The Woman in White HTML version
The Story Continued By Walter Hartright
My first impulse, after reading Mrs. Catherick's extraordinary narrative, was to destroy it.
The hardened shameless depravity of the whole composition, from beginning to end--the
atrocious perversity of mind which persistently associated me with a calamity for which I
was in no sense answerable, and with a death which I had risked my life in trying to
avert--so disgusted me, that I was on the point of tearing the letter, when a consideration
suggested itself which warned me to wait a little before I destroyed it.
This consideration was entirely unconnected with Sir Percival. The information
communicated to me, so far as it concerned him, did little more than confirm the
conclusions at which I had already arrived.
He had committed his offence, as I had supposed him to have committed it, and the
absence of all reference, on Mrs. Catherick's part, to the duplicate register at
Knowlesbury, strengthened my previous conviction that the existence of the book, and
the risk of detection which it implied, must have been necessarily unknown to Sir
Percival. My interest in the question of the forgery was now at an end, and my only
object in keeping the letter was to make it of some future service in clearing up the last
mystery that still remained to baffle me--the parentage of Anne Catherick on the father's
side. There were one or two sentences dropped in her mother's narrative, which it might
be useful to refer to again, when matters of more immediate importance allowed me
leisure to search for the missing evidence. I did not despair of still finding that evidence,
and I had lost none of my anxiety to discover it, for I had lost none of my interest in
tracing the father of the poor creature who now lay at rest in Mrs. Fairlie's grave.
Accordingly, I sealed up the letter and put it away carefully in my pocket-book, to be
referred to again when the time came.
The next day was my last in Hampshire. When I had appeared again before the magistrate
at Knowlesbury, and when I had attended at the adjourned inquest, I should be free to
return to London by the afternoon or the evening train.
My first errand in the morning was, as usual, to the post-office. The letter from Marian
was there, but I thought when it was handed to me that it felt unusually light. I anxiously
opened the envelope. There was nothing inside but a small strip of paper folded in two.
The few blotted hurriedly-written lines which were traced on it contained these words:
"Come back as soon as you can. I have been obliged to move. Come to Gower's Walk,
Fulham (number five). I will be on the look-out for you. Don't be alarmed about us, we
are both safe and well. But come back.--Marian."
The news which those lines contained--news which I instantly associated with some
attempted treachery on the part of Count Fosco--fairly overwhelmed me. I stood