The woman in white, p.4
The Woman in White, p.4Wilkie Collins
"She has escaped from my Asylum!"
I cannot say with truth that the terrible inference which those wordssuggested flashed upon me like a new revelation. Some of the strangequestions put to me by the woman in white, after my ill-consideredpromise to leave her free to act as she pleased, had suggested theconclusion either that she was naturally flighty and unsettled, or thatsome recent shock of terror had disturbed the balance of her faculties.But the idea of absolute insanity which we all associate with the veryname of an Asylum, had, I can honestly declare, never occurred to me,in connection with her. I had seen nothing, in her language or heractions, to justify it at the time; and even with the new light thrownon her by the words which the stranger had addressed to the policeman,I could see nothing to justify it now.
What had I done? Assisted the victim of the most horrible of all falseimprisonments to escape; or cast loose on the wide world of London anunfortunate creature, whose actions it was my duty, and every man'sduty, mercifully to control? I turned sick at heart when the questionoccurred to me, and when I felt self-reproachfully that it was askedtoo late.
In the disturbed state of my mind, it was useless to think of going tobed, when I at last got back to my chambers in Clement's Inn. Beforemany hours elapsed it would be necessary to start on my journey toCumberland. I sat down and tried, first to sketch, then to read--butthe woman in white got between me and my pencil, between me and mybook. Had the forlorn creature come to any harm? That was my firstthought, though I shrank selfishly from confronting it. Other thoughtsfollowed, on which it was less harrowing to dwell. Where had shestopped the cab? What had become of her now? Had she been traced andcaptured by the men in the chaise? Or was she still capable ofcontrolling her own actions; and were we two following our widelyparted roads towards one point in the mysterious future, at which wewere to meet once more?
It was a relief when the hour came to lock my door, to bid farewell toLondon pursuits, London pupils, and London friends, and to be inmovement again towards new interests and a new life. Even the bustleand confusion at the railway terminus, so wearisome and bewildering atother times, roused me and did me good.
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