THE WOMAN IN WHITE.
PART THE SECOND. HARTRIGHT'S NARRATIVE.
IT was between nine and ten o'clock before I
reached Fulham, and found my way to Gower's
Both Laura and Marian came to the door to
let me in. I think we had hardly known how
close the tie was which bound us three together,
until the evening came which united us again.
We met as if we had been parted for months,
instead of for a few days only. Marian's face
was sadly worn and anxious. I saw who had
known all the danger, and borne all the trouble
in my absence, the moment I looked at her.
Laura's brighter looks and better spirits told me
how carefully she had been spared all knowledge
of the dreadful death at Welmingham, and of
the true reason for our change of abode.
The stir of the removal seemed to have cheered
and interested her. She only spoke of it as a
happy thought of Marian's to surprise me, on
my return, with a change from the close, noisy
street, to the pleasant neighbourhood of trees
and fields and the river. She was full of projects
for the future— of the drawings she was to
finish; of the purchasers I had found in the
country, who were to buy them; of the shillings
and sixpences she had saved, till her purse was
so heavy that, she proudly asked me to weigh it
in my own hand. The change for the better
which had been wrought in her, during the few
days of my absence, was a surprise to me for
which I was quite unprepared— and for all the
unspeakable happiness of seeing it I was indebted
Marian's courage and to Marian's love.
When Laura had left us, and when we could
speak to one another without restraint, I tried
to give some expression to the gratitude and the
admiration which filled my heart. But the
generous creature would not wait to hear me.
That sublime self-forgetfulness of women, which
yields so much and asks so little, turned all her
thoughts from herself to me, and made her first
interest the interest of knowing what I had
felt, on receiving her note that morning, and
what difficulties I might have encountered in
hastening my return to London.
"I had only a moment left before post-time,"
she said, "or I should have written less abruptly.
You look worn and weary, Walter— I am afraid
my letter must have seriously alarmed you?"
"Only at first," I replied. " My mind was
quieted, Marian, by my trust in you. Was I
right in attributing this sudden change of place
to some threatened annoyance on the part of
"Perfectly right," she said. "I saw him
yesterday; and, worse than that, Walter— I
spoke to him."
"Spoke to him? Did he know where we
lived? Did he come to the house?"
"He did. To the house— but not up-stairs.
Laura never saw him; Laura suspects nothing.
I will tell you how it happened: the danger, I
believe and hope, is over now. Yesterday, I
was in the sitting-room, at our old lodgings.
Laura was drawing at the table; and I was
walking about and setting things to rights. I
passed the window, and, as I passed it, looked
out into the street. There, on the opposite side
of the way, I saw the Count, with a man talking
"Did he notice you at the window?"
"No— at least, I thought not. I was too
violently startled to be quite sure."
"Who was the other man? A stranger?"
"Not a stranger, Walter. As soon as I
could draw my breath again, I recognised him.
He was the owner of the Lunatic Asylum."
"Was the Count pointing out the house to
"No; they were talking together as if they
had accidentally met in the street. I remained
at the window looking at them from behind the
curtain. If I had turned round, and if Laura
had seen my face at that moment — Thank
God, she was absorbed over her drawing!
They soon parted. The man from the Asylum
went one way, and the Count the other. I
began to hope they were in the street by chance,
till I saw the Count come back, stop opposite
to us again, take out his card-case and pencil,
write something, and then cross the road to the
shop below us. I ran past Laura before she
could see me, and said I had forgotten something
up-stairs. As soon as I was out of the
room, I went down to the first landing, and
waited— I was determined to stop him if he tried
to come up-stairs. He made no such attempt.
The girl from the shop came through the door
into the passage, with his card in her hand — a
large gilt card, with his name, and a coronet
above it, and these lines underneath in pencil:
'Dear lady' (yes! the villain could address me
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