THE WOMAN IN WHITE.
PART THE SECOND. HARTRIGHT's NARRATIVE.
THE story of my first inquiries in Hampshire
is soon told.
My early departure from London enabled me
to reach Mr. Dawson's house in the forenoon.
Our interview, so far as the object of my visit
was concerned, led to no satisfactory result.
Mr. Dawson's books certainly showed when he
had resumed his attendance on Miss Halcombe,
at Blackwater Park; but it was not possible to
calculate back from this date with any exactness,
without such help from Mrs. Michelson as I knew she was unable to afford. She could not say from memory (who, in similar cases, ever
can ?) how many days had elapsed between the
renewal of the doctor's attendance on his patient
and the previous departure of Lady Glyde. She
was almost certain of having mentioned the
circumstance of the departure to Miss Halcombe,
on the day after it happened— but then she was
no more able to fix the date of the day on which
this disclosure took place, than to fix the date
of the day before, when Lady Glyde had left for
London. Neither could she calculate, with any
nearer approach to exactness, the time that had
passed from the departure of her mistress, to the
period when the undated letter from Madame
Tosco arrived. Lastly, as if to complete the
series of difficulties, the doctor himself, having
been ill at the time, had omitted to make his usual
entry of the day of the week and month when the
gardener from Blackwater Park has called on
him to deliver Mrs. Michelson's message.
Hopeless of obtaining assistance from Mr.
Dawson, I resolved to try next if I could
establish the date of Sir Percival's arrival at
Knowlesbury. It seemed like a fatality! When
I reached Knowlesbury the inn was shut up;
and bills were posted on the walls. The
speculation had been a bad one, as I was informed,
ever since the time of the railway. The new
hotel at the station had gradually absorbed
the business; and the old inn (which we
knew to be the inn at which Sir Percival had
put up), had been closed about two months
since. The proprietor had left the town with all
his goods and chattels, and where he had gone I
could not positively ascertain from any one. The
four people of whom I inquired gave me four
different accounts of his plans and projects when
he left Knowlesbury.
There were still some hours to spare before
the last train left for London; and I drove back
again, in a fly from the Knowlesbury station, to
Blackwater Park, with the purpose of questioning
the gardener and the person who kept the
lodge. If they, too, proved unable to assist me,
my resources, for the present, were at an end,
and I might return to town.
I dismissed the fly a mile distant from the
park; and, getting my directions from the
driver, proceeded by myself to the house. As I
turned into the lane from the high road, I saw a
man, with a carpet-bag, walking before me
rapidly on the way to the lodge. He was a little
man, dressed in shabby black, and wearing a
remarkably large hat. I set him down (as well as
it was possible to judge) for a lawyer's clerk;
and stopped at once to widen the distance
between us. He had not heard me; and he walked
on out of sight, without looking back. When I
passed through the gates myself, a little while
afterwards, he was not visible— he had evidently
gone on to the house.
There were two women in the lodge. One of
them was old; the other, I knew at once, by
Marian's description of her, to be Margaret
Porcher. I asked first if Sir Percival was at the
park; and, receiving a reply in the negative,
inquired next when he had left it. Neither of the
women could tell me more than that he had gone
away in the summer. I could extract nothing
from Margaret Porcher but vacant smiles and
shakings of the head. The old woman was a
little more intelligent; and I managed to lead
her into speaking of the manner of Sir Percival's
departure, and of the alarm that it caused her.
She remembered her mastor calling her out of
bed, and remembered his frightening her by
swearing—but the date at which the occurrence
happened was, as she honestly acknowledged,
"quite beyond her."
On leaving the lodge, I saw the gardener at
work not far off. When I first addressed him,
he looked at me rather distrustfully; but, on
my using Mrs. Michelson's name, with a civil
reference to himself, he entered into conversation
readily enough. There is no need to describe
what passed between us: it ended, as all my
other attempts to discover the date had ended.
The gardener knew that his master had driven
away, at night "some time in July, the last
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