Basil, by Wilkie Collins

Journal.

October 19th — My retrospect is finished. I have traced the history of my errors and misfortunes, of the wrong I have done and the punishment I have suffered for it, from the past to the present time.

The pages of my manuscript (many more than I thought to write at first) lie piled together on the table before me. I dare not look them over: I dare not read the lines which my own hand has traced. There may be much in my manner of writing that wants alteration; but I have no heart to return to my task, and revise and reconsider as I might if I were intent on producing a book which was to be published during my lifetime. Others will be found, when I am no more, to carve, and smooth, and polish to the popular taste of the day this rugged material of Truth which I shall leave behind me.

But now, while I collect these leaves, and seal them up, never to be opened again by my hands, can I feel that I have related all which it is necessary to tell? No! While Mannion lives — while I am ignorant of the changes that may yet be wrought in the home from which I am exiled — there remains for me a future which must be recorded, as the necessary sequel to the narrative of the past. What may yet happen worthy of record, I know not: what sufferings I may yet undergo, which may unfit me for continuing the labour now terminated for a time, I cannot foresee. I have not hope enough in the future, or in myself; to believe that I shall have the time or the energy to write hereafter, as I have written already, from recollection. It is best, then, that I should note down events daily as they occur; and so ensure, as far as may be, a continuation of my narrative, fragment by fragment, to the very last.

But, first, as a fit beginning to the Journal I now propose to keep, let me briefly reveal something, in this place, of the life that I am leading in my retirement on the Cornish coast.

The fishing hamlet in which I have written the preceding pages, is on the southern shore of Cornwall, not more than a few miles distant from the Land’s End. The cottage I inhabit is built of rough granite, rudely thatched, and has but two rooms. I possess no furniture but my bed, my table, and my chair; and some half-dozen fishermen and their families are my only neighbours. But I feel neither the want of luxuries, nor the want of society: all that I wished for in coming here, I have — the completest seclusion.

My arrival produced, at first, both astonishment and suspicion. The fishermen of Cornwall still preserve almost all the superstitions, even to the grossest, which were held dear by their humble ancestors, centuries back. My simple neighbours could not understand why I had no business to occupy me; could not reconcile my worn, melancholy face with my youthful years. Such loneliness as mine looked unnatural — especially to the women. They questioned me curiously; and the very simplicity of my answer, that I had only come to Cornwall to live in quiet, and regain my health, perplexed them afresh. They waited, day after day, when I was first installed in the cottage, to see letters sent to me — and no letters arrived: to see my friends join me — and no friends came. This deepened the mystery to their eyes. They began to recall to memory old Cornish legends of solitary, secret people who had lived, years and years ago, in certain parts of the county — coming, none knew whence; existing, none knew by what means; dying and disappearing, none knew when. They felt half inclined to identify me with these mysterious visitors — to consider me as some being, a stranger to the whole human family, who had come to waste away under a curse, and die ominously and secretly among them. Even the person to whom I first paid money for my necessaries, questioned, for a moment, the lawfulness and safety of receiving it!

But these doubts gradually died away; this superstitious curiosity insensibly wore off, among my poor neighbours. They became used to my solitary, thoughtful, and (to them) inexplicable mode of existence. One or two little services of kindness which I rendered, soon after my arrival, to their children, worked wonders in my favour; and I am pitied now, rather than distrusted. When the results of the fishing are abundant, a little present has been often made to me, out of the nets. Some weeks ago, after I had gone out in the morning, I found on my return, two or three gulls’ eggs placed in a basket before my door. They had been left there by the children, as ornaments for my cottage window — the only ornaments they had to give; the only ornaments they had ever heard of.

I can now go out unnoticed, directing my steps up the ravine in which our hamlet is situated, towards the old grey stone church which stands solitary on the hill-top, surrounded by the lonesome moor. If any children happen to be playing among the scattered tombs, they do not start and run away, when they see me sitting on the coffin stone at the entrance of the churchyard, or wandering round the sturdy granite tower, reared by hands which have mouldered into dust centuries ago. My approach has ceased to be of evil omen for my little neighbours. They just look up at me, for a moment, with bright smiles, and then go on with their game.

From the churchyard, I look down the ravine, on fine days, towards the sea. Mighty piles of granite soar above the fishermen’s cottages on each side; the little strip of white beach which the cliffs shut in, glows pure in the sunlight; the inland stream that trickles down the bed of the rocks, sparkles, at places, like a rivulet of silver-fire; the round white clouds, with their violet shadows and bright wavy edges, roll on majestically above me; the cries of the sea-birds, the endless, dirging murmur of the surf, and the far music of the wind among the ocean caverns, fall, now together, now separately on my ear. Nature’s voice and Nature’s beauty — God’s soothing and purifying angels of the soul — speak to me most tenderly and most happily, at such times as these.

It is when the rain falls, and wind and sea arise together — when, sheltered among the caverns in the side of the precipice, I look out upon the dreary waves and the leaping spray — that I feel the unknown dangers which hang over my head in all the horror of their uncertainty. Then, the threats of my deadly enemy strengthen their hold fearfully on all my senses. I see the dim and ghastly personification of a fatality that is lying in wait for me, in the strange shapes of the mist which shrouds the sky, and moves, and whirls, and brightens, and darkens in a weird glory of its own over the heaving waters. Then, the crash of the breakers on the reef howls upon me with a sound of judgment; and the voice of the wind, growling and battling behind me in the hollows of the cave, is, ever and ever, the same thunder-voice of doom and warning in my ear.

Does this foreboding that Mannion’s eye is always on me, that his footsteps are always secretly following mine, proceed only from the weakness of my worn-out energies? Could others in my situation restrain themselves from fearing, as I do, that he is still incessantly watching me in secret? It is possible. It may be, that his terrible connection with all my sufferings of the past, makes me attach credit too easily to the destroying power which he arrogates to himself in the future. Or it may be, that all resolution to resist him is paralysed in me, not so much by my fear of his appearance, as by my uncertainty of the time when it will take place — not so much by his menaces themselves, as by the delay in their execution. Still, though I can estimate fairly the value of these considerations, they exercise over me no lasting influence of tranquillity. I remember what this man has done; and in spite of all reasoning, I believe in what he has told me he will yet do. Madman though he may be, I have no hope of defence or escape from him in any direction, look where I will.

But for the occupation which the foregoing narrative has given to my mind; but for the relief which my heart can derive from its thoughts of Clara, I must have sunk under the torment of suspense and suspicion in which my life is now passed. My sister! Even in this self-imposed absence from her, I have still found a means of connecting myself remotely with something that she loves. I have taken, as the assumed name under which I live, and shall continue to live until my father has given me back his confidence and his affection, the name of a little estate that once belonged to my mother, and that now belongs to her daughter. Even the most wretched have their caprice, their last favourite fancy. I possess no memorial of Clara, not even a letter. The name that I have taken from the place which she was always fondest and proudest of, is, to me, what a lock of hair, a ring, any little loveable keepsake, is to others happier than I am.

I have wandered away from the simple details of my life in this place. Shall I now return to them? Not to-day; my head burns, my hand is weary. If the morrow should bring with it no event to write of, on the morrow I can resume the subject from which I now break off.

October 20th. — After laying aside my pen, I went out yesterday for the purpose of renewing that former friendly intercourse with my poor neighbours, which has been interrupted for the last three weeks by unintermitting labour at the latter portions of my narrative.

In the course of my walk among the cottages and up to the old church on the moor, I saw fewer of the people of the district than usual. The behaviour of those whom I did chance to meet, seemed unaccountably altered; perhaps it was mere fancy, but I thought they avoided me. One woman abruptly shut her cottage door as I approached. A fisherman, when I wished him good day, hardly answered; and walked on without stopping to gossip with me as usual. Some children, too, whom I overtook on the road to the church, ran away from me, making gestures to each other which I could not understand. Is the first superstitious distrust of me returning after I thought it had been entirely overcome? Or are my neighbours only showing their resentment at my involuntary neglect of them for the last three weeks? I must try to find out to-morrow.

21st — I have discovered all! The truth, which I was strangely slow to suspect yesterday, has forced itself on me to-day.

I went out this morning, as I had purposed, to discover whether my neighbours had really changed towards me, or not, since the interval of my three weeks’ seclusion. At the cottage-door nearest to mine, two young children were playing, whom I knew I had succeeded in attaching to me soon after my arrival. I walked up to speak to them; but, as I approached, their mother came out, and snatched them from me with a look of anger and alarm. Before I could question her, she had taken them inside the cottage, and had closed the door.

Almost at the same moment, as if by a preconcerted signal, three or four other women came out from their abodes at a little distance, warned me in loud, angry voices not to come near them, or their children; and disappeared, shutting their doors. Still not suspecting the truth, I turned back, and walked towards the beach. The lad whom I employ to serve me with provisions, was lounging there against the side of an old boat. At seeing me, he started up, and walked away a few steps — then stopped, and called out —

“I’m not to bring you anything more; father says he won’t sell to you again, whatever you pay him.”

I asked the boy why his father had said that; but he ran back towards the village without answering me.

“You had best leave us,” muttered a voice behind me. “If you don’t go of your own accord, our people will starve you out of the place.”

The man who said these words, had been one of the first to set the example of friendliness towards me, after my arrival; and to him I now turned for the explanation which no one else would give me.

“You know what we mean, and why we want you to go, well enough,” was his reply.

I assured him that I did not; and begged him so earnestly to enlighten me, that he stopped as he was walking away.

“I’ll tell you about it,” he said; “but not now; I don’t want to be seen with you.” (As he spoke he looked back at the women, who were appearing once more in front of their cottages.) “Go home again, and shut yourself up; I’ll come at dusk.”

And he came as he had promised. But when I asked him to enter my cottage, he declined, and said he would talk to me outside, at my window. This disinclination to be under my roof, reminded me that my supplies of food had, for the last week, been left on the window-ledge, instead of being brought into my room as usual. I had been too constantly occupied to pay much attention to the circumstance at the time; but I thought it very strange now.

“Do you mean to tell me you don’t suspect why we want to get you out of our place here?” said the man, looking in distrustfully at me through the window.

I repeated that I could not imagine why they had all changed towards me, or what wrong they thought I had done them.

“Then I’ll soon let you know it,” he continued. “We want you gone from here, because —”

“Because,” interrupted another voice behind him, which I recognised as his wife’s, “because you’re bringing a blight on us, and our houses — because we want our children’s faces left as God made them—”

“Because,” interposed a second woman, who had joined her, “you’re bringing devil’s vengeances among Christian people! Come back, John! he’s not safe for a true man to speak to.”

They dragged the fisherman away with them before he could say another word. I had heard enough. The fatal truth burst at once on my mind. Mannion had followed me to Cornwall: his threats were executed to the very letter!

(10 o’clock.)— I have lit my candle for the last time in this cottage, to add a few lines to my journal. The hamlet is quiet; I hear no footstep outside — and yet, can I be certain that Mannion is not lurking near my door at this moment?

I must go when the morning comes; I must leave this quiet retreat, in which I have lived so calmly until now. There is no hope that I can reinstate myself in the opinions of my poor neighbours. He has arrayed against me the pitiless hostility of their superstition. He has found out the dormant cruelties, even in the hearts of these simple people; and has awakened them against me, as he said he would. The evil work must have been begun within the last three weeks, while I was much within doors, and there was little chance of meeting me in my usual walks. How that work was accomplished it is useless to inquire; my only object now, must be to prepare myself at once for departure.

(11 o’clock.)— While I was putting up my few books, a minute ago, a little embroidered marker fell out of one of them, which I had not observed in the pages before; and which I recognised as having been worked for me by Clara. I have a memorial of my sister in my possession, after all! Trifling as it is, I shall preserve it about me, as a messenger of consolation in the time of adversity and peril.

(1 o’clock.)— The wind sweeps down on us, from off the moorland, in fiercer and fiercer gusts; the waves dash heavily against our rock promontory; the rain drifts wildly past my windows; and the densest darkness overspreads the whole sky. The storm which has been threatening for some days, is gathering fast.

(Village of Treen, October 22nd.)— The events of this one day have changed the whole future of my life. I must force myself to write of them at once. Something warns me that if I delay, though only till to-morrow, I shall be incapable of relating them at all.

It was still early in the morning — I think about seven o’clock — when I closed my cottage door behind me, never to open it again. I met only one or two of my neighbours as I left the hamlet. They drew aside to let me advance, without saying a word. With a heavy heart, grieved more than I could have imagined possible at departing as an enemy from among the people with whom I had lived as a friend, I passed slowly by the last cottages, and ascended the cliff path which led to the moor.

The storm had raged at its fiercest some hours back. Soon after daylight the wind sank; but the majesty of the mighty sea had lost none of its terror and grandeur as yet. The huge Atlantic waves still hurled themselves, foaming and furious, against the massive granite of the Cornish cliffs. Overhead, the sky was hidden in a thick white mist, now hanging, still and dripping, down to the ground; now rolling in shapes like vast smoke-wreaths before the light wind which still blew at intervals. At a distance of more than a few yards, the largest objects were totally invisible. I had nothing to guide me, as I advanced, but the ceaseless roaring of the sea on my right hand.

It was my purpose to get to Penzance by night. Beyond that, I had no project, no thought of what refuge I should seek next. Any hope I might have formerly felt of escaping from Mannion, had now deserted me for ever. I could not discover by any outward indications, that he was still following my footsteps. The mist obscured all objects behind me from view; the ceaseless crashing of the shore-waves overwhelmed all landward sounds, but I never doubted for a moment that he was watching me, as I proceeded along my onward way.

I walked slowly, keeping from the edge of the precipices only by keeping the sound of the sea always at the same distance from my ear; knowing that I was advancing in the proper direction, though very circuitously, as long as I heard the waves on my right hand. To have ventured on the shorter way, by the moor and the cross-roads beyond it, would have been only to have lost myself past all chance of extrication, in the mist.

In this tedious manner I had gone on for some time, before it struck me that the noise of the sea was altering completely to my sense of hearing. It seemed to be sounding very strangely on each side of me — both on my right hand and on my left. I stopped and strained my eyes to look through the mist, but it was useless. Crags only a few yards off, seemed like shadows in the thick white vapour. Again, I went on a little; and, ere long, I heard rolling towards me, as it were, under my own feet, and under the roaring of the sea, a howling, hollow, intermittent sound — like thunder at a distance. I stopped again, and rested against a rock. After some time, the mist began to part to seaward, but remained still as thick as ever on each side of me. I went on towards the lighter sky in front — the thunder-sound booming louder and louder, in the very heart, as it seemed, of the great cliff.

The mist brightened yet a little more, and showed me a landmark to ships, standing on the highest point of the surrounding rocks. I climbed to it, recognised the glaring red and white pattern in which it was painted, and knew that I had wandered, in the mist, away from the regular line of coast, out on one of the great granite promontories which project into the sea, as natural breakwaters, on the southern shore of Cornwall.

I had twice penetrated as far as this place, at the earlier period of my sojourn in the fishing-hamlet, and while I now listened to the thunder-sound, I knew from what cause it proceeded.

Beyond the spot where I stood, the rocks descended suddenly, and almost perpendicularly, to the range below them. In one of the highest parts of the wall-side of granite thus formed, there opened a black, yawning hole that slanted nearly straight downwards, like a tunnel, to unknown and unfathomable depths below, into which the waves found entrance through some subterranean channel. Even at calm times the sea was never silent in this frightful abyss, but on stormy days its fury was terrific. The wild waves boiled and thundered in their imprisonment, till they seemed to convulse the solid cliff about them, like an earthquake. But, high as they leapt up in the rocky walls of the chasm, they never leapt into sight from above. Nothing but clouds of spray indicated to the eye, what must be the horrible tumult of the raging waters below.

With my recognition of the place to which I had now wandered, came remembrance of the dangers I had left behind me on the rock-track that led from the mainland to the promontory — dangers of narrow ledges and treacherous precipices, which I had passed safely, while unconscious of them in the mist, but which I shrank from tempting again, now that I recollected them, until the sky had cleared, and I could see my way well before me. The atmosphere was still brightening slowly over the tossing, distant waves: I determined to wait until it had lost all its obscurity, before I ventured to retrace my steps.

I moved down towards the lower range of rocks, to seek a less exposed position than that which I now occupied. As I neared the chasm, the terrific howling of the waves inside it was violent enough to drown, not only the crashing sound of the surf on the outward crags of the promontory, but even the shrill cries of the hundreds on hundreds of sea-birds that whirled around me, except when their flight was immediately over my head. At each side of the abyss, the rocks, though very precipitous, afforded firm hold for hand and foot. As I descended them, the morbid longing to look on danger, which has led many a man to the very brink of a precipice, even while he dreaded it, led me to advance as near as I durst to the side of the great hole, and to gaze down into it. I could see but little of its black, shining, interior walls, or of the fragments of rock which here and there jutted out from them, crowned with patches of long, lank, sea-weed waving slowly to and fro in empty space — I could see but little of these things, for the spray from the bellowing water in the invisible depths below, steamed up almost incessantly, like smoke, and shot, hissing in clouds out of the mouth of the chasm, on to a huge flat rock, covered with sea-weed, that lay beneath and in front of it. The very sight of this smooth, slippery plane of granite, shelving steeply downward, right into the gaping depths of the hole, made my head swim; the thundering of the water bewildered and deafened me — I moved away while I had the power: away, some thirty or forty yards in a lateral direction, towards the edges of the promontory which looked down on the sea. Here, the rocks rose again in wild shapes, forming natural caverns and penthouses. Towards one of these I now advanced, to shelter myself till the sky had cleared.

I had just entered the place, close to the edge of the cliff, when a hand was laid suddenly and firmly on my arm; and, through the crashing of the waves below, the thundering of the water in the abyss behind, and the shrieking of the seabirds overhead, I heard these words, spoken close to my ear:—

“Take care of your life. It is not your’s to throw away — it is mine!

I turned, and saw Mannion standing by me. No shade concealed the hideous distortion of his face. His eye was on me, as he pointed significantly down to the surf foaming two hundred feet beneath us.

“Suicide!” he said slowly —“I suspected it, and, this time, I followed close: followed, to fight with death, which should have you.”

As I moved back from the edge of the precipice, and shook him from me, I marked the vacancy that glared even through the glaring triumph of his eye, and remembered how I had been warned against him at the hospital.

The mist was thickening again, but thickening now in clouds that parted and changed minute by minute, under the influence of the light behind them. I had noticed these sudden transitions before, and knew them to be the signs which preceded the speedy clearing of the atmosphere.

When I looked up at the sky, Mannion stepped back a few paces, and pointed in the direction of the fishing-hamlet from which I had departed.

“Even in that remote place,” he said, “and among those ignorant people, my deformed face has borne witness against you, and Margaret’s death has been avenged, as I said it should. You have been expelled as a pest and a curse, by a community of poor fishermen; you have begun to live your life of excommunication, as I lived mine. Superstition! — barbarous, monstrous superstition, which I found ready made to my use, is the scourge with which I have driven you from that hiding-place. Look at me now! I have got back my strength; I am no longer the sick refuse of the hospital. Where you go, I have the limbs and the endurance to go too! I tell you again, we are linked together for life; I cannot leave you if I would. The horrible joy of hunting you through the world, leaps in my blood like fire! Look! look out on those tossing waves. There is no rest for them; there shall be no rest for you!

The sight of him, standing close by me in that wild solitude; the hoarse sound of his voice, as he raised it almost to raving in his exultation over my helplessness; the incessant crashing of the sea on the outer rocks; the roaring of the tortured waters imprisoned in the depths of the abyss behind us; the obscurity of the mist, and the strange, wild shapes it began to take, as it now rolled almost over our heads —— all that I saw, all that I heard, seemed suddenly to madden me, as Mannion uttered his last words. My brain felt turned to fire; my heart to ice. A horrible temptation to rid myself for ever of the wretch before me, by hurling him over the precipice at my feet, seized on me. I felt my hands stretching themselves out towards him without my willing it — if I had waited another instant, I should have dashed him or myself to destruction. But I turned back in time; and, reckless of all danger, fled from the sight of him, over the rugged and perilous surface of the cliff.

The shock of a fall among the rocks, before I had advanced more than a few yards, partly restored my self-possession. Still, I dared not look back to see if Mannion was following me, so long as the precipice behind him was within view.

I began to climb to the higher range of rocks almost at the same spot by which I had descended from them — judging by the close thunder of the water in the chasm. Halfway up, I stopped at a broad resting-place; and found that I must proceed a little, either to the right or to the left, in a horizontal direction, before I could easily get higher. At that moment, the mist was slowly brightening again. I looked first to the left, to see where I could get good foothold — then to the right, towards the outer sides of the riven rocks close at hand.

At the same instant, I caught sight dimly of the figure of Mannion, moving shadow-like below and beyond me, skirting the farther edge of the slippery plane of granite that shelved into the gaping mouth of the hole. The brightening atmosphere showed him that he had risked himself, in the mist, too near to a dangerous place. He stopped — looked up and saw me watching him — raised his hand — and shook it threateningly in the air. The ill-calculated violence of his action, in making that menacing gesture, destroyed his equilibrium — he staggered — tried to recover himself — swayed half round where he stood — then fell heavily backward, right on to the steep shelving rock.

The wet sea-weed slipped through his fingers, as they madly clutched at it. He struggled frantically to throw himself towards the side of the declivity; slipping further and further down it at every effort. Close to the mouth of the abyss, he sprang up as if he had been shot. A tremendous jet of spray hissed out upon him at the same moment. I heard a scream, so shrill, so horribly unlike any human cry, that it seemed to silence the very thundering of the water. The spray fell. For one instant, I saw two livid and bloody hands tossed up against the black walls of the hole, as he dropped into it. Then, the waves roared again fiercely in their hidden depths; the spray flew out once more; and when it cleared off; nothing was to be seen at the yawning mouth of the chasm — nothing moved over the shelving granite, but some torn particles of sea-weed sliding slowly downwards in the running ooze.

The shock of that sight must have paralysed within me the power of remembering what followed it; for I can recall nothing, after looking on the emptiness of the rock below, except that I crouched on the ledge under my feet, to save myself from falling off it — that there was an interval of oblivion — and that I seemed to awaken again, as it were, to the thundering of the water in the abyss. When I rose and looked around me, the seaward sky was lovely in its clearness; the foam of the leaping waves flashed gloriously in the sunlight: and all that remained of the mist was one great cloud of purple shadow, hanging afar off over the whole inland view.

I traced my way back along the promontory feebly and slowly. My weakness was so great, that I trembled in every limb. A strange uncertainty about directing myself in the simplest actions, overcame my mind. Sometimes, I stopped short, hesitating in spite of myself at the slightest obstacles in my path. Sometimes, I grew confused without any cause, about the direction in which I was proceeding, and fancied I was going back to the fishing village.. The sight that I had witnessed, seemed to be affecting me physically, far more than mentally. As I dragged myself on my weary way along the coast, there was always the same painful vacancy in my thoughts: there seemed to be no power in them yet, of realising Mannion’s appalling death.

By the time I arrived at this village, my strength was so utterly exhausted, that the people at the inn were obliged to help me upstairs. Even now, after some hours’ rest, the mere exertion of dipping my pen in the ink begins to be a labour and a pain to me. There is a strange fluttering at my heart; my recollections are growing confused again — I can write no more.

23rd. — The frightful scene that I witnessed yesterday still holds the same disastrous influence over me. I have vainly endeavoured to think, not of Mannion’s death, but of the free prospect which that death has opened to my view. Waking or sleeping, it is as if some fatality kept all my faculties imprisoned within the black walls of the chasm. I saw the livid, bleeding hands flying past them again, in my dreams, last night. And now, while the morning is clear and the breeze is fresh, no repose, no change comes to my thoughts. Time bright beauty of unclouded daylight seems to have lost the happy influence over me which it used formerly to possess.

25th. — All yesterday I had not energy enough even to add a line to this journal. The strength to control myself seems to have gone from me. The slightest accidental noise in the house, throws me into a fit of trembling which I cannot subdue. Surely, if ever the death of one human being brought release and salvation to another, the death of Mannion has brought them to me; and yet, the effect left on my mind by the horror of having seen it, is still not lessened — not even by the knowledge of all that I have gained by being freed from the deadliest and most determined enemy that man ever had.

26th. — Visions — half waking, half dreaming — all through the night. Visions of my last lonely evening in the fishing-hamlet — of Mannion again — the livid hands whirling to and fro over my head in the darkness — then, glimpses of home; of Clara reading to me in my study — then, a change to the room where Margaret died — the sight of her again, with her long black hair streaming over her face — then, oblivion for a little while — then, Mannion once more; walking backwards and forwards by my bedside — his death, seeming like a dream; his watching me through the night like a reality to which I had just awakened — Clara walking opposite to him on the other side — Ralph between them, pointing at me.

27th. — I am afraid my mind is seriously affected; it must have been fatally weakened before I passed through the terrible scenes among the rocks of the promontory. My nerves must have suffered far more than I suspected at the time, under the constant suspense in which I have been living since I left London, and under the incessant strain and agitation of writing the narrative of all that has happened to me. Shall I send a letter to Ralph? No — not yet. It might look like impatience, like not being able to bear my necessary absence as calmly and resolutely as I ought.

28th. — A wakeful night — tormented by morbid apprehensions that the reports about me in the fishing-village may spread to this place; that inquiries may be made after Mannion; and that I may be suspected of having caused his death.

29th. — The people at the inn have sent to get me medical advice. The doctor came to-day. He was kindness itself; but I fell into a fit of trembling, the moment he entered the room — grew confused in attempting to tell him what was the matter with me — and, at last, could not articulate a single word distinctly. He looked very grave as he examined me and questioned the landlady. I thought I heard him say something about sending for my friends, but could not be certain.

31st. — Weaker and weaker. I tried in despair, to-day, to write to Ralph; but knew not how to word the letter. The simplest forms of expression confused themselves inextricably in my mind. I was obliged to give it up. It is a surprise to me to find that I can still add with my pencil to the entries in this Journal! When I am no longer able to continue, in some sort, the employment to which I have been used for so many weeks past, what will become of me? Shall I have lost the only safeguard that keeps me in my senses?

Worse! worse! I have forgotten what day of the month it is; and cannot remember it for a moment together, when they tell me — cannot even recollect how long I have been confined to my bed. I feel as if my heart was wasting away. Oh! if I could only see Clara again.

The doctor and a strange man have been looking among my papers.

My God! am I dying? dying at the very time when there is a chance of happiness for my future life?

Clara! — far from her — nothing but the little book-marker she worked for me — leave it round my neck when I—

I can’t move, or breathe, or think — if I could only be taken back — if my father could see me as I am now! Night again — the dreams that will come — always of home; sometimes, the untried home in heaven, as well as the familiar home on earth —

Clara! I shall die out of my senses, unless Clara — break the news gently — it may kill her —

Her face so bright and calm! her watchful, weeping eyes always looking at me, with a light in them that shines steady through the quivering tears. While the light lasts, I shall live; when it begins to die out —*

NOTE BY THE EDITOR.

* There are some lines of writing beyond this point; but they are illegible.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/c/collins/wilkie/basil/part3.9.html

Last updated Thursday, March 13, 2014 at 21:29