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The Woman in White, Page 35

Wilkie Collins


  June 20th.--Eight o'clock. The sun is shining in a clear sky. I havenot been near my bed--I have not once closed my weary wakeful eyes.From the same window at which I looked out into the darkness of lastnight, I look out now at the bright stillness of the morning.

  I count the hours that have passed since I escaped to the shelter ofthis room by my own sensations--and those hours seem like weeks.

  How short a time, and yet how long to ME--since I sank down in thedarkness, here, on the floor--drenched to the skin, cramped in everylimb, cold to the bones, a useless, helpless, panic-stricken creature.

  I hardly know when I roused myself. I hardly know when I groped my wayback to the bedroom, and lighted the candle, and searched (with astrange ignorance, at first, of where to look for them) for dry clothesto warm me. The doing of these things is in my mind, but not the timewhen they were done.

  Can I even remember when the chilled, cramped feeling left me, and thethrobbing heat came in its place?

  Surely it was before the sun rose? Yes, I heard the clock strike three.I remember the time by the sudden brightness and clearness, thefeverish strain and excitement of all my faculties which came with it.I remember my resolution to control myself, to wait patiently hourafter hour, till the chance offered of removing Laura from thishorrible place, without the danger of immediate discovery and pursuit.I remember the persuasion settling itself in my mind that the wordsthose two men had said to each other would furnish us, not only withour justification for leaving the house, but with our weapons ofdefence against them as well. I recall the impulse that awakened in meto preserve those words in writing, exactly as they were spoken, whilethe time was my own, and while my memory vividly retained them. Allthis I remember plainly: there is no confusion in my head yet. Thecoming in here from the bedroom, with my pen and ink and paper, beforesunrise--the sitting down at the widely-opened window to get all theair I could to cool me--the ceaseless writing, faster and faster,hotter and hotter, driving on more and more wakefully, all through thedreadful interval before the house was astir again--how clearly Irecall it, from the beginning by candle-light, to the end on the pagebefore this, in the sunshine of the new day!

  Why do I sit here still? Why do I weary my hot eyes and my burning headby writing more? Why not lie down and rest myself, and try to quenchthe fever that consumes me, in sleep?

  I dare not attempt it. A fear beyond all other fears has gotpossession of me. I am afraid of this heat that parches my skin. I amafraid of the creeping and throbbing that I feel in my head. If I liedown now, how do I know that I may have the sense and the strength torise again?

  Oh, the rain, the rain--the cruel rain that chilled me last night!

  Nine o'clock. Was it nine struck, or eight? Nine, surely? I amshivering again--shivering, from head to foot, in the summer air. HaveI been sitting here asleep? I don't know what I have been doing.

  Oh, my God! am I going to be ill?

  Ill, at such a time as this!

  My head--I am sadly afraid of my head. I can write, but the lines allrun together. I see the words. Laura--I can write Laura, and see Iwrite it. Eight or nine--which was it?

  So cold, so cold--oh, that rain last night!--and the strokes of theclock, the strokes I can't count, keep striking in my head----

  * * * * * * * * * *

  Note [At this place the entry in the Diary ceases to be legible. Thetwo or three lines which follow contain fragments of words only,mingled with blots and scratches of the pen. The last marks on thepaper bear some resemblance to the first two letters (L and A) of thename of Lady Glyde.

  On the next page of the Diary, another entry appears. It is in a man'shandwriting, large, bold, and firmly regular, and the date is "June the21st." It contains these lines--]