THE WOMAN IN WHITE.
HARTRIGHT'S NARRATIVE CONTINUED.
So ended my eventful first day at Limmeridge
Miss Halcombe and I kept our secret. After
the discovery of the likeness no fresh light
seemed destined to break over the mystery
of the woman in white. At the first safe
opportunity Miss Halcombe cautiously led her half-
sister to speak of their mother, of old times,
and of Anne Catherick. Miss Fairlie's recollections
of the little scholar at Limmeridge were,
however, only of the most vague and general
kind. She remembered the likeness between
herself and her mother's favourite pupil, as
something which had been supposed to exist in
past times; but she did not refer to the gift of
the white dresses, or to the singular form of
words in which the child had artlessly expressed
her gratitude for them. She remembered that
Anne had remained at Limmeridge for a few
months only, and had then left it to go back to
her home in Hampshire; but she could not say
whether the mother and daughter had ever
returned, or had ever been heard of afterwards.
No further search, on Miss Halcombe's part,
through the few letters of Mrs. Fairlie's writing
which she had left unread, assisted in clearing
up the uncertainties still left to perplex us. We
had identified the unhappy woman whom I had
met in the night-time, with Anne Catherick—we
had made some advance, at least, towards
connecting the probably defective condition of the
poor creature's intellect with the peculiarity of
her being dressed all in white, and with the
continuance, in her maturer years, of her
childish gratitude towards Mrs. Fairlie—and
there, so far as we knew at that time, our
discoveries had ended.
Miss Halcombe and I kept our secret. After
The days passed on, the weeks passed on;
and the track of the golden autumn wound its
bright way visibly through the green summer of
the trees. Peaceful, fast-flowing, happy time!
my story glides by you now, as swiftly as you
once glided by me. Of all the treasures of
enjoyment that you poured so freely into my
heart, how much is left me that has purpose
and value enough to be written on this page?
Nothing but the saddest of all confessions
that a man can make—the confession of his
The secret which that confession discloses
should be told with little effort, for it has indirectly
escaped me already. The poor weak
words which have failed to describe Miss Fairlie,
have succeeded in betraying the sensations she
awakened in me. It is so with us all. Our
words are giants when they do us an injury,
and dwarfs when they do us a service.
I loved her.
Ah! how well I know all the sadness and all
the mockery that is contained in those three
words. I can sigh over my mournful confession
with the tenderest woman who reads it and
pities me. I can laugh at it as bitterly as the
hardest man who tosses it from him in contempt.
I loved her! Feel for me, or despise
me, I confess it with the same immovable
resolution to own the truth.
Was there no excuse for me? There was
some excuse to be found, surely, in the
conditions under which my term of hired service
was passed at Limmeridge House.
My morning hours succeeded each other
calmly in the quiet and seclusion of my own
room. I had just work enough to do, in
mounting my employer's drawings, to keep my
hands and eyes pleasurably employed, while my
mind was left free to enjoy the dangerous
luxury of its own unbridled thoughts. A
perilous solitude, for it lasted long enough
to enervate, not long enough to fortify me.
A perilous solitude, for it was followed by
afternoons and evenings spent, day after day
and week after week, alone in the society of
two women, one of whom possessed all the
accomplishments of grace, wit, and high-breeding,
the other all the charms of beauty, gentleness,
and simple truth, that can purify and
subdue the heart of man. Not a day passed,
in that dangerous intimacy of teacher and pupil,
in which my hand was not close to Miss Fairlie's;
my cheek, as we bent together over her sketchbook,
almost touching hers. The more attentively
she watched every movement of my brush,
the more closely I was breathing the perfume of
her hair, and the warm fragrance of her breath.
It was part of my service, to live in the very
light of her eyes—at one time to be bending over
her, so close to her bosom as to tremble at the
thought of touching it; at another, to feel her
bending over me, bending so close to see what
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