THE WOMAN IN WHITE.
THE NARRATIVE OF VINCENT GILM0RE, SOLICITOR,
OF CHANCERY-LANE, LONDON.
I WRITE these lines at the request of my
friend, Mr. Walter Hartright. They are
intended to convey a description of certain events
which seriously affected Miss Fairlie's interests,
and which took place after the period of Mr.
Hartright's departure from Limmeridge House.
There is no need for me to say whether my
own opinion does or does not sanction the
disclosure of the remarkable family story, of which
my narrative forms an important component
part. Mr. Hartright has taken that responsibility
on himself; and circumstances yet to be related
will show that he has amply earned the right to
do so, if he chooses to exercise it. The plan he
has adopted for presenting the story to others, in
the most truthful and most vivid manner, requires
that it should be told, at each successive stage
in the march of events, by the persons who were
directly concerned in those events at the time of
their occurrence. My appearance here, as
narrator, is the necessary consequence of this
arrangement. I was present during the sojourn of
Sir Percival Glyde in Cumberland, and was
personally concerned in one important result of his
short residence under Mr. Fairlie's roof. It is
my duty, therefore, to add these new links to the
chain of events, and to take up the chain itself
at the point where, for the present only, Mr.
Hartright has dropped it.
I arrived at Limmeridge House, on a Friday
in the week, either at the end of October or the
beginning of November—it is not material to
my present purpose to say precisely which.
My object was to remain at Mr. Fairlie's
until the arrival of Sir Percival Glyde. If that
event led to the appointment of any given day
for Sir Percival's union with Miss Fairlie, I was
to take the necessary instructions back with me
to London, and to occupy myself in drawing the
lady's marriage settlement.
On the Friday, I was not favoured by Mr.
Fairlie with an interview. He had been, or
had fancied himself to be, an invalid for years
past; and he was not well enough to receive me.
Miss Halcombe was the first member of the
family whom I saw. She met me at the house
door; and introduced me to Mr. Hartright, who
had been staying at Limmeridge for some time
I did not see Miss Fairlie until later in the
day, at dinner time. She was not looking well,
and I was sorry to observe it. She is a sweet,
lovable girl, as amiable and attentive to everyone
about her as her excellent mother used to be—
though, personally speaking, she takes after her
father. Mrs. Fairlie had dark eyes and hair;
and her elder daughter, Miss Halcombe, strongly
reminds me of her. "Miss Fairlie played to us
in the evening—not so well as usual, I thought.
We had a rubber at whist; a mere profanation,
so far as play was concerned, of that noble game.
I had been favourably impressed by Mr.
Hartright, on our first introduction to one another;
but I soon discovered that he was not free from
the social failings incidental to his age. There
are three things that none of the young men
of the present generation can do. They can't
sit over their wine; they can't play at whist;
and they can't pay a lady a compliment. Mr.
Hartright was no exception to the general rule.
Otherwise, even in those early days and on that
short acquaintance, he struck me as being a
modest and gentlemanlike young man.
So the Friday passed. I say nothing about
the more serious matters which engaged my
attention on that day—the anonymous letter to
Miss Fairlie; the measures I thought it right to
adopt when the matter was mentioned to me;
and the conviction I entertained that every
possible explanation of the circumstances would be
readily afforded by Sir Percival Glyde, having all
been fully noticed, as I understand, in the
narrative which precedes this.
On the Saturday, Mr. Hartright had left
before I got down to breakfast. Miss Fairlie kept
her room all day; and Miss Halcombe appeared
to me to be out of spirits. The house was not
what it used to be in the time of Mr. and
Mrs. Philip Fairlie. I took a walk by myself
in the forenoon: and looked about at some of
the places which I first saw when I was staying
at Limmeridge to transact family business, more
than thirty years since. They were not what
they used to be, either.
At two o'clock Mr. Fairlie sent to say he was
well enough to see me. He had not altered, at
any rate, since I first knew him. His talk was
to the same purpose as usual—all about himself
and his ailments, his wonderful coins, and his
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