Part 6 out of 6
Through those street-sounds of fierce ribaldry and ghastly mirth, the
voice of the dying woman penetrated, speaking more slowly, more
distinctly, more terribly than it had spoken yet.
"I see him," she said, staring vacantly at me, and moving her hands
slowly to and fro in the air. "I see him! But he's a long way off; he
can't hear our secrets, and he does not suspect you as mother does.
Don't tell me that about him any more; my flesh creeps at it! What are
you looking at me in that way for? You make me feel on fire. You know
I like you, because I _must_ like you; because I can't help it. It's
no use saying hush: I tell you he can't hear us, and can't see us. He
can see nothing; you make a fool of him, and I make a fool of him. But
mind! I _will_ ride in my own carriage: you must keep things secret
enough to let me do that. I say I _will_ ride in my carriage: and I'll
go where father walks to business: I don't care if I splash him with
_my_ carriage wheels! I'll be even with him for some of the passions
he's been in with me. You see how I'll go into our shop and order
dresses! (be quiet! I say he can't hear us). I'll have velvet where
his sister has silk, and silk where she has muslin: I'm a finer girl
than she is, and I'll be better dressed. Tell _him_ anything, indeed!
What have I ever let out? It's not so easy always to make believe I'm
in love with him, after what you have told me. Suppose he found us
out?--Rash? I'm no more rash than you are! Why didn't you come back
from France in time, and stop it all? Why did you let me marry him? A
nice wife I've been to him, and a nice husband he has been to me--a
husband who waits a year! Ha! ha! he calls himself a man, doesn't he?
A husband who waits a year!"
I approached nearer to the bedside, and spoke to her again, in the
hope to win her tenderly towards dreaming of better things. I know not
whether she heard me, but her wild thoughts changed--changed darkly to
"Beds! beds!" she cried, "beds everywhere, with dying men on them! And
one bed the most terrible of all--look at it! The deformed face, with
the white of the pillow all round it! _His_ face? _his_ face, that
hadn't a fault in it? Never! It's the face of a devil; the
finger-nails of the devil are on it! Take me away! drag me out! I
can't move for that face: it's always before me: it's walling me up
among the beds: it's burning me all over. Water! water! drown me in
the sea; drown me deep, away from the burning face!"
"Hush, Margaret! hush! drink this, and you will be cool again." I gave
her some lemonade, which stood by the bedside.
"Yes, yes; hush, as you say. Where's Robert? Robert Mannion? Not here!
then I've got a secret for you. When you go home to-night, Basil, and
say your prayers, pray for a storm of thunder and lightning; and pray
that I may be struck dead in it, and Robert too. It's a fortnight to
my aunt's party; and in a fortnight you'll wish us both dead, so you
had better pray for what I tell you in time. We shall make handsome
corpses. Put roses into my coffin--scarlet roses, if you can find any,
because that stands for Scarlet Woman--in the Bible, you know.
Scarlet? What do I care! It's the boldest colour in the world. Robert
will tell you, and all your family, how many women are as scarlet as I
am--virtue wears it at home, in secret; and vice wears it abroad, in
public: that's the only difference, he says. Scarlet roses! scarlet
roses! throw them into the coffin by hundreds; smother me up in them;
bury me down deep; in the dark, quiet street--where there's a broad
door-step in front of a house, and a white, wild face, something like
Basil's, that's always staring on the doorstep awfully. Oh, why did I
meet him! why did I marry him! oh, why! why!"
She uttered the last words in slow, measured cadence--the horrible
mockery of a chaunt which she used to play to us at North Villa, on
Sunday evenings. Then her voice sank again; her articulation
thickened, and grew indistinct. It was like the change from darkness
to daylight, in the sight of sleepless eyes, to hear her only
murmuring now, after hearing her last terrible words.
The weary night-time passed on. Longer and longer grew the intervals
of silence between the scattered noises from the streets; less and
less frequent were the sounds of distant carriage-wheels, and the
echoing rapid footsteps of late pleasure-seekers hurrying home. At
last, the heavy tramp of the policeman going his rounds, alone
disturbed the silence of the early morning hours. Still, the voice
from the bed muttered incessantly; but now, in drowsy, languid tones:
still, Mr. Bernard did not return: still the father of the dying girl
never came, never obeyed the letter which summoned him for the last
time to her side.
(There was yet one more among the absent--one from whose approach the
death-bed must be kept sacred; one, whose evil presence was to be
dreaded as a pestilence and a scourge. Mannion!--where was Mannion?)
I sat by the window, resigned to wait in loneliness till the end came,
watching mechanically the vacant eyes that ever watched me--when,
suddenly, the face of Margaret seemed to fade out of my sight. I
started and looked round. The candle, which I had placed at the
opposite end of the room, had burnt down without my noticing it, and
was now expiring in the socket. I ran to light the fresh candle which
lay on the table by its side, but was too late. The wick flickered its
last; the room was left in darkness.
While I felt among the different objects under my hands for a box of
matches: Margaret's voice strengthened again.
"Innocent! innocent!" I heard her cry mournfully through the darkness.
"I'll swear I'm innocent, and father is sure to swear it too. Innocent
Margaret! Oh, me! what innocence!"
She repeated these words over and over again, till the hearing them
seemed to bewilder all my senses. I hardly knew what I touched.
Suddenly, my searching hands stopped of themselves, I could not tell
why. Was there some change in the room? Was there more air in it, as
if a door had been opened? Was there something moving over the floor?
Had Margaret left her bed?--No! the mournful voice was speaking
unintermittingly, and speaking from the same distance.
I moved to search for the matches on a chest of drawers, which stood
near the window. Though the morning was at its darkest, and the house
stood midway between two gas-lamps, there was a glimmering of light in
this place. I looked back into the room from the window, and thought I
saw something shadowy moving near the bed. "Take him away!" I heard
Margaret scream in her wildest tones. "His hands are on me: he's
feeling my face, to feel if I'm dead!"
I ran to her, striking against some piece of furniture in the
darkness. Something passed swiftly between me and the bed, as I got
near it. I thought I heard a door close. Then there was silence for a
moment; and then, as I stretched out my hands, my right hand
encountered the little table placed by Margaret's side, and the next
moment I felt the match-box that had been left on it.
As I struck a light, her voice repeated close at my ear:
"His hands are on me: he's feeling my face to feel if I'm dead!"
The match flared up. As I carried it to the candle, I looked round,
and noticed for the first time that there was a second door, at the
further corner of the room, which lighted some inner apartment through
glass panes at the top. When I tried this door, it was locked on the
inside, and the room beyond was dark.
Dark and silent. But was no one there, hidden in that darkness and
silence? Was there any doubt now, that stealthy feet had approached
Margaret, that stealthy hands had touched her, while the room was in
obscurity?-- Doubt? There was none on that point, none on any other.
Suspicion shaped itself into conviction in an instant, and identified
the stranger who had passed in the darkness between me and the
bedside, with the man whose presence I had dreaded, as the presence of
an evil spirit in the chamber of death.
He was waiting secretly in the house--waiting for her last moments;
listening for her last words; watching his opportunity, perhaps, to
enter the room again, and openly profane it by his presence! I placed
myself by the door, resolved, if he approached, to thrust him back, at
any hazard, from the bedside. How long I remained absorbed in watching
before the darkness of the inner room, I know not--but some time must
have elapsed before the silence around me forced itself suddenly on my
attention. I turned towards Margaret; and, in an instant, all previous
thoughts were suspended in my mind, by the sight that now met my eyes.
She had altered completely. Her hands, so restless hitherto, lay quite
still over the coverlid; her lips never moved; the whole expression of
her face had changed--the fever-traces remained on every feature, and
yet the fever-look was gone. Her eyes were almost closed; her quick
breathing had grown calm and slow. I touched her pulse; it was beating
with a wayward, fluttering gentleness. What did this striking
alteration indicate? Recovery? Was it possible? As the idea crossed my
mind, every one of my faculties became absorbed in the sole occupation
of watching her face; I could not have stirred an instant from the
bed, for worlds.
The earliest dawn of day was glimmering faintly at the window, before
another change appeared--before she drew a long, sighing breath, and
slowly opened her eyes on mine. Their first look was very strange and
startling to behold; for it was the look that was natural to her; the
calm look of consciousness, restored to what it had always been in the
past time. It lasted only for a moment. She recognised me; and,
instantly, an expression of anguish and shame flew over the first
terror and surprise of her face. She struggled vainly to lift her
hands--so busy all through the night; so idle now! A faint moan of
supplication breathed from her lips; and she slowly turned her head on
the pillow, so as to hide her face from my sight.
"Oh, my God! my God!" she murmured, in low, wailing tones, "I've
broken his heart, and he still comes here to be kind to me! This is
worse than death! I'm too bad to be forgiven--leave me! leave me!--oh,
Basil, leave me to die!"
I spoke to her; but desisted almost immediately--desisted even from
uttering her name. At the mere sound of my voice, her suffering rose
to agony; the wild despair of the soul wrestling awfully with the
writhing weakness of the body, uttered itself in words and cries
horrible, beyond all imagination, to hear. I sank down on my knees by
the bedside; the strength which had sustained me for hours, gave way
in an instant, and I burst into a passion of tears, as my spirit
poured from my lips in supplication for hers--tears that did not
humiliate me; for I knew, while I shed them, that I had forgiven her!
The dawn brightened. Gradually, as the fair light of the new day
flowed in lovely upon her bed; as the fresh morning breeze lifted
tenderly and playfully the scattered locks of her hair that lay over
the pillow--so, the calmness began to come back to her voice and the
stillness of repose to her limbs. But she never turned her face to me
again; never, when the wild words of her despair grew fewer and
fainter; never, when the last faint supplication to me, to leave her
to die forsaken as she deserved, ended mournfully in a long, moaning
gasp for breath. I waited after this--waited a long time--then spoke
to her softly--then waited once more; hearing her still breathe, but
slowly and more slowly with every minute--then spoke to her for the
second time, louder than before. She never answered, and never moved.
Was she sleeping? I could not tell. Some influence seemed to hold me
back from going to the other side of the bed, to look at her face, as
it lay away from me, almost hidden in the pillow.
The light strengthened faster, and grew mellow with the clear beauty
of the morning sunshine. I heard the sound of rapid footsteps
advancing along the street; they stopped under the window: and a voice
which I recognized, called me by my name. I looked out: Mr. Bernard
had returned at last.
"I could not get back sooner," he said; "the case was desperate, and I
was afraid to leave it. You will find a key on the
chimney-piece--throw it out to me, and I can let myself in; I told
them not to bolt the door before I went out."
I obeyed his directions. When he entered the room, I thought Margaret
moved a little, and signed to him with my hand to make no noise. He
looked towards the bed without any appearance of surprise, and asked
me in a whisper when the change had come over her, and how. I told him
very briefly, and inquired whether he had known of such changes in
other cases, like hers.
"Many," he answered, "many changes just as extraordinary, which have
raised hopes that I never knew realised. Expect the worst from the
change you have witnessed; it is a fatal sign."
Still, in spite of what he said, it seemed as if he feared to wake
her; for he spoke in his lowest tones, and walked very softly when he
went close to the bedside.
He stopped suddenly, just as he was about to feel her pulse, and
looked in the direction of the glass door--listened attentively--and
said, as if to himself--" I thought I heard some one moving in that
room, but I suppose I am mistaken; nobody can be up in the house yet."
With those words he looked down at Margaret, and gently parted back
her hair from her forehead.
"Don't disturb her," I whispered, "she is asleep; surely she is
He paused before he answered me, and placed his hand on her heart.
Then softly drew up the bed-linen, till it hid her face.
"Yes, she is asleep," he said gravely; "asleep, never to wake again.
She is dead."
I turned aside my head in silence, for my thoughts, at that moment,
were not the thoughts which can be spoken by man to man.
"This has been a sad scene for any one at your age," he resumed
kindly, as he left the bedside, "but you have borne it well. I am glad
to see that you can behave so calmly under so hard a trial."
Yes! at that moment it was fit that I should be calm; for I could
remember that I had forgiven her.
On the fourth day from the morning when she had died, I stood alone in
the churchyard by the grave of Margaret Sherwin.
It had been left for me to watch her dying moments; it was left for me
to bestow on her remains the last human charity which the living can
extend to the dead. If I could have looked into the future on our
fatal marriage-day, and could have known that the only home of my
giving which she would ever inhabit, would be the home of the grave!--
Her father had written me a letter, which I destroyed at the time; and
which, if I had it now, I should forbear from copying into these
pages. Let it be enough for me to relate here, that he never forgave
the action by which she thwarted him in his mercenary designs upon me
and upon my family; that he diverted from himself the suspicion and
disgust of his wife's surviving relatives (whose hostility he had some
pecuniary reasons to fear), by accusing his daughter, as he had
declared he would accuse her, of having been the real cause of her
mother's death; and that he took care to give the appearance of
sincerity to the indignation which he professed to feel against her,
by refusing to follow her remains to the place of burial.
Ralph had returned to London, as soon as he received the letter from
Mr. Bernard which I had forwarded to him. He offered me his assistance
in performing the last duties left to my care, with an affectionate
earnestness that I had never seen him display towards me before. But
Mr. Bernard had generously undertaken to relieve me of every
responsibility which could be assumed by others; and on this occasion,
therefore, I had no need to put my brother's ready kindness in helping
me to the test.
I stood alone by the grave. Mr. Bernard had taken leave of me; the
workers and the idlers in the churchyard had alike departed. There was
no reason why I should not follow them; and yet I remained, with my
eyes fixed upon the freshly-turned earth at my feet, thinking of the
Some time had passed thus, when the sound of approaching footsteps
attracted my attention. I looked up, and saw a man, clothed in a long
cloak drawn loosely around his neck, and wearing a shade over his
eyes, which hid the whole upper part of his face, advancing slowly
towards me, walking with the help of a stick. He came on straight to
the grave, and stopped at the foot of it--stopped opposite me, as I
stood at the head.
"Do you know me again?" he said. "Do you know me for Robert Mannion?"
As he pronounced his name, he raised the shade and looked at me.
The first sight of that appalling face, with its ghastly
discolouration of sickness, its hideous deformity of feature, its
fierce and changeless malignity of expression glaring full on me in
the piercing noonday sunshine--glaring with the same unearthly look of
fury and triumph which I had seen flashing through the flashing
lightning, when I parted from him on the night of the storm--struck me
speechless where I stood, and has never left me since. I must not, I
dare not, describe that frightful sight; though it now rises before my
imagination, vivid in its horror as on the first day when I saw
it--though it moves hither and thither before me fearfully, while I
write; though it lowers at my window, a noisome shadow on the radiant
prospect of earth, and sea, and sky, whenever I look up from the page
I am now writing towards the beauties of my cottage view.
"Do you know me for Robert Mannion?" he repeated. "Do you know the
work of your own hands, now you see it? Or, am I changed to you past
recognition, as _your_ father might have found _my_ father changed, if
he had seen him on the morning of his execution, standing under the
gallows, with the cap over his face?"
Still I could neither speak nor move. I could only look away from him
in horror, and fix my eyes on the ground.
He lowered the shade to its former position on his face, then spoke
"Under this earth that we stand on," he said, setting his foot on the
grave; "down here, where you are now looking, lies buried with the
buried dead, the last influence which might one day have gained you
respite and mercy at my hands. Did you think of the one, last chance
that you were losing, when you came to see her die? I watched _you,_
and I watched _her._ I heard as much as you heard; I saw as much as
you saw; I know when she died, and how, as you know it; I shared her
last moments with you, to the very end. It was my fancy not to give
her up, as your sole possession, even on her death-bed: it is my
fancy, now, not to let you stand alone--as if her corpse was your
property--over her grave!"
While he uttered the last words, I felt my self-possession returning.
I could not force myself to speak, as I would fain have spoken--I
could only move away, to leave him.
"Stop," he said, "what I have still to say concerns you. I have to
tell you, face to face, standing with you here, over her dead body,
that what I wrote from the hospital, is what I will do; that I will
make your whole life to come, one long expiation of this deformity;"
(he pointed to his face), "and of that death" (he set his foot once
more on the grave). "Go where you will, this face of mine shall never
be turned away from you; this tongue, which you can never silence but
by a crime, shall awaken against you the sleeping superstitions and
cruelties of all mankind. The noisome secret of that night when you
followed us, shall reek up like a pestilence in the nostrils of your
fellow-beings, be they whom they may. You may shield yourself behind
your family and your friends--I will strike at you through the dearest
and the bravest of them! Now you have heard me, go! The next time we
meet, you shall acknowledge with your own lips that I can act as I
speak. Live the free life which Margaret Sherwin has restored to you
by her death--you will know it soon for the life of Cain!"
He turned from the grave, and left me by the way that he had come; but
the hideous image of him, and the remembrance of the words he had
spoken, never left me. Never for a moment, while I lingered alone in
the churchyard; never, when I quitted it, and walked through the
crowded streets. The horror of the fiend-face was still before my
eyes, the poison of the fiend-words was still in my ears, when I
returned to my lodging, and found Ralph waiting to see me as soon as I
entered my room.
"At last you have come back!" he said; "I was determined to stop till
you did, if I stayed all day. Is anything the matter? Have you got
into some worse difficulty than ever?"
"No, Ralph--no. What have you to tell me?"
"Something that will rather surprise you, Basil: I have to tell you to
leave London at once! Leave it for your own interests and for
everybody else's. My father has found out that Clara has been to see
"Good heavens! how?"
"He won't tell me. But he has found it out. You know how you stand in
his opinion--I leave you to imagine what he thinks of Clara's conduct
in coming here."
"No! no! tell me yourself, Ralph--tell me how she bears his
"As badly as possible. After having forbidden her ever to enter this
house again, he now only shows how he is offended, by his silence; and
it is exactly that, of course, which distresses her. Between her
notions of implicit obedience to _him,_ and her opposite notions, just
as strong, of her sisterly duties to _you,_ she is made miserable from
morning to night. What she will end in, if things go on like this, I
am really afraid to think; and I'm not easily frightened, as you know.
Now, Basil, listen to me: it is _your_ business to stop this, and _my_
business to tell you how."
"I will do anything you wish--anything for Clara's sake!"
"Then leave London; and so cut short the struggle between her duty and
her inclination. If you don't, my father is quite capable of taking
her at once into the country, though I know he has important business
to keep him in London. Write a letter to her, saying that you have
gone away for your health, for change of scene and peace of mind--gone
away, in short, to come back better some day. Don't say where you're
going, and don't tell me, for she is sure to ask, and sure to get it
out of me if I know. Then she might be writing to you, and that might
be found out, too. She can't distress herself about your absence, if
you account for it properly, as she distresses herself now--that is
one consideration. And you will serve your own interests, as well as
Clara's, by going away--that is another."
"Never mind _my_ interests. Clara! I can only think of Clara!"
"But you _have_ interests, and you must think of them. I told my
father of the death of that unhappy woman, and of your noble behaviour
when she was dying. Don't interrupt me, Basil--it _was_ noble; I
couldn't have done what you did, I can tell you! I saw he was more
struck by it than he was willing to confess. An impression has been
made on him by the turn circumstances have taken. Only leave that
impression to strengthen, and you're safe. But if you destroy it by
staying here, after what has happened, and keeping Clara in this new
dilemma--my dear fellow, you destroy your best chance! There is a sort
of defiance of him in stopping; there is a downright concession to him
in going away."
"I _will_ go, Ralph; you have more than convinced me that I ought! I
will go to-morrow, though where--"
"You have the rest of the day to think where. _I_ should go abroad and
amuse myself; but your ideas of amusement are, most likely, not mine.
At any rate, wherever you go, I can always supply you with money, when
you want it; you can write to me, after you have been away some little
time, and I can write back, as soon as I have good news to tell you.
Only stick to your present determination, Basil, and, I'll answer for
it, you will be back in your own study at home, before you are many
"I will put it out of my power to fail in my resolution, by writing to
Clara at once, and giving you the letter to place in her hands
to-morrow evening, when I shall have left London some hours."
"That's right, Basil! that's acting and speaking like a man!"
I wrote immediately, accounting for my sudden absence as Ralph had
advised me--wrote, with a heavy heart, all that I thought would be
most reassuring and cheering to Clara; and then, without allowing
myself time to hesitate or to think, gave the letter to my brother.
"She shall have it to-morrow night," he said, "and my father shall
know why you have left town, at the same time. Depend on me in this,
as in everything else. And now, Basil, I must say good bye--unless
you're in the humour for coming to look at my new house this evening.
Ah! I see that won't suit you just now, so, good bye, old fellow!
Write when you are in any necessity--get back your spirits and your
health--and never doubt that the step you are now taking will be the
best for Clara, and the best for yourself!"
He hurried out of the room, evidently feeling more at saying farewell
than he was willing to let me discover. I was left alone for the rest
of the day, to think whither I should turn my steps on the morrow.
I knew that it would be best that I should leave England; but there
seemed to have grown within me, suddenly, a yearning towards my own
country that I had never felt before--a home-sickness for the land in
which my sister lived. Not once did my thoughts wander away to foreign
places, while I now tried to consider calmly in what direction I
should depart when I left London.
While I was still in doubt, my earliest impressions of childhood came
back to my memory; and influenced by them, I thought of Cornwall. My
nurse had been a Cornish woman; my first fancies and first feelings of
curiosity had been excited by her Cornish stories, by the descriptions
of the scenery, the customs, and the people of her native land, with
which she was ever ready to amuse me. As I grew older, it had always
been one of my favourite projects to go to Cornwall, to explore the
wild western land, on foot, from hill to hill throughout. And now,
when no motive of pleasure could influence my choice--now, when I was
going forth homeless and alone, in uncertainty, in grief, in
peril--the old fancy of long-past days still kept its influence, and
pointed out my new path to me among the rocky boundaries of the
My last night in London was a night made terrible by Mannion's fearful
image in all my dreams--made mournful, in my waking moments, by
thoughts of the morrow which was to separate me from Clara. But I
never faltered in my resolution to leave London for her sake. When the
morning came, I collected my few necessaries, added to them one or two
books, and was ready to depart.
My way through the streets took me near my father's house. As I passed
by the well-remembered neighbourhood, my self-control so far deserted
me, that I stopped and turned aside into the Square, in the hope of
seeing Clara once more before I went away. Cautiously and doubtfully,
as if I was a trespasser even on the public pavement, I looked up at
the house which was no more my home--at the windows, side by side, of
my sister's sitting-room and bed-room. She was neither standing near
them, nor passing accidentally from one room to another at that
moment. Still I could not persuade myself to go on. I thought of many
and many an act of kindness that she had done for me, which I seemed
never to have appreciated until now--I thought of what she had
suffered, and might yet suffer, for my sake--and the longing to see
her once more, though only for an instant, still kept me lingering
near the house and looking up vainly at the lonely windows.
It was a bright, cool, autumnal morning; perhaps she might have gone
out into the garden of the square: it used often to be her habit, when
I was at home, to go there and read at this hour. I walked round,
outside the railings, searching for her between gaps in the foliage;
and had nearly made the circuit of the garden thus, before the figure
of a lady sitting alone under one of the trees, attracted my
attention. I stopped--looked intently towards her--and saw that it was
Her face was almost entirely turned from me; but I knew her by her
dress, by her figure--even by her position, simple as it was. She was
sitting with her hands on a closed book which rested on her knee. A
little spaniel that I had given her lay asleep at her feet: she seemed
to be looking down at the animal, as far as I could tell by the
position of her head. When I moved aside, to try if I could see her
face, the trees hid her from sight. I was obliged to be satisfied with
the little I could discern of her, through the one gap in the foliage
which gave me a clear view of the place where she was sitting. To
speak to her, to risk the misery to both of us of saying farewell, was
more than I dared trust myself to do. I could only stand silent, and
look at her--it might be for the last time!--until the tears gathered
in my eyes, so that I could see nothing more. I resisted the
temptation to dash them away. While they still hid her from me--while
I could not see her again, if I would--I turned from the garden view,
and left the Square.
Amid all the thoughts which thronged on me, as I walked farther and
farther away from the neighbourhood of what was once my home; amid all
the remembrances of past events--from the first day when I met
Margaret Sherwin to the day when I stood by her grave--which were
recalled by the mere act of leaving London, there now arose in my
mind, for the first time, a doubt, which from that day to this has
never left it; a doubt whether Mannion might not be tracking me in
secret along every step of my way.
I stopped instinctively, and looked behind me. Many figures were
moving in the distance; but the figure that I had seen in the
churchyard was nowhere visible among them. A little further on, I
looked back again, and still with the same result. After this, I let a
longer interval elapse before I stopped; and then, for the third time,
I turned round, and scanned the busy street-scene behind me, with
eager, suspicious eyes. Some little distance back, on the opposite
side of the way, I caught sight of a man who was standing still (as I
was standing), amid the moving throng. His height was like Mannion's
height; and he wore a cloak like the cloak I had seen on Mannion, when
he approached me at Margaret's grave. More than this I could not
detect, without crossing over. The passing vehicles and
foot-passengers constantly intercepted my view, from the position in
which I stood.
Was this figure, thus visible only by intervals, the figure of
Mannion? and was he really tracking my steps? As the suspicion
strengthened in my mind that it was so, the remembrance of his threat
in the churchyard: "You may shield yourself behind your family and
your friends: I will strike at you through the dearest and the bravest
of them--" suddenly recurred to me; and brought with it a thought
which urged me instantly to proceed on my way. I never looked behind
me again, as I now walked on; for I said within myself:--"If he is
following me, I must not, and will not avoid him: it will be the best
result of my departure, that I shall draw after me that destroying
presence; and thus at least remove it far and safely away from my
family and my home!"
So, I neither turned aside from the straight direction, nor hurried my
steps, nor looked back any more. At the time I had resolved on, I left
London for Cornwall, without making any attempt to conceal my
departure. And though I knew that he must surely be following me,
still I never saw him again: never discovered how close or how far off
he was on my track.
Two months have passed since that period; and I know no more about him
_now_ than I knew _then._
October 19th--My retrospect is finished. I have traced the history of
my errors and misfortunes, of the wrong I have done and the punishment
I have suffered for it, from the past to the present time.
The pages of my manuscript (many more than I thought to write at
first) lie piled together on the table before me. I dare not look them
over: I dare not read the lines which my own hand has traced. There
may be much in my manner of writing that wants alteration; but I have
no heart to return to my task, and revise and reconsider as I might if
I were intent on producing a book which was to be published during my
lifetime. Others will be found, when I am no more, to carve, and
smooth, and polish to the popular taste of the day this rugged
material of Truth which I shall leave behind me.
But now, while I collect these leaves, and seal them up, never to be
opened again by my hands, can I feel that I have related all which it
is necessary to tell? No! While Mannion lives--while I am ignorant of
the changes that may yet be wrought in the home from which I am
exiled--there remains for me a future which must be recorded, as the
necessary sequel to the narrative of the past. What may yet happen
worthy of record, I know not: what sufferings I may yet undergo, which
may unfit me for continuing the labour now terminated for a time, I
cannot foresee. I have not hope enough in the future, or in myself; to
believe that I shall have the time or the energy to write hereafter,
as I have written already, from recollection. It is best, then, that I
should note down events daily as they occur; and so ensure, as far as
may be, a continuation of my narrative, fragment by fragment, to the
But, first, as a fit beginning to the Journal I now propose to keep,
let me briefly reveal something, in this place, of the life that I am
leading in my retirement on the Cornish coast.
The fishing hamlet in which I have written the preceding pages, is on
the southern shore of Cornwall, not more than a few miles distant from
the Land's End. The cottage I inhabit is built of rough granite,
rudely thatched, and has but two rooms. I possess no furniture but my
bed, my table, and my chair; and some half-dozen fishermen and their
families are my only neighbours. But I feel neither the want of
luxuries, nor the want of society: all that I wished for in coming
here, I have--the completest seclusion.
My arrival produced, at first, both astonishment and suspicion. The
fishermen of Cornwall still preserve almost all the superstitions,
even to the grossest, which were held dear by their humble ancestors,
centuries back. My simple neighbours could not understand why I had no
business to occupy me; could not reconcile my worn, melancholy face
with my youthful years. Such loneliness as mine looked
unnatural--especially to the women. They questioned me curiously; and
the very simplicity of my answer, that I had only come to Cornwall to
live in quiet, and regain my health, perplexed them afresh. They
waited, day after day, when I was first installed in the cottage, to
see letters sent to me--and no letters arrived: to see my friends join
me--and no friends came. This deepened the mystery to their eyes. They
began to recall to memory old Cornish legends of solitary, secret
people who had lived, years and years ago, in certain parts of the
county--coming, none knew whence; existing, none knew by what means;
dying and disappearing, none knew when. They felt half inclined to
identify me with these mysterious visitors--to consider me as some
being, a stranger to the whole human family, who had come to waste
away under a curse, and die ominously and secretly among them. Even
the person to whom I first paid money for my necessaries, questioned,
for a moment, the lawfulness and safety of receiving it!
But these doubts gradually died away; this superstitious curiosity
insensibly wore off, among my poor neighbours. They became used to my
solitary, thoughtful, and (to them) inexplicable mode of existence.
One or two little services of kindness which I rendered, soon after my
arrival, to their children, worked wonders in my favour; and I am
pitied now, rather than distrusted. When the results of the fishing
are abundant, a little present has been often made to me, out of the
nets. Some weeks ago, after I had gone out in the morning, I found on
my return, two or three gulls' eggs placed in a basket before my door.
They had been left there by the children, as ornaments for my cottage
window--the only ornaments they had to give; the only ornaments they
had ever heard of.
I can now go out unnoticed, directing my steps up the ravine in which
our hamlet is situated, towards the old grey stone church which stands
solitary on the hill-top, surrounded by the lonesome moor. If any
children happen to be playing among the scattered tombs, they do not
start and run away, when they see me sitting on the coffin stone at
the entrance of the churchyard, or wandering round the sturdy granite
tower, reared by hands which have mouldered into dust centuries ago.
My approach has ceased to be of evil omen for my little neighbours.
They just look up at me, for a moment, with bright smiles, and then go
on with their game.
From the churchyard, I look down the ravine, on fine days, towards the
sea. Mighty piles of granite soar above the fishermen's cottages on
each side; the little strip of white beach which the cliffs shut in,
glows pure in the sunlight; the inland stream that trickles down the
bed of the rocks, sparkles, at places, like a rivulet of silver-fire;
the round white clouds, with their violet shadows and bright wavy
edges, roll on majestically above me; the cries of the sea-birds, the
endless, dirging murmur of the surf, and the far music of the wind
among the ocean caverns, fall, now together, now separately on my ear.
Nature's voice and Nature's beauty--God's soothing and purifying
angels of the soul--speak to me most tenderly and most happily, at
such times as these.
It is when the rain falls, and wind and sea arise together--when,
sheltered among the caverns in the side of the precipice, I look out
upon the dreary waves and the leaping spray--that I feel the unknown
dangers which hang over my head in all the horror of their
uncertainty. Then, the threats of my deadly enemy strengthen their
hold fearfully on all my senses. I see the dim and ghastly
personification of a fatality that is lying in wait for me, in the
strange shapes of the mist which shrouds the sky, and moves, and
whirls, and brightens, and darkens in a weird glory of its own over
the heaving waters. Then, the crash of the breakers on the reef howls
upon me with a sound of judgment; and the voice of the wind, growling
and battling behind me in the hollows of the cave, is, ever and ever,
the same thunder-voice of doom and warning in my ear.
Does this foreboding that Mannion's eye is always on me, that his
footsteps are always secretly following mine, proceed only from the
weakness of my worn-out energies? Could others in my situation
restrain themselves from fearing, as I do, that he is still
incessantly watching me in secret? It is possible. It may be, that his
terrible connection with all my sufferings of the past, makes me
attach credit too easily to the destroying power which he arrogates to
himself in the future. Or it may be, that all resolution to resist him
is paralysed in me, not so much by my fear of his appearance, as by my
uncertainty of the time when it will take place--not so much by his
menaces themselves, as by the delay in their execution- Still, though
I can estimate fairly the value of these considerations, they exercise
over me no lasting influence of tranquillity. I remember what this man
_has_ done; and in spite of all reasoning, I believe in what he has
told me he will yet do. Madman though he may be, I have no hope of
defence or escape from him in any direction, look where I will.
But for the occupation which the foregoing narrative has given to my
mind; but for the relief which my heart can derive from its thoughts
of Clara, I must have sunk under the torment of suspense and suspicion
in which my life is now passed. My sister! Even in this self-imposed
absence from her, I have still found a means of connecting myself
remotely with something that she loves. I have taken, as the assumed
name under which I live, and shall continue to live until my father
has given me back his confidence and his affection, the name of a
little estate that once belonged to my mother, and that now belongs to
her daughter. Even the most wretched have their caprice, their last
favourite fancy. I possess no memorial of Clara, not even a letter.
The name that I have taken from the place which she was always fondest
and proudest of, is, to me, what a lock of hair, a ring, any little
loveable keepsake, is to others happier than I am.
I have wandered away from the simple details of my life in this place.
Shall I now return to them? Not to-day; my head burns, my hand is
weary. If the morrow should bring with it no event to write of, on the
morrow I can resume the subject from which I now break off.
October 20th.--After laying aside my pen, I went out yesterday for the
purpose of renewing that former friendly intercourse with my poor
neighbours, which has been interrupted for the last three weeks by
unintermitting labour at the latter portions of my narrative.
In the course of my walk among the cottages and up to the old church
on the moor, I saw fewer of the people of the district than usual. The
behaviour of those whom I did chance to meet, seemed unaccountably
altered; perhaps it was mere fancy, but I thought they avoided me. One
woman abruptly shut her cottage door as I approached. A fisherman,
when I wished him good day, hardly answered; and walked on without
stopping to gossip with me as usual. Some children, too, whom I
overtook on the road to the church, ran away from me, making gestures
to each other which I could not understand. Is the first superstitious
distrust of me returning after I thought it had been entirely
overcome? Or are my neighbours only showing their resentment at my
involuntary neglect of them for the last three weeks? I must try to
find out to-morrow.
21st--I have discovered all! The truth, which I was strangely slow to
suspect yesterday, has forced itself on me to-day.
I went out this morning, as I had purposed, to discover whether my
neighbours had really changed towards me, or not, since the interval
of my three weeks' seclusion. At the cottage-door nearest to mine, two
young children were playing, whom I knew I had succeeded in attaching
to me soon after my arrival. I walked up to speak to them; but, as I
approached, their mother came out, and snatched them from me with a
look of anger and alarm. Before I could question her, she had taken
them inside the cottage, and had closed the door.
Almost at the same moment, as if by a preconcerted signal, three or
four other women came out from their abodes at a little distance,
warned me in loud, angry voices not to come near them, or their
children; and disappeared, shutting their doors. Still not suspecting
the truth, I turned back, and walked towards the beach. The lad whom I
employ to serve me with provisions, was lounging there against the
side of an old boat. At seeing me, he started up, and walked away a
few steps--then stopped, and called out--
"I'm not to bring you anything more; father says he won't sell to you
again, whatever you pay him."
I asked the boy why his father had said that; but he ran back towards
the village without answering me.
"You had best leave us," muttered a voice behind me. "If you don't go
of your own accord, our people will starve you out of the place."
The man who said these words, had been one of the first to set the
example of friendliness towards me, after my arrival; and to him I now
turned for the explanation which no one else would give me.
"You know what we mean, and why we want you to go, well enough," was
I assured him that I did not; and begged him so earnestly to enlighten
me, that he stopped as he was walking away.
"I'll tell you about it," he said; "but not now; I don't want to be
seen with you." (As he spoke he looked back at the women, who were
appearing once more in front of their cottages.) "Go home again, and
shut yourself up; I'll come at dusk."
And he came as he had promised. But when I asked him to enter my
cottage, he declined, and said he would talk to me outside, at my
window. This disinclination to be under my roof, reminded me that my
supplies of food had, for the last week, been left on the
window-ledge, instead of being brought into my room as usual. I had
been too constantly occupied to pay much attention to the circumstance
at the time; but I thought it very strange now.
"Do you mean to tell me you don't suspect why we want to get you out
of our place here?" said the man, looking in distrustfully at me
through the window.
I repeated that I could not imagine why they had all changed towards
me, or what wrong they thought I had done them.
"Then I'll soon let you know it," he continued. "We want you gone from
"Because," interrupted another voice behind him, which I recognised as
his wife's, "because you're bringing a blight on us, and our
houses--because _we want our children's faces left as God made
"Because," interposed a second woman, who had joined her, "you're
bringing devil's vengeances among Christian people! Come back, John!
he's not safe for a true man to speak to."
They dragged the fisherman away with them before he could say another
word. I had heard enough. The fatal truth burst at once on my mind.
Mannion _had_ followed me to Cornwall: his threats were executed to
the very letter!
(10 o'clock.)--I have lit my candle for the last time in this cottage,
to add a few lines to my journal. The hamlet is quiet; I hear no
footstep outside--and yet, can I be certain that Mannion is not
lurking near my door at this moment?
I must go when the morning comes; I must leave this quiet retreat, in
which I have lived so calmly until now. There is no hope that I can
reinstate myself in the opinions of my poor neighbours. He has arrayed
against me the pitiless hostility of their superstition. He has found
out the dormant cruelties, even in the hearts of these simple people;
and has awakened them against me, as he said he would. The evil work
must have been begun within the last three weeks, while I was much
within doors, and there was little chance of meeting me in my usual
walks. How that work was accomplished it is useless to inquire; my
only object now, must be to prepare myself at once for departure.
(11 o'clock.)--While I was putting up my few books, a minute ago, a
little embroidered marker fell out of one of them, which I had not
observed in the pages before; and which I recognised as having been
worked for me by Clara. I have a memorial of my sister in my
possession, after all! Trifling as it is, I shall preserve it about
me, as a messenger of consolation in the time of adversity and peril.
(1 o'clock.)--The wind sweeps down on us, from off the moorland, in
fiercer and fiercer gusts; the waves dash heavily against our rock
promontory; the rain drifts wildly past my windows; and the densest
darkness overspreads the whole sky. The storm which has been
threatening for some days, is gathering fast.
(Village of Treen, October 22nd.)--The events of this one day have
changed the whole future of my life. I must force myself to write of
them at once. Something warns me that if I delay, though only till
to-morrow, I shall be incapable of relating them at all.
It was still early in the morning--I think about seven o'clock--when I
closed my cottage door behind me, never to open it again. I met only
one or two of my neighbours as I left the hamlet. They drew aside to
let me advance, without saying a word. With a heavy heart, grieved
more than I could have imagined possible at departing as an enemy from
among the people with whom I had lived as a friend, I passed slowly by
the last cottages, and ascended the cliff path which led to the moor.
The storm had raged at its fiercest some hours back. Soon after
daylight the wind sank; but the majesty of the mighty sea had lost
none of its terror and grandeur as yet. The huge Atlantic waves still
hurled themselves, foaming and furious, against the massive granite of
the Cornish cliffs. Overhead, the sky was hidden in a thick white
mist, now hanging, still and dripping, down to the ground; now rolling
in shapes like vast smoke-wreaths before the light wind which still
blew at intervals. At a distance of more than a few yards, the largest
objects were totally invisible. I had nothing to guide me, as I
advanced, but the ceaseless roaring of the sea on my right hand.
It was my purpose to get to Penzance by night. Beyond that, I had no
project, no thought of what refuge I should seek next. Any hope I
might have formerly felt of escaping from Mannion, had now deserted me
for ever. I could not discover by any outward indications, that he was
still following my footsteps. The mist obscured all objects behind me
from view; the ceaseless crashing of the shore-waves overwhelmed all
landward sounds, but I never doubted for a moment that he was watching
me, as I proceeded along my onward way.
I walked slowly, keeping from the edge of the precipices only by
keeping the sound of the sea always at the same distance from my ear;
knowing that I was advancing in the proper direction, though very
circuitously, as long as I heard the waves on my right hand. To have
ventured on the shorter way, by the moor and the cross-roads beyond
it, would have been only to have lost myself past all chance of
extrication, in the mist.
In this tedious manner I had gone on for some time, before it struck
me that the noise of the sea was altering completely to my sense of
hearing. It seemed to be sounding very strangely on each side of
me--both on my right hand and on my left. I stopped and strained my
eyes to look through the mist, but it was useless. Crags only a few
yards off, seemed like shadows in the thick white vapour. Again, I
went on a little; and, ere long, I heard rolling towards me, as it
were, under my own feet, and under the roaring of the sea, a howling,
hollow, intermittent sound--like thunder at a distance. I stopped
again, and rested against a rock. After some time, the mist began to
part to seaward, but remained still as thick as ever on each side of
me. I went on towards the lighter sky in front--the thunder-sound
booming louder and louder, in the very heart, as it seemed, of the
The mist brightened yet a little more, and showed me a landmark to
ships, standing on the highest point of the surrounding rocks. I
climbed to it, recognised the glaring red and white pattern in which
it was painted, and knew that I had wandered, in the mist, away from
the regular line of coast, out on one of the great granite
promontories which project into the sea, as natural breakwaters, on
the southern shore of Cornwall.
I had twice penetrated as far as this place, at the earlier period of
my sojourn in the fishing-hamlet, and while I now listened to the
thunder-sound, I knew from what cause it proceeded.
Beyond the spot where I stood, the rocks descended suddenly, and
almost perpendicularly, to the range below them. In one of the highest
parts of the wall-side of granite thus formed, there opened a black,
yawning hole that slanted nearly straight downwards, like a tunnel, to
unknown and unfathomable depths below, into which the waves found
entrance through some subterranean channel. Even at calm times the sea
was never silent in this frightful abyss, but on stormy days its fury
was terrific. The wild waves boiled and thundered in their
imprisonment, till they seemed to convulse the solid cliff about them,
like an earthquake. But, high as they leapt up in the rocky walls of
the chasm, they never leapt into sight from above. Nothing but clouds
of spray indicated to the eye, what must be the horrible tumult of the
raging waters below.
With my recognition of the place to which I had now wandered, came
remembrance of the dangers I had left behind me on the rock-track that
led from the mainland to the promontory--dangers of narrow ledges and
treacherous precipices, which I had passed safely, while unconscious
of them in the mist, but which I shrank from tempting again, now that
I recollected them, until the sky had cleared, and I could see my way
well before me. The atmosphere was still brightening slowly over the
tossing, distant waves: I determined to wait until it had lost all its
obscurity, before I ventured to retrace my steps.
I moved down towards the lower range of rocks, to seek a less exposed
position than that which I now occupied. As I neared the chasm, the
terrific howling of the waves inside it was violent enough to drown,
not only the crashing sound of the surf on the outward crags of the
promontory, but even the shrill cries of the hundreds on hundreds of
sea-birds that whirled around me, except when their flight was
immediately over my head. At each side of the abyss, the rocks, though
very precipitous, afforded firm hold for hand and foot. As I descended
them, the morbid longing to look on danger, which has led many a man
to the very brink of a precipice, even while he dreaded it, led me to
advance as near as I durst to the side of the great hole, and to gaze
down into it. I could see but little of its black, shining, interior
walls, or of the fragments of rock which here and there jutted out
from them, crowned with patches of long, lank, sea-weed waving slowly
to and fro in empty space--I could see but little of these things, for
the spray from the bellowing water in the invisible depths below,
steamed up almost incessantly, like smoke, and shot, hissing in clouds
out of the mouth of the chasm, on to a huge flat rock, covered with
sea-weed, that lay beneath and in front of it. The very sight of this
smooth, slippery plane of granite, shelving steeply downward, right
into the gaping depths of the hole, made my head swim; the thundering
of the water bewildered and deafened me--I moved away while I had the
power: away, some thirty or forty yards in a lateral direction,
towards the edges of the promontory which looked down on the sea.
Here, the rocks rose again in wild shapes, forming natural caverns and
penthouses. Towards one of these I now advanced, to shelter myself
till the sky had cleared.
I had just entered the place, close to the edge of the cliff, when a
hand was laid suddenly and firmly on my arm; and, through the crashing
of the waves below, the thundering of the water in the abyss behind,
and the shrieking of the seabirds overhead, I heard these words,
spoken close to my ear:--
"Take care of your life. It is not your's to throw away--it is
I turned, and saw Mannion standing by me. No shade concealed the
hideous distortion of his face. His eye was on me, as he pointed
significantly down to the surf foaming two hundred feet beneath us.
"Suicide!" he said slowly--"I suspected it, and, this time, I followed
close: followed, to fight with death, which should have you."
As I moved back from the edge of the precipice, and shook him from me,
I marked the vacancy that glared even through the glaring triumph of
his eye, and remembered how I had been warned against him at the
The mist was thickening again, but thickening now in clouds that
parted and changed minute by minute, under the influence of the light
behind them. I had noticed these sudden transitions before, and knew
them to be the signs which preceded the speedy clearing of the
When I looked up at the sky, Mannion stepped back a few paces, and
pointed in the direction of the fishing-hamlet from which I had
"Even in that remote place," he said, "and among those ignorant
people, my deformed face has borne witness against you, and Margaret's
death has been avenged, as I said it should. You have been expelled as
a pest and a curse, by a community of poor fishermen; you have begun
to live your life of excommunication, as I lived mine.
Superstition!--barbarous, monstrous superstition, which I found ready
made to my use, is the scourge with which I have driven you from that
hiding-place. Look at me now! I have got back my strength; I am no
longer the sick refuse of the hospital. Where you go, I have the limbs
and the endurance to go too! I tell you again, we are linked together
for life; I cannot leave you if I would. The horrible joy of hunting
you through the world, leaps in my blood like fire! Look! look out on
those tossing waves. There is no rest for _them;_ there shall be no
rest for _you!_"
The sight of him, standing close by me in that wild solitude; the
hoarse sound of his voice, as he raised it almost to raving in his
exultation over my helplessness; the incessant crashing of the sea on
the outer rocks; the roaring of the tortured waters imprisoned in the
depths of the abyss behind us; the obscurity of the mist, and the
strange, wild shapes it began to take, as it now rolled almost over
our heads---all that I saw, all that I heard, seemed suddenly to
madden me, as Mannion uttered his last words. My brain felt turned to
fire; my heart to ice. A horrible temptation to rid myself for ever of
the wretch before me, by hurling him over the precipice at my feet,
seized on me. I felt my hands stretching themselves out towards him
without my willing it--if I had waited another instant, I should have
dashed him or myself to destruction. But I turned back in time; and,
reckless of all danger, fled from the sight of him, over the rugged
and perilous surface of the cliff.
The shock of a fall among the rocks, before I had advanced more than a
few yards, partly restored my self-possession. Still, I dared not look
back to see if Mannion was following me, so long as the precipice
behind him was within view.
I began to climb to the higher range of rocks almost at the same spot
by which I had descended from them--judging by the close thunder of
the water in the chasm. Halfway up, I stopped at a broad
resting-place; and found that I must proceed a little, either to the
right or to the left, in a horizontal direction, before I could easily
get higher. At that moment, the mist was slowly brightening again. I
looked first to the left, to see where I could get good foothold--then
to the right, towards the outer sides of the riven rocks close at
At the same instant, I caught sight dimly of the figure of Mannion,
moving shadow-like below and beyond me, skirting the farther edge of
the slippery plane of granite that shelved into the gaping mouth of
the hole. The brightening atmosphere showed him that he had risked
himself, in the mist, too near to a dangerous place. He
stopped--looked up and saw me watching him--raised his hand--and shook
it threateningly in the air. The ill-calculated violence of his
action, in making that menacing gesture, destroyed his equilibrium--he
staggered--tried to recover himself--swayed half round where he
stood--then fell heavily backward, right on to the steep shelving
The wet sea-weed slipped through his fingers, as they madly clutched
at it. He struggled frantically to throw himself towards the side of
the declivity; slipping further and further down it at every effort.
Close to the mouth of the abyss, he sprang up as if he had been shot.
A tremendous jet of spray hissed out upon him at the same moment. I
heard a scream, so shrill, so horribly unlike any human cry, that it
seemed to silence the very thundering of the water. The spray fell.
For one instant, I saw two livid and bloody hands tossed up against
the black walls of the hole, as he dropped into it. Then, the waves
roared again fiercely in their hidden depths; the spray flew out once
more; and when it cleared off; nothing was to be seen at the yawning
mouth of the chasm--nothing moved over the shelving granite, but some
torn particles of sea-weed sliding slowly downwards in the running
The shock of that sight must have paralysed within me the power of
remembering what followed it; for I can recall nothing, after looking
on the emptiness of the rock below, except that I crouched on the
ledge under my feet, to save myself from falling off it--that there
was an interval of oblivion--and that I seemed to awaken again, as it
were, to the thundering of the water in the abyss. When I rose and
looked around me, the seaward sky was lovely in its clearness; the
foam of the leaping waves flashed gloriously in the sunlight: and all
that remained of the mist was one great cloud of purple shadow,
hanging afar off over the whole inland view.
I traced my way back along the promotory feebly and slowly. My
weakness was so great, that I trembled in every limb. A strange
uncertainty about directing myself in the simplest actions, overcame
my mind. Sometimes, I stopped short, hesitating in spite of myself at
the slightest obstacles in my path. Sometimes, I grew confused without
any cause, about the direction in which I was proceeding, and fancied
I was going back to the fishing village.. The sight that I had
witnessed, seemed to be affecting me physically, far more than
mentally. As I dragged myself on my weary way along the coast, there
was always the same painful vacancy in my thoughts: there seemed to be
no power in them yet, of realising Mannion's appalling death.
By the time I arrived at this village, my strength was so utterly
exhausted, that the people at the inn were obliged to help me
upstairs. Even now, after some hours' rest, the mere exertion of
dipping my pen in the ink begins to be a labour and a pain to me.
There is a strange fluttering at my heart; my recollections are
growing confused again--I can write no more.
23rd.--The frightful scene that I witnessed yesterday still holds the
same disastrous influence over me. I have vainly endeavoured to think,
not of Mannion's death, but of the free prospect which that death has
opened to my view. Waking or sleeping, it is as if some fatality kept
all my faculties imprisoned within the black walls of the chasm. I saw
the livid, bleeding hands flying past them again, in my dreams, last
night. And now, while the morning is clear and the breeze is fresh, no
repose, no change comes to my thoughts. Time bright beauty of
unclouded daylight seems to have lost the happy influence over me
which it used formerly to possess.
25th.--All yesterday I had not energy enough even to add a line to
this journal. The strength to control myself seems to have gone from
me. The slightest accidental noise in the house, throws me into a fit
of trembling which I cannot subdue. Surely, if ever the death of one
human being brought release and salvation to another, the death of
Mannion has brought them to me; and yet, the effect left on my mind by
the horror of having seen it, is still not lessened--not even by the
knowledge of all that I have gained by being freed from the deadliest
and most determined enemy that man ever had.
26th.--Visions--half waking, half dreaming--all through the night.
Visions of my last lonely evening in the fishing-hamlet--of Mannion
again--the livid hands whirling to and fro over my head in the
darkness--then, glimpses of home; of Clara reading to me in my
study--then, a change to the room where Margaret died--the sight of
her again, with her long black hair streaming over her face--then,
oblivion for a little while--then, Mannion once more; walking
backwards and forwards by my bedside--his death, seeming like a dream;
his watching me through the night like a reality to which I had just
awakened--Clara walking opposite to him on the other side--Ralph
between them, pointing at me.
27th.--I am afraid my mind is seriously affected; it must have been
fatally weakened before I passed through the terrible scenes among the
rocks of the promontory. My nerves must have suffered far more than I
suspected at the time, under the constant suspense in which I have
been living since I left London, and under the incessant strain and
agitation of writing the narrative of all that has happened to me.
Shall I send a letter to Ralph? No--not yet. It might look like
impatience, like not being able to bear my necessary absence as calmly
and resolutely as I ought.
28th.--A wakeful night--tormented by morbid apprehensions that the
reports about me in the fishing-village may spread to this place; that
inquiries may be made after Mannion; and that I may be suspected of
having caused his death.
29th.--The people at the inn have sent to get me medical advice. The
doctor came to-day. He was kindness itself; but I fell into a fit of
trembling, the moment he entered the room--grew confused in attempting
to tell him what was the matter with me--and, at last, could not
articulate a single word distinctly. He looked very grave as he
examined me and questioned the landlady. I thought I heard him say
something about sending for my friends, but could not be certain.
3lst.--Weaker and weaker. I tried in despair, to-day, to write to
Ralph; but knew not how to word the letter. The simplest forms of
expression confused themselves inextricably in my mind. I was obliged
to give it up. It is a surprise to me to find that I can still add
with my pencil to the entries in this Journal! When I am no longer
able to continue, in some sort, the employment to which I have been
used for so many weeks past, what will become of me? Shall I have lost
the only safeguard that keeps me in my senses?
* * * * *
Worse! worse! I have forgotten what day of the month it is; and cannot
remember it for a moment together, when they tell me--cannot even
recollect how long I have been confined to my bed. I feel as if my
heart was wasting away. Oh! if I could only see Clara again.
* * * * *
The doctor and a strange man have been looking among my papers.
My God! am I dying? dying at the very time when there is a chance of
happiness for my future life?
* * * * *
Clara!--far from her--nothing but the little book-marker she worked
for me--leave it round my neck when I--
I can't move, or breathe, or think--if I could only be taken back--if
my father could see me as I am now! Night again--the dreams that will
come--always of home; sometimes, the untried home in heaven, as well
as the familiar home on earth--
* * * * *
Clara! I shall die out of my senses, unless Clara--break the news
gently--it may kill her--
Her face so bright and calm! her watchful, weeping eyes always looking
at me, with a light in them that shines steady through the quivering
tears. While the light lasts, I shall live; when it begins to die
NOTE BY THE EDITOR.
* There are some lines of writing beyond this point; but they are
LETTERS IN CONCLUSION.
FROM WILLIAM PENHALE, MINER, AT BARTALLOCK, IN CORNWALL, TO HIS WIFE
MY DEAR MARY,
I received your letter yesterday, and was more glad than I can say, at
hearing that our darling girl Susan has got such a good place in
London, and likes her new mistress so well. My kind respects to your
sister and her husband, and say I don't grumble about the money that's
been spent in sending you with Susan to take care of her. She was too
young, poor child, to be trusted to make the journey alone; and, as I
was obliged to stop at home and work to keep the other children, and
pay back what we borrowed for the trip, of course you were the proper
person, after me, to go with Susan--whose welfare is a more precious
possession to us than any money, I am sure. Besides, when I married
you, and took you away to Cornwall, I always promised you a trip to
London to see your friends again; and now that promise is performed.
So, once again, don't fret about the money that's been spent: I shall
soon pay it back.
I've got some very strange news for you, Mary. You know how bad work
was getting at the mine, before you went away--so bad, that I thought
to myself after you had gone, "Hadn't I better try what I can do in
the fishing at Treen?" And I went there; and, thank God, have got on
well by it. I can turn my hand to most things; and the fishing has
been very good this year. So I have stuck to my work. And now I come
to my news.
The landlady at the inn here, is, as you know, a sort of relation of
mine. Well, the third afternoon after you had gone, I was stopping to
say a word to her at her own door, on my way to the beach, when we saw
a young gentleman, quite a stranger, coming up to us. He looked very
pale and wild-like, I thought, when he asked for a bed; and then got
faint all of a sudden--so faint and ill, that I was obliged to lend a
hand in getting him upstairs. The next morning I heard he was worse:
and it was just the same story the morning after. He quite frightened
the landlady, he was so restless, and talked to himself in such a
strange way; specially at night. He wouldn't say what was the matter
with him, or who he was: we could only find out that he had been
stopping among the fishing people further west: and that they had not
behaved very well to him at last--more shame for them! I'm sure they
could take no hurt from the poor young fellow, let him be whom he may.
Well, the end of it was that I went and fetched the doctor for him
myself, and when we got into his room, we found him all pale and
trembling, and looking at us, poor soul, as if he thought we meant to
murder him. The doctor gave his complaint some hard names which I
don't know how to write down; but it seems there's more the matter
with his mind than his body, and that he must have had some great
fright which has shaken his nerves all to pieces. The only way to do
him good, as the doctor said, was to have him carefully nursed by his
relations, and kept quiet among people he knew; strange faces about
him being likely to make him worse. The doctor asked where his friends
lived; but he wouldn't say, and, lately, he's got so much worse that
he can't speak clearly to us at all.
Yesterday evening, he gave us all a fright. The doctor hearing me
below, asking after him, said I was to come up stairs and help to move
him to have his bed made. As soon as I raised him up (though I'm sure
I touched him as gently as I could), he fainted dead away. While he
was being brought to, a little piece of something that looked like
card-board, prettily embroidered with beads and silk, came away from a
string that held it round his neck, and dropped off the bedside. I
picked it up; for I remembered the time, Mary, when you and I were
courting, and how precious the least thing was to me that belonged to
you. So I took care of it for him, thinking it might be a keepsake
from his sweetheart. And sure enough, when he came to, he put up his
thin white hands to his neck, and looked so thankful at me when I tied
the little thing again to the string! Just as I had done that, the
doctor beckons me to the other end of the room.
"This won't do," says he to me in a whisper. "If he goes on like this,
he'll lose his reason, if not his life. I must search his papers, to
find out what friends he has; and you must be my witness."
So the doctor opens his little bag, and takes out a square sealed
packet first; then two or three letters tied together; the poor soul
looking all the while as if he longed to prevent us from touching
them. Well, the doctor said there was no occasion to open the packet,
for the direction was the same on all the letters, and the name
corresponded with his initials marked on his linen.
"I'm next to certain this is where he lives, or did live; so this is
where I'll write," says the doctor.
"Shall my wife take the letter, Sir?" says I. "She's in London with
our girl, Susan; and, if his friends should be gone away from where
you are writing to, she may be able to trace them."
"Quite right, Penhale!" says he; "we'll do that. Write to your wife,
and put my letter inside yours."
I did as he told me, at once; and his letter is inside this, with the
direction of the house and the street.
Now, Mary, dear, go at once, and see what you can find out. The
direction on the doctor's letter may be his home; and if it isn't,
there may be people there who can tell you where it is. So go at once,
and let us know directly what luck you have had, for there is no time
to be lost; and if you saw the young gentleman, you would pity him as
much as we do.
This has got to be such a long letter, that I have no room left to
write any more. God bless you, Mary, and God bless my darling Susan!
Give her a kiss for father's sake, and believe me, Your loving
FROM MARY PENHALE TO HER HUSBAND
Susan sends a hundred kisses, and best loves to you and her brothers
and sisters. She's getting on nicely; and her mistress is as kind and
fond of her as can be. Best respects, too, from my sister Martha, and
her husband. And now I've done giving you all my messages, I'll tell
you some good news for the poor young gentleman who is so bad at
As soon as I had seen Susan, and read your letter to her, I went to
the place where the doctor's letter directed me. Such a grand house,
William! I was really afraid to knock at the door. So I plucked up
courage, and gave a pull at the bell; and a very fat, big man, with
his head all plastered over with powder, opened the door, almost
before I had done ringing. "If you please, Sir," says I, showing him
the name on the doctor's letter, "do any friends of this gentleman
live here?" "To be sure they do," says he; "his father and sister live
here: but what do you want to know for?" "I want them to read this
letter," says I. "It's to tell them that the young gentleman is very
bad in health down in our country." "You can't see my master," says
he, "for he's confined to his bed by illness: and Miss Clara is very
poorly too--you had better leave the letter with me." Just as he said
this, an elderly lady crossed the hall (I found out she was the
housekeeper, afterwards), and asked what I wanted. When I told her,
she looked quite startled. "Step this way, ma'am," says she; "you will
do Miss Clara more good than all the doctors put together. But you
must break the news to her carefully, before she sees the letter.
Please to make it out better news than it is, for the young lady is in
very delicate health." We went upstairs--such stair-carpets! I was
almost frightened to step on them, after walking through the dirty
streets. The housekeeper opened a door, and said a few words inside,
which I could not hear, and then let me in where the young lady was.
Oh, William! she had the sweetest, kindest face I ever saw in my life.
But it was so pale, and there was such a sad look in her eyes when she
asked me to sit down, that it went to my heart, when I thought of the
news I had to tell her. I couldn't speak just at first; and I suppose
she thought I was in some trouble--for she begged me not to tell her
what I wanted, till I was better. She said it with such a voice and
such a look, that, like a great fool, I burst out crying, instead of
answering as I ought. But it did me good, though, and made me able to
tell her about her brother (breaking it as gently as I could) before I
gave her the doctor's letter. She never opened it; but stood up before
me as if she was turned to stone--not able to cry, or speak, or move.
It frightened me so, to see her in such a dreadful state, that I
forgot all about the grand house, and the difference there was between
us; and took her in my arms, making her sit down on the sofa by
me--just as I should do, if I was consoling our own Susan under some
great trouble. Well! I soon made her look more like herself,
comforting her in every way I could think of: and she laid her poor
head on my shoulder, and I took and kissed her, (not remembering a bit
about its being a born lady and a stranger that I was kissing); and
the tears came at last, and did her good. As soon as she could speak,
she thanked God her brother was found, and had fallen into kind hands.
She hadn't courage to read the doctor's letter herself, and asked me
to do it. Though he gave a very bad account of the young gentleman, he
said that care and nursing, and getting him away from a strange place
to his own home and among his friends, might do wonders for him yet.
When I came to this part of the letter, she started up, and asked me
to give it to her. Then she inquired when I was going back to
Cornwall; and I said, "as soon as possible," (for indeed, it's time I
was home, William). "Wait; pray wait till I have shown this letter to
my father!" says she. And she ran out of the room with it in her hand.
After some time, she came back with her face all of a flush, like;
looking quite different to what she did before, and saying that I had
done more to make the family happy by coming with that letter, than
she could ever thank me for as she ought. A gentleman followed her in,
who was her eldest brother (she said); the pleasantest, liveliest
gentleman I ever saw. He shook hands as if he had known me all his
life; and told me I was the first person he had ever met with who had
done good in a family by bringing them bad news. Then he asked me
whether I was ready to go to Cornwall the next morning with him, and
the young lady, and a friend of his who was a doctor. I had thought
already of getting the parting over with poor Susan, that very day: so
I said, "Yes." After that, they wouldn't let me go away till I had had
something to eat and drink; and the dear, kind young lady asked me all
about Susan, and where she was living, and about you and the children,
just as if she had known us like neighbours. Poor thing! she was so
flurried, and so anxious for the next morning, that it was all the
gentleman could do to keep her quiet, and prevent her falling into a
sort of laughing and crying fit, which it seems she had been liable to
lately. At last they let me go away: and I went and stayed with Susan
as long as I could before I bid her good-bye. She bore the parting
bravely--poor, dear child! God in heaven bless her; and I'm sure he
will; for a better daughter no mother ever had.
My dear husband, I am afraid this letter is very badly written; but
the tears are in my eyes, thinking of Susan; and I feel so wearied and
flurried after what has happened. We are to go off very early
to-morrow morning in a carriage, which is to be put on the railway.
Only think of my riding home in a fine carriage, with
gentlefolks!--how surprised Willie, and Nancy, and the other children
will be! I shall get to Treen almost as soon as my letter; but I
thought I would write, so that you might have the good news, the first
moment it could get to you, to tell the poor young gentleman. I'm sure
it must make him better, only to hear that his brother and sister are
coming to fetch him home.
I can't write any more, dear William, I'm so very tired; except that I
long to see you and the little ones again; and that I am,
Your loving and dutiful wife,
TO MR. JOHN BERNARD, FROM THE WRITER OF THE FORE-GOING AUTOBIOGRAPHY.
[This letter is nearly nine years later in date than the letters which
Lanreath Cottage, Breconshire.
MY DEAR FRIEND,
I find, by your last letter, that you doubt whether I still remember
the circumstances under which I made a certain promise to you, more
than eight years ago. You are mistaken: not one of those circumstances
has escaped my memory. To satisfy you of this, I will now recapitulate
them. You will own, I think, that I have forgotten nothing.
After my removal from Cornwall (shall I ever forget the first sight of
Clara and Ralph at my bedside!), when the nervous malady from which I
suffered so long, had yielded to the affectionate devotion of my
family--aided by the untiring exercise of your skill--one of my first
anxieties was to show that I could gratefully appreciate your
exertions for my good, by reposing the same confidence in you, which I
should place in my nearest and dearest relatives. From the time when
we first met at the hospital, your services were devoted to me,
through much misery of mind and body, with the delicacy and the
self-denial of a true friend. I felt that it was only your due that
you should know by what trials I had been reduced to the situation in
which you found me, when you accompanied my brother and sister to
Cornwall--I felt this; and placed in your hands, for your own private
perusal, the narrative which I had written of my error and of its
terrible consequences. To tell you all that had happened to me, with
my own lips, was more than I could do then--and even after this lapse
of years, would be more than I could do now.
After you had read the narrative, you urged me, on returning it into
my possession, to permit its publication during my lifetime. I granted
the justness of the reasons which led you to counsel me thus; but I
told you, at the same time, that an obstacle, which I was bound to
respect, would prevent me from following your advice. While my father
lived, I could not suffer a manuscript in which he was represented (no
matter under what excess of provocation) as separating himself in the
bitterest hostility from his own son, to be made public property. I
could not suffer events of which we never afterwards spoke ourselves,
to be given to others in the form of a printed narrative which might
perhaps fall under his own eye. You acknowledged, I remember, the
justice of these considerations and promised, in case I died before
him, to keep back my manuscript from publication as long as my father
lived. In binding yourself to that engagement, however, you
stipulated, and I agreed, that I should reconsider your arguments in
case I outlived him. This was my promise, and these were the
circumstances under which it was made. You will allow, I think, that
my memory is more accurate than you had imagined it to be.
And now, you write to remind me of _my_ part of our
agreement--forbearing, with your accustomed delicacy, to introduce the
subject, until more than six months have elapsed since my father's
death. You have done well. I have had time to feel all the consolation
afforded to me by the remembrance that, for years past, my life was of
some use in sweetening my father's; that his death has occurred in the
ordinary course of Nature; and that I never, to my own knowledge, gave
him any cause to repent the full and loving reconciliation which took
place between us, as soon as we could speak together freely after my
return to home.
Still I am not answering your question:--Am I now willing to permit
the publication of my narrative, provided all names and places
mentioned in it remained concealed, and I am known to no one but
yourself, Ralph, and Clara, as the writer of my own story? I reply
that I am willing. In a few days, you will receive the manuscript by a
safe hand. Neither my brother nor my sister object to its being made
public on the terms I have mentioned; and I feel no hesitation in
accepting the permission thus accorded to me. I have not glossed over
the flightiness of Ralph's character; but the brotherly kindness and
manly generosity which lie beneath it, are as apparent, I hope, in my
narrative as they are in fact. And Clara, dear Clara!--all that I have
said of her is only to be regretted as unworthy of the noblest subject
that my pen, or any other pen, can have to write on.
One difficulty, however, still remains:--How are the pages which I am
about to send you to be concluded? In the novel-reading sense of the
word, my story has no real conclusion. The repose that comes to all of
us after trouble--to _me,_ a repose in life: to others, how often a
repose only in the grave!--is the end which must close this
autobiography: an end, calm, natural, and uneventful; yet not,
perhaps, devoid of all lesson and value. Is it fit that I should set
myself, for the sake of effect, to _make_ a conclusion, and terminate
by fiction what has begun, and thus far, has proceeded in truth? In
the interests of Art, as well as in the interests of Reality, surely
Whatever remains to be related after the last entry in my journal,
will be found expressed in the simplest, and therefore, the best form,
by the letters from William and Mary Penhale, which I send you with
this. When I revisited Cornwall, to see the good miner and his wife, I
found, in the course of the inquiries which I made as to the past,
that they still preserved the letters they had written about me, while
I lay ill at Treen. I asked permission to take copies of these two
documents, as containing materials, which I could but ill supply from
my own resources, for filling up a gap in my story. They at once
consented; telling me that they had always kept each other's letters
after marriage, as carefully as they kept them before, in token that
their first affection remained to the last unchanged. At the same time
they entreated me, with the most earnest simplicity, to polish their
own homely expressions; and turn them, as they phrased, it, into
proper reading. You may easily imagine that I knew better than to do
this; and you will, I am sure, agree with me that both the letters I
send should be printed as literally as they were copied by my hand.
Having now provided for the continuation of my story to the period of
my return home, I have a word or two to say on the subject of
preparing the autobiography for press. Failing in the resolution, even
now, to look over my manuscript again, I leave the corrections it
requires to others--but on one condition. Let none of the passages in
which I have related events, or described characters, be either
softened or suppressed. I am well aware of the tendency, in some
readers, to denounce truth itself as improbable, unless their own
personal experience has borne witness to it; and it is on this very
account that I am firm in my determination to allow of no cringing
beforehand to anticipated incredulities. What I have written is Truth;
and it shall go into the world as Truth should--entirely
uncompromised. Let my style be corrected as completely as you will;
but leave characters and events which are taken from realities, real
as they are.
In regard to the surviving persons with whom this narrative associates
me, I have little to say which it can concern the reader to know. The
man whom I have presented in the preceding pages under the name of
Sherwin is, I believe, still alive, and still residing in
France--whither he retreated soon after the date of the last events
mentioned in my autobiography. A new system had been introduced into
his business by his assistant, which, when left to his own unaided
resources, he failed to carry out. His affairs became involved; a
commercial crisis occurred, which he was wholly unable to meet; and he
was made a bankrupt, having first dishonestly secured to himself a
subsistence for life, out of the wreck of his property. I accidentally
heard of him, a few years since, as maintaining among the English
residents of the town he then inhabited, the character of a man who
had undeservedly suffered from severe family misfortunes, and who bore
his afflictions with the most exemplary piety and resignation.
To those once connected with him, who are now no more, I need not and
cannot refer again. That part of the dreary Past with which they are
associated, is the part which I still shrink in terror from thinking
on. There are two names which my lips have not uttered for years;
which, in this life, I shall never pronounce again. The night of Death
is over them: a night to look away from for evermore.
To look away from--but, towards what object? The Future? That way, I
see but dimly even yet. It is on the Present that my thoughts are
fixed, in the contentment which desires no change.
For the last five months I have lived here with Clara--here, on the
little estate which was once her mother's, which is now hers. Long
before my father's death we often talked, in the great country house,
of future days which we might pass together, as we pass them now, in
this place. Though we may often leave it for a time, we shall always
look back to Lanreath Cottage as to our home. The years of retirement
which I spent at the Hall, after my recovery, have not awakened in me
a single longing to return to the busy world. Ralph--now the head of
our family; now aroused by his new duties to a sense of his new
position--Ralph, already emancipated from many of the habits which
once enthralled and degraded him, has written, bidding me employ to
the utmost the resources which his position enables him to offer me,
if I decide on entering into public life. But I have no such purpose;
I am still resolved to live on in obscurity, in retirement, in peace.
I have suffered too much; I have been wounded too sadly, to range
myself with the heroes of Ambition, and fight my way upward from the
ranks. The glory and the glitter which I once longed to look on as my
own, would dazzle and destroy me, now. Such shocks as I have endured,
leave that behind them which changes the character and the purpose of
a life. The mountain-path of Action is no longer a path for _me;_ my
future hope pauses with my present happiness in the shadowed valley of
Not a repose which owns no duty, and is good for no use; not a repose
which Thought cannot ennoble, and Affection cannot sanctify. To serve
the cause of the poor and the ignorant, in the little sphere which now
surrounds me; to smooth the way for pleasure and plenty, where pain
and want have made it rugged too long; to live more and more worthy,
with every day, of the sisterly love which, never tiring, never
changing, watches over me in this last retreat, this dearest
home--these are the purposes, the only purposes left, which I may
still cherish. Let me but live to fulfil them, and life will have
given to me all that I can ask!
I may now close my letter. I have communicated to you all the
materials I can supply for the conclusion of my autobiography, and
have furnished you with the only directions I wish to give in
reference to its publication. Present it to the reader in any form,
and at any time, that you think fit. On its reception by the public I
have no wish to speculate. It is enough for me to know that, with all
its faults, it has been written in sincerity and in truth. I shall not
feel false shame at its failure, or false pride at its success.
If there be any further information which you think it necessary to
possess, and which I have forgotten to communicate, write to me on the
subject--or, far better, come here yourself, and ask of me with your
own lips all that you desire to know. Come, and judge of the life I am
now leading, by seeing it as it really is. Though it be only for a few
days, pause long enough in your career of activity and usefulness, of
fame and honour, to find leisure time for a visit to the cottage where
we live. This is as much Clara's invitation as mine. She will never
forget (even if I could!) all that I have owed to your
friendship--will never weary (even if I should tire!) of showing you
that we are capable of deserving it. Come, then, and see _her_ as well
as _me_--see her, once more, my sister of old times! I remember what
you said of Clara, when we last met, and last talked of her; and I
believe you will be almost as happy to see her again in her old
character as I am.
Till then, farewell! Do not judge hastily of my motives for persisting
in the life of retirement which I have led for so many years past. Do
not think that calamity has chilled my heart, or enervated my mind.
Past suffering may have changed, but it has not deteriorated me. It
has fortified my spirit with an abiding strength; it has told me
plainly, much that was but dimly revealed to me before; it has shown
me uses to which I may put my existence, that have their sanction from
other voices than the voices of fame; it has taught me to feel that
bravest ambition which is vigorous enough to overleap the little life
here! Is there no aspiration in the purposes for which I would now
live?--Bernard! whatever we can do of good, in this world, with our
affections or our faculties, rises to the Eternal World above us, as a
song of praise from Humanity to God. Amid the thousand, thousand tones
ever joining to swell the music of that song, are those which sound
loudest and grandest _here,_ the tones which travel sweetest and
purest to the Imperishable Throne; which mingle in the perfectest
harmony with the anthem of the angel-choir! Ask your own heart that
question--and then say, may not the obscurest life--even a life like
mine--be dignified by a lasting aspiration, and dedicated to a noble
I have done. The calm summer evening has stolen on me while I have
been writing to you; and Clara's voice--now the happy voice of the
happy old times--calls to me from our garden seat to come out and look
at the sunset over the distant sea. Once more--farewell!