THE STORY CONTINUED BY ISIDOR, OTTAVIO, BALDASSARE FOSCO
(Count of the Holy Roman Empire, Knight Grand Cross of the Order
of the Brazen Crown, Perpetual Arch-Master of the Rosicrucian
Masons of Mesopotamia; Attached (in Honorary Capacities) to
Societies Musical, Societies Medical, Societies Philosophical, and
Societies General Benevolent, throughout Europe; etc. etc.
THE COUNT'S NARRATIVE
In the summer of eighteen hundred and fifty I arrived in England,
charged with a delicate political mission from abroad.
Confidential persons were semi-officially connected with me, whose
exertions I was authorised to direct, Monsieur and Madame Rubelle
being among the number. Some weeks of spare time were at my
disposal, before I entered on my functions by establishing myself
in the suburbs of London. Curiosity may stop here to ask for some
explanation of those functions on my part. I entirely sympathise
with the request. I also regret that diplomatic reserve forbids
me to comply with it.
I arranged to pass the preliminary period of repose, to which I
have just referred, in the superb mansion of my late lamented
friend, Sir Percival Glyde. HE arrived from the Continent with
his wife. I arrived from the Continent with MINE. England
land of domestic happiness--how appropriately we entered it under
these domestic circumstances!
The bond of friendship which united Percival and myself was
strengthened, on this occasion, by a touching similarity in the
pecuniary position on his side and on mine. We both wanted money.
Immense necessity! Universal want! Is there a civilised human
being who does not feel for us? How insensible must that man be!
Or how rich!
I enter into no sordid particulars, in discussing this part of the
subject. My mind recoils from them. With a Roman austerity,
show my empty purse and Percival's to the shrinking public gaze.
Let us allow the deplorable fact to assert itself, once for all,
in that manner, and pass on.
We were received at the mansion by the magnificent creature who is
inscribed on my heart as "Marian," who is known in the colder
atmosphere of society as "Miss Halcombe."
Just Heaven! with what inconceivable rapidity I learnt to adore
that woman. At sixty, I worshipped her with the volcanic ardour
of eighteen. All the gold of my rich nature was poured hopelessly
at her feet. My wife--poor angel!--my wife, who adores me, got
nothing but the 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 little stage!
The preceding lines, rightly understood, express an entire system
of philosophy. It is mine.
The domestic position at the commencement of our residence at
Blackwater Park has been drawn with amazing accuracy, with
profound mental insight, by the hand of Marian herself. (Pass me
the intoxicating familiarity of mentioning this sublime creature
by her Christian name.) Accurate knowledge of the contents of her
journal--to which I obtained access by clandestine means,
unspeakably precious to me in the remembrance--warns my eager pen
from topics which this essentially exhaustive woman has already
made her own.
The interests--interests, breathless and immense!--with which I am
here concerned, begin with the deplorable calamity of Marian's
The situation at this period was emphatically a serious one.
Large sums of money, due at a certain time, were wanted by
Percival (I say nothing of the modicum equally necessary to
myself), and the one source to look to for supplying them was the
fortune of his wife, of which not one farthing was at his disposal
until her death. Bad so far, and worse still farther on. My
lamented friend had private troubles of his own, into which the
delicacy of my disinterested attachment to him forbade me from
inquiring too curiously. I knew nothing but that a woman, named
Anne Catherick, was hidden in the neighbourhood, that she was in
communication with Lady Glyde, and that the disclosure of a
secret, which would be the certain ruin of Percival, might be the
result. He had told me himself that he was a lost man, unless his
wife was silenced, and unless Anne Catherick was found. If he was
a lost man, what would become of our pecuniary interests?
Courageous as I am by nature, I absolutely trembled at the idea!
The whole force of my intelligence was now directed to the finding
of Anne Catherick. Our money affairs, important as they were,
admitted of delay--but the necessity of discovering the woman
admitted of none. I only knew her by description, as presenting
an extraordinary personal resemblance to Lady Glyde. The
statement of this curious fact--intended merely to assist me in
identifying the person of whom we were in search--when coupled
with the additional information that Anne Catherick had escaped
from a mad-house, started the first immense conception in my mind,
which subsequently led to such amazing results. That conception
involved nothing less than the complete transformation of two
separate identities. Lady Glyde and Anne Catherick were to change
names, places, and destinies, the one with the other--the
prodigious consequences contemplated by the change being the gain
of thirty thousand pounds, and the eternal preservation of Sir
My instincts (which seldom err) suggested to me, on reviewing the
circumstances, that our invisible Anne would, sooner or later,
return to the boat-house at the Blackwater lake. There I posted
myself, previously mentioning to Mrs. Michelson, the housekeeper,
that I might be found when wanted, immersed in study, in that
solitary place. It is my rule never to make unnecessary
mysteries, and never to set people suspecting 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 such
superfluity of simple confidence in a woman of her mature years, I
opened the ample reservoirs of my nature and absorbed it all.
I was rewarded for posting myself sentinel at the lake by the
appearance--not of Anne Catherick herself, but of the person in
charge of her. This individual also overflowed with simple faith,
which I absorbed in myself, as in the case already mentioned. I
leave her to describe the circumstances (if she has not done so
already) under which she introduced me to the object of her
maternal care. When I first saw Anne Catherick she was
was electrified by the likeness between this unhappy woman and
Lady Glyde. The details of the grand scheme which had suggested
themselves in outline only, up to that period, occurred to me, in
all their masterly combination, at the sight of the sleeping face.
At the same time, my heart, always accessible to tender
influences, dissolved in tears at the spectacle of suffering
before me. I instantly set myself to impart relief. In other
words, I provided the necessary stimulant for strengthening Anne
Catherick to perform the journey to London.
The best years of my life have been passed in the ardent study of
medical and chemical science. Chemistry especially has always had
irresistible attractions for me from the enormous, the illimitable
power which the knowledge of it confers. Chemists--I assert it
emphatically--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 of all potentates--the Chemist. Give me--Fosco--
chemistry; and when Shakespeare has conceived Hamlet, and sits
down to execute the conception--with a few grains of powder
dropped into his daily food, I will reduce his mind, by the action
of his body, till his pen pours out the most abject drivel that
has ever degraded paper. Under similar circumstances, revive me
the illustrious Newton. I guarantee that when he sees the apple
fall he shall EAT IT, instead of discovering the principle of
gravitation. Nero's dinner shall transform Nero into the mildest
of men before he has done digesting it, and the morning draught of
Alexander the Great shall make Alexander run for his life at the
first sight of the enemy the same afternoon. On my sacred word of
honour it is lucky for Society that modern chemists are, by
incomprehensible good fortune, the most harmless of mankind. The
mass are worthy fathers of families, who keep shops. The few are
philosophers besotted with admiration for the sound of their own
lecturing voices, visionaries who waste their lives on fantastic
impossibilities, or quacks whose ambition soars no higher than our
corns. Thus Society escapes, and the illimitable power of
Chemistry remains the slave of the most superficial and the most
Why this outburst? Why this withering eloquence?
Because my conduct has been misrepresented, because my motives
have been misunderstood. It has been assumed that I used my vast
chemical resources against Anne Catherick, and that I would have
used them if I could against the magnificent Marian herself.
Odious insinuations both! All my interests were concerned (as will
be seen presently) in the preservation of Anne Catherick's life.
All my anxieties were concentrated on Marian's rescue from the
hands of the licensed imbecile who attended her, and who found my
advice confirmed from first to last by the physician from London.
On two occasions only--both equally harmless to the individual on
whom I practised--did I summon to myself the assistance of
chemical knowledge. On the first of the two, after following
Marian to the inn at Blackwater (studying, behind a convenient
waggon which hid me from her, the poetry of motion, as embodied in
her walk), I availed myself of the services of my invaluable wife,
to copy one and to intercept the other of two letters which 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 could
only open them, read them, perform her instructions, seal them,
and put them back again by scientific assistance--which assistance
I rendered in a half-ounce bottle. The second occasion, when the
same means were employed, was the occasion (to which I shall soon
refer) of Lady Glyde's arrival in London. Never at any other time
was I indebted to my Art as distinguished from myself. To all
other emergencies and complications my natural capacity for
grappling, single-handed, with circumstances, was invariably
equal. I affirm the all-pervading intelligence of that capacity.
At the expense of the Chemist I vindicate the Man.
Respect this outburst of generous indignation. It has
inexpressibly relieved 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 to remove her to London--having found that my proposal
was eagerly received, and having appointed a day to meet the
travellers at the station and to see them leave it, I was at
liberty to return to the house and to confront the difficulties
which still remained to be met.
My first proceeding was to avail myself of the sublime devotion of
my wife. I had arranged with Mrs. Clements that she should
communicate her London address, in Anne's interests, to Lady
Glyde. But this was not enough. Designing persons in my
might shake the simple confidence of Mrs. Clements, and she might
not write after all. Who could I find capable of travelling to
London by the train she travelled by, 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 the
journey should serve a double purpose. A nurse for the suffering
Marian, equally devoted to the patient and to myself, was a
necessity of my position. One of the most eminently confidential
and capable women in existence was by good fortune at my disposal.
I refer to that respectable matron, Madame Rubelle, to whom I
addressed a letter, at her residence in London, by the hands of my
On the appointed day Mrs. Clements and Anne Catherick met me at
the station. I politely saw them off, I politely saw Madame Fosco
off by the same train. The last thing at night my wife returned
to Blackwater, having followed her instructions with the most
unimpeachable accuracy. She was accompanied by Madame Rubelle,
and she brought me the London address of Mrs. Clements. After-
events proved this last precaution to have been unnecessary. Mrs.
Clements punctually informed Lady Glyde of her place of abode.
With a wary eye on future emergencies, I kept the letter.
The same day I had a brief interview with the doctor, at which I
protested, in the sacred interests of humanity, against his
treatment of Marian's case. He was insolent, as all ignorant
people are. I showed no resentment, I deferred quarrelling with
him till it was necessary to quarrel to some purpose. My next
proceeding was to leave Blackwater myself. I had my London
residence to take in anticipation of coming events. I had also a
little business of the domestic sort to transact 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
correspondence had previously informed me that she had written to
Mr. Fairlie, proposing, as a relief to Lady Glyde's matrimonial
embarrassments, to take her on a visit to her uncle in Cumberland.
This letter I had wisely allowed to reach its destination, feeling
at the time that it could do no harm, and might do good. I now
presented myself before Mr. Fairlie to support Marian's own
proposal--with certain modifications which, happily for the
success of my plans, were rendered really inevitable by her
illness. It was necessary that Lady Glyde should leave Blackwater
alone, by her uncle's invitation, and that she should rest 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
mentioned that this gentleman was equally feeble in mind and body,
and that I let loose the whole force of my character on him, I
have said enough. I came, saw, and conquered Fairlie.
On my return to Blackwater Park (with the letter of invitation) I
found that the doctor's imbecile treatment of Marian's case had
led to the most alarming results. The fever had turned to typhus.
Lady Glyde, on the day of my return, tried to force herself into
the room to nurse her sister. She and I had no affinities of
sympathy--she had committed the unpardonable outrage on my
sensibilities of calling me a spy--she was a stumbling-block in my
way and in Percival's--but, for all that, my magnanimity forbade
me to put her in danger of infection with my own hand. At the
same time I offered no hindrance to her putting herself in danger.
If she had succeeded in doing so, the intricate knot which I was
slowly and patiently operating on might perhaps have been cut by
circumstances. As it was, the doctor interfered and she was kept
out of the room.
I had myself previously recommended sending for advice to London.
This course had been now taken. The physician, on his arrival,
confirmed my view of the case. The crisis was serious. But
had hope of our charming patient on the fifth day from the
appearance of the typhus. I was only once absent from Blackwater
at this time--when I went to London by the morning train to make
the final arrangements at my house in St. John's Wood, to assure
myself by private inquiry that Mrs. Clements had not moved, and to
settle one or two little preliminary matters with the husband of
Madame Rubelle. I returned at night. Five days afterwards
physician pronounced our interesting Marian to be out 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 no
longer indispensable, I played the first move in the game by
asserting myself against the doctor. He was one among many
witnesses in my way whom it was necessary to remove. A lively
altercation between us (in which Percival, previously instructed
by me, refused to interfere) served the purpose in view. I
descended on the miserable man in an irresistible avalanche of
indignation, and swept him from the house.
The servants were the next encumbrances to get rid of. Again I
instructed Percival (whose moral courage required perpetual
stimulants), and Mrs. Michelson was amazed, one day, by hearing
from her master that the establishment was to be broken up. We
cleared the house of all the servants but one, who was kept for
domestic purposes, and whose lumpish stupidity we could trust to
make no embarrassing discoveries. When they were gone, nothing
remained but to relieve ourselves of Mrs. Michelson--a result
which was easily achieved by sending this amiable lady to find
lodgings for her mistress at the sea-side.
The circumstances were now exactly what they were required to be.
Lady Glyde was confined to her room by nervous illness, and the
lumpish housemaid (I forget her name) was shut up there at night
in attendance on 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 in our favour I confronted the next
emergency, and played the second move in the game.
The object of the second move was to induce Lady Glyde to leave
Blackwater unaccompanied by her sister. Unless we could persuade
her that Marian had gone on to Cumberland first, there was no
chance of removing her, of her own free will, from the house. To
produce this necessary operation in her mind, we concealed our
interesting invalid in one of the uninhabited bedrooms at
Blackwater. At the dead of night Madame Fosco, Madame Rubelle,
and myself (Percival not being cool enough to be trusted)
accomplished the concealment. The scene was picturesque,
mysterious, dramatic in the highest degree. By my directions the
bed had been made, in the morning, on a strong movable framework
of wood. We had only to lift the framework gently at the head and
foot, and to transport our patient where we pleased, without
disturbing herself or her bed. No chemical assistance was needed
or used in this case. Our interesting Marian lay in the deep
repose of convalescence. We placed the candles and opened the
doors beforehand. I, in right of my great personal strength, took
the head of the framework--my wife and Madame Rubelle took the
foot. I bore my share of that inestimably precious burden with a
manly tenderness, with a fatherly care. Where is the modern
Rembrandt who could depict our midnight procession? Alas for the
Arts! alas for this most pictorial of subjects! The modern
Rembrandt is nowhere to be found.
The next morning my wife and I started for London, leaving Marian
secluded, in the uninhabited middle of the house, under care of
Madame Rubelle, who kindly consented to imprison herself with her
patient for two or three days. Before taking our departure I gave
Percival Mr. Fairlie's letter of invitation to his niece
(instructing her to sleep on the journey to Cumberland at her
aunt's house), with directions to show it to Lady Glyde on hearing
from me. I also obtained from him the address of the Asylum in
which Anne Catherick had been confined, and a letter to the
proprietor, announcing to that gentleman the return of his runaway
patient to medical care.
I had arranged, at my last visit to the metropolis, to have our
modest domestic establishment ready to receive us when we arrived
in London by the early train. In consequence of this wise
precaution, we were enabled that same day to play the third move
in the game--the getting possession of Anne Catherick.
Dates are of importance here. I combine in myself the opposite
characteristics of a Man of Sentiment and a Man of Business. I
have all the dates at my fingers' ends.
On Wednesday, the 24th of July 1850, I sent my wife in a cab to
clear Mrs. Clements out of the way, in the first place. A
supposed message from 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 my wife (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's Wood. It is
hardly necessary to add that the visitor had been described to the
servants as "Lady Glyde."
In the meanwhile I had followed in another cab, with a note for
Anne Catherick, merely mentioning that Lady Glyde intended to keep
Mrs. Clements to spend the day with her, and that she was to join
them under care of the good gentleman waiting outside, who had
already saved her from discovery in Hampshire by Sir Percival.
The "good gentleman" sent in this note by a street boy, and paused
for results a door or two farther on. At the moment when Anne
appeared at the house door and closed 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
On the way to Forest Road my companion showed no fear. I can be
paternal--no man more so--when I please, and I was intensely
paternal on this occasion. What titles I had to her confidence! I
had compounded the medicine which had done her good--I had warned
her of her danger from Sir Percival. Perhaps I trusted too
implicitly to these titles--perhaps I underrated the keenness of
the lower instincts in persons of weak intellect--it is certain
that I neglected to prepare her sufficiently for a disappointment
on entering my house. When I took her into the drawing-room--when
she saw no one present but Madame Fosco, who was a stranger to
her--she exhibited the most violent agitation; if she had scented
danger in the air, as a dog scents the presence of some creature
unseen, her alarm could not have displayed itself more suddenly
and more causelessly. I interposed in vain. The fear from
she was suffering I might have soothed, but the serious heart-
disease, under which she laboured, was beyond the reach of all
moral palliatives. To my unspeakable horror she was seized with
convulsions--a shock to the system, in her condition, which might
have laid 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 a
capable man. I represented my visitor to him as a person of weak
intellect, and subject to delusions, and I arranged that no nurse
but my 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 dread which now oppressed me was the dread that the false
Lady Glyde might die before the true Lady Glyde arrived in London.
I had written a note in the morning to Madame Rubelle, telling her
to join me at her husband's house on the evening of Friday the
26th, with another note to Percival, warning him to show his wife
her uncle's letter of invitation, to assert that Marian had gone
on before her, and to despatch her to town by the midday train, on
the 26th, also. On reflection I had felt the necessity, in Anne
Catherick's state of health, of precipitating events, and of
having Lady Glyde at my disposal earlier than I had originally
contemplated. What fresh directions, in the terrible uncertainty
of my position, could I now issue? I could do nothing but trust to
chance and the doctor. My emotions expressed themselves in
pathetic apostrophes, which I was just self-possessed enough to
couple, in the hearing of other people, with the name of "Lady
Glyde." In all other respects Fosco, on that memorable day, was
Fosco shrouded in total eclipse.
She passed a bad night, she awoke worn out, but later in the day
she revived amazingly. My elastic spirits revived with her.
could receive no answers from Percival and Madame Rubelle till the
morning of the next day, the 26th. In anticipation of their
following my directions, which, accident apart, I knew they would
do, I went to secure a fly to fetch Lady Glyde from the railway,
directing it to be at my house on the 26th, at two o'clock. After
seeing the order entered in the book, I went on to arrange matters
with Monsieur Rubelle. I also procured the services of two
gentlemen who could furnish me with the necessary certificates of
lunacy. One of them I knew personally--the other was known to
Monsieur Rubelle. Both were men whose vigorous minds soared
superior to narrow scruples--both were labouring under temporary
embarrassments--both believed in ME.
It was past five o'clock in the afternoon before I returned from
the performance 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 the 26th!
I was stunned. Meditate on that. Fosco stunned!
It was too late to retrace our steps. Before my return the doctor
had officiously 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 part could alter the fatal event of the 25th. I
turned manfully to the future. Percival's interests and mine
being still at stake, nothing was left but to play the game
through to the end. I recalled my impenetrable calm--and played
On the morning of the 26th Percival's letter reached me,
announcing his wife's arrival by the midday train. Madame Rubelle
also wrote to say she would follow in the evening. I started in
the fly, leaving the false Lady Glyde dead in the house, to
receive the true Lady Glyde on her arrival by the railway at three
o'clock. Hidden under the seat of the carriage, I carried with me
all the clothes Anne Catherick had worn on coming into my house--
they were destined to assist the resurrection of 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 of England. I offer
it, as totally new, to the worn-out dramatists of France.
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 to be on the spot), in reclaiming her luggage. Her
first questions, as we drove off, implored me to tell her news of
her sister. I invented news of the most pacifying kind, assuring
her that she was about to see her sister at my house. My house,
on this occasion only, was in the neighbourhood of Leicester
Square, and was in the occupation of Monsieur Rubelle, who
received us in the hall.
I took my visitor upstairs into a back room, the two medical
gentlemen being there in waiting on the floor beneath to see the
patient, and to give me their certificates. After quieting Lady
Glyde by the necessary assurances about her sister, I introduced
my friends separately to her presence. They performed the
formalities of the occasion briefly, intelligently,
conscientiously. I entered the room again as soon as they had
left it, and at once precipitated events by a reference of the
alarming 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 Science to my assistance. A medicated glass of water and
a medicated bottle of smelling-salts relieved her of all further
embarrassment and alarm. Additional applications later in the
evening procured her the inestimable blessing of a good night's
rest. Madame Rubelle arrived in time to preside at Lady Glyde's
toilet. Her own clothes were taken away from her at night, and
Anne Catherick's were put on her in the morning, with the
strictest regard to propriety, by the matronly hands of the good
Rubelle. Throughout the day I kept our patient in a state of
partially-suspended consciousness, until the dexterous assistance
of my medical friends enabled me to procure the necessary order
rather earlier than I had ventured to hope. That evening (the
evening of the 27th) Madame Rubelle and I took our revived "Anne
Catherick" to the Asylum. She was received with great surprise,
but without suspicion, thanks to the order and certificates, to
Percival's letter, to the likeness, to the clothes, and to the
patient's own confused mental condition at the time. I returned
at once to assist Madame Fosco in the preparations for the burial
of the False "Lady Glyde," having the clothes and luggage of the
true "Lady Glyde" in my possession. They were afterwards sent to
Cumberland by the conveyance which was used for the funeral. I
attended the funeral, with becoming dignity, attired in the
My narrative of these remarkable events, written under equally
remarkable circumstances, closes here. The minor precautions
which I observed in communicating with Limmeridge House are
already known, so is the magnificent success of my enterprise, so
are the solid pecuniary results which followed it. I have to
assert, with the whole force of my conviction, that the one weak
place in my scheme would never have been found out if the one weak
place in my heart had not been discovered first. Nothing but my
fatal admiration for Marian restrained me from stepping in to my
own rescue when she effected her sister's escape. I ran the risk,
and trusted in the complete destruction of Lady Glyde's identity.
If either Marian or Mr. Hartright attempted to assert that
identity, they would publicly expose themselves to the imputation
of sustaining a rank deception, they would be distrusted and
discredited accordingly, and they would therefore be powerless to
place my interests or Percival's secret in jeopardy. I committed
one error in trusting myself to such a blindfold calculation of
chances as this. I committed another when Percival had paid the
penalty of his own obstinacy and violence, by granting Lady Glyde
a second reprieve from the mad-house, and allowing Mr. Hartright a
second chance of escaping me. In brief, Fosco, at this serious
crisis, was untrue to himself. Deplorable and uncharacteristic
fault! Behold the cause, in my heart--behold, in the image of
Marian Halcombe, the first and 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
breathlessly on myself) shall be released.
My own mental insight informs me that three inevitable questions
will be asked here by persons of inquiring minds. They shall be
stated--they shall be answered.
First question. What is the secret of Madame Fosco's unhesitating
devotion of herself to the fulfilment of my boldest wishes, to the
furtherance of my deepest plans? I might answer this by simply
referring to my own character, and by asking, in my turn, Where,
in the history of the world, has a man of my order ever been found
without a woman in the background self-immolated on the altar of
his life? But I remember that I am writing in England, I remember
that I was married in England, and I ask if a woman's marriage
obligations in this country provide for her private opinion of her
husband's principles? No! They charge her unreservedly to love,
honour, and obey him. That is exactly what my wife has
stand here on a supreme moral elevation, and I 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,
what should I have done? I should, in that case, have assisted
worn-out Nature in finding permanent repose. I should have opened
the doors of the Prison of Life, and have extended to the captive
(incurably afflicted in mind and body both) a happy release.
Third question. On a calm revision of all the circumstances--Is
my conduct worthy of any serious blame? Most emphatically, No!
Have I not carefully avoided exposing myself to the odium of
committing unnecessary crime? With my vast resources in chemistry,
I might have taken Lady Glyde's life. At immense personal
sacrifice I followed the dictates of my own ingenuity, my own
humanity, my own caution, and took her identity instead. Judge me
by what I might have done. How comparatively innocent! how
indirectly virtuous I appear in what I really did!
I announced on beginning it that this narrative would be a
remarkable document. It has entirely answered my expectations.
Receive these fervid lines--my last legacy to the country I leave
for ever. They are worthy of the occasion, and worthy of;