THE WOMAN IN WHITE.
HARTRIGHT'S NARRATIVE CONTINUED.
THE exposed situation of the churchyard
had obliged me to be cautious in choosing the
position that I was to occupy.
The main entrance to the church was on the
side next to the burial-ground; and the door
was screened by a porch walled in on either side.
After some little hesitation, caused by a natural
reluctance to conceal myself, indispensable as
that concealment was to the object in view, I had
resolved on entering the porch. A loophole window
was pierced in each of its side walls. Through
one of these windows I could see Mrs. Fairlie's
grave. The other looked towards the stone
quarry in which the sexton's cottage was built.
Before me, fronting the porch entrance, was a
patch of bare burial-ground, a line of low stone
wall, and a strip of lonely brown hill, with the
sunset clouds sailing heavily over it before the
strong, steady wind. No living creature was
visible or audible—no bird flew by me; no dog
barked from the sexton's cottage. The pauses
in the dull beating of the surf, were filled
up by the dreary rustling of the dwarf trees
near the grave, and the cold, faint bubble of the
brook over its stony bed. A dreary scene and
a dreary hour. My spirits sank fast as I counted
out the minutes of the evening in my hiding-place
under the church porch.
It was not twilight yet—the light of the
setting sun still lingered in the heavens, and
little more than the first half-hour of my solitary
watch had elapsed—when I heard footsteps, and
a voice. The footsteps were approaching from
the other side of the church; and the voice was
"Don't you fret, my dear, about the letter,"
said the voice. "I gave it to the lad quite safe,
and the lad he took it from me without a word.
He went his way and I went mine; and not a
living soul followed me, afterwards—that I'll
These words strung up my attention to a
pitch of expectation that was almost painful.
There was a pause of silence, but the footsteps
still advanced. In another moment, two persons,
both women, passed within my range of view
from the porch window. They were walking
straight towards the grave; and therefore they
had their backs turned towards me.
One of the women was dressed in a bonnet
and shawl. The other wore a long travelling-cloak
of a dark blue colour, with the hood drawn
over her head. A few inches of her gown were
visible below the cloak. My heart beat fast as
I noted the colour—it was white.
After advancing about half-way between the
church and the grave, they stopped; and the
woman in the cloak turned her head towards
her companion. But her side face, which a
bonnet might now have allowed me to see, was
hidden by the heavy, projecting edge of the
"Mind you keep that comfortable warm cloak
on," said the same voice which I had already
heard—the voice of the woman in the shawl.
"Mrs. Todd is right about your looking too
particular, yesterday, all in white. I'll walk
about a little, while you're here; churchyards
being not at all in my way, whatever they may
be in yours. Finish what you want to do, before
I come back; and let us be sure and get home
again before night."
With those words, she turned about, and,
retracing her steps, advanced with her face towards
me. It was the face of an elderly woman,
brown, rugged, and healthy, with nothing
dishonest or suspicious in the look of it. Close to
the church, she stopped to pull her shawl closer
"Queer," she said to herself, "always queer,
with her whims and her ways, ever since I can
remember her. Harmless, though—as harmless,
poor soul, as a little child."
She sighed; looked about the burial-ground
nervously; shook her head as if the dreary
prospect by no means pleased her; and
disappeared round the corner of the church.
I doubted for a moment whether I ought to
follow and speak to her, or not. My intense
anxiety to find myself face to face with her
companion helped me to decide in the negative.
I could ensure seeing the woman in the shawl
by waiting near the churchyard until she came
back—although it seemed more than doubtful
whether she could give me the information of
which I was in search. The person who had
delivered the letter was of little consequence.
The person who had written it was the one
centre of interest, and the one source of
information; and that person I now felt convinced
was before me in the churchyard.
While these ideas were passing through my
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