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THE WOMAN IN WHITE.

PART THE THIRD. HARTRIGHT'S NARRATIVE.
I.

FOUR months passed. April camethe month
of Spring; the month of change.

The course of Time had flowed through the
interval since the winter, peacefully and happily
in our new home. I had turned my long leisure
to good account; had largely increased my
sources of employment; and had placed our
means of subsistence on surer grounds. Freed
from the suspense and the anxiety which had
tried her so sorely, and hung over her so long,
Marian's spirits rallied; and ner natural energy
of character began to assert itself again, with
something, if not all, of the freedom and the
vigour of former times.

More pliable under change than her sister,
Laura showed more plainly the progress made
by the healing influences of her new life. The
worn and wasted look which had prematurely
aged her face, was fast leaving it; and the
expression which had been the first of its charms
in past days, was the first of its beauties that now
returned. My closest observation of her detected
but one serious result of the conspiracy which had
once threatened her reason and her life. Her
memory of events, from the period of her leaving
Blackwater Park to the period of our meeting
in the burial-ground of Limmeridge Church,
was lost beyond all hope of recovery. At the
slightest reference to that time, she changed and
trembled still; her words became confused; her
memory wandered and lost itself as helplessly
as ever. Here, and here only, the traces of the
past lay deeptoo deep to be effaced.

In all else, she was now so far on the way to
recovery, that, on her best and brightest days,
she sometimes looked and spoke like the Laura
of old times. The happy change wrought its
natural result in us both. From their long
slumber, on her side and on mine, those
imperishable memories of our past life in Cumberland
now awoke, which were one and all alike, the
memories of our love.

Gradually and insensibly, our daily relations
towards each other became constrained. The
fond words which I had spoken to her so
naturally in the days of her sorrow and her
suffering, faltered strangely on my lips. In the
time when my dread of losing her was most
present to my mind, I had always kissed her
when she left me at night and when she met me
in the morning. The kiss seemed now to have
dropped between usto be lost out of our lives.
Our hands began to tremble again when they
met. We hardly ever looked long at one another
out of Marian's presence. The talk often
flagged between us when we were alone. When
I touched her by accident, I felt my heart beating
fast, as it used to beat at Limmeridge House
I saw the lovely answering flush glowing
again in her cheeks, as if we were back among
the Cumberland Hills, in our past characters
of master and pupil once more. She had long
intervals of silence and thoughtfulness; and
denied she had been thinking, when Marian
asked her the question. I surprised myself, one
day, neglecting my work, to dream over the little
water-colour portrait of her which I had taken
in the summer-house where we first metjust
as I used to neglect Mr. Fairlie's drawings, to
dream over the same likeness, when it was newly
finished in the bygone time. Changed as all
the circumstances now were, our position
towards each other in the golden days of our first
companionship, seemed to be revived with the
revival of our love. It was as if Time had
drifted us back, on the wreck of our early hopes,
to the old familiar shore!

To any other woman, I could have spoken the
decisive words which I still hesitated to speak
to her. The utter helplessness of her position;
her friendless dependence on all the forbearing
gentleness that I could show her; my fear of
touching too soon some secret sensitiveness in
her, which my instinct, as a man, might not
have been fine enough to discoverthese
considerations, and others like them, kept me self-
distrustfully silent. And yet, I knew that the
restraint on both sides must be ended; that the
relations in which we stood towards one another
must be altered, in some settled manner, for the
future; and that it rested with me, in the first
instance, to recognise the necessity for a change.

The more I thought of our position, the
harder the attempt to alter it appeared, while
the domestic conditions on which we three had
been living together since the winter, remained
undisturbed. I cannot account for the capricious
state of mind in which this feeling originated
but the idea nevertheless possessed me, that some
previous change of place and circumstances, some
sudden break in the quiet monotony of our lives,

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