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THE WOMAN IN WHITE.

MISS HALCOMBE'S NARRATIVE CONTINUED.

JULY 5TH. I remained leaning on the window-
sill for nearly a quarter of an hour, looking out
absently into the black darkness, and hearing
nothing, except, now and then, the voices of the
servants, or the distant sound of a closing door,
in the lower part of the house.

Just as I was turning away wearily from the
window, to go back to the bedroom, and make a
second attempt to complete the unfinished entry
in my journal, I smelt the odour of tobacco-
smoke, stealing towards me on the heavy night
air. The next moment I saw a tiny red spark
advancing from the farther end of the house in
the pitch darkness. I heard no footsteps, and I
could see nothing but the spark. It travelled
along in the night; passed the window at which
I was standing; and stopped opposite my
bedroom window, inside which I had left the
light burning on the dressing-table.

The spark remained stationary, for a moment,
then moved back again in the direction from
which it had advanced. As I followed its
progress, I saw a second red spark, larger than the
first, approaching from the distance. The two
met together in the darkness. Remembering
who smoked cigarettes, and who smoked cigars,
I inferred, immediately, that the Count had
come out first to look and listen, under my window,
and that Sir Percival had afterwards joined
him. They must both have been walking on the
lawn- or I should certainly have heard Sir
Percival's heavy footfall, though the Count's soft step
might have escaped me, even on the gravel walk.

I waited quietly at the window, certain that
they could neither of them see me, in the
darkness of the room.

"What's the matter?" I heard Sir Percival
say , in a low voice. "Why don't you come in
and sit down?"

"I want to see the light out of that window,"
replied the Count, softly.

"What harm does the light do?"

"It shows she is not in bed yet. She is sharp
enough to suspect something, and bold enough
to come down stairs and listen, if she can get
the chance. Patience, Percival- patience."

"Humbug! You're always talking of
patience."

"I shall talk of something else presently.
My good friend, you are on the edge of your
domestic precipice; and if I let you give the
women one other chance, on my sacred word of
honour, they will push you over it!"

"What the devil" do you mean?"

"We will come to our explanations, Percival,
when the light is out of that window, and when
I have had one little look at the rooms on each
side of the library, and a peep at the staircase
as well."

They slowly moved away; and the rest of the
conversation between them (which had been
conducted, throughout, in the same low tones)
ceased to be audible. It was no matter. I had
heard enough to determine me on justifying the
Count's opinion of my sharpness and my
courage. Before the red sparks were out of
sight m the darkness, I had made up my mind
that there should be a listener when those two
men sat down to their talk- and that the
listener, in spite of all the Count's precautions to
the contrary, should be myself. I wanted but
one motive to sanction the act to my own
conscience, and to give me courage enough for
performing it; and that motive I had. Laura's
honour, Laura's happiness- Laura's life itself-
might depend on my quick ears, and my faithful
memory, to-night.

I had heard the Count say that he meant to
examine the rooms on each side of the library,
and the staircase as well, before he entered on
any explanations with Sir Percival. This
expression of his intentions was necessarily
sufficient to inform me that the library was the room
in which he proposed that the conversation
should take place. The one moment of time
which was long enough to bring me to that
conclusion, was also the moment which showed me
a means of baffling his precautions- or, in other
words, of hearing what he and Sir Percival
said to each other, without the risk of descending at
all into the lower regions of the house.

In speaking of the rooms on the ground
floor, I have mentioned incidentally the verandah
outside them, on which they all opened
by means of French windows, extending from
the cornice to the floor. The top of this
verandah was flat; the rain-water being carried
off from it, by pipes, into tanks which helped
to supply the house. On the narrow leaden roof,
which ran along past the bedrooms, and which
was rather less, I should think, than three feet
below the sills of the windows, a row of flower-

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