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THE WOMAN IN WHITE.

HARTRIGHT'S NARRATIVE CONTINUED.

IV.

"SHE has escaped from my Asylum."

I cannot say with truth that the terrible
inference which those words suggested flashed upon
me like a new revelation. Some of the strange
questions put to me by the woman in white,
after my ill-considered promise to leave her free
to act as she pleased, had suggested the conclusion,
either that she was naturally flighty and
unsettled, or that some recent shock of terror
had disturbed the balance of her faculties. But
the idea of absolute insanity which we all
associate with the very name of an Asylum, had, I
can honestly declare, never occurred to me, in
connexion with her. I had seen nothing, in her
language or her actions, to justify it at the time;
and, even with the new light thrown on 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 false imprisonments to
escape; or cast loose on the wide world of
London an unfortunate creature whose actions
it was my duty, and every man's duty, mercifully
to control? I turned sick at heart when the
question occurred to me, and when I felt self-
reproachfully that it was asked too late.

In the disturbed state of my mind, it was
useless to think of going to bed, when I at last
got back to my chambers in Clement's Inn.
Before many hours elapsed it would be necessary
to start on my journey to Cumberland. I sat
down and tried, first to sketch, then to read
but the woman in white got between me and my
pencil, between me and my book. Had the
forlorn creature come to any harm? That was my
first thought, though I shrank selfishly from
confronting it. Other thoughts followed, on
which it was less harrowing to dwell. Where had
she stopped the cab?  What had become of her
now?  Had she been traced and captured by the
men in the chaise? Or was she still capable of
controlling her own actions; and were we two
following our widely-parted roads towards one
point in the mysterious future, at which we were
to meet once more?

It was a relief when the hour came to lock
my door, to bid farewell to London pursuits,
London pupils, and London friends, and to be
in movement again towards new interests and a
new life. Even the bustle and confusion at the
railway terminus, so wearisome and bewildering
at other times, roused me and did me good.

My travelling instructions directed me to go
to Carlisle, and then to diverge by a branch
railway which ran in the direction of the coast.
As a misfortune to begin with, our engine broke
down between Lancaster and Carlisle. The
delay occasioned by this accident caused me to
be too late for the branch train, by which I was
to have gone on immediately. I had to wait
some hours; and when a later train finally
deposited me at the nearest station to Limmeridge
House, it was past ten, and the night was so
dark that I could hardly see my way to the pony-
chaise which Mr. Fairlie had ordered to be in
waiting for me.

The driver was evidently discomposed by the
lateness of my arrival. He was in that state of
highly-respectful sulkiness which is peculiar to
English servants. We drove away slowly
through the darkness in perfect silence. The
roads were bad, and the dense obscurity of the
night increased the difficulty of getting over the
ground quickly. It was, by my watch, nearly
an hour and an half from the time of our leaving
the station, before I heard the sound of the sea
in the distance, and the crunch of our wheels on
a smooth gravel drive. We had passed one
gate before entering the drive, and we passed
another before we drew up at the house. I was
received by a solemn man-servant out of livery,
was informed that the family had retired for
the night, and was then led into a large and
lofty room where my supper was awaiting me,
in a forlorn manner, at one extremity of a
lonesome mahogany wilderness of dining-table.

I was too tired and out of spirits to eat or
drink much, especially with the solemn servant
waiting on me as elaborately as if a small dinner-
party had arrived at the house instead of a
solitary man. In a quarter of an hour I was ready
to be taken up to my bedchamber. The solemn
servant conducted me into a prettily furnished
roomsaid: "Breakfast at nine o'clock, sir"—
looked all round him to see that everything
was in its proper placeand noiselessly
withdrew.

"What shall I see in my dreams to-night?"
I thought to myself, as I put out the candle;

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