The Black Robe
The Dead Alive
A Fair Penitent
The Fallen Leaves
The Frozen Deep
The Guilty River
The Haunted Hotel
Heart and Science
Hide and Seek
I Say No
The Law and the Lady
The Legacy of Cain
Man and Wife
Miss or Mrs.?
My Lady's Money
The New Magdalen
Poor Miss Finch
The Queen of Hearts
Rambles Beyond Railways
A Rogue's Life
THE TWO DESTINIES
The Woman in White
I address these lines—written in India—to my relatives in England.
My object is to explain the motive which has induced me to refuse the right hand of friendship to my cousin, John Herncastle. The reserve which I have hitherto maintained in this matter has been misinterpreted by members of my family whose good opinion I cannot consent to forfeit. I request them to suspend their decision until they have read my narrative. And I declare, on my word of honour, that what I am now about to write is, strictly and literally, the truth.
The private difference between my cousin and me took its rise in a great public event in which we were both concerned—the storming of Seringapatam, under General Baird, on the 4th of May, 1799.
In order that the circumstances may be clearly understood, I must revert for a moment to the period before the assault, and to the stories current in our camp of the treasure in jewels and gold stored up in the Palace of Seringapatam.
One of the wildest of these stories related to a Yellow Diamond—a famous gem in the native annals of India.
The earliest known traditions describe the stone as having been set in the forehead of the four-handed Indian god who typifies the Moon. Partly from its peculiar colour, partly from a superstition which represented it as feeling the influence of the deity whom it adorned, and growing and lessening in lustre with the waxing and waning of the moon, it first gained the name by which it continues to be known in India to this day—the name of THE MOONSTONE. A similar superstition was once prevalent, as I have heard, in ancient Greece and Rome; not applying, however (as in India), to a diamond devoted to the service of a god, but to a semi-transparent stone of the inferior order of gems, supposed to be affected by the lunar influences—the moon, in this latter case also, giving the name by which the stone is still known to collectors in our own time.
The adventures of the Yellow Diamond begin with the eleventh century of the Christian era.
At that date, the Mohammedan conqueror, Mahmoud of Ghizni, crossed India; seized on the holy city of Somnauth; and stripped of its treasures the famous temple, which had stood for centuries—the shrine of Hindoo pilgrimage, and the wonder of the Eastern world.
Of all the deities worshipped in the temple, the moon-god alone escaped the rapacity of the conquering Mohammedans. Preserved by three Brahmins, the inviolate deity, bearing the Yellow Diamond in its forehead, was removed by night, and was transported to the second of the sacred cities of India—the city of Benares.
Here, in a new shrine—in a hall inlaid with precious stones, under a roof supported by pillars of gold—the moon-god was set up and worshipped. Here, on the night when the shrine was completed, Vishnu the Preserver appeared to the three Brahmins in a dream.
The deity breathed the breath of his divinity on the Diamond in the forehead of the god. And the Brahmins knelt and hid their faces in their robes. The deity commanded that the Moonstone should be watched, from that time forth, by three priests in turn, night and day, to the end of the generations of men. And the Brahmins heard, and bowed before his will. The deity predicted certain disaster to the presumptuous mortal who laid hands on the sacred gem, and to all of his house and name who received it after him. And the Brahmins caused the prophecy to be written over the gates of the shrine in letters of gold.
One age followed another—and still, generation after generation, the successors of the three Brahmins watched their priceless Moonstone, night and day. One age followed another until the first years of the eighteenth Christian century saw the reign of Aurungzebe, Emperor of the Moguls. At his command havoc and rapine were let loose once more among the temples of the worship of Brahmah. The shrine of the four-handed god was polluted by the slaughter of sacred animals; the images of the deities were broken in pieces; and the Moonstone was seized by an officer of rank in the army of Aurungzebe.
Powerless to recover their lost treasure by open force, the three guardian priests followed and watched it in disguise. The generations succeeded each other; the warrior who had committed the sacrilege perished miserably; the Moonstone passed (carrying its curse with it) from one lawless Mohammedan hand to another; and still, through all chances and changes, the successors of the three guardian priests kept their watch, waiting the day when the will of Vishnu the Preserver should restore to them their sacred gem. Time rolled on from the first to the last years of the eighteenth Christian century. The Diamond fell into the possession of Tippoo, Sultan of Seringapatam, who caused it to be placed as an ornament in the handle of a dagger, and who commanded it to be kept among the choicest treasures of his armoury. Even then—in the palace of the Sultan himself—the three guardian priests still kept their watch in secret. There were three officers of Tippoo's household, strangers to the rest, who had won their master's confidence by conforming, or appearing to conform, to the Mussulman faith; and to those three men report pointed as the three priests in disguise.
So, as told in our camp, ran the fanciful story of the Moonstone. It made no serious impression on any of us except my cousin—whose love of the marvellous induced him to believe it. On the night before the assault on Seringapatam, he was absurdly angry with me, and with others, for treating the whole thing as a fable. A foolish wrangle followed; and Herncastle's unlucky temper got the better of him. He declared, in his boastful way, that we should see the Diamond on his finger, if the English army took Seringapatam. The sally was saluted by a roar of laughter, and there, as we all thought that night, the thing ended.
Let me now take you on to the day of the assault. My cousin and I were separated at the outset. I never saw him when we forded the river; when we planted the English flag in the first breach; when we crossed the ditch beyond; and, fighting every inch of our way, entered the town. It was only at dusk, when the place was ours, and after General Baird himself had found the dead body of Tippoo under a heap of the slain, that Herncastle and I met.
We were each attached to a party sent out by the general's orders to prevent the plunder and confusion which followed our conquest. The camp-followers committed deplorable excesses; and, worse still, the soldiers found their way, by a guarded door, into the treasury of the Palace, and loaded themselves with gold and jewels. It was in the court outside the treasury that my cousin and I met, to enforce the laws of discipline on our own soldiers. Herncastle's fiery temper had been, as I could plainly see, exasperated to a kind of frenzy by the terrible slaughter through which we had passed. He was very unfit, in my opinion, to perform the duty that had been entrusted to him.
There was riot and confusion enough in the treasury, but no violence that I saw. The men (if I may use such an expression) disgraced themselves good-humouredly. All sorts of rough jests and catchwords were bandied about among them; and the story of the Diamond turned up again unexpectedly, in the form of a mischievous joke. "Who's got the Moonstone?" was the rallying cry which perpetually caused the plundering, as soon as it was stopped in one place, to break out in another. While I was still vainly trying to establish order, I heard a frightful yelling on the other side of the courtyard, and at once ran towards the cries, in dread of finding some new outbreak of the pillage in that direction.
I got to an open door, and saw the bodies of two Indians (by their dress, as I guessed, officers of the palace) lying across the entrance, dead.
A cry inside hurried me into a room, which appeared to serve as an armoury. A third Indian, mortally wounded, was sinking at the feet of a man whose back was towards me. The man turned at the instant when I came in, and I saw John Herncastle, with a torch in one hand, and a dagger dripping with blood in the other. A stone, set like a pommel, in the end of the dagger's handle, flashed in the torchlight, as he turned on me, like a gleam of fire. The dying Indian sank to his knees, pointed to the dagger in Herncastle's hand, and said, in his native language—"The Moonstone will have its vengeance yet on you and yours!" He spoke those words, and fell dead on the floor.
Before I could stir in the matter, the men who had followed me across the courtyard crowded in. My cousin rushed to meet them, like a madman. "Clear the room!" he shouted to me, "and set a guard on the door!" The men fell back as he threw himself on them with his torch and his dagger. I put two sentinels of my own company, on whom I could rely, to keep the door. Through the remainder of the night, I saw no more of my cousin.
Early in the morning, the plunder still going on, General Baird announced publicly by beat of drum, that any thief detected in the fact, be he whom he might, should be hung. The provost-marshal was in attendance, to prove that the General was in earnest; and in the throng that followed the proclamation, Herncastle and I met again.
He held out his hand, as usual, and said, "Good morning."
I waited before I gave him my hand in return.
"Tell me first," I said, "how the Indian in the armoury met his death, and what those last words meant, when he pointed to the dagger in your hand."
"The Indian met his death, as I suppose, by a mortal wound," said Herncastle. "What his last words meant I know no more than you do."
I looked at him narrowly. His frenzy of the previous day had all calmed down. I determined to give him another chance.
"Is that all you have to tell me?" I asked.
He answered, "That is all."
I turned my back on him; and we have not spoken since.
I beg it to be understood that what I write here about my cousin (unless some necessity should arise for making it public) is for the information of the family only. Herncastle has said nothing that can justify me in speaking to our commanding officer. He has been taunted more than once about the Diamond, by those who recollect his angry outbreak before the assault; but, as may easily be imagined, his own remembrance of the circumstances under which I surprised him in the armoury has been enough to keep him silent. It is reported that he means to exchange into another regiment, avowedly for the purpose of separating himself from ME.
Whether this be true or not, I cannot prevail upon myself to become his accuser—and I think with good reason. If I made the matter public, I have no evidence but moral evidence to bring forward. I have not only no proof that he killed the two men at the door; I cannot even declare that he killed the third man inside—for I cannot say that my own eyes saw the deed committed. It is true that I heard the dying Indian's words; but if those words were pronounced to be the ravings of delirium, how could I contradict the assertion from my own knowledge? Let our relatives, on either side, form their own opinion on what I have written, and decide for themselves whether the aversion I now feel towards this man is well or ill founded.
Although I attach no sort of credit to the fantastic Indian legend of the gem, I must acknowledge, before I conclude, that I am influenced by a certain superstition of my own in this matter. It is my conviction, or my delusion, no matter which, that crime brings its own fatality with it. I am not only persuaded of Herncastle's guilt; I am even fanciful enough to believe that he will live to regret it, if he keeps the Diamond; and that others will live to regret taking it from him, if he gives the Diamond away.THE STORYFIRST PERIODTHE LOSS OF THE DIAMOND (1848)
The events related by GABRIEL BETTEREDGE, house-steward in the service of JULIA, LADY VERINDER.CHAPTER I
In the first part of ROBINSON CRUSOE, at page one hundred and twenty-nine, you will find it thus written:
"Now I saw, though too late, the Folly of beginning a Work before we count the Cost, and before we judge rightly of our own Strength to go through with it."
Only yesterday, I opened my ROBINSON CRUSOE at that place. Only this morning (May twenty-first, Eighteen hundred and fifty), came my lady's nephew, Mr. Franklin Blake, and held a short conversation with me, as follows:—
"Betteredge," says Mr. Franklin, "I have been to the lawyer's about some family matters; and, among other things, we have been talking of the loss of the Indian Diamond, in my aunt's house in Yorkshire, two years since. Mr. Bruff thinks as I think, that the whole story ought, in the interests of truth, to be placed on record in writing—and the sooner the better."
Not perceiving his drift yet, and thinking it always desirable for the sake of peace and quietness to be on the lawyer's side, I said I thought so too. Mr. Franklin went on.
"In this matter of the Diamond," he said, "the characters of innocent people have suffered under suspicion already—as you know. The memories of innocent people may suffer, hereafter, for want of a record of the facts to which those who come after us can appeal. There can be no doubt that this strange family story of ours ought to be told. And I think, Betteredge, Mr. Bruff and I together have hit on the right way of telling it."
Very satisfactory to both of them, no doubt. But I failed to see what I myself had to do with it, so far.
"We have certain events to relate," Mr. Franklin proceeded; "and we have certain persons concerned in those events who are capable of relating them. Starting from these plain facts, the idea is that we should all write the story of the Moonstone in turn—as far as our own personal experience extends, and no farther. We must begin by showing how the Diamond first fell into the hands of my uncle Herncastle, when he was serving in India fifty years since. This prefatory narrative I have already got by me in the form of an old family paper, which relates the necessary particulars on the authority of an eye-witness. The next thing to do is to tell how the Diamond found its way into my aunt's house in Yorkshire, two years ago, and how it came to be lost in little more than twelve hours afterwards. Nobody knows as much as you do, Betteredge, about what went on in the house at that time. So you must take the pen in hand, and start the story."
In those terms I was informed of what my personal concern was with the matter of the Diamond. If you are curious to know what course I took under the circumstances, I beg to inform you that I did what you would probably have done in my place. I modestly declared myself to be quite unequal to the task imposed upon me—and I privately felt, all the time, that I was quite clever enough to perform it, if I only gave my own abilities a fair chance. Mr. Franklin, I imagine, must have seen my private sentiments in my face. He declined to believe in my modesty; and he insisted on giving my abilities a fair chance.
Two hours have passed since Mr. Franklin left me. As soon as his back was turned, I went to my writing desk to start the story. There I have sat helpless (in spite of my abilities) ever since; seeing what Robinson Crusoe saw, as quoted above—namely, the folly of beginning a work before we count the cost, and before we judge rightly of our own strength to go through with it. Please to remember, I opened the book by accident, at that bit, only the day before I rashly undertook the business now in hand; and, allow me to ask—if THAT isn't prophecy, what is?
I am not superstitious; I have read a heap of books in my time; I am a scholar in my own way. Though turned seventy, I possess an active memory, and legs to correspond. You are not to take it, if you please, as the saying of an ignorant man, when I express my opinion that such a book as ROBINSON CRUSOE never was written, and never will be written again. I have tried that book for years—generally in combination with a pipe of tobacco—and I have found it my friend in need in all the necessities of this mortal life. When my spirits are bad—ROBINSON CRUSOE. When I want advice—ROBINSON CRUSOE. In past times when my wife plagued me; in present times when I have had a drop too much—ROBINSON CRUSOE. I have worn out six stout ROBINSON CRUSOES with hard work in my service. On my lady's last birthday she gave me a seventh. I took a drop too much on the strength of it; and ROBINSON CRUSOE put me right again. Price four shillings and sixpence, bound in blue, with a picture into the bargain.
Still, this don't look much like starting the story of the Diamond—does it? I seem to be wandering off in search of Lord knows what, Lord knows where. We will take a new sheet of paper, if you please, and begin over again, with my best respects to you.CHAPTER II
I spoke of my lady a line or two back. Now the Diamond could never have been in our house, where it was lost, if it had not been made a present of to my lady's daughter; and my lady's daughter would never have been in existence to have the present, if it had not been for my lady who (with pain and travail) produced her into the world. Consequently, if we begin with my lady, we are pretty sure of beginning far enough back. And that, let me tell you, when you have got such a job as mine in hand, is a real comfort at starting.
If you know anything of the fashionable world, you have heard tell of the three beautiful Miss Herncastles. Miss Adelaide; Miss Caroline; and Miss Julia—this last being the youngest and the best of the three sisters, in my opinion; and I had opportunities of judging, as you shall presently see. I went into the service of the old lord, their father (thank God, we have got nothing to do with him, in this business of the Diamond; he had the longest tongue and the shortest temper of any man, high or low, I ever met with)—I say, I went into the service of the old lord, as page-boy in waiting on the three honourable young ladies, at the age of fifteen years. There I lived till Miss Julia married the late Sir John Verinder. An excellent man, who only wanted somebody to manage him; and, between ourselves, he found somebody to do it; and what is more, he throve on it and grew fat on it, and lived happy and died easy on it, dating from the day when my lady took him to church to be married, to the day when she relieved him of his last breath, and closed his eyes for ever.
I have omitted to state that I went with the bride to the bride's husband's house and lands down here. "Sir John," she says, "I can't do without Gabriel Betteredge." "My lady," says Sir John, "I can't do without him, either." That was his way with her—and that was how I went into his service. It was all one to me where I went, so long as my mistress and I were together.
Seeing that my lady took an interest in the out-of-door work, and the farms, and such like, I took an interest in them too—with all the more reason that I was a small farmer's seventh son myself. My lady got me put under the bailiff, and I did my best, and gave satisfaction, and got promotion accordingly. Some years later, on the Monday as it might be, my lady says, "Sir John, your bailiff is a stupid old man. Pension him liberally, and let Gabriel Betteredge have his place." On the Tuesday as it might be, Sir John says, "My lady, the bailiff is pensioned liberally; and Gabriel Betteredge has got his place." You hear more than enough of married people living together miserably. Here is an example to the contrary. Let it be a warning to some of you, and an encouragement to others. In the meantime, I will go on with my story.
Well, there I was in clover, you will say. Placed in a position of trust and honour, with a little cottage of my own to live in, with my rounds on the estate to occupy me in the morning, and my accounts in the afternoon, and my pipe and my ROBINSON CRUSOE in the evening—what more could I possibly want to make me happy? Remember what Adam wanted when he was alone in the Garden of Eden; and if you don't blame it in Adam, don't blame it in me.
The woman I fixed my eye on, was the woman who kept house for me at my cottage. Her name was Selina Goby. I agree with the late William Cobbett about picking a wife. See that she chews her food well and sets her foot down firmly on the ground when she walks, and you're all right. Selina Goby was all right in both these respects, which was one reason for marrying her. I had another reason, likewise, entirely of my own discovering. Selina, being a single woman, made me pay so much a week for her board and services. Selina, being my wife, couldn't charge for her board, and would have to give me her services for nothing. That was the point of view I looked at it from. Economy—with a dash of love. I put it to my mistress, as in duty bound, just as I had put it to myself.
"I have been turning Selina Goby over in my mind," I said, "and I think, my lady, it will be cheaper to marry her than to keep her."
My lady burst out laughing, and said she didn't know which to be most shocked at—my language or my principles. Some joke tickled her, I suppose, of the sort that you can't take unless you are a person of quality. Understanding nothing myself but that I was free to put it next to Selina, I went and put it accordingly. And what did Selina say? Lord! how little you must know of women, if you ask that. Of course she said, Yes.
As my time drew nearer, and there got to be talk of my having a new coat for the ceremony, my mind began to misgive me. I have compared notes with other men as to what they felt while they were in my interesting situation; and they have all acknowledged that, about a week before it happened, they privately wished themselves out of it. I went a trifle further than that myself; I actually rose up, as it were, and tried to get out of it. Not for nothing! I was too just a man to expect she would let me off for nothing. Compensation to the woman when the man gets out of it, is one of the laws of England. In obedience to the laws, and after turning it over carefully in my mind, I offered Selina Goby a feather-bed and fifty shillings to be off the bargain. You will hardly believe it, but it is nevertheless true—she was fool enough to refuse.
After that it was all over with me, of course. I got the new coat as cheap as I could, and I went through all the rest of it as cheap as I could. We were not a happy couple, and not a miserable couple. We were six of one and half-a-dozen of the other. How it was I don't understand, but we always seemed to be getting, with the best of motives, in one another's way. When I wanted to go up-stairs, there was my wife coming down; or when my wife wanted to go down, there was I coming up. That is married life, according to my experience of it.
After five years of misunderstandings on the stairs, it pleased an all-wise Providence to relieve us of each other by taking my wife. I was left with my little girl Penelope, and with no other child. Shortly afterwards Sir John died, and my lady was left with her little girl, Miss Rachel, and no other child. I have written to very poor purpose of my lady, if you require to be told that my little Penelope was taken care of, under my good mistress's own eye, and was sent to school and taught, and made a sharp girl, and promoted, when old enough, to be Miss Rachel's own maid.
As for me, I went on with my business as bailiff year after year up to Christmas 1847, when there came a change in my life. On that day, my lady invited herself to a cup of tea alone with me in my cottage. She remarked that, reckoning from the year when I started as page-boy in the time of the old lord, I had been more than fifty years in her service, and she put into my hands a beautiful waistcoat of wool that she had worked herself, to keep me warm in the bitter winter weather.
I received this magnificent present quite at a loss to find words to thank my mistress with for the honour she had done me. To my great astonishment, it turned out, however, that the waistcoat was not an honour, but a bribe. My lady had discovered that I was getting old before I had discovered it myself, and she had come to my cottage to wheedle me (if I may use such an expression) into giving up my hard out-of-door work as bailiff, and taking my ease for the rest of my days as steward in the house. I made as good a fight of it against the indignity of taking my ease as I could. But my mistress knew the weak side of me; she put it as a favour to herself. The dispute between us ended, after that, in my wiping my eyes, like an old fool, with my new woollen waistcoat, and saying I would think about it.
The perturbation in my mind, in regard to thinking about it, being truly dreadful after my lady had gone away, I applied the remedy which I have never yet found to fail me in cases of doubt and emergency. I smoked a pipe and took a turn at ROBINSON CRUSOE. Before I had occupied myself with that extraordinary book five minutes, I came on a comforting bit (page one hundred and fifty-eight), as follows: "To-day we love, what to-morrow we hate." I saw my way clear directly. To-day I was all for continuing to be farm-bailiff; to-morrow, on the authority of ROBINSON CRUSOE, I should be all the other way. Take myself to-morrow while in to-morrow's humour, and the thing was done. My mind being relieved in this manner, I went to sleep that night in the character of Lady Verinder's farm bailiff, and I woke up the next morning in the character of Lady Verinder's house-steward. All quite comfortable, and all through ROBINSON CRUSOE!
My daughter Penelope has just looked over my shoulder to see what I have done so far. She remarks that it is beautifully written, and every word of it true. But she points out one objection. She says what I have done so far isn't in the least what I was wanted to do. I am asked to tell the story of the Diamond and, instead of that, I have been telling the story of my own self. Curious, and quite beyond me to account for. I wonder whether the gentlemen who make a business and a living out of writing books, ever find their own selves getting in the way of their subjects, like me? If they do, I can feel for them. In the meantime, here is another false start, and more waste of good writing-paper. What's to be done now? Nothing that I know of, except for you to keep your temper, and for me to begin it all over again for the third time.CHAPTER III
The question of how I am to start the story properly I have tried to settle in two ways. First, by scratching my head, which led to nothing. Second, by consulting my daughter Penelope, which has resulted in an entirely new idea.
Penelope's notion is that I should set down what happened, regularly day by day, beginning with the day when we got the news that Mr. Franklin Blake was expected on a visit to the house. When you come to fix your memory with a date in this way, it is wonderful what your memory will pick up for you upon that compulsion. The only difficulty is to fetch out the dates, in the first place. This Penelope offers to do for me by looking into her own diary, which she was taught to keep when she was at school, and which she has gone on keeping ever since. In answer to an improvement on this notion, devised by myself, namely, that she should tell the story instead of me, out of her own diary, Penelope observes, with a fierce look and a red face, that her journal is for her own private eye, and that no living creature shall ever know what is in it but herself. When I inquire what this means, Penelope says, "Fiddlesticks!" I say, Sweethearts.
Beginning, then, on Penelope's plan, I beg to mention that I was specially called one Wednesday morning into my lady's own sitting-room, the date being the twenty-fourth of May, Eighteen hundred and forty-eight.
"Gabriel," says my lady, "here is news that will surprise you. Franklin Blake has come back from abroad. He has been staying with his father in London, and he is coming to us to-morrow to stop till next month, and keep Rachel's birthday."
If I had had a hat in my hand, nothing but respect would have prevented me from throwing that hat up to the ceiling. I had not seen Mr. Franklin since he was a boy, living along with us in this house. He was, out of all sight (as I remember him), the nicest boy that ever spun a top or broke a window. Miss Rachel, who was present, and to whom I made that remark, observed, in return, that SHE remembered him as the most atrocious tyrant that ever tortured a doll, and the hardest driver of an exhausted little girl in string harness that England could produce. "I burn with indignation, and I ache with fatigue," was the way Miss Rachel summed it up, "when I think of Franklin Blake."
Hearing what I now tell you, you will naturally ask how it was that Mr. Franklin should have passed all the years, from the time when he was a boy to the time when he was a man, out of his own country. I answer, because his father had the misfortune to be next heir to a Dukedom, and not to be able to prove it.
In two words, this was how the thing happened:
My lady's eldest sister married the celebrated Mr. Blake—equally famous for his great riches, and his great suit at law. How many years he went on worrying the tribunals of his country to turn out the Duke in possession, and to put himself in the Duke's place—how many lawyer's purses he filled to bursting, and how many otherwise harmless people he set by the ears together disputing whether he was right or wrong—is more by a great deal than I can reckon up. His wife died, and two of his three children died, before the tribunals could make up their minds to show him the door and take no more of his money. When it was all over, and the Duke in possession was left in possession, Mr. Blake discovered that the only way of being even with his country for the manner in which it had treated him, was not to let his country have the honour of educating his son. "How can I trust my native institutions," was the form in which he put it, "after the way in which my native institutions have behaved to ME?" Add to this, that Mr. Blake disliked all boys, his own included, and you will admit that it could only end in one way. Master Franklin was taken from us in England, and was sent to institutions which his father COULD trust, in that superior country, Germany; Mr. Blake himself, you will observe, remaining snug in England, to improve his fellow-countrymen in the Parliament House, and to publish a statement on the subject of the Duke in possession, which has remained an unfinished statement from that day to this.
There! thank God, that's told! Neither you nor I need trouble our heads any more about Mr. Blake, senior. Leave him to the Dukedom; and let you and I stick to the Diamond....
This Macmillan Collector's Library edition of The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins features an afterword by writer, editor and playwright David Stuart Davies.
On a moonlit London night, art teacher Walter Hartwright meets a young woman – beautiful, terrified and dressed entirely white – alone on the street. Compelled to help this piteous creature, he finds himself caught up in a world of secrets, murder and madness, with an impossible mystery to solve.
The odds seem stacked against him, but a sleuthing partnership with the brilliantly clever Marian Halcombe may be just enough to outwit their formidable nemesis – the menacing Count Fosco.
One of the great mystery thrillers of the nineteenth century and beyond, The Woman in White is a wonderful combination of rich characterisation and cunning melodrama that ensnares the reader from the very first page.
Mr. Hethcote was the first to speak again.
BOOK THE SECOND. AMELIUS IN LONDON
BOOK THE THIRD. MRS. FARNABY'S FOOT
Amelius rose impulsively from his chair.
The young lady spoke first.
BOOK THE FOURTH. LOVE AND MONEY
BOOK THE FIFTH. THE FATAL LECTURE
BOOK THE SIXTH. FILIA DOLOROSA
The landlady of the lodgings decided what was to be done.
"Rufus! I don't quite like the way you look at me. You seem to think—"
BOOK THE SEVENTH. THE VANISHING HOPES
Two days later, Amelius moved into his cottage.
"Let me see the blister," said Amelius.
Toff returned to the cottage, with the slippers and the stockings.
BOOK THE EIGHTH. DAME NATURE DECIDES
"Where has he been found?" Amelius asked, snatching up his hat.
The last dreary days of November came to their end.
Early the next morning, Rufus rang at the cottage gate.
Toff was the first who recovered himself.
The night had come to an end. The new-born day waited for its quickening light in the silence that is never known on land—the silence before sunrise, in a calm at sea.
Not a breath came from the dead air. Not a ripple stirred on the motionless water. Nothing changed but the softly-growing light; nothing moved but the lazy mist, curling up to meet the sun, its master, on the eastward sea. By fine gradations, the airy veil of morning thinned in substance as it rose—thinned, till there dawned through it in the first rays of sunlight the tall white sails of a Schooner Yacht.
From stem to stern silence possessed the vessel—as silence possessed the sea.
But one living creature was on deck—the man at the helm, dozing peaceably with his arm over the useless tiller. Minute by minute the light grew, and the heat grew with it; and still the helmsman slumbered, the heavy sails hung noiseless, the quiet water lay sleeping against the vessel's sides. The whole orb of the sun was visible above the water-line, when the first sound pierced its way through the morning silence. From far off over the shining white ocean, the cry of a sea-bird reached the yacht on a sudden out of the last airy circles of the waning mist.
WHAT am I now about to write?
The history of little more than the events of one year, out of the twenty-four years of my life.
Why do I undertake such an employment as this?
Perhaps, because I think that my narrative may do good; because I hope that, one day, it may be put to some warning use. I am now about to relate the story of an error, innocent in its beginning, guilty in its progress, fatal in its results; and I would fain hope that my plain and true record will show that this error was not committed altogether without excuse. When these pages are found after my death, they will perhaps be calmly read and gently judged, as relics solemnized by the atoning shadows of the grave. Then, the hard sentence against me may be repented of; the children of the next generation of our house may be taught to speak charitably of my memory, and may often, of their own accord, think of me kindly in the thoughtful watches of the night.
Prompted by these motives, and by others which I feel, but cannot analyse, I now begin my self-imposed occupation. Hidden amid the far hills of the far West of England, surrounded only by the few simple inhabitants of a fishing hamlet on the Cornish coast, there is little fear that my attention will be distracted from my task; and as little chance that any indolence on my part will delay its speedy accomplishment. I live under a threat of impending hostility, which may descend and overwhelm me, I know not how soon, or in what manner. An enemy, determined and deadly, patient alike to wait days or years for his opportunity, is ever lurking after me in the dark. In entering on my new employment, I cannot say of my time, that it may be mine for another hour; of my life, that it may last till evening....
Proud as they all certainly were, it was not pride, but dread, which kept them thus apart from their neighbors. The family had suffered for generations past from the horrible affliction of hereditary insanity, and the members of it shrank from exposing their calamity to others, as they must have exposed it if they had mingled with the busy little world around them. There is a frightful story of a crime committed in past times by two of the Monktons, near relatives, from which the first appearance of the insanity was always supposed to date, but it is needless for me to shock any one by repeating it. It is enough to say that at intervals almost every form of madness appeared in the family, monomania being the most frequent manifestation of the affliction among them. I have these particulars, and one or two yet to be related, from my father.
At the period of my youth but three of the Monktons were left at the Abbey—Mr. and Mrs. Monkton and their only child Alfred, heir to the property. The one other member of this, the elder branch of the family, who was then alive, was Mr. Monkton's younger brother, Stephen. He was an unmarried man, possessing a fine estate in Scotland; but he lived almost entirely on the Continent, and bore the reputation of being a shameless profligate. The family at Wincot held almost as little communication with him as with their neighbors....
On leaving the steamboat, I ventured to ask our charming fellow-passenger if I could be of any service in reserving places in the London train for her mother and herself. She thanked me, and said they were going to visit some friends at Folkestone. In making this reply, she looked at Romayne. "I am afraid he is very ill," she said, in gently lowered tones. Before I could answer, her mother turned to her with an expression of surprise, and directed her attention to the friends whom she had mentioned, waiting to greet her. Her last look, as they took her away, rested tenderly and sorrowfully on Romayne. He never returned it—he was not even aware of it. As I led him to the train he leaned more and more heavily on my arm. Seated in the carriage, he sank at once into profound sleep.
We drove to the hotel at which my friend was accustomed to reside when he was in London. His long sleep on the journey seemed, in some degree, to have relieved him. We dined together in his private room. When the servants had withdrawn, I found that the unhappy result of the duel was still preying on his mind.
"The horror of having killed that man," he said, "is more than I can bear alone. For God's sake, don't leave me!"
I had received letters at Boulogne, which informed me that my wife and family had accepted an invitation to stay with some friends at the sea-side. Under these circumstances I was entirely at his service. Having quieted his anxiety on this point, I reminded him of what had passed between us on board the steamboat. He tried to change the subject. My curiosity was too strongly aroused to permit this; I persisted in helping his memory....
A LETTER OF INTRODUCTION.
A CORNISH FISHING TOWN.
HOLY WELLS AND DRUID RELICS.
THE PILCHARD FISHERY.
THE LAND'S END.
THE MODERN DRAMA IN CORNWALL.
THE ANCIENT DRAMA IN CORNWALL.
THE NUNS OF MAWGAN.
LEGENDS OF THE NORTHERN COAST.
RAMBLES BEYOND RAILWAYS.
THE CRUISE OF THE TOMTIT
The Scilly Islands.
THE CRUISE OF THE TOMTIT.
The mountains forming the range of Alps which border on the north-eastern confines of Italy, were, in the autumn of the year 408, already furrowed in numerous directions by the tracks of the invading forces of those northern nations generally comprised under the appellation of Goths.
In some places these tracks were denoted on either side by fallen trees, and occasionally assumed, when half obliterated by the ravages of storms, the appearance of desolate and irregular marshes. In other places they were less palpable. Here, the temporary path was entirely hidden by the incursions of a swollen torrent; there, it was faintly perceptible in occasional patches of soft ground, or partly traceable by fragments of abandoned armour, skeletons of horses and men, and remnants of the rude bridges which had once served for passage across a river or transit over a precipice.
Among the rocks of the topmost of the range of mountains immediately overhanging the plains of Italy, and presenting the last barrier to the exertions of a traveller or the march of an invader, there lay, at the beginning of the fifth century, a little lake. Bounded on three sides by precipices, its narrow banks barren of verdure or habitations, and its dark and stagnant waters brightened but rarely by the presence of the lively sunlight, this solitary spot—at all times mournful—presented, on the autumn of the day when our story commences, an aspect of desolation at once dismal to the eye and oppressive to the heart....
Well acquainted apparently with the way upstairs, the man thumped on a bed-room door, and shouted his message through it: "The master wants you, and mind you don't keep him waiting."
The person sending this peremptory message was Sir Giles Mountjoy of Ardoon, knight and banker. The person receiving the message was Sir Giles's head clerk. As a matter of course, Dennis Howmore dressed himself at full speed, and hastened to his employer's private house on the outskirts of the town.
He found Sir Giles in an irritable and anxious state of mind. A letter lay open on the banker's bed, his night-cap was crumpled crookedly on his head, he was in too great a hurry to remember the claims of politeness, when the clerk said "Good morning."...
The misguided young men who thus shirked their duty to the mistress from whom they had received many favours, were actuated by the low idea of making a perfectly idle trip, in any direction. They had no intention of going anywhere in particular; they wanted to see nothing, they wanted to know nothing, they wanted to learn nothing, they wanted to do nothing. They wanted only to be idle. They took to themselves (after Hogarth), the names of Mr. Thomas Idle and Mr. Francis Goodchild; but there was not a moral pin to choose between them, and they were both idle in the last degree....
CHAPTER II. THE NEW FACES.
CHAPTER III. THE MOONLIGHT MEETING.
CHAPTER IV. THE BEECHEN STICK.
CHAPTER V. THE NEWS FROM NARRABEE.
CHAPTER VI. THE LIME-KILN.
CHAPTER VII. THE MATERIALS IN THE DEFENSE.
CHAPTER VIII. THE CONFESSION.
CHAPTER IX. THE ADVERTISEMENT.
CHAPTER X. THE SHERIFF AND THE GOVERNOR.
CHAPTER XI. THE PEBBLE AND THE WINDOW.
CHAPTER XII. THE END OF IT.
IT was a dark night. The rain was pouring in torrents.
Late in the evening a skirmishing party of the French and a skirmishing party of the Germans had met, by accident, near the little village of Lagrange, close to the German frontier. In the struggle that followed, the French had (for once) got the better of the enemy. For the time, at least, a few hundreds out of the host of the invaders had been forced back over the frontier. It was a trifling affair, occurring not long after the great German victory of Weissenbourg, and the newspapers took little or no notice of it.
Captain Arnault, commanding on the French side, sat alone in one of the cottages of the village, inhabited by the miller of the district. The Captain was reading, by the light of a solitary tallow-candle, some intercepted dispatches taken from the Germans. He had suffered the wood fire, scattered over the large open grate, to burn low; the red embers only faintly illuminated a part of the room. On the floor behind him lay some of the miller's empty sacks. In a corner opposite to him was the miller's solid walnut-wood bed. On the walls all around him were the miller's colored prints, representing a happy mixture of devotional and domestic subjects. A door of communication leading into the kitchen of the cottage had been torn from its hinges, and used to carry the men wounded in the skirmish from the field. They were now comfortably laid at rest in the kitchen, under the care of the French surgeon and the English nurse attached to the ambulance. A piece of coarse canvas screened the opening between the two rooms in place of the door. A second door, leading from the bed-chamber into the yard, was locked; and the wooden shutter protecting the one window of the room was carefully barred. Sentinels, doubled in number, were placed at all the outposts. The French commander had neglected no precaution which could reasonably insure for himself and for his men a quiet and comfortable night....
CHAPTER II. TWO YOUNG HEARTS.
CHAPTER III. SWEDENBORG AND THE SIBYL.
CHAPTER IV. THE CURTAIN FALLS.
CHAPTER V. MY STORY.
CHAPTER VI. HER STORY.
CHAPTER VII. THE WOMAN ON THE BRIDGE.
MY mother looked in at the library door, and disturbed me over my books.
CHAPTER VIII. THE KINDRED SPIRITS
CHAPTER IX. NATURAL AND SUPERNATURAL.
CHAPTER X. SAINT ANTHONY'S WELL.
CHAPTER XI. THE LETTER OF INTRODUCTION.
CHAPTER XII. THE DISASTERS OF MRS. VAN BRANDT.
CHAPTER XIII. NOT CURED YET.
CHAPTER XIV. MRS. VAN BRANDT AT HOME.
CHAPTER XV. THE OBSTACLE BEATS ME.
CHAPTER XVI. MY MOTHER'S DIARY.
CHAPTER XVII. SHETLAND HOSPITALITY.
"GUIDE! Where are we?"
CHAPTER XVIII. THE DARKENED ROOM.
CHAPTER XIX. THE CATS.
CHAPTER XX. THE GREEN FLAG.
CHAPTER XXI. SHE COMES BETWEEN US.
CHAPTER XXII. SHE CLAIMS ME AGAIN.
CHAPTER XXIII. THE KISS.
CHAPTER XXIV. IN THE SHADOW OF ST. PAUL'S.
In ten days I was at home again—and my mother's arms were round me.
CHAPTER XXV. I KEEP MY APPOINTMENT.
CHAPTER XXVI. CONVERSATION WITH MY MOTHER.
CHAPTER XXVII. CONVERSATION WITH MRS. VAN BRANDT.
CHAPTER XXVIII. LOVE AND MONEY.
CHAPTER XXIX. OUR DESTINIES PART US.
CHAPTER XXX. THE PROSPECT DARKENS.
CHAPTER XXXI. THE PHYSICIAN'S OPINION.
SIX months have elapsed. Summer-time has come again.
CHAPTER XXXII. A LAST LOOK AT GREENWATER BROAD.
CHAPTER XXXIII. A VISION OF THE NIGHT.
CHAPTER XXXIV. BY LAND AND SEA.
CHAPTER XXXV. UNDER THE WINDOW.
CHAPTER XXXVI. LOVE AND PRIDE.
CHAPTER XXXVII. THE TWO DESTINIES.
THE WIFE WRITES, AND CLOSES THE STORY.
THE hands on the hall-clock pointed to half-past six in the morning. The house was a country residence in West Somersetshire, called Combe-Raven. The day was the fourth of March, and the year was eighteen hundred and forty-six.
No sounds but the steady ticking of the clock, and the lumpish snoring of a large dog stretched on a mat outside the dining-room door, disturbed the mysterious morning stillness of hall and staircase. Who were the sleepers hidden in the upper regions? Let the house reveal its own secrets; and, one by one, as they descend the stairs from their beds, let the sleepers disclose themselves.
As the clock pointed to a quarter to seven, the dog woke and shook himself. After waiting in vain for the footman, who was accustomed to let him out, the animal wandered restlessly from one closed door to another on the ground-floor; and, returning to his mat in great perplexity, appealed to the sleeping family with a long and melancholy howl.
Before the last notes of the dog's remonstrance had died away, the oaken stairs in the higher regions of the house creaked under slowly-descending footsteps. In a minute more the first of the female servants made her appearance, with a dingy woolen shawl over her shoulders—for the March morning was bleak; and rheumatism and the cook were old acquaintances.
Receiving the dog's first cordial advances with the worst possible grace, the cook slowly opened the hall door and let the animal out. It was a wild morning. Over a spacious lawn, and behind a black plantation of firs, the rising sun rent its way upward through piles of ragged gray cloud; heavy drops of rain fell few and far between; the March wind shuddered round the corners of the house, and the wet trees swayed wearily.
Seven o'clock struck; and the signs of domestic life began to show themselves in more rapid succession.
The housemaid came down—tall and slim, with the state of the spring temperature written redly on her nose. The lady's-maid followed—young, smart, plump, and sleepy. The kitchen-maid came next—afflicted with the face-ache, and making no secret of her sufferings. Last of all, the footman appeared, yawning disconsolately; the living picture of a man who felt that he had been defrauded of his fair night's rest.
The conversation of the servants, when they assembled before the slowly lighting kitchen fire, referred to a recent family event, and turned at starting on this question: Had Thomas, the footman, seen anything of the concert at Clifton, at which his master and the two young ladies had been present on the previous night? Yes; Thomas had heard the concert; he had been paid for to go in at the back; it was a loud concert; it was a hot concert; it was described at the top of the bills as Grand; whether it was worth traveling sixteen miles to hear by railway, with the additional hardship of going back nineteen miles by road, at half-past one in the morning—was a question which he would leave his master and the young ladies to decide; his own opinion, in the meantime, being unhesitatingly, No. Further inquiries, on the part of all the female servants in succession, elicited no additional information of any sort. Thomas could hum none of the songs, and could describe none of the ladies' dresses. His audience, accordingly, gave him up in despair; and the kitchen small-talk flowed back into its ordinary channels, until the clock struck eight and startled the assembled servants into separating for their morning's work....
If the machinery of the Law could be depended on to fathom every case of suspicion, and to conduct every process of inquiry, with moderate assistance only from the lubricating influences of oil of gold, the events which fill these pages might have claimed their share of the public attention in a Court of Justice.
But the Law is still, in certain inevitable cases, the pre-engaged servant of the long purse; and the story is left to be told, for the first time, in this place. As the Judge might once have heard it, so the Reader shall hear it now. No circumstance of importance, from the beginning to the end of the disclosure, shall be related on hearsay evidence. When the writer of these introductory lines (Walter Hartright by name) happens to be more closely connected than others with the incidents to be recorded, he will describe them in his own person. When his experience fails, he will retire from the position of narrator; and his task will be continued, from the point at which he has left it off, by other persons who can speak to the circumstances under notice from their own knowledge, just as clearly and positively as he has spoken before them.
Thus, the story here presented will be told by more than one pen, as the story of an offence against the laws is told in Court by more than one witness—with the same object, in both cases, to present the truth always in its most direct and most intelligible aspect; and to trace the course of one complete series of events, by making the persons who have been most closely connected with them, at each successive stage, relate their own experience, word for word.
Let Walter Hartright, teacher of drawing, aged twenty-eight years, be heard first.
In the year 1860, the reputation of Doctor Wybrow as a London physician reached its highest point. It was reported on good authority that he was in receipt of one of the largest incomes derived from the practice of medicine in modern times.
One afternoon, towards the close of the London season, the Doctor had just taken his luncheon after a specially hard morning's work in his consulting-room, and with a formidable list of visits to patients at their own houses to fill up the rest of his day—when the servant announced that a lady wished to speak to him.
'Who is she?' the Doctor asked. 'A stranger?'
'I see no strangers out of consulting-hours. Tell her what the hours are, and send her away.'
'I have told her, sir.'
'And she won't go.'
'Won't go?' The Doctor smiled as he repeated the words. He was a humourist in his way; and there was an absurd side to the situation which rather amused him. 'Has this obstinate lady given you her name?' he inquired....
Chapter I. Mrs. Presty Presents Herself.
Chapter II. The Governess Enters.
Chapter III. Mrs. Presty Changes Her Mind.
Chapter IV. Randal Receives His Correspondence.
Chapter V. Randal Writes to New York.
Chapter VI. Sydney Teaches.
Chapter VII. Sydney Suffers.
Chapter VIII. Mrs. Presty Makes a Discovery.
Chapter IX. Somebody Attends to the Door.
Chapter X. Kitty Mentions Her Birthday.
Chapter XI. Linley Asserts His Authority.
Chapter XII. Two of Them Sleep Badly.
Chapter XIII. Kitty Keeps Her Birthday.
Chapter XIV. Kitty Feels the Heartache.
Chapter XV. The Doctor.
Chapter XVI. The Child.
Chapter XVII. The Husband.
Chapter XVIII. The Nursemaid.
Chapter XIX. The Captain.
Chapter XX. The Mother-in-Law.
Chapter XXI. The Governess.
Chapter XXII. Retrospect.
Chapter XXIII. Separation.
Chapter XXIV. Hostility.
Chapter XXV. Consultation.
Chapter XXVI. Decision.
Chapter XXVII. Resolution.
Chapter XXVIII. Mr. Randal Linley.
Chapter XXIX. Mr. Sarrazin.
Chapter XXX. The Lord President.
Chapter XXXI. Mr. Herbert Linley.
Chapter XXXII. Miss Westerfield.
Chapter XXXIII. Mrs. Romsey.
Chapter XXXIV. Mrs. Presty.
Chapter XXXV. Captain Bennydeck.
Chapter XXXVI. Mr. and Mrs. Herbert.
Chapter XXXVII. Mrs. Norman.
Chapter XXXVIII. Hear the Lawyer.
Chapter XXXIX. Listen to Reason.
Chapter XL. Keep Your Temper.
Chapter XLI. Make the Best of It.
Chapter XLII. Try to Excuse Her.
Chapter XLIII. Know Your Own Mind.
Chapter XLIV. Think of Consequences.
Chapter XLV. Love Your Enemies.
Chapter XLVI. Nil Desperandum.
Chapter XLVII. Better Do It Than Wish It Done.
Chapter XLVIII. Be Careful!
Chapter XLIX. Keep the Secret.
Chapter L. Forgiveness to the Injured Doth Belong.
Chapter LI. Dum Spiro, Spero.
Chapter LII. L'homme propose, et Dieu dispose.
Chapter LIII. The Largest Nature, the Longest Love.
Chapter LIV. Let Bygones Be Bygones.
Chapter LV. Leave It to the Child.
The date is between twenty and thirty years ago. The place is an English sea-port. The time is night. And the business of the moment is—dancing.
The Mayor and Corporation of the town are giving a grand ball, in celebration of the departure of an Arctic expedition from their port. The ships of the expedition are two in number—the Wanderer and the Sea-mew. They are to sail (in search of the Northwest Passage) on the next day, with the morning tide.
Honor to the Mayor and Corporation! It is a brilliant ball. The band is complete. The room is spacious. The large conservatory opening out of it is pleasantly lighted with Chinese lanterns, and beautifully decorated with shrubs and flowers. All officers of the army and navy who are present wear their uniforms in honor of the occasion. Among the ladies, the display of dresses (a subject which the men don't understand) is bewildering—and the average of beauty (a subject which the men do understand) is the highest average attainable, in all parts of the room.
For the moment, the dance which is in progress is a quadrille. General admiration selects two of the ladies who are dancing as its favorite objects. One is a dark beauty in the prime of womanhood—the wife of First Lieutenant Crayford, of the Wanderer. The other is a young girl, pale and delicate; dressed simply in white; with no ornament on her head but her own lovely brown hair. This is Miss Clara Burnham—an orphan. She is Mrs. Crayford's dearest friend, and she is to stay with Mrs. Crayford during the lieutenant's absence in the Arctic regions. She is now dancing, with the lieutenant himself for partner, and with Mrs. Crayford and Captain Helding (commanding officer of the Wanderer) for vis-a-vis—in plain English, for opposite couple.
The conversation between Captain Helding and Mrs. Crayford, in one of the intervals of the dance, turns on Miss Burnham. The captain is greatly interested in Clara. He admires her beauty; but he thinks her manner—for a young girl—strangely serious and subdued. Is she in delicate health?
Mrs. Crayford shakes her head; sighs mysteriously; and answers,...
ON THE WAY TO THE RIVER
THE RIVER INTRODUCES US
HE SHOWS HIMSELF
HE EXPLAINS HIMSELF
HE BETRAYS HIMSELF
EXTRACTS FROM A DEAF MAN'S DIARY
THE RETURN OF THE PORTFOLIO
THE BEST SOCIETY
THE DEAF LODGER
MRS ROYLAKE'S GAME: FIRST MOVE
WARNED FOR THE LAST TIME!
THE CLARET JUG
GLOODY SETTLES THE ACCOUNT
THE MILLER'S HOSPITALITY
BRIBERY AND CORRUPTION
THE MISTRESS OF TRIMLEY DEEN
In a court-yard in the City of London, which was No Thoroughfare either for vehicles or foot-passengers; a court-yard diverging from a steep, a slippery, and a winding street connecting Tower Street with the Middlesex shore of the Thames; stood the place of business of Wilding & Co., Wine Merchants. Probably as a jocose acknowledgment of the obstructive character of this main approach, the point nearest to its base at which one could take the river (if so inodorously minded) bore the appellation Break-Neck-Stairs. The court-yard itself had likewise been descriptively entitled in old time, Cripple Corner.
Years before the year one thousand eight hundred and sixty-one, people had left off taking boat at Break-Neck-Stairs, and watermen had ceased to ply there. The slimy little causeway had dropped into the river by a slow process of suicide, and two or three stumps of piles and a rusty iron mooring-ring were all that remained of the departed Break-Neck glories. Sometimes, indeed, a laden coal barge would bump itself into the place, and certain laborious heavers, seemingly mud-engendered, would arise, deliver the cargo in the neighbourhood, shove off, and vanish; but at most times the only commerce of Break-Neck-Stairs arose out of the conveyance of casks and bottles, both full and empty, both to and from the cellars of Wilding & Co., Wine Merchants. Even that commerce was but occasional, and through three-fourths of its rising tides the dirty indecorous drab of a river would come solitarily oozing and lapping at the rusty ring, as if it had heard of the Doge and the Adriatic, and wanted to be married to the great conserver of its filthiness, the Right Honourable the Lord Mayor.
The weary old nineteenth century had advanced into the last twenty years of its life.
Towards two o'clock in the afternoon, Ovid Vere (of the Royal College of Surgeons) stood at the window of his consulting-room in London, looking out at the summer sunshine, and the quiet dusty street.
He had received a warning, familiar to the busy men of our time—the warning from overwrought Nature, which counsels rest after excessive work. With a prosperous career before him, he had been compelled (at only thirty-one years of age) to ask a colleague to take charge of his practice, and to give the brain which he had cruelly wearied a rest of some months to come. On the next day he had arranged to embark for the Mediterranean in a friend's yacht.
An active man, devoted heart and soul to his profession, is not a man who can learn the happy knack of being idle at a moment's notice. Ovid found the mere act of looking out of window, and wondering what he should do next, more than he had patience to endure.
He turned to his study table. If he had possessed a wife to look after him, he would have been reminded that he and his study table had nothing in common, under present circumstances. Being deprived of conjugal superintendence, he broke though his own rules. His restless hand unlocked a drawer, and took out a manuscript work on medicine of his own writing. "Surely," he thought, "I may finish a chapter, before I go to sea to-morrow?"
THE events happened soon after the first thirty years of the present century had come to an end.
On a fine morning, early in the month of April, a gentleman of middle age (named Rayburn) took his little daughter Lucy out for a walk in the woodland pleasure-ground of Western London, called Kensington Gardens.
The few friends whom he possessed reported of Mr. Rayburn (not unkindly) that he was a reserved and solitary man. He might have been more accurately described as a widower devoted to his only surviving child. Although he was not more than forty years of age, the one pleasure which made life enjoyable to Lucy's father was offered by Lucy herself.
Playing with her ball, the child ran on to the southern limit of the Gardens, at that part of it which still remains nearest to the old Palace of Kensington. Observing close at hand one of those spacious covered seats, called in England "alcoves," Mr. Rayburn was reminded that he had the morning's newspaper in his pocket, and that he might do well to rest and read. At that early hour the place was a solitude.
"Go on playing, my dear," he said; "but take care to keep where I can see you."
Lucy tossed up her ball; and Lucy's father opened his newspaper. He had not been reading for more than ten minutes, when he felt a familiar little hand laid on his knee.
"Tired of playing?" he inquired—with his eyes still on the newspaper.
"I'm frightened, papa."...
Time had discolored the paper, and had turned the ink to a brownish hue. The letters were all addressed to the same person—"THE RT. HON. LORD LYDIARD"—and were all signed in the same way—"Your affectionate cousin, James Tollmidge." Judged by these specimens of his correspondence, Mr. Tollmidge must have possessed one great merit as a letter-writer—the merit of brevity. He will weary nobody's patience, if he is allowed to have a hearing. Let him, therefore, be permitted, in his own high-flown way, to speak for himself.First Letter.—"My statement, as your Lordship requests, shall be short and to the point. I was doing very well as a portrait-painter in the country; and I had a wife and children to consider. Under the circumstances, if I had been left to decide for myself, I should certainly have waited until I had saved a little money before I ventured on the serious expense of taking a house and studio at the west end of London. Your Lordship, I positively declare, encouraged me to try the experiment without waiting. And here I am, unknown and unemployed, a helpless artist lost in London—with a sick wife and hungry children, and bankruptcy staring me in the face. On whose shoulders does this dreadful responsibility rest? On your Lordship's!" Second Letter.—"After a week's delay, you favor me, my Lord, with a curt reply. I can be equally curt on my side. I indignantly deny that I or my wife ever presumed to see your Lordship's name as a means of recommendation to sitters without your permission. Some enemy has slandered us. I claim as my right to know the name of that enemy."Third (and last) Letter.—"Another week has passed—and not a word of answer has reached me from your Lordship. It matters little. I have employed the interval in making inquiries, and I have at last discovered the hostile influence which has estranged you from me. I have been, it seems, so unfortunate as to offend Lady Lydiard (how, I cannot imagine); and the all-powerful influence of this noble lady is now used against the struggling artist who is united to you by the sacred ties of kindred. Be it so. I can fight my way upwards, my Lord, as other men have done before me. A day may yet come when the throng of carriages waiting at the door of the fashionable portrait-painter will include her Ladyship's vehicle, and bring me the tardy expression of her Ladyship's regret. I refer you, my Lord Lydiard, to that day!"
Madame Pratolungo presents Herself
CHAPTER THE SECOND
Madame Pratolungo makes a Voyage on Land
CHAPTER THE THIRD
Poor Miss Finch
CHAPTER THE FOURTH
Twilight View of the Man
CHAPTER THE FIFTH
Candlelight View of the Man
CHAPTER THE SIXTH
A Cage of Finches
CHAPTER THE SEVENTH
Daylight View of the Man
CHAPTER THE EIGHTH
The Perjury of the Clock
CHAPTER THE NINTH
The Hero of the Trial
CHAPTER THE TENTH
First Appearance of Jicks
CHAPTER THE ELEVENTH
CHAPTER THE TWELFTH
Mr. Finch smells Money
CHAPTER THE THIRTEENTH
Second Appearance of Jicks
CHAPTER THE FOURTEENTH
Discoveries at Browndown
CHAPTER THE FIFTEENTH
Events at the Bedside
CHAPTER THE SIXTEENTH
First Result of the Robbery
CHAPTER THE SEVENTEENTH
The Doctor's Opinion
CHAPTER THE EIGHTEENTH
CHAPTER THE NINETEENTH
Second Result of the Robbery
CHAPTER THE TWENTIETH
Good Papa again!
CHAPTER THE TWENTY-FIRST
Madame Pratolungo Returns to Dimchurch
CHAPTER THE TWENTY-SECOND
The Twin-Brother's Letter
CHAPTER THE TWENTY-THIRD
He sets us All Right
CHAPTER THE TWENTY-FOURTH
He sees Lucilla
CHAPTER THE TWENTY-FIFTH
Nugent puzzles Madame Pratolungo
CHAPTER THE TWENTY-SIXTH
He proves Equal to the Occasion
CHAPTER THE TWENTY-SEVENTH
He finds a Way out of it
CHAPTER THE TWENTY-EIGHTH
He crosses the Rubicon
CHAPTER THE TWENTY-NINTH
CHAPTER THE THIRTIETH
CHAPTER THE THIRTY-FIRST
"Who Shall Decide when Doctors disagree?"
CHAPTER THE THIRTY-SECOND
Alas for the Marriage!
CHAPTER THE THIRTY-THIRD
The Day Between
THE END OF THE FIRST PART
PART THE SECOND
CHAPTER THE THIRTY-FOURTH
Nugent shows his Hand
CHAPTER THE THIRTY-FIFTH
Lucilla tries her Sight
CHAPTER THE THIRTY-SIXTH
The Brothers Meet
CHAPTER THE THIRTY-SEVENTH
The Brothers change Places
CHAPTER THE THIRTY-EIGHTH
Is there no Excuse for Him?
CHAPTER THE THIRTY-NINTH
She Learns to See
CHAPTER THE FORTIETH
Traces of Nugent
CHAPTER THE FORTY-FIRST
A Hard Time for Madame Pratolungo
CHAPTER THE FORTY-SECOND
The Story of Lucilla: told by Herself
CHAPTER THE FORTY-THIRD
Lucilla's Journal, continued
CHAPTER THE FORTY-FOURTH
Lucilla's Journal, continued
CHAPTER THE FORTY-FIFTH
Lucilla's Journal, concluded
CHAPTER THE FORTY-SIXTH
The Italian Steamer
CHAPTER THE FORTY-SEVENTH
On the Way to the End. First Stage
CHAPTER THE FORTY-EIGHTH
On the Way to the End. Second Stage
CHAPTER THE FORTY-NINTH
On the Way to the End. Third Stage
CHAPTER THE FIFTIETH
The End of the Journey
Madame Pratolungo's Last Words
At the period when the episode just related occurred in the life of Mr. Zachary Thorpe the younger—that is to say, in the year 1837—Baregrove Square was the farthest square from the city, and the nearest to the country, of any then existing in the north-western suburb of London. But, by the time fourteen years more had elapsed—that is to say, in the year 1851—Baregrove Square had lost its distinctive character altogether; other squares had filched from it those last remnants of healthy rustic flavor from which its good name had been derived; other streets, crescents, rows, and villa-residences had forced themselves pitilessly between the old suburb and the country, and had suspended for ever the once neighborly relations between the pavement of Baregrove Square and the pathways of the pleasant fields.
Alexander's armies were great makers of conquests; and Napoleon's armies were great makers of conquests; but the modern Guerilla regiments of the hod, the trowel, and the brick-kiln, are the greatest conquerors of all; for they hold the longest the soil that they have once possessed. How mighty the devastation which follows in the wake of these tremendous aggressors, as they march through the kingdom of nature, triumphantly bricklaying beauty wherever they go! What dismantled castle, with the enemy's flag flying over its crumbling walls, ever looked so utterly forlorn as a poor field-fortress of nature, imprisoned on all sides by the walled camp of the enemy, and degraded by a hostile banner of pole and board, with the conqueror's device inscribed on it—"THIS GROUND TO BE LET ON BUILDING LEASES?" What is the historical spectacle of Marius sitting among the ruins of Carthage, but a trumpery theatrical set-scene, compared with the mournful modern sight of the last tree left standing, on the last few feet of grass left growing, amid the greenly-festering stucco of a ...
Viewing my task by the light which later experience casts on it, I think I shall act wisely by exercising some control over the freedom of my pen.
I propose to pass over in silence the name of the town in which is situated the prison once confided to my care. I shall observe a similar discretion in alluding to individuals—some dead, some living, at the present time.
Being obliged to write of a woman who deservedly suffered the extreme penalty of the law, I think she will be sufficiently identified if I call her The Prisoner. Of the four persons present on the evening before her execution three may be distinguished one from the other by allusion to their vocations in life. I here introduce them as The Chaplain, The Minister, and The Doctor. The fourth was a young woman. She has no claim on my consideration; and, when she is mentioned, her name may appear. If these reserves excite suspicion, I declare beforehand that they influence in no way the sense of responsibility which commands an honest man to speak the truth....