Walter Hartright’s narrative
I had worried that Marian’s sensibilities would overwhelm her at the verdict, and that she would dash down to embrace Camlet, or even burst into tears—attracting unwelcome attention. I was cautiously pleased that her control was perfect, and she waited in quiet up in the seats until I could make my way back through the crowd and escort her out. I waved down a hackney and helped her in, and we went around to the prison gate.
There was a lugubrious delay, but at last I saw the turnkey behind the bars. I got down and was in time to meet Camlet as he came out. “My hearty congratulations,” I said, shaking his hand. “Did I not promise that I would clasp your hand in the sunshine one day?”
“I am your debtor forever, Hartright,” he said. He was pale and thinner, but the brown beard was split in an enormous grin. “It was your thought that saved me.”
“Thank rather the good Professor Pesca, who did all the hard work.”
“Nothing would give me more pleasure.”
“He must take Father Ercole to a lodging, since the man speaks no English, but someday soon I shall make you acquainted with him.” I drew him to the hackney, where Marian was fretting in a fever of impatience. I held his bag and busied myself giving careful instructions to the driver, while the tearful reunion took place. By the time I climbed into the cab myself the first tempest had passed. They sat close together, holding hands and looking like April and May, and I took the seat opposite.
As we set off I said, “I am sure neither of you noticed at the time, but I was profoundly shocked at the time of your arrest, Camlet, that you were in Marian’s room.”
The scarlet flamed into Marian’s swarthy cheeks. “But we are married!”
“I would not have brought the subject up at all,” I returned, “except that Camlet is not your husband. Your marriage to him was invalid. His wife is Margaret Camlet.”
“Well, but I shall divorce her immediately,” Camlet said. “I shall have Erbistock set it in train the first thing tomorrow morning.”
“That is well. But until the decree is absolute, Marian must continue to make her home with Laura and myself. Anything else would be grossly improper.”
“And it would impact my case,” Camlet said. “The authorities are far more reluctant to grant the decree when both parties have strayed. I knew at the time that I was acting wrongly, and I apologize for abusing the hospitality of your home. Only the terror of trial and imprisonment made me fail in rectitude. The fault is entirely mine, and Marian was swept away by my importuning and her own warm and loving affection.”
“No, it was I,” Marian broke in. “My condition renders me delicate, and I needed his care.” Reluctantly she released Camlet’s hand.
With an effort I kept my face straight. “It was ill done of you, Camlet, to put her into that condition. She wields it like a brace of pistols, ruthlessly exploiting it at every opportunity.” I looked at my watch. “Unfortunately I have an errand now that I can no longer postpone. Laura has expressed a desire for a bonnet from London, and I must visit the milliner.” Marian’s mouth dropped open. Camlet would not know this, but I have never taken the slightest interest in ladies’ fripperies. Luna the greyhound would have a more informed opinion about hats, and only a blind woman would dispatch me to buy her one. Ignoring Marian’s astonishment I shook Camlet’s hand warmly, congratulating him once more upon his acquittal, and tapped the roof of the cab. “The cabby has been instructed to take you to Hampstead, Camlet, and then bring Marian back to the hotel.”
When the vehicle halted I stepped down. Before I could shut the door after myself Marian caught it and put her head out. “Cabby, in my condition I find that I cannot tolerate a great rate of speed. If you will proceed at a walking pace to our destination, I will double your fare.”
I had to grin up at them. “You see, Camlet?”
It was good to see him leaning back and laughing heartily. “Yes, she is incorrigible, I agree. Farewell, Hartright, and thank you once again. I will write.”
Selected correspondence in the possession of Marian Halcombe
13 April 1858
My dearest girl,
[Two pages of passionate personal material omitted here.]
Send me your dear reply by return, at the above address. Covenant is up and running again, thank goodness, and with earnings from the business I have removed from Sandett House and am shifting for myself in furnished lodgings, so that the divorce filing may have substance. Give kisses to Micah and Lottie for me, and keep your beloved self in the tenderest of care.
All my love, your own...