The Woman in White
Part 9 out of 14
This was very rude. I was naturally shocked at it.
"Are you aware, sir," I said, "that you are talking of a
"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 Glyde's, sir, if he was
not a member of the highest aristocracy--excepting the English
aristocracy, 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 nobleman 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 understand? Very well, then, we may go upstairs.
Is the nurse there? I'll say a word to her before she goes into
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 questions 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
suddenly, but I never found her out in any suspicious action.
Lady Glyde, who watched her as attentively 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 forwards 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 understood the duties of a sick-room--but with these
drawbacks, 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 days 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
His lordship spoke with extreme feeling and kindness. But poor
Lady Glyde'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 without 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! Do you think Mr. Dawson is wrong? He told me himself this
morning that there was no fear, and no need to send for another
"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 appearance of
despair, for which I was quite unable to account.
"HIS advice!" she said to herself. "God help us--HIS advice!"
The Count was away from Blackwater Park, as nearly as I remember,
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. Occasionally 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 Halcombe, 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 husband--had been near him at this time, cheering moral
progress might have been made with Sir Percival. I seldom find
myself mistaken on a point of this sort, having had experience to
guide me in my happy married days.
Her ladyship the Countess, who was now the only company for Sir
Percival downstairs, 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 upstairs 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) make 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 Glyde, 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 anxiously 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 morning 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 overpowered 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 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 Halcombe's father, and he saw
her in the presence of a female relative, Lady Glyde's aunt. Mr.
Dawson nevertheless protested 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 wandering 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 expression 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 asked.
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.
We were aware, I answered, that the malady was considered
infectious. He stopped me before I could add anything more.
"It is typhus fever," he said.
In the minute that passed, while these questions and answers were
going on, Mr. Dawson recovered himself, and addressed the Count
with 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
"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
"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 your 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 Glyde
on the threshold.
"I MUST 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 go in. On all other occasions he was the
last man in the world to forget anything, but in the surprise of
the moment he apparently forgot the danger of infection from
typhus, and the urgent necessity of forcing Lady Glyde to take
proper care of herself.
To my astonishment Mr. Dawson 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 arms and
sank forward. She had fainted. 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 Glyde'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
downstairs, and sent up from time to time to make their inquiries.
At last, between five and six o'clock, to our great relief, the
He was a younger man than Mr. Dawson, very serious and very
decided. What he thought of the previous treatment 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 examining 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 management 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 impossible 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 was a terribly trying
time. Lady Glyde (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 given 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 dispute 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 circumstances, 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 downstairs.
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 ever remember to
have derived from it before.
The effect of the good news on poor Lady Glyde 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
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 convalescence 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 cannot 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 withdraw
from his attendance at Blackwater Park if the Count's interference
was not peremptorily suppressed 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 professional 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 meanwhile 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 Glyde. 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 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 library. 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 you in charge, of course, as
usual. As soon as Lady Glyde 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 useless
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 indoor
servants under my charge without the usual month's warning?" I
"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
"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 indoor servants to-morrow, except
Porcher. She is as strong as a horse--and we'll make her work
like a horse."
"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
"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. I had too much self-respect to defend myself
under so gross an imputation. Christian consideration for the
helpless position of Miss Halcombe and Lady Glyde, and for the
serious inconvenience which my sudden absence might inflict on
them, alone prevented me from resigning my situation on the spot.
I rose immediately. It would have lowered me in my own estimation
to have permitted the interview to continue a moment longer.
"After that last remark, 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
The next day the servants left in a body. Sir Percival himself
dismissed the grooms and stablemen, sending them, with all the
horses but one, to London. Of the whole domestic establishment,
indoors 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.
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 something 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 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 circumstances--
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 ability, 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 climate 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 objection.
I could only venture to represent the serious inconvenience of my
leaving Blackwater Park in the extraordinary absence of all the
indoor 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 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 Glyde's present condition, leave her niece, and that Sir
Percival and the Count had business to transact together which
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 Glyde.
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
was 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 Halcombe 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 Glyde, 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 Glyde'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 bowed to them and quitted the
house, with not a living soul left in the servants' offices but
Every one must feel what I have felt myself since that time, 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 permitted to give
were much too low for the purpose, even if I had been able to
discover what I wanted. I accordingly returned 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 informed 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 particular in leaving
his kind compliments to me. When I ventured on asking Sir
Percival whether Lady Glyde 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 downstairs.
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 Glyde. I went upstairs at once, and met
Margaret on the bedroom landing. Her services 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 I slouching, sulky
way, which left me no wiser than I was before.
I did not choose to repeat the question, 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
I found that her ladyship had certainly gained in health during
the last few days. Although still sadly weak and nervous, she was
able to get up without assistance, and to walk slowly about her
room, feeling no worse effect from the exertion than a slight
sensation of fatigue. She had been made a little 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 Glyde.
"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
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
"I certainly mean it," he answered.
"In her state, Sir Percival! Without mentioning her intentions to
Before he could reply her ladyship recovered herself a little and
"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 yourself. 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 was 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 examined Lady Glyde 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 passage, speaking to
"What 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 strong 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."
"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 MY opinion, your ladyship."
Sir Percival, on his side, instantly turned and appealed to me
"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 go? 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 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-
"She would have bid you good-bye 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 downstairs and ask questions in the dining-room. These
worries upset me. I want 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 had 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, I must see that she
is alive and well with my own eyes. Come! come down with me to
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
downstairs 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 we 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 any one." After speaking those strange words
loudly and sternly, he filled himself another glass of wine 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. Indeed he
never once looked at her throughout the conversation. 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
"To tell him to expect you by the midday 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
Lady Glyde'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 Cumberland 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 offer 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
"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."
"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 awkwardly
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 Glyde, 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 sympathised with Lady Glyde in other respects, I could not
sympathise 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 effect on her. She still objected to staying a
night in London, she still implored her husband not to write to
"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 it foe you. The arrangement is made and there is
an end of it. You are only wanted to do what Miss Halcombe has
done for 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
He started to his feet, and suddenly walked out into the verandah
through the open glass doors.
"Will your ladyship excuse me," I whispered, "if I suggest 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 upstairs 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
Glyde'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, with a look of
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 continuing to conceal what
had happened (as he had done in my presence) from the knowledge of
Her ladyship started up, with every appearance of being
additionally agitated and alarmed by 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 consent. 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 sleep under his roof. Put my misery of
suspense about Marian gives me the courage 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 Limmeridge, 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 downstairs. 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 own risk, however, I ended by giving my
consent. If the letter had been addressed to a stranger, or to
any one 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 wish, 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 Glyde'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 situation, I had no right to expect that she should
do so. It matters little 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 obliged
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 communicated 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 holding 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 YOU?"
His face turned of an awful 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 drew 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 through the lodge-gates, "that your ladyship goes
"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 answered, "Most willingly,
"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
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 platform. 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 remember any one. Good-bye--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-bye, my lady," I said, putting her into the carriage, and
trying to cheer her; "good-bye, for the present only; good-bye,
with my best and kindest wishes for happier times."
She shook her head, and shuddered as she settled herself in the
carriage. The guard closed the door. "Do you believe in dreams?"
she whispered to me at the window. "My 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 sorrowfully 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 yet 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
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.
"You here!" I gasped out. "Not gone to London! Not gone to
Mrs. Rubelle smelt at her flowers with a smile of malicious pity.
"Certainly not," she said. "I have 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
"Miss Halcombe, 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,
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
"Quite right. I don't blame you--I only asked the question." 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 followed 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 that had
passed since we left the garden, helped me to recover my spirits a
little. What I might have done at this critical moment, if all my
life had been passed 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, with great
deliberation, towards the house door.
"Well," said Sir Percival sharply, "what 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
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 know?"
"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 well as I
do she would never have gone away if she had been told Miss
Halcombe was still left here. She has been deceived in her own
interests--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--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
He poured out these words fiercely, all in a breath, walking
backwards and forwards, and striking about him in the air with his
Nothing that he said or did shook my opinion of the disgraceful
series of falsehoods that he had told in my presence the day
before, or of the cruel deception by which he had separated Lady
Glyde from her sister, and had sent her uselessly to London, when
she was half distracted 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
"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 study 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
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 distinctly
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 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 successor. 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 doorstep 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! I 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
"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
"Do you leave to-day?" I asked, to make sure of her.
"Now that you have taken charge, ma'am, I leave in half an hour's
time. Sir Percival has kindly placed at my disposition the
gardener, and the chaise, whenever I want them. I shall want them
in half an hour's time to go to the station. I am packed up in
anticipation already. I wish you good-day, ma'am."
She dropped a brisk curtsey, and walked back along the gallery,
humming a little tune, and keeping time to it cheerfully with the
nosegay in her hand. I am sincerely thankful to say that was the
last I saw of Mrs. Rubelle.
When I went into the room Miss Halcombe was asleep. I looked at
her anxiously, as she lay in the dismal, high, old-fashioned bed.
She was certainly not in any respect altered for the worse since I
had seen her last. She had not been neglected, I am bound to
admit, in any way that I could perceive. The room was dreary, and
dusty, and dark, but the window (looking on a solitary court-yard
at the back of the house) was opened to let in the fresh air, and
all that could be done to make the place comfortable had been
done. The whole cruelty of Sir Percival's deception had fallen on
poor Lady Glyde. The only ill-usage which either he or Mrs.
Rubelle had inflicted on Miss Halcombe consisted, so far as I
could see, in the first offence of hiding her away.
I stole back, leaving the sick lady still peacefully asleep, to
give the gardener instructions about bringing the doctor. I
begged the man, after he had taken Mrs. Rubelle to the station, to
drive round by Mr. Dawson's, and leave a message in my name,
asking him to call and see me. I knew he would come on my
account, and I knew he would remain when he found Count Fosco had
left the house.
In due course of time the gardener returned, and said that he had
driven round by Mr. Dawson's residence, after leaving Mrs. Rubelle
at the station. The doctor sent me word that he was poorly in
health himself, but that he would call, if possible, the next
Having delivered his message the gardener was about to withdraw,
but I stopped him to request that he would come back before dark,
and sit up that night, in one of the empty bedrooms, so as to be
within call in case I wanted him. He understood readily enough my
unwillingness to be left alone all night in the most desolate part
of that desolate house, and we arranged that he should come in
between eight and nine.
He came punctually, and I found cause to be thankful that I had
adopted the precaution of calling him in. Before midnight Sir
Percival's strange temper broke out in the most violent and most
alarming manner, and if the gardener had not been on the spot to
pacify him on the instant, I am afraid to think what might have
Almost all the afternoon and evening he had been walking about the
house and grounds in an unsettled, excitable manner, having, in
all probability, as I thought, taken an excessive quantity of wine
at his solitary dinner. However that may be, I heard his voice
calling loudly and angrily in the new wing of the house, as I was
taking a turn backwards and forwards along the gallery the last
thing at night. The gardener immediately ran down to him, and I
closed the door of communication, to keep the alarm, if possible,
from reaching Miss Halcombe's ears. It was full half an hour
before the gardener came back. He declared that his master was
quite out of his senses--not through the excitement of drink, as I
had supposed, but through a kind of panic or frenzy of mind, for
which it was impossible to account. He had found Sir Percival
walking backwards and forwards by himself in the hall, swearing,
with every appearance of the most violent passion, that he would
not stop another minute alone in such a dungeon as his own house,
and that he would take the first stage of his journey immediately
in the middle of the night. The gardener, on approaching him, had
been hunted out, with oaths and threats, to get the horse and
chaise ready instantly. In a quarter of an hour Sir Percival had
joined him in the yard, had jumped into the chaise, and, lashing
the horse into a gallop, had driven himself away, with his face as
pale as ashes in the moonlight. The gardener had heard him
shouting and cursing at the lodge-keeper to get up and open the
gate--had heard the wheels roll furiously on again in the still
night, when the gate was unlocked--and knew no more.
The next day, or a day or two after, I forget which, the chaise
was brought back from Knowlesbury, our nearest town, by the ostler
at the old inn. Sir Percival had stopped there, and had
afterwards left by the train--for what destination the man could
not tell. I never received any further information, either from
himself or from any one else, of Sir Percival's proceedings, and I
am not even aware, at this moment, whether he is in England or out
of it. He and I have not met since he drove away like an escaped
criminal from his own house, and it is my fervent hope and prayer
that we may never meet again.
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 artificially 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 disposal 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 Glyde'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.
In the first place, I wish to record my own personal conviction
that no blame whatever, in connection 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 foreigner and a
stranger, he was not to blame. If he was concerned in bringing
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
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 remember now that it was towards the
latter part of July. We all know the difficulty, after a lapse of
time, of fixing precisely 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 Lady Glyde'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 carriage
THE STORY CONTINUED IN SEVERAL NARRATIVES
1. THE NARRATIVE OF HESTER PINHORN, COOK IN THE SERVICE OF COUNT
[Taken down from her own statement]
I am sorry 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 language right as he goes
on, 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, downstairs, that company was expected from
The company was my mistress's niece, and the back bedroom 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 my 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 when 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, I 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 Goodricke's and Garth's, who worked together
as partners, and had a good name and connection, 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 as helpless as a new-
born babe. We then got her to bed. Mr. Goodricke went 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 recommend you to write
to Lady Glyde'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 Glyde! poor dear Lady Glyde!" 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 upstairs 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, with 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 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
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 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 woke, 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 window from
the garden, with his great big curly-brimmed white hat on, to go
"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 you, 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 way. 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 was 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 he came downstairs, except that he would call again at five
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 to 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
I let him in, and went upstairs 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, and 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 when 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 downstairs, 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
"Your master is a foreigner," says Mr. Goodricke, when my mistress
had left us. "Does he understand about registering 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
person?" 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?" says I. "No," says he, "nothing; she must have
suffered sadly before ever I saw her--the 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 respectable-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
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
In conclusion. I have to say, in answer to questions put to me--
(1) 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
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.
2. THE NARRATIVE OF THE DOCTOR
To the Registrar of the Sub-District in which the undermentioned
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 July 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.
Profl. Title. M.R.C.S. Eng., L.S.A.
Address, 12 Croydon Gardens
St. John's Wood.
3. THE NARRATIVE 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 afterwards 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 Limmeridge House, in this parish.
Born March 27th, 1829; married December 22nd, 1849; died July
5. THE NARRATIVE OF WALTER HARTRIGHT
Early in the summer of 1850 I and my surviving companions 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 the thirteenth
day of October 1850. 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 had 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 remembrance of the sorrow and
the tenderness of that memorable time. I had not ceased to feel
the one irreparable disappointment 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 appearance 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 receive any
tidings of me for months past. Early in the morning I sent a
letter to the Hampstead Cottage, and followed it myself in an
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 no concealments from each other. She knew how the hope of
my life 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 restrainedly--
"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
* * * * * * * * * *
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 THEM 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
It was a quiet autumn afternoon when I stopped at the 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 warm and still--the peacefulness of the lonely country was
overshadowed 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 garden 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
grey 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 newly-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!
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