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The Woman in White, Page 36

Wilkie Collins


  The illness of our excellent Miss Halcombe has afforded me theopportunity of enjoying an unexpected intellectual pleasure.

  I refer to the perusal (which I have just completed) of thisinteresting Diary.

  There are many hundred pages here. I can lay my hand on my heart, anddeclare that every page has charmed, refreshed, delighted me.

  To a man of my sentiments it is unspeakably gratifying to be able tosay this.

  Admirable woman!

  I allude to Miss Halcombe.

  Stupendous effort!

  I refer to the Diary.

  Yes! these pages are amazing. The tact which I find here, thediscretion, the rare courage, the wonderful power of memory, theaccurate observation of character, the easy grace of style, thecharming outbursts of womanly feeling, have all inexpressibly increasedmy admiration of this sublime creature, of this magnificent Marian.The presentation of my own character is masterly in the extreme. Icertify, with my whole heart, to the fidelity of the portrait. I feelhow vivid an impression I must have produced to have been painted insuch strong, such rich, such massive colours as these. I lament afreshthe cruel necessity which sets our interests at variance, and opposesus to each other. Under happier circumstances how worthy I should havebeen of Miss Halcombe--how worthy Miss Halcombe would have been of ME.

  The sentiments which animate my heart assure me that the lines I havejust written express a Profound Truth.

  Those sentiments exalt me above all merely personal considerations. Ibear witness, in the most disinterested manner, to the excellence ofthe stratagem by which this unparalleled woman surprised the privateinterview between Percival and myself--also to the marvellous accuracyof her report of the whole conversation from its beginning to its end.

  Those sentiments have induced me to offer to the unimpressionabledoctor who attends on her my vast knowledge of chemistry, and myluminous experience of the more subtle resources which medical andmagnetic science have placed at the disposal of mankind. He hashitherto declined to avail himself of my assistance. Miserable man!

  Finally, those sentiments dictate the lines--grateful, sympathetic,paternal lines--which appear in this place. I close the book. Mystrict sense of propriety restores it (by the hands of my wife) to itsplace on the writer's table. Events are hurrying me away.Circumstances are guiding me to serious issues. Vast perspectives ofsuccess unroll themselves before my eyes. I accomplish my destiny witha calmness which is terrible to myself. Nothing but the homage of myadmiration is my own. I deposit it with respectful tenderness at thefeet of Miss Halcombe.

  I breathe my wishes for her recovery.

  I condole with her on the inevitable failure of every plan that she hasformed for her sister's benefit. At the same time, I entreat her tobelieve that the information which I have derived from her Diary willin no respect help me to contribute to that failure. It simplyconfirms the plan of conduct which I had previously arranged. I haveto thank these pages for awakening the finest sensibilities in mynature--nothing more.

  To a person of similar sensibility this simple assertion will explainand excuse everything.

  Miss Halcombe is a person of similar sensibility.

  In that persuasion I sign myself, Fosco.