The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins was served to the public as a serial and outsold Dickens. The plot is given a voice by various narrators, the main being Walter Hartright, a teacher of painting as his father had served so before him. Walter is looking for more money and a new experience and is encouraged by a friend of his, Professor Pesca, a midget Italian who teaches languages and has connections with a family of a wealthy tradesman, a Mr. Fairlie who has two daughters, to serve as a tutor to the family.
Mr. Hartright applies and gives exemplary references and is on his way to the Limmeridge estate. On the way he sees a woman, who is not so tall as to be unusual and is of good form but is oddly, by herself in the middle of the road and dressed all in white. It is she who first speaks, "Is that the road to London?"
She seems afraid of being blamed or considered having done great wrong, though of what Walter cannot seem to draw this from her. He asks her if she is in need and once the conversation commences he cannot find much information from her except that she seems to personally know members of the Limmeridge estate and has fond enough memories of it. Walter sends her on her way to London in a carriage, and she insists that is all she needs. She thanks him sincerely for his kindness and then is gone.
He is in a daze for a bit wondering who this woman really is as another passerby on the roadway asks about regarding a woman dressed in white who has recently escaped from a private asylum. He describes the incident to Miss Halcombe a waiting lady for the family, who knows of the woman he refers to and brings about her character in letters, though the matter of letters brings about a description that seems to be a buffer to the truth as much as an invite inward. The mystery would seem generally solved, as to the identity of the lost woman, but when Mr. Hartright takes a fancy to one of the daughters, and Miss Fairlie strolls about in the moonlight wearing a simple white dress as she was always a person to despise unnecessary trimmings, the tutor cannot help but notice her striking resemblance to the lady on the road to London.
By Sarah Bahl