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WHEN she returned to the house, Miss Garth
made no attempt to conceal her unfavourable
opinion of the stranger in black. His object
was, no doubt, to obtain pecuniary assistance
from Mrs. Vanstone. What the nature of his
claim on her might be, seemed less intelligible
unless it was the claim of a poor relation. Had
Mrs. Vanstone ever mentioned, in the presence
of her daughters, the name of Captain Wragge?
Neither of them recollected to have heard it
before. Had Mrs. Vanstone ever referred to any
poor relations who were dependent on her? On
the contrary, she had mentioned of late years
that she doubted having any relations at all who
were still living. And yet, Captain Wragge had
plainly declared that the name on his card would
recal "a family matter" to Mrs. Vanstone's
memory. What did it mean? A false statement,
on the stranger's part, without any intelligible
reason for making it? Or a second mystery,
following close on the heels of the
mysterious journey to London?

All the probabilities seemed to point to some
hidden connexion between the "family affairs"
which had taken Mr. and Mrs. Vanstone so
suddenly from home, and the "family matter"
associated with the name of Captain Wragge.
Miss Garth's doubts of the day before thronged
back on her mind, as she sealed her letter to
Mrs. Vanstone, with the captain's card added
by way of enclosure.

By return of post the answer arrived.

Always the earliest riser among the ladies
of the house, Miss Garth was alone in the
breakfast-room when the letter was brought in.
Her first glance at its contents convinced
her of the necessity of reading it carefully
through in retirement, before any embarrassing
questions could be put to her. Leaving a
message with the servant requesting Norah to make
the tea that morning, she went up-stairs at once
to the solitude and security of her own room.

Mrs. Vanstone's letter extended to some
length. The first part of it referred to Captain
Wragge, and entered unreservedly into all
necessary explanations relating to the man himself,
and to the motive which had brought him to

It appeared from Mrs. Vanstone's statement
that her mother had been twice married. Her
mother's first husband had been a certain Doctor
Wraggea widower with young children; and
one of those children was now the unmilitary-
looking captain, whose address was "Post-office,
Bristol." Mrs. Wragge had left no family by her
first husband; and had afterwards married Mrs.
Vanstone's father. Of that second marriage
Mrs. Vanstone herself was the only issue. She
had lost both her parents while she was still a
young woman; and, in course of years, her
mother's family connexions (who were then her
nearest surviving relatives) had been one after
another removed by death. She was left, at the
present writing, without a relation in the world
excepting, perhaps, certain cousins whom she
had never seen, and of whose existence even, at
the present moment, she possessed no positive

Under these circumstances, what family claim
had Captain Wragge on Mrs. Vanstone?

None whatever. As the son of her mother's
first husband, by that husband's first wife, not even
the widest stretch of courtesy could have included
him at any time in the list of Mrs. Vanstone's
most distant relations. Well knowing this (the
letter proceeded to say), he had nevertheless
persisted in forcing himself upon her as a species of
family connexion; and she had weakly sanctioned
the intrusion, solely from the dread that he would
otherwise introduce himself to Mr. Vanstone's
notice, and take unblushing advantage of Mr.
Vanstone's generosity. Shrinking, naturally,
from allowing her husband to be annoyed, and
probably cheated as well, by any person who
claimed, however preposterously, a family
connexion with herself, it had been her practice,
for many years past, to assist the captain from
her own purse, on the condition that he should
never come near the house, and that he should
not presume to make any application whatever
to Mr. Vanstone.

Readily admitting the imprudence of this
course, Mrs. Vanstone further explained that
she had perhaps been the more inclined to adopt
it, through having been always accustomed, in
her early days, to see the captain living now
upon one member, and now upon another, of her
mother's family. Possessed of abilities which
might have raised him to distinction, in almost
any career that he could have chosen, he had
nevertheless, from his youth upwards, been a