+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error



JULY 3RD. When the dinner hour brought us
together again, Count Fosco was in his usual
excellent spirits. He exerted himself to interest
and amuse us, as if he was determined to efface
from our memories all recollection of what had
passed in the library that afternoon. Lively
descriptions of his adventures in travelling;
amusing anecdotes of remarkable people whom
he had met with abroad; quaint comparisons
between the social customs of various nations,
illustrated by examples drawn from men and
women indiscriminately all over Europe;
humorous confessions of the innocent follies of his
own early life, when he ruled the fashions of a
second-rate Italian town, and wrote preposterous
romances, on the French model, for a second-rate
Italian newspaperall flowed in succession so
easily and so gaily from his lips, and all addressed
our various curiosities and various interests so
directly and so delicately, that Laura and I
listened to him with as much attention, and,
inconsistent as it may seem, with as much admiration
also, as Madame Fosco herself. Women can
resist a man's love, a man's fame, a man's
personal appearance, and a man's money; but they
cannot resist a man's tongue, when he knows
how to talk to them.

After dinner, while the favourable impression
which he had produced on us was still vivid in
our minds, the Count modestly withdrew to read
in the library. Laura proposed a stroll in the
grounds to enjoy the close of the long evening.
It was necessary, in common politeness, to ask
Madame Fosco to join us; but, this time, she
had apparently received her orders beforehand,
and she begged we would kindly excuse her.
"The Count will probably want a fresh supply
of cigarettes," she remarked, by way of apology;
"and nobody can make them to his satisfaction,
but myself." Her cold blue eyes almost warmed
as she spoke the wordsshe looked actually
proud of being the ofiiciating medium
through which her lord and master
composed himself with tobacco-smoke.

Laura and I went out together alone.

It was a misty, heavy evening. There was a
sense of blight in the air; the flowers were
drooping in the garden, and the ground was
parched and dewless. The western heaven, as
we saw it over the quiet trees, was of a pale
yellow hue, and the sun was setting faintly in a
haze. Coming rain seemed near: it would fall
probably with the fall of night.

"Which way shall we go?" I asked.

"Towards the lake, Marian, if you like," she

"You seem unaccountably fond, Laura, of
that dismal lake."

"No; not of the lake, but of the scenery
about it'. The sand and heath, and the fir-trees,
are the only objects I can discover, in all this
large place, to remind me of  Limmeridge. But
we will walk in some other direction, if you
prefer it."

"I have no favourite walks at  Blackwater
Park, my love. One is the same as another to me.
Let us go to the lakewe may find it cooler
in the open space than we find it here."

We walked through the shadowy plantation
in silence. The heaviness in the evening air
oppressed us both; and, when we reached the
boat-house, we were glad to sit down and rest,

A white fog hung low over the lake. The
dense brown line of the trees on the opposite
bank, appeared above it, like a dwarf forest
floating in the sky. The sandy ground, shelving
downward from where we sat, was lost
mysteriously in the outward layers of the fog. The
silence was horrible. No rustling of the leaves
no bird's note in the woodno cry of
water-fowl from the pools of the hidden lake.
Even the croaking of the frogs had ceased

"It is very desolate and gloomy," said Laura.

"But we can be more alone here than anywhere

She spoke quietly, and looked at the wilderness
of sand and mist with steady, thoughtful eyes.
I could see that her mind was too much occupied
with its own thoughts to feel the dreary impressions
from without, which had fastened
themselves already on mine.

"I promised, Marian, to tell you the truth
about my married life, instead of leaving you
any longer to guess it for yourself," she began.
"That secret is the first I have ever had from
you, love, and I am determined it shall be the
last. I was silent, as you know, for your sake
and perhaps a little for my own sake as well.
It is very hard for a woman to confess that the
man to whom she has given her whole life, is