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The Woman in White, Page 17

Wilkie Collins


  II

  We all met again at dinner-time.

  Sir Percival was in such boisterous high spirits that I hardlyrecognised him as the same man whose quiet tact, refinement, and goodsense had impressed me so strongly at the interview of the morning.The only trace of his former self that I could detect reappeared, everynow and then, in his manner towards Miss Fairlie. A look or a wordfrom her suspended his loudest laugh, checked his gayest flow of talk,and rendered him all attention to her, and to no one else at table, inan instant. Although he never openly tried to draw her into theconversation, he never lost the slightest chance she gave him ofletting her drift into it by accident, and of saying the words to her,under those favourable circumstances, which a man with less tact anddelicacy would have pointedly addressed to her the moment they occurredto him. Rather to my surprise, Miss Fairlie appeared to be sensible ofhis attentions without being moved by them. She was a little confusedfrom time to time when he looked at her, or spoke to her; but she neverwarmed towards him. Rank, fortune, good breeding, good looks, therespect of a gentleman, and the devotion of a lover were all humblyplaced at her feet, and, so far as appearances went, were all offeredin vain.

  On the next day, the Tuesday, Sir Percival went in the morning (takingone of the servants with him as a guide) to Todd's Corner. Hisinquiries, as I afterwards heard, led to no results. On his return hehad an interview with Mr. Fairlie, and in the afternoon he and MissHalcombe rode out together. Nothing else happened worthy of record.The evening passed as usual. There was no change in Sir Percival, andno change in Miss Fairlie.

  The Wednesday's post brought with it an event--the reply from Mrs.Catherick. I took a copy of the document, which I have preserved, andwhich I may as well present in this place. It ran as follows--