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               THE WOMAN IN WHITE.


JULY 4TH. The misery of self-reproach which
I suffered, yesterday evening, on hearing what
Laura told me in the boat-house, returned in
the loneliness of the night, and kept me waking
and wretched for hours.

I lighted the candle at last, and searched
through my old journals to see what my share in
the fatal error of her marriage had really been,
and what I might have once done to save her
from it. The result soothed me a littlefor it
showed that, however blindly and ignorantly I
acted, I acted for the best. Crying generally
does me harm; but it was not so last nightI
think it relieved me. I rose this morning with
a settled resolution and a quiet mind. Nothing
Sir Percival can say or do shall ever irritate me
again, or make me forget, for one moment, that
I am staying here, in defiance of mortifications,
insults, and threats, for Laura's service and for
Laura's sake.

The speculations in which we might have
indulged, this morning, on the subject of the
figure at the lake and the footsteps in the
plantation, have been all suspended by a trifling
accident which has caused Laura great regret.
She has lost the little brooch I gave her for a
keepsake, on the day before her marriage. As
she wore it when we went out yesterday evening,
we can only suppose that it must have
dropped from her dress, either in the boat-house,
or on our way back. The servants have been
sent to search, and have returned unsuccessful.
And now Laura herself has just gone to look
for it. Whether she finds it, or not, the loss
will help to excuse her absence from the house,
if Sir Percival returns before the letter from Mr.
Gilmore's partner is placed in my hands.

One o'clock has just struck. I am considering
whether I had better wait here for the arrival
of the messenger from London, or slip away
quietly, and watch for him outside the lodge

My suspicion of everybody and everything
in this house inclines me to think that the
second plan may be the best. The Count is safe
in the breakfast-room. I heard him, through
the door, as I ran upstairs, ten minutes since,
exercising his canary-birds at their tricks:—
"Come out on my little finger, my pret-pret-
pretties! Come out, and hop upstairs! One,
two, threeand up! Three, two, oneand
down! One, two, threetwit-twit-twit-tweet!"
The birds burst into their usual ecstasy of singing,
and the Count chirruped and whistled at
them in return, as if he was a bird himself.
My room door is open, and I can hear the shrill
singing and whistling at this moment. If I am
really to slip out, without being observednow
is my time.

Four o'clock. I come back to this journal,
with sensations filling my mind which it would
be useless for any woman to attempt to describe.
The three hours that have passed since I made
my last entry, have turned the whole march of
events at Blackwater Park in a new direction.
Whether for good or for evil, I cannot and dare
not decide.

Let me get back first to the place at which I
left offor I shall lose myself in the confusion
of my own thoughts.

I went out, as I had proposed, to meet the
messenger with my letter from London, at the
lodge gate. On the stairs I saw no one. In
the hall I heard the Count still exercising his
birds. But on crossing the quadrangle outside,
I passed Madame Fosco, walking by herself in
her favourite circle, round and round the great
fish-pond. I at once slackened my pace, so as
to avoid all appearance of being in a hurry;
and even went the length, for caution's sake, of
inquiring if she thought of going out before
lunch. She smiled at me in the friendliest
mannersaid she preferred remaining near the
housenodded pleasantlyand re-entered the
hall. I looked back, and saw that she had
closed the door before I had opened the wicket
by the side of the carriage gates.

In less than a quarter of an hour, I reached
the lodge.

The lane outside took a sudden turn to the left,
ran on straight for a hundred yards or so, and
then took another sharp turn to the right to join
the high road. Between these two turns, hidden
from the lodge on one side and from the way to
the station on the other, I waited, walking backwards
and forwards. High hedges were on either
side of me; and, for twenty minutes by my
watch, I neither saw nor heard anything. At
the end of that time, the sound of a carriage
caught my ear; and I was met, as I advanced
towards the second turning, by a fly from the

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