The Count had approved of her idea, 
and she now hoped that I approved of it, too. 

I thought this a very strange proceeding on the part of 
such a remarkably reserved woman as Madame Fosco — 
especially after the interchange of sharp speeches which had 
passed between us during the conversation in the boat-house, 
on that very morning. However, it was my plain duty to 
meet a polite and friendly advance, on the part of one of my 
elders, with a polite and friendly reply. I answered the 
Countess, accordingly, in her own tone ; and then, thinking 
we had said all that was necessary on either side, made an 
attempt to get back to the house. 

But Madame Fosco seemed resolved not to part with me, 
and, to my unspeakable amazement, resolved also to talk. 
Hitherto, the most silent of women, she now persecuted me 
with fluent conventionalities on the subject of married life, on 
the subject of Sir Percival and Laura, on the subject of her 
own happiness, on the subject of the late Mr. Fairlie's conduct 
to her in the matter of her legacy, and on half a dozen other 
subjects besides, until she had detained me, walking round 
and round the fish-pond for more than half an hour, and had 
quite wearied me out. Whether she discovered this, or not, 
I cannot say, but she stopped as a.bruptly as she had begun — 
looked towards the house door, resumed her icy manner in a 
moment — and dropped my arm of her own accord, before I 
could think of an excuse for accomplishing my own release 
from her. 

As I pushed open the door, and entered the hall, I found 
myself suddenly face to face with the Count again. He was 
just putting a letter into the post-bag. 

After he had dropped it in, and had closed the bag, he 
asked me where I had left Madame Fosco. I told him ; and 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

he went out at the hall door, immediately, to join his wife. 
His manner, when he spoke to me, was so unusually quiet 
and subdued that I turned and looked after him, wonderingf 
if he were ill or out of spirits. 

Why my next proceeding- was to go straight up to the 
post-bag, and take out my own letter, and look at it again, 
with a vague distrust on me ; and why the looking at it for 
the second time instantly suggested the idea to my mind of 
sealing the envelope for its greater security — are mysteries 
which are either too deep or too shallow for me to fathom. 
Women, as everybody knows, constantly act on impulses 
which they cannot explain even to themselves ; and I can 
only suppose that one of those impulses was the hidden cause 
of my unaccountable conduct on this occasion. 

Whatever influence animated me, I found cause to con- 
g-ratulate myself on having obeyed it, as soon as I prepared 
to seal the letter in my own room. I had originally closed 
the envelope, in the usual way, by moistening the adhesive 
point and pressing it on the paper beneath ; and, when I 
now tried it with my finger, after a lapse of full three-quarters 
of an hour, the envelope opened on the instant, without 
sticking or tearing. Perhaps I had fastened it insufficiently ? 
Perhaps there might have been some defect in the adhesive 
gum ? 

Or, perhaps No ! it is quite revolting enough to feel 

that third conjecture stirring in my mind. I would rather 
not see it confronting me, in plain black and white. 

I almost dread to-morrow — so much depends on my dis- 
cretion and self-control. There are two precautions at all 
events, which I am sure not to forget. I must be careful to 
keep up friendly appearances with the Count ; and I must be 
well on my guard, when the messenger from the office comes 
here with the answer to my letter. 

V. 

JuxE 17th. — When the dinner hour brought us together 
again, Count Fosco was in his usual excellent spirits. He 
exerted himself to interest and amuse us, as if he was deter- 
mined to efface from our memories all recollection of what 
had passed in the library that afternoon. Lively descriptions 
of his adventures in travelling ; amusing anecdotes of re- 
markable people whom he had met with abroad ; quaint 
comparisons between the social customs of various nations, 
illustrated by examples drawn from men and women indis- 

226 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

crimlnately all over Europe ; humorous confessions of the 
innocent follies of his own early life, when he ruled the 
fashions of a second-rate Italian town, and wrote prepos- 
terous romances, on the French model, for a second-rate 
Italian newspaper — all flowed in succession so easily and so 
gaily from his lips, and all addressed our various curiosities 
and various interests so directly and so delicately, that Laura 
and I listened to him with as much attention, and, inconsis- 
tent as it may seem, with as much admiration also, as 
?»Iadame Fosco herself. Women can resist a man's love, a 
man's fame, a man's personal appearance, and a man's 
money ; but they cannot resist a man's tongue, Vv'hen he 
knows how to talk to them. 

After dinner, while the favourable impression which he 
had produced on us was still vivid in our minds, the Count 
modestly withdrew to read in the library. 

Laura proposed a stroll in the grounds to enjoy the close 
of the long evening. It was necessary, in common polite- 
ness, to ask Madame Fosco to join us ; but, this time, she 
had apparently received her orders beforehand, and she 
begged we would kindly excuse her. ' The Count will 
probably want a fresh supply of cigarettes,' she remarked, by 
way of apology ; ' and nobody can make them to his satis- 
faction, but myself.' Her cold blue eyes almost vv^armed as 
she spoke the words — she looked actually proud of being the 
officiating medium through which her lord and master com- 
posed himself with tobacco-smoke ! 

Laura and I went out together alone. 

It was a misty, heavy evening. There was a sense of 
blight in the air ; the flowers were drooping in the garden, 
and the ground was parched and dewless. The western 
heaven, as we saw it over the quiet trees, was of a pale 
yellow hue, and the sun was setting faintly in a haze. 
Coming rain seemed near : it would fall probably with the 
fall of night. 

' Which way shall we go?' I asked. 

'Towards the lake, Marian, if you like,' she answered. 

' You seem unaccountably fond, Laura, of that dismal 
lake.' 

* No ; not of the lake, but of the scenery about it. The 
sand and heath, and the fir-trees, are the only objects I can 
discover, in all this large place, to remind m.e of Limmeridge. 
But we will walk in some other direction, if you prefer it.' 

' I have no favourite walks at Blackwater Park, my love. 
One is the same as another to me. Let us go to the lake — 

227 Q 2 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

we may find it cooler in the open space than we find it 
here.' 

We walked through the shadowy plantation in silence. 
The heaviness in the evening air oppressed us both ; and, 
when we reached the boat-house, we were glad to sit down 
and rest, inside. 

A white fog hung low over the lake. The dense brown 
line of the trees on the opposite bank, appeared above it, like a 
dwarf forest floating in the sky. The sandy ground, shelving 
downward from where we sat, was lost mysteriously in the 
outward layers of the fog. The silence was horrible. No 
rustling of the leaves — no bird's note in the wood — no cry 
of waterfowl from the pools of the hidden lake. Even the 
croaking of the frogs had ceased to-night. 

' It is very desolate and gloomy,' said Laura. ' But we 
can be more alone here than anywhere else.' 

She spoke quietly, and looked at the wilderness of sand 
and mist v/ith steady, thoughtful eyes. I could see that her 
mind was too much occupied to feel the dreary impressions 
from without, which had fastened themselves already on mine. 
' I promised, Marian, to tell you the truth about my 
married life, instead of leaving 5'Ou any longer to guess it 
for yourself,' she began. 'That secret is the first I have 
ever had from you, love, and I am determined it shall be the 
last. I was silent, as you know, for your sake — and perhaps 
a little for my own sake as well. It is very hard for a woman 
to confess that the man to whom she has given her whole 
life, is the man of all others who cares least for the gift. If 
you were married yourself, Marian — and especially if you 
were happily married — you would feel for me as no single 
woman can feel, however kind and true she may be.' 

What answer could I make? I could only take her hand, 
and look at her with my whole heart as well as my eyes 
would let me. 

' How often,' she went on, * I have heard you laughing 
over what you used to call your " poverty ! " how often you 
have made me mock-speeches of congratulation on my 
wealth ! Oh, ^larian, never laugh again. Thank God for 
your poverty — it has made }-ou 5-our own mistress, and has 
saved you from the lot that has fallen on w^.' 

A sad beginning on the lips of a young wife ! — sad in 
its quiet, plain-spoken truth. The few days we had all 
passed together at Blackwater Park, had been many enough 
to show me — to show any one — what her husband had 
married her for. 

S28 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

'You shall not be distressed,' she said, 'by hearing' how 
soon my disappointments and my trials began — or even by 
knowing what they were. It is bad enough to have them on 
my memory. If I tell you how he received the first, and 
last, attempt at remonstrance that I ever made, you will know 
how he has always treated me, as well as if I had described 
it in so many words. It was one day at Rome, when we 
had ridden out together to the tomb of Cecilia Metella. 
The sky v.'as calm and lovely — and the grand old ruin looked 
beautiful — and the remembrance that a husband's love had 
raised it in the old time to a wife's memory, made me feel 
more tenderly and more anxiously towards 7ny husband than 
I had ever felt yet. " Would you build such a tomb for /«£■, 
Percival ? " I asked him. ''You said you loved me dearly, 

before we were married ; and yet, since that time " I 

could get no farther. Marian ! he was not even looking at 
me ! I pulled down my veil, thinking it best not to let him 
see that the tears were in my eyes. I fancied he had not 
paid any attention to me ; but he had. He said, " Come 
away," and laughed to himself, as he helped me on to my 
horse. He mounted his own horse ; and laughed again as 
We rode away. "If I do build you a tomb," he said, "it 
will be done with your own money. I wonder whether 
Cecilia Metella had a fortune, and paid for hers." I made 
no reply — how could I, when I was crying- behind my veil ? 
" Ah, you light-complexioned women arc all sulky," he said. 
" What do you want ? compliments and soft speeches ? Well ! 
I'm in a good humour this morning. Consider the compli- 
ments paid, and the speeches said." Men little know, when 
they say hard things to us, how well we remember them, and 
how much harm they do us. It would have been better for 
me if I had gone on crying ; but his contempt dried up my 
tears, and hardened my heart. From that time, Marian, I 
never checked myself again in thinking of Walter Hartright. 
I let the memory of those happy days, when we were so fond 
of each other in secret, come back, and comfort me. What 
else had I to look to for consolation ? If we had been 
together, you would have helped me to better things. I 
know it was wrong, darling — but tell me if I was wrong, 
without any excuse.' 

I was obliged to turn my face from her. ' Don't ask me ! ' 
I said. ' Have I suffered as you have suffered ? What right 
have I to decide ? ' 

' I used to think of him,' she pursued, dropping her voice, 
and moving closer to me — ' I used to think of him, when 

229 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

Percival left me alone at night, to go among the Opera 
people. I used to fancy what I might have been, if it had 
pleased God to bless me with poverty, and if I had been his 
wife. I used to see myself in my neat cheap gown, sitting 
at home and waiting for him, while he was earning our bread 
— sitting at home and working for him, and loving him all 
the better because I had to work for him — seeing him come 
in tired, and taking off his hat and coat for him — and, Marian, 
pleasing him with little dishes at dinner that I had learnt to 
make for his sake. — Oh ! I hope he is never lonely enough 
and sad enough to think of me, and see me, as I have thought 
of him and seen hitn ! ' 

As she said those melancholy words, all the lost tenderness 
returned to her voice, and all the lost beauty trembled back 
into her face. Her eyes rested as lovingly on the blighted, 
solitary, ill-omened view before us, as if they saw the 
friendly hills of Cumberland in the dim and threatening sky. 

' Don't speak of Walter any more,' I said, as soon as I 
could control myself. * Oh, Laura, spare us both the 
VvTetchedness of talking of him, now ! ' 

She roused herself, and looked at me tenderly. 

' I would rather be silent about him for ever,' she 
ansv/ered, 'than cause you a moment's pain.' 

' It is in your interests,' I pleaded ; ' it is for your sake 
that I speak. If your husband heard you ' 

' It would not surprise him, if he did hear me.' 

She made that strange reply with a weary calmness and 
coldness. The change in her manner, when she gave the 
answer, startled me almost as much as the answer itself. 

' Not surprise him ! ' I repeated. ' Laura ! remember 
what you are saying — you frighten me \ * 

' It is true,' she said — ' it is what I wanted to tell you to- 
day, when we were talking in your room. My only secret 
when I opened my heart to him at Limmeridge, was a harm- 
less secret, Marian — you said so yourself. The name was 
all I kept from him — and he has discovered it.' 

I heard her ; but I could say nothing. Her last words had 
killed the little hope that still lived in me. 

* It happened at Rome,' she went on, as wearily calm and 
cold as ever. ' We were at a little party, given to the 
English by some friends of Sir Percival's — Mr. and Mrs. 
Markland. Mrs. Markland had the reputation of sketching 
very beautifully ; and some of the guests prevailed on her to 
show us her drawings. We all admired them, — but some- 
thing I said attracted her attention particularly to me. 

230 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

" Surely you draw yourself? " she asked. " I used to draw a 
little once," I answered, " but I have given it up." " If you 
have once drawn," she said, "you may take to it again one 
of these days ; and, if you do, I wish you would let me 
recommend you a master." I said nothing — you know why, 
Marian — and tried to change the conversation. But Mrs. 
Markland persisted. " I have had all sorts of teachers," she 
went on ; "but the best of all, the most intelligent and the 
most attentive was a Mr. Hartright. If you ever take up 
your drawing again, do try him as a master. He is a young 
man — modest and gentlemanlike — I am sure you will like 
him." Think of those words being spoken to me publicly, in 
the presence of strangers — strangers who had been invited to 
meet the bride and bridegroom ! I did all I could to control 
myself — I said nothing, and looked down close at the 
drawings. When I ventured to raise my head again, my 
eyes and my husband's eyes met ; and I knew, by his look, 
that my face had betrayed me. *' We will see about Mr. 
Hartright," he said, looking at me all the time, " when we get 
back to England. I agree with you, Mrs. Markland — I think 
Lady Glyde is sure to like him." He laid an emphasis on the 
last words which made my cheeks burn, and set my heart 
beating as if it would stifle me. Nothing more was said — we 
came away early. He was silent in the carriage, driving 
back to the hotel. He helped me out, and followed me up- 
stairs as usual. But the moment we were in the drawing- 
room, he locked the door, pushed me down into a chair, and 
stood over me with his hands on my shoulders. " Ever since 
that morning when you made your audacious confession to 
me at Limmeridge," he said, " I have wanted to find out the 
man ; and I found him in your face, to-night. Your drawing- 
master was the man ; and his name is Hartright. You shall 
repent it, and he shall repent it, to the last hour of your lives. 
Now go to bed, and dream of him, if you like — with the marks 
of my horsewhip on his shoulders." Whenever he is angry 
with me now, he refers to what I acknowledged to him 
in your presence, with a sneer or a threat. I have no power 
to prevent him from putting his own horrible construction 
on the confidence I placed in him. I have no influence to 
make him believe me, or to keep him silent. You looked 
surprised, to-day, when you heard him tell me that I had made 
a virtue of necessity in marrying him. You will not be 
surprised again, when you hear him repeat it, the next time 
he is out of temper — Oh, Marian ! don't ! don't ! you hurt 
me!' 

231 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

I had caught her in my arms ; and fhe sthig- and torment 
of my remorse had closed them round her Hke a vice. Yes ! 
my remorse. The white despair of Walter's face, when my 
cruel words struck him to the heart in the summer-house at 
Limmeridge, rose before me in mute, unendurable reproach. 
My hand had pointed the way which led the man my sister 
loved, step by step, far from his country and his friends. 
Between those two young- hearts I had stood, to sunder them 
for ever, the one from the other — and his life and her life 
lay wasted before me, alike, in witness of the deed. I had 
done this ; and done it for Sir Percival Clyde. 

For Sir Percival Clyde. 

I heard her speaking, and I knew by the tone of her voice 
that she was comforting me — /, who deserved nothing but 
the reproach of her silence ! How long it was before I 
mastered the absorbing misery of my own thoughts, I cannot 
tell. I was first conscious that she was kissing me, and 
then my eyes seemed to wake on a sudden to their sense of 
outward things, and I knew that I was looking mechanically 
straight before me at the prospect of the lake. 

' It is late,' I heard her whisper. ' It will be dark in the 
plantation.' She shook my arm, and repeated, * Marian ! it 
will be dark in the plantation.' 

' Cive me a minute longer,' I said — 'a minute, to get 
better in.' 

I was afraid to trust myself to look at her yet ; and I 
kept my eyes fixed on the view. 

It 7oas late. The dense brown line of trees in the sky 
had faded in the gathering darkness, to the faint resemblance 
of a long wreath of smoke. The mist over the lake below 
had stealthily enlarged, and advanced on us. The silence 
was as breathless as ever — but the horror of it had gone, and 
the solemn mystery of its stillness was all that remained. 

' We are far from the house,' she whispered. ' Let us ."-o 
back.' 

She stopped suddenly, and turned her face from me 
towards the entrance of the boat-house. 

* Marian ! ' she said, trembling violently. ' Do you see 
nothing ? Look ! ' 

' Where ? ' 

* Down there, below us.' 

She pointed. My eyes followed her hand ; and I saw It, too. 

A living figure was moving over the waste of heath in the 

distance. It crossed our range of view from the boat-house, 

232 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

and passed darkly along the outer edg-e of the mist. It 
stopped far ofY, in front of us — waited — and passed on ; 
moving- slowly, with the white cloud of mist behind it and 
above it — slowly, slowly, till it glided by the edge of the 
boat-house, and we saw it no more. 

We were both unnerved by what had passed between us 
that evening. Some minutes elapsed before Laura would 
venture into the plantation, and before I could make up my 
mind to lead her back to the house. 

' Was it a man, or a woman ? ' she asked, in a whisper, 
as we moved at last, into the dark dampness of the outer air. 

' I am not certain.' 

' Which do you think ? ' 

' It looked like a woman.' 

* I was afraid it was a man in a long cloak.' 

' It may be a man. In this dim light it is not possible to 
be certain.' 

' Wait, Marian ! I'm frightened — I don't see the path. 
Suppose the figure should follow us ? ' 

' Not at all likely, Laura. There is really nothing to be 
alarmed about. The shores of the lake are not far from the 
village, and they are free to any one to walk on, by day or 
night. It is only wonderful we have seen no living creature 
there before.' 

We were now in the plantation. It was very dark — so 
dark, that we found some difficulty in keeping the path. I 
gave Laura my arm, and we walked as fast as we could on 
our way back. 

Before we were half way through, she stopped, and 
forced me to stop with her. She was listening. 

' Hush,' she whispered. ' I hear something behind us.' 

' Dead leaves,' I said to cheer her, * or a twig blown off 
the trees.' 

* It is summer time, Marian ; and there is not a breath of 
wind. Listen ! ' 

I heard the sound, too — a sound like a light footstep 
following us. 

' No matter who it is, or what it is,' I said ; ' let us walk 
on. In another minute, if there is anything to alarm us, we 
shall be near enough to the house to be heard.' 

We went on quickly — so quickly, that Laura was breath- 
less by the time we were nearly through the plantation, and 
within sight of the lighted windows. 

I waited a moment, to give her breathing-time. Just as 
we were about to proceed, she stopped me again, and signed 

233 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

to me with her hand to listen once more. We both heard 
distinctly a long, heavy sig-h, behind us, in the black depths 
of the trees. 

* Who's there ? ' I called out. 

There was no answer. 

' Who's there ? ' I repeated. 

An instant of silence followed ; and then we heard the 
light fall of the footsteps again, fainter and fainter — sinking 
away into the darkness — sinking, sinking, sinking — till they 
were lost in the silence. 

We hurried out from the trees to the open lawn beyond ; 
crossed it rapidly ; and without another word passing between 
us, reached the house. 

In the light of the hall-lamp, Laura looked at me, with 
white cheeks and startled eyes. 

' I am half dead with fear,' she said. * Who could it 
have been ? ' 

' We will try to guess to-morrow,' I replied. ' In the 
mean time, say nothing to any one of what we have heard 
and seen.' 

' Why not ? ' 

' Because silence is safe — and we have need of safety in 
this house.' 

I sent Laura upstairs immediately — waited a minute to 
take off my hat, and put my hair smooth — and then went at 
once to make my first investigations in the library, on 
pretence of searching for a book. 

There sat the Count, filling out the largest easy-chair in 
the house ; smoking and reading calmly, with his feet on an 
ottoman, his cravat across his knees, and his shirt collar 
wide open. And there sat Madame Fosco, like a quiet child, 
on a stool by his side, making cigarettes. Neither husband 
nor wife could, by any possibility, have been out late that 
evening, and have just got back to the house in a hurry. I 
felt that my object in visiting the library was ansvv^ered the 
moment I set eyes on them. 

Count Fosco rose in polite confusion, and tied his cravat 
on when I entered the room. 

' Pray don't let me disturb you,' I said. * I have only 
come here to get a book.' 

' All unfortunate men of my size suffer from the heat,' said 
the Count, refreshing himself gravely with a large green fan. 
' I wish I could change places with my excellent wife. She 
is as cool, at this moment, as a fish in the pond outside.' 

The Countess allowed herself to thaw under the influence 

234 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

of her husband's quaint comparison. ' I am never warm, 
Miss Halcombe,' she remarked, with the modest air of a 
woman who was confessing- to one of her own merits. 

' Have you and Lady Clyde been out this evening-? ' asked 
the Count, while I was taking- a book from the shelves, to 
preserve appearances. 

' Yes ; we went out to get a little air.' 

* May I ask in what direction ? ' 

* In the direction of the lake — as far as the boat-house.' 
' Aha ? As far as the boat-house ? ' 

Under other circumstances, I might have resented his 
curiosity. But, to-night I hailed it as another proof that 
neither he nor his wife were connected with the mysterious 
appearance at the lake. 

'No more adventures, I suppose, this evening?' he went 
on. ' No more discoveries, like your discovery of the 
wounded dog ? ' 

He fixed his unfathomable gray eyes on me, with that 
cold, clear, irresistible glitter in them, which always forces 
me to look at him, and always makes me uneas}', while I do 
look. An unutterable suspicion that his mind is prying into 
mine, overcomes me at these times ; and it overcame me 
now. 

'No,' I said, shortly ; 'no adventures — no discoveries.' 

I tried to look away from him, and leave the room. 
Strange as it seems, I hardly think I should have succeeded 
in the attempt, if Madame Fosco had not helped me by 
causing him to move and look away first. 

' Count, you are keeping Miss Halcombe standing,' she 
said. 

The moment he turned round to get me a chair, I seized 
my opportunity — thanked him — made my excuses — and slipped 
out. 

An hour later, when Laura's maid happened to be in her 
mistress's room, I took occasion to refer to the closeness of 
the night, with a view to ascertaining next how the servants 
had been passing their time. 

' Have you been suffering much from the heat, down 
stairs ? ' I asked. 

' No, miss,' said the girl ; ' we have not felt it to speak of.' 

* You have been out in the woods, then, I suppose? ' 

' Some of us thought of going, miss. But cook said she 
should take her chair into the cool court-yard, outside the 
kitchen door ; and, on second thoughts, all the rest of us took 
our chairs out there, too.' 

2^:; 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

The housekeeper was now the only person who remained 
to be accounted for. 

' Is Mrs. Michelson gone to bed yet ? ' I inquired. 

* I should think not, miss,' said the girl, smiling-. ' Mrs. 
Michelson is more likely to be getting- up, just now, than 
going to bed.' 

' Why ? What do you mean ? Has Mrs. Michelson been 
taking to her bed in the daytime ? ' 

' No, miss ; not exactly, but the next thing to it. She's 
been asleep all the e-vening, on the sofa in her own room.' 

Putting together what I observed for myself in the library 
and what I have just heard from Laura's maid, one conclusion 
seems inevitable. The figure we saw at the lake was not the 
figure of Madame Fosco, of her husband, or of any of the 
servants. The footsteps we heard behind us were not the 
footsteps of any one belonging to the house. 

Who could it have been ? 

It seems useless to inquire. I cannot even decide whether 
the figure was a man's or a woman's. I can only say that I 
think it was a woman's. 

VI. 

June i8th. — The misery of self-reproach which I suffered 
yesterday evening, on hearing what Laura told me in the 
boat-house returned in the loneliness of the night, and kept 
me waking and wretched for hours. 

I lighted my candle at last, and searched through my old 
journals to see what my share in the fatal error of her 
marriage had really been, and what I might have once done 
to save her from it. The result soothed me a little — for it 
showed that, however blindly and ignorantly I acted, I acted 
for the best. Crying generally does me harm ; but it was 
not so last night — I think it relieved me. I rose this morn- 
ing with a settled resolution and a quiet mind. Nothing Sir 
Percival can say or do shall ever irritate me again, or make 
me forget, for one moment, that I am staying here, in defiance 
of mortifications, insults, and threats, for Laura's service and 
for Laura's sake. 

The speculations In which we might have Indulged, this 
morning, on the subject of the figure at the lake and the 
footsteps in the plantation, have been all suspended by a 
trifling accident which has caused Laura great regret. She 
has lost the little brooch I gave her for a keepsake, on the 
day before her marriage. As she wore It when we went out 

2X6 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

yesterday evening we can only suppose that it must have 
dropped from her dress, either in the boat-house, or on our 
way back. The servants have been sent to search, and have 
returned unsuccessful. And now Laura herself has gone to 
look for it. Whether she finds it, or not, the loss will help 
to excuse her absence from the house, if Sir Percival returns 
before the letter from Mr. Gilmore's partner is placed in my 
hands. 

One o'clock has just struck. I am considering whether I 
had better wait here for the arrival of the messenger from 
London, or slip away quietly, and watch for him outside the 
lodge gate. 

My suspicion of everybody and everj^thing in this house 
inclines me to think that the second plan may be the best. 
The Count is safe in the breakfast-room. I heard him, 
through the door, as I ran up-stairs, ten minutes since, 
exercising his canary-birds at their tricks : — ' Come out on 
my little finger, my pret-pret-pretties ! Come out, and hop 
up-stairs ! One, two, three — and up ! Three, two, one — 
and down I One, two, three — twit-twit-twit-tweet ! ' The 
birds burst into their usual ecstasy of singing, and the Count 
chirruped and whistled at them in return, as if he was a bird 
himself. My room door is open, and I can hear the shrill 
singing and whistling at this very moment. If I am really 
to slip out, without being observed — now is my time. 

Four o'clock. The three hours that have past since I 
made my last entry, have turned the whole march of events 
at Blackwater Park in a new direction. Whether for good 
or for evil, I cannot and dare not decide. 

Let me get back first to the place at which I left off — or I 
shall lose myself in the confusion of my own thoughts. 

I vv'ent out, as I had proposed, to meet the messenger with 
my letter from London at the lodge gate. On the stairs 
I saw no one. In the hall I heard the Count still exercising 
his birds. But on crossing the quadrangle outside, I passed 
Madame Fosco, walking b}' herself in her favourite circle, 
round and round the great fish-pond. I at once slackened 
my pace, so as to avoid all appearance of being in a hurry ; 
and even went the length, for caution's sake, of inquiring if 
she thought of going out before lunch. She smiled at me in 
the friendliest manner — said she preferred remaining near t'ne 
house — nodded pleasantly — and re-entered the hall. I looked 
back, and saw that she had closed the door before I had 
opened the wicket by the side of the carriage gates. 

2<:7 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

In less than a quarter of an hour, I reached the lodge. 

The lane outside took a sudden turn to the left, ran on 
straight for a hundred yards or so, and then took another 
sharp turn to the right to join the high road. Between these 
two turns, hidden from the lodge on one side and from the way 
to the station on the other, I waited, walking backwards and 
forwards. High hedges were on either side of me ; and for 
twenty minutes, by my watch, I neither saw nor heard any- 
thing. At the end of that time, the sound of a carriage 
caught my ear ; and I was met, as I advanced, towards the 
second turning, by a fly from the railway. I made a sign to 
the driver to stop. As he obeyed me, a respectable-looking 
man put his head out of the window to see what was the 
matter. 

' I beg your pardon,' I said ; ' but am I right in supposing 
that you are going to Blackwater Park ? ' 

' Yes, ma'am.' 

* With a letter for any one ? ' 

* With a letter for Miss Halcombe, ma'am.' 

'You may give me the letter. I am Miss Halcombe.' 
The man touched his hat, got out of the fly immediately, 

and gave me the letter. 

I opened it at once, and read these lines. I copy them 

here, thinking it best to destroy the original for caution's sake. 

* Dear Madam. — Your letter received this morning, has 
caused me very great anxiety. I will reply to it as briefly 
and plainly as possible. 

' My careful consideration of the statement made by 
yourself, and my knowledge of Lady Clyde's position, as 
defined in the settlement, lead me, I regret to say, to the 
conclusion that a loan of the trust money to Sir Percival 
(or, in other words, a loan of some portion of the twenty 
thousand pounds of Lady Clyde's fortune), is in contempla- 
tion, and that she is made a party to the deed, in order to 
secure her approval of a flagrant breach of trust, and to have 
her signature produced against her, if she should complain 
hereafter. It is impossible, on any other supposition, to 
account, situated as she is, for her execution to a deed of 
any kind being wanted at all. 

' In the event of Lady Clyde's sig'ning such a document 
as I am compelled to suppose the deed in question to be, her 
trustees would be at liberty to advance money to Sir Percival 
out of her twenty thousand pounds. If the amount so lent 
should not be paid back, and if Lady Clyde should have 

238 



I 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

children, their fortune will then be diminished by the sum, 
large or small, so advanced. In plainer terms still, the 
transaction, for anything that Lady Glyde knows to the 
contrary, may be a fraud upon her unborn children. 

* Under these serious circumstances, I would recommend 
Lady Glyde to assign as a reason for withholding her 
signature, that she wishes the deed to be first submitted to 
myself, as her family solicitor (in the absence of my partner, 
Mr. Gilmore). No reasonable objection can be made to 
taking this course — for, if the transaction is an honourable 
one, there will necessarily be no difficulty in my giving my 
approval. 

* Sincerely assuring you of my readiness to afford any 
additional help or advice that may be wanted, I beg to remain. 
Madam, your faithful servant, 

* William Kyrle. ' 

I read this kind and sensible letter very thankfully. It 
supplied Laura with a reason for objecting to the signature 
which was unanswerable, and which we could both of us 
understand. The messenger waited near me while I was 
reading, to receive his directions when I had done. 

* Will you be good enough to say that I understand the 
letter, and that I am very much obliged ? ' I said. * There is 
no other reply necessary at present.' 

Exactly at the moment when I was speaking those words, 
holding the letter open in my hand, Count Fosco turned the 
corner of the lane from the high road, and stood before me as 
if he had sprung up out of the earth. 

The suddenness of his appearance, in the very last place 
under heaven in which I should have expected to see him, 
took me completely by surprise. The messenger wished me 
good morning, and got into the fly again. I could not say a 
word to him — I was not even able to return his bow. The 
conviction that I was discovered — and by that man, of all 
others — absolutely petrified me. 

' Are you going back to the house. Miss Halcombe ? ' he 
inquired, without showing the least surprise on his side, and 
without even looking after the fly, which drove off while he 
was speaking to me. 

I collected myself sufficiently to make a sign in the affir- 
mative. 

' I am going back, too,' he said. ' Pray allov^^ me the 
pleasure of accompanying you. Will you take my arm ? 
You look surprised at seeing me ! 

239 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

I took his arm. The first of my scattered senses that 
came back, was the sense that warned me to sacrifice anything 
rather than make an enemy of him. 

' You look surprised at seeing- me ! ' he repeated, in his 
quietly pertinacious way. 

' I thought, Count, I heard you with your birds in the 
breakfast-room,' I answered, as quietly and firmly as I could. 

* Surely. But my little feathered children, dear lady, are 
only too like other children. They have their days of per- 
versity ; and this morning was one of them. My wife came 
in, as I was putting them back in their cage, and said she 
had left you going out alone for a walk. You told her so, 
did you not ? ' 

' Certainly.' 

* Well, Miss Halcombe, the pleasure of accompanying you 
was too great a temptation for me to resist. At my age 
there is no harm in confessing so much as that, is there ? I 
seized my hat, and set off to offer myself as your escort. 
Even so fat an old man as Fosco is surely better than no 
escort at all? I took the wrong path — I came back, in 
despair — and here I am, arrived (may I say it ?) at the height 
of my wishes.' 

He talked on, in this complimentary strain vvith a fluency 
which left me no exertion to make beyond the effort of main- 
taining my composure. He never referred in the most distant 
manner to what he had seen in the lane, or to the letter 
which I still had in my hand. This ominous discretion helped 
to convince me that he must have surprised, by the most 
dishonourable means, the secret of my application in Laura's 
interest, to the lawyer ; and that, having now assured himself 
of the private manner in which I had received the answer, 
he had discovered enough to suit his purposes, and was only 
bent on trying to quiet the suspicions which he knew he must 
have aroused in my mind. I was wise enough, under these 
circumstances, not to attempt to deceive him by plausible ex- 
planations — and woman enough, notwithstanding my dread 
of him, to feel as if my hand was tainted by resting on his arm. 

On the drive in front of the house we m.et the dog-cart 
being taken round to the stables. Sir Percival had just 
returned. He came out to meet us at the house-door. 
Whatever other results his journey might have had, it had not 
ended in softening his savage temper. 

' Oh ! here are two of you come back,' he said, with a 
lowering face. ' What is the meaning of the house being 
deserted in this way ? Where is Lady Clyde ? ' 

240 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

I told him of the loss of the brooch, and said that Laura 
had gone into the plantation to look for it. 

' Brooch or no brooch,' he growled sulkily, ' I recommend 
her not to forget her appointment in the library, this after- 
noon. I shall expect to see her in half an hour.' 

I took my hand from the Count's arm, and slowly ascended 
the steps. He honoured me with one of his magnificent 
bows ; and then addressed himself gaily to the scowling 
master of the house. 

'Tell me, Percival,' he said, 'have you had a pleasant 
drive ? And has your pretty shining Brown Molly come back 
at all tired ? ' 

'Brown Molly be hanged — and the drive too ! I want my 
lunch.' 

'And I want five minutes' talk with you, Percival, first,' 
returned the Count. ' Five minutes' talk, my friend, here on 
the grass.' 

'What about?' 

' About business that very much concerns you.' 

I lingered long enough, in passing through the hall-door, 
to hear this question and answer, and to see Sir Percival 
thrust his hands into his pockets, in sullen hesitation. 

' If you want to badger me with any more of your infernal 
scruples,' he said, ' I, for one, won't hear them. I want my 
lunch ! * 

* Come out here and speak to me,' repeated the Count, 
still perfectly uninfluenced by the rudest speech that his friend 
could make to him. 

Sir Percival descended the steps. The Count took him by 
the arm, and walked him away gently. The ' business,' I was 
sure, referred to the question of the signature. They were 
speaking of Laura and of me, beyond a doubt. I felt heart- 
sick and faint with anxiety. It might be of the last importance 
to both of us to know what they were saying to each other at 
that moment — and not one word of it could, by any possibility, 
reach'my ears. 

I walked about the house, from room to room, with the 
lawyer's letter in my bosom (I was afraid, by this time, even 
to trust it under lock and key), till the oppression of my 
suspense half maddened me. There were no signs of Laura's 
return ; and I thought of going out to look for her. But my 
strength was so exhausted by the trials and anxieties of the 
morning, that the heat of the day quite overpowered me ; 
and, after an attempt to get to the door, I was obliged to 

241 R 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

return to the drawingf-room, and lie down on the nearest sofa 
to recover. 

I was just composuig- myself, when the doorcrpened softly, 
and the Count looked in. 

' A thousand pardons, Miss Halcombe,' he said ; ' I only 
venture to disturb you because I am the bearer of good news. 
Percival — who is capricious in everything-, as you know — has 
seen fit to alter his mind, at the last moment ; and the 
business of the sig^nature is put off for the present. A great 
relief to all of us, Miss Halcombe, as I see with pleasure in your 
face. Pray present my best respects and felicitations when you 
mention this pleasant chang-e of circumstances to Lady Clyde.' 

He left me before I had recovered my astonishment. 
There could be no doubt that this extraordinary alteration of 
purpose in the matter of the signature, v/as due to his 
influence ; and that his discovery of my application to 
London yesterday, and of my having received an answer to it 
to-day, had offered him the means of interfering with certain 
success. 

I felt these impressions ; but my mind seemed to share 
the exhaustion of my body, and I was in no condition to 
dwell on them, with any useful reference to the doubtful 
present, or the threatening future. I tried a second time to 
run out, and find Laura ; but my head was giddy, and my 
knees trembled under me. There was no choice but to give 
it vip again, and return to the sofa, sorely against my will. 

The quiet in the house, and the low murmuring hum of 
summer insects outside the open window, soothed me. My 
eyes closed of themselves ; and I passed gradually into a 
strange condition, which was not waking — for I knew nothing 
of what was going on about me ; and not sleeping — for I 
vv^as conscious of my ov/n repose. In this state, my fevered 
mind broke loose from me, while my weary body was at rest ; 
and, in a trance, or day-dream of my fancy — I know not what 
to call it— I saw \y alter Hartright. I had not thought of 
him, since I rose that morning ; Laura had not said one word 
to me either directly or indirectly referring- to him — and yet, I 
saw him now, as plainly as if the past time had returned, and 
we v/ere both together again at Limmeridge House. 

He appeared to me as one among many other men, none 
of whose faces I could plainly discern. They were all lying 
on the steps of an immense ruined temple. Colossal tropical 
trees — with rank creepers twining endlessly about their trunks, 
and hideous stone idols glimmering and grinning at intervals 
behind leaves and stalks and branches — surrounded the 

242 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

temple, and shut out the sky, and threw a dismal shadow 
over the forlorn band of men on the steps. White exhala- 
tions twisted and curled up stealthily from the ground ; 
approached the men in wreaths, like smoke ; touched them ; 
and stretched them out dead, one by one, in the places where 
they lay. An agony of pity and fear for Walter loosened my 
tongue, and I implored him to escape. ' Come back ! come 
back i ' I said. ' Remember your promise to her and to me. 
Come back to us, before the Pestilence reaches you, and lays 
you dead like the rest ! ' 

He looked at me, with an unearthly quiet In his face. 
' Wait,' he said, ' I shall come back. The night, when I met 
the lost Woman on the highway, was the night which set my 
life apart to be the instrument of a Design that Is yet unseen. 
Here, lost in the wilderness, or there, welcomed back In the 
land of my birth, I am still walking on the dark road which 
leads me, and you, and the sister of your love and mine, to 
the unknown Retribution and the Inevitable End. Wait and 
look. The Pestilence which touches the rest, will pass ?«<?.' 

I saw him. again. He was still In the forest ; and the 
numbers of his lost companions had dwindled to very few. 
The temple was gone, and the idols were gone — and, in their 
place, the figures of dark, dwarfish men lurked murderously 
among the trees, with bows in their hands, and arrows fitted 
to the string. Once more, I feared for Walter, and cried out 
to warn him. Once more, he turned to me, with the Im- 
movable quiet In his face. 

'Another step,' he said, 'on the dark road. Wait and 
look. The Arrows that strike the rest, will spare vie.'' 

I saw him for the third time, In a wrecked ship, stranded 
on a wild, sandy shore. The overloaded boats were making 
away from him for the land, and he alone was left, to sink 
v/ith the ship. I cried to him to hail the hindmost boat, and 
to make a last eff"ort for his life. The quiet face looked at 
me In return, and the unmoved voice gave me back the 
changeless reply. ' Another step on the journey. Wait and 
look. The Sea which drowns the rest, will spare me.'' 

I saw him for the last time. He was kneeling by a tomb 
of white marble ; and the shadow of a veiled woman rose out 
of the grave beneath, and waited by his side. The unearthly 
quiet of his face had changed to an unearthly sorrow. But 
the terrible certainty of his words remained the same. 
'Darker and darker,' he said; 'farther and farther yet. 
Death takes the good, the beautiful, and the young — and 
spares me. The Pestilence that wastes, the Arrow that 

243 R2 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

strikes, the Sea that drowns, the Grave that closes over Love 
and Hope, are steps of my journe}', and take me nearer and 
nearer to the End.' 

My heart sank under a dread beyond words, under a grief 
beyond tears. The darkness closed round the pilgrim at the 
marble tomb ; closed round the veiled woman from the 
grave ; closed rovmd the dreamer who looked on them. I 
saw and heard no more. 

I was aroused by a hand laid on my shoulder. It was 
Laura's. 

She had dropped on her knees by the side of the sofa. 
Her face was flushed and agitated ; and her eyes met mine in 
a wild bewildered manner. I started the instant I saw her. 

' What has happened ? ' I asked. ' What has frightened 
you ? ' 

She looked round at the half-open door — put her lips close 
to my ear — and answered in a whisper : 

' Marian ! — the figure at the lake — the footsteps last night 
— I've just seen her ! I've just spoken to her ! ' 

' Who, for Heaven's sake ? ' 

' Anne Catherick.' 

I was so startled by the disturbance in Laura's face and 
manner, and so dismayed by the first waking impressions of 
my dream, that I was not fit to bear the revelation which 
burst upon me, when that name passed her lips. I could 
only stand rooted to the floor, looking at her in breathless 
silence. 

She was too much absorbed by what had happened to 
notice the eff"ect which her reply had produced on me. ' I 
have seen Anne Catherick ! I have spoken to Anne Catherick ! ' 
she repeated, as if I had not heard her. ' Oh, Marian, I haAe 
such things to tell you ! Come away — we may be interrupted 
here — come at once into my room.' 

With those eager words, she caught me by the hand, and 
led me through the library, to the end room on the ground 
floor, which had been fitted up for her own especial use. No 
third person, except her maid, could have any excuse for 
surprising us here. She pushed me in before her, locked 
the door, and drew the chintz curtains that hung over the 
inside. 

The strange, stunned feeling which had taken possession 
of me still remained. But a growing conviction that the 
complications which had long threatened to gather about her, 
and to gather about me, had suddenly closed fast round us 
both, was now beginning to penetrate my mind. I could 

244 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

not express It in words — I could hardly even realise it dimly 
in my own thoughts. ' Anne Catherick ! ' I whispered to 
myself, with useless, helpless reiteration — ' Anne Catherick ! ' 

Laura drew me to the nearest seat, an ottoman in the 
middle of the room. ' Look ! ' she said ; ' look here ! ' — and 
pointed to the bosom of her dress. 

I saw, for the first time, that the lost brooch was pinned 
in its place again. There was something real in the sight of 
it, something real in the touching of it afterwards, which 
seemed to steady the whirl and confusion in my thoughts, 
and to help me to compose myself. 

' Where did you find your brooch ? ' The first words I 
could say to her were the words which put that trivial question 
at that important moment. 

' She found it, Marian.' 

' Where ? ' 

' On the floor of the boat-house. Oh, how shall I begin — 
how shall I tell you about it ! She talked to me so strangely 
— she looked so fearfully ill — she left me so suddenly ! ' 

Her voice rose as the tumult of her recollections pressed 
upon her mind. The inveterate distrust which weighs, night 
and day, on my spirits in this house, instantly roused me to 
warn her — ^just as the sight of the brooch had roused me to 
question her, the moment before. 

'Speak low,' I said. 'The window is open, and the 
garden path runs beneath it. Begin at the beginning, Laura. 
Tell me, word for word, what passed between that woman 
and you.' 

' Shall I close the window first ? ' 

* No ; only speak low : only remember that Anne Catherick 
is a dangerous subject under your husband's roof. Where 
did you first see her ? ' 

' At the boat-house, Marian. I went out, as you know, to 
find my brooch ; and I walked along the path through the 
plantation, looking down on the ground carefully at every 
step. In that way I got on, after a long time, to the boat- 
house ; and, as soon as I was inside it, I went on my knees 
to hunt over the floor. I was still searching, with my back 
to the doorway, when I heard a soft, strange voice, behind 
me, say, "Miss Fairlie."' 

' Miss Fairlie ! ' 

'Yes— my old name— the dear, familiar name that I 
thought I had parted from for ever. I started up— not 
frightened, the voice was too kind and gentle to frighten 
jinybody— but very much surprised. There, looking at me 

245 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

frorrt the doorway, stood a woman, whose face I never re- 
membered to have seen before ' 

' How was she dressed ? ' 

'She had a neat, pretty white g^own on, and over it a poor 
worn thin dark shawl. Her bonnet was of brown straw, as 
poor and worn as the shawl. I was struck by the difference 
between her gown and the rest of her dress, and she saw that 
1 noticed it. " Don't look at my bonnet and shawl," she said, 
speaking" in a quick, breathless, sudden way; "if I mustn't 
wear white, I don't care what I wear. Look at my gown, 
as much as you please ; I'm not ashamed of that." Very 
strange, was it not ? Before I could say anything to soothe 
her, she held out one of her hands, and I saw my brooch in 
it. I was so pleased and so grateful, that I went quite close 
to her to say what I really felt. *' Are you thankful enough 
to do me one little kindness?" she asked. " Yes, indeed," I 
answered ; " any kindness in my power I shall be glad to show 
you." *' Then let me pin your brooch on for you, now I have 
found it." Her request was so unexpected, Marian, and she 
made it with such extraordinary eagerness, that I drew back 
a step or two, not well knowing what to do. *' Ah ! " she said, 
** your mother would have let me pin on the brooch." There 
was something in her voice and her look, as well as in her 
mentioning- my mother in that reproachful manner, which 
made me ashamed of my distrust. I took her hand with the 
brooch in it, and put it up gently on the bosom of my dress. 
" You knew my mother ? " I said. " Was it very long ago ? 
have I ever seen you before ? " Her hands were busy fastening 
the brooch : she stopped and pressed them against my breast. 
*' You don't remember a fine spring day at Limmeridge," she 
said, " and your mother walking down the path that led to 
the school, with a little girl on each side of her ? I have had 
nothing- else to think of since ; and / remember it. You 
were one of the little girls, and I was the other. Pretty, 
clever Miss Fairlie, and poor dazed Anne Catherick were 
nearer to each other, then, than they are now ! " ' 

' Did you remember her, Laura, when she told you her 
name ? ' 

' Yes — I remembered your asking me about Anne Catherick 
at Limmeridge, and your saying that she had once been con- 
sidered like me.' 

* What reminded you of that, Laura?' 

* She reminded me. While I was looking at her, while 
she was very close to me, it came over my mind suddenly 
that we were like each other ! Her face was pale and thin 

246 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

and weary— but the sight of it startled me, as if it had been 
the sight of my own face in the glass after a long illness. 
The discovery — I don't know why — gave me such a shock, that 
1 was perfectly incapable of speaking to her, for the moment.' 

' Did she seem hurt by your silence ? ' 

' I am afraid she was hurt by it. *' You have not o-ot 
your mother's face," she said, " or your mother's heart. Your 
mother's face was dark ; and your mother's heart, Miss 
Fairlie, was the heart of an angel." ''I am sure I feel kindly 
towards you," I said, "though I may not be able to express 

it as I ought. Why do you call me Miss Fairlie ? " 

" Because I love the name of Fairlie and hate the name of 
Glyde," she broke out violently. I had seen nothing like 
madness in her before this ; but I fancied I saw it now in her 
eyes. " I only thought you might not know I was married," 
I said, remembering the wild letter she wrote to me at 
Limmeridge, and trying to quiet her. She sighed bitterly, 
and turned away from me. " Not know you were married ! " 
she repeated. *'I am here because you are married. I am 
here to make atonement to you, before I meet your mother 
in the world beyond the grave. " She drew farther and farther 
away from me, till she was out of the boat-house— and, then, 
she watched and listened for a little while. When she turned 
round to speak again, instead of coming back, she stopped 
where she was, looking in at me, with a hand on each side of 
the entrance. " Did you see me at the lake last night ? " she 
said. " Did you hear me following you in the wood ? I have 
been waiting for days together to speak to you alone— I have 
left the only friend I have in the world, anxious and frightened 
about me— I have risked being shut up again in the mad- 
house—and all for your sake. Miss Fairlie, all for your sake." 
Her words alarmed me, Marian ; and yet, there was some- 
thing in the way she spoke, that made me pity her with all 
my heart. I am sure my pity must have been sincere, for it 
made me bold enough to ask the poor creature to come in, 
and sit down in the boat-house, by my side.' 

* Did she do so ? ' 

' No. She shook her head, and told me she must stop 
where she was, to watch and listen, and see that no third 
person surprised us. And from first to last, there she waited 
at the entrance, with a hand on each side of it ; sometimes 
bendmg m suddenly to speak to me ; sometimes drawing back 
suddenly to look about her. " I was here yesterday," she 
said, " before it came dark ; and I heard you, and the lady 
with you, talking together. I heard you tell her about your 

247 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

husband. I heard you say you had no influence to make him 
believe you, and no influence to keep him silent. Ah ! I knew 
what those words meant ; my conscience told me while I was 
hstening. Why did I ever let you marry him ! Oh, my fear, 

• — my mad, miserable, wncked fear ! " She covered up 

her face in her poor worn shav/1, and moaned and murmured 
to herself behind it. I began to be afraid she might break 
out into some terrible despair which neither she nor I could 
master, "Try to quiet yourself," I said: "try to tell me 
how you might have prevented my marriage." She took the 
shawl from her face, and looked at me vacantly. " I ought to 
have had heart enough to stop at Limmeridge," she answered. 
"I ought never to have let the news of his coming there 
frighten me away. I ought to have warned you and saved 
you before it was too late. Why did I only have courage 
enough to write you that letter ? Why did I only do harm, 
when I wanted and meant to do good? Oh, my fear — my 
mad, miserable, wicked fear ! " She repeated those words 
again, and hid her face again in the end of her poor worn 
shawl. It was dreadful to see her, and dreadful to hear her.' 
' Surely, Laura, you asked what the fear was which she 
dwelt on so earnestly ? ' 

* Yes ; I asked that.' 

* And what did she say ? ' 

* She asked me, in return, if / should not be afraid of a 
man who had shut me up in a madhouse, and who would 
shut me up again, if he could ? I said, " Are you afraid still ? 
Surely you would not be here, if you were afraid now ? " 
"No," she said, " I am not afraid now." I asked why not. 
She suddenly bent forward into the boat-house, and said, 
" Can't you guess why ? " I shook my head. "Look at me," 
she went on. I told her I Vv-as grieved to see that she looked 
very sorrowful and very ill. She smiled, for the first time. 
" 111? " she repeated ; " I'm dying. You know why I'm not 
afraid of him now. Do you think I shall meet your mother in 
heaven? Will she forgive me, if I do ? " I was so shocked, 
and so startled, that I could make no reply. " I have been 
thinking of it," she went on, "all the time I have been in 
hiding from your husband, all the time I lay ill. My thoughts 
have driven me here — I want to make atonement — I want to 
undo all I can of the harm I once did." I begged her as 
earnestly as I could to tell me what she meant. She still 
looked at me with fixed vacant eyes. " Shall I undo the 
harm?" she said to herself, doubtfully. "You have friends 
to take your part. U j'ou know his Secret, he will be afraid 

248 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

of you ; he won't dare use you as he used me. He must treat 
you mercifully for his own sake, if he is afraid of you and your 
friends. And if he treats you mercifully, and if I can say it 

was my doing- " I listened eagerly for more ; but she 

stopped at those words.' 

' You tried to make her go on ? ' 

' I tried ; but she only drew herself away from me again, 
and leaned her face and arms against the side of the boat- 
house. "Oh !" I heard her say, with a dreadful, distracted 
tenderness in her voice, " oh ! if I could only be buried with 
your mother ! If I could only wake at her side, when the 
angel's trumpet sounds, and the graves give up their dead at 
the resurrection ! " — Marian ! I trembled from head to foot — 
it was horrible to hear her. " But there is no hope of that," 
she said, moving a little, so as to look at me again; "no 
hope for a poor stranger like me. / shall not rest under the 
marble cross that I washed with my own hands, and made so 
white and pure for her sake. Oh no ! oh no ! God's mercy, 
not man's, will take me to her, where the wicked cease from 
troubling and the weary are at rest." She spoke those words 
quietly and sorrowfully, with a heavy, hopeless sigh ; and 
then waited a little. Her face was confused and troubled ; 
she seemed to be thinking, or trying to think. " What was 
it I said just now ? " she asked, after a while. " When your 
mother is in my mind, everything else goes out of it. What 
was I saying? what was I saying?" I reminded the poor 
creature, as kindly and delicately as I could. " Ah, yes, yes," 
she said, still in a vacant, perplexed manner. " You are 
helpless with your wicked husband. Yes. And I must do 
what I have come to do here — I must make it up to you for 
having been afraid to speak out at a better time." " What is 
it you have to tell me?" I asked. "The Secret that your 
cruel husband is afraid of," she answered. " I once threat- 
ened him with the Secret, and frightened him. You shall 
threaten him with the Secret, and frighten him too." Her 
face darkened ; and a hard, angry stare fixed itself in her 
eyes. She began waving her hand at me in a vacant, un- 
meaning manner. " My mother knows the Secret," she said. 
" My mother has wasted under the Secret half her lifetime. 
One day, when I was grown up, she said something to 77ie. 
And, the next day, your husband " ' 

'Yes! yes! Go on. What did she tell you about your 
husband ? ' 

' She stopped again, Marian, at that point ' 

' And said no more ? ' 

249 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

'And listened eagerly. "Hush!" she whispered, still 
waving her hand at me. "Hush!" She moved aside out 
of the doorway, moved slowly and stealthily, step by step, till 
I lost her past the edge of the boat-house.' 

' Surely, you followed her ? ' 

' Yes ; my anxiety made me bold enough to rise and 
follow her. Just as I reached the entrance, she appeared 
again, suddenly, round the side of the boat-house. "The 
secret," I whispered to her — "wait and tell me the secret ! " 
She caught hold of my arm, and looked at me, with wild, 
frightened eyes. " Not now," she said ; " we are not alone 
— we are watched. Come here to-morrow at this time — by 
yourself— mind — by yourself." She pushed me roughly into 
the boat-house again ; and I saw her no more.' 

' Oh, Laura, Laura, another chance lost ! If I had only 
been near you, she should not have escaped us. On which 
side did you lose sight of her ? ' 

' On the left side, where the ground sinks and the wood is 
thickest.' 

' Did you run out again ? Did you call after her ? ' 

' How could I ? I was too terrified to move or speak.' 

* But when you d/d move — when you came out ? ' 

* I ran back here, to tell you what had happened.' 

' Did you see any one, or hear any one in the plantation ? ' 

* No — it seemed to be all still and quiet, when I passed 
through it.' 

I waited for a moment to consider. Was this third 
person, supposed to have been secretly present at the inter- 
view, a reality, or the creature of Anne Catherick's excited 
fancy ? It was impossible to determine. The one thing cer- 
tain was, that we had failed again on the very brink of dis- 
covery — failed utterly and irretrievably, unless Anne Cathe- 
rick kept her appointment at the boat-house, for the next 
day. 

' Are you quite sure you have told me everything that 
passed ? Every word that was said ? ' I inquired. 

' I think so,' she answered. * My powers of memory, 
Marian, are not like yours. But I was so strongly impressed, 
so deeply interested, that nothing of any importance can 
possibly have escaped me.' 

* My dear Laura, the merest trifles are of importance where 
Anne Catherick is concerned. Think again. Did no chance 
reference escape her as to the place in which she is living at 
the present time ? ' 

'None that I can remember.' 

250 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

.Did she not mention a companion and friend — a woman 
named Mrs. Clements ? ' 

* Oh, j^es ! yes ! I forgot that. She told me Mrs. Clements 
wanted sadly to go with her to the lake and take care of her, 
and begg-ed and prayed that she would not venture into this 
neighbourhood alone.' 

' Was that all she said about Mrs. Clements ? ' 

* Yes, that was all.' 

' She told you nothing about the place in which she took 
refuge after leaving Todd's Corner ? ' 
' Nothing — I am quite sure.' 

* Nor where she has lived since ? Nor what her illness 
had been ? ' 

* No, Marian ; not a word. Tell me, pray tell me, what 
you think about it. I don't know what to think, or what to 
do next.' 

' You must do this, my love : You must carefully keep 
the appointment at the boat-house, to-morrow. It is impos- 
sible to say what interests may not depend on your seeing 
that woman again. You shall not be left to yourself a second 
time. I will follow you, at a safe distance. Nobody shall 
see me ; but I will keep within hearing of your voice, if any- 
thing happens. Anne Catherick has escaped Walter Hart- 
right, and has escaped you. Whatever happens, she shall 
not escape 7?ie.' 

Laura's eyes read mine attentively. 

'You believe,' she said, 'in this secret that my husband 
is afraid of? Suppose, Marian, it should only exist, after all, 
in Anne Catherick's fancy ? Suppose she only wanted to 
see me and to speak to me, for the sake of old remembrances ? 
Her manner was so strange, I almost doubted her. Would 
you trust her in other things ? ' 

' I trust nothing, Laura, but my own observation of your 
husband's conduct. I judge Anne Catherick's words by his 
actions — and I believe there is a secret.* 

I said no more, and got up to leave the room. Thoughts 
were troubling me, which I might have told her if we had 
spoken together longer, and which it might have been dan- 
gerous for her to know. The influence of the terrible dream 
from which she had awakened me, hung darkly and heavily 
over every fresh impression which the progress of her narra- 
tive produced on my mind. I felt the ominous Future, 
coming close ; chilling me, with an unutterable awe ; forcing 
on me the conviction of an unseen Design in the long series 
of complications which had now fastened round us. I thought 

251 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

of Hartrlght — as I saw him, in the bod}-, when he said fare- 
well ; as I saw him, in the spirit, in my dream — and I, too, 
began to doubt now whether we were not advancing, blind- 
fold, to an appointed and an inevitable End. 

Leaving Laura to go up-stairs alone, I went out to look 
about me in the walks near the house. The circumstances 
under which Anne Catherick had parted from her, had made 
me secretly anxious to know how Count Fosco was passing 
the afternoon ; and had rendered me secretly distrustful of 
the results of that solitary journey from which Sir Percival 
had returned but a few hours since. 

After looking for them in every direction, and discovering 
nothing, I returned to the house, and entered the different 
rooms on the ground floor, one after another. They were all 
empty. I came out again into the hall, and went up-stairs 
to return to Laura. Madame Fosco opened her door as I 
passed it in my way along the passage ; and I stopped to see 
if she could inform me of the whereabouts of her husband 
and Sir Percival. Yes ; she had seen them both from her 
window more than an hour since. The Count had looked up, 
with his customary kindness, and had mentioned, with his 
habitual attention to her in the smallest trifles, that he and 
his friend were going out together for a long walk. 

For a long walk ! They had never yet been in each other's 
company with that object in my experience of them. Sir 
Percival cared for no exercise but riding : and the Count 
(except when he was polite enough to be my escort) cared 
for no exercise at all. 

When I joined Laura again, I found that she had called 
to mind, in my absence, the impending question of the signa- 
ture to the deed, which, in the interest of discussing her 
interview with Anne Catherick, we had hitherto overlooked. 
Her first words when I saw her, expressed her surprise at the 
absence of the expected summons to attend Sir Percival in 
the library. 

'You may make your mind easy on that subject,' I said. 
* For the present, at least, neither your resolution nor mine 
will be exposed to any further trial. Sir Percival has altered 
his plans : the business of the signature is put off".' 

'Put off"?' Laura repeated, amazedly. 'Who told you 
so ? ' 

* My authority is Count Fosco. I believe it is to his in- 
terference that we are indebted for your husband's sudden 
change of purpose.' 

' It seems impossible, Marian. If the object of my signing 

352 



THE WOMAN IN WHiTfi 

was, as we suppose, to obtain money for Sir Percival that 
he Lirg-ently wanted, how can the matter be put off? ' 

' I think, Laura, we have the means at hand of setting- 
that doubt at rest. Have you forgotten the conversation 
that I heard between Sir Percival and the lawyer, as they 
were crossing the hall ? ' 

* No ; but I don't remember * 

' I do. There were two alternatives proposed. One, was 
to obtain your signature to the parchment. The other, was 
to gain time by giving bills at three months. The last 
resource is evidently the resource now adopted — and we may 
fairly hope to be relieved from our share in Sir Percival's 
embarrassments for some time to come.' 

' Oh, Marian, it sounds too good to be true ! ' 

' Does it, my love ? You complimented me on my ready 
memory not long since — but you seem to doubt it now. I 
will get my journal, and you shall see if I am right or v/rong.' 

I went away and got the book at once. 

On looking back to the entry referring to the lawyer's 
visit, we found that my recollection of the two alternatives 
presented was accurately correct. It was almost as great 
a relief to my mind as to Laura's, to find that my memory 
had served me, on this occasion, as faithfully as usual. In 
the perilous uncertainty of our present situation, it is hard to 
say what future interests may not depend upon the regularity 
of the entries in my journal, and upoii the reliability of my 
recollection at the time when I make them. 

Laura's face and manner suggested to me that this last 
consideration had occurred to her as well as to myself. Any 
way, it is only a trifling matter ; and I am almost ashamed 
to put it down here in writing — it seems to set the forlornness 
of our situation in such a miserably vivid light. We must 
have little indeed to depend on, when the discovery that 
my memory can still be trusted to serve us, is hailed as if it 
was the discovery of a new friend ! 

The first bell for dinner separated us. Just as it had 
done ringing. Sir Percival and the Count returned from their 
walk. We heard the master of the house storming at the 
servants for being five minutes late ; and the master's guest 
interposing, as usual, in the interests of propriety, patience, 
and peace. 

The evening had come and gone. No extraordinary 
event has happened. But I have noticed certain peculiarities 
in the conduct of Sir Percival and the Count, which have sent 

253 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

me to my bed, feeling very anxious and uneasy about Anne 
Catherick, and about the results which to-morrow may produce. 

I know enough by this time, to be sure that the aspect of 
Sir Percival, which is the most false, and which therefore 
means the worst, is his polite aspect. That long v/alk with 
his friend had ended in improving his manners, especially 
towards his wife. To Laura's secret surprise and to my 
secret alarm, he called her by her Christian name, asked if 
she had heard lately from her uncle, inquired when Mrs. 
Vesey Avas to receive her invitation to Blackwater, and 
showed her so many other little attentions, that he almost 
recalled the days of his hateful courtship at Limmeridge 
House. This was a bad sign, to begin with ; and I thought 
it more ominous still, that he should pretend, after dinner, to 
fall asleep in the drawing-room, and that his eyes should 
cunningl)^ follow Laura and me, when he thought we neither 
of us suspected him. I have never had any doubt that his 
sudden journey by himself took him to Welmingham to ques- 
tion Mrs. Catherick — but the experience of to-night has made 
me fear that the expedition was not undertaken in vain, and 
that he has got the information which he unquestionably left 
us to collect. If I knew where Anne Catherick was to be 
found, I would be up to-morrow with sunrise and warn her. 

While the aspect under which Sir Percival presented 
himself, to-night, was unhappily but too familiar to me, the 
aspect under which the Count appeared was, on the other 
hand, entirely new in my experience of him. He permitted 
me, this evening, to make his acquaintance, for the first time, 
in the character of a Man of Sentiment — of sentiment, as I 
believe, really felt, not assumed for the occasion. 

For instance, he was quiet and subdued ; his eyes and his 
voice expressed a restrained sensibility. He wore (as if there 
was some hidden connexion between his showiest finery and 
his deepest feeling) the most magnificent waistcoat he has 
yet appeared in — it was made of pale sea-green silk, and 
delicately trimmed with fine silver braid. His voice sank 
into the tenderest inflections, his smile expressed a thoughtful, 
fatherly admiration, whenever he spoke to Laura or to me. 
He pressed his wife's hand under the table, \%'hen she thanked 
him for trifling little attentions at dinner. He took wine with 
her. ' Your health and happiness, my angel ! ' he said, with 
fond glistening eyes. He ate little or nothing ; and sighed, 
and said ' Good Percival !' when his friend laughed at him. 
After dinner, he took Laura by the hand, and asked her if 
she would be 'so sweet as to play to him.' She complied, 

254 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

through sheer astonishment. He sat by the piano, with his 
watch-chain resting in folds, Hke a golden serpent, on the sea- 
green protuberance of his waistcoat. His immense head lay 
languidly on one side ; and he gently beat time with two of 
his yellow-white fingers. He highly approved of the music, 
and tenderly admired Laura's manner of playing — not as poor 
Hartright used to praise it, with an innocent enjoyment of 
the sweet sounds, but with a clear, cultivated, practical 
knowledge of the merits of the composition, in the first place, 
and of the merits of the player's touch, in the second. As 
the evening closed in, he begged that the lovely dying light 
might not be profaned, just yet, by the appearance of the 
lamps. He came, with his horribly silent tread, to the 
distant window at which I was standing, to be out of his way 
and to avoid the very sight of him — he came to ask me to 
support his protest against the lamps. If any one of them 
could only have burnt him up, at that moment, I would have 
gone down to the kitchen, and fetched it myself. 

' Surely you like this modest, trembling English twilight ? ' 
he said softly. ' Ah ! I love it. I feel my inborn admira- 
tion of all that is noble and great and good, purified by the 
breath of Heaven, on an evening like this. Nature has such 
imperishable charms, such inextinguishable tendernesses for 
me ! — I am an old, fat man : talk which would become your 
lips, Miss Halcombe, sounds like a derision and a mockerv 
on mine. It is hard to be laughed at in my moments of 
sentiment, as if my soul was like mj-self, old and overgrown. 
Observe, dear lady, what a light is dying on the trees ! Does 
it penetrate 3-our heart, as it penetrates mine ? ' 

He paused — looked at me — and repeated the famous lines 
of Dante on the Evening-time, with a melody and tenderness 
which added a charm of their own to the matchless beauty of 
the poetry itself. 

' Bah ! ' he cried suddenly, as the last cadence of those 
noble Italian words died away on his lips ; ' I make an old 
fool of myself, and only weary you all ! Let us shut up the 
window in our bosoms and get back to the matter-of-fact 
world. Percival ! I sanction the admission of the lamps. Lady 
Glyde — Miss Halcombe — Eleanor, my good wife — which of 
you will indulge me with a game at dominoes ? ' 

He addressed us all ; but he looked especially at Laura. 

She had learnt to feel my dread of oflTending him, and she 
accepted his proposal. It was more than I could have done, 
at that moment. I could not have sat down at the same table 
with him for any consideration. His eyes seemed to reach my 



tHE WOMAN IN WHITE 

Inmost soul through the thickening- obscurity of the twiUght. 
His voice trembled along- every nerve in my body, and turned me 
hot and cold alternateh'. The mystery and terror of my dream, 
■which had haunted me, at intervals, all through the evening, 
now oppressed my mind with an unendurable foreboding and 
an unutterable awe. I saw the white tom.b again, and the 
veiled woman rising out of it, by Hartright's side. The 
thought of Laura welled up like a spring in the depths of my 
heart, and filled it with waters of bitterness, never, never 
known to it before. I caught her by the hand, as she passed 
me on her way to the table, and kissed her as if that night 
was to part us for ever. While they were all gazing at me 
in astonishment, I ran out through the low window which was 
open before me to the ground — ran out to hide from them in 
the darkness ; to hide even from myself. 

We separated, that evening, later than usual. Towards 
midnight, the summer silence was broken by the shuddering 
of a low, melancholy wind among the trees. We all felt the 
sudden chill in the atmosphere ; but the Count was the first 
to notice the stealthy rising- of the wind. He stopped while 
he was lighting my candle for me, and held up his hand 
warningly : 

' Listen ! ' he said. ' Tb.ere will be a change to-morrov.-.' 



VII. 

June 19th. — The events of yesterday warned me to be ready, 
sooner or later, to meet the worst. To-day is not yet at an 
end ; and the worst has come. 

Judging by the closest calculation of time that Laura and 
I could make, we arrived at the conclusion that Anne Catherick 
must have appeared at the boat-house at half-past two o'clock, 
on the afternoon of yesterday. I accordingly arranged that 
Laura should just show herself at the luncheon table, to-day, 
and should then slip out at the first opportunity ; leaving me 
behind to preserve appearances, and to follow her as soon as 
I could safely do so. This mode of proceeding, if no obstacles 
occurred to thwart us, would enable her to be at the boat- 
house before half-past two ; and (when I left tlie table, in my 
turn) would take me to a safe position in the plantation, 
before three. 

The change in the weather, which last night's wind 
warned us to expect, came with the morning. It was rain- 
ing heavily when I got up ; and it continued to rain until 

2.^6 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

twelve o'clock — when the clouds dispersed, the blue sky 
appeared, and the sun shone again with the bright promise of 
a fine afternoon. 

My anxiety to know how Sir Percival and the Count would 
occupy the early part of the day, was by no means set at rest, 
so far as Sir Percival was concerned, by his leaving us imme- 
diately after breakfast, and going out by himself, in spite of 
the rain. He neither told us where he was going, nor when 
we might expect him back. We saw him pass the breakfast- 
room window, hastily, with his high boots and his waterproof 
coat on — and that was all. 

The Count passed the morning quietly, indoors ; some 
part of it, in the library ; some part, in the drawing-room, 
playing odds and ends of music on the piano, and humming 
to himself. Judging by appearances, the sentimental side of 
his character was persistently inclined to betray itself still. 
He was silent and sensitive, and ready to sigh and languish 
ponderously (as only fat men caji sigh and languish), on the 
smallest provocation. 

Luncheon time came ; and Sir Percival did not return. 
The Count took his friend's place at the table — plaintively 
devoured the greater part of a fruit tart, submerged under a 
whole jugful of cream — and explained the full merit of the 
achievement to us, as soon as he had done. ' A taste for 
sweets,' he said in his softest tones and his tenderest manner, 
* is the innocent taste of women and children. I love to share 
it with them— it is another bond, dear ladies, between you 
and me.' 

Laura left the table in ten minutes' time. I was sorely 
tempted to accompany her. But if we had both gone out 
together, we must have excited suspicion ; and, worse still, if 
we allowed Anne Catherick to see Laura accompanied by a 
second person who was a stranger to her, we should in all 
probability forfeit her confidence from that moment, never to 
regain it again. 

I waited, therefore, as patiently as I could, until the servant 
came in to clear the table. When I quitted the room, there 
were no signs, in the house or out of it, of Sir Percival's 
return. I left the Count with a piece of sugar between his 
lips, and the vicious cockatoo scrambling up his waistcoat 
to get at it ; while Madame Fosco, sitting opposite to her 
husband, watched the proceedings of his bird and himself, as 
attentively as if she had never seen anything of the sort before 
in her life. On my way to the plantation I kept carefully 
beyond the range of view from the luncheon-room window. 

257 s 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

J^obody saw me, and nobody followed me. It was then a 
quarter to three o'clock by my watch. 

Once among the trees, I walked rapidly, until I had 
advanced more than half way through the plantation. At 
that point, I slackened my pace, and proceeded cautiously — 
but I saw no one, and heard no voices. By little and little. I 
came within view of the back of the boat-house — stopped and 
listened — then went on, till I was close behind it, and m.ust 
have heard any persons who were talking inside. Still the 
silence was unbroken : still, far and near, no sign of a living 
creature appeared anywhere. 

After skirting round by the back of the building, first on 
one side, and then on the other, and making no discoveries, I 
ventured in front of it, and fairly looked in. The place was 
empty. 

I called, * Laura ! ' — at first, softly — then louder and louder. 
No one answered, and no one appeared. For all that I could 
see and hear, the only human creature in the neighbourhood 
of the lake and the plantation, was myself. 

My heart began to beat violently ; but I kept my resolution 
and searched, first the boat-house, and then the ground in 
front of it, for any signs which might show me whether Laura 
had really reached the place or not. No mark of her presence 
appeared inside the building ; but I found traces of her outside 
it, in footsteps on the sand. 

I detected the footsteps of two persons — large footsteps, 
like a man's, and small footsteps, which, by putting my own 
feet into them and testing their size in that manner, I felt 
certain were Laura's. The ground was confusedly marked in 
this way, just before the boat-house. Close against one side 
of it, under shelter of the projecting roof, I discovered a 
little hole in the sand — a hole artificially made, beyond a doubt. 
I just noticed it, and then turned away immediately to trace 
the footsteps as far as I could, and to follow the direction in 
which they might lead me. 

They led me, starting from the left-hand side of the boat- 
house, along the edge of the trees, a distance, I should think, 
of between two and three hundred yards — and then, the sandy 
ground showed no further trace of them. Feeling that the 
persons whose course I was tracking must necessarily have 
entered the plantation at this point, I entered it too. At first, 
I could find no path — but I discovered one, afterwards, just 
faintly traced among the trees ; and followed it. It took me, 
for some distance, in the direction of the village, until I 
stopped at a point where another foot-track crossed it. The 

258 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

brambles grew thickly on either side of this second path. I 
stood, looking- down it, uncertain which way to take next • 
and, while I looked, I saw on one thorny branch, some 
fragments of fringe from a woman's shawl. A closer exami- 
nation of the fringe satisfied me that it had been torn from 
a shawl of Laura's; and I instantly followed the second 
path. It brought me out, at last, to my great relief, at the 
back ^or the house. I say to my great relief, because I in- 
terrea that Laura must, for some unknown reason, have 
returned before me by this roundabout way. I went in by 
the courtyard and the offices. The first person whom I met 
in crossing the servants' hall, was Mrs. Michelson, the house- 
keeper. 

^ ' Do you know,' I asked, ' whether Lady Clyde has come 
in trom her walk or not ? ' 

' My lady came in, a little while ago, with Sir Percival ' 
answered the housekeeper. 'I am afraid. Miss Halcombe, 
something very distressing has happened.' 

My heart sank within me. * You don't mean an accident ^ ' 
1 said, faintly. 

/ No, no— thank God, no accident. But my lady ran up- 
- stairs to her own room in tears ; and Sir Percival has ordered 
me to give Fanny warning to leave in an hour's time.' 

Fanny was Laura's maid ; a good, aflfectionate girl who 
had been with her for years-the only person in the house 
whose fidelity and devotion we could both depend upon 
' Where is Fanny ? ' I inquired. 
/In my room, Miss Halcombe. The young woman Is 
quite overcome : and I told her to sit down, and try to 
recover herself.' ^ 

I went to Mrs. Michelson's room, and found Fanny in a 
corner, with her box by her side, crying bitterly. 

She could give me no explanation whatever of her sudden 
dismissal. Sir Percival had ordered that she should have a 
month s wages, in place of a month's warning, and go. No 
reason had been assigned ; no objection had been made to 
her conduct. She had been forbidden to appeal to her 
mistress forbidden even to see her for a moment to say good- 
bye. She was to go without explanations or farewells— and 
to go at once. 

After soothing the poor girl by a few friendly words, I 
fh.. K I'^ 'u^ proposed to sleep that night. She replied 
tTA^ rt th?"^/'.^^^ Somg to the Httle inn in the villagef the 
landlady of which was a respectable woman, known to the 
servants at Blackwater Park. The next morning, by leaving 

259 s 2 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

early, she might get back to her friends in Cumberland without 
stopping in London, where she was a total stranger. 

I felt directly that Fanny's departure offered us a safe 
means of communication with London and with Limmeridge 
House, of which it might be very important to avail ourselves. 
Accordingly, I told her that she might expect to hear from her 
mistress or from me in the course of the evening, and that 
she might depend on our both doing all that lay in our power 
to help her, under the trial of leaving us for the present. 
Those words said, I shook hands with her, and went up- 
stairs. 

The door which led to Laura's room, was the door of an 
ante-chamber opening on to the passage. When I tried it, it 
was bolted on the inside. 

I knocked, and the door was opened by the same heavy, 
overgrown housemaid, whose lumpish insensibility had tried 
my patience so severely on the day when I found the wounded 
dog. I had, since that time, discovered that her name was 
Margaret Porcher, and that she was the most awkward, slat- 
ternly, and obstinate servant in the house. 

On opening the door, she instantly stepped out to the 
threshold, and stood grinning at me in stolid silence. 

* Why do you stand there ? ' I said. ' Don't you see that 
I want to come in ? ' 

' Ah, but you mustn't come in,' was the answer, with another 
and a broader grin still. 

' How dare you talk to me in that way ? Stand back 
instantly ! ' 

She stretched out a great red hand and arm on each side 
of her, so as to bar the doorway, and slowly nodded her addle 
head at me. 

' Master's orders,' she said ; and nodded again. 

I had need of all my self-control to warn me against con- 
testing the matter with her, and to remind me that the next 
words I had to say must be addressed to her master. I turned 
my back on her, and instantly went down-stairs to find him. 
My resolution to keep my temper under all the irritations that 
Sir Percival could offer, was, by this time, as completely 
forgotten — I say so to my shame — as if I had never made it. 
It did me good — after all I had suffered and suppressed in 
that house — it actually did me good to feel how angry I was. 

The drawing-room and the breakfast-room were both empty. 
I went on to the library ; and there I found Sir Percival, the 
Count, and Madame Fosco. They were all three standing up 
close together, and Sir Percival had a little slip of paper in his 

260 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

hand. As I opened the door, I heard the Count say to him, 
' No — a thousand times over, no.' 

I walked straig^ht up to him, and looked him fall in the 
face. 

^ ' Am I to understand. Sir Percival, that your wife's room 
IS a prison, and that your housemaid is the gaoler who keeps 
it ? ' I asked. 

'Yes ; that is what you are to understand,' he answered. 
' Take care my gaoler hasn't got double duty to do— take care 
your room is not a prison, too.' 

' Take you care how you treat your wife, and how you 
threaten 7ne; I broke out, in the heat of my anger. * There 
are laws in England to protect women from cruelty and out- 
rage. If you hurt a hair of Laura's head, if you dare to in- 
terfere with my freedom, come what may, to those laws I will 
appeal.' 

Instead of answering me, he turned round to the Count. 
' What did I tell you ? ' he asked. ' What do vou sav 
now ? ' . ' "^ 

•What I said before,' replied the Count—' No.' 
Even in the vehemence of my anger, I felt his calm, cold, 
gray eyes on my face. They turned away from me, as soon 
as he had spoken, and looked significantly at his wife. 
Madame Fosco immediately moved close to my side, and, in 
that position, addressed Sir Percival before either of us could 
speak again. 

_ ' Favour me with your attention, for one moment,' she said 
in her clear icily-suppressed tones. ' I have to thank you, Sir 
F'ercival, for your hospitality ; and to decline taking advantage 
ot It any longer. I remain in no house in which ladies are 
treated as your wife and Miss Halcombe have been treated 
here to-day ! ' 

Sir Percival drew back a step, and stared at her in dead 
silence. The declaration he had just heard— a declaration 
which he well knew, as I well knew, Madame Fosco would 
not have ventured to make without her husband's permission 
— seenied to petrify him with surprise. The Count stood 
by, and looked at his wife with the most enthusiastic admira- 
tion. 

' She is sublime ! ' he said to himself. He approached her, 
while he spoke, and drew her hand through his arm. ' I am 
at your service, Eleanor,' he went on, with aquiet dignity that 
I had never noticed in him before. ' And at Miss Halcombe's 
I cin'fferteV' ""^ ^^ accepting all the assistance 

261 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

* Damn it ! what do you mean ? ' cried Sir Percival, as the 
Count quietly moved away, with his wife, to the door. 

' At other times I mean what I say ; but, at this time, I 
mean what my wife says,' replied the impenetrable Italian. 
' We have changed places, Percival, for once ; and Madame 
Fosco's opinion is — mine.' 

Sir Percival crumpled up the paper in his hand ; and push- 
ing past the Count, with another oath, stood between him and 
the door. 

' Have your own way,' he said, with baffled rage in his 
low, half-whispering tones. ' Have your own way — and see 
what comes of it.' With those words, he left the room. 

Madame Fosco glanced inquiringly at her husband. ' He 
has gone away very suddenly,' she said. * What does it 
mean ? ' 

' It means that you and I together have brought the worst- 
tempered man in all England to his senses,' answered the 
Count. ' It means, Miss Halcombe, that Lady Glyde is 
relieved from a gross indignity, and you from the repetition 
of an unpardonable insult. Suffer me to express my ad- 
miration of your conduct and your courage at a very trying 
moment.' 

' Sincere admiration,' suggested Madame Fosco. 

' Sincere admiration,' echoed the Count. 

I had no longer the strength of my first angry resistance 
to outrage and injury to support me. My heart-sick anxiety 
to see Laura ; my sense of my own helpless ignorance of 
what had happened at the boat-house, pressed on me with 
an intolerable weight. I tried to keep up appearances, by 
speaking to the Count and his wife in the tone which they 
had chosen to adopt in speaking to me. But the words 
failed on my lips — my breath came short and thick — my eyes 
looked longingly, in silence, at the door. The Count, under- 
standing my anxiety, opened it, went out, and pulled it to 
after him. At the same time Sir Percival's heavy step 
descended the stairs. I heard them whispering together, 
outside, while Madame Fosco was assuring me in her calmest 
and most conventional manner, that she rejoiced for all our 
sakes, that Sir Percival's conduct had not obliged her 
husband and herself to leave Blackwater Park. Before she 
had done speaking, the whispering ceased, the door opened, 
and the Count looked in. 

'Miss Halcombe,' he said, 'I am happy to inform you 
that Lady Glyde is mistress again in her own house. I 
thought it might be more agreeable to you to hear of this 

262 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

chang-e for the better from 7ne, than from Sir Percival — and I 
have therefore expressly returned to mention it.' 

' Admirable delicacy ! ' said Madame Fosco, paying- back 
her husband's tribute of admiration, with the Count's own 
coin, in the Count's own manner. He smiled and bowed as 
if he had received a formal compliment from a polite strang-er, 
and drew back to let me pass out first. 

Sir Percival was standing- in the hall. As I hurried to the 
stairs I heard him call impatiently to the Count, to come out 
of the library. 

' What are you waiting there for ? ' he said ; ' I want to 
speak to you.' 

' And I want to think a little by myself,' replied the other. 
' Wait till later, Percival— wait till later.' 

Neither he nor his friend said any more. I g-ained the 
top of the stairs, and ran along- the passage. In my haste 
and my agitation, I left the door of the antechamber open — 
but I closed the door of the bedroom the moment I was 
inside it. 

Laura was sitting alone at the far end of the room ; her 
arms resting wearily on a table, and her face hidden in her 
hands. She started up, with a cry of delight, when she saw 
me. 

' How did you get here ? ' she asked. ' Who gave you 
leave ? Not Sir Percival ? ' 

In my overpowering anxiety to hear what she had to tell 
me, I could not answer her — I could only put questions, on 
my side. Laura's eagerness to know what had passed down- 
stairs proved, however, too strong to be resisted. She per- 
sistently repeated her inquiries. 

' The Count, of course,' I answered, impatiently. ' Whose 
influence in the house ?' 

She stopped me, with a gesture of disgust. 

' Don't speak of him,' she cried. 'The Count is the vilest 
creature breathing ! The Count is a miserable Spy ! ' 

Before we could either of us say another word, we were 
alarmed by a soft knocking at the door of the bedroom. 

I had not yet sat down ; and I went first to see who it 
was. When I opened the door, Madame Fosco confronted 
me, with my handkerchief in her hand. 

' You dropped this down-stairs. Miss Halcombe,' she 
said ; ' and I thought I could bring it to you, as I was 
passing by to my own room.' 

Her face, naturally pale, had turned to such a ghastly 
whiteness, that I started at the sight of it. Her hands, so 

263 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

sure and steady at all other times, trembled violently ; and 
her eyes looked wolfishly past me through the open door, and 
fixed on Laura. 

She had been listening before she knocked ! I saw it in 
her white face ; I saw it in her trembling hands ; I saw it in 
her look at Laura. 

After waiting an instant, she turned from me in silence, 
and slowly walked away. 

I closed the door again. ' Oh, Laura ! Laura ! We shall 
both rue the day when you called the Count a Spy ! ' 

' You would have called him so yourself, Mariarii, if you 
had known what I know. Anne Catherick was right. There 
was a third person watching us in the plantation, yesterday ; 

and that third person ' 

' Are you sure it was the Count ? ' 

' I am absolutely certain. He was Sir Percival's spy — he was 
Sir Percival's informer — he set Sir Percival watching and wait- 
ing, all the morning through, for Anne Catherick and for me.' 
' Is Anne found ? Did you see her at the lake ? ' 
' No. She has saved herself by keeping away from the 
place. When I got to the boat-house, no one was there.' 
' Yes ? yes ? ' 

* I went in, and sat waiting for a few minutes. But my 
restlessness made me get up again, to walk about a little. 
As I passed out, I saw some marks on the sand, close under 
the front of the boat-house. I stooped down to examine 
them, and discovered a word written in large letters, on 
the sand. The word was — look.' 

' And you scraped away the sand, and dug a hollow place 
in it ? ' 

' How do you know that, Marian ? ' 

' I saw the hollow place myself, when I followed you to 
the boat-house. Go on — go on ! ' 

' Yes ; I scraped away the sand on the surface ; and in a 
little while, I came to a strip of paper hidden beneath, which 
had writing on it. The writing was signed with Anne 
Catherick's initials.' 
'Where is it?' 

* Sir Percival has taken it from me.' 

' Can you remember what the writing was ? Do you 
think you can repeat it to me.' 

' In substance I can, Marian. It was very short. You 
would have remembered it, word for word.' 

' Try to tell me what the substance was, before we go any 
further.' 

264 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

She complied. I write the lines down here, exactly as 
she repeated them to me. They ran thus : 

' I was seen with you, yesterday, by a tall stout old man, 
and had to run to save myself. He was not quick enough 
on his feet to follow me, and he lost me among the trees. 
I dare not risk coming back here to-day, at the same time. 
I write this, and hide it in the sand, at six in the morning, 
to tell you so. When we speak next of your wicked hus- 
band's Secret we must speak safely or not at all. Try to 
have patience. I promise you shall see me again ; and that 
soon. — A. C 

The reference to the * tall stout old man ' (the terms of 
which Laura was certain that she had repeated to me 
correctly), left no doubt as to who the intruder had 
been. I called to mind that I had told Sir Percival, in the 
Count's presence, the day before, that Laura had gone to the 
boat-house to look for her brooch. In all probability he had 
followed her there, in his officious way, to relieve her mind 
about the matter of the signature, immediately after he had 
mentioned the change in Sir Percival's plans to me in the 
drawing-room. In this case, he could only have got to the 
neighbourhood of the boat-house, at the very moment when 
Anne Catherick discovered him. The suspiciously hurried 
manner in which she parted from Laura, had no doubt 
prompted his useless attempt to follow her. Of the conversa- 
tion which had previously taken place between them, he could 
have heard nothing. The distance between the house and 
the lake, and the time at which he left me in the drawing- 
room, as compared with the time at which Laura and Anne 
Catherick had been speaking together, proved that fact to us, 
at any rate, beyond a doubt. 

Having arrived at something like a conclusion, so far, my 
next great interest was to know what discoveries Sir Percival 
had made, after Count Fosco had given him his informa- 
tion. 

* How came you to lose possession of the letter ? ' I asked. 
' What did you do with it, when j-ou found it in the sand ? ' 

* After reading it once through,' she replied, *I took it 
into the boat-house with me, to sit down, and look over it a 
second time. While I was reading, a shadow fell across the 
paper. I looked up ; and saw Sir Percival standing in the 
doorway watching me.' 

' Did you try to hide the letter ? ' 

26.^ 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

' I tried — but he stopped me. "You needn't trouble to 
hide that," he said. " I happen to have read it." I could only 
look at him, helplessly — I could say nothing. "You under- 
stand ? " he went on ; "I have read it. I dug- it up out of the 
sand two hours since, and buried it again, and wrote the 
word above it again, and left it ready to your hands. You 
can't lie yourself out of the scrape now. You saw Anne 
Catherick in secret yesterday ; and you have got her letter in 
your hand at this moment. I have not caught her yet ; but 
I have caught _)'o/<. Give me the letter." He stepped close up 
to me — I was alone with him, Marian — what could I do ? — 
I gave him the letter.' 

' What did he say when you gave it to him ? ' 

* At first, he said nothing. He took me by the arm, and 
led me out of the boat-house, and looked about him, on all 
sides, as if he was afraid of our being seen or heard. Then, 
he clasped his hand fast round my arm, and whispered to me : 
"Vv^-iat did Anne Catherick say to you yesterday? — 1 insist 
on hearing every word, from first to last." ' 

' Did you tell him ? ' 

* I was alone with him, Marian — his cruel hand was bruis- 
ing my arm — what could I do ? ' 

' Is the mark on your arm still ? Let me see it ? ' 
' Why do you want to see it ? ' 

* I want to see it, Laura, because our endurance must end, 
and our resistance must begin to-da)'. That mark is a weapon 
to strike him with. Let me see it now — I may have to swear 
to it, at some future time.' 

' Oh, Marian, don't look so ! don't talk so ! It doesn't 
hurt me now ! ' 

' Let me see it ! ' 

She showed me the marks. I was past grieving over 
them, past cr3'ing over them, past shuddering over them. 
They say we are either better than men, or worse. If the 
temptation that has fallen in some women's way, and made 

them worse, had fallen in mine, at that moment Thank 

God ! my face betrayed nothing that his wife could read. 
The gentle, innocent, affectionate creature thought I was 
frightened for her and sorry for her — and thought no more. 

' Don't think too seriously of it, Marian,' she said, simpl}^, 
as she pulled her sleeve down again. ' It doesn't hurt me, 
now.' 

' I will try to think quietly of it, my love, for your sake. — 
Well ! well ! And you told him all that Anne Catherick had 
said to you — all that you told me ? ' 

266 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

*Yes; all. He insisted on it — I was alone with him — 
I could conceal nothing'.' 

' Did he say anything when you had done ? ' 

' He looked at me, and laughed to himself, in a mocking", 
bitter way. " I mean to have the rest out of you," he said ; 
" do you hear? — the rest." I declared to him solemnly that I 
had told him everything I knew. " Not you ! " he answered ; 
" you know more than you choose to tell. Won't you tell it ? 
You shall ! I'll wring it out of you at home, if I can't wring- 
it out of you, here." He led me away by a strange path 
through the plantation — a path where there was no hope of 
our meeting you — and he spoke no more, till we came within 
sight of the house. Then he stopped again, and said, " Will 
you take a second chance, if I give it to you ? Will you think 
better of it, and tell me the rest?" I could only repeat the 
same words I had spoken before. He cursed my obstinacy, 
and went on, and took me with him to the house. " You 
can't deceive me," he said ; " you know more than you choose 
to tell. I'll have your secret out of you; and I'll have it out 
of that sister of yours, as well. There shall be no more 
plotting and whispering between you. Neither you nor she 
shall see each other again till you have confessed the truth. 
I'll have you watched morning, noon, and night, till you 
confess the truth." He was deaf to everything I could say. 
He took me straight up-stairs into my own room. Fanny 
was sitting there, doing some work for me ; and he instantly 
ordered her out. " I'll take good care you're not mixed up 
in the conspiracy," he said. "You shall leave this house 
to-day. If your mistress wants a maid, she shall have one of 
my choosing." He pushed me into the room, and locked the 
door on me — he set that senseless woman to watch me out- 
side—Marian ! he looked and spoke like a madman. You 
may hardly understand it — he did indeed.' 

' I do understand it, Laura. He is mad — mad with the 
terrors of a guilty conscience. Every word you have said 
makes me positively certain that when Anne Catherick left 
you yesterday, you were on the eve of discovering a secret, 
which might have been your vile husband's ruin — and he 
thinks you /lave discovered it. Nothing you can say or do, 
will quiet that guilty distrust, and convince his false nature of 
your truth. I don't say this, my love, to alarm you. I say it 
to open your eyes to your position, and to convince you of the 
urgent necessity of letting me act, as I best can, for your 
protection, while the chance is our own. Count Fosco's inter- 
ference has secured me access to you to-day ; but he may 

267 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

withdraw that interference to-morrow. Sir Percival has 
already dismissed Fanny, because she is a quick-witted girl, 
and devotedly attached to you ; and has chosen a woman to 
take her place, who cares nothing for your interests, and 
whose dull intelligence lowers her to the level of the watch- 
dog in the yard. It is impossible to say what violent mea- 
sures he may take next, unless we make the most of our 
opportunities while we have them.' 

' What can we do, Marian ? Oh, if we could onl}- leave 
this house, never to see it again ! ' 

' Listen to me, my love — and try to think that you are not 
quite helpless so long as I am here with you.' 

* I will think so — I do think so. Don't altogether forget 
poor Fanny, in thinking of me. She wants help and comfort, 
too.' 

' I will not forget her. I saw her before I came up here ; 
and I have arranged to communicate with her to-night. 
Letters are not safe in the post-bag at Blackwater Park — and 
I shall have two to write to-day, in your interests, which 
must pass through no hands but Fanny's.' 

' What letters ? ' 

' I mean to write first, Laura, to Mr. Gilmore's partner, 
who has offered to help us in any fresh emergency. Little 
as I know of the law, I am certain that it can protect a 
woman from such treatment as that ruffian has mflicted on 
you to-day. I will go into no details about Anne Catherick, 
because I have no certain information to give. But the 
lawyer shall know of those bruises on your arm, and of the 
violence offered to you in this room — he shall, before I rest 
to-night ! ' 

' But, think of the exposure, Marian ! ' 

' I am calculating on the exposure. Sir Percival has more 
to dread from it than you have. The prospect of an exposure 
may bring him to terms, when nothing else will.' 

I rose as I spoke ; but Laura entreated me not to leave 
her. 

'You will drive him to desperation,' she said, 'and 
increase our dangers tenfold.' 

I felt the truth — the disheartening truth — of those words. 
But I could not bring myself plainly to acknowledge it to her. 
In our dreadful position, there was no help and no hope for 
us, but in risking the worst. I said so, in guarded terms. 
She sighed bitterly — but did not contest the matter. She 
only asked about the second letter that I had proposed 
writing. To whom was it to be addressed ? 

268 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

* To Mr. Fairlie,' I said. ' Your uncle is your nearest 
male relative, and the head of the family. He must and 
shall interfere.' 

Laura shook her head sorrowfully. 

*Yes, yes,' I went on; 'your uncle is a weak, selfish, 
worldly man, I know. But he is not Sir Percival Clyde ; and 
he has no such friend about him as Count Fosco. I expect 
nothing from his kindness, or his tenderness of feeling towards 
you, or towards me. But he will do anything to pamper his 
own indolence, and to secure his own quiet. Let me only 
persuade him that his interference, at this moment, will save 
him inevitable trouble and wretchedness and responsibility 
hereafter, and he will bestir himself for his own sake. I know 
how to deal with him, Laura— I have had some practice.' 

' If you could only prevail on him to let me go back to 
Limmeridge for a little while, and stay there quietly with you, 
Marian, I could be almost as happy again as I was before 
I was married ! ' 

Those words set me thinking in a new direction. Would 
it be possible to place Sir Percival between the two alterna- 
tives of either exposing himself to the scandal of legal inter- 
ference on his wife's behalf, or of allowing her to be quietly 
separated from him for a time, under pretext of a visit to her 
uncle's house ? And could he, in that case, be reckoned on 
as likely to accept the last resource ? It was doubtful — more 
than doubtful. And yet, hopeless as the experiment seemed, 
surely it was worth trying ? I resolved to try it, in sheer 
despair of knowing what better to do. 

' Your uncle shall know the wish you have just expressed,' 
I said ; * and I will ask the lawyer's advice on the subject, as 
well. Cood may come of it — and will come of it, I hope.* 

Saying that, I rose again ; and again Laura tried to make 
me resume my seat. 

* Don't leave me,' she said, uneasily. * My desk is on that 
table. You can write here.' 

It tried me to the quick to refuse her, even in her own 
interests. But we had been too long shut up alone together 
already. Our chance of seeing each other again might 
entirely depend on our not exciting any fresh suspicions. It 
was full time to show myself, quietly and unconcernedly, 
among the wretches who were, at that very moment, perhaps, 
thinking of us, and talking of us down-stairs. I explained 
the miserable necessity to Laura ; and prevailed on her to 
recognise it, as I did. 

* I will come back again, love, in an hour or less,' I said. 

269 



THE WOiMAN IN WHITE 

* The worst is over for to-day. Keep yourself quiet, and fear 
nothing-.' 

' Is the key in the door, Marian ? Can I lock it on the 
inside ? ' 

' Yes ; here is the key. Lock the door ; and open it to 
nobod_Y, until I come upstairs again.' 

I kissed her, and left her. It was a relief to me, as I 
walked away, to hear the key turned in the lock, and to know 
that the door was at her own command. 



VIII. 

June 19th. — I had only got as far as the top of the stairs, 
when the locking- of Laura's door suggested to me the pre- 
caution of also locking my own door, and keeping' the key 
safely about me while I was out of the room. My journal 
was already secured, with other papers, in the table drawer, 
but my writing materials were left out. These included a 
seal, bearing the common device of two doves drinking out of 
the same cup ; and some sheets of blotting paper, which had 
the impression on them of the closing lines of my writing in 
these pages, traced during the past night. Distorted by 
the suspicion which had now become a part of myself, 
even such trifles as these looked too dangerous to be trusted 
without a guard — even the locked table-drawer seemed to be 
not sufticiently protected, in my absence, until the means of 
access to it had been carefully secured as well. 

I found no appearance of any one having- entered the room 
while I had been talking with Laura. My writing materials 
(which I had given the servant instructions never to meddle 
with) were scattered over the table much as usual. The only 
circumstance in connexion with them that at all struck me 
was, that the seal lay tidily in the tray with the pencils and 
the wax. It was not in my careless habits (I am sorry to say) 
to put it there ; neither did I remember putting it there. But, 
as I could not call to mind, on the other hand, where else I 
had thrown it down, and as I was also doubtful whether I 
might not, for once, have laid it mechanically in the right 
place, I abstained from adding to the perplexity with which 
the day's events had filled my mind, by troubling it afresh 
about a trifle. I locked the door ; put the key in my pocket ; 
and went down stairs. 

Madame Fosco was alone in the hall, looking at the 
weather-glass. 

270 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

'Still falling",' she said. 'I am afraid we must expect 
more rain.' 

Her face was composed ag'ain to its customary expression 
and its customary colour. But the hand with which she 
pointed to the dial of the weather-g-lass still trembled. 

Could she have told her husband already, that she had 
overheard Laura reviling- him, in my company, as a ' Spy ' ? 
My strong- suspicion that she must have told him ; my irre- 
sistible dread (all the more overpowering- from its very vag-ue- 
ness) of the consequences which mig-ht follow ; my fixed 
conviction, derived from various little self-betrayals which 
women notice in each other, that Madame Fosco, in spite of 
her well-assumed external civility, had not forg-iven her niece 
for innocently standing- between her and the legacy of ten 
thousand pounds — all rushed upon my mind tog-ether ; all 
impelled me to speak, in the vain hope of using- my own in- 
fluence and my own powers of persuasion for the atonement 
of Laura's offence. 

* May I trust to your kindness to excuse me, Madame 
Fosco, if I venture to speak to you on an exceedingly painful 
subject ? ' 

She crossed her hands in front of her, and bowed her head 
solemnly, without uttering a word,- and without taking her 
eyes oft' mine for a moment. 

' When you were so good as to bring me back my 
handkerchief,' I went on, ' I am very, very much afraid you 
must have accidentally heard Laura say something which 
I am unwilling to repeat, and which I will not attempt 
to defend. I will only venture to hope that you have not 
thought it of sufficient importance to be mentioned to the 
Count ? ' 

' I think it of no importance whatever,' said Madame Fosco, 
sharply and suddenly. ' But,' she added, resuming her icy 
manner in a moment, ' I have no secrets from my husband, 
even in trifles. When he noticed, just now, that I looked 
distressed, it was my pamful duty to tell him why I was dis- 
tressed ; and I frankly acknowledge to you. Miss Halcombe, 
that I have told him.' 

I was prepared to hear it, and yet she turned me cold all 
over when she said those words. 

' Let me earnestly entreat you, Madame Fosco — let me 
earnestly entreat the Count — to make some allowances for the 
sad position in which my sister is placed. She spoke while 
she was smarting under the insult and injustice inflicted on 
her by her husband — and she was not herself when she said 

271 



^ 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

those rash words. May I hope that they will be considerately 
and generously forgiven ? ' 

' Most assuredly/ said the Count's quiet voice, behind me. 
He had stolen on us, with his noiseless tread, and his book 
in his hand, from the library. 

* When Lady Glyde said those hasty words,' he went on, 
* she did me an injustice, which I lament — and forgive. Let 
us never return to the subject, Miss Halcombe ; let us all 
comfortably combine to forget it, from this moment.' 

' You are very kind,' I said ; ' you relieve me inexpres- 
sibly ' 

I tried to continue — but his eyes were on me ; his deadly 
smile, that hides everything, was set, hard and unwavering, 
on his broad, smooth face. My distrust of his unfathomable 
falseness, my sense of my own degradation in stooping to con- 
ciliate his wife and himself, so disturbed and confused me, 
that the next words failed on my lips, and I stood there in 
silence. 

' I beg you on my knees to say no more, Miss Halcombe — 
I am truly shocked that you should have thought it necessary 
to say so much.' With that polite speech, he took my hand — • 
oh, how I despise myself ! oh, how little comfort there is, even 
in knowing that I submitted to it for Laura's sake ! — he took 
my hand, and put it to his poisonous lips. Never did I know 
all my horror of him till then. That innocent familiarity 
turned my blood, as if it had been the vilest insult that a man 
could offer me. Yet I hid my disgust from him — I tried to 
smile — 1, who once mercilessly despised deceit in other women, 
was as false as the worst of them, as false as the Judas whose 
lips had touched my hand. 

I could not have maintained my degrading self-control — it 
is all that redeems me in my own estimation to know that I 
could not— if he had still continued to keep his eyes on my 
face. His wife's tigerish jealousy came to my rescue, and 
forced his attention away from me, the moment he possessed 
himself of my hand. Her cold blue eyes caught light ; her 
dull white cheeks flushed into bright colour ; she looked years 
younger than her age, in an instant. 

' Count ! ' she said. ' Your foreign forms of politeness are 
not understood by Englishwomen.' 

' Pardon me, my angel ! The best and dearest English- 
woman in the world understands them.' With those words, 
he dropped my hand, and quietly raised his wife's hand to his 
lips, in place of it. 

I ran back up the stairs, to take refuge in my own room 

?72 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

If there had been time to think, my thoughts, when I was 
alone again, would have caused me bitter suffering. But 
there was no time to think. Happily for the preservation of 
my calmness and my courage, there was time for nothing but 
action. 

The letters to the lawyer and to Mr. Fairlie were still to 
be written, and I sat down at once, without a moment's hesi- 
tation, to devote myself to them. 

There was no multitude of resources to perplex me — there 
was absolutely no one to depend on, in the first instance, but 
myself. Sir Percival had neither friends nor relatives in the 
neighbourhood whose intercession I could attempt to employe 
He was on the coldest terms — in some cases, on the worst 
terms — with the families of his own rank and station who 
lived near him. We two women had neither father, nor 
brother, to come to the house and take our parts. There was 
no choice, but to write those two doubtful letters— or to put 
Laura in the wrong and myself in the wrong, and to make all 
peaceable negotiation in the future impossible, by secretly 
escaping from Blackwater Park. Nothing but the most im- 
minent personal peril could justify our taking that second 
course. The letters must be tried first ; and I wrote them. 

I said nothing to the lawyer about Anne Catherick ; 
because (as I had already hinted to Laura) that topic was con- 
nected with a mystery which we could not yet explain, and 
which it would therefore be useless to write about to a pro- 
fessional man. I left my correspondent to attribute Sir Per- 
cival's disgraceful conduct, if he pleased, to fresh disputes 
about money matters ; and simply consulted him on the 
possibility of taking legal proceedings for Laura's protection 
in the event of her husband's refusal to allow her to leave 
Blackwater Park for a time and return with me to Limmeridge. 
I referred him to Mr. Fairlie for the details of this last arrange- 
ment — I assured him that I wrote with Laura's authority — 
and I ended by entreating him to act in her name, to the 
utmost extent of his power, and with the least possible loss of 
time. 

The letter to Mr. Fairlie occupied me next. I appealed 
to him on the terms which I had mentioned to Laura as the 
most likely to make him bestir himself; I enclosed a copy of 
my letter to the lawyer, to show him how serious the case was; 
and I represented our removal to Limmeridge as the only 
compromise which would prevent the danger and distress of 
Laura's present position from inevitably affecting her uncle as 
well as herself, at no very distant time. 

273 T 



THE WOiMAN IN WHITE 

When 1 had done, and had sealed and directed the two 
envelopes, I went back with the letters to Laura's room, to 
show her that they were written. 

' Has anybody disturbed you ? ' I asked, when she opened 
the door to me. 

* Nobody has knocked,' she replied. * But I heard some 
one in the outer room.' 

* Was it a man or a woman ? ' 

* A woman. I heard the rustling of her gown.' 
' A rustling like silk ? ' 

* Yes ; like silk.' 

Madame Fosco had evidently been watching outside. 
The mischief she might do by herself was little to be feared. 
But the mischief she might do, as a willing instrument in her 
husband's hands, was too formidable to be overlooked. 

* What became of the rustling of the gown wiien you no 
longer heard it in the ante-room ? ' I inquired. ' Did you 
hear it go past your wall, along the passage ? ' 

* Yes. I kept still, and listened ; and just heard it.' 

* Which v/ay did it go ? ' 
' Towards your room.' 

I considered again. The sound had not caught my ears. 
But I was then deeply absorbed in my letters ; and I write with 
a heavy hand, and a quill pen, scraping and scratching noisily 
over the paper. It was more likely that Madame Fosco would 
hear the scraping of my pen than that I should hear the 
rustling of her dress. Another reason (if I had wanted one) 
for not trusting my letters to the post-bag in the hall. 

Laura saw me thinking. ' More difficulties ! ' she said, 
wearily ; ' more difficulties and more dangers ! ' 

* No dangers,' I replied. ' Some little difficulty, perhaps. 
I am thinking of the safest way of putting my two letters 
into Fanny's hands.' 

' You have really written them, then ? Oh, Marian, run 
no risks — pray, pray run no risks ! ' 

' No, no — no fear, let me see — what o'clock is it now ? ' 

It was a quarter to six. There would be time for me 
to get to the village inn, and to come back again, before 
dinner. If I waited till the evening, I might find no second 
opportunity of safely leaving the house. 

' Keep the key turned in the lock, Laura,' I said, 'and 
don't be afraid about me. If you hear any inquiries made, 
call through the door and say that I am gone out for a walk.' 

' When shall you be back ? ' 

* Before dinner, without fail. Courage, my love. By 

-71 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

this time to-morrow you will have a clear-headed, trustworthy 
man acting for your good. Mr. Gilmore's partner is our next 
best friend to Mr. Gilmore himself.' 

A moment's reflection, as soon as I was alone, convinced 
me that I had better not appear in my walking-dress, until I 
had first discovered what was going on in the lower part of 
the house. I had not ascertained yet whether Sir Percival 
was in doors or out. 

The singing of the canaries in the library, and the sm.ell 
of toba,cco-smoke that came through the door, whi^li v.-.-.s 
not closed, told me at once v/here the Count was. I looked 
over my shoulder as I passed the doorway ; and saw, to my 
surprise, that he was exhibiting the docility of the birds, in 
his most engagingly polite manner, to the housekeeper. He 
must have specially invited her to see them — for she would 
never have thought of going into the library of her own 
accord. The man's slightest actions had a purpose of some 
kind at the bottom of every one of them. What could be 
his purpose here ? 

It was no time then to inquire into his motives. I looked 
about for Madame Fosco next ; and found her following her 
favourite circle, round and round the fish-pond. 

I was a little doubtful hov.^ she would meet me, after the 
outbreak of jealousy, of vv-hich I had been the cause so short 
a time since. But her husband had tamed her in the inter- 
val ; and she now spoke to me with the same civility as 
usual. My only object in addressing myself to her was to 
ascertain if she knew what had become of Sir Perciv^al. I 
contrived to refer to him indirectly ; and, after a little fencing 
on either side, she at last mentioned that he had gone out. 

* Which of the horses has he taken ? ' I asked carelessly. 

' None of them,' slie replied. ' He went away, two hours 
since, on foot. As I understood it, his object was to make 
fresh inquiries about the woman named Anne Catherick. He 
appears to be unreasonably anxious about tracing her. Do 
you happen to know if she is dangerously mad, Miss 
Halcombe ? ' 

* I do not. Countess.' 

* Are you going in ? ' 

* Yes, I think so. I suppose it will soon be time to dress 
for dinner.' 

We entered the house together. Madame Fosco strolled 
into the library, and closed the door. I went at once to fetch 
my hat and shawl. Every moment was of importance, if I 
was to get to Fanny at the inn and be back before dinner. 

275 T 2 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

When I crossed the hall again, no one was there ; and the 
singing- of the birds in the library had ceased. I could not 
stop to make any fresh investigations. I could only assure 
myself that the way was clear, and then leave the house, 
with the two letters safe in my pocket. 

On my way to the village, I prepared myself for the possi- 
bility of meeting Sir Percival. As long as I had him to deal 
with alone, I felt certain of not losing my presence of mind. 
Any woman who is sure of her own wits, is a match, at any 
time, for a man who is not sure of his own temper. I had no 
such fear of Sir Percival as I had of the Count. Instead of 
fluttering, it had composed me, to hear of the errand on which 
he had gone out. While the tracing of Anne Catherick was 
the great anxiety that occupied him, Laura and I might hope 
for some cessation of any active persecution at his hands. 
For our sakes now, as well as for Anne's, I hoped and prayed 
fervently that she might still escape him. 

I walked on as briskly as the heat would let me, till I 
reached the cross-road which led to the village ; looking back 
from time to time, to make sure that I was not followed by 
any one. 

Nothing was behind me, all the way, but an empty country 
waggon. The noise made by the lumbering wheels annoyed 
me ; and when I found that the waggon took the road to the 
village, as well as myself, I stopped to let it go by, and pass 
out of hearing. As I looked towards it, more attentively than 
before, I thought I detected, at intervals, the feet of a man 
walking close behind it ; the carter being in front by the 
side of his horses. The part of the cross-road which I had 
just passed over was so narrow, that the waggon coming 
after me brushed the trees and thickets on either side ; and I 
had to wait until it went by, before I could test the correctness 
of my impression. Apparently, that impression was wrong, 
for when the waggon had passed me, the road behind it was 
quite clear. 

I reached the inn without meeting Sir Percival, and with- 
out noticing anything more ; and was glad to find that the 
landlady had received Fanny with all possible kindness. The 
girl had a little parlour to sit in, away from the noise of the 
tap-room, and a clean bed-chamber at the top of the house. 
She began crying again, at the sight of me ; and said, poor 
soul, truly enough, that it was dreadful to feel herself turned 
out into the world, as if she had committed some unpardonable 
fault, when no blame could be laid at her door by anybody — 
not even by her master who had sent her away, 

276 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

• Try to make the best of it, Fanny,' I said. ' Your mis- 
tress and I will stand your friends, and will take care that 
your character shall not suffer. Now, listen to me. I have very 
little time to spare, and I am going- to put a great trust in 
your hands. I wish you to take care of these two letters. The 
one with the stamp on it you are to put into the post, when 
you reach London to-morrow. The other, directed to Mr. 
Fairlie, you are to deliver to him yourself, as soon as you get 
home. Keep both the letters about you, and give them up to 
no one. They are of the last importance to your mistress's 
interests.' 

Fanny put the letters into the bosom of her dress. ' There 
they shall stop, miss,' she said, ' till I have done what you tell 
me. ' 

' Mind you are at the station in good time to-morrow 
morning,' I continued. ' And, when you see the housekeeper 
at Limmeridge, give her my compliments, and say that you 
are in my service until Lady Glyde is able to take you back. 
We may meet again sooner than you think. So keep a good 
heart, and don't miss the seven o'clock train.' 

' Thank you, miss — thank you kindly. It gives one courage 
to hear your voice again. Please to offer my duty to my 
lady ; and say I left all the things as tidy as I could in the 
time. Oh, dear ! dear ! who will dress her for dinner to-day ? 
It really breaks my heart, miss, to think of it.' 

When I got back to the house, I had only a quarter of an 
hour to spare, to put myself in order for dinner, and to say 
two words to Laura before I went down-stairs. 

* The letters are in Fanny's hands,' I whispered to her, at 
the door. ' Do you mean to join us at dinner ? ' 

' Oh, no, no — not for the world ! ' 
Has anything happened ? Has anyone disturbed 



you 



9' 



Yes — ^just now — Sir Percival ' 

' Did he come in ? ' 

* No ; he frightened me by a thump on the door, outside. 
I said, " Who's there ? " ''You know," he answered. " Will 
you alter your mind, and tell me the rest ? You shall ! 
Sooner or later, I'll wring it out of you. You know where 
Anne Catherick is, at this moment ! " *' Indeed, indeed," I 
said, " I don't." " You do !" he called back. '* I'll crush your 
obstinacy — mind that ! — I'll wring it out of you ! " He went 
away, with those words — went away, Marian, hardly five 
minutes ago.' 

277 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

He had not found Anne ! We were safe for that night — 
he had not found her yet. 

* You are going down-stairs, Marian ? Come up again in 
the evening.' 

* Yes, yes. Don't be uneasy, if I am a Httle late — I must 
be careful not to give offence by leaving them too soon.' 

The dinner-bell rang ; and I hastened away. 

Sir Percival took Madame Fosco into the dining-room ; 
and the Count gave me his arm. He was hot and flushed, 
and was not dressed with his customary care and completeness. 
Had he, too, been out before dinner, and been late in getting 
back ? or was he only suffering from the heat a little more 
severely than usual ? 

However this might be, he was unquestionably troubled 
by some secret annoyance or anxiety, which, with all his 
powers of deception, he was not able entirely to conceal. 
Through the whole of dinner, he was almost as silent as Sir 
Percival himself; and he, every now and then, looked at his 
wife with an expression of furtive uneasiness, which was 
quite new in my experience of him. The one social obligation 
which he seemed to be self-possessed enough to perform as 
carefully as ever, was the obligation of being persistently civil 
and attentive to me. What vile object he has in view, I can- 
not still discover ; but, be the design what it may, invariable 
politeness towards myself, invariable humility towards Laura, 
and invariable suppression (at any cost) of Sir Percival's 
clumsy violence, have been the means he has resolutely and 
impenetrably used to g"et to his end, ever since he set foot in 
this house. I suspected it, when he first interfered in our 
favour, on the day v/hen the deed was produced in the library, 
and I feel certain of it, now. 

When Madame Fosco and I rose to leave the table, the 
Count rose also to accompany us back to the drawing-room. 

'What are you going away for?' asked Sir Percival — ' I 
meanj)'(9?/, Fosco.' 

' I am going away, because I have had dinner enough, and 
wine enough,' answered the Count. ' Be so kind, Percival, 
as to make allowances for my foreign habit of going out with 
the ladies, as well as coming in with them.' 

* Nonsense ! Another glass of claret won't hurt you. 
Sit down again like an Englishman. I want half an hour's 
quiet talk with you over our wine.' 

' A quiet talk, Percival, with all my heart, but not now, 
and not over the wine. Later in the evening if you please—" 
later in the evening.' 

278 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

' Civil ! ' said Sir Percival, savagely. ' Civil behaviour, 
upon my soul, to a man in his own house ! ' 

I had more than once seen him look at the Count uneasily 
during dinner-time, and had observed that the Count care- 
fully abstained from looking at him in return. This circum- 
stance, coupled with the host's anxiety for a little quiet talk 
over the wine, and the guest's obstinate resolution not to sit 
down again at the table, revived in my memory the request 
which Sir Percival had vainly addressed to his friend, earlier 
in the day, to come out of the library and speak to him. 
The Count had deferred granting that private interview, when 
it Vv^as first asked for in the afternoon, and had again deferred 
granting it, when it was a second time asked for at the 
dinner-table. Whatever the coming subject of discussion 
between them might be, it was clearly an important subject 
in Sir Percival's estimation — and perhaps (judging from his 
evident reluctance to approach it) a dangerous subject as well, 
in the estimation of the Count. 

These considerations occurred to me while we were pass- 
ing from the dining-room to the dravv'ing-room. Sir Percival's 
angry commentary on his friend's desertion of him had not 
produced the slightest effect. The Count obstinately accom- 
panied us to the tea-table — waited a minute or two in the 
room — went out into the hall — and returned with the post- 
bag in his hands. It was then eight o'clock — the hour at 
which the letters were always despatched from Blackwater 
Park. 

' Have you any letter for the post, Miss Halcombe ? ' he 
asked, approaching me, with the bag. 

I saw Madame Fosco, who was making the tea, 
pause, with the sugar-tongs in her hand, to listen for my 
answer. 

* No, Count, thank you. No letters to-day.' 

He gave the bag to the servant, who was then in the 
room ; sat down at the piano ; and played the air of the 
lively Neapolitan street-song, ' La mia Carolina,' twice over. 
His wife, who was usually the most deliberate of women in 
all her movements, made the tea as quickly as I could have 
made it myself — finished her own cup in two minutes — and 
quietly glided out of the room. 

I rose to follow her example — partly because I suspected 
her of attempting some treachery up-stairs with Laura ; 
partly, because I was resolved not to remain alone in the 
same room with her husband. 

Before I could get to the door, the Count stopped me, by 

279 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

a request for a cup of tea. I gave him the cup of tea ; and 
tried a second time to get away. He stopped me again — 
this time, by going back to the piano, and suddenly appealing 
to me on a musical question in which he declared that the 
honour of his country was concerned. 

I vainly pleaded my own total ignorance of music, and 
total vi^ant of taste in that direction. He only appealed to 
me again with a vehemence which set all further protest on 
my part at defiance. ' The English and the Germans ' (he 
indignantly declared) ' were always reviling the Italians for 
their inability to cultivate the higher kinds of music. We 
were perpetually talking of our Oratorios ; and they were 
perpetually talking of their Symphonies. Did we forget and 
did they forget his immortal friend and countryman, Rossini ? 
What was " Moses in Egypt," but a sublime oratorio, which 
was acted on the stage, instead of being coldly sung in a 
concert-room ? What was the overture to " Guillaume Tell," 
but a symphony under another name? Had I heard " Moses 
in Egypt"? Would I listen to this, and this, and this, and 
say if anything more sublimely sacred and grand had ever 
been composed by mortal man ?' — And, without waiting for 
a word of assent or dissent on my part, looking me hard in 
the face all the time, he began thundering on the piano, and 
singing to it with loud and lofty enthusiasm ; only interrupt- 
ing himself, at intervals, to announce to me fiercely the titles 
of the different pieces of music : * Chorus of Egyptians, in 
the Plague of Darkness, Miss Halcombe ! ' — * Recitativo of 
Moses, with the tables of the Law.' — ' Prayer of Israelites, at 
the passage of the Red Sea Aha ! Aha ! Is that sacred ? 
is that sublime ? ' The piano trembled under his powerful 
hands ; and the teacups on the table rattled, as his big bass 
voice thundered out the notes, and his heavy foot beat time 
on the floor. 

There was something horrible — something fierce and 
devilish, in the outburst of his delight at his own singing and 
playing, and in the triumph with which he watched its effect 
upon me, as I shrank nearer and nearer to the door. I was 
released, at last, not by my own efforts, but by Sir Percival's 
interposition. He opened the dining-room door, and called 
out angrily to know what ' that infernal noise ' meant. The 
Count instantly got up from the piano. * Ah ! if Percival is 
coming,' he said, 'harmony and melody are both at an end. 
The Muse of Music, Miss Halcombe, deserts us in dismay ; 
and I, the fat old minstrel, exhale the rest of my enthusiasm 
in the open air ! ' He stalked out into the verandah, put his 

280 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

hands in his pockets, and resumed the ' Recitative of Moses,' 
sotto voce, in the garden. 

I heard Sir Percival call after him from the dining-room 
window. But he took no notice : he seeined determined not 
to hear. That long-deferred quiet talk between them was 
still to be put off, was still to wait for the Count's absolute 
will and pleasure. 

He had detained me in the drawing-room nearly half an 
hour from the time when his wife left us. W^here had she 
been, and what had she been doing in that interval ? 

I went up-stairs to ascertain, but I made no discoveries ; 
and when I questioned Laura, I found that she had not heard 
anything. Nobody had disturbed her — no faint rustling of 
the silk dress had been audible, either in the ante-room or in 
the passage. 

It was then twenty minutes to nine. After going to my 
room to get my journal, I returned, and sat with Laura ; 
sometimes writing, sometimes stopping to talk with her. 
Nobody came near us, and nothing happened. We remained 
together till ten o'clock. I then rose, said my last cheering 
words, and wished her good night. She locked her door 
again, after we had arranged that I should come in and see 
her the first thing in the morning. 

I had a few sentences more to add to my diary before 
going to bed myself; and, as I went down again to the 
drawing-room after leaving Laura, for the last time that 
weary day, I resolved merely to show myself there, to make 
my excuses, and then to retire an hour earlier than usual, for 
the night. 

Sir Percival, and the Count and his wife, were sitting 
together. Sir Percival was yawning in an easy-chair ; the 
Count was reading ; Madame Fosco was fanning herself. 
Strange to say, her face was flushed, now. She, who never 
suffered from the heat, was most undoubtedly suffering from 
it to-night. 

* I am afraid, Countess, you are not quite so well as 
usual ? ' I said. 

'The very remark I was about to make to yoiiy she 
replied. ' You are looking pale, my dear.' 

My dear ! It was the first time she had ever addressed 
me with that familiarity ! There was an insolent smile, too, 
on her face, when she said the words. 

' I am suffering from one of my bad headaches,' I 
answered, coldly. 

* Ah, indeed ? Want of exercise, I suppose ? A walk 

281 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

before dinner would have been just the thing for you.' She 
referred to the ' walk ' with a strange emphasis. Had she 
seen me go out? No matter if she had. The letters were 
safe now, in Fanny's hands. 

' Come, and have a smoke, Fosco,' said Sir Percival, 
rising, with another uneasy look at his friend. 

* VVith pleasure, Percival, when the ladies have gone to 
bed,' replied the Count. 

' Excuse me. Countess, if I set you the example of re- 
tiring,' I said. 'The only remedy for such a headache as 
mine is going to bed.' 

I took my leave. There was the same insolent smile on 
the woman's face Vv'hen I shook hands with her. Sir Percival 
paid no attention to me. He was looking impatiently at 
Madame Fosco, who showed no signs of leaving the room 
with me. The Count smiled to himself behind his book. 
There was yet another delay to that quiet talk with Sir 
Percival — and the Countess v.^as the impediment this time. 

IX. 

June 19th. — Once safely shut into my ov/n room, I opened 
these pages, and prepared to go on with that part of the day's 
record which was still left to write. 

For ten minutes or more I sat idle, with the pen in my 
hand, thinking over the events of the last twelve hours. 
When I at last addressed myself to my task, I found a diffi- 
culty in proceeding with it which I had never experienced 
before. In spite of my efforts to fix my thoughts on the 
matter in hand, they wandered av\^ay, with the strangest 
persistency, in the one direction of Sir Percival and the Count ; 
and all the interest which I tried to concentrate on my journal, 
centred, instead, in that private interview between them, 
which had been put off all through the day, and which was 
now to take place in the silence and solitude of the night. 

In this perverse state of my mind, the recollection of what 
had passed since the morning would not come back to me ; 
and there was no resource but to close my journal and to get 
away from it for a little while. 

I opened the door which led from my bedroom into my 
sitting-room, and, having passed through, pulled it to again, 
to prevent any accident, in case of draught, with the candle 
left on the dressing-table. My sitting-room window was 
wide open ; and I leaned out, listlessly, to look at the 
night. 

282 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

It was dark and quiet. Neither moon nor stars were 
visible. There was a smell like rain in the still, heavy air ; 
and I put my hand out of window. No. The rain was only 
threatening ; it had not come yet. 

I remained leaning on the window-sill for nearly a quarter 
of an hour, looking- out absently into the black darkness, and 
hearing nothing, except, now and then, the voices of the ser- 
vants, or the distant sound of a closing door, in the lower 
part of the house. 

Just as I was turning- aw^ay wearily from the window, to 
go back to the bedroom, and make a second attempt to com- 
plete the unfinished entry in my journal, I smelt the odour of 
tobacco-smoke, stealing towards me on the heavy night air. 
The next moment I saw a tiny red spark advancing from the 
farther end of the house in the pitch darkness. I heard no 
footsteps, and I could see nothing but the spark. It travelled 
along in the night ; passed the window at which I was stand- 
ing ; and stopped opposite my bedroom window, inside which 
I had left the light burning on the dressing-table. 

The spark remained stationary, for a moment, then moved 
back again in the direction from which it had advanced. As 
I followed its progress, I saw a second red spark, larger than 
the first, approaching from the distance. The two met to- 
gether in the darkness. Remembering who smoked cigarettes, 
and who smoked cigars, I inferred, immediately, that the 
Count had come out first to look and listen, under my window, 
and that Sir Percival had afterwards joined him. They 
must both have been walking on the lawn — or I should cer- 
tainly have heard Sir Percival's heavy footfall, though the 
Count's soft step might have escaped me, even on the gravel 
walk. 

I waited quietly at the window, certain that they could 
neither of them see me, in the darkness of the room. 

* What's the matter ? ' I heard Sir Percival say, in a low 
voice. ' Why don't you come in and sit down ? ' 

' I want to see the light out of that window,' replied the 
Count, softly. 

* What harm does the light do ? ' 

* It shows she is not in bed yet. She is sharp enough to 
suspect something, and bold enough to come down-stairs 
and listen, if she can get the chance. Patience, Percival — 
patience.' 

' Humbug ! You're always talking of patience.' 
' I shall talk of something else presently. My good friend, 
you are on the edge of your domestic precipice ; and if I let 

283 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

you give the women one other chance, on my sacred word of 
honour they will push you over it.' 

' What the devil do you mean ? ' 

' We will come to our explanations, Percival, when the 
light is out of that window, and when I have had one little 
look at the rooms on each side of the library, and a peep at 
the staircase as well.' 

They slowly moved away ; and the rest of the conversa- 
tion between them (which had been conducted, throughout, 
in the same low tones) ceased to be audible. It was no 
matter. I had heard enough to determine me on justifying 
the Count's opinion of my sharpness and my courage. Before 
the red sparks were out of sight in the darkness, I had made 
up my mind that there should be a listener when those two 
men sat down to their talk — and that the listener, in spite of 
all the Count's precautions to the contrary, should be myself. 
I wanted but one motive to sanction the act to my own con- 
science, and to give me courage enough for performing it ; 
and that motive I had. Laura's honour, Laura's happiness — 
Laura's life itself — might depend on my quick ears, and my 
faithful memory, to-night. 

I had heart the Count say that he meant to examine the 
rooms on each side of the library, and the staircase as well, 
before he entered on any explanation with Sir Percival. This 
expression of his intentions was necessarily sufficient to in- 
form me that the library was the room in which he proposed 
that the conversation should take place. The one moment of 
time which was long enough to bring me to that conclusion, 
was also the moment which showed me a means of baffling 
his precautions — or, in otlier words, of hearing what he and 
Sir Percival said to each other, without the risk of descending 
at all into the lower regions of the house. 

In speaking of the rooms on the ground floor, I have 
mentioned incidentally the verandah outside them, on which 
they all opened by means of French windows, extending from 
the cornice to the floor. The top of this verandah was flat ; 
the rain-water being carried off from it, by pipes, into tanks 
which helped to supply the house. On the narrow leaden 
roof, which ran along past the bedrooms, and which was 
rather less, I should think, than three feet below the sills of 
the windows, a row of flower-pots was ranged, with wide 
intervals between each pot ; the whole being protected from 
falling, in high winds, by an ornamental iron railing along the 
edge of the roof. 

The plan which had now occurred to me was to get out 

284 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

at my sitting-room window, onto this roof; to creep along 
noiselessly, till I reached that part of it which was immediately 
over the library window ; and to crouch down between the 
flower-pots, with my ear against the outer railing. If Sir 
Percival and the Count sat and smoked to-night, as I had 
seen them sitting and smoking many nights before, with their 
chairs close at the open window, and their feet stretched on 
the zinc garden seats which were placed under the verandah, 
every word they said to each other above a whisper (and no 
long conversation, as we all know by experience, can be 
carried on in a whisper) must inevitably reach my ears. If, 
on the other hand, they chose, to-night, to sit far back inside 
the room, then the chances were that I should hear little oi 
nothing ; and, in that case, I must run the far more serious 
risk of trying to outwit them down-stairs. 

Strongly as I was fortified in my resolution by the desperate 
nature of our situation, I hoped most fervently that I might 
escape this last emergency. My courage was only a woman's 
courage, after all ; and it was very near to failing me, when 
I thought of trusting myself, on the ground floor, at the dead 
of night, within reach of Sir Percival and the Count. 

I went softly back to my bedroom, to try the safer experi- 
ment of the verandah roof, first. 

A complete change in my dress was imperatively necessary, 
for many reasons. I took off my silk gown to begin with, 
because the slightest noise from it, on that still night, might 
have betrayed me. I next removed the white and cumbersome 
parts of my underclothing, and replaced them by a petticoat 
of dark flannel. Over this, I put my black travelling cloak, 
and pulled the hood on to my head. In my ordinary evening 
costume I took up the room of three men at least. In my 
present dress, when it was held close about me, no man could 
have passed through the narrowest spaces more easily than I. 
The little breadth left on the roof of the verandah, between the 
flower-pots on one side and the wall and the windows of the 
house on the other, made this a serious consideration. If I 
knocked anything down, if I made the least noise, who could 
say what the consequences might be ? 

I only waited to put the matches near the candle before I 
extinguished it, and groped my way back into the sittmg-room. 
I locked that door, as I had locked my bedroom door — then 
quietly got out of the window, and cautiously set my feet on 
the leaden roof of the verandah. 

My two rooms were at the inner extremity of the new wing 
of the house in which we all lived ; and I had five windows to 

285 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

pass before I could reach the position it was necessary to take 
up immediately over the library. The first window belonged 
to a spare room, which was empty. The second and third 
Avindows belonged to Laura's room. The fourth window 
belonged to Sir Percival's room. The fifth belonged to the 
Countess's room. The others, by which it was not necessary 
for me to pass, were the windows of the Count's dressing-room, 
of the bath-room, and of the second empty spare room. 

No sound reached my ears — the black blinding darkness' of 
the night was all round me when I first stood on the verandah, 
except at that part of it which Madame Fosco's v\'indow over- 
looked. There, at the very place above the library, to which 
my course was directed — there, I sav/ a gleam of light ! The 
Countess was not yet in bed. 

It was too late to draw back ; it was no time to wait. I deter- 
mined to go on at all hazards, and trust for security to my own 
caution and to the darkness of the night. * For Laura's sake ! ' 
I thought to myself, as I took the first step forward on the 
roof, with one hand holding my cloak close round me, and 
the other groping against the wall of the house. It was better 
to brush close by the wall than to risk striking my feet against 
the flower-pots, v.-ithin a few inches of me, on the other side. 

I passed the dark window of the spare room, trying the 
leaden roof, at each step, with my foot, before I risked resting 
my weight on it. I passed the dark v/indows of Laura's room 
(' God bless her and keep her to-night ! '). I passed the dark 
window of Sir Percival's room. Then, I waited a moment, 
knelt down, vv'ith my hands to support me ; and so crept to 
my position, under the protection of the low wall between the 
bottom of tl":e lighted window and the verandah roof. 

When I ventured to look up at the windov/ itself, I found 
that the top of it only was open, and that the blind inside was 
drawn dov.'n. While I v.'as looking I saw the shadow of 
Madame Fosco pass across the white field of the blind — then 
pass slov.'ly back again. Thus far, she could not have heard 
me — or the shadow would surely have stopped at the blind, 
even if she had v/anted courage enough to open the window, 
and look out. 

I placed myself sidewa3-s against the railing of the veran- 
dah ; first ascertaining, by touching them, the position of 
the flower-pots on either side of me. There was room enough 
for me to sit between them, and no more. The sweet-scented 
leaves of the flower on my left hand just brushed my cheek as 
I lightly rested my head against the railing. 

The first sounds that reached me from below were caused 

2S6 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

by the opening or closing (most probably the latter) of three 
doors in succession — the doors, no doubt, leading into the hall 
and into the rooms on each side of the library, which the 
Count had pledged himself to examine. The first object that 
I saw was the red spark again travelling out into the night, 
from under the verandah ; moving away towards my window ; 
waiting a moment ; and then returning to the place from 
which it had set out. 

' The devil take your restlessness ! When do you mean to 
sit down ? ' growled Sir Percival's voice beneath me. 

* Ouf ! how hot it is ! ' said the Count, sighing and puffing 
wearily. 

His exclamation was followed by the scraping ol' the 
garden chairs on the tiled pavement under the verandah — the 
welcome sound which told me they were going to sit close 
at the \vindow as usual. So far, the chance was mine. The 
clock in the turret struck the quarter to tv.-elve as they settled 
themselves in their chairs. I heard Madame Fosco through 
the open window, yawning ; and saw her shadow pass once 
more across the white field of the blind. 

Meanwhile, Sir Percival and the Count began talking 
together belovv^, now and then dropping their voices a little 
lower than usual, but never sinking them to a whisper. The 
strangeness and peril of my situation, the dread, which I could 
not master, of Madame Fosco's lighted window, made it diffi- 
cult, almost impossible, for me, at first, to keep my presence 
of mind, and to fix my attention solely on the conversation 
beneath. For some minutes I could only succeed in gather- 
ing the general substance of it. I understood the Count to 
say that the one v.nndow alight was his wife's ; that the ground 
floor of the house was quite clear ; and that they might 
novv^ L^peak to each other, without fear of accidents. Sir 
Percival merely answered by upbraiding his friend with 
having unjustifiably slighted his wishes and neglected his 
interests all through the day. The Count thereupon defended 
himself by declaring that he had been beset by certain troubles 
and anxieties which had absorbed all his attention, and that 
the only safe time to come to an explanation was a time when 
they could feel certain of being neither interrupted nor over- 
heard. ' We are at a serious crisis in our affairs, Percival,' 
he said ; ' and if we are to decide on the future at all we must 
decide secretly to-night.' 

That sentence of the Count's was the first which my atten- 
tion was ready enough to master, exactly as it was spoken. 
From this point, with certain breaks and interruptions, my 

287 



■li^ 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

whole interest fixed breathlessly on the conversation ; and I 
followed it word for word. 

' Crisis ? ' repeated Sir Percival. * It's a worse crisis than 
you think for, I can tell you.' 

* So I should suppose, from your behaviour for the last 
day or two,' returned the other, coolly. ' But wait a little. 
Before we advance to what I do not know, let us be quite cer- 
tain of what I do know. Let us first see if I am right about 
the time that is past, before I make any proposal to you for 
the time that is to come.' 

* Stop till I get the brandy and water. Have some your- 
self.' 

' Thank you, Percival. The cold water with pleasure, 
a spoon, and the basin of sugar. Eau sucr^e, my friend- 
nothing more.' 

' Sugar and water, for a man of your age ! — There ! mix 
your sickly mess. You foreigners are all alike.' 

' Now, listen, Percival. I will put our position plainly be- 
fore you, as I understand it ; and you shall say if I am right 
or wrong. You and I both came back to this house from the 
Continent, with our affairs very seriously embarrassed ' 

* Cut it short ! I wanted some thousands, and you some 
hundreds — and, without the money, we were both in a fair 
way to go to the dogs together. There's the situation. 
Make what you can of it. Go on.' 

' Well, Percival, in your own solid English words, you 
wanted some thousands and I wanted some hundreds ; and 
the only way of getting them was for you to raise the money 
for your own necessity (with a small margin, beyond, for my 
poor little hundreds), by the help of your wife. What did I 
tell you about your wife on our way to England ? and what 
did I tell you again, when we had come here, and when I had 
seen for myself the sort of woman Miss Halcombe was ? ' 

* How should I know ? You talked nineteen to the dozen, 
I suppose, just as usual.' 

' I said this : Human ingenuity, my friend, has hitherto 
only discovered two ways in which a man can manage a woman. 
One way is to knock her down — a method largely adopted by 
the brutal lower orders of the people, but utterly abhorrent to 
the refined and educated classes above them. The other way 
(much longer, much more difficult, but, in the end, not less 
certain) is never to accept a provocation a.t a woman's hands. 
It holds with animals, it holds with children, and it holds with 
women, who are nothing but children grown up. Quiet reso- 
lution is the one quality the animals, the children, and the 

288 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

house Every provocation that your wife and her sister could 
offer to you, you instantly accepted from them Vmn-T ^ 

time—' ^'^^'^^"^be wntmg^ to the lawyer for the firsi 

I First time ? Has she written again ? ' 
Ves ; she has written ag^ain to-day ' 

wll'" low hi'fl'hT^' '%^ ^'r" ">■ l^«-3 to^FZy 
wnen i told hmi I had none for the post-bao- p Even if ;V 

was so, how could he have examined the let^S/s when thev 

had ^g^one straight from my hand to the bosol^^o^'^u: gt?s 

ml"'' WitlAl! f ' '^^ *'/ '^^^^'^^^^ ^"^ '^^ res;f;?ion"of'a 
man . With that woman for my friend, I would snan these 

cnfmv 1° wr^ll'' 'l' "^^^'•. ^^'-^'^^^-^ wom:r?or n.y 
cnem), 1, with all my brains and experience— I, Fosco cun 

nmg as the devil himself, as you have told i^e a hunSred' 

t.mes-I walk, in your English phrase, upon egg-sheHs" And 

his grand creature-I drink her health in my suo-a^ ^nd 

water- his grand creature, who stands in the st^en^fh of her 

love and her courage, firm as a rock between us t^-^" anS t at 

poor flimsy pretty blende wife of yours-this n^^^i ifijinf 

woman, whom I admire with all m/ soul, though f oppose 

her m your mterests and in mine, vou driv; to extremities as 

as If she was no sharper and no bolder than the rest if 'her 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

sex. Percival ! Percival ! you deserve to fail, and you have 
failed.' 

There was a pause. I write the villain's words about 
myself, because 1 mean to remember them ; because I hope 
yet for the day when I may speak out once for all in his 
presence, and cast them back, one by one, in his teeth. 

Sir Percival was the first to break the silence again. 

* Yes, yes ; bully and bluster as much as you like,' he 
said, sulkily ; * the difficulty about the money is not the only 
difficulty. You would be for taking strong measures with 
the women, yourself — if you knew as much as I do.' 

* We will come to that second difficulty, all in good time,' 
rejoined the Count. ' You may confuse yourself, Percival, 
as much as you please, but you shall not confuse me. Let 
the question of the money be settled first. Have I con- 
vinced your obstinacy ? have I shown you that your temper 
will not let you help yourself? Or must I go back, and (as 
you put it in your dear straightforward English) bully and 
bluster a little more ? ' 

' Pooh ! It's easy enough to grumble at mc. Say what 
is to be done — that's a little harder.' 

'Is it ? Bah ! This is what is to be done : You give 
up all direction in the business from to-night ; you leave it 
for the future in my hands only. I am talking to a Prac- 
tical British man — ha? Well, Practical, will that do for 
you ? ' 

* What do you propose, if I leave it all to you ? ' 

* Answer me first. Is it to be in my hands or not ? ' 
' Say it is in your hands — what then ? ' 

* A few questions, Percival, to begin with. I must wait a 
little, yet, to let circumstances guide me ; and I must know, 
in every possible way, what those circumstances are likely to 
be. There is no time to lose. I have told you already that 
Miss Halcombe has written to the lavv-yer to-day, for the 
second time.' 

* How did you find it out ? What did she say ? ' 

' If I told you, Percival, we should only come back at the 
end to where we are now. Enough that I have found it out 
— and the finding has caused that trouble and anxiety which 
made me so inaccessible to you all through to-day. Now, to 
refresh my memory about your affairs— it is some time since 
I talked them over with you. The money has been raised, 
in the absence of your wife's signature, by means of bills at 
three months — raised at a cost that makes my poverty-stricken 
foreign hair stand on end to think of it ! When the bills are 

290 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

due, is there really and truly no earthly wav or mvin., ft, 
but by the help of your wife ^ ' ^ ^ ^ ""^'"^ ^^^"^ 

'None.' 

' r'?''^ 'u ^'""y ^""^'^ ""^ "'^"^y ^t the bankers ? ' 

^ A few hundreds when I want as many thousands.' 

' Not l^shred° ° ^^^urity to borrow upon ? ' 

preseniH^^"" ^^^"^"^^ ^°^ ^^''^^ ^^^ -f^' at the 
-b;J|^S-;i---y^^::^ -usand pounds 
, What do you expect from vour wife ? ' 
^ 1 hree thousand a year, when her uncle dies.' 

uncle ? 'oidt' '"' '''"'•'^'^'- '''''^' -'-^ «f - "-" i-^ this 
' No— neither old nor }ounp- ♦ 

I thinlc my wiW^M''^' ^'''^y-^^^^S man ? Married ? No- 
Lmmc my une told me, not married.' 

n ^ ,!;'^ "°^- ^^ ^'^ '''""^ married, and had a son Ladv 

wh:ft' h" i ' "He's ' "'^^ 'r ^° ^'^^ P^^P-^> I'll "ell^'ot 
bores eyer Ldv IL ''''''''^^^"' ^Y^^^^'"- ''^^'^ f«°^ and 
heakh ' ^ ' ''''"'^' "^^' ^'^"^ ^^°"t the state of his 

voie;ui;VhL^';L^rast^:^^^^^^^ !r i^d-^'-f-' -^^^^^ "^^'- 

[S^dt ^°^ '-^^^ f -:?/ th^^ihrL'tToLSld /yeart 

* Absolutely nothing-.^ ' 

' Ahr/"nl^i.''°'^'"^7.'''''P^ '" '^ase of her death.' 
Aha ! m the case of her death ! ' 

verZdah to^'thT'''^"'" r"".' ^^' ^^"'^^ "^^^'^d from the 

^^^Lj^^h^S,^^ - S- -weS 

Ihe Count went back under the yerandah-I heard the> 

ri ^ . i' P^'"'^!^^'' he said; 'and, in the case of T nH^ 
Clyde's death, what do you -et then ? ' ^''^^ 

'^ If she leayes no children ' 

* Which she is likely to do ? ' 

; ^s'?'^ ^^^ '^ "°^ '" ^''^ '^^^* ^'^®'y *° '^o ' 

* Why, then I get her twenty thousand pounds ' 

291 U2 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

' Paid down ? ' 

' Paid down.' 

They were silent once more. As their voices ceased, 
Madame Fosco's shadow darkened the blind ag-ain. Instead 
of passing- this time, it remained, for a moment, quite still. 
I saw her fingers steal round the corner of the blind, and 
draw it on one side. The dim white outline of her face, look 
ing out straight over me, appeared behind the window. I 
kept still, shrouded from head to foot in my black cloak. 
The rain, which was fast wetting me, dripped over the glass, 
blurred it, and prevented her from seeing anything. ' More 
rain ! ' I heard her say to herself. She dropped the blind — 
and I breathed again freely. 

The talk went on below rne ; the Count resuming it, this 
time. 

' Percival ! do )'Ou care about your wile? ' 

* Fosco ! that's rather a downright question. 
' I am a downright man ; and I repeat it.' 

' Why the devil do you look at me in that way ? ' 

' You won't answer me ? Well, then ; let us say your 

wife dies before the summer is out ' 

' Drop it, Fosco ! ' 

' Let us say your wife dies ' 

• Drop it, I tell you ! ' 

' In that case, you would gain twenty thousand pounds ; 
and you would lose ' 

' I should lose the chance of three thousand a year.' 

' The remote chance, Percival — the remote chance only. 
And you want money at once. In your position, the gain is 
certain — the loss doubtful.' 

' Speak for yourself as well as for me. Some of the 
money I want has been borrowed for yoii. And if you come 
to gain, my wife's death would be ten thousand pounds in 
your wife's pocket. Sharp as you are, you seem to have 
conveniently forgotten Madame Fosco's legacy. Don't look 
at me in that way ! I won't have it ! What with your looks 
and your questions, upon my soul, you make my flesh creep ! ' 

' Your flesh ? Does flesh mean conscience in English ? 
I speak of your wife's death, as I speak of a possibility. 
Why not ? The respectable lawyers who scribble-scrabble 
your deeds and your wills, look the deaths of living people in 
the face. Do lawyers make your flesh creep ? Why should 
I ? It is my business to-night, to clear up your position 
beyond the possibility of mistake — and I have now done it. 
Here is your position. If your wife lives, you pay those bills 

292 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

with her signature to the parchment. If your wife dies, you 
pay them with her death.' 

As he spoke, the light in Madame Fosco's room was 
extinguished ; and the whole second floor of the house was 
now sunk in darkness. 

' Talk ! talk ! ' grumbled Sir Percival. ' One would think, 
to hear you, that my wife's signature to the deed was got 
already.' 

' You have left the matter in my hands,' retorted the 
Count ; ' and I have more than tvvo months before me to turn 
round in. Say no more about it, if you please, for the present. 
W^hen the bills are due, you will see for yourself if my " talk ! 
talk ! " is worth something, or if it is not. And now, Percival, 
having done with the money-matters for to-night, I can place 
my attention at your disposal, if you wish to consult me on that 
second difficulty which has mixed itself up with our little 
embarrassments, and which has so altered you for the worse, 
that I hardly know you again. Speak, my friend — and 
pardon me if I shock your fiery national tastes by mixing 
myself a second glass of sugar and water.' 

' It's very well to say speak,' replied Sir Percival, in a far 
more quiet and more polite tone than he had yet adopted ; 
' but it's not so easy to know how to begin.' 

' Shall I help you ? ' suggested the Count. ' Shall I give 
this private difficulty of yours a name ? What, if I call it — 
Anne Catherick ? ' 

' Look here, Fosco, you and I have known each other for 
a long time ; and, if you have helped me out of one or two 
scrapes before this, I have done the best I could to help you 
in return, as far as money would go. We have made as 
many friendly sacrifices, on both sides, as men could ; but we 
have had our secrets from each other, of course — haven't 
we ? ' 

* You have had a secret from rnc, Percival. There is a 
skeleton in your cupboard here at Blackwater Park that has 
peeped out, in these last few days, at other people besides 
yourself.' 

' Well, suppose it has. If it doesn't concern you, you 
needn't be curious about it, need you ? ' 

' Do I look curious about it ? ' 

' Yes, you do.' 

' So ! so ! my face speaks the truth, then ? What an 
immense foundation of good there must be in the nature of a 
man who arrives at my age, and whose face has not yet lost 
the habit of speaking the truth ! — Come, Clyde ! let us be 

293 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

candid one with the other. This secret of yours has sought 
me : I have not sought it. Let us say I am curious — do you 
ask me, as your old friend, to respect your secret, and to 
leave it, once for all, in your own keeping ? ' 

' Yes — that's just what I do ask.' 

'Then my curiosity is at an end. It dies in me, from this 
moment.' 

' Do you really mean that ? ' 

' What makes you doubt me ? ' 

* I have had some experience, Fosco, of your roundabout 
ways ; and I am not so sure that you won't worm it out of 
me after all.' 

The chair below suddenly creaked again — I felt the trellis- 
work pillar under me shake from top to bottom. The Count 
had started to his feet and had struck it with his hand, in 
indignation. 

* Percival ! Percival ! ' he cried, passionately, * do you 
know me no better than that? Has all your experience 
shown you nothing of my character yet ? I am a man of the 
antique type ! I am capable of the most exalted acts of 
virtue — when I have the chance of performing them. It has 
been the misfortune of my life that I have had few chances. 
My conception of friendship is sublime ! Is it my fault that 
your skeleton has peeped out at me ? Why do I confess my 
curiosity ? You poor superficial Englishman, it is to magnify 
my own self-control. I could draw your secret out of you, 
if I liked, as I draw this finger out of the palm of my hand — 
you know I could ! But you have appealed to my friendship ; 
and the duties of friendship are sacred to me. See ! I trample 
my base curiosity under my feet. My exalted sentiments 
lift me above it. Recognise them. Percival ! imitate them, 
Percival ! Shake hands — I forgive you.' 

His voice faltered over the last words — faltered, as if he 
was actually shedding tears ! 

Sir Percival confusedly attempted to excuse himself. But 
the Count was too magnanimous to listen to him. 

' No ! ' he said. ' When my friend has wounded me, I 
can pardon him without apologies. Tell me, in plain words, 
do you v/ant my help ? ' 

'Yes, badly enough.' 

* And you can ask for it without compromising ourself?' 
' I can try, at any rate.' 

'Try, then.* 

' Well, this is how it stands :— I told you, to-day, that I 
had done my best to find Anne Catherick, and failed.' 

294 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

* Yes ; you did.' 

' Fosco ! I'm a lost man if I don't find her.' 

' Ha ! Is it so serious as that ? ' 

A little stream of light travelled out under the verandah, 
and fell over the gravel-walk. The Count had taken the 
lamp from the inner part of the room, to see his friend clearly 
by the light of it. 

' Yes ! ' he said. * Your face speaks the truth this time. 
Serious indeed— as serious as the money m.atters them- 
selves.' 

' More serious. As true as I sit here, more serious ! ' 

The light disappeared again, and the talk went on. 

' I showed you the letter to my wife that Anne Catherick 
hid in the sand,' Sir Percival continued. ' There's no boast- 
ing* in that letter, Fosco — she does know the Secret. ' 

' Say as little as possible, Percival, in my presence, of the 
Secret. Does she know if from you ? ' 

' No ; from her mother.' 

* Two women in possession of your private mind — bad, 
bad, bad, my friend ! One question here, before v^-e g-o any 
farther. The motive of your shutting up the daughter in the 
asylum, is now plain enough to me — but the manner of her 
escape is not quite so clear. Do you suspect the people in 
charge of her of closing their eyes purposely, at the instance 
of some enemy who could afford to make it Vv^orth their 
while ? ' 

' No ; she was the best-behaved patient they had — and, 
like fools, they trusted her. She's just mad enough to be 
shut up, and just sane enough to ruin me when she's at large 
■ — if you understand that ? ' 

' I do understand it. Now, Percival, come at once to the 
point ; and then I shall know what to do. Where is the 
danger of your position at the present moment ? ' 

' Anne Catherick is in this neighbourhood, and in com- 
munication with Lady Clyde — there's the danger, plain 
enough. Who can read the letter she hid in the sand, and 
not see that my wife is in possession of the Secret, deny it as 
she may ? ' 

' One moment, Percival. If Lady Clyde does know the 
Secret, she must know also that it is a compromising secret 
ior you. As your wife, surely it is her interest to keep it ? ' 

' Is it? I'm coming to that. It might be her interest if 
she cared two straws about me. But I happen to be an 
encumbrance in the way of another man. She was in love 
with him, before she married me — she's in love with him now 

295 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

— an Infernal vagabond of a drawing-master, named Hart- 
right.' 

* My dear friend ! what is there extraordinary in that ? 
They are all in love with some other man. Who gets the 
first of a woman's heart ? In all my experience I have never 
yet met with the man who was Number One. Number Two, 
sometimes. Number Three, Four, Five, often. Number 
One, never ! He exists, of course — but I have not met with 
him.' 

' Wait ! I haven't done yet. Who do you think helped 
Anne Catherick to get the start, when the people from the mad- 
house were after her ? Hartright. Who do you think saw 
her again in Cumberland ? Hartright. Both times, he spoke 
to her alone. Stop ! don't interrupt me. The scoundrel's as 
sweet on my wife as she is on him. He knows the Secret, 
and she knows the Secret. Once let them both get together 
again, and it's her interest and his interest to turn their infor- 
mation against me.' 

' Gently, Percival — gently ! Are you insensible to the 
virtue of Lady Glyde ? ' 

' That for the virtue of Lady Glyde ! I believe in nothing 
about her but her money. Don't you see how the case 
stands ? She might be harmless enough by herself ; but if 
she and that vagabond Hartright ' 

* Yes, yes, I see. Where is Mr. Hartright?' 

' Out of the country. If he means to keep a whole skin 
on his bones, I recommend him not to come back in a hurry.' 
' Are you sure he is out of the country ? ' 

* Certain. I had him watched from the time he left Cum- 
berland to the time he sailed. Oh, I've been careful, I can 
tell you ! Anne Catherick lived with some people at a farm- 
house near Limmeridge. I went there, myself, after she had 
given me the slip, and made sure that they knew nothing. I 
gave her mother a form of letter to write to Miss Halcombe, 
exonerating me from any bad motive in putting her under 
restraint. I've spent, I'm afraid to say hovv^ muchj in trying 
to trace her. And, in spite of it all, she turns up here, and 
escapes me on my own property ! How do I know who else 
may see her, who else may speak to her ? That prying 
scoundrel, Hartright, may come back without my knowing 
it, and may make use of her to-morrow ' 

' Not he, Percival ! While I am on the spot, and while 
that woman is in the neighbourhood, I will answer for our 
laying hands on her, before Mr. Hartright — even if he does 
come back. I see ! yes, yes, I sec ! The finding of Anne 

296 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

Catherick is the first necessity : make your mind easy about 
the rest. Your wife is here, under your thumb ; Miss 
Halcombe is inseparable from her, and is, therefore, under 
your thumb also ; and Mr. Hartright is out of the country. 
This invisible Anne of yours, is all we have to think of for the 
present. You have made your inquiries ? ' 

' Yes. I have been to her mother ; I have ransacked the 
village — and all to no purpose.' 

* Is her mother to be depended on ? ' 
'Yes.' 

' She has told your secret once ? ' 

* She won't tell it again.' 

* Why not ? Are her own interests concerned in keeping 
it, as well as yours ? ' 

' Yes — deeply concerned.' 

* I am glad to hear it, Percival, for your sake. Don't be 
discouraged, m}'^ friend. Our money matters, as I told you, 
leave me plenty of time to turn round in ; and / may search 
for Anne Catherick to-morrow to better purpose than you. 
One last question, before we go to bed.' 

' What is it ? ' 

' It is this. When I went to the. boat-house to tell Lady 
Clyde that the little difficulty of her signature was put ofi^, 
accident took me there in time to see a strange woman 
parting in a very suspicious manner from your wife. But 
accident did not bring me near enough to see this same 
woman's face plainly. I must know how to recognise our 
invisible Anne. What is she like ? ' 

' Like ? Come ! I'll tell you in two words. She's a sickly 
likeness of my wife.' 

The chair creaked, and the pillar shook once more. The 
Count was on his feet again — this time in astonishment. 

' W^hat ! ! ! ' he exclaimed eagerly. 

' Fancy my wife, after a bad illness, with a touch of some- 
thing wrong in her head— and there is Anne Catherick for 
you,' answered Sir Percival. 

' Are they related to each other ? ' 

'Not a bit of it.' 

' And yet, so like ? ' 

' Yes, so like. What are you laughing about ? * 

There was no answer, and no sound of any kind. The 
Count was laughing in his smooth silent internal way. 

' What are you laughing about ? ' reiterated Sir Percival. 

' Perhaps, at rtiy own fancies, my good friend. Allow 
me my ItaUan humour — do I not come of the illustrious 

297 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

nation which invented the exiiibition of Punch? Well, well, 
well, I shall know Anne Catherick when I see her — and so 
enough for to-night. Make your mind easy, Percival. Sleep, 
my son, the sleep of the just ; and see what I will do for you, 
when daylight comes to help us both. I have my projects 
and my plans, here in my big head. You shall pay those 
bills and find Anne Catherick — my sacred word of honour on 
it, but you shall ! Am I a friend to be treasured in the best 
corner of your heart, or am I not ? Am I worth those loans 
of money which you so delicately reminded me of a little 
while since ? Whatever you do, never wound me in my 
sentiments any more. Recognise them, Percival ! imitate 
them, Percival ! I forgive you again ; I shake hands again. 
Good-night ! ' 

Not another word was spoken. I heard the Count close 
the library door. I heard Sir Percival barring up the window- 
shutters. It had been raining, raining all the time. I was 
cramped by my position, and chilled to the bones. When 
I first tried to move, the effort was so painful to me, that I 
was obliged to desist. I tried a second time, and succeeded 
in rising to my knees on the wet roof. 

As I crept to the wall, and raised myself against it, I 
looked back, and saw the window of the Count's drassing- 
room gleam into light. My sinking courage flickered up in 
me again, and kept my eyes fixed on his window, as I stole 
my way back, step by step, past the w'all of the liouse. 

The clock struck the quarter after one, when I laid my 
hands on the window-sill of my ov/n room. I had seen 
nothing and heard nothing which could lead me to suppose 
that my retreat had been discovered. 

X. 



June 20th. — Eight o'clock. The sun is shining in a clear 
sky. I have not been near my bed — I have not once closed my 
weary, wakeful eyes. From the same window at which I 
looked out into the darkness of last night, I look out, now, at 
the bright stillness of the morning. 

I count the hours that have passed since I escaped to the 
shelter of this room, by my own sensations— and those hours 
seem like weeks. 

How short a time, and yet how long to me — since I sank 
down in the darkness, here, on the floor ; drenched to the 

298 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

skin, cramped in every limb, cold to the bones, a useless, 
helpless, panic-stricken creature. 

I hardly know when I roused myself. I hardly know 
when I g-roped my way back to the bedroom, and lig-hted the 
candle, and searched (with a strange ignorance, at first, of 
where to look for them) for dry clothes to warm me. The 
doing of these things is in my mind, but not the time when 
they were done. 

Can I even remember when the chilled, cramped feeling' 
left me, and the throbbing' heat came in its place ? 

Surely it was before the sun rose ? Yes ; I heard the 
clock strike three. I remember the time by the sudden 
brightness and clearness, the feverish strain and excitement 
of all my faculties which came with it. I remember my reso- 
lution to control myself, to wait patiently hour after hour, 
till the chance offered of removing Laura from this horrible 
place, without the dang"er of immediate discovery and pursuit. 
I remember the persuasion settling itself in my mind that the 
words those two men had said to each other, would furnish 
us, not only with our justification for leaving the house, but 
with our weapons of defence against them as well. I recall 
the impulse that awakened in me to preserve those words 
in writing, exactly as they were spoken, while the time was 
my own, and while my memory vividly retained them. All 
this I remember plainly : there is no confusion in my head 
yet. The coming in here from the bedroom, with my pen 
and ink and paper, before sunrise — the sitting down at the 
widely opened window to get all the air I could to cool me — 
the ceaseless writing, faster and faster, hotter and hotter, 
driving on more and more wakefully, all through the dreadful 
interval before the house was astir again — how clearly I recall 
it, from the beginning by candlelight, to the end on the page 
before this, in the sunshine of the new day ! 

Why do I sit here still ? Why do I weary my hot eyes 
and my burning head by writing more ? Why not lie down 
and rest myself, and try to quench the fever that consumes 
me, in sleep ? 

I dare not attempt it. A fear beyond all other fears has 
g'ot possession of me. I am afraid of this heat that parches 
my skin. I am afraid of the creeping and throbbing- that 
I feel in my head. If I lie down now, how do I know that 
I may have the sense and the strength to rise again ? 

Oh, the rain, the rain — the cruel rain that chilled me last 

night ! 

* * * •;:- * 

299 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

Nine o'clock. Was it nine struck, or eight ? Nine, 
surely ? I am shivering- again — shivering, from head to foot, 
in the summer air. Have I been sitting here asleep ? I don't 
know what I have been doing. 

Oh, my God ! am I going to be ill ? 

Ill, at such a time as this ! 

My head — I am sadly afraid of my head. I can write, 
but the lines all run together. I see the words. Laura— I 
can write Laura, and see I vv'rite it. Eight or nine — which 
was it ? 

So cold, so cold — oh, that rain last night ! — and the 
strokes of the clock, the strokes I can't count, keep striking 
in my head 



NOTE. 

[At this place the entry in the Diary ceases to be legible. 
The two or three lines which follovv^ contain fragments of 
words only, mingled with blots and scratches of the pen. 
The last marks on the paper bear some resemblance to 
the first two letters (L and A) of the name of Lady Clyde. 

On the next page of the Diary, another entry appears. It 
is in a man's handwriting, large, bold, and firmly regular ; 
and the date is 'June the 21st.' It contains these lines :] 

POSTSCRIPT BY A SINCERE FRIEND. 

The illness of our excellent Miss Halcombe has afforded 
me the opportunity of enjoying an unexpected intellectual 
pleasure. 

I refer to the perusal (which I have just completed) of this 
interesting Diary. 

There are many hundred pages here. I can lay my hand 
on my heart, and declare that every page has charmed, re- 
freshed, delighted me. 

To a man of my sentiments, it is unspeakably gratifying to 
be able to say this. 

Admirable woman ! 

I allude to Miss Halcombe. 

Stupendous effort ! 

I refer to the Diary. 

Yes ! these pages are amazing. The tact which I find 
here, the discretion, the rare courage, the wonderful power of 

300 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

memory, the accurate observation of character, the easy grace 
of style, the charming- outbursts of womanly feeling-, have all 
inexpressibly increased my admiration of this sublime creature, 
of this magnificent Marian. The presentation of my own 
character is masterly in the extreme. I certify, with my 
whole heart, to the fidelity of the portrait. I feel how vivid 
an impression I must have produced to have been painted in 
such strong-, such rich, such massive colours as these. I 
lament afresh the cruel necessity which sets our interests at 
variance, and opposes us to each other. Under happier 
circumstances how worthy I should have been of Miss Hal- 
combe— how worthy Miss Halcombe would have been of me. 

The sentiments which animate my heart assure me that 
the lines I have just written express a Profound Truth. 

Those sentiments exalt me above all merely personal 
considerations. I bear witness, in the most disinterested 
manner, to the excellence of the stratagem by which this 
unparalleled woman surprised the private interview between 
Percival and myself. Also to the marvellous accuracy of her 
report of the whole conversation from its beginning to its 
end. 

Those sentiments have induced me to offer to the unim- 
pressionable doctor who attends on her, my vast knowledge 
of chemistry, and my luminous experience of the more subtle 
resources which medical and magnetic science have placed at 
the disposal of mankind. He has hitherto declined to avail 
himself of my assistance. Miserable man ! 

Finally, those sentiments dictate the lines — grateful, sym- 
pathetic, paternal lines — which appear in this place. I close 
the book. My strict sense of propriety restores it (by the 
hands of my wife) to its place on the writer's table. Events 
are hurrying me away. Circumstances are guiding me to 
serious issues. Vast perspectives of success unroll themselves 
before my eyes. I accomplish my destiny with a calmness 
which is terrible to myself. Nothing but the homage of my 
admiration is m.y own. I deposit it, with respectful tender- 
ness, at the feet of Miss Halcombe. 

I breathe my wishes for her recovery. 

I condole with her on the inevitable failure of every plan 
that she has formed for her sister's benefit. At the same 
time, I entreat her to believe that the information which I 
have derived from her diary will in no respect help me to 
contribute to that failure. It simply confirms the plan of 
conduct which I had previously arranged. I have to thank 

■;oi 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

these pages for awakening the finest sensibilities in my nature 
— nothing more. 

To a person of similar sensibility, this simple assertion 
will explain and excuse everything. 

Miss Halcombe is a person of similar sensibility. 

In that persuasion, I sign myself, 

Fosco 



The Story continued by FREDERICK Fairlie, Esq., 
of Limmeridge House.* 

It is the grand misfortune of my life that nobody will let me 
alone. 

Why — I ask everybody — why worry me ? Nobody answers 
that question ; and nobody lets me alone. Relatives, friends, 
and strangers all combine to annoy me. What have I 
done ? I ask myself, I ask my servant, Louis, fifty times a 
day — what have I done ? Neither of us can tell. Most 
extraordinary ! 

The last annoyance that has assailed me is the annoyance 
of being called upon to write this Narrative. Is a man in my 
state of nervous wretchedness capable of writing narratives ? 
When I put this extremely reasonable objection, I am told 
that certain very serious events, relating to my niece, have 
happened within my experience ; and that I am the fit person 
to describe them on that account. I am threatened, if I fail 
to exert myself in the manner required, with consequences 
which I cannot so much as think of, without perfect prostra- 
tion. There is really no need to threaten me. Shattered by 
my miserable health and my family troubles, I am incapable 
of resistance. If you insist, you take your unjust advan- 
tage of me ; and I give way immediately. I will endeavour 
to remember what I can (under protest), and to wTite what 
I can (also under protest) ; and what I can't rem.embcr and 
can't write, Louis must remember, and write for me. He is 
an ass, and I am an invalid : and we are likely to make all 
sorts of mistakes betv.-een us. How humiliating ! 

I am told to remember dates. Good Heavens ! I never 
did such a thing in my life— how am I to begin novv' ? 

I have asked Louis. He is not quite such an ass as I have 
hitherto supposed. He remembers the date of the event, 
within a week or two — and I remember the name of the 

* The manner in which Mr. Fairlie's Narrative, and other Narratives that 
are shortly to follow it, were originally obtained, forms the subject of an 
explanation which will appear at a later period. 

302 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

person. The date was towards the end of June, or the 
begninuig of July ; and the name (in my opinion a remarkably 
vulgar one) was Fanny. 

At the end of June, or the beginning- of July, then, I was 
reclining, in my customary state, surrounded by the various 
objects of Art which I have collected about me to improve 
the taste of the barbarous people in my neighbourhood. 
That is to say, I had the photographs of my pictures, and 
prints and coins, and so forth, all about me, which I intend, 
one of these days, to present (the photographs, I mean, if 
the clumsy English language will let me mean anything) — to 
present to the Institution at Carlisle (horrid place !), with a 
view to improving the tastes of the Members (Goths and 
Vandals to a man). It might be supposed that a gentleman 
who was in course of conferring a great national benefit on 
his countrymen, was the last gentleman in the world to be 
unfeelingly worried about private difficulties and family aff'airs. 
Quite a mistake, I assure you, in my case. 

However, there I was, reclining, with my art-treasures 
about me, and wanting a quiet morning. Because I wanted 
a quiet morning, of course, Louis came in. It was perfectly 
natural that I should inquire what the deuce he meant by 
making his appearance, v/hen I had not rung my bell. I 
seldom swear — it is such an ungentlemanlike habit — but when 
Louis answered by a grin, 1 think it was also perfectly 
natural that I should damn him for grinning. At any rate, 
I did. 

This rigorous mode of treatment, I have observed, invari- 
ably brings persons in the lower class of life to their senses. 
It brought Louis to his senses. He was so obliging as to 
leave off grinning, and inform me that a Young Person v/as 
outside, wanting to see me. He added (with the odious 
talkativeness of servants^ that her name was Fanny. 

' Who is Fanny ? ' ' 

* Lady Clyde's maid, sir.' 

* What does Lady Clyde's maid want with ine ? ' 
■• A letter, sir — ' 

* Take it.' 

' She refuses to give it to anybody but you, sir.' 

' Who sends the letter ? ' 

' Miss Halcombe, sir.' 

The moment I heard Miss Halcombe's name, I gave up. 
It is a habit of mine always to give up to Miss Halcombe. 
I find, by experience, that it saves noise. I gave up on this 
occasion. Dear Marian ! 

303 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

* Let Lady Glyde's maid come in, Louis. Stop ! Do her 
shoes creak ? ' 

I was oblig-ed to ask the question. Creaking shoes 
invariably upset me for the day. I was resigned to see the 
Young Person, but I was not resigned to let the Young 
Person's shoes upset me. There is a limit even to my en- 
durance. 

Louis affirmed distinctly that her shoes were to be depended 
upon. I waved my hand. He introduced her. Is it neces- 
sary to say that she expressed her sense of embarrassment by 
shutting up her mouth and breathing through her nose ? To 
the student of female human nature in the lower orders, surely 
not. 

Let me do the girl justice. Her shoes did wo/ creak. But 
why do Young Persons in service all perspire at the hands? 
Why have they all got fat noses and hard cheeks ? And why 
are their faces so sadly unfinished, especiall}' about the corners 
of the eyelids ? I am not strong enough to think deeply myself, 
on any subject ; but I appeal to professional men who are. 
Why have we no variety in our breed of Young Persons ? 

' You have a letter for me, from Miss Halcombe ? Put it 
down on the table, please ; and don't upset anything. How 
is Miss Halcombe ? ' 

' Very well, thank you, sir.' 

' And Lady Clyde ? ' 

I received no answer. The Young Person's face became 
more unfinished than ever ; and, I think she began to cry. 
I certainl}^ saw something moist about her eyes. Tears or 
perspiration ? Louis (whom I have just consulted) is inclined 
to think, tears. He is in her class of life ; and he ought to 
know best. Let us say, tears. 

Except when the refining process of Art judiciously re- 
moves from them all resemblance to Nature, I distinctly 
object to tears. Tears are scientifically described as a Secre- 
tion. I can understand that a secretion may be healthy or 
unhealthy, but I cannot see the interest of a secretion from a 
sentimental point of view. Perhaps my own secretions being 
all wrong together, I am a little prejudiced on the subject. 
No matter. I behaved, on this occasion, with all possible 
propriety and feeling. I closed my eyes, and said to Louis, 

' Endeavour to ascertain what she means.' 

Louis endeavoured, and the Young Person endeavoured. 
They succeeded in confusing each other to such an extent 
that I am bound in common gratitude to say, they really 
amused me. I think I shall send for them again when I am in 

304 



/ 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

low spirits. I have just mentioned this idea to Louis. Strange 
to say, It seems to make him uncomfortable. Poor devil ' 
plaradon oJh"" f""^ expected to repeat my niece's maid's'ex- 
litfl %? Z ^^^'^' ""^terpreted in the English of my Swiss 
valet? The thmg ,s manifestly impossible^ I can give my 

Esfs^T Yesf "' ^''""^" P"'"P'- ^^^" '^"' '^^ ^^"^" ^ 

My idea is that she began by telling me (throu-h Louis^ 

Obser'^eTh'''" Y '"?"^^^' ''^^ f-m her mlstres^s ser^rce 

&? 'wr^-f °'''; "r f'""^" irrelevancy of the Young 

1 erson. _ \\ as it my f^tult that she had lost her place >) On 

he tntf' ''' ';"' ^"" ^° '''' •"" ^« ^'-P- (' don' kee^ 
even M Vr '^ VZ '''' '^ ^'''''''' six o'clock and 
.>even I\Iiss Halcombe had come to say good-by, and had 
giv-en her two letters, one for me, and one for a gentleman in 
London (/ am not a gentleman in London-hang the oentle" 
man m London !) She had carefully put the two "letters nto 
her bosom (what have I to do with her bosom ^) she had 
been very unhappy, when Miss Halcombe ha" 'i^ne aw^y 
hf'lbs t n i^' "'^^ '-^the heart to put bit or dro^p betw^^^ 
hex hps t 11 It was near bedtime ; and then, when it was close 
on nine o clock, she had thought she should like a cup of tea 

beSn with^nnh" ^-'^'^"^^^ '^.''' ^'^'8-^'" fluctuations which 
begin with unhappiness and end with tea ?) Just as she was 
wan,nn^ tke pot (I giv^ the words on the iuthor ty of Loui' 
but rriV-'""" -hat. they mean, and wishes to expla i 
^o th.^ "' on pnnciple)-just as she was warming the 
pot, the door opened and she was sh-uck of a heap (her own 
Ts vellTto' '"^ ?n '^'l^' """^telligible, this time, \o LouS 
her Inlj- T^}'^^^^ ^^ '^'^ appearance, in the inn parlour, of 
tinn o/ ^P' .' Countess._ I giye my niece's maid's desc ip- 
tion of my sister's tit e with a sense of the highest relish. 
My poor dear sister is a tiresome woman who married a 
toieigner. To resume : the door opened ; her ladyship, the 
Countess, appeared in the parlour, and the Young Person was 
struck of a heap. Most remarkable ! rson\\as 

I must really rest a little before I can get on any farther 
When I have reclined for a few minutes, wfth my eyJs closed; 
and when Louis has refreshed my poor aching temples wi?h a 
little eau-de-Cologne, I may be able to proceed. ^ 

Her ladyship, the Countess 

and^di'ctal''"' f n'" \^'''''^f> bu^ not to sit up. I will recline 
and dictate. Louis has a horrid accent; but he knows the 
language, and can write. How very convenient ! 

305 X 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

Her ladyship, the Countess, explained her unexpected ap- 
pearance at the inn by telling Fanny that she had come to 
bring one or two little messages which Miss Halcombe, in her 
hurry, had forgotten. The Young Person thereupon waited 
anxiously to hear what the messages were ; but the Countess 
seemed disinclined to mention them (so like my sister's tire- 
some way !), vmtil Fanny had had her tea. Her ladyship was 
surprisingly kind and thoughtful about it (extremely unlike 
my sister), and said, * I am sure, my poor girl, you must want 
your tea. We can let the messages wait till afterwards. 
Come, come, if nothing else will put you at your ease, I'll 
make the tea, and have a cup with j^ou.' I think those were 
the words, as reported excitably, in my presence, by the Young 
Person. At any rate, the Countess insisted on making" the 
tea, and carried her ridiculous ostentation of humility so far 
as to take one cup herself, and to insist on the girl's taking 
the other. The girl drank the tea ; and, according to her own 
account, solemnised the extraordinary occasion, five minutes 
afterwards, by fainting dead away, for the first time in her life. 
Here again, I use her own words. Louis thinks they were 
accompanied by an increased secretion of tears. I can't say, 
myself. The effort of listening being quite as much as I could 
manage, my eyes were closed. 

Where did I leave off? Ah, yes — she fainted, after drink- 
ing a cup of tea with the Countess : a proceeding which might 
have interested me, if I had been her medical man ; but, being 
nothing of the sort, I felt bored by hearing of it, nothing more. 
When she came to herself, in half an hour's time, she was on 
the sofa, and nobody was with her but the landlady. The 
Countess, finding it too late to remain any longer at the inn, 
had gone away as soon as the girl showed signs of recovering ; 
and the landlady had been good enough to help her up-stairs 
to bed. 

Left by herself, she had felt in her bosom (I regret the 
necessity of referring to this part of the subject a second time), 
and had found the two letters there, quite safe, but strangely 
crumpled. She had been giddy in the night ; but had got up 
well enough to travel in the morning. She had put the letter 
addressed to that obtrusive stranger, the gentleman in London, 
into the post ; and had now delivered the other letter into my 
hands, as she was told. This was the plain truth ; and, though 
she could not blame herself for any intentional neglect, she was 
sadly troubled in her mind, and sadly in want of a word of 
advice. At this point, Louis thinks the secretions appeared 
again. Perhaps they did; but it is of infinitely greater 

306 



H 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

importance to mention that, at this nolnt ;,!.,. T 1 . 

patience, opened my eyes, and interfered ""' ^ ^^'^ "^^ 

VVhat IS the purport of all this ? ' I inquired 

^Jh nieces irrelevant maid stared, Sndl^ood speech- 

me,'£utsr""^" '^P^'^^"'' ' '^'^ '^ ->■ --ant. « Translate 

desc'^rJrdTmrdTatd; -no f b t'^',- ^" -^^'^^^ --^^^' h^ 

and the YounrPerZ fo low.d^ "'?'' ^'' ^^ confusion; 
know when I h1,ve been so Lmused "l iXl" ^ T"^' ^°^'^ 
of the pit, as long- as hey Ze ted me WhT "\u' ^'^"""^ 
to divert me, I exerted mv^ TnV.n- .^'^ ^^^y ^^^ased 

again. "'^ "itelligence, and pulled them up 

her mistress's in^erest^H^H been of great importance to 
her from .o^'^SLl^.f ^pf ;;^ ^f-^^^^^^ 

about them ; and Miss Halcon.be's mv^ direction, t i"^""'" 
no account to miss the tnin Jn tL '^V'^"\ons to her, on 

l.er from waiting ,'. If ^" he 'eS°da7' sf '""^^"'^'' 
anxious that the niisfnrf,,,,. „f ne>.t daJ^ She was most 
to the second m I or?; e of n^^,';:- ""l'"^-"5 ^ho"W "Ot lead 

w^u^r^'^i^nef t£|f " "^ f " ^^^^^^ 

?J1^ef-o-^tvSH^S-H 
take more interest in what my niecS ma?d t i'rl T ""^""i^y 
occasion, than in wlvit T «-.;,/f " , "^ ^° ^^^^ '"-his 

, I.1IC111 lu wnac 1 said to mv niece s; mn.vi a 
perversity ! ■' "^^^^ ^ maid. Amusing- 

kindly trr'm/thirr Tad' heH^i '? ^■°"' '•'■• 'f y- -°"W 

Person. belter do,' remarlred the Young 

to my HsEe;"ef^'/']„Tarirbi:?e;'/H?"'''' ""^P''""" "^ '-'S-ge 
Is that all ? • "iranaWy let thmgs stop as they are. Yes. 

' If you think it would be^a liberty in me, sir. to write, of 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

course I wouldn't venture to do so. But I am so very anxious 
to do all I can to serve my mistress faithfully ' 

People in the lower class of life never know when or how 
to go out of a room. They invariably require to be helped 
out by their betters. I thought it high time to help the Young 
Person out. I did it with two judicious words : 

' Good morning ! ' 

Something, outside or inside this singular girl, suddenly 
creaked. Louis, who was looking at her (which I was not), 
says she creaked when she curtseyed. Curious. Was it her 
shoes, her stays, or her bones ? Louis thinks it was her stays. 
Most extraordinary ! 

As soon as I was left by myself, I had a little nap — I really 
wanted it. When I awoke again, I noticed dear Marian's 
letter. If I had had the least idea of what it contained, I 
should certainly not have attempted to open it. Being, unfor- 
tunately for myself, quite innocent of all suspicion, I read the 
letter. It immediately upset me for the day. 

I am, by nature, one of the most easy-tempered creatures 
that ever lived— I make allow-ances for everybody, and I take 
offence at nothing. But, as I have before remarked, there are 
limits to my endurance. I laid down Marian's letter, and felt 
myself — justly felt myself— an injured man. 

I am about to make a remark. It is, of course, applicable 
to the very serious matter now under notice— or I should not 
allow it to appear in this place. 

Nothing, in my opinion, sets the odious selfishness of man- 
kind in such a repulsively vivid light, as the treatment, in all 
classes of society, which the Single people receive at the hands 
of the Married people. When you have once shown yourself 
too considerate and self-denying to add a family of your own 
to an already overcrowded population, you are vindictively 
marked out by your married friends, who have no similar 
consideration and no similar self-denial, as the recipient of 
half their conjugal troubles, and the born friend of all their 
children. Husbands and wives ^alk of the cares of matrimony ; 
and bachelors and spinsters dear them. Take my own case. 
I considerately remain single ; and my poor dear brother, 
Philip, inconsiderately marries. What does he do when he 
dies ? He leaves his daughter to ?ne. She is a sweet girl. 
She is also a dreadful responsibility. Why lay her on my 
shoulders ? Because I am bound, in the harmless character 
of a single man, to relieve my married connexions of all their 
own troubles. I do my best with my brother's responsibility ; 

308 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

I marry my niece, with infinite fuss and difficulty, to the man 
her father wanted her to marry. She and her husband dis- 
agree, and unpleasant consequences follow. What does she 
do with those consequences ? She transfers them to me. 
Why transfer them to me ? Because I am bound, in the harm- 
less character of a single man, to relieve my married con- 
nexions of all their own troubles. Poor single people ! Poor 
human nature ! 

It is quite unnecessary to say that Marian's letter threat- 
ened me. Everybody threatens me. All sorts of horrors 
were to fall on my devoted head, if I hesitated to turn Lim- 
meridge House into an asylum for my niece and her misfor- 
tunes. I did hesitate, nevertheless. 

I have mentioned that my usual course, hitherto, had been 
to submit to dear Marian, and save noise. But, on this oc- 
casion, the consequences involved in her extremely incon- 
siderate proposal, were of a nature to make me pause. If I 
opened Limmeridge House as an asylum to Lady Glyde, what 
security had I against Sir Percival Glyde's following her here, 
in a state of violent resentment against me for harbouring his 
wife ? I saw such a perfect labyrinth of troubles involved in 
this proceeding, that I determined to feel my ground, as it 
were. I wrote, therefore, to dear Marian, to beg (as she had 
no husband to lay claim to her) that she would come here by 
herself, first, and talk the matter over with me. If she could 
answer my objections to my own perfect satisfaction, then I 
assured her that I would receive our sweet Laura with the 
greatest pleasure— but not otherwise. 

I felt of course, at the time, that this temporising, on my 
part, would probably end in bringing Marian here in a state 
of virtuous indignation, banging doors. But, then, the other 
course of proceeding might end in bringing Sir Percival here 
in a state of virtuous indignation, banging doors also ; and, of 
the two indignations and hangings, I preferred Marian's — 
because I was used to her. Accordingly, I despatched the 
letter by return of post. It gained me time, at all events — • 
and, oh dear me ! what a point that was to begin with. 

When I am totally prostrated (did I mention that I was 
totally prostrated by Marian's letter?), it always takes me 
three days to get up again. I was very unreasonable — I 
expected three days of quiet. Of course I didn't get them. 

The third day's post brought me a most impertinent letter 
from a person with whom I was totally unacquainted. He 
described himself as the acting partner of our man of business 
—our dear pig-headed old Gilmore — and he informed me that 

309 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

he had lately received, by the post, a letter addressed to him 
in Miss Halcombe's handwriting". On opening the envelope, 
he had discovered, to his astonishment, that it contained 
nothing but a blank sheet of note paper. This circumstance 
appeared to him so suspicious (as suggesting to his restless 
legal mind that the letter had been tampered with) that he 
had at once written to Miss Halcombe, and had received no 
answer by return of post. In this difficulty, instead of acting 
like a sensible man and letting things take their proper course ; 
his next absurd proceeding, on his own showing, Avas to pester 
me, by writing to inquire if I knew anything about it. What 
the deuce should I know about it ? Why alarm me as well 
as himself? I wrote back to that effect. It was one of my 
keenest letters. I have produced nothing with a sharper 
epistolary edge to it, since I tendered his dismissal in writing 
to that extremely troublesome person, Mr. Walter Hart- 
right. 

My letter produced its effect. I heard nothing more from 
the lawyer. 

This perhaps was not altogether surprising. But it was 
certainly a remarkable circumstance that no second letter 
reached me from Marian, and that no warning signs appeared 
of her arrival. Her unexpected absence did me amazing 
good. It was so very soothing and pleasant to infer (as I 
did of course) that my married connexions had made it up 
again. Five daj's of undisturbed tranquillity, of delicious 
single blessedness, quite restored me. On the sixth day, I 
felt strong enough to send for my photographer, and to set 
him at work again on the presentation copies of my art- 
treasures, with a view, as I have already mentioned, to the 
improvement of taste in this barbarous neighbourhood. I 
had just dismissed him to his workshop, and had just begun 
coquetting with my coins, when Louis suddenly made his 
appearance with a card in his hand. 

' Another Young Person ? ' I said. ' I won't see her. In 
my state of health, Young Persons disagree with me. Not 
at home.' 

' It is a gentleman this time, sir.' 

A gentleman of course made a difference. I looked at the 
card. 

Gracious Heaven ! my tiresome sister's foreign husband. 
Count Fosco. 

Is it necessary to say what my first impression was, when 
I looked at my visitor's card ? Surely not ? My sister having 

310 



f 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

married a foreigner, there was but one impression that any 
man in his senses could possibly feel. Of course the Count 
had come to borrow money of me. 

* Louis,' I said, * do you think he would go away, if you 
gave him five shillings ? ' 

Louis looked quite shocked. He surprised me inexpres- 
sibly, by declaring that my sister's foreign husband was 
dressed superbly, and looked the picture of prosperity. Under 
these circumstances, my first impression altered to a certain 
extent. I now took it for granted, that the Count had 
matrimonial difficulties of his own to contend with, and that 
he had come, like the rest of the family, to cast them all on 
my shoulders. 

' Did he mention his business ? ' I asked. 

' Count Fosco said he had come here, sir, because Miss 
Halcombe was unable to leave Blackwater Park.' 

Fresh troubles, apparently. Not exactly his own, as I had 
supposed, but dear Marian's. Troubles, any wav. Oh 
dear ! ' 

' Show him in,' I said, resignedly. 

The Count's first appearance really startled me. He was 
such an alarmingly large person, that I quite trembled. I 
felt certain that he would shake the floor, and knock down 
my art-treasures. He did neither the one nor the other. He 
was refreshingly dressed in sumnier costume ; his manner 
was delightfully self-possessed and quiet — he had a charming 
smile. My first impression of him was highly favourable. It 
is not creditable to my penetration — as the sequel will show — 
to acknowledge this ; but I am a naturally candid man, and 
I do acknowledge it, notwithstanding. 

'Allow me to present myself, Mr. Fairlie,' he said. *I 
come from Blackwater Park, and I have the honour and the 
happiness of being Madame Fosco's husband. Let me take 
my first, and last, advantage of that circumstance, by entreat- 
ing you not to make a stranger of me. I beg you will not 
disturb yourself — I beg you will not move.' 

* You are very good,' I replied. ' I wish I was strong 
enough to get up. Charmed to see you at Limmeridge. 
Please take a chair.' 

* I am afraid you are suffering to-day,' said the Count. 

' As usual,' I said. ' I am nothing but a bundle of nerves 
dressed up to look like a man.' 

* I have studied many subjects in my time,' remarked this 
sympathetic person. ' Among others the inexhaustible sub- 
ject of nerves. May I make a suggestion, at once the 

3" 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

simplest and the most profound ? Will you let me alter the 
light in your room ? ' 

' Certainly — if you will be so very kind as not to let any of 
it in on me.' 

He walked to the window. Such a contrast to dear 
Marian ! so extremely considerate in all his movements ! 

' Light,' he said, in that delig-htfully confidential tone 
which is so soothing to an invalid, * is the first essential. 
Light stimulates, nourishes, preserves. You can no more do 
without it, Mr. Fairlie, than if you were a flower. Observe. 
Here, where you sit, I close the shutters, to compose you. 
There, where you do not sit, I draw up the blind and let in 
the invigorating sun. Admit the light into your room, if you 
cannot bear it on yourself. Light, sir, is the grand decree of 
Providence. You accept Providence with your own re- 
strictions. Accept light — on the same terms.' 

I thought this very convincing and attentive. He had 
taken me in — up to that point about the light, he had cer- 
tainly taken me in. 

* You see me confused,' he said, returning to his place — • 
* on my word of honour, Mr. Fairlie, you see me confused in 
your presence.' 

' Shocked to hear it, I am sure. May I inquire why ? ' 
' Sir, can I enter this room (where you sit a sufferer), and 
see you surrounded by these admirable objects of Art, without 
discovering that you are a man whose feelings are acutely 
impressionable, whose sympathies are perpetually alive ? 
Tell me can I do this ? ' 

If I had been strong enough to sit up in my chair, I should 
of course have bowed. Not being strong enough, I smiled 
my acknowledgments instead. It did just as well, we both 
understood one another. 

* Pray follow my train of thought,' continued the Count. 
' I sit here, a man of refined sympathies myself, in the presence 
of another man of refined sympathies also. I am conscious 
of a terrible necessity for lacerating those sympathies by 
referring to domestic events of a very melancholy kind. 
What is the inevitable consequence ? I have done myself 
the honovir of pointing it out to you, already. I sit con- 
fused.' 

Was it at this point that I began to suspect he was going 
to bore me ? I rather think it was. 

* Is it absolutely necessary to refer to these unpleasant 
matters ? ' I inquired. * In our homely English phrase, 
Count Fosco, won't they keep ? ' 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

The Count, with the most alarming solemnity, sighed and 
shook his head. 

' Must I really hear them ? ' 

He shrugged his shoulders (it was the first foreign thing 
he had done, since he had been in the room) ; and looked at 
me in an unpleasantly penetrating manner. My instincts told 
me that I had better close my eyes. I obeyed my instincts. 

' Please break it gently,' I pleaded. ' Anybody dead ? ' 

' Dead ! ' cried the Count, with unnecessary foreign fierce- 
ness. ' Mr. Fairlie ! your national composure terrifies me. 
In the name of Heaven, what have I said, or done, to make 
you think me the messenger of death ? ' 

' Pray accept my apologies,' I answered. ' You have said 
and done nothing. I make it a rule, in these distressing 
cases, always to anticipate the worst. It breaks the blow, 
by meeting it halfway, and so on. Inexpressibly relieved, I 
am sure, to hear that nobody is dead. Anybody ill ? ' 

I opened my eyes, and looked at him. Was he very 
yellow, when he came in ? or had he turned very yellow, in 
the last minute or two ? I really can't say ; and I can't ask 
Louis, because he was not in the room at the time. 

' Anybody ill ? ' I repeated ; observing that my national 
composure still appeared to affect him. 

' That is part of my bad news, Mr. Fairlie. Yes. Some- 
body is ill.' 

' Grieved, I am sure. Which of them is it ? ' 

* To my profound sorrow. Miss Halcombe. Perhaps you 
were in some degree prepared to hear this ? Perhaps, when 
you found that ^Iiss Halcombe did not come here by herself, 
as you proposed, and did not write a second time, your affec- 
tionate anxiety may have made you fear that she was ill ? ' 

I have no doubt my affectionate anxiety had led to that 
melancholy apprehension, at some time or other ; but, at the 
moment, my wretched memory entirely failed to remind me 
of the circumstance. However, I said. Yes, in justice to my- 
self. I was much shocked. It was so very uncharacteristic 
of such a robust person as dear Marian to be ill, that I could 
only suppose she had met with an accident. A horse, or a 
false step on the stairs, or something of that sort. 

* Is it serious ? ' I asked. 

' Serious — beyond a doubt,' he replied. ' Dangerous — I 
hope and trust not. Miss Halcombe unhappily exposed her- 
self to be wetted through by a heavy rain. The cold that 
followed was of an aggravated kind ; and it has now brought 
with it the worst consequence — Fever.' 

313 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

When I heard the word, Fever, and when I remem- 
bered, at the same moment, that the unscrupulous person 
who was now addressing me had just come from Black- 
water Park, I thought I should have fainted on the spot. 

' Good God ! ' I said. ' Is it infectious ? ' 

' Not at present,' he ansvv^ered, with detestable compo- 
sure. ' It may turn to infection — but no such deplorable 
complication had taken place when I left Blackwater Park. 
I have felt the deepest interest in the case, Mr. Fairlie — I 
have endeavoured to assist the regular medical attendant in 
watching it — accept my personal assurances of the uninfectious 
nature of the fever, when I last saw it.' 

Accept his ass-urances ! I never was farther from accept- 
ing anything in my life. I would not have believed him on 
his oath. He was too yellow to be believed. He looked 
like a walking-West-Indian-epidemic. He was big enough 
to carry typhus by the ton, and to dye the very carpet he 
walked on with scarlet fever. In certain emergencies, my 
mind is remarkably soon made up. I instantly determined 
to get rid of him. 

* You will kindly excuse an invalid,' I said — ' but long 
conferences of any kind invariably upset me. May I beg to 
know exactly what the object is to which I am indebted for 
the honour of your visit ? ' 

I fervently hoped that this remarkably broad hint would 
throw him off his balance — confuse him — reduce him to polite 
apologies — in short, get him out of the room. On the con- 
trary, it only settled him in his chair. He became additionally 
solemn and dignified and confidential. He held up two of 
his horrid fingers, and gave me another of his unpleasantly 
penetrating looks. What was I to do? I was not strong 
enough to quarrel with him. Conceive my situation, if you 
please. Is language adequate to describe it? I think not. 

'The objects of my visit,' he went on, quite irrepressibly, 
' are numbered on my fingers. They are two. First, I come 
to bear my testimony, with profound sorrow, to the lament- 
able disagreements between Sir Percival and Lady Glyde. I 
am Sir Percival's oldest friend ; I am related to Lady Glyde 
by marriage ; I am an eye-witness of all that has happened 
at Blackwater Park. In those three capacities I speak with 
authority, with confidence, with honourable regret. Sir ! I 
inform you, as the head of Lady Glyde's family, that Miss 
Halcombe has exaggerated nothing in the letter which she 
wrote to your address. I affirm that the remedy which that 
admirable lady has proposed, is the only remedy that will 

314 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

spare you the horrors of public scandal. A temporary 
separation between husband and wife is the one peaceable solu- 
tion of this difficulty. Part them for the present ; and when 
all causes of irritation are removed, I, who have now the 
honour of addressing- j'ou — I will undertake to bring- Sir 
Percival to reason. Lady Clyde is innocent, Lady Clyde is 
injured ; but — follow my thought here ! — she is, on that very 
account (I say it with shame), the cause of irritation while 
she remains under her husband's roof. No other house can 
receive her with proprietv, but yours. I invite you to open 
it!' 

Cool. Here was a matrimonial hailstorm pouring in the 
South of England ; and I was invited, by a man with fever in 
every fold of his coat, to come out from the North of 
England, and take my share of the pelting-. I tried to put 
tlie point forcibly, just as I have put it here. The Count 
deliberately lowered one of his horrid fingers ; kept the other 
up ; and went on — rode over me, as it were, without even 
the common coachmanlike attention of crying ' Hi ! ' before 
he knocked me down. 

'Follow my thought once more, if you please,' he re- 
sumed. ' My first object you have, heard. My second object 
in coming to this house is to do what Miss Halcombe's 
illness has prevented her from doing for herself. My large 
experience is consulted on all difficult matters at Blackwater 
Park ; and my friendly advice was requested on the interest- 
ing subject of your letter to Miss Halcombe. I understood 
at once — for my sympathies are your sympathies — why you 
wished to see her here, before you pledged yourself to inviting 
Lady Clyde. You are most right, sir, in hesitating to receive 
the wife, until you are quite certain that the husband will not 
exert his authority to reclaim her. I agree to that. I also 
agree that such delicate explanations as this difficulty involves, 
are not explanations which can be properly disposed of by 
writing only. My presence here (to my own great inconveni- 
ence) is the proof that I speak sincerely. As for the explana- 
tions themselves, I — Fosco — I who know Sir Percival much 
better than Miss Halcombe knows him, affirm to you, on my 
honour and my word, that he will not come near this house, 
or attempt to communicate with this house, while his wife is 
living in it. His affairs are embarrassed. Offer him his 
freedom, by means of the absence of Lady Clyde. I promise 
you he will take his freedom, and go back to the Continent, 
at the earliest moment when he can get away. Is this clear 
to you as crystal ? Yes, it is. Have you questions to 

315 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

address to me ? Be it so ; I am here to answer. Ask, Mr. 
Fairlie — oblige me by asking, to your heart's content.' 

He had said so much already in spite of me ; and he 
looked so dreadfully capable of saying a great deal more, 
also in spite of me, that I declined his amiable invitation, in 
pure self-defence. 

' Many thanks,' I replied. ' I am sinking fast. In my 
state of health, I must take things for granted. Allow me 
to do so on this occasion. We quite understand each other. 
Yes. Much obliged, I am sure, for your kind interference. 
If I ever get better, and ever have a second opportunity of 
improving our acquaintance ' 

He got up. I thought he was going. No. More talk ; 
more time for the development of infectious influences — in 
viy room, too ; remember that, in my room ! 

'One moment, yet,' he said ; * one moment before I take 
my leave. I ask permission, at parting, to impress on you 
an urgent necessity. It is this, sir ! You must not think of 
waiting till Miss Halcombe recovers, before you receive Lady 
Glyde. Miss Halcombe has the attendance of the doctor, of 
the housekeeper at Blackwater Park, and of an experienced 
nurse as well — three persons for whose capacity and devotion 
I answer with my life. I tell you that. I tell you, also, 
that the anxiety and alarm of her sister's illness has already 
aff"ected the health and spirits of Lady Glyde, and has made 
her totally unfit to be of use in the sick-room. Her position 
with her husband grows more and more deplorable and 
dangerous, every day. If you leave her any longer at Black- 
water Park, you do nothing whatever to hasten her sister's 
recovery, and, at the same time, you risk the public scandal, 
which you, and I, and all of us, are bound, in the sacred 
interests of the Family, to avoid. With all my soul, I advise 
you to remove the serious responsibility of delay from }^our 
own shoulders, by writing to Lady Glyde, to come here at 
once. Do your aff"ectionate, your honourable, your inevitable 
duty ; and, whatever happens in the future, no one can lay 
the blame on yoti. I speak from my large experience ; I offer 
my friendly advice. Is it accepted — Yes, or No ? ' 

I looked at him — merely looked at him — with my sense of 
his amazing assurance, and my dawning resolution to ring 
for Louis, and have him shown out of the room, expressed 
in every line of my face. It is perfectly incredible, but quite 
true, that my face did not appear to produce the slightest 
impression on him. Born without nerves — evidently, born 
without nerves, 

316 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

; You hesitate ? ' he said. ' Mr. Fairlie ! I understand that 
hesitation You object— see, sir, how my sj-mpathies look 
straight down into your thoughts .'—you object that Lady 
(alyde IS not in health and not in spirits to take th'- lono- 
journey, from Hampshire to this place, by herself. Her own 
maid is^ removed from her, as )-ou know ; and, of other ser- 
vants ht to travel with her, from one end of England to 
another, there are none at Blackwater Park. You object 
ag-ain, that she cannot comfortably stop and rest in London, on 
her way here because she cannot comfortably go alone to a 
pubhc hotel where she is a total stranger. In one breath, I grant 
both objections~in another breath, I remove them. Follow 
me, If you please, for the last time. It was my intention, when 
1 returned to England with Sir Percival, to settle myself in 
the neighbourhood of London. That purpose has just been 
nappi ly accomplished. I have taken, for six months, a little 
turnished house, in the quarter called St. John's Wood Be 
so obliging as to keep this fact in your mind ; and observe 
the programme I now propose. Lady Glvde travels to 
London (a short journey)— I myself meet her at the station— 
1 take her to rest and sleep at my house, which is also the 
house of her aunt— when she is restored, I escort her to the 
station again— she travels to this place, and her own maid 
(who is now under your roof) receives her at the carriage- 
door. _ Here IS comfort consulted ; here are the interests of 
propriety consulted ; here is your own duty— duty of hos- 
pita ity, sympathy, protection, to an unhappy lady in need of 
all three-smoothed and made easy, from the beginning to 
the end. I cordially invite you, sir, to second my effort^ in 
the sacred interests of the Family. I seriously advise you to 
write, by my hands, offering the hospitality of your house 
(and heart) and the hospitality of my house (and heart), to 
that injured and unfortunate lady whose cause I plead to- 
day. ^ 

He waved his horrid hand at me ; he struck his infectious 
breast ; he addressed me oratorically— as if I was laid up in 
the House of Commons. It was high time to take a desperate 
course of some sort. It was also high time to send for Louis 
and adopt the precaution of fumigating the room. 

In thistrying emergency, an idea occurred to' me— an in- 
estimable idea which, so to speak, killed two intrusive birds 
with one stone. I detemiined to get rid of the Count's tire- 
some eloquence, and of Lady Clyde's tiresome troubles, by 
complying with this odious foreigner's request, and wridng 
the letter at once. There was not the least danger of the 

317 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

invitation being accepted, for there was not the least chance 
that Laura would consent to leave Blackwater Park, while 
Marian was lying there ill. How this charmingly convenient 
obstacle could have escaped the officious penetration of the 
Count, it was impossible to conceive — but it /lad escaped him. 
My dread that he might yet discover it, if I allowed him any 
more time to think, stimulated me to such an amazing degree, 
that I struggled into a sitting position ; seized, reall}' seized 
the writing materials by my side ; and produced the letter as 
rapidly as if I had been a common clerk in an office. ' Dearest 
Laura, Please come, whenever you like. Break the journey 
by sleeping in London at your aunt's house. Grieved to hear 
of dear Marian's illness. Ever affectionately yours.' I handed 
these lines, at arm's length, to the Count — I sank back in my 
chair — I said, ' Excuse me ; I am entirely prostrated ; I can 
do no more. Will you rest and lunch down stairs ? Love to 
all, and sympathy, and so on. Good morning.' 

He made another speech — the man was absolutely in- 
exhaustible. I closed my eyes ; I endeavoured to hear as 
little as possible. In spite of my endeavours, I was obliged 
to hear a great deal. My sister's endless husband congratu- 
lated himself and congratulated me, on the result of oui 
interview ; he mentioned a great deal more about his sym- 
pathies and mine ; he deplored my miserable health ; he 
offered to write me a prescription ; he impressed on me the 
necessity of not forgetting what he had said about the im- 
portance of lig'ht ; he accepted my obliging invitation to rest 
and lunch ; he recommended me to expect Lady Glyde in two 
or three days' time ; he begged my permission to look forward 
to our next meeting, instead of paining himself and paining 
me, by saying farewell ; he added a great deal more, which, 
I rejoice to think, I did not attend to at the time, and do not 
remember now. I heard his sympathetic voice travelling- 
away from me by degrees — but, large as he was, I never 
heard kim. He had the negative merit of being absolutely 
noiseless. I don't know when he opened the door, or when 
he shut it. I ventured to make use of my eyes again, after 
an interval of silence — and he was gone. 

I rang for Louis, and retired to my bath-room. Tepid 
water, strengthened with aromatic vinegar, for myself, and 
copious fumigation, for my study, were the obvious precau- 
tions to take ; and of course I adopted them. I rejoice to 
say, they proved successful. I enjoyed my customary siesta. 
I awoke moist and cool. 

My first inquiries were for the Count. Had we really got 

318 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

rid of him ? Yes — he had gone away by the afternoon train. 
Had he lunched ; and, if so, upon what ? Entirely upon 
fruit-tart and cream. What a man ! What a digestion ! 

Am I expected to say anything more ? I believe not. I 
believe I have reached the limits assigned to me. The shock- 
ing' circumstances which happened at a later period, did not, 
I am thankful to say, happen in my presence. I do beg and 
entreat that nobody will be so very unfeeling as to lay any 
part of the blame of those circumstances on me. I did every- 
thing for the best. I am not answerable for a deplorable 
calamity, which it was quite impossible to foresee. I am 
shattered by it ; I have suffered under it, as nobody else has 
suffered. My servant, Louis (who is really attached to me in 
his unintelligent way), thinks I shall never get over it. He 
sees me dictating as this moment, with my handkerchief to 
my eyes. I wish to mention, in justice to myself, that it was 
not my fault, and that I am quite exhausted and heartbroken. 
Need I say more ? 



The Story continued by Eliza Michelson, Housekeeper at Blackwato Park. 

I. 

I AM asked to state plainly what I know of the progress 
of Miss Halcombe's illness, and of the circumstances under 
which Lady Glyde left Blackwater Park for London. 

The reason given for making this demand on me is, that 
my testimony is v/anted in the interests of truth. As the 
widow of a clergyman of the Church of England (reduced by 
misfortune to the necessity of accepting a situation), I have 
been taught to place the claims of truth above all other 
considerations, I therefore comply with a request which I 
might otherwise, through reluctance to connect myself w^ith 
distressing family affairs, have hesitated to grant. 

I made no memorandum at the time, and I cannot there- 
fore be sure to a day, of the date ; but I believe I am correct 
in stating that Miss Halcombe's serious illness began during' 
the last fortnight or ten days in June. The breakfast hour 
was late at Blackwater Park — sometimes as late as ten, never 
earlier than half-past nine. On the morningf to which I am 
now referring. Miss Halcombe (who was usually the first to 
come down) did not make her appearance at the table. After 
the family had waited a quarter of an hour, the upper house- 
maid was sent to see after her, and came running out of the 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

room dreadfully frightened. I met the servant on the stairs, 
and went at once to Miss Halcombe to see what was the 
matter. The poor lady was incapable of telling- me. She 
was walking about her room with a pen in her hand, quite 
light-headed, in a state of burning fever. 

Lady Clyde (being no longer in Sir Percival's service, I 
may, without impropriety, mention my former mistress by 
her name, instead of calling her My Lady) was the first to 
come in, fromi her own bedroom. She was so dreadfully 
alarmed and distressed, that she was quite useless. The 
Count Fosco, and his lady, who came up-stairs immediately 
afterwards, were both most serviceable and kind. Her lady- 
ship assisted me to get Miss Halcombe to her bed. His 
lordship the Count, remained in the sitting-room, and, having 
sent for my medicine-chest, made a mixture for Miss Hal- 
combe, and a cooling lotion to be applied to her head, so as 
to lose no time before the doctor came. We applied the 
lotion ; but we could not get her to take the mixture. Sir 
Percival undertook to send for the doctor. He despatched a 
groom, on horseback, for the nearest medical man, Mr. 
Dawson, of Oak Lodge. 

Mr. Dawson arrived in less than an hour's time. He was 
a respectable elderly man, well known, all round the country ; 
and we were much alarmed when we found that he considered 
the case to be a very serious one. 

His lordship the Count, affably entered into conversation 
with Mr. Dawson, and gave his opinions with a judicious 
freedom. Mr. Dawson, not over-courteously, inquired if his 
lordship's advice was the advice of a doctor ; and being in- 
formed that it was the advice of one v.'ho had studied medicine, 
unprofessionally, replied that he was not accustomed to con- 
sult with amateur-physicians. The Count, with truly Christian 
meekness of temper, smiled, and left the room. Before he 
went out, he told me that he might be found, in case he was 
wanted in the course of the day, at the boat-house on the 
banks of the lake. Why he should have gone there, I cannot 
say. But he did go ; remaining away the whole day till seven 
o'clock, which was dinner-time. Perhaps, he wished to set 
the example of keeping the liouse as quiet as possible. It 
was entirely in his character to do so. He was a most con- 
siderate nobleman. 

Miss Halcombe passed a very bad night ; the fever coming 
and going, and getting worse towards the morning, instead 
of better. No nurse fit to wait on her being at hand in the 
neighbourhood, her ladyship the Countess, and myself, under- 

320 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

took the duty, relieving- each other. Lady Clyde, most 
unwisely, insisted on sitting up with us. She was much too 
nervous and too delicate in health to bear the anxiety of 
Miss Halcombe s illness calmly. She only did herself harm, 
without bein- of the least real assistance. A more o-entle 
and affectionate lady never lived ; but she cried, and sh^e was 
tri-htened— two weaknesses which made her entirely unfit to 
be present in a sick-room. 

Sir Percival and the Count came in the mornino- to make 
their inquiries. '=' 

r.n^'nr^/'flv ^^'o'', ^'^tj?^'^' ^ P^'esume, at his lady's afflic 
tion, and at Miss Halcombe's illness) appeared much confused 
and unsettled in his mind. His lordship testified, on the 
contrary, a becoming- composure and interest. He had his 
straw hat in one hand, and his book in the other; and he 
mentioned to Sir Percival, in my hearin-, that he would g-o 
out again and study at the lake. 'Let us keep the house 

When f T^ ''t •■, ^ ''".-^ >'°"^" ^^■^>'' ^-^"d I ^^'" SO mine. 
Michelson/ ^ ^'' ^^' '"^ ""' ''°"'- ^^^^ "^°™'"- ^rs. 
, Sir Percival was not civil enough-perhaps, I ought, in 
justice to say, not composed enough-to take leave of me 
with the same polite attention. The onlv person in the 
house, indeed, who treated me, at that time or at any other 
on he footing- of a lady in distressed circumstances, Ws the 
.r A ^^ .^"^ ^^^ manners of a true nobleman ; he was 
considerate towards every one. Even the young person 
(Fanny by name who attended on Lady Clyde was nnt 
beneath his notice. When she was sent a4y b'ySi'r Pe' ci^^' 
his lordship (showing me his sweet little birds at the time 
was most kindly anxious to know what had become of her 
where shewas to go the day she left Blackwater Park, and so 
on. It IS in such httle delicate attentions that the adv^nta-es 
of aristocratic birth always show themselves. I make no 
apology for introducing these particulars ; they are brouo-ht 
forward in justice to his lordship, whose character, I have 
reason to know is viewed rather harshly in certain quarters! 
A nobleman who can respect a lady in distressed circum: 
stances, and can take a fatherly interest in the fortunes of an 
humble servant girl, shows principles and feelings of too 
high an order to be lightly called in question. I advance no 
opinions-I offer facts only. My endeavour through Se is 

luJu^? T'' '^''' ^ ^' "°' j"^-^^- One of my beloved 
husband s finest sermons was on that text. I read it con 



I read it con- 
y 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

stantly — in my own copy of the edition printed by subscrip- 
tion, in the first days of my widowhood— and, at every 
fresh perusal, I derive an increase of spiritual benefit and 
edification. 

There was no improvement in Miss Halcombe ; and the 
second night was even worse than the first. Mr. Dawson 
was constant in his attendance. The practical duties of 
nursing- were still divided between the Countess and myself; 
Lady Glyde persisting in sitting up with us, though we both 
entreated her to take some rest. ' My place is by Marian's 
bedside,' was her only answer. ' Whether I am ill, or well, 
nothing will induce me to lose sight of her.' 

Towards mid-day, I went down stairs to attend to some 
of my regular duties. An hour afterwards, on my v/ay back 
to the sick-room, I saw the Count (who had gone out again 
early, for the third time), entering the hall, to all appearance 
in the highest good spirits. Sir Percival, at the same 
moment, put his head out of the library-door, and addressed 
his noble friend, with extreme eagerness, in these words : 

* Have you found her ? ' 

His lordship's large face became dimpled all over with 
placid smiles ; but he made no reply in words. At the same 
time. Sir Percival turned his head, observed that I was 
approaching the stairs, and looked at me in the most rudely 
angry manner possible. 

' Come in here and tell me about it,' he said, to the Count. 
' Whenever there are women in a house, they're always sure 
to be going up or dov\^n stairs.' 

' My dear Percival,' observed his lordship, kindly, * Mrs. 
Michelson has duties. Pray recognise her admirable perfor- 
mance of them as sincerely as I do ! How is the sufferer, 
Mrs. Michelson ? ' 

' No better, my lord, I regret to say.' 

* Sad — most sad ! ' remarked the Count. * You look 
fatigued, Mrs. Michelson, It is certainly time you and my 
wife had some help in nursing. I think I may be the means 
of offering you that help. Circumstances have happened 
which will oblige Madame Fosco to travel to London either 
to-morrow or the day after. She will go away in the morn- 
ing, and return at night ; and she will bring back with her, 
to relieve you, a nurse of excellent conduct and capacity, who 
is now disengaged. The woman is known to my wife as a 
person to be trusted. Before she comes here, say nothing 
about her, if you please, to the doctor, because he will look 
with an evil eye on any nurse of my providing. When she 

323 



THE WOxMAN IN WHITE 

excuse for not emplovfnl her Ladv Hvf 'n^' '^^^^ ^^ "° 
P- present ., b;st%especj;t,^^>^-^^^^^^ 

calling to his noble fr end (usuST '"' '^'"^ ^^^^^ ^^ 

expression) to come iTottuhk'T"/''^^ 

waiting- there any long-er "' """"^ "°^ ^° keep him 

I proceeded upstairs Wt^ 
however well established ^ tn'r^f^"' ^■"''.^ '''^^^'''^^ ' and 
cannot always keep on her cuar^^" ' -P'^^^T''" "^^>' b^' ^^e 
exercise an idle curLiuff am ash^''H^'^^ temptation to 
curiosity, on this occaii^n ^oT ^h^Ttf '° '/^ ^^^^ ^" idle 
and made me unduh inn 'if^Hv-K'- ""^ '''-'' P^^^^^^Ples, 
SirPercival had addresse^d o m! n u?V -^^ ^"^^^^°" ^^hich 
door. Who was the Count expect°ed/T^' '' '^' ^^''^^' 
of his studious mornin/rLbles it bLl '/" o^ '°"''" 
^^•cman, it was to be presumed f ^^^^^water Park ? A 
Percival's inquiry. I did no^ ' °"? ^'^^ ^^^n^^ of Sir 
propriety-l\ne^v his Ira 27""\ '^' ^^""^ ^^ "'^Y -^' 
question I asked mysdf "rlHr/hffounS T"" ^^^ ^^^^ 

To resume. The nio-hf ^?e > "^^ ^ 

ducing- any change for ttie bette?^ ^"m"^"?!' ^^'^^hout pro- 
next day she seemed to im^ro e . liltle Th'' H '^""^- ^^- 
her ladyship the Countess ..^tL. • ^^^ day after that, 

her journe/to an^ o ^ in^v L ^'"''°"'"§^ the object of 
-ornino- train to Yondo"; h'er nobTe^'b^T^!?^^ ^^^ *'- 
customary attention, accomnanvin J l . husband, with his 

I was now left in snl^^T-^^ ^'^ t"" ^^^ station, 
every apparent ctanc^Tn^^'^S^Z/./^V".''^^^'^"^'^^' ^^^^ 
lution not to leave the bedside of k- t ^Y ^'^^^''^ '^^o- 
to nurse next. 'seaside, of having- Lady Clyde herself 

m tIe\otLt;re^S;v\?fsThVo"^°^^^"^^ ''^' ^-PP-ed 

into Miss Halc'oX's" ," • ;"io'rto maf ''^^;°"'- ^'^^^^' "P 
went out from the bedroom t^c ? ^^? ^'^ inquiries. I 
and Lady Glvde beL^ boTh with 1 '° ^ "^ ' ^^^- Dawson 
The Count asked me manv nn.cV ^f P^*'^"* ^t the time, 
the symptoms. I info™eVh;mTa? tuT '''' ^^^^^"^^^^ -d 
kind described as ' saline ;' and that ^f ^''^'"' '''^' ^^ ^^e 

the attacks of fever, were certarnK those%TTnP/°"'' '^'"""^ 

^ "i> cnose ot increasing weak- 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

u ^- ^ Tiwt as I was mentioning these last 
nfess and exhaustion. J^f^f/ ' ^ f.on, the bedroom, 
particulars, Mr.Da.jon came out from ^^^^^.^^ ^ 

' Good mornmg, sir, saiu i. . ' .j doctor, witn a 

in the most urbane "l-^^^^' •^"'^to re^s^ t,^ 'I greatly fk.r you 
>.;o-h bred resolution impossible to resist, ^^ ^ 

Si'olm^rovement in the symptom^ U^^^^^^^^^^ 

^^^r^L^t i!^ thf tl^lt^^S^ich is justified by my own 
profesLnal experience,' said ^r- Da^^^on ^^^ 

^ ' Permit me to put one ^^f ^^^^^ ,'° > °'c^"„t ^ i presume 
of professional experience 'observed ^^^ Cou.t^^ a^^inquiry 

to offer no more ^dv^'^f-I °" ^ from^he gigantic centres of 
You live at some distance sir, ^rom tn , ^^^^ ^^^^^^ 

scientific -t-ity-London a^^^^^^^^^^ .^^^^^.^^,^ 

of the wasting effects ot te^ er dci g j brandv, wine, 

repaired by fortifying the exhaus ed patient ^^ ^i^.-^ighest 

ammonia, and quinine ? "^.^I^'^' "fe^rs-Yes, or No ? ' 

^cufsarjrr:ie^Sf=rrtooaL.„>„.,M. 

Dawson.' ,i Uarl h^pn so fortunate as to 

.„o^ Hf. t^^rnow M^" - ' "- -- --'^ '-' 
esteemed each other ! 

Her ladyship the Countess -turned by the last train that 
night, and 'brought uith her "jf ""■■^^/^.'-"rX, e- Her 
inltructed that th.s P^«°".^'""!,Xt English, «hen she 
personal appearance, and her ■mPertect ^ » 
Lpoke, informed me that she was a fore.gnen^ ^^^ ^^^^^^^ 

1 have always cuUivated a '"''"» ,.,,„;.„s ^nd advan- 
for foreigners, rhey do not po^se^ up in the 

S^L?^:^^;:^ Ithasalso^a^^^^ 

and practice, as^it was my dear husban^^^^^^^ ^^^,^ 

before -V^'rist'^A rto So -^wouW be'done by. On 
Samuel Michelson, ^\-^-.);/° ,° ^^ .u„t Mj-s. Rubelle struck 
both these accounts, 1 will not say that Mrs. xv 

324 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

me as being a small, wiry, sly person, of fifty or thereabouts, 
with a dark brown or Creole complexion, and watchful light 
gray eyes. Nor will I mention, for the reasons just alleged, 
that I thought her dress, though it was of the plainest black 
silk, inappropriately costly in texture and unnecessarily refined 
in trimming and finish, for a person in her position in life. I 
should not like these things to be said of me, and therefore it 
is my duty not to say them of Mrs. Rubelle. I will merely 
mention that her manners were — not perhaps unpleasantly 
reserved — but only remarkably quiet and retiring ; that she 
looked about her a great deal, and said very little, which 
might have arisen quite as much from her own modesty, as 
from distrust of her position at Blackwater Park ; and that 
she declined to partake of supper (which was curious, perhaps, 
but surely not suspicious ?), although I myself politely invited 
her to that meal, in my own room. 

At the Count's particular suggestion (so like his lordship's 
forgiving kindness !), it was arranged that Mrs. Rubelle 
should not enter on her duties, until she had been seen and 
approved by the doctor the next morning. I sat up that night. 
Lady Glyde appeared to be very unwilling that the new nurse 
should be employed to attend on Miss Halcombe. Such want 
of liberality towards a foreigner on th& part of a lady of her 
education and refinement surprised me. I ventured to say, 
' My lady, we must all remember not to be hasty in our judg- 
ments on our inferiors — especially when they come from 
foreign parts.' Lady Glyde did not appear to attend to me. 
She only sighed, and kissed Miss Halcombe's hand as it lay 
on the counterpane. Scarcely a judicious proceeding in a 
sick-room, with a patient whom it was highly desirable not to 
excite. But poor Lady Glyde knew nothing of nursing — • 
nothing whatever, I am sorry to say. 

The next morning, Mrs. Rubelle was sent to the sitting- 
room, to be approved by the doctor, on his way through to 
the bedroom. 

I left Lady Glyde with Miss Halcombe, who was slumber- 
ing at the time, and joined Mrs. Rubelle, with the object of 
kindly preventing her from feeling strange and nervous in 
consequence of the uncertainty of her situation. She did not 
appear to see it in that light. She seemed to be quite satisfied, 
beforehand, that Mr. Dawson would approve of her ; and she 
sat calmly looking out of window, with every appearance of 
enjoying the country air. Some people might have thought 
such conduct suggestive of brazen assurance. I beg to say that 
I more liberally set it down to extraordinary strength of mind. 

IOC 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

Instead of the doctor coming up to us, I was sent for to 
see the doctor. I thought this change of affairs rather odd, 
but Mrs. Rubelle did not appear to be affected by it in any 
way. I left her still calmly looking out of the window, and 
still silently enjoying the country air. 

Mr. Dawson was waiting for me, by himself, In the break- 
fast-room. 

' About this new nurse, Mrs. Michelson,' said the doctor. 

* Yes, sir ? ' 

' I find that she has been brought here from London by 
the wife of that fat old foreigner, who is always trying to 
interfere with me. Mrs. Michelson, the fat old foreigner is a 
Quack.' 

This was very rude. I was naturally shocked at it. 

' Are you aware, sir,' I said, 'that you are talking of a 
nobleman ? ' 

' Pooh ! He isn't the first Quack with a handle to his 
name. They're all Counts — hang 'em ! ' 

* He would not be a friend of Sir Percival Clyde's, sir, if 
he was not a member of the highest aristocracy — excepting 
the English aristocrac)', of course.' 

* Very well, Mrs. Michelson, call him what you like; and let 
us get back to the nurse. I have been objecting to her already.' 

' Without having seen her, sir ? ' 

' Yes ; without having seen her. She may be the best 
nurse in existence ; but she is not a nurse of my providing. 
I have put that objection to Sir Percival, as the master of the 
house. He doesn't support me. He says a nurse of my 
providing would have been a stranger from London also ; 
and he thinks the woman ought to have a trial, after his 
wife's aunt has taken the trouble to fetch her from London. 
There is some justice in that ; and I can't decently say No. 
But I have made it a condition that she is to go at once, if I 
find reason to complain of her. This proposal being one 
which I have some right to make, as medical attendant. Sir 
Percival has consented to it. Now, Mrs. Michelson, I know 
I can depend on you ; and I want you to keep a sharp eye on 
the nurse, for the first day or two, and to see that she gives 
Miss Halcombe no medicines but mine. This foreign noble- 
man of yours is dying to try his quack remedies (mesmerism 
included) on my patient ; and a nurse who is brought here by 
his wife may be a little too willing to help him. You under- 
stand ? Very well, then, we may go upstairs. Is the nurse 
there ? I'll say a word to her, before she goes into the sick- 
room.' 

326 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

We found Mrs. Rubelle still enjoying herself at the 
window. When I introduced her to Mr. Dawson, neither 
the doctor's doubtful looks nor the doctor's searching- ques- 
tions appeared to confuse her in the least. She answered 
him quietly in her broken English ; and, though he tried 
hard to puzzle her, she never betrayed the least ignorance, 
so far, about any part of her duties. This was doubtless the 
result of strength of mind, as I said before, and not of brazen 
assurance, by any means. 

We all went into the bedroom. 

Mrs. Rubelle looked, very attentively, at the patient ; 
curtseyed to Lady Glyde ; set one or two little things right in 
the room ; and sat down quietly in a corner to wait until she 
was wanted. Her ladyship seemed startled and annoyed by 
the appearance of the strange nurse. No one said anything, 
for fear of rousing Miss Halcombe, who was still slumbering 
— except the doctor, who whispered a question about the 
night. I softly answered, ' Much as usual ; ' and then Mr. 
Dawson went out. Lady Glyde followed him, I suppose to 
speak about Mrs. Rubelle. For my own part, I had made 
up my mind already that this quiet foreign person would 
keep her situation. She had all her wits about her ; and she 
certainly understood her business. So far, I could hardly 
have done much better by the bedside, myself. 

Remembering Mr. Dawson's caution to me, I subjected 
Mrs. Rubelle to a severe scrutiny, at certain intervals, for the 
next three or four days. I over and over again entered the 
room softly and suddenl}'-, but I never found her out in any 
suspicious action. Lady Glyde, who watched her as atten- 
tively as I did, discovered nothing either. I never detected a 
sign of the medicine bottles being tampered with; I never 
saw Mrs. Rubelle say a word to the Count, or the Count to 
her. She managed Miss Halcombe with unquestionable care 
and discretion. The poor lady wavered backwards and for- 
wards between a sort of sleepy exhaustion which was half 
faintness and half slumbering, and attacks of fever which 
brought with them more or less of wandering in her mind. 
Mrs. Rubelle never disturbed her in the first case, and never 
startled her in the second, by appearing too suddenly at the 
bedside in the character of a stranger. Honour to whom 
honour is due (whether foreign or English) — and I give her 
privilege impartially to Mrs. Rubelle. She was remarkably 
uncommunicative about herself, and she was too quietly 
independent of all advice from experienced persons who un- 
derstood the duties of a sick-room — but, with these draw- 

327 



THE WOiMAN IN WHITE 

backs, she was a good nurse ; and she never gave either 
Lady Glyde or Mr. Dawson the shadow of a reason for 
complaining of her. 

The next circumstance of importance that occurred in the 
house was the temporary absence of the Count, occasioned 
by business which took him to London. He went away (I 
think) on the morning of the fourth day after the arrival of 
Mrs. Rubelle ; and, at parting, he spoke to Lady Glyde, very 
seriously, in my presence, on the subject of Miss Halcombe. 

'Trust Mr. Dawson,' he said, 'for a few davs more, if 
you please. But, if there is not some change for the better, 
in that time, send for advice from London, which this mule 
of a doctor must accept in spite of himself Offend Mr. 
Dawson, and save Miss Halcombe. I say this seriously, on 
my word of honour and from the bottom of my heart. ' 

His lordship spoke with extreme feeling and kindness. 
But poor Lady Clyde's nerves were so completely broken 
down that she seemed quite frightened at him. She trembled 
from head to foot ; and allowed him to take his leave, with- 
out uttering a word on her side. She turned to me, when he 
had gone, and said, ' Oh, Mrs. Michelson, I am heart-broken 
about my sister, and I have no friend to advise me ! T)o yon 
think Mr. Dawson is wrong? He told me himself this 
morning, that there was no fear, and no need to send for 
another doctor.' 

' With all respect to Mr. Dawson,' I answered, * in your 
ladyship's place I should remember the Count's advice.' 

Lady Glyde turned away from me suddenly, with an ap- 
pearance of despair, for which I was quite unable to account 

' I/is advice ! ' she said to herself. ' God help us — /ii's 
advice ! ' 

The Count was away from Blackwater Park, as nearly as 
I remember, a week. 

Sir Percival seemed to feel the loss of his lordship in various 
ways, and appeared also, I thought, much depressed and 
altered by the sickness and sorrow in the house. Occasion- 
ally, he was so very restless, that I could not help noticing 
it ; coming and going, and wandering here and there and 
everywhere in the grounds. His inquiries about Miss Hal- 
combe, and about his lady (whose failing health seemed to 
cause him sincere anxiety) were most attentive. I think his 
heart was much softened. If some kind clerical friend — some 
such friend as he might have found in my late excellent hus- 
band—had been near him at this time, cheering moral progress 

328 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

might have been made with Sir Percival. I seldom find 
myself mistaken on a point of this sort ; having- had expe- 
rience to guide me in my happy married days. 

Her ladyship the Countess, who was now the only com- 
pany for Sir Percival down stairs, rather neglected him, as I 
considered. Or, perhaps, it might have been that he neglected 
her. A stranger might almost have supposed that they were 
bent, now they were left together alone, on actually avoiding 
one another. This, of course, could not be. But it did so 
happen, nevertheless, that the Countess made her dinner at 
luncheon-time, and that she always came up-stairs towards 
evening, although Mrs. Rubelle had taken the nursing duties 
entirely off her hands. Sir Percival dined by himself; and 
William (the man out of livery) made the remark, in my 
hearing, that his master had put himself on half rations 
of food and on a double allowance of drink. I attach 
no importance to such an insolent observation as this, on 
the part of a servant. I reprobated it at the time, and I 
wish to be understood as reprobating it once more on this 
occasion. 

In the course of the next few days, Miss Halcombe did 
certainly seem to all of us to be mending a little. Our faith 
in Mr. Dawson revived. He appeared to be very confident 
about the case ; and he assured Lady Clyde, when she spoke 
to him on the subject, that he would himself propose to send 
for a physician the moment he felt so much as the shadow of 
a doubt crossing his own mind. 

The only person among us who did not appear to be 
relieved by these words, was the Countess. She said to me 
privately, that she could not feel easy about Miss Halcombe, 
on Mr. Dawson's authority, and that she should wait anxi- 
ously for her husband's opinion, on his return. That return, 
his letters informed her, would take place in three days' time. 
The Count and Countess corresponded regularly every morn- 
ing, during his lordship's absence. They were, in that respect, 
as in all others, a pattern to married people. 

On the evening of the third day, I noticed a change in 
Miss Halcombe, which caused me serious apprehension. Mrs. 
Rubelle noticed it too. We said nothing on the subject to 
Lady Glyde, who was then lying asleep, completely over- 
powered by exhaustion, on the sofa in the sitting-room. 

Mr. Dawson did not pay his evening visit till later than 
usual. As soon as he set eyes on his patient, I saw his face 
alter. He tried to hide it; but he looked both confused and 
alarmed, A messenger was sent to his residence for his 

329 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

medicine-chest, disinfecting preparations were used in the 
room, and a bed was made up for him in the house by his 
own directions. ' Has the fever turned to infection ? ' I 
whispered to him. 'I am afraid it has,' he answered; * we 
shall know better to-morrow morning.' 

By Mr. Dawson's own directions Lady Glyde was kept in 
Ignorance of this change for the worse. He himself absolutely 
forbade her, on account of her health, to join us in the bed- 
room that night. She tried to resist — there was a sad scene — 
but he had his medical authority to support him ; and he 
carried his point. 

The next morning, one of the men-servants was sent to 
London, at eleven o'clock, with a letter to a physician in town, 
and with orders to bring the new doctor back with him by 
the earliest possible train. Half an hour after the messenger 
had gone, the Count returned to Blackwater Park. 

The Countess, on her own responsibility, immediately 
brought him in to see the patient. There was no impropriety 
that I could discover in her taking this course. His lordship 
was a married man ; he was old enough to be Miss Hal- 
combe's father ; and he saw her in the presence of a female 
relative, Lady Clyde's aunt. Mr. Dawson nevertheless pro- 
tested against his presence in the room ; but, I could plainly 
remark, the doctor was too much alarmed to make any serious 
resistance on this occasion. 

The poor suffering lady was past knowing any one about 
her. She seemed to take her friends for enemies. When the 
Count approached her bedside, her eyes, which had been wan- 
dering incessantly round and round the room before, settled 
on his face, with a dreadful stare of terror, which I shall 
remember to my dying day. The Count sat down by her; 
felt her pulse, and her temples; looked at her very attentively; 
and then turned round upon the doctor with such an expres- 
sion of indignation and contempt in his face, that the words 
failed on Mr. Dawson's lips, and he stood, for a moment, 
pale with anger and alarm — pale and perfectly speechless. 

His lordship looked next at me. 

' When did the change happen ? ' he tisked. 

I told him the time. 

' Has Lady Glyde been in the room since ? ' 

I replied that she had not. The doctor had absolutely 
forbidden her to come into the room, on the evening before, 
and had repeated the order again in the morning, 

' Have you and Mrs. Rubelle been made aware of the full 
extent of the mischief?' — was his next question. 

330 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

We were aware, I answered, that the malady was con- 
sidered infectious. He stopped me, before I could add any- 
thing" more. 

' It is Typlius Fever,' he said. 

In the minute that passed, wliile these questions and 
answers were going on, Mr. Dawson recovered himself, and 
addressed the Count v^^ith his customary firmness. 

' It is not typhus fever,' he remarked sharply. * I protest 
against this intrusion, sir. No one has a right to put 
questions here, but me. I have done my duty to the best of 
my ability ' 

The Count interrupted him — not by words, but only by 
pointing' to the bed. Mr. Dawson seemed to feel that silent 
contradiction to his assertion of his own ability, and to grow 
only the more angry under it. 

' I say I have done my duty,' he reiterated. ' A physician 
has been sent for from London. I will consult on the nature 
of the fever with him, and with no one else. I insist on your 
leaving the room.' 

' I entered this room, sir, in the sacred interests of 
humanity,' said the Count. * And in the same interests, if 
the coming of the physician is delayed, I will enter it again. 
I warn you once more that the fever has turned to typhus, 
and that 5'our treatment is responsible for this lamentable 
change. If that unhappy lady dies, I will give my testimony 
in a court of justice that your ignorance and obstinacy have 
been the cause of her death.' 

Before Mr. Dawson could answer, before the Count could 
leave us, the door was opened from the sitting-room, and we 
saw Lady Clyde on the threshold. 

' I 7mLst, and 'will come in,' she said, with extraordinary 
firmness. 

Instead of stopping her, the Count moved into the sitting- 
room, and made way for her to ^o in. On all other occa- 
sions, he was the last man in the world to forget anvthing ; 
but, in the surprise of the moment, he apparently forgot the 
danger of infection from typhus, and the urgent necessity of 
forcing Lady Clyde to take proper care of herself. 

To my astonishment, Mr. Dav^^son showed more presence 
of mind. He stopped her ladyship at the first step she took 
towards the bedside. ' I am sincerely sorry, I am sincerely 
grieved,' he said. 'The fever" may, I fear, be infectious^ 
Until I am certain that it is not, I entreat you to keep out of 
the room.' 

She struggled for a moment ; then suddenly dropped her 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

arms, and sank forward. She had tainted. The Countess 
and I took her from the doctor, and carried her into her own 
room. The Count preceded us, and waited in the passage, 
till I came out, and told him that we had recovered her from 
the swoon. 

I went back to the doctor to tell him, by Lady Clyde's 
desire, that she insisted on speaking- to him immediately. 
He withdrew at once to quiet her ladyship's agitation, and 
to assure her of the physician's arrival in the course of a few 
hours. Those hours passed very slowly. Sir Percival and 
the Count were together down stairs, and sent up, from time 
to time, to make their inquiries. At last, between five and 
six o'clock, to our great relief, the physician came. 

He was a younger man than Mr. Dawson ; very serious, 
and very decided. What he thought of the previous treat- 
ment, I cannot say ; but it struck me as curious that he put 
many more questions to myself and to Mrs. Rubelle than he 
put to the doctor, and that he did not appear to listen with 
much interest to what Mr. Dawson said, while he was ex- 
amining Mr. Dawson's patient. I began to suspect, from 
what I observed in this way, that the Count had been right 
about the illness all the way through ; and I was naturally 
confirmed in that idea, when Mr. Dawson, after some little 
delay, asked the one important question which the London 
doctor had been sent for to set at rest. 

' What is your opinion of the fever ? ' he inquired. 

'Typhus,' replied the physician. 'Typhus fever beyond 
all doubt.' 

That quiet foreign person, Mrs. Rubelle, crossed her thin, 
brown hands in front of her, and looked at me with a very 
significant smile. The Count himself could hardly have 
appeared more gratified, if he had been present in the room, 
and had heard the confirmation of his own opinion. 

After giving us some useful directions about the manage- 
ment of the patient, and mentioning that he would come 
again in five days' time, the physician withdrew to consult in 
private with Mr. Dawson. He would offer no opinion on 
Miss Halcombe's chances of recovery : he said it was im- 
possible at that stage of the illness to pronounce, one way or 
the other. 

The five days passed anxiously. 

Countess Fosco and myself took it by turns to relieve 
Mrs. Rubelle ; Miss Halcombe's condition growing worse 
and worse, and requiring our utmost care and attention. It 

332 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

was a terribly trying- time. Lady Clyde (supported, as Mr. 
Dawson said, by the constant strain of her suspense on her 
sister's account) rallied in the most extraordinary manner, 
and showed a firmness and determination for which I should 
myself never have g-iven her credit. She insisted on coming 
into the sick-room, two or three times every day, to look at 
Miss Halcombe with her own eyes ; promising- not to go too 
close to the bed, if the doctor would consent to her wishes, 
so far. Mr. Dawson very unwillingly made the concession 
required of him : I think he saw that it was hopeless to dis- 
pute with her. She came in every day ; and she self- 
denyingly kept her promise. I felt it personally so distressing 
(as reminding- me of my own affliction during my husband's 
last illness) to see how she suffered under these circum- 
stances, that I must beg not to dwell on this part of the 
subject any longer. It is more agreeable to me to mention 
that no fresh disputes took place between Mr. Dawson and 
the Count. His lordship made all his inquiries by deputy ; 
and remained continually in company with Sir Percival, 
down stairs. 

On the fifth day, the physician came again, and gave us 
a little hope. He said the tenth day from the first appearance 
of the typhus would probably decide the result of the illness, 
and he arranged for his third visit to take place on that date. 
The interval passed as before — except that the Count went 
to London again, one morning, and returned at night. 

On the tenth day it pleased a merciful Providence to 
relieve our household from all further anxiety and alarm. 
The physician positively assured us that Miss Halcombe was 
out of danger. ' She wants no doctor, now — all she requires 
is careful watching and nursing, for some time to come ; and 
that I see she has.' Those were his own words. That 
evening I read my husband's touching sermon on Recovery 
from Sickness, with more happiness and advantage (in a 
spiritual point of view) than I evev remember to have derived 
from it before. 

The effect of the g-ood news on poor Lady Clyde was, I 
grieve to say, quite overpowering. She was too weak to 
bear the violent reaction ; and in another day or two, she 
sank into a state of debility and depression, which obliged 
her to keep her room. Rest and quiet, and change of air 
afterwards, were the best remedies which Mr. Dawson could 
suggest for her benefit. It was fortunate that matters were 
no worse, for, on the very day after she took to her room, 
the Count and the doctor had another disagreement ; and, 

333 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

this time, the dispute between them was of so serious a 
nature, that Mr. Dawson left the house. 

I was not present at the time ; but I understood that the 
subject of dispute was the amount of nourishment which 
it was necessary to give to assist Miss Halcombe's conval- 
escence, after the exhaustion of the fever. Mr. Dawson, 
now that his patient was safe, was less inclined than ever to 
submit to unprofessional interference ; and the Count (I can- 
not imagine why) lost all the self-control which he had so 
judiciously preserved on former occasions, and taunted the 
doctor, over and over again, with his mistake about the fever, 
when it changed to typhus. The unfortunate affair ended in 
Mr. Dawson's appealing to Sir Percival, and threatening 
(now that he could leave without absolute danger to Miss 
Halcombe) to withdrav/ from his attendance at Blackwater 
Park, if the Count's interference was not peremptorily sup- 
pressed from that moment. Sir Percival's reply (though not 
designedly uncivil) had only resulted in making matters 
worse ; and Mr. Dawson had thereupon withdrawn from the 
house, in a state of extreme indignation at Count Fosco's 
usage of him, and had sent in his bill the next morning. 

We were now, therefore, left without the attendance of a 
medical man. Although there was no actual necessity for 
another doctor — nursing and watching being, as the physician 
had observed, all that Miss Halcombe required — I should 
still, if my authority had been consulted, have obtained pro- 
fessional assistance, from some other quarter, for form's 
sake. 

The matter did not seem to strike Sir Percival in that 
light. He said it would be time enough to send for another 
doctor, if Miss Halcombe showed any signs of a relapse. In 
the mean while, we had the Count to consult in any minor 
difficulty ; and we need not unnecessarily disturb our patient, 
in her present weak and nervous condition, by the presence 
of a stranger at her bedside. There was much that was 
reasonable, no doubt, in these considerations ; but they left 
me a little anxious, nevertheless. Nor was I quite satisfied, 
in my own mind, of the propriety of our concealing the 
doctor's absence, as we did, from Lady Clyde. It was a 
merciful deception, I admit — for she was in no state to bear 
any fresh anxieties. But still it was a deception ; and, as 
such, to a person of my principles, at best a doubtful 
proceeding. 

A second perplexing circumstance which happened on the 

334 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

same day, and which took me completely by surprise, added 
greatly to the sense of uneasiness that was now weighing on 
my mind. 

I was sent for to see Sir Percival in the Hbrary. The 
Count, who was with him when I went in, immediately rose 
and left us alone together. Sir Percival civilly asked me to 
take a seat ; and then, to my great astonishment, addressed 
me in these terms : 

' I want to speak to you, Mrs. Michelson, about a matter 
which I decided on some time ago, and which I should have 
mentioned before, but for the sickness and trouble in the 
house. In plain words, I have reasons for wishing to break 
up my establishment immediately at this place — leaving j^ou 
in charge, of course, as usual. As soon as Lady Clyde and 
Miss Halcombe can travel, they must both have change of 
air. My friends. Count Fosco and the Countess, will leave 
us, before that time, to live in the neighbourhood of London. 
And I have reasons for not opening the house to any more 
company, with a view to economising as carefully as I can. 
I don't blame you — but my expenses here are a great deal too 
heavy. In short, I shall sell the horses, and get rid of all 
the servants, at once. I never do. things by halves, as you 
know ; and I mean to have the house clear of a pack of use- 
less people by this time to-morrow.' 

I listened to him, perfectly aghast with astonishment. 

' Do you mean, Sir Percival, that I am to dismiss the in- 
door servants, under my charge, without the usual month's 
warning ? ' I asked. 

* Certainly, I do. We may all be out of the house before 
another month ; and I am not going to leave the servants 
here in idleness, with no master to wait on.' 

' Who is to do the cooking, Sir Percival, while you are 
still staying here ? ' 

' Margaret Porcher can roast and boil — keep her. What 
do I want with a cook, if I don't mean to give any dinner- 
parties ? ' 

' The servant you have mentioned is the most unintelligent 
servant in the house, Sir Percival ' 

' Keep her, I tell you ; and have a woman in from the 
village to do the cleaning, and go away again. My weekly 
expenses must and shall be lowered immediately. I don't 
send for you to make objections, Mrs. Michelson — I send for 
you to carry out my plans of economy. Dismiss the whole 
lazy pack of in-door servants to-morrow, except Porcher. She 
is as strong as a horse — and Vv-e'll make her work like a horse.' 

335 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

* You will excuse me for reminding you, Sir Percival, that If 
the servants go to-morrow, they must have a month's wages 
in lieu of a month's warning.' 

' Let them ! A month's wages saves a month's waste and 
gluttony in the servants'-hall.' 

This last remark conveyed an aspersion of the most 
offensive kind on my management. 1 had too much self- 
respect to defend myself under so gross an imputation. 
Christian consideration for the helpless position of Miss 
Halcombe and Lady Clyde, and for the serious inconvenience 
which my sudden absence might inflict on them, alone pre- 
vented me from resigning my situation on the spot. I rose 
immediately. It would have lowered me in my own estima- 
tion to have permitted the interview to continue a moment 
longer. 

' After that last rem.ark, Sir Percival, I have nothing more 
to say. Your directions shall be attended to.' Pronouncing 
those' words, I bowed my head with the most distant respect, 
and went out of the room. 

The next day, the servants left in a body. Sir Percival 
himself dismissed the grooms and stablemen ; sending them, 
W'ith all the horses but one, to London. Of the whole 
domestic establishment, in-doors and out, there now remained 
only myself, Margaret Porcher, and the gardener ; this last 
living in his own cottage, and being wanted to take care of 
the one horse that remained in the stables. 

With the house left in this strange and lonely condition ; 
with the mistress of it ill in her room ; with Miss Halcombe 
still as helpless as a child ; and with the doctor's attendance 
withdrawn from us in enmity — it was surely not unnatural 
that my spirits should sink, and my customary composure be 
very hard to maintain. My mind was ill at ease. I wished 
the poor ladies both well again ; and I wished myself away 
from Blackwater Park. 



U. 

The next event that occurred was of so singular a nature, 
that it might have caused me a feeling of superstitious surprise, 
if my mind had not been fortified by principle against any 
pagan weakness of that sort. The uneasy sense of some- 
thing wrong in the family which had made me wish myself 
away from Blackwater Park, was actually followed, strange 
to say, by my departure from the house. It is true that my 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

absence was for a temporary period only : but the coincidence 
was, in my opinion, not the less remarkable on that account. 

My departure took place under the following- circum- 
stances : 

A day or two after the servants all left, I was again sent 
for to see Sir Percival, The undeserved slur which he had 
cast on my management of the household, did not, I am 
happy to say, prevent me from returning good for evil to the 
best of my abilit}', by complying with his request as readily 
and respectfully as ever. It cost me a struggle with that 
fallen nature which we all share in common, before I could 
suppress my feelings. Being accustomed to self-discipline, I 
accomplished the sacrifice. 

I found Sir Percival and Count Fosco sitting together, 
again. On this occasion his lordship remained present at the 
interview, and assisted in the development of Sir Percival's 
views. 

The subject to which they now requested my attention, 
related to the healthy change of air by which we all hoped 
that Miss Halcombe and Lady Glyde might soon be enabled 
to profit. Sir Percival mentioned that both the ladies would 
probably pass the autumn (by invitation of Frederick Fairlie, 
Esquire) at Limmeridge House, Cumberland. But before 
they went there, it was his opinion, confirmed by Count Fosco 
(who here took up the conversation and continued it to the 
end), that they would benefit by a short residence first in the 
genial clim.ate of Torquay. The great object, therefore, was 
to engage lodgings at that place, affording all the comforts 
and advantages of which they stood in need ; and the great 
difficulty was to find an experienced person capable of 
choosing the sort of residence which they wanted. In this 
emergency, the Count begged to inquire, on Sir Percival's 
behalf, whether I would object to give the ladies the benefit 
of my assistance, by proceeding myself to Torquay in their 
interests. 

It was impossible for a person in my situation, to meet 
any proposal, made in these terms, with a positive ob- 
jection. 

I could only venture to represent the serious inconvenience 
of my leaving Blackwater Park, in the extraordinary absence 
of all the in-door servants with the one exception of Margaret 
Porcher. But Sir Percival and his lordship declared that they 
were both willing to put up with inconvenience for the sake 
of the invalids. I next respectfully suggested writing to an 
agent at Torquay ; but I was met here by being reminded of 

337 z 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

the imprudence of taking lodgings without first seeing them. 
I was also informed that the Countess (who would otherwise 
have gone to Devonshire herself) could not, in Lady Clyde's 
present condition, leave her niece ; and that Sir Percival and 
the Count had business to transact together, vrhich would 
oblige them to remain at Blackwater Park. In short, it was 
clearly shown me, that if I did not undertake the errand, no 
one else could be trusted with it. Under these circumstances, 
I could only inform Sir Percival that my services were at the 
disposal of Miss Halcombe and Lady Clyde. 

It was thereupon arranged that I should leave the next 
morning ; that I should occupy one or two days in examining 
all the most convenient houses in Torquay ; and that I should 
return, with my report, as soon as I conveniently could. A 
memorandum was written for me by his lordship, stating the 
requisites which the place I v/as sent to take must be found to 
possess ; and a note of the pecuniary limit assigned to me, was 
added by Sir Percival. 

My own idea, on reading over these instructions, was, that 
no such residence as I saw described could be found at any 
watering-place in England ; and that, even if it could by 
chance be discovered, it would certainly not be parted with 
for any period, on such terms as I was permitted to offer. I 
hinted at these difficulties to both the gentlemen ; but Sir 
Percival (who undertook to answer me) did not appear to feel 
them. It was not for me to dispute the question. I said no 
more ; but I felt a very strong conviction that the business 
on which I was sent away was so beset by difficulties that 
my errand was almost hopeless at starting. 

Before I left, I took care to satisfy myself that Miss Hal- 
combe was going on favourably. 

There was a painful expression of anxiety in her face, 
which made me fear that her mind, on first recovering itself, 
was not at ease. But she was certainly strengthening more 
rapidly than I could have ventured to anticipate ; and she was 
able to send kind messages to Lady Clyde, saying that she 
was fast getting well, and entreating her ladyship not to 
exert herself again too soon. I left her in charge of Mrs. 
Rubelle, who was still as quietly independent of every one 
else in the house as ever. When I knocked at Lady Clyde's 
door, before going away, I was told that she was still sadly 
weak and depressed ; my informant being the Countess, who 
was then keeping her company in her room. Sir Percival and 
the Count were walking on the road to the lodge, as I was 
driven by in the chaise. I bov.-ed to them, and quitted the 



f 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

house, with not a livhig soul left in the servants' offices but 
Margaret Porcher. 

Every one must feel, what I have felt myself since that 
tiir.e, that these circumstances were more than unusual — they 
were almost suspicious. Let me, however, say again, that it 
was impossible for me, in my dependent position, to act 
otherwise than I did. 

The result of my errand at Torquay was exactly what I 
had foreseen. No such lodgings as I was instructed to take 
could be found in the whole place ; and the terms I was per- 
mitted to give were much too low for the purpose, even if I 
had been able to discover what I wanted. I accordingly re- 
turned to Blackwater Park ; and informed Sir Percival, who 
met me at the door, that my journey had been taken in vain. 
He seemed too much occupied with some other subject to 
care about the failure of my errand, and his first words in- 
formed me that even in the short time of my absence, another 
remarkable change had taken place in the house. 

The Count and Countess Fosco had left Blackwater Park 
for their new residence in St. John's Wood. 

I was not made aware of the motive for this sudden 
departure — I was only told that the Count had been very par- 
ticular in leaving his kind compliments to me. When I ven- 
tured on asking Sir Percival whether Lady Clyde had any one 
to attend to her comforts in the absence of the Countess, he 
replied that she had Margaret Porcher to wait on her ; and 
he added that a woman from the village had been sent for to 
do the work down stairs. 

The answer really shocked me — there was such a glaring 
impropriety in permitting an under-housemaid to fill the place 
of confidential attendant on Lady Clyde. I went up-stairs at 
once, and met Margaret on the bedroom-landing-. Her ser- 
vices had not been required (naturally enough) ; her mistress 
having sufficiently recovered, that morning, to be able to 
leave her bed. I asked, next, after Miss Halcombe ; but I 
was answered in a slouching, sulky w^ay, which left me no 
wiser than I was before. I did not choose to repeat the ques- 
tion, and perhaps provoke an impertinent reply. It was in 
every respect more becoming, to a person in my position, to 
present myself immediately in Lady Clyde's room. 

I found that her ladyship had certainly gained in health 
during the last few days. Although still sadly weak and ner- 
vous, she was able to get up without assistance, and to walk 
slov.ly about her room, feeling no worse effect from the exertion 
than a slight sensation of fatigue. She had been made a little 

339 2 2 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

anxious that morning about Miss Halcombe, through having 
received no news of her from any one. I thought this seemed 
to imply a blamable want of attention on the part of Mrs. 
Rubelle ; but I said nothing, and remained with Lady Glyde, 
to assist her to dress. When she was ready, we both left the 
room together to go to Miss Halcombe. 

We were stopped in the passage by the appearance of Sir 
Percival. He looked as if he had been purposely waiting 
there to see us. 

' Where are you going ? ' he said to Lady Glydc. 

'To Marian's room,' she answered. 

' It may spare you a disappointment,' remarked Sir 
Percival, ' if I tell you at once that you will not find her 
there.' 

' Not find her there ! ' 

' No. She left the house yesterday morning with Fosco 
and his wife.' 

Lady Glyde was not strong enough to bear the surprise of 
this extraordinary statement. She turned fearfully pale ; and 
leaned back against the wall, looking- at her husband in dead 
silence. 

I was so astonished myself, that I hardly knew what to 
say. I asked Sir Percival if he really meant that Miss 
Halcombe had left Blackwater Park. 

* I certainly mean it,' he answered. 

' In her state. Sir Percival ! Without mentioning her 
intentions to Lady Glyde ! ' 

Before he could reply, her ladyship recovered herself 
a little, and spoke. 

' Impossible ! ' she cried out, in a loud, frightened manner ; 
taking a step or two forward from the wall. ' Where was 
the doctor ? where was Mr. Dawson when Marian went 
away ? ' 

'Mr. Dawson wasn't wanted, and wasn't here,' said Sir 
Percival. ' He left of his own accord, which is enough of 
itself to show that she was strong enough to travel. How 
you stare ! If you don't believe she has gone, look for yoiu^- 
self. Open her room door, and all the other room doors, if 
you like.' 

She took him at his word, and I followed her. There 
was no one in Miss Halcombe's room but Margaret Porcher, 
who was busy setting it to rights. There w^as no one in the 
spare rooms, or the dressing-rooms, when we looked into 
them afterwards. Sir Percival still waited for us in the 
passage. As we were leaving the last room that we had 

340 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

examined, Lady Clyde whispered, ' Don't go, Mrs. Michelson ! 
don't leave me, for God's sake ! ' Before I could say anything- 
in return, she was out again in the passag'e, speaking to her 
husband. 

* W^hat does it mean, Sir Percival ? I insist — I beg and 
pray you will tell me what it means ! ' 

' It means,' he answered, ' that Miss Halcombe was strongs 
enough yesterday morning to sit up, and be dressed ; and 
that she insisted on taking advantage of Fosco's going to 
London, to go there too.' 

' To London ! ' 

' Yes — on her way to Limmeridge.' 

Lady Glyde turned, and appealed to me. 

'You saw Miss Halcombe last,' she said. 'Tell me 
plainly, Mrs. Michelson, did you think she looked fit to 
travel'? ' 

' Not in niy opinion, your ladyship.' 

Sir Percival, on his side, instantly turned, and appealed 
to me also. 

'Before you went away,' he said, 'did you, or did you 
not, tell the nurse that Miss Halcombe looked much stronger 
and better ? ' 

' I certainly made the remark. Sir Percival.' 

He addressed her ladyship again, the moment I offered 
that reply. 

' Set one of Mrs. Michelson's opinions fairly against the 
other,' he said, ' and try to be reasonable about a perfectly 
plain matter. If she had not been well enough to be moved, 
do you think we should any of us have risked letting her g-o ? 
She has got three competent people to look after her — Fosco 
and your aunt, and Mrs. Rubelle, who went away with them 
expressly for that purpose. They took a whole carriage 
yesterday, and made a bed for her on the seat, in case she 
felt tired. To-day, Fosco and Mrs. Rubelle go on with her 
themselves to Cumberland ' 

' Why does Marian go to Limmeridge, and leave me here 
by myself? ' said her ladyship, interrupting Sir Percival. 

' Because your uncle won't receive you till he has seen 
your sister first,' he replied. ' Have you forgotten the letter 
he wrote to her, at the beginning of her illness ? It was 
shown to you; you read it yourself; and you ought to 
remember it.' 

' I do remember it.' 

' If you do, why should you be surprised at her leaving- 
you ? You want to be back at Limmeridge ; and she has 

341 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

gone there to get your uncle's leave for you, on his own 
terms.' 

Poor Lady Glyde's eyes filled with tears. 

' Marian never left me before,' she said, 'without bidding 
me good-by.' 

' She would have bid you good-by this time,' returned 
Sir Percival, ' if she had not been afraid of herself and of you. 
She knew you would try to stop her ; she knew you would 
distress her by crying. Do you want to make any more 
objections ? If you do, you must come down stairs and ask 
questions in the dining-room. These worries upset me. I 
Vv'ant a glass of wine.' 

He left us suddenly. 

His manner all through this strange conversation had 
been very unlike what it usually was. He seemed to be 
almost as nervous and fluttered, every now and then, as his 
lady herself. I should never have supposed that his health 
h:id been so delicate, or his composure so easy to upset. 

I tried to prevail on Lady Glyde to go back to her room ; 
but it was useless. She stopped in the passage, with the 
look of a woman whose mind was panic-stricken : 

' Something has happened to my sister ! ' she said. 

' Remember, my lady, what surprising energy there is in 
Miss Halcombe,' I suggested. 'She might well make an 
effort which other ladies, in her situation, would be unfit for. 
I hope and believe there is nothing wrong — I do indeed.' 

' I must follow Marian ! ' said her ladyship, with the same 
panic-stricken look. ' I must go where she has gone ; 1 
must see that she is alive and well with my own eyes. Come ! 
come down with me to Sir Percival.' 

I hesitated ; fearing that my presence might be considered 
an intrusion. I attempted to represent this to her ladyship ; 
but she was deaf to me. She held my arm fast enough to 
force me to go down stairs with her ; and she still clung to 
me with all the little strength she had, at the moment when 
I opened the dining-room door. 

Sir Percival was sitting at the table with a decanter of 
wine before him. He raised the glass to his lips, as w^e went 
in, and drained it at a draught. Seeing that he looked at me 
angrily when he put it down again, I attempted to make 
some apology for my accidental presence in the room. 

' Do you suppose there are any secrets going on 
here ? ' he broke out, suddenly ; ' there are none — there is 
nothing underhand ; nothing kept from you or from an}'^ one.' 
After speaking those strange words, loudly and sternly, he 

342 



/ 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

filled himself another glass of whie, and asked Lady Glyde 
what she wanted of him. 

' If my sister is fit to travel, I am fit to travel,' said her 
ladyship, with more firmness than she had yet shown. ' I 
come to beg you will make allowances for my anxiety about 
Marian, and let me follow her at once, by the afternoon 
train.' '■ 

' You must wait till to-morrow,' replied Sir Percival ; ' and 
then, if you don't hear to the contrary, you can go. I don't 
suppose you are at all likely to hear to the contrary — so I 
shall write to Fosco by to-night's post.' 

He said those last words, holding his glass up to the light, 
and looking at the wine in it, instead of at Lady Glyde. In- 
deed, he never once looked at her throughout the conversa- 
tion. Such a singular want of good breeding in a gentleman 
of his rank, impressed me, I own, very painfully. 

' Why should you write to Count Fosco ? * she asked, in 
extreme surprise. 

' To tell him to expect you by the mid-day train,' said 
Sir Percival. ' He will meet you at the station, when you 
get to London, and take you on to sleep at your aunt's, in 
St. John's Wood.' 

Lady Clyde's hand began to tremble violently round my 
arm — why I could not imagine. 

' There is no necessity for Count Fosco to meet me,' she 
said. ' I would rather not stay in London to sleep.' 

* You must. You can't take the whole journey to Cumber- 
land in one day. You must rest a night in London — and I 
don't choose you to go by yourself to an hotel. Fosco made 
the off"er to your uncle to give you house-room on the way 
down ; and your uncle has accepted it. Here ! here is a 
letter from him, addressed to yourself. I ought to have sent 
it up this morning ; but I forgot. Read it, and see what Mr. 
Fairlie himself says to you.' 

Lady Glyde looked at the letter for a moment ; and then 
placed it in my hands. 

* Read it,' she said, faintly. 'I don't know what is the 
matter with me. I can't read it, myself.' 

It was a note of only four lines — so short and so careless, 
that it quite struck me. If I remember correctly, it contained 
no more than these words : 

' Dearest Laura, Please come, whenever you like. Break 
the journey by sleeping at your aunt's house. Grieved to 
hear of dear Marian's illness. Affectionately yours, Frederick 
Fairlie.' 

343 



THE W0IMA^4 IN WHITE 

' I would rather not go there — I would rather not stay a 
night in London,' said her ladyship, breaking out eagerly 
with those words, before I had quite done reading the note, 
short as it was. * Don't write to Count Fosco ! Pray, pray 
don't write to him ! ' 

Sir Percival filled another glass from the decanter, so awk- 
wardly that he upset it, and spilt all the wine over the table. 

* My sight seems to be failing me,' he muttered to himself, in 
an odd, muffled voice. He slowly set the glass up again, 
refilled it, and drained it once more at a draught. I began 
to fear, from his look and manner, that the wine was getting 
into his head. 

' Pray don't write to Count Fosco ! ' persisted Lady 
Clyde, more earnestly than ever. 

* Why not, I should like to know ? ' cried Sir Percival, 
with a sudden burst of anger that startled us both. ' Where 
can you stay more properly in London than at the place your 
uncle himself chooses for you — at your aunt's house ? Ask 
Mrs. Michelson.' 

The arrangement proposed was so unquestionably the 
right and the proper one, that I could make no possible 
objection to it. Much as I S3'mpathized with Lady Clyde ir- 
other respects, I could not sympathize with her in her unjust 
prejudices against Count Fosco. I never before met with 
any lady, of her rank and station, who was so lamentably 
narrow-minded on the subject of foreigners. Neither her 
uncle's note, nor Sir Percival's increasing impatience, seemed 
to have the least eff"ect on her. She still objected to staying 
a night in London ; she still implored her husband not to 
write to the Count. 

' Drop It ! ' said Sir Percival, rudely turning his back on 
us. ' If you haven't sense enough to know what is best for 
yourself, other people must know for you. The arrangement 
IS made ; and there is an end of it. You are only wanted to 
do what Miss Halcombe has done before you •' 

' Marian ? ' repeated her ladyship, in a bewildered manner ; 

* Marian sleeping in Count Fosco's house ! ' 

' Yes, in Count Fosco's house. She slept there, last night, 
to break the journey. And you are to follow her example, 
and do what your uncle tells you. You are to sleep at Fosco's, 
to-morrow night, as your sister did, to break the journey. 
Don't throw too many obstacles in my way ! don't make me 
repent of letting you go at all ! ' 

He started to his feet ; and suddenly walked out Into the 
verandah, through the open glass doors. 

344 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

* Will your ladyship excuse me,' I whispered, * if I sug-g-est 
that we had better not wait here till Sir Percival comes back ? 
I am very much afraid he is over-excited with wine.' 

She consented to leave the room, in a weary, absent 
manner. 

As soon as we were safe up-stairs again, I did all I could 
to compose her ladyship's spirits. I reminded her that Mr. 
Fairlie's letters to Miss Halcombe and to herself did certainly 
sanction, and even render necessary, sooner or later, the 
course that had been taken. She agreed to this, and even 
admitted, of her own accord, that both letters were strictly in 
character with her uncle's peculiar disposition — but her fears 
about Miss Halcombe, and her unaccountable dread of sleeping 
at the Count's house in London, still remained unshaken in 
spite of every consideration that I could urge. I thought it 
my duty to protest against Lady Clyde's unfavourable opinion 
of his lordship, and I did so, with becoming forbearance and 
respect. 

* Your ladyship will pardon my freedom,' I remarked, in 
conclusion, 'but it is said, " by their fruits ye shall know 
them." I am sure the Count's constant kindness and constant 
attention from the very beginning of Miss Halcombe's illness, 
merit our best confidence and esteem. Even his lordship's 
serious misunderstanding with Mr. Dawson was entirely 
attributable to his anxiety on Miss Halcombe's account.' 

' What misunderstanding ? ' inquired her ladyship, Vvith a 
look of sudden interest. 

I related the unhappy circumstances under which Mr. 
Dawson had withdrawn his attendance — mentioning them all 
the more readily, because I disapproved of Sir Percival's con- 
tinuing to conceal what had happened (as he had done in my 
presence) from the knowledg-e of Lady Clyde. 

Her ladyship started up, with every appearance of being- 
additionally agitated and alarmed b}- what I had told her. 

' Worse ! worse than I thought ! ' she said, walking about 
the room, in a bewildered manner. ' The Count knew Mr. 
Dawson would never consent to Marian's taking a journey — 
he purposely insulted the doctor to get him out of the house.' 

' Oh, my lady ! my lady ! ' I remonstrated. 

* Mrs. Michelson ! ' she went on, vehemently ; ' no words 
that ever were spoken will persuade me that my sister is in 
that man's power and in that man's house, with her own con- 
sent. My horror of him is such, that nothing Sir Percival 
could say, and no letters my uncle could write, would induce 
me, if I had only my own feelings to consult, to eat, drink, or 

345 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

sleep under his roof. But my misery of suspense about 
Marian gives me the courag'e to follow her anywhere — to 
follow her even into Count Fosco's house.' 

I thought it right, at this point, to mention that Miss 
Halcombe had already gone on to Cumberland, according to 
Sir Percival's account of the matter. 

' I am afraid to believe it ! ' answered her ladyship, ' I am 
afraid she is still in that man's house. If I am wrong — if she 
has really gone on to Limm.eridge— I am resolved I will not 
sleep to-morrow night under Count Fosco's roof. My dearest 
friend in the world, next to my sister, lives near London. You 
have heard me, you have heard Miss Halcombe, speak of 
Mrs. Vesey ? I mean to write, and propose to sleep at her 
house. I don't know how I shall get there — I don't know 
how I shall avoid the Count — but to that refuge I will escape 
in some way, if my sister has gone to Cumberland. All I 
ask of you to do, is to see yourself that my letter to Mrs. 
Vesey goes to London to-night, as certainly as Sir Percival's 
letter goes to Count Fosco. I have reasons for not trusting 
the post-bag down stairs. Will you keep my secret, and help 
me in this ? it is the last favour, perhaps, that I shall ever 
ask of you.' 

I hesitated — I thought it all very strange — I almost feared 
that her ladyship's mind had been a little affected by recent 
anxiety and suffering-. At my ovvu risk, however, I ended by 
giving my consent. If the letter had been addressed to a 
stranger, or to anyone but a lady so well known to me by 
report as Mrs. Vesey, I might have refused. I thank God — • 
looking to what happened afterwards— I thank God I never 
thwarted that v\-ish, or any other, which Lady Glyde expressed 
to me, on the last day of her residence at Blackwater Park. 

The letter was written, and given into my hands. I myself 
put it into the post-box in the village, that evening. 

We saw nothing more of Sir Percival for the rest of the day. 

I slept, by Lady Clyde's own desire, in the next room to 
hers, with the door open between us. There was something 
so strange and dreadful in the loneliness and emptiness of the 
house, that I was glad, on my side, to have a companion near 
me. Her ladyship sat up late, reading letters and burning 
them, and emptying her drawers and cabinets of little things 
she prized, as if she never expected to return to Blackwater 
Park. Her sleep was sadly disturbed when she at last went 
to bed ; she cried out in it, several times — once, so loud that 
she woke herself. Whatever her dreams were, she did not 
think fit to communicate them to me. Perhaps, in my situa- 

346 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

tion, I had no right to expect that she should do so. 
matters Httle, now. I was sorry for her — I was indeed 
heartily sorry for her all the same. 

The next day was fine and sunny. Sir Percival came up, 
after breakfast, to tell us that the chaise would be at the door 
at a quarter to twelve ; the train to London stopping- at our 
station, at twenty minutes after. He informed Lady Glyde 
that he was oblig'ed to go out, but added that he hoped to be 
back before she left. If any unforeseen accident delayed him, 
I was to accompany her to the station, and to take special 
care that she was in time for the train. Sir Percival com- 
municated these directions very hastily ; walking here and 
there about the room all the time. Her ladyship looked 
attentively after him, wherever he went. He never once 
looked at her in return. 

She only spoke when he had done ; and then she stopped 
him as he approached the door, by holdings out her hand. 

* I shall see you no more,' she said, in a very marked 
manner. ' This is our parting — our parting, it may be for 
ever. Will you try to forgive me, Percival, as heartily as I 
forgive ^ou? ' 

His face turned of an av^rful whiteness all over; and great 
beads of perspiration broke out on his bald forehead. ' I 
shall come back,' he said — and made for the door, as hastily 
as if his wife's farewell words had frightened him out of the 
room. 

I had never liked Sir Percival — but the manner in which 
he left Lady Glyde made me feel ashamed of having eaten 
his bread and lived in his service. I thought of saying a few 
comforting and Christian words to the poor lady ; but there 
was something in her face, as she looked after her husband 
when the door closed on him, that made me alter my mind 
and keep silence. 

At the time named, the chaise drevv up at the gates. Her 
ladyship was right — Sir Percival never came back. I waited 
for him till the last moment — and waited in vain. 

No positive responsibility lay on my shoulders ; and yet, I 
did not feel easy in my mind. ' It is of your own free will,' 
I said, as the chaise drove throvigh the lodge-gates, ' that 
your ladyship goes to London ? ' 

' I will go anywhere,' she answered, 'to end the dreadful 
suspense that I am suffering at this moment.' 

She had made me feel almost as anxious and as uncertain 
about Miss Halcombe as she felt herself. I presumed to ask 
her to write me a line, if all went well in London. She 

347 



THE WOMAN l:r WHITE 

answered, 'Most willingly, Mrs. Michelson.' 'We all have 
our crosses to bear, my lady,' I said, seeing her silent and 
thoughtful, after she had promised to write. She made no 
reply : she seemed to be too much wrapped up in her own 
thoughts to attend to me. ' I fear your ladyship rested badly 
last night,' I remarked after waiting a little. 'Yes,' she 
said; 'I was terribly disturbed by dreams.' 'Indeed, my 
lady ? ' I thought she was going to tell me her dreams ; but 
no, when she spoke next it was only to ask a question. ' You 
posted the letter to Mrs. Vesey with your own hands ? ' 
' Yes, my lady.' 

' Did Sir Percival say, yesterday, that Count Fosco was 
to meet me at the terminus in London?' 'He did, my 
lady.' 

She sighed heavily when I answered that last question, 
and said no more. 

We arrived at the station, with hardly two minutes to 
spare. The gardener (who had driven us) managed about 
the luggage, while I took the ticket. The whistle of the 
train was sounding when I joined her ladyship on the plat- 
form. She looked very strangely, and pressed her hand over 
her heart, as if some sudden pain or fright had overcome her 
at that moment. 

' I wish you were going with me ! ' she said, catching 
eagerly at my arm, when I gave her the ticket. 

If there had been time; if I had felt the day before, as I 
felt then, I would have made my arrangements to accompany 
her — even though the doing so had obliged me to give Sir 
Percival warning on the spot. As it was, her wishes expressed 
at the last moment only, were expressed too late for me to 
comply with them. She seemed to understand this herself 
before I could explain it, and did not repeat her desire to have 
me for a travelling companion. The train drew up at the 
platform. She gave the gardener a present for his children, 
and took my hand in her simple, hearty manner, before she 
got into the carriage. 

' You have been very kind to me and to my sister,' she 
said — ' kind when we were both friendless. I shall remember 
you gratefully, as long as I live to remem.ber any one. Good- 
by — and God bless you ! ' 

She spoke those words with a tone and a look which 
brought the tears into my eyes — she spoke them as if she was 
bidding me farewell for ever. 

' Good-by, my lady,' I said, putting Jier into the carriage, 
and trying to cheer her ; ' good-bv, for the present only ; 

348 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

gfood-by, with my best and kindest wishes for happier 
times ! ' 

She shook her head, and shuddered as she settled herself 
in the carriaofe. The g"uard closed the door. * Do you believe 
in dreams ? ' she whispered to me, at the window. ' Jl/y 
dreams, last night, were dreams I have never had before. 
The terror of them is hanging- over me still.' The whistle 
sounded before I could answer, and the train moved. Her 
pale quiet face looked at me, for the last time ; looked sorrow- 
fully and solemnly from the window. She waved her hand — 
and I saw her no more. 

Towards five o'clock on the afternoon of that same day, 
having a little time to myself in the midst of the household 
duties which now pressed upon me, I sat down alone in my 
own room, to try and compose my mind with the volume of 
my husband's Sermons. For the first time in my life, I found 
my attention wandering over those pious and cheering words. 
Concluding that Lady Glyde's departure must have disturbed 
me far more seriously than I had myself supposed, I put the 
book aside, and went out to take a turn in the garden. Sir 
Percival had not j-et returned, to my knowledge, so I could 
feel no hesitation about showing myself in the grounds. 

On turning the corner of the house, and gaining a view of 
the garden, I was startled by seeing a stranger walking in it. 
The stranger was a woman — she was lounging along the 
path, with her back to me, and was gathering the flowers. 

As I approached, she heard me, and turned round. 

My blood curdled in my veins. The strange woman in 
the garden was Mrs. Rubelle ! 

I could neither move, nor speak. She came up to me, as 
composedly as ever, with her flowers in her hand. 

' What is the matter, ma'am ? ' she said, quietly. 

' i'ou here ! ' I gasped out. ' Not gone to London ! Not 
gone to Cumberland ! ' 

I'.Irs. Rubellc smelt at her flowers with a smile of malicious 
pity. 

' Certainly not,' she said. * I hav-e never left Blackwater 
Park.' 

I summoned breath enough and courage enough for 
another question. 

'Where is Miss Halcombe?' 

Mrs. Rubelle fairly laughed at me, this time ; and replied 
in these words : 

349 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

* Miss Halcombc, ma'am, has not left Blackwater Park, 
either.' 

When I heard that astounding answer, all my thoughts 
were startled back on the instant to my parting with Lady 
Glyde. I can hardly say I reproached myself — but, at that 
moment, I think I would have given many a year's hard 
savings to have known four hours earlier what I knew now. 

Mrs. Rubelle waited, quietly arranging her nosegay, as if 
she expected me to say something. 

I could say nothing. I thought of Lady Glyde's worn- 
out energies and weakly health ; and I trembled for the time 
when the shock of the discovery that I had made would fall 
on her. For a minute, or more, my fears for the poor ladies 
silenced me. At the end of that time, Mrs. Rubelle looked 
up sideways from her flowers, and said, ' Here is Sir Percival, 
ma'am, returned from his ride.' 

I saw him as soon as she did. He came towards us, 
slashing viciously at the flowers with his riding-whip. When 
he was near enough to see my face, he stopped, struck at his 
boot with the whip, and burst out laughing, so harshly and 
so violently, that the birds flew away, startled, from the tree 
by which he stood. 

'Well, Mrs. Michelson,' he said ; 'you have found it out 
at last — have you ? ' 

I made no reply. He turned to Mrs. Rubelle. 

' When did you show yourself in the garden ? ' 

' I showed myself about half an hour ago, sir. You said 
I might take my liberty again, as soon as Lady Glyde had 
gone away to London.' 

' Quite right. I don't blame you — I only asked the ques- 
tion.' He waited a moment, and then addressed himself 
once more to me. ' You can't believe it, can you ? ' he said, 
mockingly. 'Here! come along and see for yourself.' 

He led the way round to the front of the house. I fol- 
lowed him ; and Mrs. Rubelle followed me. After passing 
through the iron gates, he stopped, and pointed with his 
whip to the disused middle wing of the building. 

' There ! ' he said. ' Look up at the first floor. You 
know the old Elizabethan bedrooms ? Miss Halcombe is 
snug and safe in one of the best of them, at this moment. 
Take her in, Mrs. Rubelle (you have got your key ? ) ; take 
Mrs. Michelson in, and let her own eyes satisfy her that there 
is no deception, this time.' 

The tone in which he spoke to me, and the minute or two 

350 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

that had passed since we left the garden, helped me to re- 
cover my spirits a little. What I might have done, at this 
critical moment, if all my life had been pasced in service, I 
cannot say. As it was, possessing- the feelings, the principles, 
and the bringing-up of a lady, I could not hesitate about the 
right course to pursue. My duty to myself, and my duty to 
Lady Glyde, alike forbade me to remain in the employment 
of a man who had shamefully deceived us both by a series of 
atrocious falsehoods. 

' I must beg permission. Sir Percival, to speak a few 
words to you in private,' I said. ' Having done so, I shall 
be ready to proceed with this person to Miss Halcombe's 
room.' 

Mrs. Rubelle, whom I had indicated by a slight turn of 
my head, insolently sniffed at her nosegay, and walked away, 
W'ith great deliberation, towards the house door. 

' Well,' said Sir Percival, sharply ; ' v.-hat is it now ? ' 

' I wish to mention, sir, that I am desirous of resigning 
the situation I now hold at Blackwater Park.' That was 
literally how I put it. I was resolved that the first words 
spoken in his presence should be words which expressed my 
intention to leave his service. 

He eyed me with one of his blackest looks, and thrust his 
hands savagely into the pockets of his riding-coat. 

' Why ? ' he said ; ' why, I should like to knov^'- ? ' 

' It is not for me. Sir Percival, to express an opinion on 
what has taken place in this house. I desire to give no 
offence. I merely wish to say that I do not feel it consistent 
with my duty to Lady Glyde and to myself to remain any 
longer in your service.' 

' Is it consistent with your duty to me to stand there, 
casting suspicion on me to my face ? ' he broke out, in his 
most violent manner. ' I see what you're driving at. You 
have taken your own mean, underhand view of an innocent 
deception practised on Lady Glyde, for her own good. It 
was essential to her health that she should have a change of 
air immediately — and, you know as vvell as I do, she v.'ould 
never have gone away, if she had been told Miss Halcombe 
was still left here. She has been deceived in her own in- 
terests — and I don't care who knows it. Go, if you like- 
there are plenty of housekeepers as good as you, to be had 
for the asking. Go, when you please — but take care how you 
spread scandals about me and my affairs, when you're out of 
my service. Tell the truth, and nothing but the truth, or it 
will be the worse for you ! See Miss Halcombe for yourself; 

351 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

see if she hasn't been as well taken care of in one part of the 
house as in the other. Remember the doctor's own orders 
that Lady Glyde was to have a change of air at the earliest 
possible opportunity. Bear all that well in mind — and then 
say anything against me and my proceedings if you dare ! ' 

He poured out these words fiercely, all in a breath, walk- 
ing backwards and forwards, and striking about him in the 
air with his whip. 

Nothing that he said or did shook my opinion of the dis- 
graceful series of falsehoods that he had told, in my presence, 
the day before, or of the cruel deception by which he ha^ 
separated Lady Glyde from her sister, and had sent het 
uselessly to London, when she was half dirtracted with 
anxiety on Miss Halcombe's account. I naturally kept these 
thoughts to myself, and said nothing more to irritate him ; 
but I was not the less resolved to persist in my purpose. A 
soft answer turneth away wrath ; and I suppressed my own 
feelings, accordingly, when it was my turn to reply. 

' While I am in your service. Sir Percival,' I said, ' I hope I 
know my duty well enough not to inquire into your motives. 
When I am out of your service, I hope I know my own place 
well enough not to speak of matters which don't concern 
me ' 

' When do you want to go ? ' he asked, interrupting me 
without ceremony. ' Don't suppose I am anxious to keep 
you — don't suppose I care about your leaving the house. I 
am perfectly fair and open in this matter, from first to last. 
When do you want to go ? ' 

' I should wish to leave at your earliest convenience, Sir 
Percival.' 

' My convenience has nothing to do with it. I shall be 
out of the house, for good and all, to-morrow morning ; and 
I can settle your accounts to-night. If you want to stuc^ 
anybody's convenience, it had better be ^.liss Halcombe's. 
Mrs. Rubelle's time is up to-day ; and she has reasons for 
wishing to be in London to-night. If you go at once, Miss 
Halcombe won't have a soul left here to look after her.' 

I hope it is unnecessary for me to say that I was quite 
incapable of deserting Miss Halcombe in such an emergency 
as had now befallen Lady Glyde and herself. After first dis- 
tinctly ascertaining from Sir Percival that Mrs. Rubelle was 
certain to leave at once if I took her place, and after also 
obtaining permission to arrange for Mr. Dawson's resuming 
his attendance on his patient, I willingly consented to remain 
at Blackwater Park until Miss Halcombe no longer required 

352 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

my services. It was settled that I should give Sir Percival's 
soHcitor a week's notice before I left : and that he was to 
undertake the necessary arrangements for appointing- my suc- 
cessor. The matter was discussed in very few words. At its 
conclusion, Sir Percival abruptly turned on his heel, and left 
me free to join Mrs. Rubelle. That singular foreign person 
had been sitting composedly on the door-step, all this time, 
waiting till I could follow her to Miss Halcombe's room. 

I had hardly walked half way towards the house, when 
Sir Percival, who had withdrawn in the opposite direction, 
suddenly stopped, and called me back. 

' Why are you leaving my service ? ' he asked. 

The question was so extraordinary, after what had just 
passed between us, that I hardly knew what to say in answer 
to it. 

' Mind ! / don't know why you are going,' he went on. 
* You must give a reason for leaving me, I suppose, when 
you get another situation. What reason ? The breaking up 
of the family ? Is that it ? ' 

' There can be no positive objection, Sir Percival, to that 
reason ' 

' Very well ! That's all I want to know. If people apply 
for your character, that's your reason, stated by yourself. 
You go in consequence of the breaking up of the family.' 

He turned away again, before I could say another word, 
and walked out rapidly into the grounds. His manner was 
as strange as his language. I acknowledge he alarmed me. 

Even the patience of Mrs. Rubelle was getting exhausted, 
when I joined her at the house door. 

' At last ! ' she said, with a shrug of her lean foreign 
shoulders. She led the way into the inhabited side of the 
house, ascended the stairs, and opened with her key the door 
at the end of the passage, which communicated with the old 
Elizabethan rooms — a door never previously used, in my time, 
at Blackwater Park. The rooms themselves I knew well, 
having entered them myself, on various occasions, from the 
other side of the house. Mrs. Rubelle stopped at the third 
door along the old gciUery, handed me the key of it, with the 
key of the door of communication, and told me I should find 
Miss Halcombe in that room. Before I went in, I thought 
it desirable to make her understand that her attendance had 
ceased. Accordingly, I told her in plain words that the 
charge of the sick lady henceforth devolved entirely on myself. 
* I am glad to hear it, ma'am,' said Mrs. Rubelle. ' I 
want to go very much.' 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

see if she hasn't been as well taken care of in one part of the 
house as in the other. Remember the doctor's own orders 
that Lady Glyde was to have a change of air at the earliest 
possible opportunity. Bear all that well in mind — and then 
say anything- against me and my proceedings if you dare ! ' 

He poured out these words fiercely, all in a breath, walk- 
ing backwards and forwards, and striking about him in the 
air with his whip. 

Nothing that he said or did shook my opinion of the dis- 
graceful series of falsehoods that he had told, in my presence, 
the day before, or of the cruel deception by which he hai/ 
separated Lady Glyde from her sister, and had sent her 
uselessly to London, when she was half dirtracted with 
anxiety on Miss Halcombe's account. I naturally kept these 
thoughts to myself, and said nothing more to irritate him ; 
but I was not the less resolved to persist in my purpose. A 
soft answer turneth away wrath ; and I suppressed my own 
feelings, accordingly, when it was my turn to reply. 

' While I am in your service, Sir Percival,' I said, ' I hope I 
know my duty well enough not to inquire into your motives. 
When I am out of your service, I hope I know my own place 
well enough not to speak of matters which don't concern 
me ' 

' When do you want to go ? ' he asked, interrupting me 
without ceremony. ' Don't suppose I am anxious to keep 
you — don't suppose I care about your leaving the house. I 
am perfectly fair and open in this matter, from first to last. 
When do you want to go ? ' 

' I should wish to leave at your earliest convenience, Sir 
Percival.' 

* My convenience has nothing to do with it. I shall be 
out of the house, for good and all, to-morrow morning ; and 
I can settle your accounts to-night. If you want to stuc^ 
anybody's convenience, it had better be Miss Halcombe's. 
Mrs. Rubelle's time is up to-day ; and she has reasons for 
wishing to be in London to-night. If you go at once. Miss 
Halcombe won't have a soul left here to look after her.' 

I hope it is unnecessary for me to say that I was quite 
incapable of deserting Miss Halcombe in such an emergency 
as had now befallen Lady Glyde and herself. After first dis- 
tinctly ascertaining from Sir Percival that Mrs. Rubelle was 
certain to leave at once if I took her place, and after also 
obtaining permission to arrange for Mr. Dawson's resuming 
his attendance on his patient, I willingly consented to remain 
at Blackwater Park until Miss Halcombe no longer required 

352 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

my services. It was settled that I should give Sir Percival's 
solicitor a week's notice before I left : and that he was to 
undertake the necessary arrangements for appointing my suc- 
cessor. The matter was discussed in very few words. At its 
conclusion, Sir Percival abruptly turned on his heel, and left 
me free to join Mrs. Rubelle. That singular foreign person 
had been sitting composedly on the door-step, all this time, 
waiting till I could follow her to Miss Halcombe's room. 

1 had hardl)' walked half way towards the house, when 
Sir Percival, who had withdrawn in the opposite direction, 
suddenly stopped, and called me back. 

' Why are you leaving my service ? ' he asked. 
The question was so extraordinary, after what had just 
passed between us, that I hardly knew what to say in answer 
to it. 

' Mind ! / don't know why you are going,' he went on. 
* You must give a reason for leaving me, I suppose, when 
you get another situation. What reason ? The breaking up 
of the family ? Is that it ? ' 

' There can be no positive objection, Sir Percival, to that 

reason ' 

' Very well ! That's all I want to know. If people apply 
for your character, that's your reason, stated by yourself. 
You go in consequence of the breaking up of the family.' 

He turned away again, before I could say another word, 
and walked out rapidly into the grounds. His manner was 
as strange as his language. I acknowledge he alarmed me. 

Even the patience of Mrs. Rubelle was getting exhausted, 
when I joined her at the house door. 

' At last ! ' she said, with a shrug- of her lean foreign 
shoulders. She led the way into the inhabited side of the 
house, ascended the stairs, and opened with her key the door 
at the end of the passage, which communicated with the old 
Elizabethan rooms — a door never previously used, in my time, 
at Blackwater Park. The rooms themselves I knew well, 
having entered them myself, on various occasions, from the 
other side of the house. Mrs. Rubelle stopped at the third 
door along the old gallery, handed me the key of it, with the 
key of the door of communication, and told me I should find 
Miss Halcombe in that room. Before I went in, I thought 
it desirable to make her understand that her attendance had 
ceased. Accordingly, I told her in plain words that the 
charge of the sick lady henceforth devolved entirely on myself. 
' I am glad to hear it, ma'am,' said Mrs. Rubelle. ' I 
want to go very much.' 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

My own part of this sad family story is now drawing to 
an end. 

I have been informed that the particulars of Miss 
Halcombe's waking, and of what passed between us when 
she found me sitting- by her bedside, are not material to the 
purpose which is to be answered by the present narrative. It 
will be sufficient for me to say, in this place, that she was 
not herself conscious of the means adopted to remove her 
from the inhabited to the uninhabited part of the house. She 
was in a deep sleep at the time, whether naturally or artifici- 
ally produced she could not say. In my absence at Torquay, 
and in the absence of all the resident servants, except 
Margaret Porcher (who was perpetually eating, drinking, or 
sleeping, when she was not at work), the secret transfer of 
Miss Halcombe from one part of the house to the other was 
no doubt easily performed. Mrs. Rubelle (as I discovered 
for myself, in looking about the room) had provisions, and all 
other necessaries, together with the means of heating water, 
broth, and so on, without kindling a fire, placed at her dis- 
posal during the few days of her imprisonment with the sick 
lady. She had declined to answer the questions which Miss 
Halcombe naturally put ; but had not, in other respects, 
treated her with unkindness or neglect. The disgrace of 
lending herself to a vile deception is the only disgrace with 
which I can conscientiously charge Mrs. Rubelle. 

I need write no particulars (and I am relieved to know it) 
of the effect produced on Miss Halcombe by the news of Lady 
Clyde's departure, or by the far more melancholy tidings which 
reached us only too soon afterwards at Blackwater Park. In 
both cases I prepared her mind beforehand as gently and as 
carefully as possible ; having the doctor's advice to guide 
me, in the last case only, through Mr. Dawson's being too 
unwell to come to the house for some days after I had sent 
for him. It was a sad time, a time which it afflicts me to 
think of, or to write of, now. The precious blessings of 
religious consolation which I endeavoured to convey, were 
long in reaching Miss Halcombe's heart ; but I hope and 
believe they came home to her at last. I never left her till 
her strength was restored. The train which took me away 
from that miserable house, was the train which took her away 
also. We parted very mournfully in London. I remained 
with a relative at Islington ; and she went on to Mr. Fairlie's 
house in Cumberland. 

I have only a few lines more to write, before I close this 
painful statement. They are dictated by a sense of duty. 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

In the first place, I wish to record my own personal con- 
viction that no blame whatever, in connexion with the events 
which I have now related, attaches to Count Fosco. I am 
informed that a dreadful suspicion has been raised, and that 
some very serious constructions are placed upon his lordship's 
conduct. My persuasion of the Count's innocence remains, 
however, quite unshaken. If he assisted Sir Percival in 
sending- me to Torquay, he assisted under a delusion, for 
which, as a foreig-ner and a stranger, he was not to blame. If 
he was concerned in bring-ing Mrs. Rubelle to Blackwater 
Park, it was his misfortune and not his fault, when that 
foreign person was base enough to assist a deception planned 
and carried out by the master of the house. I protest, in the 
interests of morality, against blame being gratuitously and 
wantonly attached to the proceedings of the Count. 

In the second place, I desire to express my regret at my 
own inability to remember the precise day on which Lady 
Glyde left Blackwater Park for London. I am told that it is 
of the last importance to ascertain the exact date of that 
lamentable journey ; and I have anxiously taxed my memory 
to recall it. The effort has been in vain. I can only re- 
member now that it was towards the latter part of July. We 
all know the difficulty, after a lapse of time, of fixing pre- 
cisely on a past date, unless it has been previously written 
down. That difficulty is greatly increased, in my case, by 
the alarming and confusing- events which took place about 
the period of Lad}- Clyde's departure. I heartily wish I had 
made a memorandum at the time. I heartily wish my memory 
of the date was as vivid as my memory of that poor lady's 
face, when it looked at me sorrowfully for the last time from 
the carriaere window. 



The Story continued in several Narratives. 

I. The Narrative of Hester Pinhorn, Cook in the Service of 
Count Fosco. 

[Taken do'vn from her oxvn statement.] 

I AM sorrv to say that I have never learnt to read or write. 
I have been a hard-working woman all my life, and have kept 
a good character. I know that it is a sin and wickedness to 
say the thing which is not ; and I will truly beware of doing- 
so on this occasion. All that I know, I will tell ; and I 
humbly beg the gentleman who takes this down to put my 

357 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

langfuage right as he goes en, and to make allowances for 
my being no scholar. 

In this last summer, I happened to be out of place (through 
no fault of my own) ; and I heard of a situation, as plain 
cook, at Number Five, Forest-road, St. John's Wood. I 
took the place, on trial. My master's name was Fosco. My 
mistress was an English lady. He was Count and she was 
Countess. There was a girl to do housemaid's work, when 
I got there. She was not over clean or tidy — but there was no 
harm in her. I and she were the only servants in the house. 

Our master and mistress came after we got in. And, as 
soon as they did come, we were told, down stairs, that com- 
pany was expected from the country. 

The company was my mistress's niece, and the back bed- 
room on the first floor was got ready for her. My mistress 
mentioned to me that Lady Glyde (that was her name) was 
in poor health, and that I must be particular in my cooking 
accordingly. She was to come that day, as well as I can 
remember — but whatever you do, don't trust 7ny memory in 
the matter. I am sorry to say it's no use asking me about 
days of the month, and such-like. Except Sundays, half my 
time I take no heed of them ; being a hard-working woman 
and no scholar. All I know is. Lady Glyde came ; and, w^hen 
she did come, a fine fright she gave us all, surely. I don't 
know how master brought her to the house, being hard at 
work at the time. But he did bring her, in the afternoon, 1 
think ; and the housemaid opened the door to them, and 
showed them into the parlour. Before she had been long 
down in the kitchen again with me, we heard a hurry-skurry, 
upstairs, and the parlour bell ringing like mad, and my 
mistress's voice calling out for help. 

We both ran up ; and there we saw the lady laid on the 
sofa, with her face ghastly white, and her hands fast clenched, 
and her head drawn down to one side. She had been taken 
with a sudden fright, my mistress said ; and master he told 
us she was in a fit of convulsions. I ran out, knowing the 
neighbourhood a little better than the rest of them, to fetch 
the nearest doctor's help. The nearest help was at Good- 
ricke's and Garth's, who worked together as partners, and 
had a good name and connexion, as I have heard, all round 
St. John's Wood. Mr. Goodricke was in ; and he came 
back with me directly. 

It was some time before he could make himself of much 
use. The poor unfortunate lady fell out of one fit into 
another — and went on so, till she was quite wearied out, and 

358 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

as helpless as a new-born babe. We then got her to bed. 
Mr. Goodrlcke v/ent away to his house for medicine, and 
came back again in a quarter of an hour or less. Besides 
the medicine he brought a bit of hollow mahogany wood 
with him, shaped like a kind of trumpet ; and, after waiting 
a little while, he put one end over the lady's heart and the 
other to his ear, and listened carefully. 

When he had done, he says to my mistress, who was in 
the room, 'This is a very serious case,' he says ; ' I recom- 
mend you to write to Lady Clyde's friends directly.' My 
mistress says to him, ' Is it heart-disease ? ' And he says, 
'Yes; heart-disease of a most dangerous kind.' He told 
her exactly what he thought was the matter, which I was 
not clever enough to understand. But I know this, he ended 
by saying that he was afraid neither his help nor any other 
doctor's help was likely to be of much service. 

My mistress took this ill news more quietly than my 
master. He was a big, fat, odd sort of elderly man, who 
kept birds and white mice, and spoke to them as if they were 
so many Christian children. He seemed terribly cut up by 
what had happened. ' Ah ! poor Lady Clyde ! poor dear 
Lady Clyde ! ' he says — and went stalking about, wringing 
his fat hands more like a play-actor than a gentleman. For 
one question my mistress asked the doctor about the lady's 
chances of getting round, he asked a good fifty at least. I 
declare he quite tormented us all — and, when he was quiet at 
last, out he went into the bit of back garden, picking trumpery 
little nosegays, and asking me to take them up-stairs and 
make the sick-room look pretty with them. As if that did 
any good. I think he must have been, at times, a little soft 
in his head. But he was not a bad master : he had a 
monstrous civil tongue of his own ; and a jolly, easy, coaxing 
way with him. I liked him a deal better than my mistress. 
She was a hard one, if ever there was a hard one yet. 

Towards night-time, the lady roused up a little. She had 
been so wearied out, before that, by the convulsions, that 
she never stirred hand or foot, or spoke a word to anybody. 
She moved in the bed now ; and stared about her at the room 
and us in it. She must have been a nice-looking lady, when 
well, v\'ith light hair, and blue eyes, and all that. Her rest 
was troubled at night — at least so I heard from my mistress, 
who sat up alone with her. I only went in once before going 
to bed, to see if I could be of any use ; and then she was 
talking to herself, in a confused, rambling manner. She 
seemed to want sadly to speak to somebody, who was absent 

359 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

.from her somewhere. I couldn't catch the name, the first 
time ; and the second time master knocked at the door, with 
his regular mouthful of questions, and another of his trumpery 
nosegays. 

When I went in, early the next morning, the lady was 
clean worn out again, and lay in a kind of faint sleep. Mr. 
Goodricke brought his partner, Mr. Garth, with him to advise. 
They said she must not be disturbed out of her rest, on any 
account. They asked my mistress a many questions, at the 
other end of the room, about what the lady's health had been 
in past times, and who had attended her, and whether she 
had ever suffered much and long together under distress of 
mind. I remember my mistress said, 'Yes,' to that last 
question. And Mr. Goodricke looked at Mr. Garth, and 
shook his head ; and Mr. Garth looked at Mr. Goodricke, 
and shook his head. They seemed to think that the distress 
might have something to do with the mischief at the lady's 
heart. She was but a frail thing to look at, poor creature ! 
Very little strength, at any time, I should say — very little 
strength. 

Later on the same morning, when she \voke, the lady 
took a sudden turn, and got seemingly a great deal better. 
I was not let in again to see her, no more was the housemaid, 
for the reason that she was not to be disturbed by strangers. 
What I heard of her being better was through my master. 
He was in wonderful good spirits about the change, and 
looked in at the kitchen windovv' from the garden, with his 
great big curly-brimmed v.hite hat on, to go out. 

' Good Mrs. Cook,' says he, ' Lady Glyde is better. My 
mind is more easy than it was ; and I am going out to 
stretch my big legs with a sunny little summer walk. Shall 
I order for }'ou, shall I market for you, Mrs. Cook ? What 
are you making there ? A nice tart for dinner ? Much crust, 
if you please — much crisp crust, my dear, that melts and 
crumbles delicious in the mouth.' That was his wa}'. He 
was past sixty, and fond of pastry. Just think of that ! 

The doctor came again in the forenoon, and saw for 
himself that Lady Glyde had woke up better. He forbid us 
to talk to her, or to let her talk to us, in case she Avas that 
way disposed ; saying she must be kept quiet before all things, 
and encouraged to sleep as much as possible. She did not 
seem to want to talk whenever I saw her — except overnight, 
when I couldn't make out what she was saying — she seemed 
too much worn down. Mr. Goodricke was not nearly in such 
good spirits about her as master. He said nothing when lie 

360 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

came down-stairs, except that he would call again at five 
o'clock. 

About that time (which was before master came home 
again), the bell rang hard from the bedroom, and my mistress 
ran out into the landing, and called for me to go for Mr. 
Goodricke, and tell him the lady had fainted. I got on my 
bonnet and shawl, when, as good luck would have it, the 
doctor himself came to the house for his promised visit. 

I let him in, and went up-stairs along with him. ' Lady 
Glyde was just as usual,' says my mistress to him at the 
door ; ' she was awake, and looking about her, in a strange, 
forlorn manner, when I heard her give a sort of half cry, and 
she fainted in a moment.' The doctor went up to the bed, 
and stooped down over the sick lady. He looked very 
serious, all on a sudden, at the sight of her ; and put his 
hand on her heart. 

My mistress stared hard in Mr. Goodricke's face. ' Not 
dead ! ' says she, whispering, ai>d turning all of a tremble 
from head to foot. 

'Yes,' says the doctor, very quiet and grave. 'Dead. 
I was afraid it would happen suddenly, v\-hen I examined her 
heart yesterday.' My mistress stepped back from the bedside, 
while he was speaking, and trembled and trembled again. 
' Dead ! ' she whispers to herself ; ' dead so suddenly ! dead 
so soon ! What will the Count say ? ' Mr. Goodricke 
advised her to go down-stairs, and quiet herself a little. 
* You have been sitting up all night,' says he; 'and your 
nerves are shaken. This person,' says he, meaning me, 'this 
person will stay in the room, till I can send for the necessary 
assistance.' My mistress did as he told her. ' I must prepare 
the Count,' she says. 'I must carefully prepare the Count.' 
And so she left us, shaking from head to foot, and went out. 

' Your master is a foreigner,' says Mr. Goodricke, when 
my mistress had left us. ' Does he understand about regis- 
tering the death?' ' I can't rightly tell, sir,' says I ; ' but I 
should think not.' The doctor considered a minute ; and 
then, says he, ' I don't usually do such things,' says he, ' but 
it may save the family trouble in this case, if I register the 
death myself. I shall pass the district office in half an hour's 
time ; and I can easily look in. Mention, if you please, that 
I will do so.' ' Yes, sir,' says I, ' with thanks, I'm sure, for 
your kindness in thinking of it.' ' You don't mind staying 
here, till I can send you the proper perser.. ? ' says he. ' No, 
sir,' says I ; ' I'll stay with the poor lady, till then. I suppose 
nothing more could be done, sir, than was done ? ' savs I, 

361 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

* No,' says he ; * nothing ; she must have suffered sadly 
before ever I saw her : tlic case was hopeless when I was 
called in.' ' Ah, dear me ! we all come to it, sooner or later, 
don't we, sir?' says I. He gave no answer to that; he 
didn't seem to care about talking. He said, ' Good day,' 
and went out. 

I stopped by the bedside from that time, till the time when 
Mr. Goodricke sent the person in, as he had promised. She 
was, by name, Jane Gould. I considered her to be a respect- 
able-looking woman. She made no remark, except to say 
that she understood what was wanted of her, and that she 
had winded a many of them in her time. 

How master bore the news, when he first heard It, is more 
than I can tell ; not having been present. When I did see 
him, he looked awfully overcome by it, to be sure. He sat 
quiet in a corner, with his fat hands hanging over his thick 
knees, and his head down, and his eyes looking at nothing. 
He seemed not so much sorry, as scared and dazed like, by 
what had happened. My mistress managed all that was to 
be done about the funeral. It must have cost a sight of 
money : the coffin, in particular, being most beautiful. The 
dead lady's husband was away, as we heard, in foreign parts. 
But my mistress (being her aunt) settled it with her friends in 
the country (Cumberland, I think) that she should be buried 
there, in the same grave along with her mother. Everything 
was done handsomely, in respect of the funeral, I say again ; 
and master went down to attend the burying in the country 
himself. He looked grand in his deep mourning, with his big 
solemn face, and his slow walk, and his broad hatband — that 
he did ! 

In conclusion, I have to say, in answer to questions put 
to me. 

(i) That neither I nor my fellow-servant ever saw my 
master give Lady Glyde any medicine himself. 

(2) That he was never, to my knowledge and belief, left 
alone in the room with Lady Glyde. 

(3) That I am not able to say what caused the sudden 
fright, which my mistress informed me had seized the lady 
on her first coming into the house. The cause was never 
explained, either to me or to my fellow-servant. 

The above statement has been read over In my presence. 
I have nothing to add to it, or to take away from it. I say, 
on my oath as a Christian woman, This is the truth. 

(Signed) Hester Pinhorn, Her + Mark. 

'\62 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

2. The Narrative of the Dcctcr. 

To the Registrar of the Sub-District in which the under-men- 
tioned Death took place. — I hereby certify that I attended 
Lady Glyde, aged Twenty-One last Birthday ; that I last saw 
her, on Thursday, the 25th of Jul}-, 1850 ; that she died on 
the same day at No. 5, Forest-road, St. John's Wood ; and 
that the cause of her death was. Aneurism. Duration of 
Disease, not known. 

(Signed) Alfred Goodricke. 

ProP. Title. M.R.C.S. Eng. L.S.A. 
Address. 12, Croydon Gardens, St. John's IVood. 

3. 7 he N'arrative of Jane Gould. 

I WAS the person sent in by Mr. Goodricke, to do what was 
right and needful by the remains of a lady, who had died at 
the house named in the certificate which precedes this. I 
found the body in charge of the servant, Hester Pinhorn. I 
remained with it, and prepared it, at the proper time, for the 
grave. It was laid in the coffin, in my presence ; and I after- 
wards saw the coffin screwed down, previous to its removal. 
When that had been done, and not before, I received what 
was due to me, and left the house. I refer persons who may 
wish to investigate my character to Mr. Goodricke. He will 
bear witness that I can be trusted to tell the truth. 

(Signed) Jane Gould. 

4. The Narrative of the Tombstone. 

Sacred to the Memory of Laura, Lady Glyde, wife of Sir 
Percival Glyde, Bart., of Blackwater Park, Hampshire ; and 
daughter of the late Philip Fairlie, Esq., of Limnneridge 
House, in this parish. Born, March 27th, 1829; married, 
December 22nd, 1849 ; died July 25th, 1850. 

5. The Narrative of Walter Hartright. 

Early in the summer of 1850, 1, and my survivingcompanions, 
left the wilds and forests of Central America for home. 
Arrived at the coast, we took ship there for England. The 
vessel was wrecked in the Gulf of Mexico ; I was among 
the few saved from the sea. It was my third escape from 
peril of death. Death by disease, death by the Indians, 
death by drowning — all three had approached me ; all three 
had passed me by. 

The survivors of the wreck were rescued by an American 
vessel, bound for Liverpool. The ship reached her port on 

363 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

the thirteenth day of October, 1S50. We landed late in the 
afternoon ; and I arrived in London the same night. 

These pages are not the record of my wanderings and my 
dangers away from home. The motives which led me from 
my country and my friends to a new world of adventure and 
peril are known. From that self-imposed exile I came back, 
as I hoped, prayed, believed I should come back — a changed 
man. In the waters of a new life I had tempered my nature 
afresh. In the stern school of extremity and danger my will 
had learnt to be strong, my heart to be resolute, my mind to 
rely on itself. I had gone out to fly from my own future. I 
came back to face it, as a man should. 

To face it with that inevitable suppression of myself, which 
I knew it would demand from me. I had parted with the 
worst bitterness of the past, but not with my heart's remem- 
brance of the sorrow and the tenderness of that memorable 
time. I had not ceased to feel the one irreparable disappoint- 
ment of my life — I had only learnt to bear it. Laura Fairlie 
was in all my thoughts when the ship bore me away, and I 
looked my last at England. Laura Fairlie was in all my 
thoughts when the ship brought me back, and the morning 
light showed the friendly shore in view. 

My pen traces the old letters as my heart goes back to 
the old love. I write of her as Laura Fairlie still. It is hard 
to think of her, it is hard to speak of her, by her husband's 
name. 

There are no more words of explanation to add, on my 
appearing for the second time in these pages. This narrative, 
if I have the strength and the courage to write it, may now 
go on. 

My first anxieties and first hopes, when the morning came, 
centred in my mother and my sister. I felt the necessity of 
preparing them for the joy and surprise of my return, after an 
absence, during which it had been impossible for them to re- 
ceive any tidings of me for months past. Early in the morn- 
ing, I sent a letter to the Hampstead Cottage ; and followed 
it myself in an hour's time. 

When the first meeting was over, when our quiet and 
composure of other days began gradually to return to us, I 
saw something in my mother's face which told me that a 
secret oppression lay heavy on her heart. There was more 
than love — there was sorrow in the anxious eyes that looked 
on me so tenderly ; there was pity in the kind hand that 
slowly and fondly strengthened its hold on mine. We had 

3^4 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

no concealmenls from each other. She knew how the hope 
of my Hfe had been wrecked — she knew why I had left her. 
It was on my lips to ask as composedly as I could, if any 
letter had come for me from Miss Halcombe — if there was 
any news of her sister that I might hear. But, when I looked 
in my mother's face, I lost courage to put the question even 
in that guarded form. I could only say, doubtingly and re- 
strainedly, 

' You have something to tell me.' 

My sister, who had been sitting opposite to us, rose 
suddenly, without a word of explanation — rose, and left the 
room. 

My mother moved closer to me on the sofa and put her 
arms round my neck. Those fond arms trembled ; the tears 
flowed fast over the faithful loving face. 

' Walter ! ' she whispered — ' my own darling ! my heart is 
heavy for you. Oh, my son ! my son ! try to remember that 
I am still left ! ' 

My head sank on her bosom. She had said all, in saying 
those words. 



It was the morning of the third day since my return — the 
morning of the sixteenth of October. 

I had remained with them at the Cottage ; I had tried 
hard not to embitter the happiness of my return, to tliem, as 
it was embittered to me. I had done all man could to rise 
after the shock, and accept my life resignedly — to let my 
great sorrow come in tenderness to my heart, and not in 
despair. It was useless and hopeless. No tears soothed my 
aching eyes ; no relief came to me from my sister's sympathy 
or my mother's love. 

On that third morning, I opened my heart to them. At 
last the words passed my lips which I had longed to speak 
on the day when my mother told me of her death. 

' Let me go away alone, for a little while,' I said. ' I 
shall bear it better when I have looked once more at the 
place where I first saw her — when I have knelt and prayed 
by the grave where they have laid her to rest.' 

I departed on my journey — my journey to the grave of 
Laura Fairlie. 

It was a quiet autumn afternoon, when I stopped at tne 
solitary station, and set forth alone, on foot, by the well- 
remembered road. The waning sun was shining faintly 
through thin white clouds ; the air was v.-arm and still ; the 

365 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

peacefulness of the lonely country was over-shadowed and 
saddened by the influence of the falling' year. 

I reached the moor ; I stood again on the brow of the hill ; 
I looked on, along the path — and there were the familiar 
g-arden trees in the distance, the clear sweeping semicircle of 
the drive, the high white walls of Limmeridge House. The 
chances and changes, the wanderings and dangers of months 
and months past, all shrank and shrivelled to nothing in my 
mind. It was like yesterday, since my feet had last trodden 
the fragrant heathy ground ! I thought I should see her 
coming- to meet me, with her little straw hat shading her 
face, her simple dress fluttering in the air, and her well-filled 
sketch-book ready in her hand. 

Oh, Death, thou hast thy sting ! oh, Grave, thou hast thy 
victory ! 

I turned aside ; and there below me, in the glen, was the 
lonesome gray church ; the porch where I had waited for the 
coming of the woman in white ; the hills encircling the quiet 
burial-ground ; the brook bubbling cold over its stony bed. 
There was the marble cross, fair and white, at the head of 
the tomb — the tomb that now rose over mother and daughter 
alike. 

I approached the grave. I crossed once more the low 
stone stile, and bared my head as I touched the sacred 
ground. Sacred to gentleness and goodness ; sacred to 
reverence and grief. 

I stopped before the pedestal from which the cross rose. 
On one side of it, on the side nearest to me, the nev/ly-cut 
inscription met my eyes — the hard, clear, cruel black letters 
which told the story of her life and death. I tried to read 
them. I did read, as far as the name. * Sacred to the 

Memory of Laura ' The kind blue eyes dim with tears ; 

the fair head drooping wearily ; the innocent, parting words 
which implored me to leave her — oh, for a happier last 
memory of her than this ; the memory I took away with me, 
the memory I bring back with me to her grave ! 

A second time I tried to read the inscription. I saw, at 
the end, the date of her death ; and above it 

Above it, there were lines on the marble, there was a 
name among them, which disturbed my thoughts of her. I 
went round to the other side of the grave, where there v/as 
nothing to read — nothing of earthly vileness to force its v.-ay 
between her spirit and mine. 

I knelt down by the tomb. I laid my hands, I laid my 
head, on the broad white stone, and closed my weary eyes on 

366 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

the earth around, on the hght above. I let her come back to 
me. Oh, my love ! my love ! my heart may speak to you 
now/ It is yesterday again, since we parted — yesterday, 
since your dear hand lay in mine — yesterday, since my eves 
looked their last on you. My love ! my love ! 

* * * * * 

Time had flowed on ; and Silence had fellen, like thick 
night, over its course. 

The first sound that came, after the heavenly peace, 
rustled faintly, like a passing breath of air, over the grass of 
the burial-ground. I heard it nearing me slowly, \mtil it 
came changed to my ear— came like footsteps moving on- 
ward — then stopped. 

I looked up. 

The sunset was near at hand. The clouds had parted ; 
the slanting light fell mellow over the hills. The last of the 
day was cold and clear and still in the quiet valley of the 
dead. 

Beyond me, in the burial-ground, standing together In the 
cold clearness of the lower light, I saw two women. They 
were lookmg towards the tomb ; looking towards me. 

Two. 

They came a little on ; and stopped again. Their veils 
were down, and hid their faces from me. When they 
stopped, one of them raised her veil. In the still evenino- 
light, I saw the face of Marian Halcombe. "^ 

Changed, changed as if years had passed over it ! The 
eyes large and wild, and looking at me with a strange terror 
in them. The face worn and wasted piteously. Pain and 
fear and grief written on her as with a brand. 

I took one step towards her from the grave. She never 
moved— she never spoke. The veiled woman with her cried 
out faintly. I stopped. The springs of my life fell low ; and 
the shuddering of an unutterable dread crept over me from 
head to foot. 

The woman with the veiled face moved away from her 
companion, and came towards me slowly. Left by herself 
standing by herself, Marian Halcombe spoke. It was the 
voice that I remembered— the voice not changed, like the 
frightened eyes and the wasted face. 

'My dream ! my dream ! ' I heard her say those words 
sottly, in the awful silence. She sank on her knees, and 
raised her clasped hands to the heaven. ' Father ! strengthen 
him. Father ! help him, in his hour of need.' 

367 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

The woman came on ; slowly and silently came on. I 
looked at her — at her, and at none other, from that moment. 

The voice that was praying- for me, faltered and sank low 
— then rose on a sudden, and called affrig-htedly, called 
despairingly to me to come away. 

But the veiled woman had possession of me, body and 
soul. She stopped on one side of the grave. We stood face 
to face, with the tombstone between us. She was close to 
the inscription on the side of the pedestal. Her gown touched 
the black letters. 

The voice came nearer, and rose and rose more passionately 
still. ' Hide your face ! don't look at her ! Oh, for God's 
sake spare him ! ' 

The woman lifted her veil. 

* Sacred to the Memory of Laura, Lady Clyde ' 



Laura, Lady Clyde, was standing by the inscription, and 
was looking- at me over the grave. 



[The Second Epocli ofUic Slo>'y closes /icre.\ 



368 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 



THE THIRD EPOCH. 



The Story continued by Walter Hautright. 



I OFEN a new pa-c. I advance m.v narrative by one week. 

The history of the interval which I thus pass over must 
remain unrecorded. My heart turns faint, my mind sinks in 
darkness and contusion when I think of it. ' This must not 
be If I, who write, am to guide, as I ought, you who read. 
This must not be it the clue that leads through the windin-.; 
h indr ^°''^' '^ ^° remain, from end to end, untangled in my 

_ A life suddenly changed— its whole purpose created afresh • 
Its hopes and fears, its struggles, its interests, and its sacril 
rices, all turned at once and forever into a new direction— this 
IS the prospect which now opens before me like the burst of 
view from a mountain's top. I left my narrative in the quiet 
shadow of Limmeridge church : I resume it, one week later 
in the stir and turmoil of a London street. ' 

The street is in a populous and a poor neighbourhood. 
1 he ground floor of one of the houses in it is occupied by a 
sma 1 newsvendor's shop ; and the first floor and the second 
are let as furnished lodgings of the humblest kind. 

I have taken those two floors in an assumed name Oa 
the upper floor I live, with a room to work in, a room to 
sleep m. On the lower floor, under the same assumed name 
two women live, who are described as my sisters. I get my 
bread by drawing and engraving on wood for the cheap 
periodicals. My sisters are supposed to help me bv takin- 
in a little needlework. Our poor place of abode, our' humble 
calling, our assumed relationship, and our assumed name, 

3^ B B 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

are all used alike as a means of hiding us in the house-forest 
of London. We are numbered no longer with the people 
whose lives are open and known. I am an obscure, unnoticed 
man, without patron or friend to help me. Marian Halcombe 
is nothing- now, but my eldest sister, who provides for our 
household wants by the toil of her own hands. We two, in 
the estimation of others, are at once the dupes and the agents 
of a daring imposture. We are supposed to be the accom- 
plices of mad Anne Catherick, who claims the name, the 
place, and the living personality of dead Lady Glyde. 

That is our situation. That is the changed aspect in 
which we three must appear, henceforth, in this narrative, 
for many and many a page to come. 

In the eye of reason and of law, in the estimation o( 
relatives and friends, according to every received formality 
of civilised society, * Laura, Lady Glyde,' lay buried with her 
mother in Limmeridge churchyard. Torn in her own lifetime 
from the list of the living, the daughter of Philip Fairlie and 
the wife of Percival Glyde might still exist for her sister, 
might still exist for me, but to all the world besides she was 
dead. Dead to her uncle who had renounced her ; dead to 
the servants of the house who had failed to recognise her ; 
dead to the persons in authority who had transmitted her 
fortune to her husband and her aunt ; dead to m.y mother and 
my sister, who believed me to be the dupe of an adventuress 
and the victim of a fraud ; socially, morally, legally — dead. 

And yet alive ! Alive in poverty and in hiding. Alive, 
with the poor drawing-master to fight her battle, and to win 
the way back for her to her place in the world of living 
beings. 

Did no suspicion, excited by my own knowledge of Anne 
Catherick's resemblance to her, cross my mind, when her face 
was first revealed to me? Not the shadow of a suspicion, 
from the moment when she lifted her veil by the side of the 
inscription which recorded her death. 

Before the sun of that day had set, before the last glimpse 
of the home which was closed against her had passed from 
our view, the farewell words I spoke when we parted at 
Limmeridge House had been recalled by both of us ; repeated 
by me, recognised by her. ' If ever the time conies when the 
devotion of my whole heart and soul and strength v/ill give 
you a moment's happiness, or spare you a moment's sorrow, 
will you try to remember the poor drawing-master who has 
taught you ? ' She, who now remembered so little of the 
trouble and terror of a later time, remembered those words, 

370 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

:?l.!fn,LT.!',^°^;six^';;t^"''r:t:f '- «- boson, 

she called me by my name, vl™ she said " Vr'l'"'' '"'^''", 

u^:^:z /^i^^^: 1?- ^- 1 -e,r 

by my side, throuo-h neril of ri^nfi, "''y'^t^^^ ^'^an 1 had fallen 
escaped, the Ha d tClv^ thnce renewed, and thrice 

futur^e, had1e?me to mee that"?;';; ° V^! "^""'^ '"^^^ '^ ^he 
sorely tried and sad^v rh. ^ T""' J'''^'''^ ^n^ disowned, 
cloucfed robbed of her .?^.'' !^^^beauty faded, her mind 
amono- ivn^ creatures ft T ^" ^^^^T^"^^' ^^ ^er place 
devotfon o ^w whl heTr' ^ ,nd '°'7" ^. '^''^^ Promised; the 
laid blamelessly tt ftto^f,:^'^:^ In'hf r" ^hf Vh'^ 

Sf^itr-Sd^SSS^^ 



II. 

The 



I shall re]^tt h^,u ^ - ^'''''''' "'^^* '^ome next. 

interrupred;:|?ir, in ' aSr^'^l^f^^^rr '"he"' "f"^ 'f '" 
selves, but in the words of th^ k r^ ? • ^ ^P^'^^kers them- 
abstract which I commit^L . •! ' ^'f "' studiously simple 
and for the SuLTeTf^l::;'^^^^^^^^^^^ 
web wd, be most speedily an'd molt bte%ibly unrolled "^^'' 
HoJI^e5:?;^^SSle^t^^^-^^^ --" the 

fact'^f "Jhll dSLt'and"?h''"" '^^ ^"^^^"^'^ ^---- the 
circumstances uSerwhicS it had ';:r""7 ''''''^'^' °^ the 
cated to Miss Halcon^be bv th. h f P^""""' '""^'^ communi- 
some days aftenvarrrhow n!. ^^^^^^^^P^r. It was not till 
in the aLenc^of anv wrl?^''"^''^^''"^^'^tly,Mrs. Michelson, 
sence ot any written memorandum on the subject 



THE WOiMAN IN WHITE 

could not undertake to say) that a letter ari-ived from Madame 
Fosco announcing- Lady Clyde's sudden death in Count 
Fosco's house. The letter avoided mentioning- dates, and 
left it to Mrs. Michelson's discretion to break the news at 
once to Miss Halcombe, or to defer doing so until that lady's 
health should be more firmly established. 

Havingconsulted Mr. Dawson (who had been himself delayed 
by ill health in resuming his attendance at Blackwater Park), 
Mrs. Michelson, by the doctor's advice, and in the doctor's 
presence, communicated the news, either on the day when 
the letter was received, or on the day after. It is not neces- 
sary to dwell here upon the effect which the intelligence of 
Lady Gl3'de's sudden death produced on her sister. It is 
only useful to the present purpose to say that she was not 
able to travel for more than three weeks afterwards. At the 
end of that time she proceeded to London, accompanied by 
the housekeeper. They parted there ; Mrs. Michelson pre- 
viously informing Miss Halcombe of her address, in case they 
might wish to communicate at a future period. 

On parting with the housekeeper, Miss Halcombe went at 
once to the office of Messrs. Cilmore and Kyrle, to consult 
with the latter gentleman, in Mr. Cilmore's absence. She 
mentioned to Mr. Kyrle, what she had thought it desirable to 
conceal from every one else (Mrs. ISIichelson included) — her 
suspicion of the circumstances under which Lady Clyde was 
said to have met her death. Mr. Kyrle, who had previously 
given friendly proof of his anxiety to serve Miss Halcombe, at 
once vmdertook to make such inquiries as the delicate and 
dangerous nature of the investigation proposed to him would 
permit. 

To exhaust this part of the subject before going farther, 
it may be here mentioned that Count Fosco offered every 
facility to Mr. Kyrle, on that gentleman stating that he was 
sent by Miss Halcombe to collect such particulars as had not 
yet reached her of Lady Clyde's decease. Mr. Kyrle was 
placed in communication with the medical man, Mr. Cood- 
ricke, and with the two servants. In the absence of any 
means of ascertaining the exact date of Lady Clyde's depar- 
ture from Blackwater Park, the result of the doctor's and the 
servants' evidence, and of the volunteered statements of Count 
Fosco and his wife, was conclusive to the mind of Mr. Kyrle. 
He could only assume that the intensity of Miss Halcombe's 
suffering under the loss of her sister, had misled her judg- 
ment in a most deplorable manner ; and he wrote her word 
that the shocking suspicion to which she had alluded in his 

372 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

presence, was, in his opinion, destitute of the smallest fragf- 
ment of foundation in truth. Thus the investigation by Mr. 
Gilmore's partner began and ended. 

Meanwhile, Miss Halcombe had returned to Limmeridge 
House : and had there collected all the additional information 
which she was able to obtain. 

Mr. Fairlie had received his first intimation of his niece's 
death from his sister, Madame Fosco ; this letter also not 
containing any exact reference to dates. He had sanctioned 
his sister's proposal that the deceased lady should be laid in 
her mother's grave in Limmeridge churchyard. Count Fosco 
had accompanied the remains to Cumberland, and had at- 
tended the funeral at Limmeridge, which took place on the 
30th of July. It was followed, as a mark of respect, by all 
the inhabitants of the village and the neighbourhood. On the 
next day, the inscription (originally drawn out, it was said, 
by the aunt of the deceased lady, and submitted for approval 
to her brother, Mr, Fairlie) was engraved on one side of the 
monument over the tomb. 

On the day of the funeral and for one day after it Count 
Fosco had been received as a guest at Limmeridge House ; 
but no interview had taken place between Mr. Fairlie and 
himself, by the former gentleman's desire. They had com- 
municated by writing ; and, through this medium. Count 
Fosco had made Mr. Fairlie acquainted with the details of 
his niece's last illness and death. The letter presenting this 
information added no new facts to the facts already known ; 
but one very remarkable paragraph was contained in the 
postscript. It referred to Anne Catherick. 

The substance of the paragraph in question was as 
follows : 

It first informed Mr. Fairlie that Anne Catherick (of whom 
he might hear full particulars from Miss Halcombe when she 
reached Limmeridge) had been traced and recovered in the 
neighbourhood of Blackwater Park, and had been, for the 
second time, placed under the charge of the medical men 
from whose custody she had once escaped. 

This was the first part of the postscript. The second part 
warned Mr. Fairlie that Anne Catherick's mental malady had 
been aggravated by her long freedom from control ; and that 
the insane hatred and distrust of Sir Percival Glyde, which 
had been one of her most marked delusions in former times, 
still existed, under a newly-acquired form. The unfortunate 
woman's last idea in connexion with Sir Percival, was the 
idea of annoying and distressing him, and of elevating her- 

373 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

could not undertake to say) that a letter arrived fi-oni Madame 
Fosco announcing Lady Clyde's sudden death ni Count 
Fosco's house. The letter avoided mentionmg dates, ancl 
left it to Mrs. Michelson's discretion to break the news at 
once to Miss Halcombe, or to defer doing so until that lady s 
health should be more firmly established. 

HavingconsultedMr.Dawson(Avhohadbeenhimselfdelayed 

by ill health in resuming his attendance at Blackwater Park;, 
Mrs. Michelson, by the doctor's advice, and in the doctor s 
presence, communicated the news, either on the day when 
the letter was received, or on the day after. It is not neces- 
sary to dwell here upon the effect which the intelligence ot 
Lady Clyde's sudden death produced on her sister. It is 
only useful to the present purpose to say that she was not 
able to travel for more than three weeks afterwards. At the 
end of that time she proceeded to London, accompanied by 
the housekeeper. They parted there ; Mrs. Michelson pre- 
viously informing Miss Halcombe of her address, in case they 
mig-ht wish to communicate at a future period. 

On parting with the housekeeper. Miss Halcombe went at 
once to the office of Messrs. Gilmore and Kyrle, to consult 
with the latter gentleman, in Mr. Cilmore's absence, bhe 
mentioned to Mr. Kyrle, what she had thoughts desirable to 
conceal from every one else (Mrs. ?.Iichelson inckided)-her 
suspicion of the circumstances under which Lady Glyde was 
said to have met her death. Mr. Kyrle, who had previously 
o-iven friendly proof of his anxiety to serve Miss Halcombe, at 
Snce undertook to make such inquiries as the delicate and 
dangerous nature of the investigation proposed to him would 

permit. • r .1 

To exhaust this part of the subject before going farther, 
it may be here mentioned that Count Fosco offered every 
facility to Mr. Kvrle, on that gentleman stating that he was 
sent by Miss Halcombe to collect such particulars as had not 
yet reached her of Lady Clyde's decease. Mr. Kyrle was 
placed in communication with the medical man, Mr. Good- 
ricke, and with the two servants. In the absence of any 
means of ascertaining the exact date of Lady Clyde s depar- 
ture from Blackwater Park, the result of the doctor's and the 
servants' evidence, and of the volunteered statements of Count 
Fosco and his wife, was conclusive to the mind of Mr. Kyrle. 
He could only assume that the intensity of Miss Halcombe s 
suffering under the loss of her sister, had misled her judg- 
ment in a most deplorable manner ; and he wrote herword 
that the shocking suspicion to which she had alluded in his 

372 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

presence, was, in his opinion, destitute of the smallest fragf- 
ment of foundation in truth. Thus the investigation by Mr. 
Gilmore's partner began and ended. 

Meanwhile, Miss Halcombe had returned to Limmeridge 
House : and had there collected all the additional information 
which she was able to obtain, 

Mr. Fairlie had received his first intimation of his niece's 
death from his sister, Madame Fosco ; this letter also not 
containing any exact reference to dates. He had sanctioned 
his sister's proposal that the deceased lady should be laid in 
her mother's grave in Limmeridge churchyard. Count Fosco 
had accompanied the remains to Cumberland, and had at- 
tended the funeral at Limmeridge, which took place on the 
30th of July. It was followed, as a mark of respect, by all 
the inhabitants of the village and the neighbourhood. On the 
next day, the inscription (originally drawn out, it was said, 
by the aunt of the deceased lady, and submitted for approval 
to her brother, Mr. Fairlie) was engraved on one side of the 
monument over the tomb. 

On the day of the funeral and for one day after it Count 
Fosco had been received as a guest at Limmeridge House ; 
but no interview had taken place between Mr. Fairlie and 
himself, by the former gentleman's desire. They had com- 
municated by writing ; and, through this medium. Count 
Fosco had made Mr. Fairlie acquainted with the details of 
his niece's last illness and death. The letter presenting this 
information added no new facts to the facts already known ; 
but one very remarkable paragraph was contained in the 
postscript. It referred to Anne Catherick. 

The substance of the paragraph in question was as 
follows : 

It first informed Mr. Fairlie that Anne Catherick (of whom 
he might hear full particulars from Miss Halcombe when she 
reached Limmeridge) had been traced and recovered in the 
neighbourhood of Blackwater Park, and had been, for the 
second time, placed under the charge of the medical men 
from whose custody she had once escaped. 

This was the first part of the postscript. The second part 
warned Mr. Fairlie that Anne Catherick's mental malady had 
been aggravated by her long freedom from control ; and that 
the insane hatred and distrust of Sir Percival Glyde, which 
had been one of her most marked delusions in former times, 
still existed, under a newly-acquired form. The unfortunate 
woman's last idea in connexion with Sir Percival, was the 
idea of annoying and distressing him, and of elevating her- 

373 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

could not undertake to say) that a letter arrived from Madame 
Fosco announcing Lady Clyde's sudden death in Count 
Fosco's house. The letter avoided mentioning dates, and 
left it to Mrs. Michelson's discretion to break the news at 
once to Miss Halcombe, or to defer doing so until that lady's 
health should be more firmly established. 

Having consulted Mr. Dawson (who had been himself delayed 
by ill health in resuming his attendance at Blackwater Park), 
Mrs. Michelson, by the doctor's advice, and in the doctor's 
presence, communicated the news, either on the day when 
the letter was received, or on the day after. It is not neces- 
sary to dwell here upon the effect which the intelligence of 
Lady Clyde's sudden death produced on her sister. It is 
only useful to the present purpose to say that she was not 
able to travel for more than three weeks afterw^ards. At the 
end of that time she proceeded to London, accompanied by 
the housekeeper. They parted there ; Mrs. Michelson pre- 
viously informing Miss Halcombe of her address, in case they 
might wish to communicate at a future period. 

On parting with the housekeeper, Miss Halcombe went at 
once to the office of Messrs. Cilmore and Kyrle, to consult 
with the latter gentleman, in Mr. Cilmore's absence. She 
mentioned to Mr. Kyrle, what she had thought it desirable to 
conceal from every one else (Mrs. Michelson included) — her 
suspicion of the circumstances under which Lady Clyde was 
said to have met her death. Mr. Kyrle, who had previously 
given friendly proof of his anxiety to serve Miss Halcombe, at 
once undertook to make such inquiries as the delicate and 
dangerous nature of the investigation proposed to him would 
permit. 

To exhaust this part of the subject before going farther, 
it may be here mentioned that Count Fosco offered every 
facility to Mr. Kyrle, on that gentleman stating that he was 
sent by Miss Halcombe to collect such particulars as had not 
yet reached her of Lady Clyde's decease. Mr. Kyrle was 
placed in communication with the medical man, Mr. Cood- 
ricke, and with the two servants. In the absence of any 
means of ascertaining the exact date of Lady Clyde's depar- 
ture from Blackwater Park, the result of the doctor's and the 
servants' evidence, and of the volunteered statements of Count 
Fosco and his wife, was conclusive to the mind of Mr. Kyrle. 
He could only assume that the intensity of Miss Halcombe's 
suffering under the loss of her sister, had misled her judg- 
ment in a most deplorable manner ; and he wrote her word 
that the shocking suspicion to which she had alluded in his 

372 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

presence, was, in his opinion, destitute of the smallest frag"- 
ment of foundation in truth. Thus the investigation by Mr. 
Gilmore's partner began and ended. 

Meanvv-hile, Miss Halcombe had returned to Limmeridge 
House : and had there collected all the additional information 
which she was able to obtain. 

Mr. Fairlie had received his first intimation of his niece's 
death from his sister, Madame Fosco ; this letter also not 
containing any exact reference to dates. He had sanctioned 
his sister's proposal that the deceased lady should be laid in 
her mother's grave in Limmeridge churchyard. Count Fosco 
had accompanied the remains to Cumberland, and had at- 
tended the funeral at Limmeridge, which took place on the 
30th of July. It was followed, as a mark of respect, by all 
the inhabitants of the village and the neighbourhood. On the 
next day, the inscription (originally drawn out, it was said, 
by the aunt of the deceased lady, and submitted for approval 
to her brother, Mr. Fairlie) was engraved on one side of the 
monument over the tomb. 

On the day of the funeral and for one day after it Count 
Fosco had been received as a guest at Limmeridge House ; 
but no interviev/ had taken place between ^Ir. Fairlie and 
himself, by the former gentleman's desire. They had com- 
municated by writing ; and, through this medium. Count 
Fosco had made Mr. Fairlie acquainted with the details of 
his niece's last illness and death. The letter presenting this 
information added no new facts to the facts already known ; 
but one very remarkable paragraph was contained in the 
postscript. It referred to Anne Catherick. 

The substance of the paragraph in question v/as as 
follows : 

It first informed Mr. Fairlie that Anne Catherick (of whom 
he might hear full particulars from Miss Halcombe when she 
reached Limmeridge) had been traced and recovered in the 
neighbourhood of Blackwater Park, and had been, for the 
second time, placed under the charge of the medical men 
from whose custody she had once escaped. 

This was the first part of the postscript. The second part 
warned Mr. Fairlie that Anne Catherick's mental malady had 
been aggravated by her long freedom from control ; and that 
the insane hatred and distrust of Sir Percival Glyde, which 
had been one of her most marked delusions in former times, 
still existed, under a newly-acquired form. The unfortunate 
woman's last idea in connexion with Sir Percival, was the 
idea of annoying and distressing him, and of elevating her- 

373 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

some questions which she was too much agitated to ask at 
that moment, and that she had no intention of misleading- 
the nurse into any dereUction of duty, the woman took the 
money, and proposed three o'clock on the next day as 
the time for the interview. She might then slip out for half 
an hour, after the patients had dined ; and she would meet 
the lady in a retired place, outside the high nortti wall which 
screened the grounds of the house. Miss Halcombe had 
only time to assent, and to whisper to her sister that she 
should hear from her on the next day, when the proprietor of 
the Asylum joined them. He noticed his visitor's agitation, 
which Miss Halcombe accounted for by saying that her inter- 
view with Anne Catherick had a little startled her, at first. 
She took her leave as soon after as possible — that is to say, 
as soon as she could summon courage to force herself from 
the presence of her unfortunate sister. 

A very little reflection, when the capacity to reflect re- 
turned, convinced her that any attempt to identify Lady 
Clyde and to rescue her by legal means, would, even if suc- 
cessful, involve a delay that might be fatal to her sister's 
intellects, which were shaken already by the horror of the 
situation to which she had been consigned. By the time 
Miss Halcombe had got back to London, she had determined 
to eff'ect Lady Clyde's escape privatel)', by means of the 
nurse. 

She went at once to her stockbroker ; and sold out of the 
funds all the little property she possessed, amounting to 
rather less than seven hundred pounds. Determined, if 
necessary, to pay the price of her sister's liberty with every 
farthing she had in the world, she repaired the next day, 
having the whole sum about her, \n bank-notes, to her 
appointment outside the Asylum wall. 

The nurse was there. Miss Halcombe approached the 
subject cautiously by many preliminary questions. She dis- 
covered, among other particulars, that the nurse who had, 
in former times, attended on the true Anne Catherick, had 
been held responsible (although she was not to blame for It) 
for the patient's escape, and had lost her place in conse- 
quence. The same penalty, it was added, would attach to the 
person then speaking to her, if the supposed Anne Catherick 
was missing a second time ; and, moreover, the nurse, in this 
case, had an especial interest in keeping her place. She was 
engaged to be married ; and she and her future husband were 
waiting till they could save, together, between two and three 
hundred pounds to start in business. The nurse's wages were 

378 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

good; and she might succeed, by strict economy, in contributing 
her small share towards the sum required in two years' time. 

On this hint, Miss Halcombe spoke. She declared that 
the supposed Anne Catherick was nearly related to her ; that 
she had been placed in the Asylum under a fatal mistake ; and 
that the nurse Vvould be doing a good and a Christian action 
in being the means of restoring them to one another. Before 
there was time to start a single objection, Miss Halcombe 
took four bank-notes of a hundred pounds each from her 
pocket-book, and offered them to the woman, as a compensa- 
tion for the risk she was to run, and for the loss of her place. 

The nurse hesitated, through sheer incredulity and sur- 
prise. Miss Halcombe pressed the point on her firml}-. 

'You will be doing a good action,' she repeated; 'you 
will be helping the most injured and unhappy woman alive. 
There is your marriage-portion for a reward. Bring her safely 
to me, here ; and I will put these four bank-notes into your 
hand, before I claim her.' 

' Will you give me a letter saying those words, which I 
can show to my sweetheart, when he asks how I got the 
money ? ' inquired the woman. 

' I will bring the letter with me, ready written and signed,' 
answered Miss Halcombe. 

* Then I'll risk it,' said the nurse. 

* When ? ' 

* To-morrow.' 

It was hastily agreed between them that Miss Halcombe 
should return early the next morning, and wait out of sight, 
among the trees— always, however, keeping near the quiet 
spot of ground under the north wall. The nurse could fix no 
time for her appearance ; caution requiring that she should 
wait, and be guided by circumstances. On that understand- 
ing they separated. 

Miss Halcombe was at her place, with the promised letter, 
and the promised bank-notes, before ten the next morning. 
She waited more than an hour and a half. At the end of that 
time, the nurse came quickly round the corner of the wall, 
holding Lady Clyde by the arm. The moment thev met. Miss 

Halcombe put the bank-notes and the letter into her hand 

and the sisters were united again. 

The nurse had dressed Lady Clyde, with excellent fore- 
thought, in a bonnet, veil, and shawl of her own. Miss Hal- 
combe only detained her to suggest a means of turning the 
pursuit in a false direction, when the escape was discovered 
at the Asylum. She was to go back to the house ; to mention 

379 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

ill the hearing of the other nurses that Anne Catherick had 
been inquiring latterly, about the distance from London to 
Hampshire ; to wait till the last moment, before discovery 
was inevitable ; and then to give the alarm that Anne was 
missing. The supposed inquiries about Hampshire, when 
communicated to the owner of the Asylum, would lead him 
to imagine that his patient had returned to Blackwater Park, 
under the influence of the delusion which made her persist 
in asserting herself to be Lady Glyde ; and the first pursuit 
would, in all probabilit}-, be turned in that direction. 

The nurse consented to follow these suggestions — the 
more readily, as they off'ered her the means of securing her- 
self against any worse consequences than the loss of her place, 
by remaining in the Asylum, and so maintaining the appear- 
ance of innocence, at least. She at once returned to the 
house ; and Miss Halcombe lost no time in taking her sister 
back with her to London. They caught the afternoon train 
to Carlisle the same afternoon, and arrived at Limmeridge, 
without accident or difficulty of any kind, that night. 

During the latter part of their journey, they were alone in 
the carriage, and Miss Halcombe was able to collect such 
remembrances of the past as her sister's confused and weak- 
ened memory was able to recall. The terrible story of the 
conspiracy so obtained, was presented in fragments, sadly 
incoherent in themselves, and widely detached from each 
other. Imperfect as the revelation was, it must nevertheless 
be recorded here before this explanatory narrative closes with 
the events of the next day at Limmeridge House. 

Lady Clyde's recollection of the events which followed her 
departure from Blackwater Park began with her arrival at 
the London terminus of the South Western Railway. She 
had omitted to make a memorandum beforehand of the day 
on which she took the journey. All hope of fixing that im- 
portant date, by any evidence of hers, or of Mrs. Michelson's, 
must be given up for lost. 

On the arrival of the train at the platform. Lady Clyde 
found Count Fosco waiting for her. He was at the carriage 
door as soon as the porter could open it. The train was un- 
usually crowded, and there v/as great confusion in getting 
the luggage. Some person whom Count Fosco brought with 
him procured the luggage which belonged to Lady Glyde. It 
was marked with her name. She drove away alone with the 
Count, in a vehicle which she did not particularly notioe at 
the time. 

380 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

Her first question, on leavint^^ the terminus, referred to 
Miss Halcombe. The Count informed her that Miss Hal- 
combe had net yet ^one to Cumberland ; after-consideration 
having- caused him to doubt the prudence of her taking- so 
long- a journey without some days' previous rest. 

Lady Clyde next inquired whether her sister was then stay- 
ing in the Count's house. Her recollection of the answer 
was confused, her only distinct impression in relation to it 
being that the Count declared he was then taking- her to see 
Miss Halcombe. Lady Clyde's experience of London was so 
limited, that she could not tell, at the time, through what 
streets they were driving. But they never left the streets, 
and they never passed any gardens or trees. When the car- 
riage stopped, it stopped in a small street, behind a square — 
a square in which there were shops, and public buildings, 
and many people. From these recollections (of which Lady 
Clyde was certain) it seems quite clear that Count Fosco did 
not take her to his own residence in the suburb of St. John's 
Wood. 

They entered the house, and went up-stairs to a back 
room, either on the first or second floor. The luggage was 
carefully brought in. A female seryant opened the door; and 
a man with a dark beard, apparently a foreigner, met them 
in the hall, and with great politeness showed them the way 
up-stairs. In answer to Lady Clyde's inquiries, the Count 
assured her that Miss Halcombe was in the house, and that 
she should be immediately informed of her sister's arrival. 
He and the foreigner then went away and left her by herself 
in the room. It was poorly furnished as a sitting-room, and 
it looked out on the backs of houses. 

The place was remarkably quiet ; no footsteps \%ent up 
or down the stairs — she only heard in the room beneath her 
a dull, rumbling sound of men's voices talking. Before she 
had been long left alone, the Count returned, to explain that 
Miss Hal-combe was then taking rest, and could not be dis- 
turbed for a little while. He was accompanied into the room 
by a gentleman (an Englishman) whom he begged to present 
as a friend of his. 

After this singular introduction — in the course of which 
no names, to the best of Lady Clyde's recollection, had been 
mentioned — she was left alone with the stranger. He was 
perfectly civil ; but he startled and confused her by some odd 
questions about herself, and by looking at her, while he asked 
them, in a strange manner. After remaining a short time, 
he went out ; and a minute or two afterwards a second. 

3S1 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

stranger — also an Eng-lishman — came in. This person in- 
troduced himself as another friend of Count Fosco's ; and he, 
in his turn, looked at her very oddly, and asked some curious 
questions — never, as well as she could remember, addressing 
her by name ; and going out again, after a little while, like 
the first man. By this time, she v/as so frightened about 
herself, and so uneasy about her sister, that she had thoughts 
of venturing down-stairs again, and claiming the protection 
and assistance of the only woman she had seen in the house 
—the servant who answered the door. 

Just as she had risen from her chair, the Count came back 
into the room. 

The moment he appeared, she asked anxiously how long 
the meeting between her sister and herself was to be still 
delayed. At first, he returned an evasive answer ; but, on 
being pressed, he acknowledged, with great apparent reluc- 
tance, that Miss Halcombc was by no means so well as he 
had hitherto represented her to be. His tone and manner, in 
making this reply, so alarmed Lady Clyde, or rather so pain- 
fully increased the uneasiness which she had felt in the com- 
pany of the two strangers, that a sudden faintness overcame 
her, and she was obliged to ask for a glass of Avater. The 
Count called from the door for water, and for a bottle of 
smelling-salts. Both were brought in by the foreign-looking 
man with the beard. The water, when Lady Clyde attempted 
to drink it, had so strange a taste that it increased her faint- 
ness ; and she hastily took the bottle of salts from Count 
Fosco, and smelt at it. Her head became giddy on the 
instant. The Count caught the bottle as it dropped out of 
her hand ; and the last impression of which she was conscious 
was that he held it to her nostrils again. 

From this point, her recollections were found to be con- 
fused, fragmentary, and difficult to reconcile with any reason- 
able probability. 

Her own impression was that she recovered her senses 
later in the evening ; that she then left the house ; that she 
went (as she had previously arranged to go, at Blackwater 
Park) to Mrs. Vesey's ; that she drank tea there ; and that 
she passed the night under Mrs. Vesey's roof. She was 
totally unable to say how, or when, or in what company, she 
left the house to which Count Fosco had brought her. But 
she persisted in asserting that she had been to Mrs. Vesey's ; 
and, still more extraordinary, that she had been helped to 
undress and get to bed by Mrs. Rubelle ! She could not re- 
member what the conversation was at Mrs. Vesey's, or whom 

382 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

she saw there besides that ladv, or whv Mrs. Rubelle should 
have been present in the house to help 'her. 

Her recollection of what happened to her the next morning'- 
was still more vag-ue and unreliable. ^ 

She had some dim idea of driving- out (at what hour she 
could not say) with Count Fosco— and with Mrs. Rubelle, 
again, for a female attendant. But when, and why, she left 
Mrs. Vesey she could not tell ; neither did she know what 
direction the carriage drove in, or where it set her down, or 
whether the Count and Mrs. Rubelle did or did not remain 
with her all the time she was out. At this point in her sad 
story there was a total blank. She had no impressions of the 
taintest kind to communicate— no idea whether one dav, or 
more than one day, had passed— until she came to he'rself 
suddenly in a strange place, surrounded bv women who were 
all unknown to her. 

This was the Asylum. Here she first heard herself called 
by Anne Catherick's name ; and here, as a last remarkable cir- 
cumstance in the story of the conspiracv, her own eyes in- 
formed her that she had Anne Catherick's clothes on. The 
nurse, on the first night in the Asylum, had shown her the 
marks on each article of her underclothine as it was taken 
off, and had said, not at all irritably or unkindly, ' Look at 
your own name on your own clothes, and don't Worry us all 
any more about being Lady Clyde. She's dead and buried • 
and you're alive and hearty. Do look at your clothes now ! 
There it is, in good marking ink ; and there you will find it 
on all your old things, which we have kept in the house- 
Anne Cathenck, as plain as print ! ' And there it was, vvhen 
Miss Halcombe examined the linen her sister wore, on the 
night ot their arrival at Limmeridge House. 

These were the only recollections— all of them uncertain, 
and some of them contradictory— which could be extracted 
from Lady Clyde, by careful questioning, on the journey to 
Cumberland. Miss Halcombe abstained from pressing' her 
with any inquiries relating to events in the Asylum f her 
mind being but too evidently unfit to bear the trial of revert- 
ing to them. It was known, by the voluntary admission of 
the owner of the mxadhouse, that she was received there on 
the twenty-seventh of July. From that date, until the fif- 
teenth of October (the day of her rescue), she had been under 
restraint; her identity with Anne Catherick systematically 
asserted, and her sanity, from first to last, practically denied. 
Faculties less delicately balanced, constitutions less tenderly 

383 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

organised, must have suftercd under such an ordeal as this. 
No man could have gone through it, and come out of it un- 
changed. 

Arriving at Limmeridge late on the*5vening of the fifteenth, 
Miss Halcombe wisely resolved not to attempt the assertion 
of Lady Clyde's identity, until the next day. 

The first thing in the morning, she went to Mr. Fairlie's 
room ; and, using all possible cautions and preparations 
beforehand, at last told him, in so many words, what had 
happened. As soon as his first astonishment and alarm had 
subsided, he angrily declared that Miss Halcombe had allowed 
herself to be duped by Anne Catherick. He referred her to 
Count Fosco's letter, and to what she had herself told him 
of the personal resemblance between Anne and his deceased 
niece ; and he positively declined to admit to his presence 
even for one minute only, a madwoman whom it was an 
insult and an outrage to have brought into his house at all. 

Miss Halcombe left the room ; waited till the first heat of 
her indignation had passed away ; decided, on reflection, that 
Mr. Fairlie should see his niece in the interests of common 
humanity, before he closed his doors on her as a stranger ; 
and thereupon, without a word of previous warning, took 
Lady Glyde with her to his room. The servant was posted 
at the door to prevent their entrance ; but Miss Halcombe 
insisted on passing him, and made her way into Mr. Fairlie's 
presence, leading her sister by the hand. 

The scene that followed, though it only lasted for a few 
minutes, was too painful to be described — Miss Halcombe 
herself shrank from referring to it. Let it be enough to say 
that Mr. Fairlie declared, in the most positive terms, that he 
did not recognise the woman who had been brought into his 
room ; that he saw nothing in her face and manner to make 
him doubt for a moment that his niece lay buried in Lim- 
meridge churchyard ; and that he would call on the law to 
protect him if before the day was over she v/as not removed 
from the house. 

Taking the very worst view of Mr. Fairlie's selfishness, 
indolence, and habitual want of feeling, it was manifestly 
impossible to suppose that he was capable of such infamy as 
secretly recognising and openly disowning his brother's child. 
Miss Halcombe humanely and sensibly allowed all due force 
to the influence of prejudice and alarm in preventing him 
from fairly exercising his perceptions ; and accounted fcr 
what had happened, in that way. But Avhen she next put 
the servants to the test, and found that they too were, in 

384 



THE WOlNlAN IN WHITE 

every case, uncertain, to say the least of it, whether the 
lady presented to them was their young mistress, or Anne 
Catherick, of whose resemblance to her they had all heard, 
the sad conclusion was inevitable, that the change produced 
in Lady Clyde's face and manner by her imprisonment in the 
Asylum, was far more serious than Miss Halcombe had at 
first supposed. The vile deception which had asserted her 
death, defied exposure even in the house where she was born, 
and among the people with whom she had lived. 

In a less critical situation, the effort need not have been 
given up as hopeless, even yet. 

For example, the maid, Fanny, who happened to be then 
absent from Limmeridge, was expected back in two days ; 
and there would be a chance of gaining her recognition to 
start with, seeing that she had been in much more constant 
communication with her mistress, and had been much more 
heartily attached to her than the other servants. Again, 
Lady Glj'de might have been privately kept in the house, or 
in the village, to wait until her health was a little recovered, 
and her mind was a little steadied again. When her memory 
could be once more trusted to serve her, she would naturally 
refer to persons and events, in the past, with a certainty and 
a familiarity which no impostor could simulate ; and so the 
fact of her identity, which her own appearance had failed to 
establish, might subsequently be proved, with time to help 
her, by the surer test of her own words. 

But the circumstances under which she had regained her 
freedom, rendered all recourse to such means as these simply 
impracticable. The pursuit from the Asylum, diverted to 
Hampshire for the time only, would infallibly next take the 
direction of Cumberland. The persons appointed to seek 
the fugitive, might arrive at Limmeridge House at a few 
hours' notice ; and in Mr. Fairlie's present temper of mind, 
they might count on the immediate exertion of his local 
influence and authority to assist them. The commonest con- 
sideration for Lady Clyde's safety, forced on Miss Halcombe 
the necessity of resigning the struggle to do her justice, and 
of removing her at once from the place of all others that was 
now most dangerous to her— the neighbourhood of her own 
home. 

An immediate return to London was the first and wisest 
measure of security which suggested itself. In the great 
city all traces of them might be most speedily and most surely 
effaced. There were no preparations to make — no farewell 
words of kindness to exchange with any one. On the after- 

385 ' c c 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

noon of that memorable day of the sixteenth, Miss Halcombe 
roused her sister to a last exertion of courage ; and, without 
a living soul to wish them well at parting, the two took their 
way into the world alone, and turned their backs for ever on 
Limmeridge House. 

They had passed the hill above the churchyard, when Lady 
Glyde insisted on turning back to look her last at her mother's 
grave. Miss Halcombe tried to shake her resolution ; but, 
in this one instance, tried in vain. She was immovable. 
Her dim eyes lit with a sudden fire, and flashed through the 
veil that hung over them ; her wasted fingers strengthened, 
moment by moment, round the friendly arm by which they 
had held so listlessly till this time. I believe in my soul that 
the Hand of God was pointing their way back to them ; and 
that the most innocent and the most afflicted of His creatures 
was chosen, in that dread moment, to see it. 

They retraced their steps to the burial-ground ; and by 
that act sealed the future of our three lives. 

III. 

This was the story of the past — the story, so far as we knew 
it then. 

Two obvious conclusions presented themselves to my mind, 
after hearing it. In the first place, I saw darkly what the nature 
of the conspiracy had been ; how chances had been watched, 
and how circumstances had been handled to ensure impunity 
to a daring and an intricate crime. While all details were still 
a mystery to me, the vile manner in which the personal re- 
semblance between the woman in white and Lady Glyde had 
been turned to account, was clear beyond a doubt. It was 
plain that Anne Catherick had been introduced into Count 
Fosco's house as Lady Glyde ; it was plain that Lady Glyde 
had taken the dead woman's place in the Asylum — the substi- 
tution having been so managed as to make innocent people 
(the doctor and the two servants certainly ; and the owner of 
the madhouse in all probability) accomplices in the crime. 

The second conclusion came as the necessary consequence 
of the first. We three had no mercy to expect from Count 
Fosco and Sir Percival Glyde. The success of the conspiracy 
had brought with it a clear gain to those two men of thirty 
thousand pounds — twenty thousand to one : ten thousand 
to the other, through his wife. They had that interest, as 
well as other interests, in ensuring their impunity from expo- 
sure ; and they would leave no stone unturned, no sacrifice 

r.8G 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

unattempted, no treachery untried, to discover the place In 
which their victim was concealed, and to part her from the only 
friends she had in the world — Marian Halcombe and myself. 

The sense of this serious peril — a peril which every day 
and every hour might bring nearer and nearer to us — was the 
one influence that guided me in fixing the place of our retreat. 
I chose it in the far East of London, where there were fewest 
idle people to lounge and look about them in the streets. I 
chose it in a poor and a populous neighbourhood — because 
the harder the struggle for existence among the men and 
women about us, the less the risk of their having the time or 
taking the pains to notice chance strangers who came among 
them. These were the great advantages I looked to ; but 
our locality was a gain to us also, in another and a hardly less 
important respect. We could live cheaply by the daily work 
of my hands ; and could save every farthing we possessed to 
forward the purpose — the righteous purpose of redressing an 
infamous wrong- — which, from first to last, I now kept steadily 
in view. 

In a week's time, Marian Halcombe and I had settled how 
the course of our new lives should be directed. 

There were no other lodgers in the house ; and we had the 
means of going in and out without passing through the shop. 
I arranged, for the present at least, that neither Marian nor 
Laura should stir outside the door without my being with 
them ; and that, in my absence from home, they should let 
no one into their rooms on any pretence whatever. This rule 
established, I went to a friend whom I had known in former 
days — a wood engraver, in large practice — to seek for em- 
ployment ; telling him, at the same time, that I had reasons 
for wishing to remain unknown. 

He at once concluded that I was in debt ; expressed his 
regret in the usual forms ; and then promised to do what he 
could to assist me. I left his false impression undisturbed ; 
and accepted the work he had to give. He knew that he 
could trust my experience and my industry. I had, what he 
Wanted, steadiness and facility ; and though my earnings 
were but small, they sufficed for our necessities. As soon as 
we could feel certain of this, Marian Halcombe and I put 
together what we possessed. She had between two and three 
hundred pounds left of her own property ; and I had nearly 
as much remaining from the purchase-money obtained by 
the sale of my drawing-master's practice before I left England. 
Together we made up between us more than four hundred 
pounds. I deposited this little fortune in a bank, to be kept 

387 c c 2 



THE WOiMAN IN WHITE 

for the expense of those secret inquiries and investigations 
which I was determined to set on foot, and to carry on by 
myself if I could find no one to help me. We calculated our 
weekly expenditure to the last farthing- ; and we never touched 
our little fund, except in Laura's interests and for Laura's sake. 

The house-work, which, if we had dared trust a stranger 
near us, would have been done by a servant, was taken on 
the first day, taken as her own right, by Marian Halcombe. 
' What a woman's hands are fit for,' she said, ' early and late, 
these hands of mine shall do.' They trembled as she held 
them out. The wasted arms told their sad story of the past, 
as she turned up the sleeves of the poor plain dress that 
she wore for safety's sake ; but the unquenchable spirit of 
the woman burnt bright in her even yet. I saw the big 
tears rise thick in her eyes, and fall slowly over her cheeks as 
she looked at me. She dashed them away with a touch of 
her old energy, and smiled with a faint reflection of her old 
good spirits. ' Don't doubt my courage, Walter,' she pleaded, 
' it's my weakness that cries, not me. The house-work shall 
conquer it, if / can't.' And she kept her word — the victory 
was won when we met in the evening, and she sat down to rest. 
Her large steady black eyes looked at me with a flash of their 
bright firmness of bygone days. ' I am not quite broken 
down yet,' she said ; ' I am worth trusting with my share of 
the work.' Before I could answer, she added in a whisper, 
' And worth trusting with my share in the risk and the danger 
too. Remember that, if the time comes ! ' 

I did remember it, when the time came. 

As early as the end of October, the daily course or our 
lives had assumed its settled direction ; and we three were as 
completely isolated in our place of concealment, as if the house 
we lived in had been a desert island, and the great network 
of streets and the thousands of our fellow creatures all round 
us the waters of an illimitable sea. I could now reckon on 
some leisure time for considering what my future plan of 
action should be, and how I might arm myself most securely, 
at the outset, for the coming struggle with Sir Percival and 
the Count. 

I gave up all hope of appealing to my recognition of Laura, 
or to Marian's recognition of her, in proof of her identity. If 
we had loved her less dearly, if the instinct implanted in us 
by that love had not been far m^ore certain than any exercise 
of reasoning, far keener than any process of observation, 
even we might have hesitated, on first seeing her. 

-.88 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

The outward changes wrought by the sufferhig and the 
terror of the past had fearfully, almost hopelessly, strengthened 
the fatal resemblance between Anne Catherick and herself. 
In my narrative of events at the time of my residence in 
Limmeridge House, I have recorded, from my own observation 
of the two, how the likeness, striking as it was when viewed 
general!}', failed in many important points of similarity when 
tested in detail. In those former days, if they had both been 
seen together, side by side, no person could for a moment 
have mistaken them one for the other — as has happened often 
in the instances of twins. I could not say this now. The 
sorrow and suffering which I had once blamed myself for 
associating even by a passing thought with the future of 
Laura Fairlie, had set their profaning marks on the youth 
and beauty of her face ; and the fatal resemblance which I 
had once seen and shuddered at seeing, in idea only, was now 
a real and living resemblance which asserted itself before my 
own eyes. Strangers, acquaintances, friends even who could 
not look at her as we looked, if she had been shown to them 
in the first days of her rescue from the Asylum, might have 
doubted if she were the Laura Fairlie they had once seen, and 
doubted without blame. 

The one remaining chance, which I had at first thought 
might be trusted to serve us — the chance of appealing to her 
recollection of persons and events with which no impostor 
could be familiar, was proved, by the sad test of our later 
experience, to be hopeless. Every little caution that Marian 
and I practised towards her ; every little remedy we tried, to 
strengthen and steady slowly the weakened, shaken faculties, 
was a fresh protest in itself against the risk of turning her 
mind back on the troubled and the terrible past. 

The only events of former days which we ventured on 
encouraging her to recall, were the little trivial domestic 
events of that happy time at Limmeridge, when I first went 
there, and taught her to draw. The day when I roused those 
remembrances by showing her the sketch of the summer- 
house which she had given me on the morning of our farewell, 
and which had never been separated from me since, was the 
birthday of our first hope. Tenderly and gradually, the 
memory of the old walks and drives dawned upon her ; and 
the poor weary pining eyes, looked at Marian and at me with 
a new interest, with a faltering thoughtfulness in them, which, 
from that moment, we cherished and kept alive. I bought 
her a little box of colours, and a sketch-book like the old 
sketch-book which I had seen in her hands on the morning 

389 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

when we first met. Once again — oh me, once again ! — at 
spare hours saved from my work, in the dull London light, in 
the poor London room, I sat by her side, to guide the falter- 
ing touch, to help the feeble hand. Day by day, I raised and 
raised the new interest till its place in the blank of her 
existence was at last assured — till she could think of her 
drawing, and talk of it, and patiently practise it by herself, 
with some faint reflection of the innocent pleasure in my 
encouragement, the growing enjoyment in her own progress, 
which belonged to the lost life and the lost happiness of past 
days. 

We helped her mind slowly by this simple means ; we 
took her out between us to walk, on fine days, in a quiet old 
City square, near at hand, where there was nothing to confuse 
or alarm her ; we spared a few pounds from the fund at the 
banker's to get her wine, and the delicate strengthening food 
that she required ; we amused her in the evenings with 
children's games at cards, with scrap-books full of prints 
which I borrowed from the engraver who employed me — by 
these, and other trifling attentions like them, we composed 
her and steadied her, and hoped all things, as cheerfully as we 
could, from time and care, and love that never neglected and 
never despaired of her. But to take her mercilessly from 
seclusion and repose ; to confront her with strangers, or with 
acquaintances who were little better than strangers ; to rouse 
the painful impressions of her past life which we had so care- 
fully hushed to rest — this, even in her own interests, we 
dared not do. Whatever sacrifices it cost, whatever long, 
weary, heart-breaking delays it involved, the wrong that had 
been inflicted on her, if mortal means could grapple it, must 
be redressed without her knowledge and without her help. 

This resolution settled, it was next necessary to decide 
how the first risk should be ventured, and what the first pro- 
ceedings should be. 

After consulting with Marian, I resolved to begin by 
gathering together as many facts as could be collected — 
then, to ask the advice of Mr. Kyrle (whom we knew we 
could trust) ; and to ascertain from him, in the first instance, 
if the legal remedy lay fairly within our reach. I owed it to 
Laura's interests not to stake her whole future on my own 
unaided exertions, so long as there was the faintest prospect 
of strengthening our position by obtaining reliable assistance 
of any kind. 

The first source of information to which I applied, was 
the journal kept at Blackwater Park by Marian Halcombe. 

3QO 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

There were passag"es in this diary, relating- to myself, which 
she thoug-ht it best that I should not see. Accordingly, she 
read to me from the manuscript, and I took the notes I 
wanted as she went on. We could only find time to pursue 
this occupation by sitting up late at night. Three nights 
were devoted to the purpose, and were enough to put me in 
possession of all that Marian could tell. 

My next proceeding was to gain as much additional 
evidence as I could procure from other people, without ex- 
citing suspicion. I went myself to Mrs. Vesey to ascertain if 
Laura's impression of having slept there, was correct or not. 
In this case, from consideration for Mrs. Vesey's age and 
infirmity, and in all subsequent cases of the same kind from 
considerations of caution, I kept our real position a secret, 
and was always careful to speak of Laura as ' the late Lady 
Clyde.' 

Mrs. Vesey's answer to my inquiries only confirmed the 
apprehensions which I had previously felt. Laura had cer- 
tainly WTitten to say she would pass the night under the roof 
of her old friend — but she had never been near the house. 

Her mind in this instance, and, as I feared, in other 
instances besides, confusedly presented to her something- 
which she had only intended to do in the false light of some- 
thing which she had really done. The unconscious contra- 
diction of herself was easy to account for in this wa}^ — but it 
was likely to lead to serious results. It was a stumble on 
the threshold at starting ; it was a flaw in the evidence which 
told fatally against us. 

When I next asked for the letter which Laura had written 
to Mrs. Vesey from Blackwater Park, it was given to me 
without the envelope, which had been thrown into the waste- 
paper basket, and long since destroyed. In the letter itself, 
no date was mentioned — not even the day of the week. It 
only contained these lines : — ' Dearest Mrs. Vesey, I am in 
sad distress and anxiety, and I may come to your house to- 
morrow night, and ask for a bed. I can't tell )-ou what is 
the matter in this letter — I write it in such fear of being found 
out that I can fix my mind on nothing-. Pray be at home to 
see me. I will give you a thousand kisses, and tell j'ou 
everything. Your affectionate Laura.' What help was there 
in those lines ? None. 

On returning from Mrs. Vesey's, I instructed Marian to 
write (observing the same caution vv'hich I practised myself) 
to Mrs. Michelson. She was to express, if she pleased, some 
general suspicion of Count Fosco's conduct ; and she was to 

391 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

ask the housekeeper to supply us with a plain statement of 
events, in the interests of truth. While we were waiting- for 
the answer, which reached us in a week's time, I went to the 
doctor in St. John's Wood ; introducing myself as sent by 
Miss Halcombe, to collect, if possible, more particulars of 
her sister's last illness than Mr. Kyrle had found the time to 
procure. By Mr. Goodricke's assistance, I obtained a copy 
of the certificate of death, and an interview with the woman 
(Jane Gould) who had been employed to prepare the body for 
the gfrave. Through this person, I also discovered a means of 
communicating with the servant, Hester Pinhorn. She had 
recently left her place, in consequence of a disagreement with 
her mistress ; and she was lodging with some people in the 
neighbourhood whom Mrs. Gould knew. In the manner 
here indicated, I obtained the Narratives of the housekeeper, 
of the doctor, of Jane Gould, and of Hester Pinhorn, exactly 
as they are presented in these pages. 

Furnished with such additional evidence as these docu- 
ments afforded, I considered myself to be suflBciently pre- 
pared for a consultation with Mr. Kyrle ; and Marian wrote 
accordingly to mention my name to him, and to specify the 
day and hour at which I requested to see him on private 
business. 

There was time enough, in the morning, for me to take 
Laura out for her walk as usual, and to see her quietly settled 
at her drawing afterwards. She looked up at me with a new 
anxiety in her face, as I rose to leave the room ; and her 
fingers began to toy doubtfully, in the old way, with the 
brushes and pencils on the table. 

' You are not tired of me yet ? ' she said. ' You are not 
going away because you are tired of me ? I will try to do 
better — I will try to get well. Are you as fond of me, Walter, 
as you used to be, now I am so pale and thin, and so slow in 
learning to draw ? ' 

She spoke as a child might have spoken ; she showed me 
her thoughts as a child might have shown them. I waited a 
few minutes longer — waited to tell her that she was dearer to 
me now than she had ever been in the past times. ' Try to 
get well again,' I said, encouraging the new hope in the 
future which I saw dawning in her mind ; ' try to get well 
again, for Marian's sake and for mine.' 

'Yes,' she said to herself, returning to her drawing. ' I 
must try because they are both so fond of me.' She suddenly 
looked up again. ' Don't be gone long ! I can't get on with 
my drawing, Walter, Avhen you are not here to help me.' 

-^02 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

' I shall soon be back, my darling — soon be back to see 
how you are getting on.' 

My voice faltered a little in spite of me. I forced myself from 
the room. It was no time, then, for parting with the self-control 
which might yet serve me in my need before the day was out. 

As I opened the door, I beckoned to Marian to follow me 
to the stairs. It was necessary to prepare her for a result 
vrhich I felt might sooner or later follow my showing myself 
openly in the streets. 

' I shall, in all probability, be back in a few hours,' I said; 
'and you will take care, as usual, to let no one inside the 
doors in my absence. But if anything happens ' 

' What can happen ? ' she interposed, quickly. * Tell me 
plainly, Walter, if there is any danger— and I shall know how 
to meet it.' 

'The only danger,' I replied, 'is that Sir Percival Glyde 
may have been recalled to London by the news of Laura's 
escape. You are aware that he had me watched before I left 
England ; and that he probably knows me by sight, although 
I don't know him ? ' 

She laid her hand on my shoulder, and looked at me in 
anxious silence. I saw she understood the serious risk that 
threatened us. 

' It is not likely,' I said, 'that I shall be seen in London 
again so soon, either by Sir Percival himself or by the persons 
in his employ. But it is barely possible that an accident may 
happen. In that case, you will not be alarmed if I fail to 
return to-night ; and yoy will satisfy any inquiry of Laura's with 
the best excuse that you can make for me ? If I find the least 
reason to suspect that I am watched, I will take good care 
that no spy follows me back to this house. Don't doubt my 
return, Marian, however it may be delayed— and fear nothing.' 

' Nothing ! ' she answered, firmly. ' You shall not regret, 
Walter, that you have only a woman to help you.' She 
paused, and detained me for a moment longer. ' Take care ! ' 
she said, pressing my hand anxiously — ' take care ! ' 

I left her ; and set forth to pave the way for discovery — 
the dark and doubtful way, which began at the lawyer's door. 

IV. 

No circumstance of the slightest importance happened on my 
way to the offices of Messrs. Gilmore and Kyrle, in Chancery 
Lane. 

While my cartd was being taken in to Mr. Kyrle, a considera- 

393 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

tion occurred to me which I deeply regretted not having- thoug^ht 
of before. The information derived from Marian's diary made 
it a matter of certainty that Count Fosco had opened her first 
letter from Blackwater Park to Mr. Kyrle, and had, by means 
of his wife, intercepted the second. He was therefore well 
aware of the address of the office ; and he would naturally 
infer that if Marian wanted advice and assistance, after 
Laura's escape from the Asylum, she would apply once more 
to the experience of Mr. Kyrle. In this case, the office in 
Chancery Lane was the very first place which he and Sir 
Percival would cause to be watched ; and, if the same persons 
were chosen for the purpose who had been employed to follow 
me, before my departure from England, the fact of my return 
would in all probability be ascertained on that very day. I 
had thought, generally, of the chances of my being recognised 
in the streets ; but the special risk connected with the office 
had never occurred to me until the present moment. It was 
too late now to repair this unfortunate error in judgment — ■ 
too late to wish that I had made arrangements for meeting 
the lawyer in some place privately appointed beforehand. I 
could only resolve to be cautious on leaving Chancery Lane, 
and not to go straight home again under any circumstances 
whatever. 

After waiting a fevv' minutes, I was shown into Mr. Kyrle's 
private room. He was a pale, thin, quiet, self-possessed 
man, with a very attentive eye, a very low voice, and a very 
undemonstrative manner ; not (as I judged) ready with his 
sympathy, where strangers were concerned ; and not at all 
easy to disturb in his professional composure. A better man 
for my purpose could hardly have been found. If he com- 
mitted himself to a decision at all, and if the decision was 
favourable, the strength of our case was as good as proved 
from that moment. 

' Before I enter on the business which brings me here,' I 
said, ' I ought to warn you, Mr. Kyrle, that the shortest 
statement I can make of it may occupy some little time.' 

* My time is at Miss Halcombe's disposal,' he replied. 
* Where any interests of hers are concerned, I represent my 
partner personally, as well as professionally. It was his 
request that I should do so, when he ceased to take an active 
part in business.' 

' May I inquire whether Mr. Gilmore is in England ? ' 

* He is not : he is living with his relatives in German)% 
His health has improved, but the period of his return is still 
uncertain.' 

394 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

While we were exchang-ing- these few prehminary words, 
he had been searchhig- among the papers before him, and he 
now produced from them a sealed letter. I thoug-ht he was 
about to hand the letter to me ; but, apparently changing his 
mind, he placed it by itself on the table, settled himself in his 
chair, and silently waited to hear what I had to say. 

Without wasting a moment in prefatory words of any 
sort, I entered on my narrative, and put him in full possession 
of the events which have already been related in these pages. 

Lawyer as he was to the very marrow of his bones, I 
startled him out of his professional composure. Expressions 
of incredulity and surprise, which he could not repress, inter- 
rupted me several times, before I had done. I persevered, 
however, to the end, and, as soon as I reached it, boldly 
asked the one important question : 

' What is your opinion, Mr. Kyrle ? ' 

He was too cautious to commit himself to an answer, 
without taking time to recover his self-possession first. 

' Before I give my opinion,' he said, ' I must beg per- 
mission to clear the ground by a few questions.' 

He put the questions — sharp, suspicious, unbelieving 
questions, which clearly showed me, as they proceeded, that 
he thought I was the victim of a delusion ; and that he might 
even have doubted, but for my introduction to him by Miss 
Halcombe, whether I was not attempting the perpetration of 
a cunningly-designed fraud. 

* Do you believe that I have spoken the truth, Mr. Kyrle?' 
I asked, when he had done examining me. 

* So far as your own convictions are concerned, I am 
certain you have spoken the truth,' he replied. ' I have the 
highest esteem for Miss Halcombe, and I have therefore 
every reason to respect a gentleman whose mediation she 
trusts in a matter of this kind. I will even go farther, if you 
like, and admit, for courtesy's sake and for argument's sake, 
that the identity of Lady Clyde, as a living person, is a 
proved fact to Miss Halcombe and yourself. But you come 
to me for a legal opinion. As a lawyer, and as a lawyer only, 
it is my duty to tell you, Mr. Hartright, that you have not 
the shadow of a case.' 

' You put it strongly, Mr. Kyrle.' 

' I will try to put it plainly as well. The evidence of 
Lady Clyde's death is, on the face of it, clear and satis- 
factory. There is her aunt's testimony to prove that she 
came to Count Fosco's house, that she fell ill, and that she 
died. There is the testimony of the medical certificate to 

395 



THE WOMAN IN V/HITE 

prove the death, and to show that it took place under natural 
circumstances. There is the fact of the funeral at Limme- 
ridge, and there is the assertion of the inscription on the 
tomb. That is the case you want to overthrow. What 
evidence have you to support the declaration on your side 
that the person who died and was buried was not Lady 
Glyde ? Let us run through the main points of your state- 
ment and see what they are worth. Miss Halcombe goes to 
a certain private Asylum, and there sees a certain female 
patient. It is known that a woman named Anne Catherick, 
and bearing an extraordinary personal resemblance to Lady 
Glyde, escaped from the Asylum ; it is known that the person 
received there last July, was received as Anne Catherick 
brought back ; it is known that the gentleman who brought 
her back warned Mr. Fairlie that it was part of her insanity 
to be bent on personating his dead niece ; and it is known 
that she did repeatedly declare herself, in the Asylum (where 
no one believed her), to be Lady Glyde. These are all facts. 
What have you to set against them ? Miss Halcombe's 
recognition of the woman, which recognition after-events 
invahdate or contradict. Does Miss Halcombe assert her 
supposed sister's identity to the OAvner of the Asylum, and 
take legal means for rescuing her? No : she secretly bribes 
a nurse to let her escape. When the patient has been re- 
leased in this doubtful manner, and is taken to Mr. Fairlie, 
does he recognise her ? is he staggered for one instant in his 
belief of his niece's death ? No. Do the servants recognise 
her ? No. Is she kept in the neighbourhood to assert her 
own identity, and to stand the test of further proceedings? 
No : she is privately taken to London. In the mean time, 
you have recognised her also — but you are not a relative ; 
you are not even an old friend of the family. The servants 
contradict you ; and Mr. Fairlie contradicts Miss Halcombe ; 
and the supposed Lady Glyde contradicts herself. She 
declares she passed the night in London at a certain house. 
Your own evidence shows that she has never been near that 
house ; and your own admission is, that her condition of 
mind prevents you from producing her anywhere to submit 
to investigation, and to speak for herself. I pass over minor 
points of evidence, on both sides, to save time ; and I ask 
you, if this case were to go now into a court of law — to go 
before a jury, bound to take facts as they reasonably appear — 
where are your proofs ? ' 

I was obliged to wait and collect myself before I could 
answer him. It was the first time the story of Laura and the 

39^ 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

story of Marian had been presented to me from a stranger's 
point of view — the first time the terrible obstacles that lay 
across our path had been made to show themselves in their 
true character. 

'There can be no doubt,' I said, 'that the facts, as you 
have stated them, appear to tell ag^ainst us ; but ' 

' But you think, those facts can be explained away,' inter^ 
posed Mr. Kyrle. ' Let me tell you the result of my expe- 
rience on that point. When an English jury has to choose 
between a plain fact, on the surface, and a long- explanation 
under the surface, it always takes the fact, in preference to 
the explanation. For example. Lady Glyde (I call the lady 
you represent by that name for argument's sake) declares she 
has slept at a certain house, and it is proved that she has 
not slept at that house. You explain this circumstance by 
entering into the state of her mind, and deducing from it a 
metaphysical conclusion. I don't say the conclusion is 
wrong — I only say that the jury will take the fact of her 
contradicting herself, in preference to any reason for the 
contradiction that you can offer.' 

' But is it not possible,' I urged, * by dint of patience and 
exertion, to discover additional evidence ? Miss Halcombe 
and I have a few hundred pounds ' 

He looked at me with a half-suppressed pitv, and shook 
his head. 

' Consider the subject, Mr. Hartright, from your own 
point of view,' he said. ' If you are right about Sir Percival 
Glyde and Count Fosco (which I don't admit, mind), every 
imaginable difficulty would be thrown in the way of your 
getting fresh evidence. Every obstacle of litigation would 
be raised ; every point in the case would be systematically 
contested — and by the time we had spent our thousands, 
instead of our hundreds, the final result would, in all proba- 
bility, be against us. Questions of identity, where instances 
of personal resemblance are concerned, are, in themselves, 
the hardest of all questions to settle — the hardest, even when 
they are free from the complications which beset the case we 
are now discussing. I really see no prospect of throwing 
any light whatever on this extraordinary affair. Even if the 
person buried in Limmeridge churchyard be not Lady Glyde, 
she was, in life, on your own showing, so like her, that we 
should gain nothing, if we applied for the necessary authority 
to have the body exhumed. In short, there is no case, Mr. 
Hartright — there is really no case.' 

I was determined to believe that there ims a case ; and, in 

397 



THE WOMAN IN V/HITE 

that determination, shifted my ground, and appealed to him 
once more. 

' Are there not other proofs that we might produce, 
besides the proof of identity ? ' I asked. 

' Not as you are situated,' he reph'ed. ' The simplest and 
surest of all proofs, the proof by comparison of dates, is, as I 
understand, altogether out of your reach. If you could show 
a discrepancy between the date of the doctor's certificate 
and the date of Lady Clyde's journey to London, the matter 
would wear a totally different aspect ; and I should be the 
first to say, Let us go on.' 

' That date may yet be recovered, Mr. Kyrle.' 

* On the day when it is recovered, Mr. Hartright, you will 
have a case. If you have any prospect, at this moment, of 
getting at it — tell me, and Vv^e shall see if I can advise you.' 

I considered. The housekeeper could not help us ; Laura 
could not help us ; Marian could not help us. In all proba- 
bility, the only persons in existence who knew the date were 
Sir Percival and the Count. 

' I can think of no means of ascertaining the date at 
present,' I said, 'because I can think of no persons who are 
sure to know it, but Count Fosco and Sir Percival Clyde.' 

Mr. Kyrle's calmly attentive face relaxed, for the first 
time, into a smile. 

' With your opinion of the conduct of those two gentle- 
men,' he said, 'you don't expect help in that quarter, I 
presume ? If they have combined to gain large sums of 
money by a conspiracy, they are not likely to confess it, at 
any rate.' 

' They may be forced to confess it, Mr. Kyrle.' 

' By whom ? ' 

'By me.' 

We both rose. He looked me attentively in the face 
with more appearance of interest than he had shown yet. I 
could see that I had perplexed him a little. 

' You are very determined,' he said. 'You have, no doubt, 
a personal motive for proceeding, into which it is not my 
business to inquire. If a case can be produced in the future, 
I can only say, my best assistance is at your service. At the 
same time, I must warn you, as the money question always 
enters into the law question, that I see little hope, even if you 
ultimately established the fact of Lady Clyde's being alive, of 
recovering her fortune. The foreigner would probably leave 
the country, before proceedings were commenced ; and Sir 
Percival's embarrassments are numerous enough and pressing 

398 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

enough to transfer almost any sum of money he may possess 
from hnnself to his creditors. You are, of course, aware ' 

I stopped him at that point. 

* Let me beg that we may not discuss Lady Clyde's aftairs,' 
I said. ' I have never known anything about them, in former 
times ; and I know nothing of them now — except that her 
fortune is lost. You are right in assuming that I have 
personal motives for stirring in this matter. I wish those 
motives to be always as disinterested as they are at the present 
moment ' 

He tried to interpose and explain. I was a little heated, 
I suppose, by feeling that he had doubted me ; and I went on 
bluntly, without waiting to hear him. 

' There shall be no money-motive,' I said, * no idea of 
personal advantage, in the service I mean to render to Lady 
Clyde. She has been cast out as a stranger from the house 
in which she was born — a lie which records her death has 
been written on her mother's tomb — and there are two men, 
alive and unpunished, who are responsible for it. That 
house shall open again to receive her, in the presence of every 
soul who followed the false funeral to the grave ; that lie 
shall be publicly erased from the tombstone, by the authority 
of the head of the family ; and those two men shall answer 
for their crime to jie, though the justice that sits in tribunals 
is powerless to pursue them. I have given my life to that 
purpose ; and, alone as I stand, if Cod spares me, I will 
accomplish it.' 

He drew back towards his table, and said nothing. His 
face showed plainly that he thought my delusion had got the 
better of my reason, and that he considered it totally useless 
to give me any more advice. 

'We each keep our opinion, Mr. Kyrle,' I said; 'and we 
must wait till the events of the future decide between us. In 
the mean time, I am much obliged to you for the attention 
you have given to my statement. You have shown me that 
the legal remedy lies, in every sense of the word, beyond our 
means. We cannot produce the law-proof; and we are not 
rich enough to pay the law-expenses. It is something gained 
to know that.' 

I bowed, and walked to the door. He called me back, 
and gave me the letter which I had seen him place on the 
table by itself at the beginning of our interview. 

'This came by post, a few days ago,' he said. 'Perhaps 
you will not mind delivering it ? Pray tell Miss Halcombe, 
at the same tin-ie, that I sincerely regret being, thus far, 

399 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

unable to help her — except by advice, which will not be more 
welcome, I am afraid, to her than to you.' 

I looked at the letter while he was speaking. It was 
addressed to ' Miss Halcombe. Care of Messrs. Gilmore 
and Kyrle, Chancery Lane.' The handwriting was quite 
unknown to me. 

On leaving the room, I asked one last question. 

' Do you happen to know,' I said, ' if Sir Percival Clyde 
is still in Paris ? ' 

' He has returned to London,' replied Mr. Kyrle. ' At 
least I heard so from his solicitor, whom I met yesterday.' 

After that answer I went out. 

On leaving the office, the first precaution to be observed 
was to abstain from attracting attention by stopping to look 
about me. I walked towards one of the quietest of the 
large squares on the north of Holborn — then suddenly 
stopped, and turned round at a place where a long stretch 
of pavement was left behind me. 

There were two men at the corner of the square who had 
stopped also, and who were standing talking together. After 
a moment's reflection, I turned back so as to pass them. 
One moved, as I came near, and turned the corner leading 
from the square into the street. The other remained sta- 
tionary. I looked at him as I passed, and instantly recog- 
nised one of the men who had watched me before I left 
England. 

If I had been free to follow my own instincts, I should 
probably have begun by speaking to the man, and have ended 
by knocking him down. But I was bound to consider conse- 
quences. If I once placed myself publicly in the wrong, I 
put the weapons at once into Sir Percival's hands. There 
was no choice but to oppose cunning by cunning. I turned 
into the street down which the second man had disappeared, 
and passed him, waiting in a doorway. He was a stranger 
to me ; and I was glad to make sure of his personal appear- 
ance, in case of future annoyance. Having done this, I 
again walked northward, till I reached the New Road. There, 
I turned aside to the west (having the men behind me all the 
time), and waited at a point where I knew myself to be at 
some distance from a cabstand, until a fast two-wheel cab, 
empty, should happen to pass me. One passed in a few 
minutes. I jumped in, and told the man to drive rapidly 
towards Hyde Park. There was no second fast cab for the 
spies behind me. I saw them dart across to the other side 
of the road, to follow me by running, until a cab or cabstand, 

400 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

came in their way. But I had the start of them ; and when 
I stopped the driver, and got out, they were nowhere in 
sight. I crossed Hyde Park, and made sure, on the open 
ground, that I was free. When I at last turned my steps 
homewards, it was not till many hours later — not till after 
dark. 

I found Marian waiting for me, alone in the little sitting- 
room. She had persuaded Laura to go to rest, after first 
promising to show me her drawing, the moment I came in. 
The poor little dim faint sketch — so trifling in itself, so 
touching in its associations — was propped up carefully on the 
table with two books, and was placed where the faint light 
of the one candle we allowed ourselves might fall on it to the 
best advantage. I sat down to look at the drawing, and to 
tell Marian, in whispers, what had happened. The partition 
which divided us from the next room was so thin that we 
could almost hear Laura's breathing, and we might have dis- 
turbed her if we had spoken aloud. 

Marian preserved her composure while I described my 
intervievv^ with Mr. Kyrle. But her face became troubled 
when I spoke next of the men who' had followed me from the 
lawyer's office, and when I told her of the discovery of Sir 
Pcrcival's return. 

' Bad news, Walter,' she said ; ' the worst news 30U could 
bring. Have you nothing more to tell me ? ' 

' I have something to give you,' I replied, handing her the 
note which Mr. Kyrle had confided to my care. 

She looked at the address, and recognised the handwriting 
instantly. 

' You know your correspondent ? ' I said. 

'Too well,' she answered. ' r>Iy correspondent is Count 
Fosco.' 

With that reply she opened the note. Her face flushed 
deeply vv-hile she read it — her eyes brightened with anger, as 
she handed it to me to read in my turn. 

The note contained these lines : 

' Impelled by honourable admiration — honourable to my- 
self, honourable to you — I v.rite, magnificent Marian, in the 
interests of your tranquillity, to say two consoling words : 

' Fear nothing ! 

' Exercise your fine natural sense, and remain in retire- 
ment. Dear and admirable woman, invite no dangerous 
publicity. Resignation is sublime — adopt it. The modest 

401 D D 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

repose of home is eternally fresh — enjoy it. The storms of 
life pass harmless over the valley of Seclusion— dwell, dear 
lady, in the valley. 

' Do this ; and I authorise you to fear nothing. No new 
calamity shall lacerate your sensibilities— sensibilities precious 
to me as my own. You shall not be molested ; the fair 
companion of your retreat shall not be pursued. She has 
found a new asylum, in your heart. Priceless asylum ! — I 
envy her, and leave her there. 

' One last word of affectionate warning-, of paternal caution 
— and I tear myself from the charm of addressing you ; I 
close these fervent lines. 

' Advance no further than you have gone already ; com- 
promise no serious interests ; threaten nobody. Do not, I 
implore you, force me into action— Me, the Man of Action — 
when it is the cherished object of my ambition to be passive, 
to restrict the vast reach of my energies and my combinations, 
for your sake. If you have rash friends, moderate their 
deplorable ardour. If Mr. Hartright returns to England, 
hold no communication with him. I walk on a path of my 
own ; and Percival follovv^s at my heels. On the day when 
Mr. Hartright crosses that path, he is a lost man.' 

The only signature to these lines was the initial letter F, 
surrounded by a circle of intricate flourishes. I threw the 
letter on the table, with all the contempt that I felt for it. 

' He is trying to frighten you — a sure sign that he is 
frightened himself,' I said. 

She was too genuine a woman to treat the letter as I 
treated it. The insolent familiarity of the language was too 
much for her self-control. As she looked at me across the 
table, her hands clenched themselves in her lap, and the old 
quick fiery temper flamed out again, brightly, in her cheeks 
and her eyes. 

* Walter ! ' she said, * if ever those two men are at your 
mercy, and if you are obliged to spare one of them — don't let 
it be the Count.' 

' I v,-ill keep his letter, Marian, to help my memory when 
the time comes.' 

She looked at me attentively as I put the letter away in 
my pocket-book. 

' When the time comes ? ' she repeated. ' Can you speak 
of the future as if you were certain of it ? — certain after what 
you have heard in Mr. Kyrle's office, after what has happened 
to you to-day ? ' 

402 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

* I don't count the time from to-day, Marian. All I have 
done to-day, is to ask another man to act for me. I count 
from to-morrow ' 

' Why from to-morrow ? ' 

* Because to-morrow I mean to act for myself.' 
'How?' 

* I shall go to Blackwater by the first train ; and return, I 
hope, at nig-ht.' 

' To Blackwater ! ' 

* Yes. I have had time to think, since I left Mr. Kyrle. 
His opinion on one point, confirms my own. We must persist, 
to the last, in hunting- down the date of Laura's journey. 
The one weak point in the conspiracy, and probably the one 
chance of proving- that she is a living- woman, centre in the 
discovery of that date.' 

'You mean,' said Marian, ' the discovery that Laura did 
not leave Blackwater Park till after the date of her death on 
the doctor's certificate ? ' 

' Certainly.' 

' What makes you think it might have been after? Laura 
can tell us nothing of the time she was in London.' 

' But the owner of the Asylum told 5^ou that she was 
received there on the twenty-seventh of July. I doubt Count 
Fosco's ability to keep her in London, and to keep her 
insensible to all that was passing around her, more than one 
night. In that case, she must have started on the twenty- 
sixth, and must have come to London one day after the 
date of her own death on the doctor's certificate. If we can 
prove that date, we prove our case against Sir Percival and 
the Count.' 

' Yes, yes — I see ! But how is the proof to be obtained ? ' 

' Mrs. Michelson's narrative has suggested to me two 
ways of trying to obtain it. One of them is to question the 
doctor, Mr. Dawson — who must know when he resumed his 
attendance at Blackwater Park, after Laura left the house. 
The other is, to make inquiries at the inn to which Sir Percival 
drove away by himself, at night. We know that his departure 
followed Laura's, after the lapse of a few hours ; and we may 
get at the date in that way. The attempt is at least worth 
making — and, to-morrow, I am determined it shall be made.' 

' And suppose it fails — I look at the worst, now, Walter ; 
but I will lock at the best, if disappointments come to try us 
— suppose no one can help you at Blackwater ? ' 

' There are two men who can help me, and shall help me, 
in London — Sir Percival and the Count. Innocent people 

403 D D 2 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

may well forg-et the date ; but they are guilty, and they know 
it. If I fail everywhere else, I mean to force a confession out 
of one or both of them, on my own terms.' 

All the woman flushed up in Marian's face as I spoke. 

* Begin with the Count ! ' she whispered eagerly. * For 
my sake, begin with the Count.' 

* We must begin, for Laura's sake, v/here there is the 
best chance of success,' I replied. 

The colour faded from her face again, and she shook her 
head sadly. 

' Yes,' she said, * 3"0U are right — it was mean and miserable 
of me to say that. I try to be patient, Walter, and succeed 
better now than I did in happier times. But I have a little 
of my old temper still left — and it ivill get the better of me 
when I think of the Count ! ' 

' His turn will come,' I said. ' But, remember, there is 
no weak place in his life that we know of, yet.' I waited a 
little to let her recover her self-possession ; and then spoke 
the decisive words : 

' Marian ! There is a weak place we both know of in Sir 
Percival's life ' 

' You mean the secret ! ' 

' Yes : the Secret. It is our only sure hold on him. I 
can force him from his position of security, I can drag him 
and his villany into the face of day, by no other means. 
Whatever the Count may have done, Sir Percival has con- 
sented to the conspiracy against Laura from another motive 
besides the motive of gain. You heard him tell the Count 
that he believed his wife knew enough to ruin him ? You 
heard him say that he was a lost man if the secret of Anne 
Catlierick was known ? ' 

'Yes! yes! I did.' 

' Well, Marian, when our other resources have failed us, I 
mean to know the secret. My old superstition clings to me, 
even yet. I say again the womiui in Vvhite is a living influence 
in our three lives. The En.d is appointed ; the End is draw- 
ing us on — and Aune Catherick, dead in her grave, points the 
way to it still ! ' 

V. 

The story of my first inquiries in Hampshire is soon told. 

My early departure from London enabled me to reach Mr. 
Dawson's house in the forenoon. Our interview, so far as 
the object of my visit was concerned, led to no satisfactory 
result, 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

Mi*. Dawson's books certainly showed when he had 
resumed his attendance on Miss Halcombe, at Blackwater 
Park, but it was not possible to calculate back from this date 
with any exactness, without such help from Mrs. Michelson 
as I knew she was unable to afford. She could not say 
from memory (who, in similar cases, ever can ?) how many 
days had elapsed between the renewal of the doctor's attend- 
ance on his patient and the previous departure of Lady 
Clyde. She was almost certain of having mentioned the 
circumstance of the departure to Miss Halcombe, on the day 
after it happened — but then she was no more able to fix the 
date of the day on which this disclosure took place, than to 
fix the date of the day before, when Lady Clyde had left for 
London. Neither could she calculate, with any nearer 
approach to exactness, the time that had passed from the 
departure of her mistress, to the period when the undated 
letter from Madame Fosco arrived. Lastly, as if to complete 
the series of difficulties, the doctor himself, having- been ill at 
the time, had omitted to make his usual entry of the day of the 
week and month when the gardener from Blackwater Park 
had called on him to deliver Mrs. Michelson's message. 

Hopeless of obtaining assistance from Mr. Dawson, I 
resolved to try next if I could establish the date of Sir Perci- 
val's arrival at Knowlesbury. 

It seemed like a fatality ! When I reached Knowlesbury 
the inn was shut up ; and bills were posted on the walls. The 
speculation had been a bad one, as I was informed, ever since 
the time of the railway. The new hotel at the station had 
gradually absorbed the business ; and the old inn (which we 
knev/ to be the inn at which Sir Percival had put up) had 
been closed about two months since. The proprietor had left 
the town with all his goods and chattels, and where he had 
gone, I could not positively ascertain from any one. The 
four people of whom I inquired gave me four different 
accounts of his plans and projects when he left Knowlesbury. 

There were still some hours to spare before the last train 
left for London ; and I drove back again, in a fly from the 
Knowlesbury station, to Blackwater Park, vvith the purpose 
of questioning the gardener and the person v/ho kept the 
lodge. If they, too, proved unable to assist me, my 
resources, for the present, were at an end, and I might 
return to town. 

I dismissed the fly a mile distant from the park ; and, 
getting my directions from the driver, proceeded by myself to 
the house. 

405 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

As I turned into the lane from the high road, I saw a 
man, with a carpet-bag, walking before me rapidly on the 
way to the lodge. He was a little man, dressed in shabby 
black, and wearing a remarkably large hat. I set him down 
(as well as it was possible to judge) for a lawyer's clerk ; and 
stopped at once to widen the distance between us. He had 
not heard me ; and he walked on out of sight, without look- 
ing back. When I passed through the gates myself, a little 
while afterwards, he was not visible — he had evidently gone on 
to the house. 

There were two women in the lodge. One of them was 
old ; the other, I knew at once, by Marian's description of 
her, to be Margaret Porcher. 

I asked first if Sir Percival was at the park ; and, receiv- 
ing a reply in the negative, inquired next when he had left it. 
Neither of the women could tell me more than that he had 
gone away in the summer. I could extract nothing from 
Margaret Porcher but vacant smiles and shakings of the head. 
The old woman was a little more intelligent ; and I managed 
to lead her into speaking of the manner of Sir Percival's 
departure, and of the alarm that it caused her. She remem- 
bered her master calling her out of bed, and remembered his 
frightening her by swearing — but the date at which the occur- 
rence happened was, as she honestly acknowledged, * quite 
beyond her.' 

On leaving the lodge, I saw the gardener at work not far 
off. When I first addressed him, he looked at me rather 
distrustfully ; but, on my using Mrs. Michelson's name, with 
a civil reference to himself, he entered into conversation readily 
enough. There is no need to describe what passed between 
us : it ended, as all my other attempts to discover the date 
had ended. The gardener knew that his master had driven 
away, at night, ' some time in July, the last fortnight or the 
last ten days in the month ' — and knew no more. 

While we were speaking together, I saw the man in black, 
with the large hat, come out from the house, and stand at 
some little distance observing us. 

Certain suspicions of his errand at Blackwater Park had 
already crossed my mind. They were now increased by the 
g^ardener's inability (or unwillingness) to tell me who the man 
was ; and I determined to clear the way before me, if possible, 
by speaking to him. The plainest question I could put, as a 
stranger, would be to inquire if the house was allowed to be 
shown to visitors. I walked up to the man at once, and 
accosted him in those words. 

406 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

His look and manner unmistakably betrayed that he knew 
who I was, and that he wanted to irritate me into quarrelling 
with him. His reply was insolent enough to have answered 
the purpose, if I had been less determined to control myself. 
As it was, I met him with the most resolute politeness ; 
apologised for my involuntary intrusion (which he called a 
* trespass '), and left the grounds. It was exactly as I 
suspected. The recognition of me, when I left Mr. Kyrle's 
office, had been evidently communicated to Sir Percival Clyde ; 
and the man in black had been sent to the park, in 
anticipation of my making inquiries at the house, or in the 
neighbourhood. If I had given him the least chance of 
lodging any sort of legal complaint against me, the inter- 
ference of the local magistrate would no doubt have been 
turned to account, as a clog on my proceedings, and a means 
of separating me from Marian and Laura for some days at 
least. 

I was prepared to be watched on the way from Blackwater 
Park to the station, exactly as I had been watched, in London, 
the day before. But I could not discover, at the time, whether 
I was really followed on this occasion or not. The man in 
black might have had means of tracking me at his disposal of 
which I was not aware — but I certainly saw nothing of him, 
in his own person, either on the way to the station, or after- 
wards on my arrival at the London terminus, in the evening. 
I reached home, on foot ; taking the precaution, before I 
approached our own door, of walking round by the loneliest 
street in the neighbourhood, and there stopping and looking 
back more than once over the open space behind me. I had 
first learnt to use this stratagem against suspected treachery 
in the wilds of Central America — and now I was practising it 
again, with the same purpose and with even greater caution, 
in the heart of civilized London ! 

Nothing had happened to alarm Marian during my absence. 
She asked eagerly what success I had met with. When I 
told her, she could not conceal her surprise at the indifference 
with which I spoke of the failure of my investigations thus 
far. 

The truth was, that the ill-success of my inquiries had in 
no sense daunted me. I had pursued them as a matter of 
duty, and I had expected nothing from them. In the state of 
my mind, at that time, it v/as almost a relief to me to know 
that the struggle was now narrowed to a trial of strength 
between myself and Sir Percival Clyde. The vindictive motive 
had mingled itself, all along, with my other and better motives ; 

407 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

and I confess it was a satisfaction to me to feel that the 
surest way — the only way left — of serving Laura's cause, was 
to fasten my hold firmly on the villain who had married her. 

While I acknowledge that I was not strong enough to keep 
my motives above the reach of this instinct of revenge, I can 
honestly say something in my own favour, on the other side. 
No base speculation on the future relations of Laura and 
myself, and on the private and personal concessions which I 
might force from Sir Percival if I once had him at my mercy, 
ever entered my mind. I never said to myself, ' If I do 
succeed, it shall be one result of my success that I put it out 
of her husband's power to take her from me again.' I could 
not look at her and think of the future with such thoughts as 
those. The sad sight of the change in her from her former 
self, made the one interest of my love an interest of tenderness 
and compassion, which her father or her brother might have 
felt, and which I felt, God knows, in my inmost heart. All 
my hopes looked no farther on, now, than to the day of her 
recovery. There, till she was strong ag'ain and happy again 
— there, till she could look at me as she had once looked, and 
speak to me as she had once spoken — the future of my happiest 
thoughts and my dearest wishes ended. 

These words are written under no prompting of idle self- 
contemplation. Passages in this narrative are soon to com.e, 
which will set the minds of others in judgment on my conduct. 
It is right that the best and the worst of me should be 
fairly balanced, before that time. 

On the morning after my return from Hampshire, I took 
Marian up-stairs into my working-room ; and there laid before 
her the plan that I had matured, thus far, for mastering the 
one assailable point in the life of Sir Percival Glyde. 

The way to the Secret lay through the mystery, hitherto 
impenetrable to all of us, of the woman in white. The approach 
to that, in its turn, might be gained by obtaining the 
assistance of Anne Catherick's mother ; and the only ascertain- 
able means of prevailing on Mrs. Catherick to act or to speak 
in the matter, depended on the chance of my discovering local 
particulars and family particulars, first of all, from Mrs. 
Clements. After thinking the subject over carefull)', I felt 
certain that I could only begin the new inquiries by placing my- 
self in communication with the faithful friend and protectress 
of Anne Catherick. 

The first difficulty, then, was to find Mrs. Clements. 

I was indebted to Marian's quick perception for meeting 

408 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

this necessity at once by the best and simplest means. She 
proposed to write to the farm near Limmeridge (Todd's Corner), 
to inquire whether Mrs. Clements had communicated with 
Mrs. Todd during- the past few months. How Mrs. Clements 
had been separated from Anne, it was impossible for us to 
say ; but that separation once effected, it would certainly occur 
to Mrs. Clements to inquire after the missing woman in the 
neighbourhood of all others to which she was known to be 
most attached — the neighbourhood of Limmeridge. I saw 
directly that Marian's proposal offered us a prospect of 
success ; and she wrote to Mrs. Todd accordingly by that 
day's post. 

While we were waiting for tlie reply, I made myself master 
of all the information Marian could afford on the subject of 
Sir Percival's family, and of his early life. She could only 
speak on these topics from hearsay ; but she was reasonably 
certain of the truth of what little she had to tell. 

Sir Percival was an only child. His father. Sir Felix Glyde, 
had suffered, from his birth, under a painful and incurable 
deformity, and had shunned all society from his earliest years. 
His sole happiness was in the enjoyment of music ; and he had 
married a lady with tastes similar to his own, who was said to 
be a most accomplished musician. He inherited the Black- 
water property while still a young man. Neither he nor his 
wife, after taking possession, made advances of any sort 
towards the society of the neighbourhood ; and no one en- 
deavoured to tempt them into abandoning their reserve, with 
the one disastrous exception of the rector of the parish. 

The rector was the worst of all innocent mischief-makers 
— an over-zealous man. He had heard that Sir Felix had left 
College with the character ot being little better than a revolu- 
tionist in politics and an infidel in religion ; and he arrived 
conscientiously at the conclusion that it was his bounden duty 
to summon the lord of the manor to hear sound views enun- 
ciated in the parish church. Sir Felix fiercely resented the 
clergyman's well-meant but ill-directed interference ; insulting 
him so grossly and so publicly, that the families in the neigh- 
bourhood sent letters of indignant remonstrance to the park ; 
and even the tenants on the Blackwater property expressed 
their opinion as strongly as they dared. The baronet, who had 
no country tastes of any kind, and no attachment to the estate, 
or to any one living on it, declared that society at Blackwater 
should never have a second chance of annoying him ; and left 
the place from that moment. 

After a short residence in London, he and his wife departed 

409 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

for the Continent ; and never returned to England again. 
They lived part of the time in France, and part in Germany — ■ 
always keeping themselves in the strict retirement which the 
morbid sense of his own personal deformity had made a neces- 
sity to Sir Felix. Their son, Percival, had been born abroad, 
and had been educated there by private tutors. His mother 
was the first of his parents whom he lost. His father had died 
a few years after her, either in 1825 or 1826. Sir Percival had 
been in England, as a young man, once or twice before that 
period ; but his acquaintance with the late Mi: Fairlie did not 
begin till after the time of his father's death. They soon 
became very intimate, although Sir Percival was seldom, or 
never, at Limmeridge House in those days. Mr, Frederick 
Fairlie might have met him once or twice in Mr. Philip Fairlie's 
company ; but he could have known little of him at that or 
at any other time. Sir Percival's only intimate friend in the 
Fairlie family had been Laura's father. 

These were all the particulars that I could gain from Marian. 
They suggested nothing which was useful to my present pur- 
pose, but I noted them down carefully, in the event of their 
proving to be of importance at any future period. 

Mrs. Todd's reply (addressed, by our own wish, to a post- 
office at some distance from us) had arrived at its destination 
when I went to apply for it. The chances, which had been all 
against us, hitherto, turned, from this moment, in our favour. 
Mrs. Todd's letter contained the first item of information of 
which we were in search. 

Mrs. Clements, it appeared, had (as we had conjectured) 
written to Todd's Corner ; asking pardon, in the first place, 
for the abrupt manner in which she and Anne had left their 
friends at the farm-house (on the morning after I had met the 
woman in white in Limmeridge churchyard) ; and then in- 
forming Mrs. Todd of Anne's disappearance, and entreating 
that she would cause inquiries to be made in the neighbourhood, 
on the chance that the lost woman might have stra3fed back 
to Limmeridge. In making this request, Mrs. Clements had 
been careful to add to it the address at which she might always 
be heard of; and that address Mrs. Todd now transmitted to 
Marian. It was in London ; and within half an hour's walk 
of our own lodging. 

In the words of the proverb, I was resolved not to let the 
grass grow under my feet. The next morning, I set forth to 
seek an interview with Mrs. Clements. This was my first 
step forward in the investigation. The story of the desperate 
attempt to which I now stood committed, begins here. 

410 



THE WOiMAN IN WHITE 



VI. 



The address communicated by Mrs. Todd took me to a 
lodging--house situated in a respectable street near the Gray's 
Inn Road. 

When I knocked, the door was opened by Mrs. Clements 
herself. She did not appear to remember me ; and asked what 
my business was. I recalled to her our meeting in Limmeridge 
churchyard, at the close of my interview there with tlie woman 
in white ; taking special care to remind her that I was the 
person who assisted Anne Catherick (as Anne had herself de- 
clared) to escape the pursuit from the Asylum. This was my 
only claim to the confidence of Mrs. Clements. She remem- 
bered the circumstance the moment I spoke of it ; and asked 
me into the parlour, in the greatest anxiety to know if I had 
brought her any news of Anne. 

It was impossible for me to tell her the whole truth, 
without, at the same time, entering into particulars on the 
subject of the conspiracy, which it would have been dangerous 
to confide to a stranger. I could only abstain most carefully 
from raising any false hopes, and then explain that the object 
of my visit was to discover the persons who were really 
responsible for Anne's disappearance. I even added, so as 
to exonerate myself from any after-reproach of my own 
conscience, that I entertained not the least hope of being able 
to trace her ; that I believed vve should never see her alive 
again ; and that my main interest in the affair was to bring 
to punishment two men whom I suspected to be concerned in 
luring her away, and at whose hands I and some dear friends 
of mine had suffered a grievous wrong. With this explana- 
tion, I left it to Mrs. Clements to say whether our interest in 
the matter (whatever difference there might be in the motives 
which actuated us) was not the samiC ; and whether she felt 
any reluctance to forward my object by giving me such 
information on the subject of my inquiries as she happened 
to possess. 

The poor woman was, at first, too much confused and 
agitated to understand thoroughly what I said to her. She 
could only reply that I was welcome to anything she could tell 
me in return for the kindness I had shown to Anne. But as 
she was not very quick and ready, at the best of times, in 
talking to strangers, she would beg me to put her in the 
right way, and to say where I wished her to begin. 

Knowing by experience that the plainest narrative attain- 

411 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

able from persons who are not accustomed to arrange their 
ideas, is the narrative which goes far enough back at the 
beginning to avoid all impediments of retrospection in its 
course, I asked Mrs. Clements to tell me, first, what had 
happened after she had left Limmeridge ; and so, by watchful 
questioning, carried her on from point to point till we reached 
the period of Anne's disappearance. 

The substance of the information which I thus obtained, 
was as follows : 

On leaving the farm at Todd's Corner, Mrs. Clements and 
Anne had travelled, that day, as far as Derby ; and had 
remained there a week, on Anne's account. They had then 
gone on to London, and had lived in the lodging occupied 
by Mrs. Clements, at that time, for a month or more, when 
circumstances connected with the house and the landlord had 
obliged them to change their quarters. Anne's terror of 
being discovered in London or its neighbourhood, whenever 
they ventured to walk out, had gradually communicated itself 
to Mrs. Clements ; and she had determined on removing to 
one of the most out-of-the-way places in England — to the town 
of Grimsby in Lincolnshire, where her deceased husband had 
passed all his early life. His relatives were respectable people 
settled in the town ; they had always treated Mrs. Clements 
with great kindness ; and she thought it impossible to do 
better than go there, and take the advice of her husband's 
friends. Anne would not hear of returning to her mother at 
Welmingham, because she had been removed to the Asylum 
from that place, and because Sir Percival would be certain to 
go back there and find her again. There was serious weight 
in this objection, and Mrs. Clements felt that it was not to be 
easily removed. 

At Grimsby the first serious symptoms of illness had 
shown themselves in Anne. They appeared soon after the 
news of Lady Clyde's marriage had been made public in the 
newspapers, and had reached her through that medium. 

The medical man who was sent for to attend the sick woman, 
discovered at once that she was suffering from a serious affec- 
tion of the heart. The illness lasted long, left her very weak, 
and returned, at intervals, though with mitigated severity, 
again and again. They remained at Grimsby, in consequence, 
during the first half of the nev/ year ; and there they might 
probably have stayed much longer, but for the sudden 
resolution which Anne took, at this time, to venture back to 
Hampshire, for the purpose of obtaining a private interview 
with Lady Glyde. 

412 



the: woman in white 

Mrs. Clements did all in her power to oppose the execution 
of this hazardous and unaccountable project. No explanation 
of her motives was offered by Anne, except that she believed 
the day of her death was not far off, and that she had some- 
thing- on her mind which must be communicated to Lady 
Glyde, at any risk, in secret. Her resolution to accomplish 
this purpose was so firmly settled, that she declared her 
intention of going- to Hampshire by herself, if Mrs. Clements 
felt any unwillingness to go with her. The doctor, on being 
consulted, was of opinion that serious opposition to her wishes 
would, in all probability, produce another and perhaps a fatal 
fit of illness ; and Mrs. Clements, under this advice, yielded 
to necessity, and once more, with sad forebodings of trouble 
and danger to come, allowed Anne Catherick to have her own 
way. 

On the journey from London to Hampshire, Mrs. 
Clements discovered that one of their fellow-passengers was 
well acquainted with the neighbourhood of Blackwater, and 
could give her all the information she needed on the subject 
of localities. In this way, she found out that the only place 
they could go to which was not dangerously near to Sir 
Percival's residence, was a large village, called Sandon. The 
distance, here, from Blackwater Park was between three and 
four miles — and that distance, and back again, Anne had 
walked, on each occasion when she had appeared in the 
neighbourhood of the lake. 

For the few days, during which they were at Sandon 
without being discovered, they had lived a little w-ay from 
the village, in the cottage of a decent widow-woman, who 
had a bedroom to let, and whose discreet silence Mrs. 
Clements had done her best to secure, for the first week at 
least. She had also tried hard to induce Anne to be content 
with writing to Lady Glyde, in the first instance. But the 
failure of the warning contained in the anonymous letter sent 
to Limmcridgc had made Anne resolute to speak this time, 
and obstinate in the determination to go on her errand 
alone. 

Mrs. Clements, nevertheless, followed her privately on 
each occasion when she went to the lake — without, however, 
venturing near enough to the boat-house to be witness of 
what took place there. When A.nne returned for the last 
time from the dangerous neighbourhood, the fatigue of 
walking, day after day, distances which were far too great 
for her strength, added to the exhausting effect of the agita- 
tion from which she had suffered, produced the result which 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

Mrs. Clements had dreaded all along-. The old pain over the 
heart and the other symptoms of the illness at Grimsby re- 
turned ; and Anne was confined to her bed in the cottage. 

In this emergency, the first necessity, as Mrs. Clements 
knew by experience, was to endeavour to quiet Anne's anxiety 
of mind ; and, for this purpose, the -qrood woman went her- 
self the next day to the lake, to try if she could find Lady 
Clyde (who would be sure, as Anne said, to take her daily 
walk to the boat-house), and prevail on her to come back 
privately to the cottage near Sandon. On reaching the out- 
skirts of the plantation, Mrs. Clements encountered, not 
Lady Clyde, but a tall, stout, elderly gentleman with a book 
in his hand — in other words. Count Fosco. 

The Count, after looking at her very attentively for a 
moment, asked if she expected to see any one in that place ; 
and added, before she could repl}^, that he was waiting there 
with a message from Lady Clyde, but that he was not quite 
certain whether the person then before him answered the 
description of the pers-on with whom he was desired to com- 
municate. 

Upon this, Mrs. Clements at once confided her errand to 
him, and entreated that he would help to allay Anne's anxiety 
by trusting his message to her. The Count most readily and 
kindly complied with her request. The message, he said, 
was a very important one. Lady Clyde entreated Anne and 
her good friend to return immediately to London, as she felt 
certain that Sir Percival v/ould discover them, if they remained 
any longer in the neighbourhood of Blackwater. .She was 
herself going to London in a short time ; and if Mrs. Clements 
and Anne would go there first, and would let her know what 
their address was, they should hear from her and see her, in 
a fortnight or less. The Count added, that he had already 
attempted to give a friendly warning to Anne herself, but 
that she had been too much startled by seeing that he was a 
stranger, to let him approach and speak to her. 

To this, Mrs. Clements replied, in the greatest alarm and 
distress, that she asked nothing better than to take Anne 
safely to London ; but that there was no present hope of 
removing her from the dangerous neighbourhood, as she lay 
ill in her bed at that mom.ent. The Count inquired if Mrs. 
Clements had sent for medical advice ; and hearing that she 
had hitherto hesitated to do so, from the fear of making their 
position publicly known in the village, informed her that he 
was himself a medical inan, and that he would go back with 
her if she pleased, and see what could be done for Anne. 

414 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

r»Irs. Clements (feeling' a natural confidence in the Count, as 
a person trusted with a secret message from Lady Glyde) 
gratefully accepted the offer ; and they went back together to 
the cottage. 

Anne was asleep when they got there. The Count started 
at the sight of her (evidently from astonishment at her 
resemblance to Lady Glyde). Poor Mrs. Clements supposed 
that he was only shocked to see how ill she was. He would 
not allow her to be awakened ; he was contented with putting 
questions to Mrs. Clements about her symptoms, with look- 
ing at her, and with lightly touching her pulse. Sandon was 
a large enough place to have a grocer's and druggist's shop 
in it ; and thither the Count went, to write his prescription, 
and to get the medicine made up. He brought it back him- 
self : and told Mrs. Clements that the medicine was a power- 
ful stimulant, and that it would certainly give Anne strength 
to get up and bear the fatigue of a journey to London of only 
a few hours. The remedy was to be administered at stated 
times, on that day, and on the day after. On the third day 
she would be well enough to travel ; and he arranged to meet 
Mrs. Clements at the Blackwater station, and to see them 
off by the midday train. If they- did not appear, he would 
assume that Anne was worse, and would proceed at once to 
the cottage. 

As events turned out, no such emergency as this occurred. 
The medicine had an extraordinary effect on Anne, and 
the good results of it were helped by the assurance Mrs. 
Clements could now give her that she would soon see Lady 
Glyde in London. . At the appointed day and time (when they 
had not been quite so long as a week in Hampshire, alto- 
gether), they arrived at the station. The Count was waiting 
there for them, and v/as talking to an elderly lady, who 
appeared to be going to travel by the train to London also. 
He most kindly assisted them, and put them into the carriage 
himself; begging Mrs. Clements not to forget to send her 
address to Lady Glyde. The elderly lady did not travel in 
the same compartment ; and they did not notice v/hat became 
of her on reaching the London terminus. Mrs. Clements 
secured respectable lodgings in a quiet neighbourhood ; and 
then wrote, as she had engaged to do, to inform Lady Glyde 
of the address. 

A little more than a fortnight passed, and no answer 
came. 

At the end of that time, a lady (the same elderly lady 
whom they had seen at the station) called in a cab, and said 

415 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

that she came from Lady Glyde, who was then at an hotel 
in London, and who wished to see Mrs. Clements for the 
purpose of arrang-ing- a future interview with Anne. Mrs. 
Clements expressed her wihingness (Anne being present at 
the time and entreating her to do so) to forward the object in 
view, especially as she was not required to be away from the 
house for more than half an hour at the most. She and the 
elderly lady (clearly Madame Fosco) then left in the cab. 
The lady stopped the cab, after it had driven some distance, 
at a shop, before they got to the hotel ; and begged Mrs. 
Clements to wait for her for a few minutes, While she made a 
purchase that had been forgotten. She never appeared again. 

After waiting some time, Mrs. Clements became alarmed, 
and ordered the cabman to drive back to her lodgings. 
When she got there, after an absence of rather more than 
half an hour, Anne was gone. 

The only information to be obtained from the people of 
the house, was derived from the servant who waited on the 
lodgers. She had opened the door to a boy from the street, 
who had left a letter for ' the young woman who lived on the 
second floor' (the part of the house which Mrs. Clements 
occupied). The servant had delivered the letter ; had then 
gone down-stairs ; and, five minutes afterwards, had observed 
Anne open the front door, and go out, dressed in her bonnet 
and shawl. She had probably taken the letter with her ; for 
it was not to be found, and it was therefore impossible to tell 
what inducement had been offered to make her leave the 
house. It must have been a strong one — for she would never 
stir out alone in London of her own accord. If Mrs. 
Clements had not known this by experience, nothing would 
have induced her to go away in the cab, even for so short a 
time as half an hour only. 

As soon as she could collect her thoughts, the first idea 
that naturally occurred to Mrs. Clements, was to go and 
maJce inquiries at the Asylum, to which she dreaded that 
Anne had been taken back. 

She went there the next day — having been informed of 
the locality in which the house was situated by Anne herself. 
The answer she received (her application having, in ail proba- 
bility, been made a day or two before the false Anne Cathe- 
rick had really been consigned to safe keeping in the A.sylum) 
was, that no such person had been brought back there. She 
had then written to Mrs. Catherick, at Welmingham, to knov%7 
if she had seen or heard anything of her daughter ; and had 
received an answer in the negative. After that reply had 

416 



THE WOMAN IN WHITE 

reached her, she was at Ihe end of her resourceSj and perfectly 
ig-norant where else to inquire, or what else to do. From 
that time to this, she had remained in total ignorance of the 
cause of Anne's disappearance, and of the end of Anne's 
story. 

VII. 

Thus far, the information which I had received from Mrs. 
Clements — though it established facts oF which I had not 
previously been aware — was of a preliminary character only. 

It was clear that the series of deceptions which had removed 
Anne Catherick to London and separated her from Mrs. 
Clements, had been accomplished solely by Count Fosco and 
the Countess ; and the question whether any part of the conduct 
of husband or wife had been of a kind to place either of them 
within reach of the law, might be well worthy of future con- 
sideration. But the purpose I had now in view led me in 
another direction than "this. The immediate object of my 
visit to Mrs. Clements was to make some approach at least 
to the discovery of Sir Percival's secret ; and she had said 
nothing, as yet, which advanced me on my way to that im- 
portant end. I felt the necessity of trying to awaken her 
recollections of other times, persons, and events, than those 
on which her memory had hitherto been employed ; and