The Guilty River HTML version
6. The Return Of The Portfolio
With that serious question the last of the leaves entrusted to me by the Lodger at the Mill
came to an end.
I betray no confidence in presenting this copy of his confession. Time has passed since I
first read it, and changes have occurred in the interval, which leave me free to exercise
my own discretion, and to let the autobiography speak for itself.
If I am asked what impression of the writer those extraordinary pages produced on me, I
feel at a loss how to reply.
Not one impression, but many impressions, troubled and confused my mind. Certain
passages in the confession inclined me to believe that the writer was mad. But I altered
my opinion at the next leaf, and set him down as a man with a bitter humor, disposed to
make merry over his own bad qualities. At one time, his tone in writing of his early life,
and his allusions to his mother, won my sympathy and respect. At another time, the
picture of himself in his later years, and the defiant manner in which he presented it,
almost made me regret that he had not died of the illness which had struck him deaf. In
this state of uncertainty I may claim the merit of having arrived, so far as my own future
conduct was concerned, at one positive conclusion. As strangers he and I had first met.
As strangers I was determined we should remain.
Having made up my mind, so far, the next thing to do (with the clock on the mantel-piece
striking midnight) was to go to bed.
I slept badly. The events that had happened, since my arrival in England, had excited me
I suppose. Now and then, in the wakeful hours of the night, I thought of Cristel with some
anxiety. Taking the Loger's exaggerated language for what it was really worth, the poor
girl (as I was still inclined to fear) might have serious reason to regret that he had ever
entered her father's cottage.
At the breakfast table, my stepmother and I met again.
Mrs. Roylake--in an exquisite morning dress; with her smile in perfect order--informed
me that she was dying with curiosity. She had heard, from the servants, that I had not
returned to the house until past ten o'clock on the previous night; and she was absolutely
bewildered by the discovery. What could her dear Gerard have been doing, out in the
dark by himself, for all that time?
"For some part of the time," I answered, "I was catching moths in Fordwitch Wood."
"What an extraordinary occupation for a young man! Well? And what did you do after