1. CHAPTER I
I went abroad, resolved--if change and absence could help me--to forget her.
It is, I am persuaded, no true view of human nature which denies that change
and absence DO help a man under these circumstances; they force his attention
away from the exclusive contemplation of his own sorrow. I never forgot her;
but the pang of remembrance lost its worst bitterness, little by little,
as time, distance, and novelty interposed themselves more and more effectually
between Rachel and me.
On the other hand, it is no less certain that, with the act
of turning homeward, the remedy which had gained its ground
so steadily, began now, just as steadily, to drop back.
The nearer I drew to the country which she inhabited,
and to the prospect of seeing her again, the more irresistibly
her influence began to recover its hold on me. On leaving
England she was the last person in the world whose name I
would have suffered to pass my lips. On returning to England,
she was the first person I inquired after, when Mr. Bruff and I
I was informed, of course, of all that had happened in my absence;
in other words, of all that has been related here in continuation
of Betteredge's narrative--one circumstance only being excepted.
Mr. Bruff did not, at that time, feel himself at liberty to inform
me of the motives which had privately influenced Rachel and Godfrey
Ablewhite in recalling the marriage promise, on either side.
I troubled him with no embarrassing questions on this delicate subject.
It was relief enough to me, after the jealous disappointment caused
by hearing that she had ever contemplated being Godfrey's wife, to know
that reflection had convinced her of acting rashly, and that she had
effected her own release from her marriage engagement.
Having heard the story of the past, my next inquiries (still inquiries
after Rachel!) advanced naturally to the present time. Under whose care
had she been placed after leaving Mr. Bruff's house? and where was she
She was living under the care of a widowed sister of the late Sir
John Verinder--one Mrs. Merridew--whom her mother's executors had
requested to act as guardian, and who had accepted the proposal.
They were reported to me as getting on together admirably well,
and as being now established, for the season, in Mrs. Merridew's house
in Portland Place.