The Woman in White
The Story Continued By Mrs. Catherick
SIR,--You have not come back, as you said you would. No matter--I know the news, and
I write to tell you so. Did you see anything particular in my face when you left me? I was
wondering, in my own mind, whether the day of his downfall had come at last, and
whether you were the chosen instrument for working it. You were, and you HAVE
You were weak enough, as I have heard, to try and save his life. If you had succeeded, I
should have looked upon you as my enemy. Now you have failed, I hold you as my
friend. Your inquiries frightened him into the vestry by night--your inquiries, without
your privity and against your will, have served the hatred and wreaked the vengeance of
three-and-twenty vears. Thank you, sir, in spite of yourself.
I owe something to the man who has done this. How can I pay my debt? If I was a young
woman still I might say, "Come, put your arm round my waist, and kiss me, if you like." I
should have been fond enough of you even to go that length, and you would have
accepted my invitation--you would, sir, twenty years ago! But I am an old woman now.
Well! I can satisfy your curiosity, and pay my debt in that way. You HAD a great
curiosity to know certain private affairs of mine when you came to see me--private affairs
which all your sharpness could not look into without my help-- private affairs which you
have not discovered, even now. You SHALL discover them--your curiosity shall be
satisfied. I will take any trouble to please you, my estimable young friend!
You were a little boy, I suppose, in the year twenty-seven? I was a handsome young
woman at that time, living at Old Welmingham. I had a contemptible fool for a husband.
I had also the honour of being acquainted (never mind how) with a certain gentleman
(never mind whom). I shall not call him by his name. Why should I? It was not his own.
He never had a name: you know that, by this time, as well as I do.
It will be more to the purpose to tell you how he worked himself into my good graces. I
was born with the tastes of a lady, and he gratified them--in other words, he admired me,
and he made me presents. No woman can resist admiration and presents--especially
presents, provided they happen to be just the thing she wants. He was sharp enough to
know that--most men are. Naturally he wanted something in return--all men do. And
what do you think was the something? The merest trifle. Nothing but the key of the
vestry, and the key of the press inside it, when my husband's back was turned. Of course
he lied when I asked him why he wished me to get him the keys in that private way. He
might have saved himself the trouble--I didn't believe him. But I liked my presents, and I
wanted more. So I got him the keys, without my husband's knowledge, and I watched
him, without his own knowledge. Once, twice, four times I watched him, and the fourth
time I found him out.
I was never over-scrupulous where other people's affairs were concerned, and I was not
over-scrupulous about his adding one to the marriages in the register on his own account.