The Woman in White
Part 14 out of 14
to resign his possession of it. You wait here till my agent
places that letter unopened in my hands, and you then allow me one
clear half-hour to leave the house--after which you resume your
own freedom of action and go where you please. Third condition!
You give me the satisfaction of a gentleman for your intrusion
into my private affairs, and for the language you have allowed
yourself to use to me at this conference. The time and place,
abroad, to be fixed in a letter from my hand when I am safe on the
Continent, and that letter to contain a strip of paper measuring
accurately the length of my sword. Those are my terms. Inform me
if you accept them--Yes or No."
The extraordinary mixture of prompt decision, far-sighted cunning,
and mountebank bravado in this speech, staggered me for a moment--
and only for a moment. The one question to consider was, whether
I was justified or not in possessing myself of the means of
establishing Laura's identity at the cost of allowing the
scoundrel who had robbed her of it to escape me with impunity. I
knew that the motive of securing the just recognition of my wife
in the birthplace from which she had been driven out as an
impostor, and of publicly erasing the lie that still profaned her
mother's tombstone, was far purer, in its freedom from all taint
of evil passion, than the vindictive motive which had mingled
itself with my purpose from the first. And yet I cannot honestly
say that my own moral convictions were strong enough to decide the
struggle in me by themselves. They were helped by my remembrance
of Sir Percival's death. How awfully, at the last moment, had the
working of the retribution THERE been snatched from my feeble
hands! What right had I to decide, in my poor mortal ignorance of
the future, that this man, too, must escape with impunity because
he escaped ME? I thought of these things--perhaps with the
superstition inherent in my nature, perhaps with a sense worthier
of me than superstition. It was hard, when I had fastened my hold
on him at last, to loosen it again of my own accord--but I forced
myself to make the sacrifice. In plainer words, I determined to
be guided by the one higher motive of which I was certain, the
motive of serving the cause of Laura and the cause of Truth.
"I accept your conditions," I said. "With one reservation on my
"What reservation may that be?" he asked.
"It refers to the sealed letter," I answered. "I require you to
destroy it unopened in my presence as soon as it is placed in your
My object in making this stipulation was simply to prevent him
from carrying away written evidence of the nature of my
communication with Pesca. The fact of my communication he would
necessarily discover, when I gave the address to his agent in the
morning. But he could make no use of it on his own unsupported
testimony--even if he really ventured to try the experiment--which
need excite in me the slightest apprehension on Pesca's account.
"I grant your reservation," he replied, after considering the
question gravely for a minute or two. "It is not worth dispute--
the letter shall be destroyed when it comes into my hands."
He rose, as he spoke, from the chair in which he had been sitting
opposite to me up to this time. With one effort he appeared to
free his mind from the whole pressure on it of the interview
between us thus far. "Ouf!" he cried, stretching his arms
luxuriously, "the skirmish was hot while it lasted. Take a seat,
Mr. Hartright. We meet as mortal enemies here-after--let us, like
gallant gentlemen, exchange polite attentions in the meantime.
Permit me to take the liberty of calling for my wife."
He unlocked and opened the door. "Eleanor!" he called out in his
deep voice. The lady of the viperish face came in "Madame Fosco--
Mr. Hartright," said the Count, introducing us with easy dignity.
"My angel," he went on, addressing his wife, "will your labours of
packing up allow you time to make me some nice strong coffee? I
have writing business to transact with Mr. Hartright--and I
require the full possession of my intelligence to do justice to
Madame Fosco bowed her head twice--once sternly to me, once
submissively to her husband, and glided out of the room.
The Count walked to a writing-table near the window, opened his
desk, and took from it several quires of paper and a bundle of
quill pens. He scattered the pens about the table, so that they
might lie ready in all directions to be taken up when wanted, and
then cut the paper into a heap of narrow slips, of the form used
by professional writers for the press. "I shall make this a
remarkable document," he said, looking at me over his shoulder.
"Habits of literary composition are perfectly familiar to me. One
of the rarest of all the intellectual accomplishments that a man
can possess is the grand faculty of arranging his ideas. Immense
privilege! I possess it. Do you?"
He marched backwards and forwards in the room, until the coffee
appeared, humming to himself, and marking the places at which
obstacles occurred in the arrangement of his ideas, by striking
his forehead from time to time with the palm of his hand. The
enormous audacity with which he seized on the situation in which I
placed him, and made it the pedestal on which his vanity mounted
for the one cherished purpose of self-display, mastered my
astonishment by main force. Sincerely as I loathed the man, the
prodigious strength of his character, even in its most trivial
aspects, impressed me in spite of myself.
The coffee was brought in by Madame Fosco. He kissed her hand in
grateful acknowledgment, and escorted her to the door; returned,
poured out a cup of coffee for himself, and took it to the
"May I offer you some coffee, Mr. Hartright?" he said, before he
"What! you think I shall poison you?" he said gaily. "The English
intellect is sound, so far as it goes," he continued, seating
himself at the table; "but it has one grave defect--it is always
cautious in the wrong place."
He dipped his pen in the ink, placed the first slip of paper
before him with a thump of his hand on the desk, cleared his
throat, and began. He wrote with great noise and rapidity, in so
large and bold a hand, and with such wide spaces between the
lines, that he reached the bottom of the slip in not more than two
minutes certainly from the time when he started at the top. Each
slip as he finished it was paged, and tossed over his shoulder out
of his way on the floor. When his first pen was worn out, THAT
went over his shoulder too, and he pounced on a second from the
supply scattered about the table. Slip after slip, by dozens, by
fifties, by hundreds, flew over his shoulders on either side of
him till he had snowed himself up in paper all round his chair.
Hour after hour passed--and there I sat watching, there he sat
writing. He never stopped, except to sip his coffee, and when
that was exhausted, to smack his forehead from time to time. One
o'clock struck, two, three, four--and still the slips flew about
all round him; still the untiring pen scraped its way ceaselessly
from top to bottom of the page, still the white chaos of paper
rose higher and higher all round his chair. At four o'clock I
heard a sudden splutter of the pen, indicative of the flourish
with which he signed his name. "Bravo!" he cried, springing to
his feet with the activity of a young man, and looking me straight
in the face with a smile of superb triumph.
"Done, Mr. Hartright I " he announced with a self-renovating thump
of his fist on his broad breast. "Done, to my own profound
satisfaction--to YOUR profound astonishment, when you read what I
have written. The subject is exhausted: the man--Fosco--is not.
I proceed to the arrangement of my slips--to the revision of my
slips--to the reading of my slips--addressed emphatically to your
private ear. Four o'clock has just struck. Good! Arrangement,
revision, reading, from four to five. Short snooze of restoration
for myself from five to six. Final preparations from six to
seven. Affair of agent and sealed letter from seven to eight. At
eight, en route. Behold the programme!"
He sat down cross-legged on the floor among his papers, strung
them together with a bodkin and a piece of string--revised them,
wrote all the titles and honours by which he was personally
distinguished at the head of the first page, and then read the
manuscript to me with loud theatrical emphasis and profuse
theatrical gesticulation. The reader will have an opportunity,
ere long, of forming his own opinion of the document. It will be
sufficient to mention here that it answered my purpose.
He next wrote me the address of the person from whom he had hired
the fly, and handed me Sir Percival's letter. It was dated from
Hampshire on the 25th of July, and it announced the journey of
"Lady Glyde" to London on the 26th. Thus, on the very day (the
25th) when the doctor's certificate declared that she had died in
St. John's Wood, she was alive, by Sir Percival's own showing, at
Blackwater--and, on the day after, she was to take a journey! When
the proof of that journey was obtained from the flyman, the
evidence would be complete.
"A quarter-past five," said the Count, looking at his watch.
"Time for my restorative snooze. I personally resemble Napoleon
the Great, as you may have remarked, Mr. Hartright--I also
resemble that immortal man in my power of commanding sleep at
will. Excuse me one moment. I will summon Madame Fosco, to keep
you from feeling dull."
Knowing as well as he did, that he was summoning Madame Fosco to
ensure my not leaving the house while he was asleep, I made no
reply, and occupied myself in tying up the papers which he had
placed in my possession.
The lady came in, cool, pale, and venomous as ever. "Amuse Mr.
Hartright, my angel," said the Count. He placed a chair for her,
kissed her hand for the second time, withdrew to a sofa, and, in
three minutes, was as peacefully and happily asleep as the most
virtuous man in existence.
Madame Fosco took a book from the table, sat down, and looked at
me, with the steady vindictive malice of a woman who never forgot
and never forgave.
"I have been listening to your conversation with my husband," she
said. "If I had been in HIS place--I would have laid you dead on
With those words she opened her book, and never looked at me or
spoke to me from that time till the time when her husband woke.
He opened his eyes and rose from the sofa, accurately to an hour
from the time when he had gone to sleep.
"I feel infinitely refreshed," he remarked. "Eleanor, my good
wife, are you all ready upstairs? That is well. My little packing
here can be completed in ten minutes--my travelling-dress assumed
in ten minutes more. What remains before the agent comes?" He
looked about the room, and noticed the cage with his white mice in
it. "Ah!" he cried piteously, "a last laceration of my sympathies
still remains. My innocent pets! my little cherished children!
what am I to do with them? For the present we are settled nowhere;
for the present we travel incessantly--the less baggage we carry
the better for ourselves. My cockatoo, my canaries, and my little
mice--who will cherish them when their good Papa is gone?"
He walked about the room deep in thought. He had not been at all
troubled about writing his confession, but he was visibly
perplexed and distressed about the far more important question of
the disposal of his pets. After long consideration he suddenly
sat down again at the writing-table.
"An idea!" he exclaimed. "I will offer my canaries and my
cockatoo to this vast Metropolis--my agent shall present them in
my name to the Zoological Gardens of London. The Document that
describes them shall be drawn out on the spot."
He began to write, repeating the words as they flowed from his
"Number one. Cockatoo of transcendent plumage: attraction, of
himself, to all visitors of taste. Number two. Canaries of
unrivalled vivacity and intelligence: worthy of the garden of
Eden, worthy also of the garden in the Regent's Park. Homage to
British Zoology. Offered by Fosco."
The pen spluttered again, and the flourish was attached to his
"Count! you have not included the mice," said Madame Fosco
He left the table, took her hand, and placed it on his heart.
"All human resolution, Eleanor," he said solemnly, "has its
limits. MY limits are inscribed on that Document. I cannot part
with my white mice. Bear with me, my angel, and remove them to
their travelling cage upstairs."
"Admirable tenderness!" said Madame Fosco, admiring her husband,
with a last viperish look in my direction. She took up the cage
carefully, and left the room.
The Count looked at his watch. In spite of his resolute
assumption of composure, he was getting anxious for the agent's
arrival. The candles had long since been extinguished, and the
sunlight of the new morning poured into the room. It was not till
five minutes past seven that the gate bell rang, and the agent
made his appearance. He was a foreigner with a dark beard.
"Mr. Hartright--Monsieur Rubelle," said the Count, introducing us.
He took the agent (a foreign spy, in every line of his face, if
ever there was one yet) into a corner of the room, whispered some
directions to him, and then left us together. "Monsieur Rubelle,"
as soon as we were alone, suggested with great politeness that I
should favour him with his instructions. I wrote two lines to
Pesca, authorising him to deliver my sealed letter "to the
bearer," directed the note, and handed it to Monsieur Rubelle.
The agent waited with me till his employer returned, equipped in
travelling costume. The Count examined the address of my letter
before he dismissed the agent. "I thought so!" he said, turning
on me with a dark look, and altering again in his manner from that
He completed his packing, and then sat consulting a travelling
map, making entries in his pocket-book, and looking every now and
then impatiently at his watch. Not another word, addressed to
myself, passed his lips. The near approach of the hour for his
departure, and the proof he had seen of the communication
established between Pesca and myself, had plainly recalled his
whole attention to the measures that were necessary for securing
A little before eight o'clock, Monsieur Rubelle came back with my
unopened letter in his hand. The Count looked carefully at the
superscription and the seal, lit a candle, and burnt the letter.
"I perform my promise," he said, "but this matter, Mr. Hartright,
shall not end here."
The agent had kept at the door the cab in which he had returned.
He and the maid-servant now busied themselves in removing the
luggage. Madame Fosco came downstairs, thickly veiled, with the
travelling cage of the white mice in her hand. She neither spoke
to me nor looked towards me. Her husband escorted her to the cab.
"Follow me as far as the passage," he whispered in my ear; "I may
want to speak to you at the last moment."
I went out to the door, the agent standing below me in the front
garden. The Count came back alone, and drew me a few steps inside
"Remember the Third condition!" he whispered. "You shall hear
from me, Mr. Hartright--I may claim from you the satisfaction of a
gentleman sooner than you think for." He caught my hand before I
was aware of him, and wrung it hard--then turned to the door,
stopped, and came back to me again.
"One word more," he said confidentially. "When I last saw Miss
Halcombe, she looked thin and ill. I am anxious about that
admirable woman. Take care of her, sir! With my hand on my heart,
I solemnly implore you, take care of Miss Halcombe!"
Those were the last words he said to me before he squeezed his
huge body into the cab and drove off.
The agent and I waited at the door a few moments looking after
him. While we were standing together, a second cab appeared from
a turning a little way down the road. It followed the direction
previously taken by the Count's cab, and as it passed the house
and the open garden gate, a person inside looked at us out of the
window. The stranger at the Opera again!--the foreigner with a
scar on his left cheek.
"You wait here with me, sir, for half an hour more!" said Monsieur
We returned to the sitting-room. I was in no humour to speak to
the agent, or to allow him to speak to me. I took out the papers
which the Count had placed in my hands, and read the terrible
story of the conspiracy told by the man who had planned and
THE STORY CONTINUED BY ISIDOR, OTTAVIO, BALDASSARE FOSCO
(Count of the Holy Roman Empire, Knight Grand Cross of the Order
of the Brazen Crown, Perpetual Arch-Master of the Rosicrucian
Masons of Mesopotamia; Attached (in Honorary Capacities) to
Societies Musical, Societies Medical, Societies Philosophical, and
Societies General Benevolent, throughout Europe; etc. etc. etc.)
THE COUNT'S NARRATIVE
In the summer of eighteen hundred and fifty I arrived in England,
charged with a delicate political mission from abroad.
Confidential persons were semi-officially connected with me, whose
exertions I was authorised to direct, Monsieur and Madame Rubelle
being among the number. Some weeks of spare time were at my
disposal, before I entered on my functions by establishing myself
in the suburbs of London. Curiosity may stop here to ask for some
explanation of those functions on my part. I entirely sympathise
with the request. I also regret that diplomatic reserve forbids
me to comply with it.
I arranged to pass the preliminary period of repose, to which I
have just referred, in the superb mansion of my late lamented
friend, Sir Percival Glyde. HE arrived from the Continent with
his wife. I arrived from the Continent with MINE. England is the
land of domestic happiness--how appropriately we entered it under
these domestic circumstances!
The bond of friendship which united Percival and myself was
strengthened, on this occasion, by a touching similarity in the
pecuniary position on his side and on mine. We both wanted money.
Immense necessity! Universal want! Is there a civilised human
being who does not feel for us? How insensible must that man be!
Or how rich!
I enter into no sordid particulars, in discussing this part of the
subject. My mind recoils from them. With a Roman austerity, I
show my empty purse and Percival's to the shrinking public gaze.
Let us allow the deplorable fact to assert itself, once for all,
in that manner, and pass on.
We were received at the mansion by the magnificent creature who is
inscribed on my heart as "Marian," who is known in the colder
atmosphere of society as "Miss Halcombe."
Just Heaven! with what inconceivable rapidity I learnt to adore
that woman. At sixty, I worshipped her with the volcanic ardour
of eighteen. All the gold of my rich nature was poured hopelessly
at her feet. My wife--poor angel!--my wife, who adores me, got
nothing but the shillings and the pennies. Such is the World,
such Man, such Love. What are we (I ask) but puppets in a show-
box? Oh, omnipotent Destiny, pull our strings gently! Dance us
mercifully off our miserable little stage!
The preceding lines, rightly understood, express an entire system
of philosophy. It is mine.
The domestic position at the commencement of our residence at
Blackwater Park has been drawn with amazing accuracy, with
profound mental insight, by the hand of Marian herself. (Pass me
the intoxicating familiarity of mentioning this sublime creature
by her Christian name.) Accurate knowledge of the contents of her
journal--to which I obtained access by clandestine means,
unspeakably precious to me in the remembrance--warns my eager pen
from topics which this essentially exhaustive woman has already
made her own.
The interests--interests, breathless and immense!--with which I am
here concerned, begin with the deplorable calamity of Marian's
The situation at this period was emphatically a serious one.
Large sums of money, due at a certain time, were wanted by
Percival (I say nothing of the modicum equally necessary to
myself), and the one source to look to for supplying them was the
fortune of his wife, of which not one farthing was at his disposal
until her death. Bad so far, and worse still farther on. My
lamented friend had private troubles of his own, into which the
delicacy of my disinterested attachment to him forbade me from
inquiring too curiously. I knew nothing but that a woman, named
Anne Catherick, was hidden in the neighbourhood, that she was in
communication with Lady Glyde, and that the disclosure of a
secret, which would be the certain ruin of Percival, might be the
result. He had told me himself that he was a lost man, unless his
wife was silenced, and unless Anne Catherick was found. If he was
a lost man, what would become of our pecuniary interests?
Courageous as I am by nature, I absolutely trembled at the idea!
The whole force of my intelligence was now directed to the finding
of Anne Catherick. Our money affairs, important as they were,
admitted of delay--but the necessity of discovering the woman
admitted of none. I only knew her by description, as presenting
an extraordinary personal resemblance to Lady Glyde. The
statement of this curious fact--intended merely to assist me in
identifying the person of whom we were in search--when coupled
with the additional information that Anne Catherick had escaped
from a mad-house, started the first immense conception in my mind,
which subsequently led to such amazing results. That conception
involved nothing less than the complete transformation of two
separate identities. Lady Glyde and Anne Catherick were to change
names, places, and destinies, the one with the other--the
prodigious consequences contemplated by the change being the gain
of thirty thousand pounds, and the eternal preservation of Sir
My instincts (which seldom err) suggested to me, on reviewing the
circumstances, that our invisible Anne would, sooner or later,
return to the boat-house at the Blackwater lake. There I posted
myself, previously mentioning to Mrs. Michelson, the housekeeper,
that I might be found when wanted, immersed in study, in that
solitary place. It is my rule never to make unnecessary
mysteries, and never to set people suspecting me for want of a
little seasonable candour on my part. Mrs. Michelson believed in
me from first to last. This ladylike person (widow of a
Protestant priest) overflowed with faith. Touched by such
superfluity of simple confidence in a woman of her mature years, I
opened the ample reservoirs of my nature and absorbed it all.
I was rewarded for posting myself sentinel at the lake by the
appearance--not of Anne Catherick herself, but of the person in
charge of her. This individual also overflowed with simple faith,
which I absorbed in myself, as in the case already mentioned. I
leave her to describe the circumstances (if she has not done so
already) under which she introduced me to the object of her
maternal care. When I first saw Anne Catherick she was asleep. I
was electrified by the likeness between this unhappy woman and
Lady Glyde. The details of the grand scheme which had suggested
themselves in outline only, up to that period, occurred to me, in
all their masterly combination, at the sight of the sleeping face.
At the same time, my heart, always accessible to tender
influences, dissolved in tears at the spectacle of suffering
before me. I instantly set myself to impart relief. In other
words, I provided the necessary stimulant for strengthening Anne
Catherick to perform the journey to London.
The best years of my life have been passed in the ardent study of
medical and chemical science. Chemistry especially has always had
irresistible attractions for me from the enormous, the illimitable
power which the knowledge of it confers. Chemists--I assert it
emphatically--might sway, if they pleased, the destinies of
humanity. Let me explain this before I go further.
Mind, they say, rules the world. But what rules the mind? The
body (follow me closely here) lies at the mercy of the most
omnipotent of all potentates--the Chemist. Give me--Fosco--
chemistry; and when Shakespeare has conceived Hamlet, and sits
down to execute the conception--with a few grains of powder
dropped into his daily food, I will reduce his mind, by the action
of his body, till his pen pours out the most abject drivel that
has ever degraded paper. Under similar circumstances, revive me
the illustrious Newton. I guarantee that when he sees the apple
fall he shall EAT IT, instead of discovering the principle of
gravitation. Nero's dinner shall transform Nero into the mildest
of men before he has done digesting it, and the morning draught of
Alexander the Great shall make Alexander run for his life at the
first sight of the enemy the same afternoon. On my sacred word of
honour it is lucky for Society that modern chemists are, by
incomprehensible good fortune, the most harmless of mankind. The
mass are worthy fathers of families, who keep shops. The few are
philosophers besotted with admiration for the sound of their own
lecturing voices, visionaries who waste their lives on fantastic
impossibilities, or quacks whose ambition soars no higher than our
corns. Thus Society escapes, and the illimitable power of
Chemistry remains the slave of the most superficial and the most
Why this outburst? Why this withering eloquence?
Because my conduct has been misrepresented, because my motives
have been misunderstood. It has been assumed that I used my vast
chemical resources against Anne Catherick, and that I would have
used them if I could against the magnificent Marian herself.
Odious insinuations both! All my interests were concerned (as will
be seen presently) in the preservation of Anne Catherick's life.
All my anxieties were concentrated on Marian's rescue from the
hands of the licensed imbecile who attended her, and who found my
advice confirmed from first to last by the physician from London.
On two occasions only--both equally harmless to the individual on
whom I practised--did I summon to myself the assistance of
chemical knowledge. On the first of the two, after following
Marian to the inn at Blackwater (studying, behind a convenient
waggon which hid me from her, the poetry of motion, as embodied in
her walk), I availed myself of the services of my invaluable wife,
to copy one and to intercept the other of two letters which my
adored enemy had entrusted to a discarded maid. In this case, the
letters being in the bosom of the girl's dress, Madame Fosco could
only open them, read them, perform her instructions, seal them,
and put them back again by scientific assistance--which assistance
I rendered in a half-ounce bottle. The second occasion, when the
same means were employed, was the occasion (to which I shall soon
refer) of Lady Glyde's arrival in London. Never at any other time
was I indebted to my Art as distinguished from myself. To all
other emergencies and complications my natural capacity for
grappling, single-handed, with circumstances, was invariably
equal. I affirm the all-pervading intelligence of that capacity.
At the expense of the Chemist I vindicate the Man.
Respect this outburst of generous indignation. It has
inexpressibly relieved me. En route! Let us proceed.
Having suggested to Mrs. Clement (or Clements, I am not sure
which) that the best method of keeping Anne out of Percival's
reach was to remove her to London--having found that my proposal
was eagerly received, and having appointed a day to meet the
travellers at the station and to see them leave it, I was at
liberty to return to the house and to confront the difficulties
which still remained to be met.
My first proceeding was to avail myself of the sublime devotion of
my wife. I had arranged with Mrs. Clements that she should
communicate her London address, in Anne's interests, to Lady
Glyde. But this was not enough. Designing persons in my absence
might shake the simple confidence of Mrs. Clements, and she might
not write after all. Who could I find capable of travelling to
London by the train she travelled by, and of privately seeing her
home? I asked myself this question. The conjugal part of me
immediately answered--Madame Fosco.
After deciding on my wife's mission to London, I arranged that the
journey should serve a double purpose. A nurse for the suffering
Marian, equally devoted to the patient and to myself, was a
necessity of my position. One of the most eminently confidential
and capable women in existence was by good fortune at my disposal.
I refer to that respectable matron, Madame Rubelle, to whom I
addressed a letter, at her residence in London, by the hands of my
On the appointed day Mrs. Clements and Anne Catherick met me at
the station. I politely saw them off, I politely saw Madame Fosco
off by the same train. The last thing at night my wife returned
to Blackwater, having followed her instructions with the most
unimpeachable accuracy. She was accompanied by Madame Rubelle,
and she brought me the London address of Mrs. Clements. After-
events proved this last precaution to have been unnecessary. Mrs.
Clements punctually informed Lady Glyde of her place of abode.
With a wary eye on future emergencies, I kept the letter.
The same day I had a brief interview with the doctor, at which I
protested, in the sacred interests of humanity, against his
treatment of Marian's case. He was insolent, as all ignorant
people are. I showed no resentment, I deferred quarrelling with
him till it was necessary to quarrel to some purpose. My next
proceeding was to leave Blackwater myself. I had my London
residence to take in anticipation of coming events. I had also a
little business of the domestic sort to transact with Mr.
Frederick Fairlie. I found the house I wanted in St. John's Wood.
I found Mr. Fairlie at Limmeridge, Cumberland.
My own private familiarity with the nature of Marian's
correspondence had previously informed me that she had written to
Mr. Fairlie, proposing, as a relief to Lady Glyde's matrimonial
embarrassments, to take her on a visit to her uncle in Cumberland.
This letter I had wisely allowed to reach its destination, feeling
at the time that it could do no harm, and might do good. I now
presented myself before Mr. Fairlie to support Marian's own
proposal--with certain modifications which, happily for the
success of my plans, were rendered really inevitable by her
illness. It was necessary that Lady Glyde should leave Blackwater
alone, by her uncle's invitation, and that she should rest a night
on the journey at her aunt's house (the house I had in St. John's
Wood) by her uncle's express advice. To achieve these results,
and to secure a note of invitation which could be shown to Lady
Glyde, were the objects of my visit to Mr. Fairlie. When I have
mentioned that this gentleman was equally feeble in mind and body,
and that I let loose the whole force of my character on him, I
have said enough. I came, saw, and conquered Fairlie.
On my return to Blackwater Park (with the letter of invitation) I
found that the doctor's imbecile treatment of Marian's case had
led to the most alarming results. The fever had turned to typhus.
Lady Glyde, on the day of my return, tried to force herself into
the room to nurse her sister. She and I had no affinities of
sympathy--she had committed the unpardonable outrage on my
sensibilities of calling me a spy--she was a stumbling-block in my
way and in Percival's--but, for all that, my magnanimity forbade
me to put her in danger of infection with my own hand. At the
same time I offered no hindrance to her putting herself in danger.
If she had succeeded in doing so, the intricate knot which I was
slowly and patiently operating on might perhaps have been cut by
circumstances. As it was, the doctor interfered and she was kept
out of the room.
I had myself previously recommended sending for advice to London.
This course had been now taken. The physician, on his arrival,
confirmed my view of the case. The crisis was serious. But we
had hope of our charming patient on the fifth day from the
appearance of the typhus. I was only once absent from Blackwater
at this time--when I went to London by the morning train to make
the final arrangements at my house in St. John's Wood, to assure
myself by private inquiry that Mrs. Clements had not moved, and to
settle one or two little preliminary matters with the husband of
Madame Rubelle. I returned at night. Five days afterwards the
physician pronounced our interesting Marian to be out of all
danger, and to be in need of nothing but careful nursing. This
was the time I had waited for. Now that medical attendance was no
longer indispensable, I played the first move in the game by
asserting myself against the doctor. He was one among many
witnesses in my way whom it was necessary to remove. A lively
altercation between us (in which Percival, previously instructed
by me, refused to interfere) served the purpose in view. I
descended on the miserable man in an irresistible avalanche of
indignation, and swept him from the house.
The servants were the next encumbrances to get rid of. Again I
instructed Percival (whose moral courage required perpetual
stimulants), and Mrs. Michelson was amazed, one day, by hearing
from her master that the establishment was to be broken up. We
cleared the house of all the servants but one, who was kept for
domestic purposes, and whose lumpish stupidity we could trust to
make no embarrassing discoveries. When they were gone, nothing
remained but to relieve ourselves of Mrs. Michelson--a result
which was easily achieved by sending this amiable lady to find
lodgings for her mistress at the sea-side.
The circumstances were now exactly what they were required to be.
Lady Glyde was confined to her room by nervous illness, and the
lumpish housemaid (I forget her name) was shut up there at night
in attendance on her mistress. Marian, though fast recovering,
still kept her bed, with Mrs. Rubelle for nurse. No other living
creatures but my wife, myself, and Percival were in the house.
With all the chances thus in our favour I confronted the next
emergency, and played the second move in the game.
The object of the second move was to induce Lady Glyde to leave
Blackwater unaccompanied by her sister. Unless we could persuade
her that Marian had gone on to Cumberland first, there was no
chance of removing her, of her own free will, from the house. To
produce this necessary operation in her mind, we concealed our
interesting invalid in one of the uninhabited bedrooms at
Blackwater. At the dead of night Madame Fosco, Madame Rubelle,
and myself (Percival not being cool enough to be trusted)
accomplished the concealment. The scene was picturesque,
mysterious, dramatic in the highest degree. By my directions the
bed had been made, in the morning, on a strong movable framework
of wood. We had only to lift the framework gently at the head and
foot, and to transport our patient where we pleased, without
disturbing herself or her bed. No chemical assistance was needed
or used in this case. Our interesting Marian lay in the deep
repose of convalescence. We placed the candles and opened the
doors beforehand. I, in right of my great personal strength, took
the head of the framework--my wife and Madame Rubelle took the
foot. I bore my share of that inestimably precious burden with a
manly tenderness, with a fatherly care. Where is the modern
Rembrandt who could depict our midnight procession? Alas for the
Arts! alas for this most pictorial of subjects! The modern
Rembrandt is nowhere to be found.
The next morning my wife and I started for London, leaving Marian
secluded, in the uninhabited middle of the house, under care of
Madame Rubelle, who kindly consented to imprison herself with her
patient for two or three days. Before taking our departure I gave
Percival Mr. Fairlie's letter of invitation to his niece
(instructing her to sleep on the journey to Cumberland at her
aunt's house), with directions to show it to Lady Glyde on hearing
from me. I also obtained from him the address of the Asylum in
which Anne Catherick had been confined, and a letter to the
proprietor, announcing to that gentleman the return of his runaway
patient to medical care.
I had arranged, at my last visit to the metropolis, to have our
modest domestic establishment ready to receive us when we arrived
in London by the early train. In consequence of this wise
precaution, we were enabled that same day to play the third move
in the game--the getting possession of Anne Catherick.
Dates are of importance here. I combine in myself the opposite
characteristics of a Man of Sentiment and a Man of Business. I
have all the dates at my fingers' ends.
On Wednesday, the 24th of July 1850, I sent my wife in a cab to
clear Mrs. Clements out of the way, in the first place. A
supposed message from Lady Glyde in London was sufficient to
obtain this result. Mrs. Clements was taken away in the cab, and
was left in the cab, while my wife (on pretence of purchasing
something at a shop) gave her the slip, and returned to receive
her expected visitor at our house in St. John's Wood. It is
hardly necessary to add that the visitor had been described to the
servants as "Lady Glyde."
In the meanwhile I had followed in another cab, with a note for
Anne Catherick, merely mentioning that Lady Glyde intended to keep
Mrs. Clements to spend the day with her, and that she was to join
them under care of the good gentleman waiting outside, who had
already saved her from discovery in Hampshire by Sir Percival.
The "good gentleman" sent in this note by a street boy, and paused
for results a door or two farther on. At the moment when Anne
appeared at the house door and closed it this excellent man had
the cab door open ready for her, absorbed her into the vehicle,
and drove off.
(Pass me, here, one exclamation in parenthesis. How interesting
On the way to Forest Road my companion showed no fear. I can be
paternal--no man more so--when I please, and I was intensely
paternal on this occasion. What titles I had to her confidence! I
had compounded the medicine which had done her good--I had warned
her of her danger from Sir Percival. Perhaps I trusted too
implicitly to these titles--perhaps I underrated the keenness of
the lower instincts in persons of weak intellect--it is certain
that I neglected to prepare her sufficiently for a disappointment
on entering my house. When I took her into the drawing-room--when
she saw no one present but Madame Fosco, who was a stranger to
her--she exhibited the most violent agitation; if she had scented
danger in the air, as a dog scents the presence of some creature
unseen, her alarm could not have displayed itself more suddenly
and more causelessly. I interposed in vain. The fear from which
she was suffering I might have soothed, but the serious heart-
disease, under which she laboured, was beyond the reach of all
moral palliatives. To my unspeakable horror she was seized with
convulsions--a shock to the system, in her condition, which might
have laid her dead at any moment at our feet.
The nearest doctor was sent for, and was told that "Lady Glyde"
required his immediate services. To my infinite relief, he was a
capable man. I represented my visitor to him as a person of weak
intellect, and subject to delusions, and I arranged that no nurse
but my wife should watch in the sick-room. The unhappy woman was
too ill, however, to cause any anxiety about what she might say.
The one dread which now oppressed me was the dread that the false
Lady Glyde might die before the true Lady Glyde arrived in London.
I had written a note in the morning to Madame Rubelle, telling her
to join me at her husband's house on the evening of Friday the
26th, with another note to Percival, warning him to show his wife
her uncle's letter of invitation, to assert that Marian had gone
on before her, and to despatch her to town by the midday train, on
the 26th, also. On reflection I had felt the necessity, in Anne
Catherick's state of health, of precipitating events, and of
having Lady Glyde at my disposal earlier than I had originally
contemplated. What fresh directions, in the terrible uncertainty
of my position, could I now issue? I could do nothing but trust to
chance and the doctor. My emotions expressed themselves in
pathetic apostrophes, which I was just self-possessed enough to
couple, in the hearing of other people, with the name of "Lady
Glyde." In all other respects Fosco, on that memorable day, was
Fosco shrouded in total eclipse.
She passed a bad night, she awoke worn out, but later in the day
she revived amazingly. My elastic spirits revived with her. I
could receive no answers from Percival and Madame Rubelle till the
morning of the next day, the 26th. In anticipation of their
following my directions, which, accident apart, I knew they would
do, I went to secure a fly to fetch Lady Glyde from the railway,
directing it to be at my house on the 26th, at two o'clock. After
seeing the order entered in the book, I went on to arrange matters
with Monsieur Rubelle. I also procured the services of two
gentlemen who could furnish me with the necessary certificates of
lunacy. One of them I knew personally--the other was known to
Monsieur Rubelle. Both were men whose vigorous minds soared
superior to narrow scruples--both were labouring under temporary
embarrassments--both believed in ME.
It was past five o'clock in the afternoon before I returned from
the performance of these duties. When I got back Anne Catherick
was dead. Dead on the 25th, and Lady Glyde was not to arrive in
London till the 26th!
I was stunned. Meditate on that. Fosco stunned!
It was too late to retrace our steps. Before my return the doctor
had officiously undertaken to save me all trouble by registering
the death, on the date when it happened, with his own hand. My
grand scheme, unassailable hitherto, had its weak place now--no
efforts on my part could alter the fatal event of the 25th. I
turned manfully to the future. Percival's interests and mine
being still at stake, nothing was left but to play the game
through to the end. I recalled my impenetrable calm--and played
On the morning of the 26th Percival's letter reached me,
announcing his wife's arrival by the midday train. Madame Rubelle
also wrote to say she would follow in the evening. I started in
the fly, leaving the false Lady Glyde dead in the house, to
receive the true Lady Glyde on her arrival by the railway at three
o'clock. Hidden under the seat of the carriage, I carried with me
all the clothes Anne Catherick had worn on coming into my house--
they were destined to assist the resurrection of the woman who was
dead in the person of the woman who was living. What a situation!
I suggest it to the rising romance writers of England. I offer
it, as totally new, to the worn-out dramatists of France.
Lady Glyde was at the station. There was great crowding and
confusion, and more delay than I liked (in case any of her friends
had happened to be on the spot), in reclaiming her luggage. Her
first questions, as we drove off, implored me to tell her news of
her sister. I invented news of the most pacifying kind, assuring
her that she was about to see her sister at my house. My house,
on this occasion only, was in the neighbourhood of Leicester
Square, and was in the occupation of Monsieur Rubelle, who
received us in the hall.
I took my visitor upstairs into a back room, the two medical
gentlemen being there in waiting on the floor beneath to see the
patient, and to give me their certificates. After quieting Lady
Glyde by the necessary assurances about her sister, I introduced
my friends separately to her presence. They performed the
formalities of the occasion briefly, intelligently,
conscientiously. I entered the room again as soon as they had
left it, and at once precipitated events by a reference of the
alarming kind to "Miss Halcombe's" state of health.
Results followed as I had anticipated. Lady Glyde became
frightened, and turned faint. For the second time, and the last,
I called Science to my assistance. A medicated glass of water and
a medicated bottle of smelling-salts relieved her of all further
embarrassment and alarm. Additional applications later in the
evening procured her the inestimable blessing of a good night's
rest. Madame Rubelle arrived in time to preside at Lady Glyde's
toilet. Her own clothes were taken away from her at night, and
Anne Catherick's were put on her in the morning, with the
strictest regard to propriety, by the matronly hands of the good
Rubelle. Throughout the day I kept our patient in a state of
partially-suspended consciousness, until the dexterous assistance
of my medical friends enabled me to procure the necessary order
rather earlier than I had ventured to hope. That evening (the
evening of the 27th) Madame Rubelle and I took our revived "Anne
Catherick" to the Asylum. She was received with great surprise,
but without suspicion, thanks to the order and certificates, to
Percival's letter, to the likeness, to the clothes, and to the
patient's own confused mental condition at the time. I returned
at once to assist Madame Fosco in the preparations for the burial
of the False "Lady Glyde," having the clothes and luggage of the
true "Lady Glyde" in my possession. They were afterwards sent to
Cumberland by the conveyance which was used for the funeral. I
attended the funeral, with becoming dignity, attired in the
My narrative of these remarkable events, written under equally
remarkable circumstances, closes here. The minor precautions
which I observed in communicating with Limmeridge House are
already known, so is the magnificent success of my enterprise, so
are the solid pecuniary results which followed it. I have to
assert, with the whole force of my conviction, that the one weak
place in my scheme would never have been found out if the one weak
place in my heart had not been discovered first. Nothing but my
fatal admiration for Marian restrained me from stepping in to my
own rescue when she effected her sister's escape. I ran the risk,
and trusted in the complete destruction of Lady Glyde's identity.
If either Marian or Mr. Hartright attempted to assert that
identity, they would publicly expose themselves to the imputation
of sustaining a rank deception, they would be distrusted and
discredited accordingly, and they would therefore be powerless to
place my interests or Percival's secret in jeopardy. I committed
one error in trusting myself to such a blindfold calculation of
chances as this. I committed another when Percival had paid the
penalty of his own obstinacy and violence, by granting Lady Glyde
a second reprieve from the mad-house, and allowing Mr. Hartright a
second chance of escaping me. In brief, Fosco, at this serious
crisis, was untrue to himself. Deplorable and uncharacteristic
fault! Behold the cause, in my heart--behold, in the image of
Marian Halcombe, the first and last weakness of Fosco's life!
At the ripe age of sixty, I make this unparalleled confession.
Youths! I invoke your sympathy. Maidens! I claim your tears.
A word more, and the attention of the reader (concentrated
breathlessly on myself) shall be released.
My own mental insight informs me that three inevitable questions
will be asked here by persons of inquiring minds. They shall be
stated--they shall be answered.
First question. What is the secret of Madame Fosco's unhesitating
devotion of herself to the fulfilment of my boldest wishes, to the
furtherance of my deepest plans? I might answer this by simply
referring to my own character, and by asking, in my turn, Where,
in the history of the world, has a man of my order ever been found
without a woman in the background self-immolated on the altar of
his life? But I remember that I am writing in England, I remember
that I was married in England, and I ask if a woman's marriage
obligations in this country provide for her private opinion of her
husband's principles? No! They charge her unreservedly to love,
honour, and obey him. That is exactly what my wife has done. I
stand here on a supreme moral elevation, and I loftily assert her
accurate performance of her conjugal duties. Silence, Calumny!
Your sympathy, Wives of England, for Madame Fosco!
Second question. If Anne Catherick had not died when she did,
what should I have done? I should, in that case, have assisted
worn-out Nature in finding permanent repose. I should have opened
the doors of the Prison of Life, and have extended to the captive
(incurably afflicted in mind and body both) a happy release.
Third question. On a calm revision of all the circumstances--Is
my conduct worthy of any serious blame? Most emphatically, No!
Have I not carefully avoided exposing myself to the odium of
committing unnecessary crime? With my vast resources in chemistry,
I might have taken Lady Glyde's life. At immense personal
sacrifice I followed the dictates of my own ingenuity, my own
humanity, my own caution, and took her identity instead. Judge me
by what I might have done. How comparatively innocent! how
indirectly virtuous I appear in what I really did!
I announced on beginning it that this narrative would be a
remarkable document. It has entirely answered my expectations.
Receive these fervid lines--my last legacy to the country I leave
for ever. They are worthy of the occasion, and worthy of
THE STORY CONCLUDED BY WALTER HARTRIGHT
When I closed the last leaf of the Count's manuscript the half-
hour during which I had engaged to remain at Forest Road had
expired. Monsieur Rubelle looked at his watch and bowed. I rose
immediately, and left the agent in possession of the empty house.
I never saw him again--I never heard more of him or of his wife.
Out of the dark byways of villainy and deceit they had crawled
across our path--into the same byways they crawled back secretly
and were lost.
In a quarter of an hour after leaving Forest Road I was at home
But few words sufficed to tell Laura and Marian how my desperate
venture had ended, and what the next event in our lives was likely
to be. I left all details to be described later in the day, and
hastened back to St. John's Wood, to see the person of whom Count
Fosco had ordered the fly, when he went to meet Laura at the
The address in my possession led me to some "livery stables,"
about a quarter of a mile distant from Forest Road. The
proprietor proved to be a civil and respectable man. When I
explained that an important family matter obliged me to ask him to
refer to his books for the purpose of ascertaining a date with
which the record of his business transactions might supply me, he
offered no objection to granting my request. The book was
produced, and there, under the date of "July 26th, 1850," the
order was entered in these words--
"Brougham to Count Fosco, 5 Forest Road. Two o'clock. (John
I found on inquiry that the name of "John Owen," attached to the
entry, referred to the man who had been employed to drive the fly.
He was then at work in the stable-yard, and was sent for to see me
at my request.
"Do you remember driving a gentleman, in the month of July last,
from Number Five Forest Road to the Waterloo Bridge station?" I
"Well, sir," said the man, "I can't exactly say I do."
"Perhaps you remember the gentleman himself? Can you call to mind
driving a foreigner last summer--a tall gentleman and remarkably
fat?" The man's face brightened directly.
"I remember him, sir! The fattest gentleman as ever I see, and the
heaviest customer as ever I drove. Yes, yes--I call him to mind,
sir! We DID go to the station, and it WAS from Forest Road. There
was a parrot, or summat like it, screeching in the window. The
gentleman was in a mortal hurry about the lady's luggage, and he
gave me a handsome present for looking sharp and getting the
Getting the boxes! I recollected immediately that Laura's own
account of herself on her arrival in London described her luggage
as being collected for her by some person whom Count Fosco brought
with him to the station. This was the man.
"Did you see the lady?" I asked. "What did she look like? Was she
young or old?"
"Well, sir, what with the hurry and the crowd of people pushing
about, I can't rightly say what the lady looked like. I can't
call nothing to mind about her that I know of excepting her name."
"You remember her name?"
"Yes, sir. Her name was Lady Glyde."
"How do you come to remember that, when you have forgotten what
she looked like?"
The man smiled, and shifted his feet in some little embarrassment.
"Why, to tell you the truth, sir," he said, "I hadn't been long
married at that time, and my wife's name, before she changed it
for mine, was the same as the lady's--meaning the name of Glyde,
sir. The lady mentioned it herself. 'Is your name on your boxes,
ma'am?' says I. 'Yes,' says she, 'my name is on my luggage--it is
Lady Glyde.' 'Come! ' I says to myself, 'I've a bad head for
gentlefolks' names in general--but THIS one comes like an old
friend, at any rate.' I can't say nothing about the time, sir, it
might be nigh on a year ago, or it mightn't. But I can swear to
the stout gentleman, and swear to the lady's name."
There was no need that he should remember the time--the date was
positively established by his master's order-book. I felt at once
that the means were now in my power of striking down the whole
conspiracy at a blow with the irresistible weapon of plain fact.
Without a moment's hesitation, I took the proprietor of the livery
stables aside and told him what the real importance was of the
evidence of his order-book and the evidence of his driver. An
arrangement to compensate him for the temporary loss of the man's
services was easily made, and a copy of the entry in the book was
taken by myself, and certified as true by the master's own
signature. I left the livery stables, having settled that John
Owen was to hold himself at my disposal for the next three days,
or for a longer period if necessity required it.
I now had in my possession all the papers that I wanted--the
district registrar's own copy of the certificate of death, and Sir
Percival's dated letter to the Count, being safe in my pocket-
With this written evidence about me, and with the coachman's
answers fresh in my memory, I next turned my steps, for the first
time since the beginning of all my inquiries, in the direction of
Mr. Kyrle's office. One of my objects in paying him this second
visit was, necessarily, to tell him what I had done. The other
was to warn him of my resolution to take my wife to Limmeridge the
next morning, and to have her publicly received and recognised in
her uncle's house. I left it to Mr. Kyrle to decide under these
circumstances, and in Mr. Gilmore's absence, whether he was or was
not bound, as the family solicitor, to be present on that occasion
in the family interests.
I will say nothing of Mr. Kyrle's amazement, or of the terms in
which he expressed his opinion of my conduct from the first stage
of the investigation to the last. It is only necessary to mention
that he at once decided on accompanying us to Cumberland.
We started the next morning by the early train. Laura, Marian,
Mr. Kyrle, and myself in one carriage, and John Owen, with a clerk
from Mr. Kyrle's office, occupying places in another. On reaching
the Limmeridge station we went first to the farmhouse at Todd's
Corner. It was my firm determination that Laura should not enter
her uncle's house till she appeared there publicly recognised as
his niece. I left Marian to settle the question of accommodation
with Mrs. Todd, as soon as the good woman had recovered from the
bewilderment of hearing what our errand was in Cumberland, and I
arranged with her husband that John Owen was to be committed to
the ready hospitality of the farm-servants. These preliminaries
completed, Mr. Kyrle and I set forth together for Limmeridge
I cannot write at any length of our interview with Mr. Fairlie,
for I cannot recall it to mind without feelings of impatience and
contempt, which make the scene, even in remembrance only, utterly
repulsive to me. I prefer to record simply that I carried my
point. Mr. Fairlie attempted to treat us on his customary plan.
We passed without notice his polite insolence at the outset of the
interview. We heard without sympathy the protestations with which
he tried next to persuade us that the disclosure of the conspiracy
had overwhelmed him. He absolutely whined and whimpered at last
like a fretful child. "How was he to know that his niece was
alive when he was told that she was dead? He would welcome dear
Laura with pleasure, if we would only allow him time to recover.
Did we think he looked as if he wanted hurrying into his grave?
No. Then, why hurry him?" He reiterated these remonstrances at
every available opportunity, until I checked them once for all, by
placing him firmly between two inevitable alternatives. I gave
him his choice between doing his niece justice on my terms, or
facing the consequence of a public assertion of her existence in a
court of law. Mr. Kyrle, to whom he turned for help, told him
plainly that he must decide the question then and there.
Characteristically choosing the alternative which promised soonest
to release him from all personal anxiety, he announced with a
sudden outburst of energy, that he was not strong enough to bear
any more bullying, and that we might do as we pleased.
Mr. Kyrle and I at once went downstairs, and agreed upon a form of
letter which was to be sent round to the tenants who had attended
the false funeral, summoning them, in Mr. Fairlie's name, to
assemble in Limmeridge House on the next day but one. An order
referring to the same date was also written, directing a statuary
in Carlisle to send a man to Limmeridge churchyard for the purpose
of erasing an inscription--Mr. Kyrle, who had arranged to sleep in
the house, undertaking that Mr. Fairlie should hear these letters
read to him, and should sign them with his own hand.
I occupied the interval day at the farm in writing a plain
narrative of the conspiracy, and in adding to it a statement of
the practical contradiction which facts offered to the assertion
of Laura's death. This I submitted to Mr. Kyrle before I read it
the next day to the assembled tenants. We also arranged the form
in which the evidence should be presented at the close of the
reading. After these matters were settled, Mr. Kyrle endeavoured
to turn the conversation next to Laura's affairs. Knowing, and
desiring to know nothing of those affairs, and doubting whether he
would approve, as a man of business, of my conduct in relation to
my wife's life-interest in the legacy left to Madame Fosco, I
begged Mr. Kyrle to excuse me if I abstained from discussing the
subject. It was connected, as I could truly tell him, with those
sorrows and troubles of the past which we never referred to among
ourselves, and which we instinctively shrank from discussing with
My last labour, as the evening approached, was to obtain "The
Narrative of the Tombstone," by taking a copy of the false
inscription on the grave before it was erased.
The day came--the day when Laura once more entered the familiar
breakfast-room at Lummeridge House. All the persons assembled
rose from their seats as Marian and I led her in. A perceptible
shock of surprise, an audible murmur of interest ran through them,
at the sight of her face. Mr. Fairlie was present (by my express
stipulation), with Mr. Kyrle by his side. His valet stood behind
him with a smelling-bottle ready in one hand, and a white
handkerchief, saturated with eau-de-Cologne, in the other.
I opened the proceedings by publicly appealing to Mr. Fairlie to
say whether I appeared there with his authority and under his
express sanction. He extended an arm, on either side, to Mr.
Kyrle and to his valet--was by them assisted to stand on his legs,
and then expressed himself in these terms: "Allow me to present
Mr. Hartright. I am as great an invalid as ever, and he is so
very obliging as to speak for me. The subject is dreadfully
embarrassing. Please hear him, and don't make a noise!" With
those words he slowly sank back again into the chair, and took
refuge in his scented pocket-handkerchief.
The disclosure of the conspiracy followed, after I had offered my
preliminary explanation, first of all, in the fewest and the
plainest words. I was there present (I informed my hearers) to
declare, first, that my wife, then sitting by me, was the daughter
of the late Mr. Philip Fairlie; secondly, to prove by positive
facts, that the funeral which they had attended in Limmeridge
churchyard was the funeral of another woman; thirdly, to give them
a plain account of how it had all happened. Without further
preface, I at once read the narrative of the conspiracy,
describing it in clear outline, and dwelling only upon the
pecuniary motive for it, in order to avoid complicating my
statement by unnecessary reference to Sir Percival's secret. This
done, I reminded my audience of the date on the inscription in the
churchyard (the 25th), and confirmed its correctness by producing
the certificate of death. I then read them Sir Percival's letter
of the 25th, announcing his wife's intended journey from Hampshire
to London on the 26th. I next showed that she had taken that
journey, by the personal testimony of the driver of the fly, and I
proved that she had performed it on the appointed day, by the
order-book at the livery stables. Marian then added her own
statement of the meeting between Laura and herself at the mad-
house, and of her sister's escape. After which I closed the
proceedings by informing the persons present of Sir Percival's
death and of my marriage.
Mr. Kyrle rose when I resumed my seat, and declared, as the legal
adviser of the family, that my case was proved by the plainest
evidence he had ever heard in his life. As he spoke those words,
I put my arm round Laura, and raised her so that she was plainly
visible to every one in the room. "Are you all of the same
opinion?" I asked, advancing towards them a few steps, and
pointing to my wife.
The effect of the question was electrical. Far down at the lower
end of the room one of the oldest tenants on the estate started to
his feet, and led the rest with him in an instant. I see the man
now, with his honest brown face and his iron-grey hair, mounted on
the window-seat, waving his heavy riding-whip over his head, and
leading the cheers. "There she is, alive and hearty--God bless
her! Gi' it tongue, lads! Gi' it tongue!" The shout that answered
him, reiterated again and again, was the sweetest music I ever
heard. The labourers in the village and the boys from the school,
assembled on the lawn, caught up the cheering and echoed it back
on us. The farmers' wives clustered round Laura, and struggled
which should be first to shake hands with her, and to implore her,
with the tears pouring over their own cheeks, to bear up bravely
and not to cry. She was so completely overwhelmed, that I was
obliged to take her from them, and carry her to the door. There I
gave her into Marian's care--Marian, who had never failed us yet,
whose courageous self-control did not fail us now. Left by myself
at the door, I invited all the persons present (after thanking
them in Laura's name and mine) to follow me to the churchyard, and
see the false inscription struck off the tombstone with their own
They all left the house, and all joined the throng of villagers
collected round the grave, where the statuary's man was waiting
for us. In a breathless silence, the first sharp stroke of the
steel sounded on the marble. Not a voice was heard--not a soul
moved, till those three words, "Laura, Lady Glyde," had vanished
from sight. Then there was a great heave of relief among the
crowd, as if they felt that the last fetters of the conspiracy had
been struck off Laura herself, and the assembly slowly withdrew.
It was late in the day before the whole inscription was erased.
One line only was afterwards engraved in its place: "Anne
Catherick, July 25th, 1850."
I returned to Limmeridge House early enough in the evening to take
leave of Mr. Kyrle. He and his clerk, and the driver of the fly,
went back to London by the night train. On their departure an
insolent message was delivered to me from Mr. Fairlie--who had
been carried from the room in a shattered condition, when the
first outbreak of cheering answered my appeal to the tenantry.
The message conveyed to us "Mr. Fairlie's best congratulations,"
and requested to know whether "we contemplated stopping in the
house." I sent back word that the only object for which we had
entered his doors was accomplished--that I contemplated stopping
in no man's house but my own--and that Mr. Fairlie need not
entertain the slightest apprehension of ever seeing us or hearing
from us again. We went back to our friends at the farm to rest
that night, and the next morning--escorted to the station, with
the heartiest enthusiasm and good will, by the whole village and
by all the farmers in the neighbourhood--we returned to London.
As our view of the Cumberland hills faded in the distance, I
thought of the first disheartening circumstances under which the
long struggle that was now past and over had been pursued. It was
strange to look back and to see, now, that the poverty which had
denied us all hope of assistance had been the indirect means of
our success, by forcing me to act for myself. If we had been rich
enough to find legal help, what would have been the result? The
gain (on Mr. Kyrle's own showing) would have been more than
doubtful--the loss, judging by the plain test of events as they
had really happened, certain. The law would never have obtained
me my interview with Mrs. Catherick. The law would never have
made Pesca the means of forcing a confession from the Count.
Two more events remain to be added to the chain before it reaches
fairly from the outset of the story to the close.
While our new sense of freedom from the long oppression of the
past was still strange to us, I was sent for by the friend who had
given me my first employment in wood engraving, to receive from
him a fresh testimony of his regard for my welfare. He had been
commissioned by his employers to go to Paris, and to examine for
them a fresh discovery in the practical application of his Art,
the merits of which they were anxious to ascertain. His own
engagements had not allowed him leisure time to undertake the
errand, and he had most kindly suggested that it should be
transferred to me. I could have no hesitation in thankfully
accepting the offer, for if I acquitted myself of my commission as
I hoped I should, the result would be a permanent engagement on
the illustrated newspaper, to which I was now only occasionally
I received my instructions and packed up for the journey the next
day. On leaving Laura once more (under what changed
circumstances!) in her sister's care, a serious consideration
recurred to me, which had more than once crossed my wife's mind,
as well as my own, already--I mean the consideration of Marian's
future. Had we any right to let our selfish affection accept the
devotion of all that generous life? Was it not our duty, our best
expression of gratitude, to forget ourselves, and to think only of
HER? I tried to say this when we were alone for a moment, before
I went away. She took my hand, and silenced me at the first
"After all that we three have suffered together," she said "there
can be no parting between us till the last parting of all. My
heart and my happiness, Walter, are with Laura and you. Wait a
little till there are children's voices at your fireside. I will
teach them to speak for me in THEIR language, and the first lesson
they say to their father and mother shall be--We can't spare our
My journey to Paris was not undertaken alone. At the eleventh
hour Pesca decided that he would accompany me. He had not
recovered his customary cheerfulness since the night at the Opera,
and he determined to try what a week's holiday would do to raise
I performed the errand entrusted to me, and drew out the necessary
report, on the fourth day from our arrival in Paris. The fifth
day I arranged to devote to sight-seeing and amusements in Pesca's
Our hotel had been too full to accommodate us both on the same
floor. My room was on the second story, and Pesca's was above me,
on the third. On the morning of the fifth day I went upstairs to
see if the Professor was ready to go out. Just before I reached
the landing I saw his door opened from the inside--a long,
delicate, nervous hand (not my friend's hand certainly) held it
ajar. At the same time I heard Pesca's voice saying eagerly, in
low tones, and in his own language--"I remember the name, but I
don't know the man. You saw at the Opera he was so changed that I
could not recognise him. I will forward the report--I can do no
more." "No more need be done," answered the second voice. The
door opened wide, and the light-haired man with the scar on his
cheek--the man I had seen following Count Fosco's cab a week
before--came out. He bowed as I drew aside to let him pass--his
face was fearfully pale--and he held fast by the banisters as he
descended the stairs.
I pushed open the door and entered Pesca's room. He was crouched
up, in the strangest manner, in a corner of the sofa. He seemed
to shrink from me when I approached him.
"Am I disturbing you?" I asked. "I did not know you had a friend
with you till I saw him come out."
"No friend," said Pesca eagerly. "I see him to-day for the first
time and the last."
"I am afraid he has brought you bad news?"
"Horrible news, Walter! Let us go back to London--I don't want to
stop here--I am sorry I ever came. The misfortunes of my youth
are very hard upon me," he said, turning his face to the wall,
"very hard upon me in my later time. I try to forget them--and
they will not forget ME!"
"We can't return, I am afraid, before the afternoon," I replied.
"Would you like to come out with me in the meantime?"
"No, my friend, I will wait here. But let us go back to-day--pray
let us go back."
I left him with the assurance that he should leave Paris that
afternoon. We had arranged the evening before to ascend the
Cathedral of Notre Dame, with Victor Hugo's noble romance for our
guide. There was nothing in the French capital that I was more
anxious to see, and I departed by myself for the church.
Approaching Notre Dame by the river-side, I passed on my way the
terrible dead-house of Paris--the Morgue. A great crowd clamoured
and heaved round the door. There was evidently something inside
which excited the popular curiosity, and fed the popular appetite
I should have walked on to the church if the conversation of two
men and a woman on the outskirts of the crowd had not caught my
ear. They had just come out from seeing the sight in the Morgue,
and the account they were giving of the dead body to their
neighbours described it as the corpse of a man--a man of immense
size, with a strange mark on his left arm.
The moment those words reached me I stopped and took my place with
the crowd going in. Some dim foreshadowing of the truth had
crossed my mind when I heard Pesca's voice through the open door,
and when I saw the stranger's face as he passed me on the stairs
of the hotel. Now the truth itself was revealed to me--revealed
in the chance words that had just reached my ears. Other
vengeance than mine had followed that fated man from the theatre
to his own door--from his own door to his refuge in Paris. Other
vengeance than mine had called him to the day of reckoning, and
had exacted from him the penalty of his life. The moment when I
had pointed him out to Pesca at the theatre in the hearing of that
stranger by our side, who was looking for him too--was the moment
that sealed his doom. I remembered the struggle in my own heart,
when he and I stood face to face--the struggle before I could let
him escape me--and shuddered as I recalled it.
Slowly, inch by inch, I pressed in with the crowd, moving nearer
and nearer to the great glass screen that parts the dead from the
living at the Morgue--nearer and nearer, till I was close behind
the front row of spectators, and could look in.
There he lay, unowned, unknown, exposed to the flippant curiosity
of a French mob! There was the dreadful end of that long life of
degraded ability and heartless crime! Hushed in the sublime repose
of death, the broad, firm, massive face and head fronted us so
grandly that the chattering Frenchwomen about me lifted their
hands in admiration, and cried in shrill chorus, "Ah, what a
handsome man!" The wound that had killed him had been struck with
a knife or dagger exactly over his heart. No other traces of
violence appeared about the body except on the left arm, and
there, exactly in the place where I had seen the brand on Pesca's
arm, were two deep cuts in the shape of the letter T, which
entirely obliterated the mark of the Brotherhood. His clothes,
hung above him, showed that he had been himself conscious of his
danger--they were clothes that had disguised him as a French
artisan. For a few moments, but not for longer, I forced myself
to see these things through the glass screen. I can write of them
at no greater length, for I saw no more.
The few facts in connection with his death which I subsequently
ascertained (partly from Pesca and partly from other sources), may
be stated here before the subject is dismissed from these pages.
His body was taken out of the Seine in the disguise which I have
described, nothing being found on him which revealed his name, his
rank, or his place of abode. The hand that struck him was never
traced, and the circumstances under which he was killed were never
discovered. I leave others to draw their own conclusions in
reference to the secret of the assassination as I have drawn mine.
When I have intimated that the foreigner with the scar was a
member of the Brotherhood (admitted in Italy after Pesca's
departure from his native country), and when I have further added
that the two cuts, in the form of a T, on the left arm of the dead
man, signified the Italian word "Traditore," and showed that
justice had been done by the Brotherhood on a traitor, I have
contributed all that I know towards elucidating the mystery of
Count Fosco's death.
The body was identified the day after I had seen it by means of an
anonymous letter addressed to his wife. He was buried by Madame
Fosco in the cemetery of Pere la Chaise. Fresh funeral wreaths
continue to this day to be hung on the ornamental bronze railings
round the tomb by the Countess's own hand. She lives in the
strictest retirement at Versailles. Not long since she published
a biography of her deceased husband. The work throws no light
whatever on the name that was really his own or on the secret
history of his life--it is almost entirely devoted to the praise
of his domestic virtues, the assertion of his rare abilities, and
the enumeration of the honours conferred on him. The
circumstances attending his death are very briefly noticed, and
are summed up on the last page in this sentence--"His life was one
long assertion of the rights of the aristocracy and the sacred
principles of Order, and he died a martyr to his cause."
The summer and autumn passed after my return from Paris, and
brought no changes with them which need be noticed here. We lived
so simply and quietly that the income which I was now steadily
earning sufficed for all our wants.
In the February of the new year our first child was born--a son.
My mother and sister and Mrs. Vesey were our guests at the little
christening party, and Mrs. Clements was present to assist my wife
on the same occasion. Marian was our boy's godmother, and Pesca
and Mr. Gilmore (the latter acting by proxy) were his godfathers.
I may add here that when Mr. Gilmore returned to us a year later
he assisted the design of these pages, at my request, by writing
the Narrative which appears early in the story under his name, and
which, though first in order of precedence, was thus, in order of
time, the last that I received.
The only event in our lives which now remains to be recorded,
occurred when our little Walter was six months old.
At that time I was sent to Ireland to make sketches for certain
forthcoming illustrations in the newspaper to which I was
attached. I was away for nearly a fortnight, corresponding
regularly with my wife and Marian, except during the last three
days of my absence, when my movements were too uncertain to enable
me to receive letters. I performed the latter part of my journey
back at night, and when I reached home in the morning, to my utter
astonishment there was no one to receive me. Laura and Marian and
the child had left the house on the day before my return.
A note from my wife, which was given to me by the servant, only
increased my surprise, by informing me that they had gone to
Limmeridge House. Marian had prohibited any attempt at written
explanations--I was entreated to follow them the moment I came
back--complete enlightenment awaited me on my arrival in
Cumberland--and I was forbidden to feel the slightest anxiety in
the meantime. There the note ended. It was still early enough to
catch the morning train. I reached Limmeridge House the same
My wife and Marian were both upstairs. They had established
themselves (by way of completing my amazement) in the little room
which had been once assigned to me for a studio, when I was
employed on Mr. Fairlie's drawings. On the very chair which I
used to occupy when I was at work Marian was sitting now, with the
child industriously sucking his coral upon her lap--while Laura
was standing by the well-remembered drawing-table which I had so
often used, with the little album that I had filled for her in
past times open under her hand.
"What in the name of heaven has brought you here?" I asked. "Does
Mr. Fairlie know----?"
Marian suspended the question on my lips by telling me that Mr.
Fairlie was dead. He had been struck by paralysis, and had never
rallied after the shock. Mr. Kyrle had informed them of his
death, and had advised them to proceed immediately to Limmeridge
Some dim perception of a great change dawned on my mind. Laura
spoke before I had quite realised it. She stole close to me to
enjoy the surprise which was still expressed in my face.
"My darling Walter," she said, "must we really account for our
boldness in coming here? I am afraid, love, I can only explain it
by breaking through our rule, and referring to the past."
"There is not the least necessity for doing anything of the kind,"
said Marian. "We can be just as explicit, and much more
interesting, by referring to the future." She rose and held up the
child kicking and crowing in her arms. "Do you know who this is,
Walter?" she asked, with bright tears of happiness gathering in
"Even MY bewilderment has its limits," I replied. "I think I can
still answer for knowing my own child."
"Child!" she exclaimed, with all her easy gaiety of old times.
"Do you talk in that familiar manner of one of the landed gentry
of England? Are you aware, when I present this illustrious baby to
your notice, in whose presence you stand? Evidently not! Let me
make two eminent personages known to one another: Mr. Walter
Hartright--THE HEIR OF LIMMERIDGE."
So she spoke. In writing those last words, I have written all.
The pen falters in my hand. The long, happy labour of many months
is over. Marian was the good angel of our lives--let Marian end
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