The Woman in White
The Story Continued In Several Narratives
1. THE NARRATIVE OF HESTER PINHORN, COOK IN THE SERVICE OF COUNT
[Taken down from her own statement]
I am sorry to say that I have never learnt to read or write. I have been a hard-working
woman all my life, and have kept a good character. I know that it is a sin and wickedness
to say the thing which is not, and I will truly beware of doing so on this occasion. All that
I know I will tell, and I humbly beg the gentleman who takes this down to put my
language right as he goes on, and to make allowances for my being no scholar.
In this last summer I happened to be out of place (through no fault of my own), and I
heard of a situation as plain cook, at Number Five, Forest Road, St. John's Wood. I took
the place on trial. My master's name was Fosco. My mistress was an English lady. He
was Count and she was Countess. There was a girl to do housemaid's work when I got
there. She was not over-clean or tidy, but there was no harm in her. I and she were the
only servants in the house.
Our master and mistress came after we got in; and as soon as they did come we were told,
downstairs, that company was expected from the country.
The company was my mistress's niece, and the back bedroom on the first floor was got
ready for her. My mistress mentioned to me that Lady Glyde (that was her name) was in
poor health, and that I must be particular in my cooking accordingly. She was to come
that day, as well as I can remember--but whatever you do, don't trust my memory in the
matter. I am sorry to say it's no use asking me about days of the month, and such-like.
Except Sundays, half my time I take no heed of them, being a hard-working woman and
no scholar. All I know is Lady Glyde came, and when she did come, a fine fright she
gave us all surely. I don't know how master brought her to the house, being hard at work
at the time. But he did bring her in the afternoon, I think, and the housemaid opened the
door to them, and showed them into the parlour. Before she had been long down in the
kitchen again with me, we heard a hurry-skurry upstairs, and the parlour bell ringing like
mad, and my mistress's voice calling out for help.
We both ran up, and there we saw the lady laid on the sofa, with her face ghastly white,
and her hands fast clenched, and her head drawn down to one side. She had been taken
with a sudden fright, my mistress said, and master he told us she was in a fit of
convulsions. I ran out, knowing the neighbourhood a little better than the rest of them, to
fetch the nearest doctor's help. The nearest help was at Goodricke's and Garth's, who
worked together as partners, and had a good name and connection, as I have heard, all
round St. John's Wood. Mr. Goodricke was in, and he came back with me directly.
It was some time before he could make himself of much use. The poor unfortunate lady
fell out of one fit into another, and went on so till she was quite wearied out, and as