all the experience, which had availed me with other women, and secured
me against other temptations, failed me with her. It had been my
profession, for years past, to be in this close contact with young
girls of all ages, and of all orders of beauty. I had accepted the
position as part of my calling in life; I had trained myself to leave
all the sympathies natural to my age in my employer's outer hall, as
coolly as I left my umbrella there before I went upstairs. I had long
since learnt to understand, composedly and as a matter of course, that
my situation in life was THE STORY BEGUN BY WALTER HARTRIGHT 6 страница considered a guarantee against any of my
female pupils feeling more than the most ordinary interest in me, and
that I was admitted among beautiful and captivating women much as a
harmless domestic animal is admitted among them. This guardian
experience I had gained early; this guardian experience had sternly and
strictly guided me straight along my own poor narrow path, without once
letting me stray aside, to the right hand or to the left. And now I
and my trusty talisman were parted for the first time. Yes, my
hardly-earned self-control was as completely lost to me as if I had
never possessed it; lost THE STORY BEGUN BY WALTER HARTRIGHT 6 страница to me, as it is lost every day to other men,
in other critical situations, where women are concerned. I know, now,
that I should have questioned myself from the first. I should have
asked why any room in the house was better than home to me when she
entered it, and barren as a desert when she went out again--why I
always noticed and remembered the little changes in her dress that I
had noticed and remembered in no other woman's before--why I saw her,
heard her, and touched her (when we shook hands at night and THE STORY BEGUN BY WALTER HARTRIGHT 6 страница morning)
as I had never seen, heard, and touched any other woman in my life? I
should have looked into my own heart, and found this new growth
springing up there, and plucked it out while it was young. Why was
this easiest, simplest work of self-culture always too much for me? The
explanation has been written already in the three words that were many
enough, and plain enough, for my confession. I loved her.
The days passed, the weeks passed; it was approaching the third month
of my stay in Cumberland. The delicious monotony of life in our calm
seclusion flowed on with me, like a smooth THE STORY BEGUN BY WALTER HARTRIGHT 6 страница stream with a swimmer who
glides down the current. All memory of the past, all thought of the
future, all sense of the falseness and hopelessness of my own position,
lay hushed within me into deceitful rest. Lulled by the Syren-song that
my own heart sung to me, with eyes shut to all sight, and ears closed
to all sound of danger, I drifted nearer and nearer to the fatal rocks.
The warning that aroused me at last, and startled me into sudden,
self-accusing consciousness of my own weakness, was the plainest, the
truest, the kindest of all warnings, for it THE STORY BEGUN BY WALTER HARTRIGHT 6 страница came silently from HER.
We had parted one night as usual. No word had fallen from my lips, at
that time or at any time before it, that could betray me, or startle
her into sudden knowledge of the truth. But when we met again in the
morning, a change had come over her--a change that told me all.
I shrank then--I shrink still--from invading the innermost sanctuary of
her heart, and laying it open to others, as I have laid open my own.
Let it be enough to say that the time when she first surprised my
secret was, I firmly THE STORY BEGUN BY WALTER HARTRIGHT 6 страница believe, the time when she first surprised her
own, and the time, also, when she changed towards me in the interval of
one night. Her nature, too truthful to deceive others, was too noble
to deceive itself. When the doubt that I had hushed asleep first laid
its weary weight on her heart, the true face owned all, and said, in
its own frank, simple language--I am sorry for him; I am sorry for
It said this, and more, which I could not then interpret. I understood
but too well the change in her manner, to greater kindness and quicker
readiness in interpreting THE STORY BEGUN BY WALTER HARTRIGHT 6 страница all my wishes, before others--to constraint
and sadness, and nervous anxiety to absorb herself in the first
occupation she could seize on, whenever we happened to be left together
alone. I understood why the sweet sensitive lips smiled so rarely and
so restrainedly now, and why the clear blue eyes looked at me,
sometimes with the pity of an angel, sometimes with the innocent
perplexity of a child. But the change meant more than this. There was
a coldness in her hand, there was an unnatural immobility in her face,
there was in all her movements the mute expression of constant fear and
clinging self-reproach THE STORY BEGUN BY WALTER HARTRIGHT 6 страница. The sensations that I could trace to herself
and to me, the unacknowledged sensations that we were feeling in
common, were not these. There were certain elements of the change in
her that were still secretly drawing us together, and others that were,
as secretly, beginning to drive us apart.
In my doubt and perplexity, in my vague suspicion of something hidden
which I was left to find by my own unaided efforts, I examined Miss
Halcombe's looks and manner for enlightenment. Living in such intimacy
as ours, no serious alteration could take place in any one of us which
did not sympathetically THE STORY BEGUN BY WALTER HARTRIGHT 6 страница affect the others. The change in Miss Fairlie
was reflected in her half-sister. Although not a word escaped Miss
Halcombe which hinted at an altered state of feeling towards myself,
her penetrating eyes had contracted a new habit of always watching me.
Sometimes the look was like suppressed anger, sometimes like suppressed
dread, sometimes like neither--like nothing, in short, which I could
understand. A week elapsed, leaving us all three still in this
position of secret constraint towards one another. My situation,
aggravated by the sense of my own miserable weakness and forgetfulness
of myself, now too late awakened in me, was becoming THE STORY BEGUN BY WALTER HARTRIGHT 6 страница intolerable. I
felt that I must cast off the oppression under which I was living, at
once and for ever--yet how to act for the best, or what to say first,
was more than I could tell.
From this position of helplessness and humiliation I was rescued by
Miss Halcombe. Her lips told me the bitter, the necessary, the
unexpected truth; her hearty kindness sustained me under the shock of
hearing it; her sense and courage turned to its right use an event
which threatened the worst that could happen, to me and to others, in
It was on a Thursday in the week THE STORY BEGUN BY WALTER HARTRIGHT 6 страница, and nearly at the end of the third
month of my sojourn in Cumberland.
In the morning, when I went down into the breakfast-room at the usual
hour, Miss Halcombe, for the first time since I had known her, was
absent from her customary place at the table.
Miss Fairlie was out on the lawn. She bowed to me, but did not come
in. Not a word had dropped from my lips, or from hers, that could
unsettle either of us--and yet the same unacknowledged sense of
embarrassment made us shrink alike from meeting one another alone. She
waited on the lawn, and I waited THE STORY BEGUN BY WALTER HARTRIGHT 6 страница in the breakfast-room, till Mrs. Vesey
or Miss Halcombe came in. How quickly I should have joined her: how
readily we should have shaken hands, and glided into our customary
talk, only a fortnight ago.
In a few minutes Miss Halcombe entered. She had a preoccupied look,
and she made her apologies for being late rather absently.
"I have been detained," she said, "by a consultation with Mr. Fairlie
on a domestic matter which he wished to speak to me about."
Miss Fairlie came in from the garden, and the usual morning greeting
passed between us. Her hand struck colder to mine than ever THE STORY BEGUN BY WALTER HARTRIGHT 6 страница. She did
not look at me, and she was very pale. Even Mrs. Vesey noticed it when
she entered the room a moment after.
"I suppose it is the change in the wind," said the old lady. "The
winter is coming--ah, my love, the winter is coming soon!"
In her heart and in mine it had come already!
Our morning meal--once so full of pleasant good-humoured discussion of
the plans for the day--was short and silent. Miss Fairlie seemed to
feel the oppression of the long pauses in the conversation, and looked
appealingly to her sister to fill them THE STORY BEGUN BY WALTER HARTRIGHT 6 страница up. Miss Halcombe, after once
or twice hesitating and checking herself, in a most uncharacteristic
manner, spoke at last.
"I have seen your uncle this morning, Laura," she said. "He thinks the
purple room is the one that ought to be got ready, and he confirms what
I told you. Monday is the day--not Tuesday."
While these words were being spoken Miss Fairlie looked down at the
table beneath her. Her fingers moved nervously among the crumbs that
were scattered on the cloth. The paleness on her cheeks spread to her
lips, and the lips themselves trembled visibly. I was not the only
person present who noticed THE STORY BEGUN BY WALTER HARTRIGHT 6 страница this. Miss Halcombe saw it, too, and at once
set us the example of rising from table.
Mrs. Vesey and Miss Fairlie left the room together. The kind sorrowful
blue eyes looked at me, for a moment, with the prescient sadness of a
coming and a long farewell. I felt the answering pang in my own
heart--the pang that told me I must lose her soon, and love her the
more unchangeably for the loss.
I turned towards the garden when the door had closed on her. Miss
Halcombe was standing with her hat in her hand, and her shawl over her
arm THE STORY BEGUN BY WALTER HARTRIGHT 6 страница, by the large window that led out to the lawn, and was looking at
"Have you any leisure time to spare," she asked, "before you begin to
work in your own room?"
"Certainly, Miss Halcombe. I have always time at your service."
"I want to say a word to you in private, Mr. Hartright. Get your hat
and come out into the garden. We are not likely to be disturbed there
at this hour in the morning."
As we stepped out on to the lawn, one of the under-gardeners--a mere
lad--passed us on his way to the house, with a letter THE STORY BEGUN BY WALTER HARTRIGHT 6 страница in his hand.
Miss Halcombe stopped him.
"Is that letter for me?" she asked.
"Nay, miss; it's just said to be for Miss Fairlie," answered the lad,
holding out the letter as he spoke.
Miss Halcombe took it from him and looked at the address.
"A strange handwriting," she said to herself. "Who can Laura's
correspondent be? Where did you get this?" she continued, addressing
"Well, miss," said the lad, "I just got it from a woman."
"A woman well stricken in age."
"Oh, an old woman. Any one you knew?"
"I canna' tak' it THE STORY BEGUN BY WALTER HARTRIGHT 6 страница on mysel' to say that she was other than a stranger
"Which way did she go?"
"That gate," said the under-gardener, turning with great deliberation
towards the south, and embracing the whole of that part of England with
one comprehensive sweep of his arm.
"Curious," said Miss Halcombe; "I suppose it must be a begging-letter.
There," she added, handing the letter back to the lad, "take it to the
house, and give it to one of the servants. And now, Mr. Hartright, if
you have no objection, let us walk this way."
She led me across the lawn, along the same THE STORY BEGUN BY WALTER HARTRIGHT 6 страница path by which I had followed
her on the day after my arrival at Limmeridge.
At the little summer-house, in which Laura Fairlie and I had first seen
each other, she stopped, and broke the silence which she had steadily
maintained while we were walking together.
"What I have to say to you I can say here."
With those words she entered the summer-house, took one of the chairs
at the little round table inside, and signed to me to take the other.
I suspected what was coming when she spoke to me in the breakfast-room;
I felt THE STORY BEGUN BY WALTER HARTRIGHT 6 страница certain of it now.
"Mr. Hartright," she said, "I am going to begin by making a frank
avowal to you. I am going to say--without phrase-making, which I
detest, or paying compliments, which I heartily despise--that I have
come, in the course of your residence with us, to feel a strong
friendly regard for you. I was predisposed in your favour when you
first told me of your conduct towards that unhappy woman whom you met
under such remarkable circumstances. Your management of the affair
might not have been prudent, but it showed the self-control, the
delicacy, and the compassion of a man who was THE STORY BEGUN BY WALTER HARTRIGHT 6 страница naturally a gentleman.
It made me expect good things from you, and you have not disappointed
She paused--but held up her hand at the same time, as a sign that she
awaited no answer from me before she proceeded. When I entered the
summer-house, no thought was in me of the woman in white. But now,
Miss Halcombe's own words had put the memory of my adventure back in my
mind. It remained there throughout the interview--remained, and not
without a result.
"As your friend," she proceeded, "I am going to tell you, at once THE STORY BEGUN BY WALTER HARTRIGHT 6 страница, in
my own plain, blunt, downright language, that I have discovered your
secret--without help or hint, mind, from any one else. Mr. Hartright,
you have thoughtlessly allowed yourself to form an attachment--a
serious and devoted attachment I am afraid--to my sister Laura. I
don't put you to the pain of confessing it in so many words, because I
see and know that you are too honest to deny it. I don't even blame
you--I pity you for opening your heart to a hopeless affection. You
have not attempted to take any underhand advantage--you have not spoken
to my sister in secret THE STORY BEGUN BY WALTER HARTRIGHT 6 страница. You are guilty of weakness and want of
attention to your own best interests, but of nothing worse. If you had
acted, in any single respect, less delicately and less modestly, I
should have told you to leave the house without an instant's notice, or
an instant's consultation of anybody. As it is, I blame the misfortune
of your years and your position--I don't blame YOU. Shake hands--I
have given you pain; I am going to give you more, but there is no help
for it--shake hands with your friend, Marian Halcombe, first."
The sudden kindness--the warm, high-minded, fearless THE STORY BEGUN BY WALTER HARTRIGHT 6 страница sympathy which met
me on such mercifully equal terms, which appealed with such delicate
and generous abruptness straight to my heart, my honour, and my
courage, overcame me in an instant. I tried to look at her when she
took my hand, but my eves were dim. I tried to thank her, but my voice
"Listen to me," she said, considerately avoiding all notice of my loss
of self-control. "Listen to me, and let us get it over at once. It is
a real true relief to me that I am not obliged, in what I have now to
say, to enter into THE STORY BEGUN BY WALTER HARTRIGHT 6 страница the question--the hard and cruel question as I think
it--of social inequalities. Circumstances which will try you to the
quick, spare me the ungracious necessity of paining a man who has lived
in friendly intimacy under the same roof with myself by any humiliating
reference to matters of rank and station. You must leave Limmeridge
House, Mr. Hartright, before more harm is done. It is my duty to say
that to you; and it would be equally my duty to say it, under precisely
the same serious necessity, if you were the representative of the
oldest and wealthiest family in England. You must leave us THE STORY BEGUN BY WALTER HARTRIGHT 6 страница, not because
you are a teacher of drawing----"
She waited a moment, turned her face full on me, and reaching across
the table, laid her hand firmly on my arm.
"Not because you are a teacher of drawing," she repeated, "but because
Laura Fairlie is engaged to be married."
The last word went like a bullet to my heart. My arm lost all
sensation of the hand that grasped it. I never moved and never spoke.
The sharp autumn breeze that scattered the dead leaves at our feet came
as cold to me, on a sudden, as if my own mad hopes were THE STORY BEGUN BY WALTER HARTRIGHT 6 страница dead leaves
too, whirled away by the wind like the rest. Hopes! Betrothed, or not
betrothed, she was equally far from me. Would other men have remembered
that in my place? Not if they had loved her as I did.
The pang passed, and nothing but the dull numbing pain of it remained.
I felt Miss Halcombe's hand again, tightening its hold on my arm--I
raised my head and looked at her. Her large black eyes were rooted on
me, watching the white change on my face, which I felt, and which she
"Crush it!" she said. "Here, where you first saw THE STORY BEGUN BY WALTER HARTRIGHT 6 страница her, crush it! Don't
shrink under it like a woman. Tear it out; trample it under foot like
The suppressed vehemence with which she spoke, the strength which her
will--concentrated in the look she fixed on me, and in the hold on my
arm that she had not yet relinquished--communicated to mine, steadied
me. We both waited for a minute in silence. At the end of that time I
had justified her generous faith in my manhood--I had, outwardly at
least, recovered my self-control.
"Are you yourself again?"
"Enough myself, Miss Halcombe, to ask your pardon and hers. Enough
myself to THE STORY BEGUN BY WALTER HARTRIGHT 6 страница be guided by your advice, and to prove my gratitude in that
way, if I can prove it in no other."
"You have proved it already," she answered, "by those words. Mr.
Hartright, concealment is at an end between us. I cannot affect to
hide from you what my sister has unconsciously shown to me. You must
leave us for her sake, as well as for your own. Your presence here,
your necessary intimacy with us, harmless as it has been, God knows, in
all other respects, has unsteadied her and made her wretched. I, who
love her better than my own life--I, who have THE STORY BEGUN BY WALTER HARTRIGHT 6 страница learnt to believe in that
pure, noble, innocent nature as I believe in my religion--know but too
well the secret misery of self-reproach that she has been suffering
since the first shadow of a feeling disloyal to her marriage engagement
entered her heart in spite of her. I don't say--it would be useless to
attempt to say it after what has happened--that her engagement has ever
had a strong hold on her affections. It is an engagement of honour,
not of love; her father sanctioned it on his deathbed, two years since;
she herself neither welcomed it nor shrank from THE STORY BEGUN BY WALTER HARTRIGHT 6 страница it--she was content to
make it. Till you came here she was in the position of hundreds of
other women, who marry men without being greatly attracted to them or
greatly repelled by them, and who learn to love them (when they don't
learn to hate!) after marriage, instead of before. I hope more
earnestly than words can say--and you should have the self-sacrificing
courage to hope too--that the new thoughts and feelings which have
disturbed the old calmness and the old content have not taken root too
deeply to be ever removed. Your absence (if I had less THE STORY BEGUN BY WALTER HARTRIGHT 6 страница belief in your
honour, and your courage, and your sense, I should not trust to them as
I am trusting now) your absence will help my efforts, and time will
help us all three. It is something to know that my first confidence in
you was not all misplaced. It is something to know that you will not
be less honest, less manly, less considerate towards the pupil whose
relation to yourself you have had the misfortune to forget, than
towards the stranger and the outcast whose appeal to you was not made
Again the chance reference to the woman in white! Was there no
possibility of speaking THE STORY BEGUN BY WALTER HARTRIGHT 6 страница of Miss Fairlie and of me without raising the
memory of Anne Catherick, and setting her between us like a fatality
that it was hopeless to avoid?
"Tell me what apology I can make to Mr. Fairlie for breaking my
engagement," I said. "Tell me when to go after that apology is
accepted. I promise implicit obedience to you and to your advice."
"Time is every way of importance," she answered. "You heard me refer
this morning to Monday next, and to the necessity of setting the purple
room in order. The visitor whom we expect on Monday----"
I could not wait for her THE STORY BEGUN BY WALTER HARTRIGHT 6 страница to be more explicit. Knowing what I knew now,
the memory of Miss Fairlie's look and manner at the breakfast-table
told me that the expected visitor at Limmeridge House was her future
husband. I tried to force it back; but something rose within me at
that moment stronger than my own will, and I interrupted Miss Halcombe.
"Let me go to-day," I said bitterly. "The sooner the better."
"No, not to-day," she replied. "The only reason you can assign to Mr.
Fairlie for your departure, before the end of your engagement, must be
that an unforeseen necessity compels you to THE STORY BEGUN BY WALTER HARTRIGHT 6 страница ask his permission to
return at once to London. You must wait till to-morrow to tell him
that, at the time when the post comes in, because he will then
understand the sudden change in your plans, by associating it with the
arrival of a letter from London. It is miserable and sickening to
descend to deceit, even of the most harmless kind--but I know Mr.
Fairlie, and if you once excite his suspicions that you are trifling
with him, he will refuse to release you. Speak to him on Friday
morning: occupy yourself afterwards (for the sake of your own interests
with your employer) in THE STORY BEGUN BY WALTER HARTRIGHT 6 страница leaving your unfinished work in as little
confusion as possible, and quit this place on Saturday. It will be
time enough then, Mr. Hartright, for you, and for all of us."
Before I could assure her that she might depend on my acting in the
strictest accordance with her wishes, we were both startled by
advancing footsteps in the shrubbery. Some one was coming from the
house to seek for us! I felt the blood rush into my cheeks and then
leave them again. Could the third person who was fast approaching us,
at such a time and under such circumstances, be Miss Fairlie THE STORY BEGUN BY WALTER HARTRIGHT 6 страница?
It was a relief--so sadly, so hopelessly was my position towards her
changed already--it was absolutely a relief to me, when the person who
had disturbed us appeared at the entrance of the summer-house, and
proved to be only Miss Fairlie's maid.
"Could I speak to you for a moment, miss?" said the girl, in rather a
flurried, unsettled manner.
Miss Halcombe descended the steps into the shrubbery, and walked aside
a few paces with the maid.
Left by myself, my mind reverted, with a sense of forlorn wretchedness
which it is not in any words that I can find to describe THE STORY BEGUN BY WALTER HARTRIGHT 6 страница, to my
approaching return to the solitude and the despair of my lonely London
home. Thoughts of my kind old mother, and of my sister, who had
rejoiced with her so innocently over my prospects in
Cumberland--thoughts whose long banishment from my heart it was now my
shame and my reproach to realise for the first time--came back to me
with the loving mournfulness of old, neglected friends. My mother and
my sister, what would they feel when I returned to them from my broken
engagement, with the confession of my miserable secret--they who had
parted from me so hopefully on that last THE STORY BEGUN BY WALTER HARTRIGHT 6 страница happy night in the Hampstead
Anne Catherick again! Even the memory of the farewell evening with my
mother and my sister could not return to me now unconnected with that
other memory of the moonlight walk back to London. What did it mean?
Were that woman and I to meet once more? It was possible, at the least.
Did she know that I lived in London? Yes; I had told her so, either
before or after that strange question of hers, when she had asked me so
distrustfully if I knew many men of the rank of Baronet. Either before
or after--my mind was not THE STORY BEGUN BY WALTER HARTRIGHT 6 страница calm enough, then, to remember which.
A few minutes elapsed before Miss Halcombe dismissed the maid and came
back to me. She, too, looked flurried and unsettled now.
"We have arranged all that is necessary, Mr. Hartright," she said. "We
have understood each other, as friends should, and we may go back at
once to the house. To tell you the truth, I am uneasy about Laura.
She has sent to say she wants to see me directly, and the maid reports
that her mistress is apparently very much agitated by a letter that she
has received this morning--the same letter, no doubt THE STORY BEGUN BY WALTER HARTRIGHT 6 страница, which I sent on
to the house before we came here."
We retraced our steps together hastily along the shrubbery path.
Although Miss Halcombe had ended all that she thought it necessary to
say on her side, I had not ended all that I wanted to say on mine.
From the moment when I had discovered that the expected visitor at
Limmeridge was Miss Fairlie's future husband, I had felt a bitter
curiosity, a burning envious eagerness, to know who he was. It was
possible that a future opportunity of putting the question might not
easily offer, so I risked asking THE STORY BEGUN BY WALTER HARTRIGHT 6 страница it on our way back to the house.
"Now that you are kind enough to tell me we have understood each other,
Miss Halcombe," I said, "now that you are sure of my gratitude for your
forbearance and my obedience to your wishes, may I venture to ask
who"--(I hesitated--I had forced myself to think of him, but it was
harder still to speak of him, as her promised husband)--"who the
gentleman engaged to Miss Fairlie is?"
Her mind was evidently occupied with the message she had received from
her sister. She answered in a hasty, absent way--
"A gentleman of THE STORY BEGUN BY WALTER HARTRIGHT 6 страница large property in Hampshire."
Hampshire! Anne Catherick's native place. Again, and yet again, the
woman in white. There WAS a fatality in it.
"And his name?" I said, as quietly and indifferently as I could.
"Sir Percival Glyde."
SIR--Sir Percival! Anne Catherick's question--that suspicious question
about the men of the rank of Baronet whom I might happen to know--had
hardly been dismissed from my mind by Miss Halcombe's return to me in
the summer-house, before it was recalled again by her own answer. I
stopped suddenly, and looked at her.
"Sir Percival Glyde," she repeated, imagining that I THE STORY BEGUN BY WALTER HARTRIGHT 6 страница had not heard her
"Knight, or Baronet?" I asked, with an agitation that I could hide no
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