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The Woman in White

The Story Continued By Isidor, Ottavio, Baldassare
Fosco
(Count of the Holy Roman Empire, Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Brazen
Crown, Perpetual Arch-Master of the Rosicrucian Masons of Mesopotamia; Attached (in
Honorary Capacities) to Societies Musical, Societies Medical, Societies Philosophical,
and Societies General Benevolent, throughout Europe; etc. etc. etc.)
THE COUNT'S NARRATIVE
In the summer of eighteen hundred and fifty I arrived in England, charged with a delicate
political mission from abroad. Confidential persons were semi-officially connected with
me, whose exertions I was authorised to direct, Monsieur and Madame Rubelle being
among the number. Some weeks of spare time were at my disposal, before I entered on
my functions by establishing myself in the suburbs of London. Curiosity may stop here to
ask for some explanation of those functions on my part. I entirely sympathise with the
request. I also regret that diplomatic reserve forbids me to comply with it.
I arranged to pass the preliminary period of repose, to which I have just referred, in the
superb mansion of my late lamented friend, Sir Percival Glyde. HE arrived from the
Continent with his wife. I arrived from the Continent with MINE. England is the land of
domestic happiness--how appropriately we entered it under these domestic
circumstances!
The bond of friendship which united Percival and myself was strengthened, on this
occasion, by a touching similarity in the pecuniary position on his side and on mine. We
both wanted money. Immense necessity! Universal want! Is there a civilised human being
who does not feel for us? How insensible must that man be! Or how rich!
I enter into no sordid particulars, in discussing this part of the subject. My mind recoils
from them. With a Roman austerity, I show my empty purse and Percival's to the
shrinking public gaze. Let us allow the deplorable fact to assert itself, once for all, in that
manner, and pass on.
We were received at the mansion by the magnificent creature who is inscribed on my
heart as "Marian," who is known in the colder atmosphere of society as "Miss
Halcombe."
Just Heaven! with what inconceivable rapidity I learnt to adore that woman. At sixty, I
worshipped her with the volcanic ardour of eighteen. All the gold of my rich nature was
poured hopelessly at her feet. My wife--poor angel!--my wife, who adores me, got
nothing but the shillings and the pennies. Such is the World, such Man, such Love. What
are we (I ask) but puppets in a show- box? Oh, omnipotent Destiny, pull our strings
gently! Dance us mercifully off our miserable little stage!
 
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