The Woman in White, Page 73Wilkie Collins
THE COUNT'S NARRATIVE
In the summer of eighteen hundred and fifty I arrived in England,charged with a delicate political mission from abroad. Confidentialpersons were semi-officially connected with me, whose exertions I wasauthorised to direct, Monsieur and Madame Rubelle being among thenumber. Some weeks of spare time were at my disposal, before I enteredon my functions by establishing myself in the suburbs of London.Curiosity may stop here to ask for some explanation of those functionson my part. I entirely sympathise with the request. I also regretthat diplomatic reserve forbids me to comply with it.
I arranged to pass the preliminary period of repose, to which I havejust referred, in the superb mansion of my late lamented friend, SirPercival Glyde. HE arrived from the Continent with his wife. Iarrived from the Continent with MINE. England is the land of domestichappiness--how appropriately we entered it under these domesticcircumstances!
The bond of friendship which united Percival and myself wasstrengthened, on this occasion, by a touching similarity in thepecuniary position on his side and on mine. We both wanted money.Immense necessity! Universal want! Is there a civilised human being whodoes not feel for us? How insensible must that man be! Or how rich!
I enter into no sordid particulars, in discussing this part of thesubject. My mind recoils from them. With a Roman austerity, I show myempty purse and Percival's to the shrinking public gaze. Let us allowthe deplorable fact to assert itself, once for all, in that manner, andpass on.
We were received at the mansion by the magnificent creature who isinscribed on my heart as "Marian," who is known in the colderatmosphere of society as "Miss Halcombe."
Just Heaven! with what inconceivable rapidity I learnt to adore thatwoman. At sixty, I worshipped her with the volcanic ardour ofeighteen. All the gold of my rich nature was poured hopelessly at herfeet. My wife--poor angel!--my wife, who adores me, got nothing butthe shillings and the pennies. Such is the World, such Man, such Love.What are we (I ask) but puppets in a show-box? Oh, omnipotent Destiny,pull our strings gently! Dance us mercifully off our miserable littlestage!
The preceding lines, rightly understood, express an entire system ofphilosophy. It is mine.
The domestic position at the commencement of our residence atBlackwater Park has been drawn with amazing accuracy, with profoundmental insight, by the hand of Marian herself. (Pass me theintoxicating familiarity of mentioning this sublime creature by herChristian name.) Accurate knowledge of the contents of her journal--towhich I obtained access by clandestine means, unspeakably precious tome in the remembrance--warns my eager pen from topics which thisessentially exhaustive woman has already made her own.
The interests--interests, breathless and immense!--with which I am hereconcerned, begin with the deplorable calamity of Marian's illness.
The situation at this period was emphatically a serious one. Large sumsof money, due at a certain time, were wanted by Percival (I say nothingof the modicum equally necessary to myself), and the one source to lookto for supplying them was the fortune of his wife, of which not onefarthing was at his disposal until her death. Bad so far, and worsestill farther on. My lamented friend had private troubles of his own,into which the delicacy of my disinterested attachment to him forbademe from inquiring too curiously. I knew nothing but that a woman,named Anne Catherick, was hidden in the neighbourhood, that she was incommunication with Lady Glyde, and that the disclosure of a secret,which would be the certain ruin of Percival, might be the result. Hehad told me himself that he was a lost man, unless his wife wassilenced, and unless Anne Catherick was found. If he was a lost man,what would become of our pecuniary interests? Courageous as I am bynature, I absolutely trembled at the idea!
The whole force of my intelligence was now directed to the finding ofAnne Catherick. Our money affairs, important as they were, admitted ofdelay--but the necessity of discovering the woman admitted of none. Ionly knew her by description, as presenting an extraordinary personalresemblance to Lady Glyde. The statement of this curiousfact--intended merely to assist me in identifying the person of whom wewere in search--when coupled with the additional information that AnneCatherick had escaped from a mad-house, started the first immenseconception in my mind, which subsequently led to such amazing results.That conception involved nothing less than the complete transformationof two separate identities. Lady Glyde and Anne Catherick were tochange names, places, and destinies, the one with the other--theprodigious consequences contemplated by the change being the gain ofthirty thousand pounds, and the eternal preservation of Sir Percival'ssecret.
My instincts (which seldom err) suggested to me, on reviewing thecircumstances, that our invisible Anne would, sooner or later, returnto the boat-house at the Blackwater lake. There I posted myself,previously mentioning to Mrs. Michelson, the housekeeper, that I mightbe found when wanted, immersed in study, in that solitary place. It ismy rule never to make unnecessary mysteries, and never to set peoplesuspecting me for want of a little seasonable candour on my part. Mrs.Michelson believed in me from first to last. This ladylike person(widow of a Protestant priest) overflowed with faith. Touched by suchsuperfluity of simple confidence in a woman of her mature years, Iopened the ample reservoirs of my nature and absorbed it all.
I was rewarded for posting myself sentinel at the lake by theappearance--not of Anne Catherick herself, but of the person in chargeof her. This individual also overflowed with simple faith, which Iabsorbed in myself, as in the case already mentioned. I leave her todescribe the circumstances (if she has not done so already) under whichshe introduced me to the object of her maternal care. When I first sawAnne Catherick she was asleep. I was electrified by the likenessbetween this unhappy woman and Lady Glyde. The details of the grandscheme which had suggested themselves in outline only, up to thatperiod, occurred to me, in all their masterly combination, at the sightof the sleeping face. At the same time, my heart, always accessible totender influences, dissolved in tears at the spectacle of sufferingbefore me. I instantly set myself to impart relief. In other words, Iprovided the necessary stimulant for strengthening Anne Catherick toperform the journey to London.
The best years of my life have been passed in the ardent study ofmedical and chemical science. Chemistry especially has always hadirresistible attractions for me from the enormous, the illimitablepower which the knowledge of it confers. Chemists--I assert itemphatically--might sway, if they pleased, the destinies of humanity.Let me explain this before I go further.
Mind, they say, rules the world. But what rules the mind? The body(follow me closely here) lies at the mercy of the most omnipotent ofall potentates--the Chemist. Give me--Fosco--chemistry; and whenShakespeare has conceived Hamlet, and sits down to execute theconception--with a few grains of powder dropped into his daily food, Iwill reduce his mind, by the action of his body, till his pen pours outthe most abject drivel that has ever degraded paper. Under similarcircumstances, revive me the illustrious Newton. I guarantee that whenhe sees the apple fall he shall EAT IT, instead of discovering theprinciple of gravitation. Nero's dinner shall transform Nero into themildest of men before he has done digesting it, and the morning draughtof Alexander the Great shall make Alexander run for his life at thefirst sight of the enemy the same afternoon. On my sacred word ofhonour it is lucky for Society that modern chemists are, byincomprehensible good fortune, the most harmless of mankind. The massare worthy fathers of families, who keep shops. The few arephilosophers besotted with admiration for the sound of their ownlecturing voices, visionaries who waste their lives on fantasticimpossibilities, or quacks whose ambition soars no higher than ourcorns. Thus Society escapes, and the illimitable power of Chemistryremains the slave of the most superficial and the most insignificantends.
Why this outburst? Why this withering eloquence?
Because my conduct has been misrepresented, because my motives havebeen misunderstood. It has been assumed that I used my vast chemicalresourc
es against Anne Catherick, and that I would have used them if Icould against the magnificent Marian herself. Odious insinuations both!All my interests were concerned (as will be seen presently) in thepreservation of Anne Catherick's life. All my anxieties wereconcentrated on Marian's rescue from the hands of the licensed imbecilewho attended her, and who found my advice confirmed from first to lastby the physician from London. On two occasions only--both equallyharmless to the individual on whom I practised--did I summon to myselfthe assistance of chemical knowledge. On the first of the two, afterfollowing Marian to the inn at Blackwater (studying, behind aconvenient waggon which hid me from her, the poetry of motion, asembodied in her walk), I availed myself of the services of myinvaluable wife, to copy one and to intercept the other of two letterswhich my adored enemy had entrusted to a discarded maid. In this case,the letters being in the bosom of the girl's dress, Madame Fosco couldonly open them, read them, perform her instructions, seal them, and putthem back again by scientific assistance--which assistance I renderedin a half-ounce bottle. The second occasion, when the same means wereemployed, was the occasion (to which I shall soon refer) of LadyGlyde's arrival in London. Never at any other time was I indebted tomy Art as distinguished from myself. To all other emergencies andcomplications my natural capacity for grappling, single-handed, withcircumstances, was invariably equal. I affirm the all-pervadingintelligence of that capacity. At the expense of the Chemist Ivindicate the Man.
Respect this outburst of generous indignation. It has inexpressiblyrelieved me. En route! Let us proceed.
Having suggested to Mrs. Clement (or Clements, I am not sure which)that the best method of keeping Anne out of Percival's reach was toremove her to London--having found that my proposal was eagerlyreceived, and having appointed a day to meet the travellers at thestation and to see them leave it, I was at liberty to return to thehouse and to confront the difficulties which still remained to be met.
My first proceeding was to avail myself of the sublime devotion of mywife. I had arranged with Mrs. Clements that she should communicateher London address, in Anne's interests, to Lady Glyde. But this wasnot enough. Designing persons in my absence might shake the simpleconfidence of Mrs. Clements, and she might not write after all. Whocould I find capable of travelling to London by the train she travelledby, and of privately seeing her home? I asked myself this question.The conjugal part of me immediately answered--Madame Fosco.
After deciding on my wife's mission to London, I arranged that thejourney should serve a double purpose. A nurse for the sufferingMarian, equally devoted to the patient and to myself, was a necessityof my position. One of the most eminently confidential and capablewomen in existence was by good fortune at my disposal. I refer to thatrespectable matron, Madame Rubelle, to whom I addressed a letter, ather residence in London, by the hands of my wife.
On the appointed day Mrs. Clements and Anne Catherick met me at thestation. I politely saw them off, I politely saw Madame Fosco off bythe same train. The last thing at night my wife returned toBlackwater, having followed her instructions with the mostunimpeachable accuracy. She was accompanied by Madame Rubelle, and shebrought me the London address of Mrs. Clements. After-events provedthis last precaution to have been unnecessary. Mrs. Clementspunctually informed Lady Glyde of her place of abode. With a wary eyeon future emergencies, I kept the letter.
The same day I had a brief interview with the doctor, at which Iprotested, in the sacred interests of humanity, against his treatmentof Marian's case. He was insolent, as all ignorant people are. Ishowed no resentment, I deferred quarrelling with him till it wasnecessary to quarrel to some purpose. My next proceeding was to leaveBlackwater myself. I had my London residence to take in anticipationof coming events. I had also a little business of the domestic sort totransact with Mr. Frederick Fairlie. I found the house I wanted in St.John's Wood. I found Mr. Fairlie at Limmeridge, Cumberland.
My own private familiarity with the nature of Marian's correspondencehad previously informed me that she had written to Mr. Fairlie,proposing, as a relief to Lady Glyde's matrimonial embarrassments, totake her on a visit to her uncle in Cumberland. This letter I hadwisely allowed to reach its destination, feeling at the time that itcould do no harm, and might do good. I now presented myself before Mr.Fairlie to support Marian's own proposal--with certain modificationswhich, happily for the success of my plans, were rendered reallyinevitable by her illness. It was necessary that Lady Glyde shouldleave Blackwater alone, by her uncle's invitation, and that she shouldrest a night on the journey at her aunt's house (the house I had in St.John's Wood) by her uncle's express advice. To achieve these results,and to secure a note of invitation which could be shown to Lady Glyde,were the objects of my visit to Mr. Fairlie. When I have mentionedthat this gentleman was equally feeble in mind and body, and that I letloose the whole force of my character on him, I have said enough. Icame, saw, and conquered Fairlie.
On my return to Blackwater Park (with the letter of invitation) I foundthat the doctor's imbecile treatment of Marian's case had led to themost alarming results. The fever had turned to typhus. Lady Glyde, onthe day of my return, tried to force herself into the room to nurse hersister. She and I had no affinities of sympathy--she had committed theunpardonable outrage on my sensibilities of calling me a spy--she was astumbling-block in my way and in Percival's--but, for all that, mymagnanimity forbade me to put her in danger of infection with my ownhand. At the same time I offered no hindrance to her putting herselfin danger. If she had succeeded in doing so, the intricate knot which Iwas slowly and patiently operating on might perhaps have been cut bycircumstances. As it was, the doctor interfered and she was kept outof the room.
I had myself previously recommended sending for advice to London. Thiscourse had been now taken. The physician, on his arrival, confirmed myview of the case. The crisis was serious. But we had hope of ourcharming patient on the fifth day from the appearance of the typhus. Iwas only once absent from Blackwater at this time--when I went toLondon by the morning train to make the final arrangements at my housein St. John's Wood, to assure myself by private inquiry that Mrs.Clements had not moved, and to settle one or two little preliminarymatters with the husband of Madame Rubelle. I returned at night. Fivedays afterwards the physician pronounced our interesting Marian to beout of all danger, and to be in need of nothing but careful nursing.This was the time I had waited for. Now that medical attendance was nolonger indispensable, I played the first move in the game by assertingmyself against the doctor. He was one among many witnesses in my waywhom it was necessary to remove. A lively altercation between us (inwhich Percival, previously instructed by me, refused to interfere)served the purpose in view. I descended on the miserable man in anirresistible avalanche of indignation, and swept him from the house.
The servants were the next encumbrances to get rid of. Again Iinstructed Percival (whose moral courage required perpetualstimulants), and Mrs. Michelson was amazed, one day, by hearing fromher master that the establishment was to be broken up. We cleared thehouse of all the servants but one, who was kept for domestic purposes,and whose lumpish stupidity we could trust to make no embarrassingdiscoveries. When they were gone, nothing remained but to relieveourselves of Mrs. Michelson--a result which was easily achieved bysending this amiable lady to find lodgings for her mistress at thesea-side.
The circumstances were now exactly what they were required to be. LadyGlyde was confined to her room by nervous illness, and the lumpishhousemaid (I forget her name) was shut up there at night in attendanceon her mistress. Marian, though fast recovering, still kept her bed,with Mrs. Rubelle for nurse. No other living creatures but my wife,myself, and Percival were in the house. With all the chances thus inour favour I confronted the next emergency, and played the second movein the game.
The object of the second move was to induce Lady Glyde to leaveBlackwater unaccompanied by her sister. Unless we could persuade herthat Marian had gone on to Cumberland fi
rst, there was no chance ofremoving her, of her own free will, from the house. To produce thisnecessary operation in her mind, we concealed our interesting invalidin one of the uninhabited bedrooms at Blackwater. At the dead of nightMadame Fosco, Madame Rubelle, and myself (Percival not being coolenough to be trusted) accomplished the concealment. The scene waspicturesque, mysterious, dramatic in the highest degree. By mydirections the bed had been made, in the morning, on a strong movableframework of wood. We had only to lift the framework gently at thehead and foot, and to transport our patient where we pleased, withoutdisturbing herself or her bed. No chemical assistance was needed orused in this case. Our interesting Marian lay in the deep repose ofconvalescence. We placed the candles and opened the doors beforehand.I, in right of my great personal strength, took the head of theframework--my wife and Madame Rubelle took the foot. I bore my shareof that inestimably precious burden with a manly tenderness, with afatherly care. Where is the modern Rembrandt who could depict ourmidnight procession? Alas for the Arts! alas for this most pictorial ofsubjects! The modern Rembrandt is nowhere to be found.
The next morning my wife and I started for London, leaving Mariansecluded, in the uninhabited middle of the house, under care of MadameRubelle, who kindly consented to imprison herself with her patient fortwo or three days. Before taking our departure I gave Percival Mr.Fairlie's letter of invitation to his niece (instructing her to sleepon the journey to Cumberland at her aunt's house), with directions toshow it to Lady Glyde on hearing from me. I also obtained from him theaddress of the Asylum in which Anne Catherick had been confined, and aletter to the proprietor, announcing to that gentleman the return ofhis runaway patient to medical care.
I had arranged, at my last visit to the metropolis, to have our modestdomestic establishment ready to receive us when we arrived in London bythe early train. In consequence of this wise precaution, we wereenabled that same day to play the third move in the game--the gettingpossession of Anne Catherick.
Dates are of importance here. I combine in myself the oppositecharacteristics of a Man of Sentiment and a Man of Business. I haveall the dates at my fingers' ends.
On Wednesday, the 24th of July 1850, I sent my wife in a cab to clearMrs. Clements out of the way, in the first place. A supposed messagefrom Lady Glyde in London was sufficient to obtain this result. Mrs.Clements was taken away in the cab, and was left in the cab, while mywife (on pretence of purchasing something at a shop) gave her the slip,and returned to receive her expected visitor at our house in St. John'sWood. It is hardly necessary to add that the visitor had beendescribed to the servants as "Lady Glyde."
In the meanwhile I had followed in another cab, with a note for AnneCatherick, merely mentioning that Lady Glyde intended to keep Mrs.Clements to spend the day with her, and that she was to join them undercare of the good gentleman waiting outside, who had already saved herfrom discovery in Hampshire by Sir Percival. The "good gentleman" sentin this note by a street boy, and paused for results a door or twofarther on. At the moment when Anne appeared at the house door andclosed it this excellent man had the cab door open ready for her,absorbed her into the vehicle, and drove off.
(Pass me, here, one exclamation in parenthesis. How interesting thisis!)
On the way to Forest Road my companion showed no fear. I can bepaternal--no man more so--when I please, and I was intensely paternalon this occasion. What titles I had to her confidence! I hadcompounded the medicine which had done her good--I had warned her ofher danger from Sir Percival. Perhaps I trusted too implicitly tothese titles--perhaps I underrated the keenness of the lower instinctsin persons of weak intellect--it is certain that I neglected to prepareher sufficiently for a disappointment on entering my house. When Itook her into the drawing-room--when she saw no one present but MadameFosco, who was a stranger to her--she exhibited the most violentagitation; if she had scented danger in the air, as a dog scents thepresence of some creature unseen, her alarm could not have displayeditself more suddenly and more causelessly. I interposed in vain. Thefear from which she was suffering I might have soothed, but the seriousheart-disease, under which she laboured, was beyond the reach of allmoral palliatives. To my unspeakable horror she was seized withconvulsions--a shock to the system, in her condition, which might havelaid her dead at any moment at our feet.
The nearest doctor was sent for, and was told that "Lady Glyde"required his immediate services. To my infinite relief, he was acapable man. I represented my visitor to him as a person of weakintellect, and subject to delusions, and I arranged that no nurse butmy wife should watch in the sick-room. The unhappy woman was too ill,however, to cause any anxiety about what she might say. The one dreadwhich now oppressed me was the dread that the false Lady Glyde mightdie before the true Lady Glyde arrived in London.
I had written a note in the morning to Madame Rubelle, telling her tojoin me at her husband's house on the evening of Friday the 26th, withanother note to Percival, warning him to show his wife her uncle'sletter of invitation, to assert that Marian had gone on before her, andto despatch her to town by the midday train, on the 26th, also. Onreflection I had felt the necessity, in Anne Catherick's state ofhealth, of precipitating events, and of having Lady Glyde at mydisposal earlier than I had originally contemplated. What freshdirections, in the terrible uncertainty of my position, could I nowissue? I could do nothing but trust to chance and the doctor. Myemotions expressed themselves in pathetic apostrophes, which I was justself-possessed enough to couple, in the hearing of other people, withthe name of "Lady Glyde." In all other respects Fosco, on thatmemorable day, was Fosco shrouded in total eclipse.
She passed a bad night, she awoke worn out, but later in the day sherevived amazingly. My elastic spirits revived with her. I couldreceive no answers from Percival and Madame Rubelle till the morning ofthe next day, the 26th. In anticipation of their following mydirections, which, accident apart, I knew they would do, I went tosecure a fly to fetch Lady Glyde from the railway, directing it to beat my house on the 26th, at two o'clock. After seeing the orderentered in the book, I went on to arrange matters with MonsieurRubelle. I also procured the services of two gentlemen who couldfurnish me with the necessary certificates of lunacy. One of them Iknew personally--the other was known to Monsieur Rubelle. Both weremen whose vigorous minds soared superior to narrow scruples--both werelabouring under temporary embarrassments--both believed in ME.
It was past five o'clock in the afternoon before I returned from theperformance of these duties. When I got back Anne Catherick was dead.Dead on the 25th, and Lady Glyde was not to arrive in London till the26th!
I was stunned. Meditate on that. Fosco stunned!
It was too late to retrace our steps. Before my return the doctor hadofficiously undertaken to save me all trouble by registering the death,on the date when it happened, with his own hand. My grand scheme,unassailable hitherto, had its weak place now--no efforts on my partcould alter the fatal event of the 25th. I turned manfully to thefuture. Percival's interests and mine being still at stake, nothingwas left but to play the game through to the end. I recalled myimpenetrable calm--and played it.
On the morning of the 26th Percival's letter reached me, announcing hiswife's arrival by the midday train. Madame Rubelle also wrote to sayshe would follow in the evening. I started in the fly, leaving thefalse Lady Glyde dead in the house, to receive the true Lady Glyde onher arrival by the railway at three o'clock. Hidden under the seat ofthe carriage, I carried with me all the clothes Anne Catherick had wornon coming into my house--they were destined to assist the resurrectionof the woman who was dead in the person of the woman who was living.What a situation! I suggest it to the rising romance writers ofEngland. I offer it, as totally new, to the worn-out dramatists ofFrance.
Lady Glyde was at the station. There was great crowding and confusion,and more delay than I liked (in case any of her friends had happened tobe on the spot), in reclaiming her luggage. Her first questions, as wedrov
e off, implored me to tell her news of her sister. I invented newsof the most pacifying kind, assuring her that she was about to see hersister at my house. My house, on this occasion only, was in theneighbourhood of Leicester Square, and was in the occupation ofMonsieur Rubelle, who received us in the hall.
I took my visitor upstairs into a back room, the two medical gentlemenbeing there in waiting on the floor beneath to see the patient, and togive me their certificates. After quieting Lady Glyde by the necessaryassurances about her sister, I introduced my friends separately to herpresence. They performed the formalities of the occasion briefly,intelligently, conscientiously. I entered the room again as soon asthey had left it, and at once precipitated events by a reference of thealarming kind to "Miss Halcombe's" state of health.
Results followed as I had anticipated. Lady Glyde became frightened,and turned faint. For the second time, and the last, I called Scienceto my assistance. A medicated glass of water and a medicated bottle ofsmelling-salts relieved her of all further embarrassment and alarm.Additional applications later in the evening procured her theinestimable blessing of a good night's rest. Madame Rubelle arrived intime to preside at Lady Glyde's toilet. Her own clothes were takenaway from her at night, and Anne Catherick's were put on her in themorning, with the strictest regard to propriety, by the matronly handsof the good Rubelle. Throughout the day I kept our patient in a stateof partially-suspended consciousness, until the dexterous assistance ofmy medical friends enabled me to procure the necessary order ratherearlier than I had ventured to hope. That evening (the evening of the27th) Madame Rubelle and I took our revived "Anne Catherick" to theAsylum. She was received with great surprise, but without suspicion,thanks to the order and certificates, to Percival's letter, to thelikeness, to the clothes, and to the patient's own confused mentalcondition at the time. I returned at once to assist Madame Fosco inthe preparations for the burial of the False "Lady Glyde," having theclothes and luggage of the true "Lady Glyde" in my possession. Theywere afterwards sent to Cumberland by the conveyance which was used forthe funeral. I attended the funeral, with becoming dignity, attired inthe deepest mourning.
My narrative of these remarkable events, written under equallyremarkable circumstances, closes here. The minor precautions which Iobserved in communicating with Limmeridge House are already known, sois the magnificent success of my enterprise, so are the solid pecuniaryresults which followed it. I have to assert, with the whole force ofmy conviction, that the one weak place in my scheme would never havebeen found out if the one weak place in my heart had not beendiscovered first. Nothing but my fatal admiration for Marianrestrained me from stepping in to my own rescue when she effected hersister's escape. I ran the risk, and trusted in the completedestruction of Lady Glyde's identity. If either Marian or Mr. Hartrightattempted to assert that identity, they would publicly exposethemselves to the imputation of sustaining a rank deception, they wouldbe distrusted and discredited accordingly, and they would therefore bepowerless to place my interests or Percival's secret in jeopardy. Icommitted one error in trusting myself to such a blindfold calculationof chances as this. I committed another when Percival had paid thepenalty of his own obstinacy and violence, by granting Lady Glyde asecond reprieve from the mad-house, and allowing Mr. Hartright a secondchance of escaping me. In brief, Fosco, at this serious crisis, wasuntrue to himself. Deplorable and uncharacteristic fault! Behold thecause, in my heart--behold, in the image of Marian Halcombe, the firstand last weakness of Fosco's life!
At the ripe age of sixty, I make this unparalleled confession. Youths!I invoke your sympathy. Maidens! I claim your tears.
A word more, and the attention of the reader (concentrated breathlesslyon myself) shall be released.
My own mental insight informs me that three inevitable questions willbe asked here by persons of inquiring minds. They shall bestated--they shall be answered.
First question. What is the secret of Madame Fosco's unhesitatingdevotion of herself to the fulfilment of my boldest wishes, to thefurtherance of my deepest plans? I might answer this by simplyreferring to my own character, and by asking, in my turn, Where, in thehistory of the world, has a man of my order ever been found without awoman in the background self-immolated on the altar of his life? But Iremember that I am writing in England, I remember that I was married inEngland, and I ask if a woman's marriage obligations in this countryprovide for her private opinion of her husband's principles? No! Theycharge her unreservedly to love, honour, and obey him. That is exactlywhat my wife has done. I stand here on a supreme moral elevation, andI loftily assert her accurate performance of her conjugal duties.Silence, Calumny! Your sympathy, Wives of England, for Madame Fosco!
Second question. If Anne Catherick had not died when she did, whatshould I have done? I should, in that case, have assisted worn-outNature in finding permanent repose. I should have opened the doors ofthe Prison of Life, and have extended to the captive (incurablyafflicted in mind and body both) a happy release.
Third question. On a calm revision of all the circumstances--Is myconduct worthy of any serious blame? Most emphatically, No! Have I notcarefully avoided exposing myself to the odium of committingunnecessary crime? With my vast resources in chemistry, I might havetaken Lady Glyde's life. At immense personal sacrifice I followed thedictates of my own ingenuity, my own humanity, my own caution, and tookher identity instead. Judge me by what I might have done. Howcomparatively innocent! how indirectly virtuous I appear in what Ireally did!
I announced on beginning it that this narrative would be a remarkabledocument. It has entirely answered my expectations. Receive thesefervid lines--my last legacy to the country I leave for ever. They areworthy of the occasion, and worthy of