THE WOMAN IN WHITE.
MISS HALCOMBE'S NARRATIVE CONTINUED.
JULY 4th. I was so startled by the
disturbance in Laura's face and manner, and so
dismayed by the first waking impressions of my
dream, that I was not fit to bear the revelation
which burst upon me, when the name of Anne
Catherick passed her lips. I could only stand
rooted to the floor, looking at her in breathless
She was too much absorbed by what had
happened to notice the effect which her reply had
produced on me. " I have seen Anne Catherick!
I have spoken to Anne Catherick!" she repeated,
as if I had not heard her. " Oh, Marian, I have
such things to tell you! Come away we may
be interrupted here— come at once into my
With those eager words, she caught me by
the hand, and led me through the library, to the
end room on the ground floor, which had been
fitted up for her own especial use. No third
person, except her maid, could have any excuse
for surprising us here. She pushed me in before
her, locked the door, and drew the chintz
curtains that hung over the inside.
The strange, stunned feeling which had taken
possession, of me still remained. But a growing
conviction that the complications which
had long threatened to gather about her, and to
gather about me, had suddenly closed fast round
us both, was now beginning to penetrate my mind.
I could not express it in words—I could hardly
even realise it dimly in my own thoughts. " Anne
Catherick!" I whispered to myself, with useless,
helpless reiteration—" Anne Catherick!"
Laura drew me to the nearest seat, an
ottoman in the middle of the room. " Look!" she
said; "look here!"— and pointed to the bosom
of her dress.
I saw, for the first time, that the lost brooch
was pinned in its place again. There was something
real in the sight of it, something real in the
touching of it afterwards, which seemed to
steady the whirl and confusion in my thoughts,
and to help me to compose myself.
"Where did you find your brooch?" The
first words I could say to her were the words
which put that trivial question at that important
"She found it, Marian."
"On the floor of the boat-house. Oh, how
shall I begin—how shall I tell you about it !
She talked to me so strangely—she looked so
fearfully ill—she left me so suddenly ——-!"
Her voice rose as the tumult of her recollections
pressed upon her mind. The inveterate
distrust which weighs, night and day, on my
spirits in this house, instantly roused me to warn
her—just as the sight of the brooch had roused
me to question her, the moment before.
"Speak low," I said. " The window is open,
and the .garden path runs beneath it. Begin at
the beginning, Laura. Tell me, word for word,
what passed between that woman and you."
"Shall I close the window first?"
"No; only speak low: only remember that
Anne Catherick is a dangerous subject under
your husband's roof. Where did you first see
"At the boat-house, Marian. I went out, as
you know, to find my brooch; and I walked
along the path through the plantation, looking
down on the ground carefully at every step. In
that way I got on, after a long time, to the boat-
house; and, as soon as I was inside it, I went
on my knees to hunt over the floor. I was still
searching, with my back to the doorway, when
I heard a soft, strange voice, behind me, say,
' Miss Fairlie.'"
"Yes—my old name—the dear, familiar name
that I thought I had parted from for ever. I
started up—not frightened, the voice was too
kind and gentle to frighten anybody— but very
much surprised. There, looking at me from the
doorway, stood a woman, whose face I never
remembered to have seen before"
"How was she dressed?"
"She had a neat, pretty white gown on, and
over it a poor worn thin dark shawl. Her bonnet
was of brown straw, as poor and worn as the
shawl. I was struck by the difference between,
her gown and the rest of her dress, and she saw
that I noticed it. ' Don't look at my bonnet
and shawl,' she said, speaking in a quick, breathless,
sudden way; ' if I mustn't wear white, I
don't care what I wear. Look at my gown, as
much as you please; I'm not ashamed of that.'
Very strange, was it not? Before I could
say anything to soothe her, she held out one of
her hands, and I saw my brooch in it. I was so
pleased and so grateful, that I went quite close
Dickens Journals Online