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An excerpt from
The Secret Adventures of Charlotte Brontë
by Laura Joh Rowland
There are certain events that have the power to ravage lives and alter the fate of nations, yet they transpire unnoticed by the general public and leave no record because their history is a secret locked within the minds of the few mortals involved. Such were the events that I, Charlotte Brontë, experienced in the year of 1848.
I have sworn to take the secret to my grave, and to speak any word of it would bring censure, scandal, and disgrace upon myself and betray a sacred trust. Still, my knowledge burns inside me like a fire under pressure that must find release or shatter the fragile vessel of my being. I cannot bear that the most singular episode of my own history should go untold. It occurred at a time when my life held meaning and promise, and I had the companionship of persons most beloved to me. We struggled, suffered, and finally triumphed together, as if fulfilling the highest purpose of our existence. But now, as I write, a year has since passed, and my companions are gone. Stripped and bereaved, I spend night after night in terrible solitude, haunted by memories. I have decided that I must record the events of that summer—come what may—and although I know not whether anyone will ever read what I write, it shall be my tribute to the valor of those whose loss I mourn. Let these pages survive them, that they shall not fade into obscurity as their mortal remains disintegrate into dust. The fantastic narrative which I am about to commence is the truth as I know it, and I shall be as candid as the truth requires. God is my ultimate witness, and I beg His forgiveness if I say anything to offend. My story does not begin with me, nor at the time and place that I innocently stumbled into the events that transformed my life. It begins on the other side of the world, in Canton, the port of foreign trade in southern China. The date is 14 May, 1841. My pen now depicts a twilight sky swollen with storm clouds above British warships on the river outside Canton. Their tall, square sails heave like dragon wings in the tropical wind; cannons and guns on the decks thunder, bombarding the waterfront. The Chinese Imperial Army returns fire from forts and watch towers on the riverbank and from war junks. Flames consume docks and warehouses on shore. The turbulent water reflects the blaze, gleaming crimson as if layered with blood. Smoke drifts toward the wall surrounding Canton's Old City, inside which crowds of Chinese stampede through alleys on a desperate flight from the attack. Ruffians loot abandoned shops; renegade soldiers brawl in the street outside an estate belonging to a high imperial official. The incident that precipitated everything which befell me occurred within this estate, a complex of courtyards and gardens surrounding a mansion. Precisely what happened there that night is known only to persons no longer able to speak, but I shall recreate the terrible drama and hope that speculation based on facts will not compromise the truth. Inside the mansion, a woman named Beautiful Jade huddles in her chamber on a carved bed draped with satin curtains. She wears multicolored silk robes; tinsel ornaments sparkle in her black hair. Her slim arms encircle her two daughters, small versions of herself. Who they are, and what connection they have with me, will emerge in good time. Their delicate faces pinched with fright, the three listen to the rioting in the streets and the constant gunfire. The bitter fumes of gunpowder mingle with the scent of flowers in the garden. Beautiful Jade fears that the battle will rage until Canton lies in ruins and everyone inside it is dead. All the estate's guards and servants have fled. She longs to follow suit and take her beloved children away from danger, but her husband has told them to stay inside until he returns, and she is an obedient wife. She prays that they will be safe and the barbarians won't break through the city gates. A loud crash outside startles Beautiful Jade. She looks through the window. The night glows with the ruddy, fitful light of a sky reflecting fire. Beautiful Jade hears rapid footsteps in the courtyard; erelong, she sees shadows moving in the garden, where palm trees rustle. The footsteps mount the stairs to the veranda, and the door creaks open. Comprehension spreads an icy terror through Beautiful Jade. The barbarians have invaded Canton. They are here! She scrambles off the bed, tugging her daughters with her. Five men burst through the doorway, one bearing a torch that splays flame light onto the chamber walls. They are not foreigners but Chinese ruffians dressed in ragged clothes and straw hats. Each carries a long knife. As her daughters squeal in fright, she asks who the men are and what they want. They command her to tell them where her husband is. When she replies that she doesn't know, they rampage around the chamber, hurling vases to the floor, overturning tables, smashing chairs, ripping down tapestries. The children scream, clinging to Beautiful Jade. Again, the men demand her husband's whereabouts. Yet even had she known, Beautiful Jade could not have betrayed him. Now two ruffians grab the girls. Aghast, Beautiful Jade holds tight to them, but the men drag them away from her. The girls sob while she begs the men not to hurt them. Another ruffian lashes out at her with his knife—she screams. The blade cuts through her robe, searing pain across her bosom. Faint with horror, mouth agape, she clasps her hands over the welling blood. The knife slashes again. Beautiful Jade flings up her arms and feels the blade slicing open her flesh. Desperate, she stumbles away from her tormentor, but he keeps coming and slashing. Beyond him she sees her daughters helplessly flailing in their captors' grasp. They shrill in a high pitched chorus that pierces her heart. She falls to her knees, bleeding from countless cuts, weeping in pain and terror, crying in vain for help. Were the last sounds she heard the thunder of cannons from the attacking ships and her daughters' screams? I know not what these three innocent victims actually thought or perceived, but I do know that their throats were cut, their bodies mutilated. As to why they were slain, and what were the consequences, the facts became apparent during my own part of the story, which began seven years thence. Charlotte Brontë, July 1849
Chapter 1 With a tale spinner's sleight of hand I advance the calendar—the date is now Friday 7 July 1848. I revolve the globe of the world and sight upon my home village of Haworth, in the North of England. Reader, I present for you a picture of Haworth on the morning of that fateful day when my adventures began. The sun, glinting from between cloud masses in the vast, cerulean Yorkshire sky, illuminates the ancient stone houses that line the steep, stone paved main street. Shopkeepers scrub their doorsteps; a farmer herds a flock of sheep, and village women carry baskets past a horse drawn cart piled high with raw wool. At the top of Church Lane, past the church, and isolated at the highest point in the village, stands the parsonage, a two storied house built of gray brick, roofed with stone flags, and flanked by graveyards. Beyond the parsonage lie the moors—undulating hills, cloaked in gray green heather, shading into the far horizon. Inside the parsonage, I was sweeping the hall when I heard a thud outside. Puzzled, I set aside the broom and opened the door. My younger brother Branwell toppled toward me and crashed at my feet, sprawling across the threshold. "Branwell," I said, peering with consternation at him through my spectacles. He pushed himself to his knees and smiled jauntily up at me. "Ah, my dear sister Charlotte," he said, slurring the words. "How convenient that you should be here just in time to welcome me home." As I regarded his bleary eyes and livid complexion, his disheveled clothes and shaggy auburn hair, I smelled rank fumes of whisky. "You have been drinking again." I felt the anger, disgust, and helplessness that Branwell's inebriation always occasioned in me. "And you promised you would not." "It was just a little tipple down at the Black Bull Inn," Branwell protested, clambering to his feet. "Life gets unbearably dull hereabouts, and surely you wouldn't deny me a bit of amusement now and then?" "Except that it isn't only now and then." I shut the door more firmly than was necessary. "And it's not just the drink. You've taken laudanum, haven't you?" Branwell had, alas, degenerated into a habitual user of that tincture of opium dissolved in spirits. "I'm sorry, Charlotte," Branwell said, "but I was so in need of comfort." A coughing fit wracked his thin body. "Can you not see how miserable I am? Please forgive me." Reluctant compassion quenched my anger as I observed my brother. He was only thirty one but looked a decade older, his once handsome features haggard. Still, I could see in him a vestige of the robust, bright eyed boy who'd been my favorite childhood companion. "You had better go upstairs before Papa sees you like this," I said. The door of the study opened, and out stepped our father. Though in his seventies, Papa was still an imposing figure—over six feet tall, white haired, stern featured and proud of posture. Beneath his black clerical garb he wore a voluminous white silk cravat wound high around his neck to protect him from drafts and prevent bronchitis. He squinted at Branwell through the spectacles perched on his prominent nose, and a look of anxious confusion came over his face. "I thought you were asleep upstairs," he said to Branwell. "When did you leave? Were you gone all night?" Branwell hung his head; his coughs subsided into wheezes. "Not all night. I just slipped out for a few hours. That's God's honest truth." "It is a sin to deceive," Papa said, frowning in reproach, "and shameful of you to invoke God as your accomplice." My younger sisters, Emily and Anne, appeared in the parlor doorway. Anne, neat and unobtrusive as always, held a cloth with which she'd been dusting furniture; when she saw Branwell, distress clouded her violet eyes and gentle features. "Oh, dear," she murmured. Emily pushed up her leg of mutton sleeves. Always indifferent to her appearance, she stubbornly clung to that outmoded style of dress. She'd been canning blackberry preserves, and purple stains blotched her apron. Heat had frizzed her brown hair and flushed her long face, and that day she looked even more wild and singular than usual. Tall and lanky, she glared at Branwell. She had lost tolerance for the sickness, the convulsive fits, and unpredictable moods that Branwell inflicted upon our household. "Well, have you all gotten a proper look at me?" Branwell said with sudden belligerence. Our servant, Martha Brown, entered the hall, and Branwell's hostile stare included her. "Then I believe I shall go to bed. I'm all done in." Reeling toward the stairs, he stumbled. Emily grudgingly stepped forward and helped me assist him up the stairs. Papa and Anne followed us past the family portrait painted by Branwell. He had, while young, possessed artistic talent, and Papa had sacrificed much money to buy him painting lessons. All of us had wished Branwell to attend the Royal Academy, but his ambitions and our dreams had come to naught. Now Branwell began to weep. "Lydia, my distant, darling Lydia," he keened. "My love for you has ruined me!" Six years ago, Branwell had become a tutor to the son of the Reverend and Mrs. Robinson at Thorpe Green Hall, near York. Lydia Robinson, a lascivious woman of forty, had seduced Branwell. He had fallen madly in love with her, and they'd conducted a torrid affair until her husband had discovered it and dismissed Branwell. Ever since then, Branwell had pined for Lydia, drowning his woes in liquor. What a sorry waste he and that terrible woman had made of his life! Emily and I dragged Branwell into the bedroom he shared with Papa. Anne turned down the coverlet of Branwell's bed and pulled out the pillows he'd arranged to trick our father. Emily and I heaved Branwell onto the bed. "None of you understand how I suffer," he moaned as Emily tugged off his shoes. "You've never loved and lost as I have!" With great self control, I forbore to remind him that our father had many years ago lost his beloved wife, and we our mother. Emily, stern and unrelenting, went downstairs without a word, but Anne tenderly arranged the coverlet over Branwell. "Oh, Anne, don't fuss so," Branwell cried. "Lord, I wish you would all go away!" Chastened, Anne crept out of the room. Papa sat beside Branwell. "We must pray for God to forgive your sins and give you the strength to reform." "I can't bear another sermon now," Branwell said in a tone of rising hysteria, "and besides, there's no use moralizing, Father; it's too late, it's all over with me." Stifling a sigh, I left the room. I knew I ought to finish sweeping then visit parishioners suffering from the hard times that had fallen upon the country. Yet the tedious routine of my days oppressed me so that I succumbed to the powerful urge to escape to my other life, the secret existence known to but three other people besides myself. Furtively, I slipped into the small room above the front hall. Near its window stood a battered desk. I took from my pocket a key, then unlocked and opened the desk drawer. I lifted out a book entitled, "Agnes Grey, a novel by Acton Bell." Opening it to the title page, I read the handwritten inscription: "To my dear sister Charlotte, with much love, Anne Brontë." In another book, "Wuthering Heights, by Ellis Bell," Emily had simply penned her signature. I then took up my own book, and pride swelled within me as I caressed the gilt lettering that read, "Jane Eyre, by Currer Bell." Almost ten months had passed since its publication, but I felt the same ecstatic thrill as when I'd first held it in my hands. I could still hardly believe that Emily, Anne, and I had achieved our dream of becoming authors. But the drawer contained further proof of this miracle. I perused book reviews cut out of newspapers. The one from the Westminster Review read, "Decidedly the best novel of the season." There were also letters from my publisher, informing me that the first edition of my work had sold out, and notices of two further editions. I smiled at a handbill for a play, "Jane Eyre, The Secrets of Thornfield Manor," produced in London. Finally, I turned to the account book where I had recorded my income—one hundred pounds for the copyright of the novel, and an additional hundred pounds in royalties. This was no great fortune, but it represented ten times more than the annual salary I'd earned in my former occupation as a governess. Yet uncertainty about the future and a nagging dissatisfaction with the present worsened as I paged through the notebooks that contained the manuscript of my next, unfinished novel, Shirley. I'd developed serious doubts about this novel and its reception by my publisher and readers. I feared their high expectations of Currer Bell, whose identity was a subject of intense speculation among the literati. And I mourned that my present success hadn't brought me everything I craved. As a young girl, scribbling stories and dreaming of a future as an author, I'd believed that publication would gain me passage into a world of art galleries, concerts, the theater, and travel, where people conversed brilliantly. I'd hoped to win the friendship of writers, artists, and intellectuals; yet here I remained, hidden behind a nom de plume, the surface of my life as a parson's spinster daughter virtually unchanged. A wistful melancholy stole over me as I looked out the window and down the hill upon the gray rooftops of Haworth and the gray smoke from the textile mills in the wooded valley. Beyond these familiar environs lay the world of my dreams, forever unreachable. I was thirty two years old, and apparently destined to spend the rest of my days in torpid retirement. Then I spied the postman coming up the road, and my spirits lifted: The post was a source of light and life to me. I carefully locked the desk drawer, because although Papa had been told the secret of Acton, Currer, and Ellis Bell, no one else must know—not even Branwell, who could not be trusted with the secret. I tucked the key in my pocket, hurried downstairs, and eagerly accepted a letter from the postman. I read the sender's address on the envelope: "Smith, Elder & Company, 65 Cornhill, London." This was the letter that would launch me on a dangerous path through worlds beyond my imagination, but all I then understood was that the letter came from my publisher. As I scanned the two sheets, my anticipation of good news turned to dismay. I rushed downstairs and found Emily stirring a cauldron of preserves on the stove. Her bulldog, Keeper, lay beneath the table where Martha Brown and Anne sealed jars. The kitchen was humid with fruity steam, hot from the coal fire. "Emily. Anne," I said, "we must talk." My face must have revealed my agitation, for they immediately followed me through the back door to the yard, out of Martha's hearing. Above and away from us spread the moors, their hilly expanses broken only by a few stunted trees and the distant black lines of stone walls. Blustering wind whipped our skirts. "Currer Bell has just received a disturbing communication," I explained, then read aloud:
"My Dear Sir, As you will no doubt recall, Smith, Elder & Company has secured from you the exclusive right to publish your next novel and to grant secondary right of publication to our counterparts abroad. However, it has come to my attention that Mr. Thomas Cautley Newby, publisher of the works of Acton and Ellis Bell, has sold to an American publisher, for a high price, a book entitled The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, which he claims to be the new work by Currer Bell. We at Smith, Elder & Company were quite indignant to learn that a rival business has a gained a property which is lawfully ours. Are we to believe that you have deliberately breached your contract with us? (It would appear so, judging by the enclosed document.) We respectfully request an explanation of this circumstance. Yours Sincerely,
George Smith" Emily and Anne stared in astonishment. I cried, "Anne, my publisher thinks your book is mine and I've cheated him!" "There must be a mistake," Anne said hesitantly. "My publisher knows that Acton Bell and Currer Bell are two separate individuals. Surely Mr. Newby would not claim otherwise." "But he has," I said, holding out the paper that had accompanied George Smith's letter. "This is an extract from a letter written by Mr. Newby to the American publisher: 'To the best of my belief, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Agnes Grey, and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall are all the production of one writer.'" Emily shook her head, frowning. Anne, looking bewildered, ventured, "I can't believe that Mr. Newby would intentionally misrepresent me." "I can," I said, "because he has already treated you both in a shabby fashion. Remember that he charged the printing expenses for Agnes Grey and Wuthering Heights to you. Then he delayed publication of your books. And he hasn't yet sent you the royalties he owes you. Mr. Newby is an unscrupulous man who would do anything to profit himself." "And he is doing so by capitalizing on the success of Currer Bell," Emily said. Her large, luminous eyes seemed a magical mixture of fire and ocean, of a hue that changed with her moods; now anger darkened them to slate blue. "He seeks to elevate little known authors by confusing them with a celebrated one." I winced: Emily was a person of few words, and those often too blunt for comfort. The differing degrees of success achieved by Currer, Acton, and Ellis Bell comprised a sensitive issue that we avoided discussing. Though Emily and Anne were genuinely pleased by my good fortune, I knew that if our positions were reversed, I would envy them, in spite of our affection for one another. I also knew how badly they must feel about the reviews of their books. "There is not in the entire dramatis personae a single character which is not utterly hateful or thoroughly contemptible," the Atlas had said of Wuthering Heights. Agnes Grey had fared no better. "It leaves no painful impression on the mind—some may think it leaves no impression at all." Worse, both Emily and Anne had suffered from comparison to me when the Athenaeum had proclaimed of Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and Agnes Grey: "All three might be the work of one hand, but the first issued remains the best." How much I regretted that our writing had set me apart from my sisters! Would that today's problem had not arisen to further damage our harmony! "Dear Charlotte, I'm so sorry that my book has endangered your reputation," Anne said. She was always too ready to accept blame and thereby restore peace. "The fault belongs to Mr. Newby," I said. "And I fear he has endangered more than my reputation." I paced the yard in a fever of anxiety. "I know little of the law, but enough to see that appearances suggest that I've broken it." I had a horrible vision of police descending upon the parsonage, myself arrested and thrown into prison. "What am I to do?" "Write to Mr. Smith. Tell him that Currer Bell is one person and Acton Bell and Ellis Bell are others, and anyone who says differently is a liar," said Emily. "But I told him as much when the critics raised the question of our identities," I said. "If he doubts me now, why should another letter convince him?" "Perhaps I could order Mr. Newby to set matters right," Anne said.

"Why would he, and put himself in the wrong?" I said, dismissing the notion that mild natured Anne could force anyone to do anything. I halted, facing my sisters. "The only way to solve the problem is to dispense with pen names and reveal who we really are." Anne gasped in alarm. Emily burst out, "No!" Vehemence harshened her normally quiet, melodious voice; her eyes darkened to a stormy gray green. "When you first suggested that we try to publish our works, we all promised that we would always use pen names." While Anne and I had adopted pen names because we'd enjoyed the secret and thought that male aliases would assure our work a more favorable reception, Emily had wished to avoid unwanted exposure. Neither my sisters nor I participated much in any society, but Emily was the most reclusive of us. She was like a wild creature—happiest when rambling the moors alone. She shot a pleading glance at Anne, who moved close to her. "Dear Charlotte," said Anne, "I know your situation is grave, but surely there's some other solution than revealing our true identities." Anne always took Emily's side, for they shared a special intimacy that excluded everyone else. Anne was the one person in whom Emily ever confided; they were like twins sharing one heart. A pang of familiar envy needled me because Emily was my favorite sister as well as Anne’s. "But there is not another solution," I insisted. "Even if I somehow manage to convince Mr. Smith that I didn't write The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, similar problems will continue to arise as long as there remains a mystery about who Acton, Ellis, and Currer Bell are. People will always confuse us." "Let them," Emily declared, tossing her head. Her hair swirled in the wind; with her back to the clouded sky and sweeping moors, she seemed a wild force of nature. "I don't care." "Well, I do," said I. Even as I admired Emily's independent spirit and hated to cause her pain, I felt a tremendous impatience to cast off the pen name that obscured me like a suffocating shroud. "We must let Mr. Smith and everyone else know us at last." "But . . . " Anne wrung her hands. "If Mr. Smith doesn't believe there are three authors named Bell, why would he believe you if you write informing him that the authors are three Misses Brontë?" "He would probably not," I said, encouraged by a sense that Anne shared my desire for recognition. "Therefore, I propose that we go to London, so that Mr. Smith may see us with his own eyes." As I spoke the words, my heart fluttered like wings inside my chest because the world of my dreams seemed suddenly within reach. "London?" Emily said, as though I'd suggested a trip to Hades. The color drained from her face, and she retreated from me. "I won't go. I can't!" Here I must add more strokes to my portrait of Emily. She had spent almost her entire life in Haworth. Each brief time away, she'd become sickly and lifeless, like a plant torn from its native soil. She feared strangers and crowds, hated noisy, dirty cities. She made me feel selfishly cruel for asking her to travel to London; however, I was determined for us to go. "Please, Emily," I said, "it won't be so terrible. We needn't stay very long, and we won't reveal our identities to anyone outside Smith, Elder & Company." "No!" Emily ran to the parsonage and pressed herself against its brick wall, looking more a frightened child than the woman of thirty years she then was. Anne said cautiously, "When would we leave?" "Today," I said. "I must mend my relations with Smith, Elder & Company as soon as possible." "Anne! You wish to go, too?" Emily gazed at Anne in disbelief. "You want to break your promise to me?" "Oh, no," Anne hastened to say. "It's just that I think we must do what is right, and perhaps Charlotte knows best . . . " She quailed under the look of hurt outrage that Emily gave her, then turned to me. "But we can't just arrive at Smith, Elder & Company without warning. What would they think of us?" My determination wavered, for we possessed among us no beauty to help us gain favor, and I considered myself the plainest—so small and thin am I, with a head too large for my body, irregular features, and a pallid complexion. Furthermore, my plan seemed audaciously forward, defying convention that required modesty of the female sex. But I put aside vanity and fear of social censure; I got a firmer grip on my resolve. "Smith, Elder & Company can hardly think less of us than they do at this moment," I said. "We must risk a minor discourtesy for the sake of achieving a greater good." "Well, I'm not going," Emily said. She was breathing hard, and her fingers kneaded her folded arms. "It's not my problem anyway. Mr. Smith's complaint only regards you and Anne. I've done nothing to deserve exposure. And I forbid you to tell anyone anything about me!" I realized that Emily would never be persuaded. "Very well; you may stay home," I said reluctantly. "I won't reveal your identity. I suppose that two of us will be enough to prove ourselves separate individuals to Mr. Smith . . . if you'll come with me, Anne?" Biting her lips, Anne looked from me to Emily, obviously torn between the person she loved best and her sense of duty. When I became nurse, tutor, and disciplinarian to my younger siblings after the deaths of our mother and eldest sisters long ago, Anne was the only one never to disobey me. She'd meekly come with me to the school where I'd taught and studied hard because she knew my salary paid her tuition. And I knew she still felt indebted to me. "Anne," Emily pleaded. A small sigh issued from Anne. Bowing her head, she murmured, "We'll need Papa's permission." Emily stood in stricken silence. Her eyes blazed with her fury and pain at Anne's betrayal. Uttering a cry of despair, she turned from us and ran with the swift grace of a fleeing deer. Anne and I silently watched her recede into the wilderness of moorland and sky; then, without looking at each other, we went into the parsonage. Papa was in his study, writing a sermon. When I told him about George Smith's letter and our decision, he said, "Of course you must uphold your honor, and your plan seems the only way." Though I always defer to his authority, his generous heart is loath to deny me anything; thus, I usually manage to obtain permission for whatever I want to do. "However, the idea of your traveling two hundred miles to London disturbs me. These are dangerous times." A cataclysm of revolution had convulsed Europe during the year. In France, radicals had rebelled against a corrupt, oppressive regime; strikes, riots, and warfare had beset Paris; the King had abdicated and gone into exile. In the Germanies, mobs had clashed with the army in the streets of Berlin. The Italian states had risen up against Austrian rule; in Vienna, the Hapsburg monarchy had battled its own citizens who clamored for social reform. In Britain, Irish nationalists had revolted against English domination, while across England, radicals known as Chartists had staged mass demonstrations. Their quest for voting rights for all men and equal representation in Parliament had incited violent disturbances. Queen Victoria had fled London. Yet I had no inkling that these events held personal significance for me—they seemed but a minor obstacle. "Things are somewhat quieted lately, Papa," I said. "Anne and I should be safe enough." "Emily does not go?" "No, Papa." Guilt sickened me. Papa said with reluctance, "I should escort you and Anne." "Oh, no, Papa," I said, "you must not risk your health." He was susceptible to bad colds, and besides, I'd set my heart on myself and Anne going unaccompanied. "We'll be fine by ourselves. Since I've visited London before, I know my way around the city." "Very well," Papa said with evident relief. "But do be careful." "We will, Papa." I hesitated, then asked, "May we stay a few days to see the sights?" After some debate, Papa consented. Jubilant, I hurried Anne upstairs, where we began hastily packing. I was folding garments into a trunk when I noticed Anne standing at the bedroom window. Outside stretched the moors, like an empty sea. Emily had disappeared. "She'll realize that we have no choice. She'll forgive us," I endeavored to reassure both Anne and myself. Anne blinked away tears. I suffered a fresh onslaught of guilt, but resumed packing. The brilliant future beckoned. # Now, as the hour grows late and the candles burn low, I wonder if I would have gone to London had I known that I was taking my first step toward a man who personified evil and madness. Would I have gone knowing what pleasure and pain, hope and despair, terror and glory, would be mine? But the fact is that I did go; and perhaps, when I have finished recording my tale, I will know whether I am more glad or sorry. Excerpted from
a novel by Laura Joh Rowland
Overlook Press, April 2008

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