THE WOMAN IN WHITE.
MISS HALCOMBE'S NARRATIVE CONTINUED.
JULY 2ND. I have a few lines more to add to
this day's entry before I go to bed to-night.
About two hours after Sir Percival rose from
the luncheon-table to receive his solicitor, Mr.
Merriman, in the library, I left my room, alone,
to take a walk in the plantations. Just as I was
at the end of the landing, the library door opened,
and the two gentlemen came out. Thinking it
best not to disturb them by appearing on the
stairs, I resolved to defer going down till they
had crossed the hall. Although they spoke to
each other in guarded tones, their words were
pronounced with sufficient distinctness of utterance
to reach my ears.
"Make your mind easy, Sir Percival," I heard
the lawyer say. "It all rests with Lady Glyde."
I had turned to go back to my own room, for
a minute or two; but the sound of Laura's
name, on the lips of a stranger, stopped me
instantly. I dare say it was very wrong and very
discreditable to listen—but where is the woman,
in the whole range of our sex, who can regulate
her actions by the abstract principles of honour,
when those principles point one way, and when
her affections, and the interests which grow out
of them, point the other?
I listened; and under similar circumstances,
I would listen again—yes! with my ear at the
keyhole, if I could not possibly manage it in any
"You quite understand, Sir Percival?" the
lawyer went on. "Lady Glyde is to sign her
name in the presence of a witness—or of two
witnesses, if you wish to be particularly careful
—and is then to put her finger on the seal, and
say, 'I deliver this as my act and deed.' If that
is done in a week's time, the arrangement will
be perfectly successful, and the anxiety will be
all over. If not——"
"What do you mean by 'if not?'" asked Sir
Percival, angrily. "If the thing must be done,
it shall be done. I promise you that, Merriman."
"Just so, Sir Percival—just so; but there are
two alternatives in all transactions; and we
lawyers like to look both of them in the face
boldly. If through any extraordinary circumstance
the arrangement should not be made, I
think I may be able to get the parties to accept
bills at three months. But how the money is to
be raised when the bills fall due——"
"Damn the bills! The money is only to be
got in one way; and in that way, I tell you
again, it shall be got. Take a glass of wine,
Merriman, before you go."
"Much obliged, Sir Percival; I have not a
moment to lose if I am to catch the up-train.
You will let me know as soon as the arrangement
is complete? and you will not forget the
caution I recommended——"
"Of course I won't. There's the dog-cart
at the door for you. Jump in. My groom will
get you to the station in no time. Benjamin,
drive like mad! If Mr. Merriman misses the
train, you lose your place. Hold fast, Merriman,
and if you are upset, trust to the devil to
save his own." With that parting benediction,
the baronet turned about, and walked back to
I had not heard much; but the little that had
reached my ears was enough to make me feel
uneasy. The "something" that "had
happened," was but too plainly a serious
money-embarrassment; and Sir Percival's relief from it
depended upon Laura. The prospect of seeing
her involved in her husband's secret difficulties
filled me with dismay, exaggerated, no doubt,
by my ignorance of business and my settled
distrust of Sir Percival. Instead of going
out, as I had proposed, I went back immediately
to Laura's room to tell her what I had heard.
She received my bad news so composedly as
to surprise me. She evidently knows more of
her husband's character and her husband's
embarrassments than I have suspected up to this time.
"I feared as much," she said, "when I heard
of that strange gentleman who called, and
declined to leave his name."
"Who do you think the gentleman was,
then?" I asked.
"Some person who has heavy claims on Sir
Percival," she answered; "and who has been
the cause of Mr. Merriman's visit here to-day."
"Do you know anything about those claims?"
"No; I know no particulars."
"You will sign nothing, Laura, without first
looking at it?"
"Certainly not, Marian. Whatever I can
harmlessly and honestly do to help him I will
do—for the sake of making your life and mine,
love, as easy and as happy as possible. But I
will do nothing, ignorantly, which we might,
one day, have reason to feel ashamed of. Let us
say no more about it, now. You have got your
Dickens Journals Online