THE WOMAN IN WHITE.
MR. FAIRLIE'S NARRATIVE CONCLUDED.
Is it necessary to say what my first impression
was, when I looked at my visitor's card? Surely
not? My sister having married a foreigner,
there was but one impression that any man in
his senses could possibly feel. Of course the
Count had come to borrow money of me.
"Louis," I said, "do you think he would go
away, if you gave him five shillings?"
Louis looked quite shocked. He surprised
me inexpressibly, by declaring that my sister's
foreign husband was dressed superbly, and
looked the picture of prosperity. Under these
circumstances, my first impression altered to a
certain extent. I now took it for granted, that
the Count had matrimonial difficulties of his
own to contend with, and that he had come, like
the rest of the family, to cast them all on my
"Did he mention his business?" I asked.
"Count Fosco said he had come here, sir,
because Miss Halcombe was unable to leave
Fresh troubles, apparently. Not exactly his
own, as I had supposed, but dear Marian's. It
made very little difference. Troubles, any way.
"Show him in," I said, resignedly.
The Count's first appearance really startled
me. He was such an alarmingly large person,
that I quite trembled. I felt certain that he
would shake the floor, and knock down my art-
treasures. He did neither the one nor the
other. He was refreshingly dressed in summer
costume; his manner was delightfully self-possessed
and quiet — he had a charming smile. My
first impression of him was highly favourable. It
is not creditable to my penetration — as the sequel
will show to acknowledge this; but I am
a naturally candid man, and I do acknowledge it,
"Allow me to present myself, Mr. Fairlie,"
he said. "I come from Blackwater Park, and
I have the honour and the happiness of being
Madame Fosco's husband. Let me take my first,
and last, advantage of that circumstance,
by entreating you not to make a stranger of me.
I beg you will not disturb yourself— I beg you
will not move."
"You are very good," I replied. " I wish I was
strong enough to get up. Charmed to see
you at Limmeridge. Please take a chair."
"I am afraid you are suffering to-day," said
"As usual," I said. "I am nothing but a
bundle of nerves dressed up to look like a man."
"I have studied many subjects in my time,"
remarked this sympathetic person. "Among
others, the inexhaustible subject of nerves. May
I make a suggestion, at once the simplest and
the most profound? Will you let me alter the
light in your room?"
"Certainly — if you will be so very kind as
not to let any of it in on me."
He walked to the window. Such a contrast
to dear Marian! so extremely considerate in all
"Light," he said, in that delightfully confidential
tone which is so soothing to an invalid,
"is the first essential. Light stimulates, nourishes,
preserves. You can no more do without
it, Mr. Fairlie, than if you were a flower.
Observe. Here, where you sit, I close the
shutters, to compose you. There, where you do
not sit, I draw up the blind and let in the
invigorating sun. Admit the light into your room,
if you cannot bear it on yourself. Light, sir, is
the grand decree of Providence. You accept
Providence with your own restrictions. Accept
Light — on the same terms."
I thought this very convincing and attentive.
He had taken me in — up to that point about the
light, he had certainly taken me in.
"You see me confused," he said, returning to
his place — "on my word of honour, Mr. Fairlie,
you see me confused in your presence."
"Shocked to hear it, I am sure. May I inquire why?"
"Sir, can I enter this room (where you sit a
sufferer), and see you surrounded by these
admirable objects of Art, without discovering that
you are a man whose feelings are acutely
impressionable, whose sympathies are perpetually
alive? Tell me, can I do this?"
If I had been strong enough to sit up in my
chair, I should of course have bowed. Not being
strong enough, I smiled my acknowledgments
instead. It did just as well; we both understood
"Pray follow my train of thought," continued
the Count. " I sit here, a man of refined sympathies
myself, in the presence of another man
of refined sympathies also. I am conscious of a
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