The Dream Woman, A Mystery in Four Narratives
by Wilkie Collins
THE FIRST NARRATIVE: INTRODUCTORY STATEMENT OF THE FACTS BY PERCY
ADDRESSED TO THE
DEFENDED HIM AT
THE FIRST NARRATIVE: INTRODUCTORY
STATEMENT OF THE FACTS BY PERCY FAIRBANK
"Hullo, there! Hostler! Hullo-o-o!"
"My dear! why don't you look for the bell?"
"I HAVE lookedthere is no bell."
"And nobody in the yard. How very extraordinary! Call again,
"Hostler! Hullo, there! Hostler-r-r!"
My second call echoes through empty space, and rouses nobody
produces, in short, no visible result. I am at the end of my
resourcesI don't know what to say or what to do next. Here I stand
in the solitary inn yard of a strange town, with two horses to hold,
and a lady to take care of. By way of adding to my responsibilities,
it so happens that one of the horses is dead lame, and that the lady
is my wife.
Who am I?you will ask.
There is plenty of time to answer the question. Nothing happens;
and nobody appears to receive us. Let me introduce myself and my
I am Percy FairbankEnglish gentlemanage (let us say) fortyno
professionmoderate politicsmiddle heightfair complexioneasy
characterplenty of money.
My wife is a French lady. She was Mademoiselle Clotilde Delorge
when I was first presented to her at her father's house in France. I
fell in love with herI really don't know why. It might have been
because I was perfectly idle, and had nothing else to do at the time.
Or it might have been because all my friends said she was the very
last woman whom I ought to think of marrying. On the surface, I must
own, there is nothing in common between Mrs. Fairbank and me. She is
tall; she is dark; she is nervous, excitable, romantic; in all her
opinions she proceeds to extremes. What could such a woman see in me?
what could I see in her? I know no more than you do. In some
mysterious manner we exactly suit each other. We have been man and
wife for ten years, and our only regret is, that we have no children.
I don't know what YOU may think; I call thatupon the wholea happy
So much for ourselves. The next question iswhat has brought us
into the inn yard? and why am I obliged to turn groom, and hold the
We live for the most part in Franceat the country house in which
my wife and I first met. Occasionally, by way of variety, we pay
visits to my friends in England. We are paying one of those visits
now. Our host is an old college friend of mine, possessed of a fine
estate in Somersetshire; and we have arrived at his house called
Farleigh Halltoward the close of the hunting season.
On the day of which I am now writingdestined to be a memorable
day in our calendarthe hounds meet at Farleigh Hall. Mrs. Fairbank
and I are mounted on two of the best horses in my friend's stables.
We are quite unworthy of that distinction; for we know nothing and
care nothing about hunting. On the other hand, we delight in riding,
and we enjoy the breezy Spring morning and the fair and fertile
English landscape surrounding us on every side. While the hunt
prospers, we follow the hunt. But when a check occurswhen time
passes and patience is sorely tried; when the bewildered dogs run
hither and thither, and strong language falls from the lips of
exasperated sportsmenwe fail to take any further interest in the
proceedings. We turn our horses' heads in the direction of a grassy
lane, delightfully shaded by trees. We trot merrily along the lane,
and find ourselves on an open common. We gallop across the common,
and follow the windings of a second lane. We cross a brook, we pass
through a village, we emerge into pastoral solitude among the hills.
The horses toss their heads, and neigh to each other, and enjoy it as
much as we do. The hunt is forgotten. We are as happy as a couple of
children; we are actually singing a French songwhen in one moment
our merriment comes to an end. My wife's horse sets one of his
forefeet on a loose stone, and stumbles. His rider's ready hand saves
him from falling. But, at the first attempt he makes to go on, the
sad truth shows itselfa tendon is strained; the horse is lame.
What is to be done? We are strangers in a lonely part of the
country. Look where we may, we see no signs of a human habitation.
There is nothing for it but to take the bridle road up the hill, and
try what we can discover on the other side. I transfer the saddles,
and mount my wife on my own horse. He is not used to carry a lady; he
misses the familiar pressure of a man's legs on either side of him; he
fidgets, and starts, and kicks up the dust. I follow on foot, at a
respectful distance from his heels, leading the lame horse. Is there
a more miserable object on the face of creation than a lame horse? I
have seen lame men and lame dogs who were cheerful creatures; but I
never yet saw a lame horse who didn't look heartbroken over his own
For half an hour my wife capers and curvets sideways along the
bridle road. I trudge on behind her; and the heartbroken horse halts
behind me. Hard by the top of the hill, our melancholy procession
passes a Somersetshire peasant at work in a field. I summon the man
to approach us; and the man looks at me stolidly, from the middle of
the field, without stirring a step. I ask at the top of my voice how
far it is to Farleigh Hall. The Somersetshire peasant answers at the
top of HIS voice:
"Vourteen mile. Gi' oi a drap o' zyder."
I translate (for my wife's benefit) from the Somersetshire language
into the English language. We are fourteen miles from Farleigh Hall;
and our friend in the field desires to be rewarded, for giving us that
information, with a drop of cider. There is the peasant, painted by
himself! Quite a bit of character, my dear! Quite a bit of character!
Mrs. Fairbank doesn't view the study of agricultural human nature
with my relish. Her fidgety horse will not allow her a moment's
repose; she is beginning to lose her temper.
"We can't go fourteen miles in this way," she says. "Where is the
nearest inn? Ask that brute in the field!"
I take a shilling from my pocket and hold it up in the sun. The
shilling exercises magnetic virtues. The shilling draws the peasant
slowly toward me from the middle of the field. I inform him that we
want to put up the horses and to hire a carriage to take us back to
Farleigh Hall. Where can we do that? The peasant answers (with his
eye on the shilling):
"At Oonderbridge, to be zure." (At Underbridge, to be sure.)
"Is it far to Underbridge?"
The peasant repeats, "Var to Oonderbridge?"and laughs at the
question. "Hoo-hoo-hoo!" (Underbridge is evidently close byif we
could only find it.) "Will you show us the way, my man?" "Will you
gi' oi a drap of zyder?" I courteously bend my head, and point to the
shilling. The agricultural intelligence exerts itself. The peasant
joins our melancholy procession. My wife is a fine woman, but he
never once looks at my wifeand, more extraordinary still, he never
even looks at the horses. His eyes are with his mindand his mind is
on the shilling.
We reach the top of the hilland, behold on the other side,
nestling in a valley, the shrine of our pilgrimage, the town of
Underbridge! Here our guide claims his shilling, and leaves us to
find out the inn for ourselves. I am constitutionally a polite man.
I say "Good morning" at parting. The guide looks at me with the
shilling between his teeth to make sure that it is a good one.
"Marnin!" he says savagelyand turns his back on us, as if we had
offended him. A curious product, this, of the growth of
civilization. If I didn't see a church spire at Underbridge, I might
suppose that we had lost ourselves on a savage island.
Arriving at the town, we had no difficulty in finding the inn. The
town is composed of one desolate street; and midway in that street
stands the innan ancient stone building sadly out of repair. The
painting on the sign-board is obliterated. The shutters over the
long range of front windows are all closed. A cock and his hens are
the only living creatures at the door. Plainly, this is one of the
old inns of the stage-coach period, ruined by the railway. We pass
through the open arched doorway, and find no one to welcome us. We
advance into the stable yard behind; I assist my wife to dismountand
there we are in the position already disclosed to view at the opening
of this narrative. No bell to ring. No human creature to answer when
I call. I stand helpless, with the bridles of the horses in my hand.
Mrs. Fairbank saunters gracefully down the length of the yard and
doeswhat all women do, when they find themselves in a strange place.
She opens every door as she passes it, and peeps in. On my side, I
have just recovered my breath, I am on the point of shouting for the
hostler for the third and last time, when I hear Mrs. Fairbank
suddenly call to me:
"Percy! come here!"
Her voice is eager and agitated. She has opened a last door at the
end of the yard, and has started back from some sight which has
suddenly met her view. I hitch the horses' bridles on a rusty nail
in the wall near me, and join my wife. She has turned pale, and
catches me nervously by the arm.
"Good heavens!" she cries; "look at that!"
I lookand what do I see? I see a dingy little stable, containing
two stalls. In one stall a horse is munching his corn. In the other
a man is lying asleep on the litter.
A worn, withered, woebegone man in a hostler's dress. His hollow
wrinkled cheeks, his scanty grizzled hair, his dry yellow skin, tell
their own tale of past sorrow or suffering. There is an ominous frown
on his eyebrowsthere is a painful nervous contraction on the side of
his mouth. I hear him breathing convulsively when I first look in; he
shudders and sighs in his sleep. It is not a pleasant sight to see,
and I turn round instinctively to the bright sunlight in the yard. My
wife turns me back again in the direction of the stable door.
"Wait!" she says. "Wait! he may do it again."
"Do what again?"
"He was talking in his sleep, Percy, when I first looked in. He
was dreaming some dreadful dream. Hush! he's beginning again."
I look and listen. The man stirs on his miserable bed. The man
speaks in a quick, fierce whisper through his clinched teeth. "Wake
up! Wake up, there! Murder!"
There is an interval of silence. He moves one lean arm slowly
until it rests over his throat; he shudders, and turns on his straw;
he raises his arm from his throat, and feebly stretches it out; his
hand clutches at the straw on the side toward which he has turned; he
seems to fancy that he is grasping at the edge of something. I see
his lips begin to move again; I step softly into the stable; my wife
follows me, with her hand fast clasped in mine. We both bend over him.
He is talking once more in his sleep strange talk, mad talk, this
"Light gray eyes" (we hear him say), "and a droop in the left
eyelidflaxen hair, with a gold-yellow streak in itall right,
mother! fair, white arms with a down on themlittle, lady's hand,
with a reddish look round the fingernailsthe knifethe cursed
knifefirst on one side, then on the otheraha, you she-devil!
where is the knife?"
He stops and grows restless on a sudden. We see him writhing on
the straw. He throws up both his hands and gasps hysterically for
breath. His eyes open suddenly. For a moment they look at nothing,
with a vacant glitter in themthen they close again in deeper sleep.
Is he dreaming still? Yes; but the dream seems to have taken a new
course. When he speaks next, the tone is altered; the words are
fewsadly and imploringly repeated over and over again. "Say you
love me! I am so fond of YOU. Say you love me! say you love me!" He
sinks into deeper and deeper sleep, faintly repeating those words.
They die away on his lips. He speaks no more.
By this time Mrs. Fairbank has got over her terror; she is devoured
by curiosity now. The miserable creature on the straw has appealed
to the imaginative side of her character. Her illimitable appetite
for romance hungers and thirsts for more. She shakes me impatiently
by the arm.
"Do you hear? There is a woman at the bottom of it, Percy! There
is love and murder in it, Percy! Where are the people of the inn? Go
into the yard, and call to them again."
My wife belongs, on her mother's side, to the South of France. The
South of France breeds fine women with hot tempers. I say no more.
Married men will understand my position. Single men may need to be
told that there are occasions when we must not only love and honor-
-we must also obeyour wives.
I turn to the door to obey MY wife, and find myself confronted by a
stranger who has stolen on us unawares. The stranger is a tiny,
sleepy, rosy old man, with a vacant pudding-face, and a shining bald
head. He wears drab breeches and gaiters, and a respectable
square-tailed ancient black coat. I feel instinctively that here is
the landlord of the inn.
"Good morning, sir," says the rosy old man. "I'm a little hard of
hearing. Was it you that was a-calling just now in the yard?"
Before I can answer, my wife interposes. She insists (in a shrill
voice, adapted to our host's hardness of hearing) on knowing who that
unfortunate person is sleeping on the straw. "Where does he come
from? Why does he say such dreadful things in his sleep? Is he
married or single? Did he ever fall in love with a murderess? What
sort of a looking woman was she? Did she really stab him or not? In
short, dear Mr. Landlord, tell us the whole story!"
Dear Mr. Landlord waits drowsily until Mrs. Fairbank has quite
donethen delivers himself of his reply as follows:
"His name's Francis Raven. He's an Independent Methodist. He was
forty-five year old last birthday. And he's my hostler. That's his
My wife's hot southern temper finds its way to her foot, and
expresses itself by a stamp on the stable yard.
The landlord turns himself sleepily round, and looks at the horses.
"A fine pair of horses, them two in the yard. Do you want to put 'em
in my stables?" I reply in the affirmative by a nod. The landlord,
bent on making himself agreeable to my wife, addresses her once more.
"I'm a-going to wake Francis Raven. He's an Independent Methodist.
He was forty-five year old last birthday. And he's my hostler.
That's his story."
Having issued this second edition of his interesting narrative, the
landlord enters the stable. We follow him to see how he will wake
Francis Raven, and what will happen upon that. The stable broom
stands in a corner; the landlord takes itadvances toward the
sleeping hostlerand coolly stirs the man up with a broom as if he
was a wild beast in a cage. Francis Raven starts to his feet with a
cry of terrorlooks at us wildly, with a horrid glare of suspicion in
his eyesrecovers himself the next momentand suddenly changes into
a decent, quiet, respectable serving-man.
"I beg your pardon, ma'am. I beg your pardon, sir."
The tone and manner in which he makes his apologies are both above
his apparent station in life. I begin to catch the infection of Mrs.
Fairbank's interest in this man. We both follow him out into the yard
to see what he will do with the horses. The manner in which he lifts
the injured leg of the lame horse tells me at once that he understands
his business. Quickly and quietly, he leads the animal into an empty
stable; quickly and quietly, he gets a bucket of hot water, and puts
the lame horse's leg into it. "The warm water will reduce the
swelling, sir. I will bandage the leg afterwards." All that he does
is done intelligently; all that he says, he says to the purpose.
Nothing wild, nothing strange about him now. Is this the same man
whom we heard talking in his sleep?the same man who woke with that
cry of terror and that horrid suspicion in his eyes? I determine to
try him with one or two questions.
"Not much to do here," I say to the hostler.
"Very little to do, sir," the hostler replies.
"Anybody staying in the house?"
"The house is quite empty, sir."
"I thought you were all dead. I could make nobody hear me."
"The landlord is very deaf, sir, and the waiter is out on an
"Yes; and YOU were fast asleep in the stable. Do you often take a
nap in the daytime?"
The worn face of the hostler faintly flushes. His eyes look away
from my eyes for the first time. Mrs. Fairbank furtively pinches my
arm. Are we on the eve of a discovery at last? I repeat my question.
The man has no civil alternative but to give me an answer. The
answer is given in these words:
"I was tired out, sir. You wouldn't have found me asleep in the
daytime but for that."
"Tired out, eh? You had been hard at work, I suppose?"
"What was it, then?"
He hesitates again, and answers unwillingly, "I was up all night."
"Up all night? Anything going on in the town?"
"Nothing going on, sir."
"Nobody ill, sir."
That reply is the last. Try as I may, I can extract nothing more
from him. He turns away and busies himself in attending to the
horse's leg. I leave the stable to speak to the landlord about the
carriage which is to take us back to Farleigh Hall. Mrs. Fairbank
remains with the hostler, and favors me with a look at parting. The
look says plainly, "I mean to find out why he was up all night. Leave
him to Me."
The ordering of the carriage is easily accomplished. The inn
possesses one horse and one chaise. The landlord has a story to tell
of the horse, and a story to tell of the chaise. They resemble the
story of Francis Ravenwith this exception, that the horse and chaise
belong to no religious persuasion. "The horse will be nine year old
next birthday. I've had the shay for four- and-twenty year. Mr. Max,
of Underbridge, he bred the horse; and Mr. Pooley, of Yeovil, he built
the shay. It's my horse and my shay. And that's THEIR story!"
Having relieved his mind of these details, the landlord proceeds to
put the harness on the horse. By way of assisting him, I drag the
chaise into the yard. Just as our preparations are completed, Mrs.
Fairbank appears. A moment or two later the hostler follows her out.
He has bandaged the horse's leg, and is now ready to drive us to
Farleigh Hall. I observe signs of agitation in his face and manner,
which suggest that my wife has found her way into his confidence. I
put the question to her privately in a corner of the yard. "Well?
Have you found out why Francis Raven was up all night?"
Mrs. Fairbank has an eye to dramatic effect. Instead of answering
plainly, Yes or No, she suspends the interest and excites the
audience by putting a question on her side.
"What is the day of the month, dear?"
"The day of the month is the first of March."
"The first of March, Percy, is Francis Raven's birthday."
I try to look as if I was interestedand don't succeed.
"Francis was born," Mrs. Fairbank proceeds gravely, "at two o'clock
in the morning."
I begin to wonder whether my wife's intellect is going the way of
the landlord's intellect. "Is that all?" I ask.
"It is NOT all," Mrs. Fairbank answers. "Francis Raven sits up on
the morning of his birthday because he is afraid to go to bed."
"And why is he afraid to go to bed?"
"Because he is in peril of his life."
"On his birthday?"
"On his birthday. At two o'clock in the morning. As regularly as
the birthday comes round."
There she stops. Has she discovered no more than that? No more
thus far. I begin to feel really interested by this time. I ask
eagerly what it means? Mrs. Fairbank points mysteriously to the
chaisewith Francis Raven (hitherto our hostler, now our coachman)
waiting for us to get in. The chaise has a seat for two in front,
and a seat for one behind. My wife casts a warning look at me, and
places herself on the seat in front.
The necessary consequence of this arrangement is that Mrs. Fairhank
sits by the side of the driver during a journey of two hours and
more. Need I state the result? It would be an insult to your
intelligence to state the result. Let me offer you my place in the
chaise. And let Francis Raven tell his terrible story in his own
THE SECOND NARRATIVE. THE HOSTLER'S
STORY.TOLD BY HIMSELF
It is now ten years ago since I got my first warning of the great
trouble of my life in the Vision of a Dream.
I shall be better able to tell you about it if you will please
suppose yourselves to be drinking tea along with us in our little
cottage in Cambridgeshire, ten years since.
The time was the close of day, and there were three of us at the
table, namely, my mother, myself, and my mother's sister, Mrs.
Chance. These two were Scotchwomen by birth, and both were widows.
There was no other resemblance between them that I can call to mind.
My mother had lived all her life in England, and had no more of the
Scotch brogue on her tongue than I have. My aunt Chance had never
been out of Scotland until she came to keep house with my mother after
her husband's death. And when SHE opened her lips you heard broad
Scotch, I can tell you, if you ever heard it yet!
As it fell out, there was a matter of some consequence in debate
among us that evening. It was this: whether I should do well or not
to take a long journey on foot the next morning.
Now the next morning happened to be the day before my birthday; and
the purpose of the journey was to offer myself for a situation as
groom at a great house in the neighboring county to ours. The place
was reported as likely to fall vacant in about three weeks' time. I
was as well fitted to fill it as any other man. In the prosperous
days of our family, my father had been manager of a training stable,
and he had kept me employed among the horses from my boyhood upward.
Please to excuse my troubling you with these small matters. They all
fit into my story farther on, as you will soon find out. My poor
mother was dead against my leaving home on the morrow.
"You can never walk all the way there and all the way back again by
to-morrow night," she says. "The end of it will be that you will
sleep away from home on your birthday. You have never done that yet,
Francis, since your father's death, I don't like your doing it now.
Wait a day longer, my sononly one day."
For my own part, I was weary of being idle, and I couldn't abide
the notion of delay. Even one day might make all the difference.
Some other man might take time by the forelock, and get the place.
"Consider how long I have been out of work," I says, "and don't ask
me to put off the journey. I won't fail you, mother. I'll get back
by to-morrow night, if I have to pay my last sixpence for a lift in a
My mother shook her head. "I don't like it, FrancisI don't like
it!" There was no moving her from that view. We argued and argued,
until we were both at a deadlock. It ended in our agreeing to refer
the difference between us to my mother's sister, Mrs. Chance.
While we were trying hard to convince each other, my aunt Chance
sat as dumb as a fish, stirring her tea and thinking her own
thoughts. When we made our appeal to her, she seemed as it were to
wake up. "Ye baith refer it to my puir judgment?" she says, in her
broad Scotch. We both answered Yes. Upon that my aunt Chance first
cleared the tea-table, and then pulled out from the pocket of her gown
a pack of cards.
Don't run away, if you please, with the notion that this was done
lightly, with a view to amuse my mother and me. My aunt Chance
seriously believed that she could look into the future by telling
fortunes on the cards. She did nothing herself without first
consulting the cards. She could give no more serious proof of her
interest in my welfare than the proof which she was offering now. I
don't say it profanely; I only mention the factthe cards had, in
some incomprehensible way, got themselves jumbled up together with her
religious convictions. You meet with people nowadays who believe in
spirits working by way of tables and chairs. On the same principle
(if there IS any principle in it) my aunt Chance believed in
Providence working by way of the cards.
"Whether YOU are right, Francie, or your mitherwhether ye will do
weel or ill, the morrow, to go or staythe cairds will tell it. We
are a' in the hands of Proavidence. The cairds will tell it."
Hearing this, my mother turned her head aside, with something of a
sour look in her face. Her sister's notions about the cards were
little better than flat blasphemy to her mind. But she kept her
opinion to herself. My aunt Chance, to own the truth, had inherited,
through her late husband, a pension of thirty pounds a year. This was
an important contribution to our housekeeping, and we poor relations
were bound to treat her with a certain respect. As for myself, if my
poor father never did anything else for me before he fell into
difficulties, he gave me a good education, and raised me (thank God)
above superstitions of all sorts. However, a very little amused me in
those days; and I waited to have my fortune told, as patiently as if I
believed in it too!
My aunt began her hocus pocus by throwing out all the cards in the
pack under seven. She shuffled the rest with her left hand for luck;
and then she gave them to me to cut. "Wi' yer left hand, Francie.
Mind that! Pet your trust in Proavidencebut dinna forget that your
luck's in yer left hand!" A long and roundabout shifting of the cards
followed, reducing them in number until there were just fifteen of
them left, laid out neatly before my aunt in a half circle. The card
which happened to lie outermost, at the right-hand end of the circle,
was, according to rule in such cases, the card chosen to represent Me.
By way of being appropriate to my situation as a poor groom out of
employment, the card wasthe King of Diamonds.
"I tak' up the King o' Diamants," says my aunt. "I count seven
cairds fra' richt to left; and I humbly ask a blessing on what
follows." My aunt shut her eyes as if she was saying grace before
meat, and held up to me the seventh card. I called the seventh
cardthe Queen of Spades. My aunt opened her eyes again in a hurry,
and cast a sly look my way. "The Queen o' Spades means a dairk woman.
Ye'll be thinking in secret, Francie, of a dairk woman?"
When a man has been out of work for more than three months, his
mind isn't troubled much with thinking of womenlight or dark. I
was thinking of the groom's place at the great house, and I tried to
say so. My aunt Chance wouldn't listen. She treated my
interpretation with contempt. "Hoot-toot! there's the caird in your
hand! If ye're no thinking of her the day, ye'll be thinking of her
the morrow. Where's the harm of thinking of a dairk woman! I was ance
a dairk woman myself, before my hair was gray. Haud yer peace,
Francie, and watch the cairds."
I watched the cards as I was told. There were seven left on the
table. My aunt removed two from one end of the row and two from the
other, and desired me to call the two outermost of the three cards now
left on the table. I called the Ace of Clubs and the Ten of Diamonds.
My aunt Chance lifted her eyes to the ceiling with a look of devout
gratitude which sorely tried my mother's patience. The Ace of Clubs
and the Ten of Diamonds, taken together, signifiedfirst, good news
(evidently the news of the groom's place); secondly, a journey that
lay before me (pointing plainly to my journey to-morrow!); thirdly and
lastly, a sum of money (probably the groom's wages!) waiting to find
its way into my pockets. Having told my fortune in these encouraging
terms, my aunt declined to carry the experiment any further. "Eh,
lad! it's a clean tempting o' Proavidence to ask mair o' the cairds
than the cairds have tauld us noo. Gae yer ways to-morrow to the
great hoose. A dairk woman will meet ye at the gate; and she'll have
a hand in getting ye the groom's place, wi' a' the gratifications and
pairquisites appertaining to the same. And, mebbe, when yer poaket's
full o' money, ye'll no' be forgetting yer aunt Chance, maintaining
her ain unblemished widowhoodwi' Proavidence assistingon thratty
punds a year!"
I promised to remember my aunt Chance (who had the defect, by the
way, of being a terribly greedy person after money) on the next happy
occasion when my poor empty pockets were to be filled at last. This
done, I looked at my mother. She had agreed to take her sister for
umpire between us, and her sister had given it in my favor. She
raised no more objections. Silently, she got on her feet, and kissed
me, and sighed bitterlyand so left the room. My aunt Chance shook
her head. "I doubt, Francie, yer puir mither has but a heathen notion
of the vairtue of the cairds!"
By daylight the next morning I set forth on my journey. I looked
back at the cottage as I opened the garden gate. At one window was
my mother, with her handkerchief to her eyes. At the other stood my
aunt Chance, holding up the Queen of Spades by way of encouraging me
at starting. I waved my hands to both of them in token of farewell,
and stepped out briskly into the road. It was then the last day of
February. Be pleased to remember, in connection with this, that the
first of March was the day, and two o'clock in the morning the hour of
Now you know how I came to leave home. The next thing to tell is,
what happened on the journey.
I reached the great house in reasonably good time considering the
distance. At the very first trial of it, the prophecy of the cards
turned out to be wrong. The person who met me at the lodge gate was
not a dark womanin fact, not a woman at allbut a boy. He directed
me on the way to the servants' offices; and there again the cards were
all wrong. I encountered, not one woman, but three- -and not one of
the three was dark. I have stated that I am not superstitious, and I
have told the truth. But I must own that I did feel a certain
fluttering at the heart when I made my bow to the steward, and told
him what business had brought me to the house. His answer completed
the discomfiture of aunt Chance's fortune-telling. My ill-luck still
pursued me. That very morning another man had applied for the groom's
place, and had got it.
I swallowed my disappointment as well as I could, and thanked the
steward, and went to the inn in the village to get the rest and food
which I sorely needed by this time.
Before starting on my homeward walk I made some inquiries at the
inn, and ascertained that I might save a few miles, on my return, by
following a new road. Furnished with full instructions, several times
repeated, as to the various turnings I was to take, I set forth, and
walked on till the evening with only one stoppage for bread and
cheese. Just as it was getting toward dark, the rain came on and the
wind began to rise; and I found myself, to make matters worse, in a
part of the country with which I was entirely unacquainted, though I
guessed myself to be some fifteen miles from home. The first house I
found to inquire at, was a lonely roadside inn, standing on the
outskirts of a thick wood. Solitary as the place looked, it was
welcome to a lost man who was also hungry, thirsty, footsore, and wet.
The landlord was civil and respectable-looking; and the price he
asked for a bed was reasonable enough. I was grieved to disappoint my
mother. But there was no conveyance to be had, and I could go no
farther afoot that night. My weariness fairly forced me to stop at
I may say for myself that I am a temperate man. My supper simply
consisted of some rashers of bacon, a slice of home-made bread, and a
pint of ale. I did not go to bed immediately after this moderate
meal, but sat up with the landlord, talking about my bad prospects
and my long run of ill-luck, and diverging from these topics to the
subjects of horse-flesh and racing. Nothing was said, either by
myself, my host, or the few laborers who strayed into the tap-room,
which could, in the slightest degree, excite my mind, or set my
fancywhich is only a small fancy at the best of timesplaying
tricks with my common sense.
At a little after eleven the house was closed. I went round with
the landlord, and held the candle while the doors and lower windows
were being secured. I noticed with surprise the strength of the
bolts, bars, and iron-sheathed shutters.
"You see, we are rather lonely here," said the landlord. "We never
have had any attempts to break in yet, but it's always as well to be
on the safe side. When nobody is sleeping here, I am the only man in
the house. My wife and daughter are timid, and the servant girl takes
after her missuses. Another glass of ale, before you turn
in?No!Well, how such a sober man as you comes to be out of a place
is more than I can understand for one.Here's where you're to sleep.
You're the only lodger to-night, and I think you'll say my missus has
done her best to make you comfortable. You're quite sure you won't
have another glass of ale?Very well. Good night."
It was half-past eleven by the clock in the passage as we went
upstairs to the bedroom. The window looked out on the wood at the
back of the house.
I locked my door, set my candle on the chest of drawers, and
wearily got me ready for bed. The bleak wind was still blowing, and
the solemn, surging moan of it in the wood was very dreary to hear
through the night silence. Feeling strangely wakeful, I resolved to
keep the candle alight until I began to grow sleepy. The truth is, I
was not quite myself. I was depressed in mind by my disappointment of
the morning; and I was worn out in body by my long walk. Between the
two, I own I couldn't face the prospect of lying awake in the
darkness, listening to the dismal moan of the wind in the wood.
Sleep stole on me before I was aware of it; my eyes closed, and I
fell off to rest, without having so much as thought of extinguishing
The next thing that I remember was a faint shivering that ran
through me from head to foot, and a dreadful sinking pain at my
heart, such as I had never felt before. The shivering only disturbed
my slumbersthe pain woke me instantly. In one moment I passed from
a state of sleep to a state of wakefulnessmy eyes wide openmy mind
clear on a sudden as if by a miracle. The candle had burned down
nearly to the last morsel of tallow, but the unsnuffed wick had just
fallen off, and the light was, for the moment, fair and full.
Between the foot of the bed and the closet door, I saw a person in
my room. The person was a woman, standing looking at me, with a
knife in her hand. It does no credit to my courage to confess it
but the truth IS the truth. I was struck speechless with terror.
There I lay with my eyes on the woman; there the woman stood (with
the knife in her hand) with HER eyes on ME.
She said not a word as we stared each other in the face; but she
moved after a littlemoved slowly toward the left-hand side of the
The light fell full on her face. A fair, fine woman, with
yellowish flaxen hair, and light gray eyes, with a droop in the left
eyelid. I noticed these things and fixed them in my mind, before she
was quite round at the side of the bed. Without saying a word;
without any change in the stony stillness of her face; without any
noise following her footfall, she came closer and closer; stopped at
the bed-head; and lifted the knife to stab me. I laid my arm over my
throat to save it; but, as I saw the blow coming, I threw my hand
across the bed to the right side, and jerked my body over that way,
just as the knife came down, like lightning, within a hair's breadth
of my shoulder.
My eyes fixed on her arm and her handshe gave me time to look at
them as she slowly drew the knife out of the bed. A white, well-
shaped arm, with a pretty down lying lightly over the fair skin. A
delicate lady's hand, with a pink flush round the finger nails.
She drew the knife out, and passed back again slowly to the foot of
the bed; she stopped there for a moment looking at me; then she came
on without saying a word; without any change in the stony stillness of
her face; without any noise following her footfall came on to the
side of the bed where I now lay.
Getting near me, she lifted the knife again, and I drew myself away
to the left side. She struck, as before right into the mattress,
with a swift downward action of her arm; and she missed me, as
before; by a hair's breadth. This time my eyes wandered from HER to
the knife. It was like the large clasp knives which laboring men use
to cut their bread and bacon with. Her delicate little fingers did
not hide more than two thirds of the handle; I noticed that it was
made of buckhorn, clean and shining as the blade was, and looking like
For the second time she drew the knife out of the bed, and suddenly
hid it away in the wide sleeve of her gown. That done, she stopped
by the bedside watching me. For an instant I saw her standing in
that positionthen the wick of the spent candle fell over into the
socket. The flame dwindled to a little blue point, and the room grew
A moment, or less, if possible, passed soand then the wick flared
up, smokily, for the last time. My eyes were still looking for her
over the right-hand side of the bed when the last flash of light
came. Look as I might, I could see nothing. The woman with the
knife was gone.
I began to get back to myself again. I could feel my heart
beating; I could hear the woeful moaning of the wind in the wood; I
could leap up in bed, and give the alarm before she escaped from the
house. "Murder! Wake up there! Murder!"
Nobody answered to the alarm. I rose and groped my way through the
darkness to the door of the room. By that way she must have got in.
By that way she must have gone out.
The door of the room was fast locked, exactly as I had left it on
going to bed! I looked at the window. Fast locked too!
Hearing a voice outside, I opened the door. There was the
landlord, coming toward me along the passage, with his burning candle
in one hand, and his gun in the other.
"What is it?" he says, looking at me in no very friendly way.
I could only answer in a whisper, "A woman, with a knife in her
hand. In my room. A fair, yellow-haired woman. She jabbed at me
with the knife, twice over."
He lifted his candle, and looked at me steadily from head to foot.
"She seems to have missed youtwice over."
"I dodged the knife as it came down. It struck the bed each time.
Go in, and see."
The landlord took his candle into the bedroom immediately. In less
than a minute he came out again into the passage in a violent
"The devil fly away with you and your woman with the knife! There
isn't a mark in the bedclothes anywhere. What do you mean by coming
into a man's place and frightening his family out of their wits by a
A dream? The woman who had tried to stab me, not a living human
being like myself? I began to shake and shiver. The horrors got
hold of me at the bare thought of it.
"I'll leave the house," I said. "Better be out on the road in the
rain and dark, than back in that room, after what I've seen in it.
Lend me the light to get my clothes by, and tell me what I'm to pay."
The landlord led the way back with his light into the bedroom.
"Pay?" says he. "You'll find your score on the slate when you go
downstairs. I wouldn't have taken you in for all the money you've
got about you, if I had known your dreaming, screeching ways
beforehand. Look at the bedwhere's the cut of a knife in it? Look
at the windowis the lock bursted? Look at the door (which I heard
you fasten yourself)is it broke in? A murdering woman with a knife
in my house! You ought to be ashamed of yourself!"
My eyes followed his hand as it pointed first to the bedthen to
the windowthen to the door. There was no gainsaying it. The bed
sheet was as sound as on the day it was made. The window was fast.
The door hung on its hinges as steady as ever. I huddled my clothes
on without speaking. We went downstairs together. I looked at the
clock in the bar-room. The time was twenty minutes past two in the
morning. I paid my bill, and the landlord let me out. The rain had
ceased; but the night was dark, and the wind was bleaker than ever.
Little did the darkness, or the cold, or the doubt about the way home
matter to ME. My mind was away from all these things. My mind was
fixed on the vision in the bedroom. What had I seen trying to murder
me? The creature of a dream? Or that other creature from the world
beyond the grave, whom men call ghost? I could make nothing of it as
I walked along in the night; I had made nothing by it by middaywhen
I stood at last, after many times missing my road, on the doorstep of
My mother came out alone to welcome me back. There were no secrets
between us two. I told her all that had happened, just as I have
told it to you. She kept silence till I had done. And then she put
a question to me.
"What time was it, Francis, when you saw the Woman in your Dream?"
I had looked at the clock when I left the inn, and I had noticed
that the hands pointed to twenty minutes past two. Allowing for the
time consumed in speaking to the landlord, and in getting on my
clothes, I answered that I must have first seen the Woman at two
o'clock in the morning. In other words, I had not only seen her on
my birthday, but at the hour of my birth.
My mother still kept silence. Lost in her own thoughts, she took
me by the hand, and led me into the parlor. Her writing-desk was on
the table by the fireplace. She opened it, and signed to me to take a
chair by her side.
"My son! your memory is a bad one, and mine is fast failing me.
Tell me again what the Woman looked like. I want her to be as well
known to both of us, years hence, as she is now."
I obeyed; wondering what strange fancy might be working in her
mind. I spoke; and she wrote the words as they fell from my lips:
"Light gray eyes, with a droop in the left eyelid. Flaxen hair,
with a golden-yellow streak in it. White arms, with a down upon
them. Little, lady's hands, with a rosy-red look about the finger
"Did you notice how she was dressed, Francis?"
"Did you notice the knife?"
"Yes. A large clasp knife, with a buckhorn handle, as good as
My mother added the description of the knife. Also the year,
month, day of the week, and hour of the day when the Dream-Woman
appeared to me at the inn. That done, she locked up the paper in her
"Not a word, Francis, to your aunt. Not a word to any living soul.
Keep your Dream a secret between you and me."
The weeks passed, and the months passed. My mother never returned
to the subject again. As for me, time, which wears out all things,
wore out my remembrance of the Dream. Little by little, the image of
the Woman grew dimmer and dimmer. Little by little, she faded out of
The story of the warning is now told. Judge for yourself if it was
a true warning or a false, when you hear what happened to me on my
In the Summer time of the year, the Wheel of Fortune turned the
right way for me at last. I was smoking my pipe one day, near an old
stone quarry at the entrance to our village, when a carriage accident
happened, which gave a new turn, as it were, to my lot in life. It
was an accident of the commonest kindnot worth mentioning at any
length. A lady driving herself; a runaway horse; a cowardly
man-servant in attendance, frightened out of his wits; and the stone
quarry too near to be agreeablethat is what I saw, all in a few
moments, between two whiffs of my pipe. I stopped the horse at the
edge of the quarry, and got myself a little hurt by the shaft of the
chaise. But that didn't matter. The lady declared I had saved her
life; and her husband, coming with her to our cottage the next day,
took me into his service then and there. The lady happened to be of a
dark complexion; and it may amuse you to hear that my aunt Chance
instantly pitched on that circumstance as a means of saving the credit
of the cards. Here was the promise of the Queen of Spades performed
to the very letter, by means of "a dark woman," just as my aunt had
told me. "In the time to come, Francis, beware o' pettin' yer ain
blinded intairpretation on the cairds. Ye're ower ready, I trow, to
murmur under dispensation of Proavidence that ye canna fathomlike
the Eesraelites of auld. I'll say nae mair to ye. Mebbe when the
mony's powering into yer poakets, ye'll no forget yer aunt Chance,
left like a sparrow on the housetop, wi a sma' annuitee o' thratty
punds a year."
I remained in my situation (at the West-end of London) until the
Spring of the New Year. About that time, my master's health failed.
The doctors ordered him away to foreign parts, and the establishment
was broken up. But the turn in my luck still held good. When I left
my place, I left itthanks to the generosity of my kind masterwith
a yearly allowance granted to me, in remembrance of the day when I had
saved my mistress's life. For the future, I could go back to service
or not, as I pleased; my little income was enough to support my mother
My master and mistress left England toward the end of February.
Certain matters of business to do for them detained me in London
until the last day of the month. I was only able to leave for our
village by the evening train, to keep my birthday with my mother as
usual. It was bedtime when I got to the cottage; and I was sorry to
find that she was far from well. To make matters worse, she had
finished her bottle of medicine on the previous day, and had omitted
to get it replenished, as the doctor had strictly directed. He
dispensed his own medicines, and I offered to go and knock him up.
She refused to let me do this; and, after giving me my supper, sent
me away to my bed.
I fell asleep for a little, and woke again. My mother's bed-
chamber was next to mine. I heard my aunt Chance's heavy footsteps
going to and fro in the room, and, suspecting something wrong,
knocked at the door. My mother's pains had returned upon her; there
was a serious necessity for relieving her sufferings as speedily as
possible, I put on my clothes, and ran off, with the medicine bottle
in my hand, to the other end of the village, where the doctor lived.
The church clock chimed the quarter to two on my birthday just as I
reached his house. One ring of the night bell brought him to his
bedroom window to speak to me. He told me to wait, and he would let
me in at the surgery door. I noticed, while I was waiting, that the
night was wonderfully fair and warm for the time of year. The old
stone quarry where the carriage accident had happened was within view.
The moon in the clear heavens lit it up almost as bright as day.
In a minute or two the doctor let me into the surgery. I closed
the door, noticing that he had left his room very lightly clad. He
kindly pardoned my mother's neglect of his directions, and set to
work at once at compounding the medicine. We were both intent on the
bottle; he filling it, and I holding the lightwhen we heard the
surgery door suddenly opened from the street.
Who could possibly be up and about in our quiet village at the
second hour of the morning?
The person who opened the door appeared within range of the light
of the candle. To complete our amazement, the person proved to be a
woman! She walked up to the counter, and standing side by side with
me, lifted her veil. At the moment when she showed her face, I heard
the church clock strike two. She was a stranger to me, and a stranger
to the doctor. She was also, beyond all comparison, the most
beautiful woman I have ever seen in my life.
"I saw the light under the door," she said. "I want some
She spoke quite composedly, as if there was nothing at all
extraordinary in her being out in the village at two in the morning,
and following me into the surgery to ask for medicine! The doctor
stared at her as if he suspected his own eyes of deceiving him. "Who
are you?" be asked. "How do you come to be wandering about at this
time in the morning?"
She paid no heed to his questions. She only told him coolly what
she wanted. "I have got a bad toothache. I want a bottle of
The doctor recovered himself when she asked for the laudanum. He
was on his own ground, you know, when it came to a matter of
laudanum; and he spoke to her smartly enough this time.
"Oh, you have got the toothache, have you? Let me look at the
She shook her bead, and laid a two-shilling piece on the counter.
"I won't trouble you to look at the tooth," she said. "There is the
money. Let me have the laudanum, if you please."
The doctor put the two-shilling piece back again in her hand. "I
don't sell laudanum to strangers," he answered. "If you are in any
distress of body or mind, that is another matter. I shall be glad to
She put the money back in her pocket. "YOU can't help me," she
said, as quietly as ever. "Good morning."
With that, she opened the surgery door to go out again into the
street. So far, I had not spoken a word on my side. I had stood
with the candle in my hand (not knowing I was holding it)with my
eyes fixed on her, with my mind fixed on her like a man bewitched.
Her looks betrayed, even more plainly than her words, her resolution,
in one way or another, to destroy herself. When she opened the door,
in my alarm at what might happen I found the use of my tongue.
"Stop!" I cried out. "Wait for me. I want to speak to you before
you go away." She lifted her eyes with a look of careless surprise
and a mocking smile on her lips.
"What can YOU have to say to me?" She stopped, and laughed to
herself. "Why not?" she said. "I have got nothing to do, and
nowhere to go." She turned back a step, and nodded to me. "You're a
strange manI think I'll humor youI'll wait outside." The door of
the surgery closed on her. She was gone.
I am ashamed to own what happened next. The only excuse for me is
that I was really and truly a man bewitched. I turned me round to
follow her out, without once thinking of my mother. The doctor
"Don't forget the medicine," he said. "And if you will take my
advice, don't trouble yourself about that woman. Rouse up the
constable. It's his business to look after hernot yours."
I held out my hand for the medicine in silence: I was afraid I
should fail in respect if I trusted myself to answer him. He must
have seen, as I saw, that she wanted the laudanum to poison herself.
He had, to my mind, taken a very heartless view of the matter. I
just thanked him when he gave me the medicineand went out.
She was waiting for me as she had promised; walking slowly to and
froa tall, graceful, solitary figure in the bright moonbeams. They
shed over her fair complexion, her bright golden hair, her large gray
eyes, just the light that suited them best. She looked hardly mortal
when she first turned to speak to me.
"Well?" she said. "And what do you want?"
In spite of my pride, or my shyness, or my better sensewhichever
it might beall my heart went out to her in a moment. I caught hold
of her by the hands, and owned what was in my thoughts, as freely as
if I had known her for half a lifetime.
"You mean to destroy yourself," I said. "And I mean to prevent you
from doing it. If I follow you about all night, I'll prevent you
from doing it."
She laughed. "You saw yourself that he wouldn't sell me the
laudanum. Do you really care whether I live or die?" She squeezed
my hands gently as she put the question: her eyes searched mine with
a languid, lingering look in them that ran through me like fire. My
voice died away on my lips; I couldn't answer her.
She understood, without my answering. "You have given me a fancy
for living, by speaking kindly to me," she said. "Kindness has a
wonderful effect on women, and dogs, and other domestic animals. It
is only men who are superior to kindness. Make your mind easy I
promise to take as much care of myself as if I was the happiest woman
living! Don't let me keep you here, out of your bed. Which way are
Miserable wretch that I was, I had forgotten my motherwith the
medicine in my hand! "I am going home," I said. "Where are you
staying? At the inn?"
She laughed her bitter laugh, and pointed to the stone quarry.
"There is MY inn for to-night," she said. "When I got tired of
walking about, I rested there."
We walked on together, on my way home. I took the liberty of
asking her if she had any friends.
"I thought I had one friend left," she said, "or you would never
have met me in this place. It turns out I was wrong. My friend's
door was closed in my face some hours since; my friend's servants
threatened me with the police. I had nowhere else to go, after
trying my luck in your neighborhood; and nothing left but my two-
shilling piece and these rags on my back. What respectable innkeeper
would take ME into his house? I walked about, wondering how I could
find my way out of the world without disfiguring myself, and without
suffering much pain. You have no river in these parts. I didn't see
my way out of the world, till I heard you ringing at the doctor's
house. I got a glimpse at the bottles in the surgery, when he let you
in, and I thought of the laudanum directly. What were you doing
there? Who is that medicine for? Your wife?"
"I am not married!"
She laughed again. "Not married! If I was a little better dressed
there might be a chance for ME. Where do you live? Here?"
We had arrived, by this time, at my mother's door. She held out
her hand to say good-by. Houseless and homeless as she was, she
never asked me to give her a shelter for the night. It was MY
proposal that she should rest, under my roof, unknown to my mother
and my aunt. Our kitchen was built out at the back of the cottage:
she might remain there unseen and unheard until the household was
astir in the morning. I led her into the kitchen, and set a chair
for her by the dying embers of the fire. I dare say I was to
blameshamefully to blame, if you like. I only wonder what YOU
would have done in my place. On your word of honor as a man, would
YOU have let that beautiful creature wander back to the shelter of
the stone quarry like a stray dog? God help the woman who is foolish
enough to trust and love you, if you would have done that!
I left her by the fire, and went to my mother's room.
If you have ever felt the heartache, you will know what I suffered
in secret when my mother took my hand, and said, "I am sorry,
Francis, that your night's rest has been disturbed through ME." I
gave her the medicine; and I waited by her till the pains abated. My
aunt Chance went back to her bed; and my mother and I were left alone.
I noticed that her writing-desk, moved from its customary place, was
on the bed by her side. She saw me looking at it. "This is your
birthday, Francis," she said. "Have you anything to tell me?" I had
so completely forgotten my Dream, that I had no notion of what was
passing in her mind when she said those words. For a moment there was
a guilty fear in me that she suspected something. I turned away my
face, and said, "No, mother; I have nothing to tell." She signed to
me to stoop down over the pillow and kiss her. "God bless you, my
love!" she said; and many happy returns of the day." She patted my
hand, and closed her weary eyes, and, little by little, fell off
peaceably into sleep.
I stole downstairs again. I think the good influence of my mother
must have followed me down. At any rate, this is true: I stopped
with my hand on the closed kitchen door, and said to myself: "Suppose
I leave the house, and leave the village, without seeing her or
speaking to her more?"
Should I really have fled from temptation in this way, if I had
been left to myself to decide? Who can tell? As things were, I was
not left to decide. While my doubt was in my mind, she heard me, and
opened the kitchen door. My eyes and her eyes met. That ended it.
We were together, unsuspected and undisturbed, for the next two
hours. Time enough for her to reveal the secret of her wasted life.
Time enough for her to take possession of me as her own, to do with
me as she liked. It is needless to dwell here on the misfortunes
which had brought her low; they are misfortunes too common to interest
Her name was Alicia Warlock. She had been born and bred a lady.
She had lost her station, her character, and her friends. Virtue
shuddered at the sight of her; and Vice had got her for the rest of
her days. Shocking and common, as I told you. It made no difference
to ME. I have said it alreadyI say it againI was a man bewitched.
Is there anything so very wonderful in that? Just remember who I
was. Among the honest women in my own station in life, where could I
have found the like of HER? Could THEY walk as she walked? and look
as she looked? When THEY gave me a kiss, did their lips linger over
it as hers did? Had THEY her skin, her laugh, her foot, her hand, her
touch? SHE never had a speck of dirt on her: I tell you her flesh was
a perfume. When she embraced me, her arms folded round me like the
wings of angels; and her smile covered me softly with its light like
the sun in heaven. I leave you to laugh at me, or to cry over me,
just as your temper may incline. I am not trying to excuse myselfI
am trying to explain. You are gentle-folks; what dazzled and maddened
ME, is everyday experience to YOU. Fallen or not, angel or devil, it
came to thisshe was a lady; and I was a groom.
Before the house was astir, I got her away (by the workmen's train)
to a large manufacturing town in our parts.
Herewith my savings in money to help hershe could get her
outfit of decent clothes and her lodging among strangers who asked no
questions so long as they were paid. Herenow on one pretense and
now on anotherI could visit her, and we could both plan together
what our future lives were to be. I need not tell you that I stood
pledged to make her my wife. A man in my station always marries a
woman of her sort.
Do you wonder if I was happy at this time? I should have been
perfectly happy but for one little drawback. It was this: I was
never quite at my ease in the presence of my promised wife.
I don't mean that I was shy with her, or suspicious of her, or
ashamed of her. The uneasiness I am speaking of was caused by a
faint doubt in my mind whether I had not seen her somewhere, before
the morning when we met at the doctor's house. Over and over again,
I found myself wondering whether her face did not remind me of some
other facewhat other I never could tell. This strange feeling, this
one question that could never be answered, vexed me to a degree that
you would hardly credit. It came between us at the strangest
timesoftenest, however, at night, when the candles were lit. You
have known what it is to try and remember a forgotten nameand to
fail, search as you may, to find it in your mind. That was my case.
I failed to find my lost face, just as you failed to find your lost
In three weeks we had talked matters over, and had arranged how I
was to make a clean breast of it at home. By Alicia's advice, I was
to describe her as having been one of my fellow servants during the
time I was employed under my kind master and mistress in London.
There was no fear now of my mother taking any harm from the shock of
a great surprise. Her health had improved during the three weeks'
interval. On the first evening when she was able to take her old
place at tea time, I summoned my courage, and told her I was going to
be married. The poor soul flung her arms round my neck, and burst out
crying for joy. "Oh, Francis!" she says, "I am so glad you will have
somebody to comfort you and care for you when I am gone!" As for my
aunt Chance, you can anticipate what SHE did, without being told. Ah,
me! If there had really been any prophetic virtue in the cards, what
a terrible warning they might have given us that night! It was
arranged that I was to bring my promised wife to dinner at the cottage
on the next day.
I own I was proud of Alicia when I led her into our little parlor
at the appointed time. She had never, to my mind, looked so
beautiful as she looked that day. I never noticed any other woman's
dressI noticed hers as carefully as if I had been a woman myself!
She wore a black silk gown, with plain collar and cuffs, and a modest
lavender-colored bonnet, with one white rose in it placed at the side.
My mother, dressed in her Sunday best, rose up, all in a flutter, to
welcome her daughter-in-law that was to be. She walked forward a few
steps, half smiling, half in tears she looked Alicia full in the
faceand suddenly stood still. Her cheeks turned white in an
instant; her eyes stared in horror; her hands dropped helplessly at
her sides. She staggered back, and fell into the arms of my aunt,
standing behind her. It was no swoonshe kept her senses. Her eyes
turned slowly from Alicia to me. "Francis," she said, "does that
woman's face remind you of nothing?"
Before I could answer, she pointed to her writing-desk on the table
at the fireside. "Bring it!" she cried, "bring it!"
At the same moment I felt Alicia's hand on my shoulder, and saw
Alicia's face red with angerand no wonder!
"What does this mean?" she asked. "Does your mother want to insult
I said a few words to quiet her; what they were I don't rememberI
was so confused and astonished at the time. Before I had done, I
heard my mother behind me.
My aunt had fetched her desk. She had opened it; she had taken a
paper from it. Step by step, helping herself along by the wall, she
came nearer and nearer, with the paper in her hand. She looked at the
papershe looked in Alicia's faceshe lifted the long, loose sleeve
of her gown, and examined her hand and arm. I saw fear suddenly take
the place of anger in Alicia's eyes. She shook herself free of my
mother's grasp. "Mad!" she said to herself, "and Francis never told
me!" With those words she ran out of the room.
I was hastening out after her, when my mother signed to me to stop.
She read the words written on the paper. While they fell slowly, one
by one, from her lips, she pointed toward the open door.
"Light gray eyes, with a droop in the left eyelid. Flaxen hair,
with a gold-yellow streak in it. White arms, with a down upon them.
Little, lady's hand, with a rosy-red look about the finger nails.
The Dream Woman, Francis! The Dream Woman!"
Something darkened the parlor window as those words were spoken. I
looked sidelong at the shadow. Alicia Warlock had come back! She
was peering in at us over the low window blind. There was the fatal
face which had first looked at me in the bedroom of the lonely inn.
There, resting on the window blind, was the lovely little hand which
had held the murderous knife. I HAD seen her before we met in the
village. The Dream Woman! The Dream Woman!
I expect nobody to approve of what I have next to tell of myself.
In three weeks from the day when my mother had identified her with
the Woman of the Dream, I took Alicia Warlock to church, and made her
my wife. I was a man bewitched. Again and again I say itI was a
During the interval before my marriage, our little household at the
cottage was broken up. My mother and my aunt quarreled. My mother,
believing in the Dream, entreated me to break off my engagement. My
aunt, believing in the cards, urged me to marry.
This difference of opinion produced a dispute between them, in the
course of which my aunt Chancequite unconscious of having any
superstitious feelings of her ownactually set out the cards which
prophesied happiness to me in my married life, and asked my mother
how anybody but "a blinded heathen could be fule enough, after seeing
those cairds, to believe in a dream!" This was, naturally, too much
for my mother's patience; hard words followed on either side; Mrs.
Chance returned in dudgeon to her friends in Scotland. She left me a
written statement of my future prospects, as revealed by the cards,
and with it an address at which a post-office order would reach her.
"The day was not that far off," she remarked, "when Francie might
remember what he owed to his aunt Chance, maintaining her ain
unbleemished widowhood on thratty punds a year."
Having refused to give her sanction to my marriage, my mother also
refused to be present at the wedding, or to visit Alicia afterwards.
There was no anger at the bottom of this conduct on her part.
Believing as she did in this Dream, she was simply in mortal fear of
my wife. I understood this, and I made allowances for her. Not a
cross word passed between us. My one happy remembrance nowthough I
did disobey her in the matter of my marriageis this: I loved and
respected my good mother to the last.
As for my wife, she expressed no regret at the estrangement between
her mother-in-law and herself. By common consent, we never spoke on
that subject. We settled in the manufacturing town which I have
already mentioned, and we kept a lodging-house. My kind master, at
my request, granted me a lump sum in place of my annuity. This put
us into a good house, decently furnished. For a while things went
well enough. I may describe myself at this time of my life as a
My misfortunes began with a return of the complaint with which my
mother had already suffered. The doctor confessed, when I asked him
the question, that there was danger to be dreaded this time.
Naturally, after hearing this, I was a good deal away at the cottage.
Naturally also, I left the business of looking after the house, in my
absence, to my wife. Little by little, I found her beginning to alter
toward me. While my back was turned, she formed acquaintances with
people of the doubtful and dissipated sort. One day, I observed
something in her manner which forced the suspicion on me that she had
been drinking. Before the week was out, my suspicion was a certainty.
From keeping company with drunkards, she had grown to be a drunkard
I did all a man could do to reclaim her. Quite useless! She had
never really returned the love I felt for her: I had no influence; I
could do nothing. My mother, hearing of this last worse trouble,
resolved to try what her influence could do. Ill as she was, I found
her one day dressed to go out.
"I am not long for this world, Francis," she said. "I shall not
feel easy on my deathbed, unless I have done my best to the last to
make you happy. I mean to put my own fears and my own feelings out
of the question, and go with you to your wife, and try what I can do
to reclaim her. Take me home with you, Francis. Let me do all I can
to help my son, before it is too late."
How could I disobey her? We took the railway to the town: it was
only half an hour's ride. By one o'clock in the afternoon we reached
my house. It was our dinner hour, and Alicia was in the kitchen. I
was able to take my mother quietly into the parlor and then to prepare
my wife for the visit. She had drunk but little at that early hour;
and, luckily, the devil in her was tamed for the time.
She followed me into the parlor, and the meeting passed off better
than I had ventured to forecast; with this one drawback, that my
motherthough she tried hard to control herselfshrank from looking
my wife in the face when she spoke to her. It was a relief to me when
Alicia began to prepare the table for dinner.
She laid the cloth, brought in the bread tray, and cut some slices
for us from the loaf. Then she returned to the kitchen. At that
moment, while I was still anxiously watching my mother, I was
startled by seeing the same ghastly change pass over her face which
had altered it in the morning when Alicia and she first met. Before I
could say a word, she started up with a look of horror.
"Take me back!home, home again, Francis! Come with me, and never
go back more!"
I was afraid to ask for an explanation; I could only sign her to be
silent, and help her quickly to the door. As we passed the bread
tray on the table, she stopped and pointed to it.
"Did you see what your wife cut your bread with?" she asked.
"No, mother; I was not noticing. What was it?"
I did look. A new clasp knife, with a buckhorn handle, lay with
the loaf in the bread tray. I stretched out my hand to possess
myself of it. At the same moment, there was a noise in the kitchen,
and my mother caught me by the arm.
"The knife of the Dream! Francis, I'm faint with feartake me
away before she comes back!"
I couldn't speak to comfort or even to answer her. Superior as I
was to superstition, the discovery of the knife staggered me. In
silence, I helped my mother out of the house; and took her home.
I held out my hand to say good-by. She tried to stop me.
"Don't go back, Francis! don't go back!"
"I must get the knife, mother. I must go back by the next train."
I held to that resolution. By the next train I went back.
My wife had, of course, discovered our secret departure from the
house. She had been drinking. She was in a fury of passion. The
dinner in the kitchen was flung under the grate; the cloth was off
the parlor table. Where was the knife?
I was foolish enough to ask for it. She refused to give it to me.
In the course of the dispute between us which followed, I discovered
that there was a horrible story attached to the knife. It had been
used in a murderyears sinceand had been so skillfully hidden that
the authorities had been unable to produce it at the trial. By help
of some of her disreputable friends, my wife had been able to purchase
this relic of a bygone crime. Her perverted nature set some horrid
unacknowledged value on the knife. Seeing there was no hope of getting
it by fair means, I determined to search for it, later in the day, in
secret. The search was unsuccessful. Night came on, and I left the
house to walk about the streets. You will understand what a broken
man I was by this time, when I tell you I was afraid to sleep in the
same room with her!
Three weeks passed. Still she refused to give up the knife; and
still that fear of sleeping in the same room with her possessed me. I
walked about at night, or dozed in the parlor, or sat watching by my
mother's bedside. Before the end of the first week in the new month,
the worst misfortune of all befell memy mother died. It wanted then
but a short time to my birthday. She had longed to live till that
day. I was present at her death. Her last words in this world were
addressed to me. "Don't go back, my sondon't go back!"
I was obliged to go back, if it was only to watch my wife. In the
last days of my mother's illness she had spitefully added a sting to
my grief by declaring she would assert her right to attend the
funeral. In spite of all that I could do or say, she held to her
word. On the day appointed for the burial she forced herself,
inflamed and shameless with drink, into my presence, and swore she
would walk in the funeral procession to my mother's grave.
This last insultafter all I had gone through alreadywas more
than I could endure. It maddened me. Try to make allowances for a
man beside himself. I struck her.
The instant the blow was dealt, I repented it. She crouched down,
silent, in a corner of the room, and eyed me steadily. It was a look
that cooled my hot blood in an instant. There was no time now to
think of making atonement. I could only risk the worst, and make sure
of her till the funeral was over. I locked her into her bedroom.
When I came back, after laying my mother in the grave, I found her
sitting by the bedside, very much altered in look and bearing, with a
bundle on her lap. She faced me quietly; she spoke with a curious
stillness in her voicestrangely and unnaturally composed in look and
"No man has ever struck me yet," she said. "My husband shall have
no second opportunity. Set the door open, and let me go."
She passed me, and left the room. I saw her walk away up the
street. Was she gone for good?
All that night I watched and waited. No footstep came near the
house. The next night, overcome with fatigue, I lay down on the bed
in my clothes, with the door locked, the key on the table, and the
candle burning. My slumber was not disturbed. The third night, the
fourth, the fifth, the sixth, passed, and nothing happened. I lay
down on the seventh night, still suspicious of something happening;
still in my clothes; still with the door locked, the key on the table,
and the candle burning.
My rest was disturbed. I awoke twice, without any sensation of
uneasiness. The third time, that horrid shivering of the night at
the lonely inn, that awful sinking pain at the heart, came back
again, and roused me in an instant. My eyes turned to the left- hand
side of the bed. And there stood, looking at me
The Dream Woman again? No! My wife. The living woman, with the
face of the Dreamin the attitude of the Dreamthe fair arm up; the
knife clasped in the delicate white hand.
I sprang upon her on the instant; but not quickly enough to stop
her from hiding the knife. Without a word from me, without a cry
from her, I pinioned her in a chair. With one hand I felt up her
sleeve; and there, where the Dream Woman had hidden the knife, my
wife had hidden itthe knife with the buckhorn handle, that looked
What I felt when I made that discovery I could not realize at the
time, and I can't describe now. I took one steady look at her with
the knife in my hand. "You meant to kill me?" I said.
"Yes," she answered; "I meant to kill you." She crossed her arms
over her bosom, and stared me coolly in the face. "I shall do it
yet," she said. "With that knife."
I don't know what possessed meI swear to you I am no coward; and
yet I acted like a coward. The horrors got hold of me. I couldn't
look at herI couldn't speak to her. I left her (with the knife in
my hand), and went out into the night.
There was a bleak wind abroad, and the smell of rain was in the
air. The church clocks chimed the quarter as I walked beyond the
last house in the town. I asked the first policeman I met what hour
that was, of which the quarter past had just struck.
The man looked at his watch, and answered, "Two o'clock." Two in
the morning. What day of the month was this day that had just begun?
I reckoned it up from the date of my mother's funeral. The horrid
parallel between the dream and the reality was completeit was my
Had I escaped the mortal peril which the dream foretold? or had I
only received a second warning? As that doubt crossed my mind I
stopped on my way out of the town. The air had revived meI felt in
some degree like my own self again. After a little thinking, I began
to see plainly the mistake I had made in leaving my wife free to go
where she liked and to do as she pleased.
I turned instantly, and made my way back to the house. It was
still dark. I had left the candle burning in the bedchamber. When I
looked up to the window of the room now, there was no light in it. I
advanced to the house door. On going away, I remembered to have
closed it; on trying it now, I found it open.
I waited outside, never losing sight of the house till daylight.
Then I ventured indoorslistened, and heard nothinglooked into the
kitchen, scullery, parlor, and found nothingwent up at last into the
bedroom. It was empty.
A picklock lay on the floor, which told me how she had gained
entrance in the night. And that was the one trace I could find of
the Dream Woman.
I waited in the house till the town was astir for the day, and then
I went to consult a lawyer. In the confused state of my mind at the
time, I had one clear notion of what I meant to do: I was determined
to sell my house and leave the neighborhood. There were obstacles in
the way which I had not counted on. I was told I had creditors to
satisfy before I could leaveI, who had given my wife the money to
pay my bills regularly every week! Inquiry showed that she had
embezzled every farthing of the money I had intrusted to her. I had
no choice but to pay over again.
Placed in this awkward position, my first duty was to set things
right, with the help of my lawyer. During my forced sojourn in the
town I did two foolish things. And, as a consequence that followed,
I heard once more, and heard for the last time, of my wife.
In the first place, having got possession of the knife, I was rash
enough to keep it in my pocket. In the second place, having
something of importance to say to my lawyer, at a late hour of the
evening, I went to his house after darkalone and on foot. I got
there safely enough. Returning, I was seized on from behind by two
men, dragged down a passage and robbednot only of the little money
I had about me, but also of the knife. It was the lawyer's opinion
(as it was mine) that the thieves were among the disreputable
acquaintances formed by my wife, and that they, had attacked me at her
instigation. To confirm this view I received a letter the next day,
without date or address, written in Alicia's hand. The first line
informed me that the knife was back again in her possession. The
second line reminded me of the day when I struck her. The third line
warned me that she would wash out the stain of that blow in my blood,
and repeated the words, "I shall do it with the knife!"
These things happened a year ago. The law laid hands on the men
who had robbed me; but from that time to this, the law has failed
completely to find a trace of my wife.
My story is told. When I had paid the creditors and paid the legal
expenses, I had barely five pounds left out of the sale of my house;
and I had the world to begin over again. Some months since drifting
here and thereI found my way to Underbridge. The landlord of the
inn had known something of my father's family in times past. He gave
me (all he had to give) my food, and shelter in the yard. Except on
market days, there is nothing to do. In the coming winter the inn is
to be shut up, and I shall have to shift for myself. My old master
would help me if I applied to him but I don't like to apply: he has
done more for me already than I deserve. Besides, in another year who
knows but my troubles may all be at an end? Next winter will bring me
nigh to my next birthday, and my next birthday may be the day of my
death. Yes! it's true I sat up all last night; and I heard two in the
morning strike: and nothing happened. Still, allowing for that, the
time to come is a time I don't trust. My wife has got the knifemy
wife is looking for me. I am above superstition, mind! I don't say
I believe in dreams; I only say, Alicia Warlock is looking for me. It
is possible I may be wrong. It is possible I may be right. Who can
THE THIRD NARRATIVE: THE STORY
CONTINUED BY PERCY FAIRBANK
We took leave of Francis Raven at the door of Farleigh Hall, with
the understanding that he might expect to hear from us again.
The same night Mrs. Fairbank and I had a discussion in the
sanctuary of our own room. The topic was "The Hostler's Story"; and
the question in dispute between us turned on the measure of charitable
duty that we owed to the hostler himself.
The view I took of the man's narrative was of the purely matter-of-
fact kind. Francis Raven had, in my opinion, brooded over the misty
connection between his strange dream and his vile wife, until his mind
was in a state of partial delusion on that subject. I was quite
willing to help him with a trifle of money, and to recommend him to
the kindness of my lawyer, if he was really in any danger and wanted
advice. There my idea of my duty toward this afflicted person began
Confronted with this sensible view of the matter, Mrs. Fairbank's
romantic temperament rushed, as usual, into extremes. "I should no
more think of losing sight of Francis Raven when his next birthday
comes round," says my wife, "than I should think of laying down a
good story with the last chapters unread. I am positively
determined, Percy, to take him back with us when we return to France,
in the capacity of groom. What does one man more or less among the
horses matter to people as rich as we are?" In this strain the
partner of my joys and sorrows ran on, perfectly impenetrable to
everything that I could say on the side of common sense. Need I tell
my married brethren how it ended? Of course I allowed my wife to
irritate me, and spoke to her sharply.
Of course my wife turned her face away indignantly on the conjugal
pillow, and burst into tears. Of course upon that, "Mr." made his
excuses, and "Mrs." had her own way.
Before the week was out we rode over to Underbridge, and duly
offered to Francis Raven a place in our service as supernumerary
At first the poor fellow seemed hardly able to realize his own
extraordinary good fortune. Recovering himself, he expressed his
gratitude modestly and becomingly. Mrs. Fairbank's ready sympathies
overflowed, as usual, at her lips. She talked to him about our home
in France, as if the worn, gray-headed hostler had been a child.
"Such a dear old house, Francis; and such pretty gardens! Stables!
Stables ten times as big as your stables here quite a choice of
rooms for you. You must learn the name of our houseMaison Rouge.
Our nearest town is Metz. We are within a walk of the beautiful
River Moselle. And when we want a change we have only to take the
railway to the frontier, and find ourselves in Germany."
Listening, so far, with a very bewildered face, Francis started and
changed color when my wife reached the end of her last sentence.
"Germany?" he repeated.
"Yes. Does Germany remind you of anything?"
The hostler's eyes looked down sadly on the ground. "Germany
reminds me of my wife," he replied.
"She once told me she had lived in Germanylong before I knew her-
-in the time when she was a young girl."
"Was she living with relations or friends?"
"She was living as governess in a foreign family."
"In what part of Germany?"
"I don't remember, ma'am. I doubt if she told me."
"Did she tell you the name of the family?"
"Yes, ma'am. It was a foreign name, and it has slipped my memory
long since. The head of the family was a wine grower in a large way
of businessI remember that."
"Did you hear what sort of wine he grew? There are wine growers in
our neighborhood. Was it Moselle wine?"
"I couldn't say, ma'am, I doubt if I ever heard."
There the conversation dropped. We engaged to communicate with
Francis Raven before we left England, and took our leave. I had made
arrangements to pay our round of visits to English friends, and to
return to Maison Rouge in the summer. On the eve of departure,
certain difficulties in connection with the management of some landed
property of mine in Ireland obliged us to alter our plans. Instead of
getting back to our house in France in the Summer, we only returned a
week or two before Christmas. Francis Raven accompanied us, and was
duly established, in the nominal capacity of stable keeper, among the
servants at Maison Rouge.
Before long, some of the objections to taking him into our
employment, which I had foreseen and had vainly mentioned to my wife,
forced themselves on our attention in no very agreeable form. Francis
Raven failed (as I had feared he would) to get on smoothly with his
fellow-servants. They were all French; and not one of them understood
English. Francis, on his side, was equally ignorant of French. His
reserved manners, his melancholy temperament, his solitary waysall
told against him. Our servants called him "the English Bear." He
grew widely known in the neighborhood under his nickname. Quarrels
took place, ending once or twice in blows. It became plain, even to
Mrs. Fairbank herself, that some wise change must be made. While we
were still considering what the change was to be, the unfortunate
hostler was thrown on our hands for some time to come by an accident
in the stables. Still pursued by his proverbial ill-luck, the poor
wretch's leg was broken by a kick from a horse.
He was attended to by our own surgeon, in his comfortable bedroom
at the stables. As the date of his birthday drew near, he was still
confined to his bed.
Physically speaking, he was doing very well. Morally speaking, the
surgeon was not satisfied. Francis Raven was suffering under some
mysterious mental disturbance, which interfered seriously with his
rest at night. Hearing this, I thought it my duty to tell the
medical attendant what was preying on the patient's mind. As a
practical man, he shared my opinion that the hostler was in a state
of delusion on the subject of his Wife and his Dream. "Curable
delusion, in my opinion," the surgeon added, "if the experiment could
be fairly tried."
"How can it be tried?" I asked. Instead of replying, the surgeon
put a question to me, on his side.
"Do you happen to know," he said, "that this year is Leap Year?"
"Mrs. Fairbank reminded me of it yesterday," I answered.
"Otherwise I might NOT have known it."
"Do you think Francis Raven knows that this year is Leap Year?"
(I began to see dimly what my friend was driving at.)
"It depends," I answered, "on whether he has got an English
almanac. Suppose he has NOT got the almanacwhat then?"
"In that case," pursued the surgeon, "Francis Raven is innocent of
all suspicion that there is a twenty-ninth day in February this year.
As a necessary consequencewhat will he do? He will anticipate the
appearance of the Woman with the Knife, at two in the morning of the
twenty-ninth of February, instead of the first of March. Let him
suffer all his superstitious terrors on the wrong day. Leave him, on
the day that is really his birthday, to pass a perfectly quiet night,
and to be as sound asleep as other people at two in the morning. And
then, when he wakes comfortably in time for his breakfast, shame him
out of his delusion by telling him the truth."
I agreed to try the experiment. Leaving the surgeon to caution
Mrs. Fairbank on the subject of Leap Year, I went to the stables to
see Mr. Raven.
The poor fellow was full of forebodings of the fate in store for
him on the ominous first of March. He eagerly entreated me to order
one of the men servants to sit up with him on the birthday morning.
In granting his request, I asked him to tell me on which day of the
week his birthday fell. He reckoned the days on his fingers; and
proved his innocence of all suspicion that it was Leap Year, by fixing
on the twenty-ninth of February, in the full persuasion that it was
the first of March. Pledged to try the surgeon's experiment, I left
his error uncorrected, of course. In so doing, I took my first step
blindfold toward the last act in the drama of the Hostler's Dream.
The next day brought with it a little domestic difficulty, which
indirectly and strangely associated itself with the coming end.
My wife received a letter, inviting us to assist in celebrating the
"Silver Wedding" of two worthy German neighbors of oursMr. and Mrs.
Beldheimer. Mr. Beldheimer was a large wine grower on the banks of
the Moselle. His house was situated on the frontier line of France
and Germany; and the distance from our house was sufficiently
considerable to make it necessary for us to sleep under our host's
roof. Under these circumstances, if we accepted the invitation, a
comparison of dates showed that we should be away from home on the
morning of the first of March. Mrs. Fairbank holding to her absurd
resolution to see with her own eyes what might, or might not, happen
to Francis Raven on his birthday flatly declined to leave Maison
Rouge. "It's easy to send an excuse," she said, in her off-hand
I failed, for my part, to see any easy way out of the difficulty.
The celebration of a "Silver Wedding" in Germany is the celebration
of twenty-five years of happy married life; and the host's claim upon
the consideration of his friends on such an occasion is something in
the nature of a royal "command." After considerable discussion,
finding my wife's obstinacy invincible, and feeling that the absence
of both of us from the festival would certainly offend our friends, I
left Mrs. Fairbank to make her excuses for herself, and directed her
to accept the invitation so far as I was concerned. In so doing, I
took my second step, blindfold, toward the last act in the drama of
the Hostler's Dream.
A week elapsed; the last days of February were at hand. Another
domestic difficulty happened; and, again, this event also proved to
be strangely associated with the coming end.
My head groom at the stables was one Joseph Rigobert. He was an
ill-conditioned fellow, inordinately vain of his personal appearance,
and by no means scrupulous in his conduct with women. His one virtue
consisted of his fondness for horses, and in the care he took of the
animals under his charge. In a word, he was too good a groom to be
easily replaced, or he would have quitted my service long since. On
the occasion of which I am now writing, he was reported to me by my
steward as growing idle and disorderly in his habits. The principal
offense alleged against him was, that he had been seen that day in the
city of Metz, in the company of a woman (supposed to be an
Englishwoman), whom he was entertaining at a tavern, when he ought to
have been on his way back to Maison Rouge. The man's defense was that
"the lady" (as he called her) was an English stranger, unacquainted
with the ways of the place, and that he had only shown her where she
could obtain some refreshments at her own request. I administered the
necessary reprimand, without troubling myself to inquire further into
the matter. In failing to do this, I took my third step, blindfold,
toward the last act in the drama of the Hostler's Dream.
On the evening of the twenty-eighth, I informed the servants at the
stables that one of them must watch through the night by the
Englishman's bedside. Joseph Rigobert immediately volunteered for
the dutyas a means, no doubt, of winning his way back to my favor.
I accepted his proposal.
That day the surgeon dined with us. Toward midnight he and I left
the smoking room, and repaired to Francis Raven's bedside. Rigobert
was at his post, with no very agreeable expression on his face. The
Frenchman and the Englishman had evidently not got on well together so
far. Francis Raven lay helpless on his bed, waiting silently for two
in the morning and the Dream Woman.
"I have come, Francis, to bid you good night," I said, cheerfully.
"To-morrow morning I shall look in at breakfast time, before I leave
home on a journey."
"Thank you for all your kindness, sir. You will not see me alive
to-morrow morning. She will find me this time. Mark my wordsshe
will find me this time."
"My good fellow! she couldn't find you in England. How in the
world is she to find you in France?"
"It's borne in on my mind, sir, that she will find me here. At two
in the morning on my birthday I shall see her again, and see her for
the last time."
"Do you mean that she will kill you?"
"I mean that, sir, she will kill mewith the knife."
"And with Rigobert in the room to protect you?"
"I am a doomed man. Fifty Rigoberts couldn't protect me."
"And you wanted somebody to sit up with you?"
"Mere weakness, sir. I don't like to be left alone on my
I looked at the surgeon. If he had encouraged me, I should
certainly, out of sheer compassion, have confessed to Francis Raven
the trick that we were playing him. The surgeon held to his
experiment; the surgeon's face plainly said"No."
The next day (the twenty-ninth of February) was the day of the
"Silver Wedding." The first thing in the morning, I went to Francis
Raven's room. Rigobert met me at the door.
"How has he passed the night?" I asked.
"Saying his prayers, and looking for ghosts," Rigobert answered.
"A lunatic asylum is the only proper place for him."
I approached the bedside. "Well, Francis, here you are, safe and
sound, in spite of what you said to me last night."
His eyes rested on mine with a vacant, wondering look.
"I don't understand it," he said.
"Did you see anything of your wife when the clock struck two?"
"Did anything happen?"
"Nothing happened, sir."
"Doesn't THIS satisfy you that you were wrong?"
His eyes still kept their vacant, wondering look. He only repeated
the words he had spoken already: "I don't understand it."
I made a last attempt to cheer him. "Come, come, Francis! keep a
good heart. You will be out of bed in a fortnight."
He shook his head on the pillow. "There's something wrong," he
said. "I don't expect you to believe me, sir. I only say there's
something wrongand time will show it."
I left the room. Half an hour later I started for Mr. Beldheimer's
house; leaving the arrangements for the morning of the first of March
in the hands of the doctor and my wife.
The one thing which principally struck me when I joined the guests
at the "Silver Wedding" is also the one thing which it is necessary
to mention here. On this joyful occasion a noticeable lady present
was out of spirits. That lady was no other than the heroine of the
festival, the mistress of the house!
In the course of the evening I spoke to Mr. Beldheimer's eldest son
on the subject of his mother. As an old friend of the family, I had
a claim on his confidence which the young man willingly recognized.
"We have had a very disagreeable matter to deal with," he said;
"and my mother has not recovered the painful impression left on her
mind. Many years since, when my sisters were children, we had an
English governess in the house. She left us, as we then understood,
to be married. We heard no more of her until a week or ten days
since, when my mother received a letter, in which our ex- governess
described herself as being in a condition of great poverty and
distress. After much hesitation she had venturedat the suggestion
of a lady who had been kind to herto write to her former employers,
and to appeal to their remembrance of old times. You know my mother
she is not only the most kind-headed, but the most innocent of
womenit is impossible to persuade her of the wickedness that there
is in the world. She replied by return of post, inviting the
governess to come here and see her, and inclosing the money for her
traveling expenses. When my father came home, and heard what had been
done, he wrote at once to his agent in London to make inquiries,
inclosing the address on the governess' letter. Before he could
receive the agent's reply the governess arrived. She produced the
worst possible impression on his mind. The agent's letter, arriving a
few days later, confirmed his suspicions. Since we had lost sight of
her, the woman had led a most disreputable life. My father spoke to
her privately: he offeredon condition of her leaving the housea
sum of money to take her back to England. If she refused, the
alternative would be an appeal to the authorities and a public
scandal. She accepted the money, and left the house. On her way back
to England she appears to have stopped at Metz. You will understand
what sort of woman she is when I tell you that she was seen the other
day in a tavern with your handsome groom, Joseph Rigobert."
While my informant was relating these circumstances, my memory was
at work. I recalled what Francis Raven had vaguely told us of his
wife's experience in former days as governess in a German family. A
suspicion of the truth suddenly flashed across my mind. "What was the
woman's name?" I asked.
Mr. Beldheimer's son answered: "Alicia Warlock."
I had but one idea when I heard that replyto get back to my house
without a moment's needless delay. It was then ten o'clock at
nightthe last train to Metz had left long since. I arranged with
my young friendafter duly informing him of the circumstances that
I should go by the first train in the morning, instead of staying to
breakfast with the other guests who slept in the house.
At intervals during the night I wondered uneasily how things were
going on at Maison Rouge. Again and again the same question occurred
to me, on my journey home in the early morningthe morning of the
first of March. As the event proved, but one person in my house knew
what really happened at the stables on Francis Raven's birthday. Let
Joseph Rigobert take my place as narrator, and tell the story of the
end to Youas he told it, in times past, to his lawyer and to Me.
FOURTH (AND LAST) NARRATIVE: STATEMENT
OF JOSEPH RIGOBERT: ADDRESSED TO THE ADVOCATE WHO DEFENDED HIM AT HIS
RESPECTED SIR,On the twenty-seventh of February I was sent, on
business connected with the stables at Maison Rouge, to the city of
Metz. On the public promenade I met a magnificent woman. Complexion,
blond. Nationality, English. We mutually admired each other; we fell
into conversation. (She spoke French perfectly with the English
accent.) I offered refreshment; my proposal was accepted. We had a
long and interesting interviewwe discovered that we were made for
each other. So far, Who is to blame?
Is it my fault that I am a handsome manuniversally agreeable as
such to the fair sex? Is it a criminal offense to be accessible to
the amiable weakness of love? I ask again, Who is to blame? Clearly,
nature. Not the beautiful ladynot my humble self.
To resume. The most hard-hearted person living will understand
that two beings made for each other could not possibly part without
an appointment to meet again.
I made arrangements for the accommodation of the lady in the
village near Maison Rouge. She consented to honor me with her
company at supper, in my apartment at the stables, on the night of
the twenty-ninth. The time fixed on was the time when the other
servants were accustomed to retireeleven o'clock.
Among the grooms attached to the stables was an Englishman, laid up
with a broken leg. His name was Francis. His manners were
repulsive; he was ignorant of the French language. In the kitchen he
went by the nickname of the "English Bear." Strange to say, he was a
great favorite with my master and my mistress. They even humored
certain superstitious terrors to which this repulsive person was
subjectterrors into the nature of which I, as an advanced
freethinker, never thought it worth my while to inquire.
On the evening of the twenty-eighth the Englishman, being a prey to
the terrors which I have mentioned, requested that one of his
fellow-servants might sit up with him for that night only. The wish
that he expressed was backed by Mr. Fairbank's authority. Having
already incurred my master's displeasurein what way, a proper sense
of my own dignity forbids me to relateI volunteered to watch by the
bedside of the English Bear. My object was to satisfy Mr. Fairbank
that I bore no malice, on my side, after what had occurred between us.
The wretched Englishman passed a night of delirium. Not
understanding his barbarous language, I could only gather from his
gesture that he was in deadly fear of some fancied apparition at his
bedside. From time to time, when this madman disturbed my slumbers, I
quieted him by swearing at him. This is the shortest and best way of
dealing with persons in his condition.
On the morning of the twenty-ninth, Mr. Fairbank left us on a
journey. Later in the day, to my unspeakable disgust, I found that I
had not done with the Englishman yet. In Mr. Fairbank's absence, Mrs.
Fairbank took an incomprehensible interest in the question of my
delirious fellow-servant's repose at night. Again, one or the other
of us was to watch at his bedside, and report it, if anything
happened. Expecting my fair friend to supper, it was necessary to
make sure that the other servants at the stables would be safe in
their beds that night. Accordingly, I volunteered once more to be
the man who kept watch. Mrs. Fairbank complimented me on my
humanity. I possess great command over my feelings. I accepted the
compliment without a blush.
Twice, after nightfall, my mistress and the doctor (the last
staying in the house in Mr. Fairbank's absence) came to make
inquiries. Once BEFORE the arrival of my fair friendand once
AFTER. On the second occasion (my apartment being next door to the
Englishman's) I was obliged to hide my charming guest in the harness
room. She consented, with angelic resignation, to immolate her
dignity to the servile necessities of my position. A more amiable
woman (so far) I never met with!
After the second visit I was left free. It was then close on
midnight. Up to that time there was nothing in the behavior of the
mad Englishman to reward Mrs. Fairbank and the doctor for presenting
themselves at his bedside. He lay half awake, half asleep, with an
odd wondering kind of look in his face. My mistress at parting warned
me to be particularly watchful of him toward two in the morning. The
doctor (in case anything happened) left me a large hand bell to ring,
which could easily be heard at the house.
Restored to the society of my fair friend, I spread the supper
table. A pate, a sausage, and a few bottles of generous Moselle
wine, composed our simple meal. When persons adore each other, the
intoxicating illusion of Love transforms the simplest meal into a
banquet. With immeasurable capacities for enjoyment, we sat down to
table. At the very moment when I placed my fascinating companion in a
chair, the infamous Englishman in the next room took that occasion, of
all others, to become restless and noisy once more. He struck with
his stick on the floor; he cried out, in a delirious access of terror,
The sound of that lamentable voice, suddenly assailing our ears,
terrified my fair friend. She lost all her charming color in an
instant. "Good heavens!" she exclaimed. "Who is that in the next
"A mad Englishman."
"Compose yourself, my angel. I will quiet him." The lamentable
voice called out on me again, "Rigobert! Rigobert!"
My fair friend caught me by the arm. "Who is he?" she cried.
"What is his name?"
Something in her face struck me as she put that question. A spasm
of jealousy shook me to the soul. "You know him?" I said.
"His name!" she vehemently repeated; "his name!"
"Francis," I answered.
I shrugged my shoulders. I could neither remember nor pronounce
the barbarous English surname. I could only tell her it began with
She dropped back into the chair. Was she going to faint? No: she
recovered, and more than recovered, her lost color. Her eyes flashed
superbly. What did it mean? Profoundly as I understand women in
general, I was puzzled by THIS woman!
"You know him?" I repeated.
She laughed at me. "What nonsense! How should I know him? Go and
quiet the wretch."
My looking-glass was near. One glance at it satisfied me that no
woman in her senses could prefer the Englishman to Me. I recovered
my self-respect. I hastened to the Englishman's bedside.
The moment I appeared he pointed eagerly toward my room. He
overwhelmed me with a torrent of words in his own language. I made
out, from his gestures and his looks, that he had, in some
incomprehensible manner, discovered the presence of my guest; and,
stranger still, that he was scared by the idea of a person in my
room. I endeavored to compose him on the system which I have already
mentionedthat is to say, I swore at him in MY language. The result
not proving satisfactory, I own I shook my fist in his face, and left
Returning to my fair friend, I found her walking backward and
forward in a state of excitement wonderful to behold. She had not
waited for me to fill her glassshe had begun the generous Moselle
in my absence. I prevailed on her with difficulty to place herself
at the table. Nothing would induce her to eat. "My appetite is
gone," she said. "Give me wine."
The generous Moselle deserves its namedelicate on the palate,
with prodigious "body." The strength of this fine wine produced no
stupefying effect on my remarkable guest. It appeared to strengthen
and exhilarate hernothing more. She always spoke in the same low
tone, and always, turn the conversation as I might, brought it back
with the same dexterity to the subject of the Englishman in the next
room. In any other woman this persistency would have offended me. My
lovely guest was irresistible; I answered her questions with the
docility of a child. She possessed all the amusing eccentricity of
her nation. When I told her of the accident which confined the
Englishman to his bed, she sprang to her feet. An extraordinary smile
irradiated her countenance. She said, "Show me the horse who broke
the Englishman's leg! I must see that horse!" I took her to the
stables. She kissed the horse- -on my word of honor, she kissed the
horse! That struck me. I said. "You DO know the man; and he has
wronged you in some way." No! she would not admit it, even then. "I
kiss all beautiful animals," she said. "Haven't I kissed YOU?" With
that charming explanation of her conduct, she ran back up the stairs.
I only remained behind to lock the stable door again. When I
rejoined her, I made a startling discovery. I caught her coming out
of the Englishman's room.
"I was just going downstairs again to call you," she said. "The
man in there is getting noisy once more."
The mad Englishman's voice assailed our ears once again.
He was a frightful object to look at when I saw him this time. His
eyes were staring wildly; the perspiration was pouring over his face.
In a panic of terror he clasped his hands; he pointed up to heaven.
By every sign and gesture that a man can make, he entreated me not to
leave him again. I really could not help smiling. The idea of my
staying with HIM, and leaving my fair friend by herself in the next
I turned to the door. When the mad wretch saw me leaving him he
burst out into a screech of despairso shrill that I feared it might
awaken the sleeping servants.
My presence of mind in emergencies is proverbial among those who
know me. I tore open the cupboard in which he kept his linen
seized a handful of his handkerchief'sgagged him with one of them,
and secured his hands with the others. There was now no danger of his
alarming the servants. After tying the last knot, I looked up.
The door between the Englishman's room and mine was open. My fair
friend was standing on the thresholdwatching HIM as he lay helpless
on the bed; watching ME as I tied the last knot.
"What are you doing there?" I asked. "Why did you open the door?"
She stepped up to me, and whispered her answer in my ear, with her
eyes all the time upon the man on the bed:
"I heard him scream."
"I thought you had killed him."
I drew back from her in horror. The suspicion of me which her
words implied was sufficiently detestable in itself. But her manner
when she uttered the words was more revolting still. It so powerfully
affected me that I started back from that beautiful creature as I
might have recoiled from a reptile crawling over my flesh.
Before I had recovered myself sufficiently to reply, my nerves were
assailed by another shock. I suddenly heard my mistress's voice
calling to me from the stable yard.
There was no time to thinkthere was only time to act. The one
thing needed was to keep Mrs. Fairbank from ascending the stairs, and
discoveringnot my lady guest onlybut the Englishman also, gagged
and bound on his bed. I instantly hurried to the yard. As I ran down
the stairs I heard the stable clock strike the quarter to two in the
My mistress was eager and agitated. The doctor (in attendance on
her) was smiling to himself, like a man amused at his own thoughts.
"Is Francis awake or asleep?" Mrs. Fairbank inquired.
"He has been a little restless, madam. But he is now quiet again.
If he is not disturbed" (I added those words to prevent her from
ascending the stairs), "he will soon fall off into a quiet sleep."
"Has nothing happened since I was here last?"
The doctor lifted his eyebrows with a comical look of distress.
"Alas, alas, Mrs. Fairbank!" he said. "Nothing has happened! The
days of romance are over!"
"It is not two o'clock yet," my mistress answered, a little
The smell of the stables was strong on the morning air. She put
her handkerchief to her nose and led the way out of the yard by the
north entrancethe entrance communicating with the gardens and the
house. I was ordered to follow her, along with the doctor. Once out
of the smell of the stables she began to question me again. She was
unwilling to believe that nothing had occurred in her absence. I
invented the best answers I could think of on the spur of the moment;
and the doctor stood by laughing. So the minutes passed till the
clock struck two. Upon that, Mrs. Fairbank announced her intention of
personally visiting the Englishman in his room. To my great relief,
the doctor interfered to stop her from doing this.
"You have heard that Francis is just falling asleep," he said. "If
you enter his room you may disturb him. It is essential to the
success of my experiment that he should have a good night's rest, and
that he should own it himself, before I tell him the truth. I must
request, madam, that you will not disturb the man. Rigobert will ring
the alarm bell if anything happens."
My mistress was unwilling to yield. For the next five minutes, at
least, there was a warm discussion between the two. In the end Mrs.
Fairbank was obliged to give wayfor the time. "In half an hour,"
she said, "Francis will either be sound asleep, or awake again. In
half an hour I shall come back." She took the doctor's arm. They
returned together to the house.
Left by myself, with half an hour before me, I resolved to take the
Englishwoman back to the villagethen, returning to the stables, to
remove the gag and the bindings from Francis, and to let him screech
to his heart's content. What would his alarming the whole
establishment matter to ME after I had got rid of the compromising
presence of my guest?
Returning to the yard I heard a sound like the creaking of an open
door on its hinges. The gate of the north entrance I had just closed
with my own hand. I went round to the west entrance, at the back of
the stables. It opened on a field crossed by two footpaths in Mr.
Fairbank's grounds. The nearest footpath led to the village. The
other led to the highroad and the river.
Arriving at the west entrance I found the door openswinging to
and fro slowly in the fresh morning breeze. I had myself locked and
bolted that door after admitting my fair friend at eleven o'clock. A
vague dread of something wrong stole its way into my mind. I hurried
back to the stables.
I looked into my own room. It was empty. I went to the harness
room. Not a sign of the woman was there. I returned to my room, and
approached the door of the Englishman's bedchamber. Was it possible
that she had remained there during my absence? An unaccountable
reluctance to open the door made me hesitate, with my hand on the
lock. I listened. There was not a sound inside. I called softly.
There was no answer. I drew back a step, still hesitating. I
noticed something dark moving slowly in the crevice between the bottom
of the door and the boarded floor. Snatching up the candle from the
table, I held it low, and looked. The dark, slowly moving object was
a stream of blood!
That horrid sight roused me. I opened the door. The Englishman
lay on his bedalone in the room. He was stabbed in two places in
the throat and in the heart. The weapon was left in the second wound.
It was a knife of English manufacture, with a handle of buckhorn as
good as new.
I instantly gave the alarm. Witnesses can speak to what followed.
It is monstrous to suppose that I am guilty of the murder. I admit
that I am capable of committing follies: but I shrink from the bare
idea of a crime. Besides, I had no motive for killing the man. The
woman murdered him in my absence. The woman escaped by the west
entrance while I was talking to my mistress. I have no more to say.
I swear to you what I have here written is a true statement of all
that happened on the morning of the first of March.
Accept, sir, the assurance of my sentiments of profound gratitude
LAST LINESADDED BY PERCY FAIRBANK
Tried for the murder of Francis Raven, Joseph Rigobert was found
Not Guilty; the papers of the assassinated man presented ample
evidence of the deadly animosity felt toward him by his wife.
The investigations pursued on the morning when the crime was
committed showed that the murderess, after leaving the stable, had
taken the footpath which led to the river. The river was dragged
without result. It remains doubtful to this day whether she died by
drowning or not. The one thing certain isthat Alicia Warlock was
never seen again.
Sobeginning in mystery, ending in mysterythe Dream Woman passes
from your view. Ghost; demon; or living human creaturesay for
yourselves which she is. Or, knowing what unfathomed wonders are
around you, what unfathomed wonders are IN you, let the wise words of
the greatest of all poets be explanation enough:
"We are such stuff
As dreams are made of, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep."