Marian Halcombe’s journal
Inspector Radenton’s unbelief was a frightful blow. In spite of my brave words it took me all last night to rally my courage to go on. Bitter tears did I shed into Theo’s pillow. But at first light this morning I was awake and at my desk, drawing up a list of ideas. There were anarchists in England, I knew. Foreign agitators must be kept track of—it is not conceivable that they are allowed to run riot through Britain without some minimal official supervision. What do we pay rates and taxes for? My father, who died before my birth, was the great-grandson of an earl, and my late mother had friends of influence. That very morning I wrote letters to the two or three still alive, seeking for a contact in the government.
After writing my letters I proposed this day to go and seek about in the quarters of the city that foreigners favor. In my heart I know that this is entirely trusting to luck, and that I am only hoping to happen upon a clue. But after breakfast Walter came into the morning room and spoke with the utmost seriousness.
“Marian, this cannot be.”
“Walter, we have but a fortnight.”
When Walter knows he is in the right he is—alas!—not only immovable, but persuasive. “Consider how it will look, Marian—a woman wandering around the most insalubrious areas of the city asking questions of strangers. Even when I accompany you it is insufficient—recall how Moore assumed you were a mistress. I do not accuse you of indelicacy. But your condition forms only a small part of your larger situation, and this situation is cruelly fragile. Above all, a woman in your terrible plight must cling to the most sedate and demure behavior. You must not even distantly appear to be . . .”
He did not go on, but the words he would not say rang clear in my inner ear: Loose. Good-natured. Of no character. A fornicatress. A notorious and shameless female, three-quarters of the way to whoredom.
Because Walter was not born a gentleman, he knows to a nicety how one must behave to maintain one’s place. He went on with the utmost kindness. “I know that in every fiber of your being you are a person of the utmost rectitude. But to be is not enough—not in the eyes of the world. You must appear.”
“And at the moment, appearances work against me.” Once again I saw with terror the awful abyss at my feet. Already I was lost. The veneer of respectability was all I had left. Crushed, I put off my hat and gloves again and set about darning socks. The mending basket is overflowing.
Walter Hartright’s narrative
I had hoped that my kindly admonition of yesterday was enough to keep Marian quietly at home. But today’s post brought her a letter that she hastened to share with me over breakfast. “The good Major Donthorne passed away last year,” she said, reading.
“Dear me—was it sudden?”
“His heart failed. Sad, but he was nearly eighty. A good old age—it cannot have been a surprise to the family. You remember writing to him?”
“Certainly. He was an intimate friend of Laura’s father.”
“And also a boon companion of my own father and mother as well, for they were all of the same social circle. I wrote to ask him as a family friend for advice. Of course I only mentioned generalities, but my letter was passed on to his son, a Mr. Roderick Donthorne—and he works in the Foreign Office! He begs me to call upon him there whenever it is convenient. I will reply and tell him we shall visit tomorrow.”
I would have demurred, but no plausible objection came to mind. This was a perfectly unexceptionable call, upon an old family connection in a respectable government position. Instead I resorted to distraction. “I have a wire here from Laura. She arrives tomorrow on the afternoon train.”
Marian clapped her hands with joy, crying, “Ellen, do you hear? Let the beds be made up. And call the piano tuner—Mrs. Hartright will wish to play.”
“Laura will bring the two boys, their nurse, her own maid, and probably Luna the greyhound. Sandett House will be full to the rafters.”
“Sent a note to Mrs. Hartright, asking if she will house little Wally for the duration,” Marian suggested. An excellent idea, which I quickly put forward, and received an immediate and enthusiastic reply. Mother also invited us all to dinner. Micah and Lottie shouted with excitement at the idea of their cousin coming to play.
But among her household concerns Marian did not lose sight of her plans. The following morning when she ordered the carriage, I said, “I yearn to see Laura as much as you do, Marian. But her train cannot possibly arrive yet—you will be hours too early.”
“That gives us ample time,” she said, “to call at Newgate in addition to...