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No circumstance of the slightest importance happened on my way to
the offices of Messrs. Gilmore & Kyrle, in Chancery Lane.
While my card was being taken in to Mr. Kyrle, a consideration
occurred to me which I deeply regretted not having thought of
before. The information derived from Marian's diary made it a
matter of certainty that Count Fosco had opened her first letter
from Blackwater Park to Mr. Kyrle, and had, by means of his wife,
intercepted the second. He was therefore well aware of the
address of the office, and he would naturally infer that if Marian
wanted advice and assistance, after Laura's escape from the
Asylum, she would apply once more to the experience of Mr. Kyrle.
In this case the office in Chancery Lane was the very first place
which he and Sir Percival would cause to be watched, and if the
same persons were chosen for the purpose who had been employed to
follow me, before my departure from England, the fact of my return
would in all probability be ascertained on that very day. I had
thought, generally, of the chances of my being recognised in the
streets, but the special risk connected with the office had never
occurred to me until the present moment. It was too late now to
repair this unfortunate error in judgment--too late to wish that I
had made arrangements for meeting the lawyer in some place
privately appointed beforehand. I could only resolve to be
cautious on leaving Chancery Lane, and not to go straight home
again under any circumstances whatever.
After waiting a few minutes I was shown into Mr. Kyrle's private
room. He was a pale, thin, quiet, self-possessed man, with a very
attentive eye, a very low voice, and a very undemonstrative
manner--not (as I judged) ready with his sympathy where strangers
were concerned, and not at all easy to disturb in his professional
composure. A better man for my purpose could hardly have been
found. If he committed himself to a decision at all, and if the
decision was favourable, the strength of our case was as good as
proved from that moment.
"Before I enter on the business which brings me here," I said, "I
ought to warn you, Mr. Kyrle, that the shortest statement I can
make of it may occupy some little time."
"My time is at Miss Halcombe's disposal," he replied. "Where any
interests of hers are concerned, I represent my partner
personally, as well as professionally. It was his request that I
should do so, when he ceased to take an active part in business."
"May I inquire whether Mr. Gilmore is in England?"
"He is not, he is living with his relatives in Germany. His
health has improved, but the period of his return is still
While we were exchanging these few preliminary words, he had been
searching among the papers before him, and he now produced from
them a sealed letter. I thought he was about to hand the letter
to me, but, apparently changing his mind, he placed it by itself
on the table, settled himself in his chair, and silently waited to
hear what I had to say.
Without wasting a moment in prefatory words of any sort, I entered
on my narrative, and put him in full possession of the events
which have already been related in these pages.
Lawyer as he was to the very marrow of his bones, I startled him
out of his professional composure. Expressions of incredulity and
surprise, which he could not repress, interrupted me several times
before I had done. I persevered, however, to the end, and as soon
as I reached it, boldly asked the one important question--
"What is your opinion, Mr. Kyrle?"
He was too cautious to commit himself to an answer without taking
time to recover his self-possession first.
"Before I give my opinion," he said, "I must beg permission to
clear the ground by a few questions."
He put the questions--sharp, suspicious, unbelieving questions,
which clearly showed me, as they proceeded, that he thought I was
the victim of a delusion, and that he might even have doubted, but
for my introduction to him by Miss Halcombe, whether I was not
attempting the perpetration of a cunningly-designed fraud.
"Do you believe that I have spoken the truth, Mr. Kyrle?" I asked,
when he had done examining me.
"So far as your own convictions are concerned, I am certain you
have spoken the truth," he replied. "I have the highest esteem
for Miss Halcombe, and I have therefore every reason to respect a
gentleman whose mediation she trusts in a matter of this kind. I
will even go farther, if you like, and admit, for courtesy's sake
and for argument's sake, that the identity of Lady Glyde as a
living person is a proved fact to Miss Halcombe and yourself. But
you come to me for a legal opinion. As a lawyer, and as a lawyer
only, it is my duty to tell you, Mr. Hartright, that you have not
the shadow of a case."
"You put it strongly, Mr. Kyrle."
"I will try to put it plainly as well. The evidence of Lady
Glyde's death is, on the face of it, clear and satisfactory.
There is her aunt's testimony to prove that she came to Count
Fosco's house, that she fell ill, and that she died. There is the
testimony of the medical certificate to prove the death, and to
show that it took place under natural circumstances. There is the
fact of the funeral at Limmeridge, and there is the assertion of
the inscription on the tomb. That is the case you want to
overthrow. What evidence have you to support the declaration on
your side that the person who died and was buried was not Lady
Glyde? Let us run through the main points of your statement and
see what they are worth. Miss Halcombe goes to a certain private
Asylum, and there sees a certain female patient. It is known that
a woman named Anne Catherick, and bearing an extraordinary
personal resemblance to Lady Glyde, escaped from the Asylum; it is
known that the person received there last July was received as
Anne Catherick brought back; it is known that the gentleman who
brought her back warned Mr. Fairlie that it was part of her
insanity to be bent on personating his dead niece; and it is known
that she did repeatedly declare herself in the Asylum (where no
one believed her) to be Lady Glyde. These are all facts. What
have you to set against them? Miss Halcombe's recognition of the
woman, which recognition after-events invalidate or contradict.
Does Miss Halcombe assert her supposed sister's identity to the
owner of the Asylum, and take legal means for rescuing her? No,
she secretly bribes a nurse to let her escape. When the patient
has been released in this doubtful manner, and is taken to Mr.
Fairlie, does he recognise her? Is he staggered for one instant in
his belief of his niece's death? No. Do the servants recognise
her? No. Is she kept in the neighbourhood to assert her own
identity, and to stand the test of further proceedings? No, she is
privately taken to London. In the meantime you have recognised
her also, but you are not a relative--you are not even an old
friend of the family. The servants contradict you, and Mr.
Fairlie contradicts Miss Halcombe, and the supposed Lady Glyde
contradicts herself. She declares she passed the night in London
at a certain house. Your own evidence shows that she has never
been near that house, and your own admission is that her condition
of mind prevents you from producing her anywhere to submit to
investigation, and to speak for herself. I pass over minor points
of evidence on both sides to save time, and I ask you, if this
case were to go now into a court of law--to go before a jury,
bound to take facts as they reasonably appear--where are your
I was obliged to wait and collect myself before I could answer
him. It was the first time the story of Laura and the story of
Marian had been presented to me from a stranger's point of view--
the first time the terrible obstacles that lay across our path had
been made to show themselves in their true character.
"There can be no doubt," I said, "that the facts, as you have
stated them, appear to tell against us, but----"
"But you think those facts can be explained away," interposed Mr.
Kyrle. "Let me tell you the result of my experience on that
point. When an English jury has to choose between a plain fact ON
the surface and a long explanation UNDER the surface, it always
takes the fact in preference to the explanation. For example,
Lady Glyde (I call the lady you represent by that name for
argument's sake) declares she has slept at a certain house, and it
is proved that she has not slept at that house. You explain this
circumstance by entering into the state of her mind, and deducing
from it a metaphysical conclusion. I don't say the conclusion is
wrong--I only say that the jury will take the fact of her
contradicting herself in preference to any reason for the
contradiction that you can offer."
"But is it not possible," I urged, "by dint of patience and
exertion, to discover additional evidence? Miss Halcombe and I
have a few hundred pounds----"
He looked at me with a half-suppressed pity, and shook his head.
"Consider the subject, Mr. Hartright, from your own point of
view," he said. "If you are right about Sir Percival Glyde and
Count Fosco (which I don't admit, mind), every imaginable
difficulty would be thrown in the way of your getting fresh
evidence. Every obstacle of litigation would be raised--every
point in the case would be systematically contested--and by the
time we had spent our thousands instead of our hundreds, the final
result would, in all probability, be against us. Questions of
identity, where instances of personal resemblance are concerned,
are, in themselves, the hardest of all questions to settle--the
hardest, even when they are free from the complications which
beset the case we are now discussing. I really see no prospect of
throwing any light whatever on this extraordinary affair. Even if
the person buried in Limmeridge churchyard be not Lady Glyde, she
was, in life, on your own showing, so like her, that we should
gain nothing, if we applied for the necessary authority to have
the body exhumed. In short, there is no case, Mr. Hartright--
there is really no case."
I was determined to believe that there WAS a case, and in that
determination shifted my ground, and appealed to him once more.
"Are there not other proofs that we might produce besides the
proof of identity?" I asked.
"Not as you are situated," he replied. "The simplest and surest
of all proofs, the proof by comparison of dates, is, as I
understand, altogether out of your reach. If you could show a
discrepancy between the date of the doctor's certificate and the
date of Lady Glyde's journey to London, the matter would wear a
totally different aspect, and I should be the first to say, Let us
"That date may yet be recovered, Mr. Kyrle."
"On the day when it is recovered, Mr. Hartright, you will have a
case. If you have any prospect, at this moment, of getting at it--
tell me, and we shall see if I can advise you."
I considered. The housekeeper could not help us--Laura could not
help us--Marian could not help us. In all probability, the only
persons in existence who knew the date were Sir Percival and the
"I can think of no means of ascertaining the date at present," I
said, "because I can think of no persons who are sure to know it,
but Count Fosco and Sir Percival Glyde."
Mr. Kyrle's calmly attentive face relaxed, for the first time,
into a smile.
"With your opinion of the conduct of those two gentlemen," he
said, "you don't expect help in that quarter, I presume? If they
have combined to gain large sums of money by a conspiracy, they
are not likely to confess it, at any rate."
"They may be forced to confess it, Mr. Kyrle."
We both rose. He looked me attentively in the face with more
appearance of interest than he had shown yet. I could see that I
had perplexed him a little.
"You are very determined," he said. "You have, no doubt, a
personal motive for proceeding, into which it is not my business
to inquire. If a case can be produced in the future, I can only
say, my best assistance is at your service. At the same time I
must warn you, as the money question always enters into the law
question, that I see little hope, even if you ultimately
established the fact of Lady Glyde's being alive, of recovering
her fortune. The foreigner would probably leave the country
before proceedings were commenced, and Sir Percival's
embarrassments are numerous enough and pressing enough to transfer
almost any sum of money he may possess from himself to his
creditors. You are of course aware----"
I stopped him at that point.
"Let me beg that we may not discuss Lady Glyde's affairs," I said.
"I have never known anything about them in former times, and I
know nothing of them now--except that her fortune is lost. You are
right in assuming that I have personal motives for stirring in
this matter. I wish those motives to be always as disinterested
as they are at the present moment----"
He tried to interpose and explain. I was a little heated, I
suppose, by feeling that he had doubted me, and I went on bluntly,
without waiting to hear him.
"There shall be no money motive," I said, "no idea of personal
advantage in the service I mean to render to Lady Glyde. She has
been cast out as a stranger from the house in which she was born--
a lie which records her death has been written on her mother's
tomb--and there are two men, alive and unpunished, who are
responsible for it. That house shall open again to receive her in
the presence of every soul who followed the false funeral to the
grave--that lie shall be publicly erased from the tombstone by the
authority of the head of the family, and those two men shall
answer for their crime to ME, though the justice that sits in
tribunals is powerless to pursue them. I have given my life to
that purpose, and, alone as I stand, if God spares me, I will
He drew back towards his table, and said nothing. His face showed
plainly that he thought my delusion had got the better of my
reason, and that he considered it totally useless to give me any
"We each keep our opinion, Mr. Kyrle," I said, "and we must wait
till the events of the future decide between us. In the meantime,
I am much obliged to you for the attention you have given to my
statement. You have shown me that the legal remedy lies, in every
sense of the word, beyond our means. We cannot produce the law
proof, and we are not rich enough to pay the law expenses. It is
something gained to know that."
I bowed and walked to the door. He called me back and gave me the
letter which I had seen him place on the table by itself at the
beginning of our interview.
"This came by post a few days ago," he said. "Perhaps you will
not mind delivering it? Pray tell Miss Halcombe, at the same time,
that I sincerely regret being, thus far, unable to help her,
except by advice, which will not be more welcome, I am afraid, to
her than to you."
I looked at the letter while he was speaking. It was addressed to
"Miss Halcombe. Care of Messrs. Gilmore & Kyrle, Chancery Lane."
The handwriting was quite unknown to me.
On leaving the room I asked one last question.
"Do you happen to know," I said, "if Sir Percival Glyde is still
"He has returned to London," replied Mr. Kyrle. "At least I heard
so from his solicitor, whom I met yesterday."
After that answer I went out.
On leaving the office the first precaution to be observed was to
abstain from attracting attention by stopping to look about me. I
walked towards one of the quietest of the large squares on the
north of Holborn, then suddenly stopped and turned round at a
place where a long stretch of pavement was left behind me.
There were two men at the corner of the square who had stopped
also, and who were standing talking together. After a moment's
reflection I turned back so as to pass them. One moved as I came
near, and turned the corner leading from the square into the
street. The other remained stationary. I looked at him as I
passed and instantly recognised one of the men who had watched me
before I left England.
If I had been free to follow my own instincts, I should probably
have begun by speaking to the man, and have ended by knocking him
down. But I was bound to consider consequences. If I once placed
myself publicly in the wrong, I put the weapons at once into Sir
Percival's hands. There was no choice but to oppose cunning by
cunning. I turned into the street down which the second man had
disappeared, and passed him, waiting in a doorway. He was a
stranger to me, and I was glad to make sure of his personal
appearance in case of future annoyance. Having done this, I again
walked northward till I reached the New Road. There I turned
aside to the west (having the men behind me all the time), and
waited at a point where I knew myself to be at some distance from
a cab-stand, until a fast two-wheel cab, empty, should happen to
pass me. One passed in a few minutes. I jumped in and told the
man to drive rapidly towards Hyde Park. There was no second fast
cab for the spies behind me. I saw them dart across to the other
side of the road, to follow me by running, until a cab or a cab-
stand came in their way. But I had the start of them, and when I
stopped the driver and got out, they were nowhere in sight. I
crossed Hyde Park and made sure, on the open ground, that I was
free. When I at last turned my steps homewards, it was not till
many hours later--not till after dark.
I found Marian waiting for me alone in the little sitting-room.
She had persuaded Laura to go to rest, after first promising to
show me her drawing the moment I came in. The poor little dim
faint sketch--so trifling in itself, so touching in its
associations--was propped up carefully on the table with two
books, and was placed where the faint light of the one candle we
allowed ourselves might fall on it to the best advantage. I sat
down to look at the drawing, and to tell Marian, in whispers, what
had happened. The partition which divided us from the next room
was so thin that we could almost hear Laura's breathing, and we
might have disturbed her if we had spoken aloud.
Marian preserved her composure while I described my interview with
Mr. Kyrle. But her face became troubled when I spoke next of the
men who had followed me from the lawyer's office, and when I told
her of the discovery of Sir Percival's return.
"Bad news, Walter," she said, "the worst news you could bring.
Have you nothing more to tell me?"
"I have something to give you," I replied, handing her the note
which Mr. Kyrle had confided to my care.
She looked at the address and recognised the handwriting
"You know your correspondent?" I said.
"Too well," she answered. "My correspondent is Count Fosco."
With that reply she opened the note. Her face flushed deeply
while she read it--her eyes brightened with anger as she handed it
to me to read in my turn.
The note contained these lines--
"Impelled by honourable admiration--honourable to myself,
honourable to you--I write, magnificent Marian, in the interests
of your tranquillity, to say two consoling words--
"Exercise your fine natural sense and remain in retirement. Dear
and admirable woman, invite no dangerous publicity. Resignation
is sublime--adopt it. The modest repose of home is eternally
fresh--enjoy it. The storms of life pass harmless over the valley
of Seclusion--dwell, dear lady, in the valley.
"Do this and I authorise you to fear nothing. No new calamity
shall lacerate your sensibilities--sensibilities precious to me as
my own. You shall not be molested, the fair companion of your
retreat shall not be pursued. She has found a new asylum in your
heart. Priceless asylum!--I envy her and leave her there.
"One last word of affectionate warning, of paternal caution, and I
tear myself from the charm of addressing you--I close these
"Advance no farther than you have gone already, compromise no
serious interests, threaten nobody. Do not, I implore you, force
me into action--ME, the Man of Action--when it is the cherished
object of my ambition to be passive, to restrict the vast reach of
my energies and my combinations for your sake. If you have rash
friends, moderate their deplorable ardour. If Mr. Hartright
returns to England, hold no communication with him. I walk on a
path of my own, and Percival follows at my heels. On the day when
Mr. Hartright crosses that path, he is a lost man."
The only signature to these lines was the initial letter F,
surrounded by a circle of intricate flourishes. I threw the
letter on the table with all the contempt that I felt for it.
"He is trying to frighten you--a sure sign that he is frightened
himself," I said.
She was too genuine a woman to treat the letter as I treated it.
The insolent familiarity of the language was too much for her
self-control. As she looked at me across the table, her hands
clenched themselves in her lap, and the old quick fiery temper
flamed out again brightly in her cheeks and her eyes.
"Walter!" she said, "if ever those two men are at your mercy, and
if you are obliged to spare one of them, don't let it be the
"I will keep this letter, Marian, to help my memory when the time
She looked at me attentively as I put the letter away in my
"When the time comes?" she repeated. "Can you speak of the future
as if you were certain of it?--certain after what you have heard
in Mr. Kyrle's office, after what has happened to you to-day?"
"I don't count the time from to-day, Marian. All I have done to-
day is to ask another man to act for me. I count from to-morrow----"
"Why from to-morrow?"
"Because to-morrow I mean to act for myself."
"I shall go to Blackwater by the first train, and return, I hope,
"Yes. I have had time to think since I left Mr. Kyrle. His
opinion on one point confirms my own. We must persist to the last
in hunting down the date of Laura's journey. The one weak point
in the conspiracy, and probably the one chance of proving that she
is a living woman, centre in the discovery of that date."
"You mean," said Marian, "the discovery that Laura did not leave
Blackwater Park till after the date of her death on the doctor's
"What makes you think it might have been AFTER? Laura can tell us
nothing of the time she was in London."
"But the owner of the Asylum told you that she was received there
on the twenty-seventh of July. I doubt Count Fosco's ability to
keep her in London, and to keep her insensible to all that was
passing around her, more than one night. In that case, she must
have started on the twenty-sixth, and must have come to London one
day after the date of her own death on the doctor's certificate.
If we can prove that date, we prove our case against Sir Percival
and the Count."
"Yes, yes--I see! But how is the proof to be obtained?"
"Mrs. Michelson's narrative has suggested to me two ways of trying
to obtain it. One of them is to question the doctor, Mr. Dawson,
who must know when he resumed his attendance at Blackwater Park
after Laura left the house. The other is to make inquiries at the
inn to which Sir Percival drove away by himself at night. We know
that his departure followed Laura's after the lapse of a few
hours, and we may get at the date in that way. The attempt is at
least worth making, and to-morrow I am determined it shall be
"And suppose it fails--I look at the worst now, Walter; but I will
look at the best if disappointments come to try us--suppose no one
can help you at Blackwater?"
"There are two men who can help me, and shall help me in London--
Sir Percival and the Count. Innocent people may well forget the
date--but THEY are guilty, and THEY know it. If I fail everywhere
else, I mean to force a confession out of one or both of them on
my own terms."
All the woman flushed up in Marian's face as I spoke.
"Begin with the Count," she whispered eagerly. "For my sake,
begin with the Count."
"We must begin, for Laura's sake, where there is the best chance
of success," I replied.
The colour faded from her face again, and she shook her head
"Yes," she said, "you are right--it was mean and miserable of me
to say that. I try to be patient, Walter, and succeed better now
than I did in happier times. But I have a little of my old temper
still left, and it will get the better of me when I think of the
"His turn will come," I said. "But, remember, there is no weak
place in his life that we know of yet." I waited a little to let
her recover her self-possession, and then spoke the decisive
"Marian! There is a weak place we both know of in Sir Percival's
"You mean the Secret!"
"Yes: the Secret. It is our only sure hold on him. I can force
him from his position of security, I can drag him and his villainy
into the face of day, by no other means. Whatever the Count may
have done, Sir Percival has consented to the conspiracy against
Laura from another motive besides the motive of gain. You heard
him tell the Count that he believed his wife knew enough to ruin
him? You heard him say that he was a lost man if the secret of
Anne Catherick was known?"
"Yes! yes! I did."
"Well, Marian, when our other resources have failed us, I mean to
know the Secret. My old superstition clings to me, even yet. I
say again the woman in white is a living influence in our three
lives. The End is appointed--the End is drawing us on--and Anne
Catherick, dead in her grave, points the way to it still!"
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