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"MISS GARTH, sir," said Mrs. Lecount, opening
the parlour door, and announcing the visitor's
appearance, with the tone and manner of a well-
bred servant.

Magdalen found herself in a long, narrow room
consisting of a back parlour and a front parlour,
which had been thrown into one by opening the
folding-doors between them. Seated not far
from the front window, with his back to the light,
she saw a frail, flaxen-haired, self-satisfied little
man, clothed in a fair white dressing-gown,
many sizes too large for him, with a nosegay of
violets drawn neatly through the button-hole over
his breast. He looked from thirty to five-and-
thirty years old. His complexion was as delicate
as a young girl's, his eyes were of the lightest blue,
his upper lip was adorned by a weak little white
moustache, waxed and twisted at either end into
a thin spiral curl. When any object specially
attracted his attention, he half closed his eyelids
to look at it. When he smiled, the skin at his
temples crumpled itself up into a nest of wicked
little wrinkles. He had a plate of strawberries
on his lap, with a napkin under them to preserve
the purity of his white dressing-gown. At his
right hand stood a large round table, covered
with a collection of foreign curiosities, which
seemed to have been brought together from the
four quarters of the globe. Stuffed birds from
Africa, porcelain monsters from China, silver
ornaments and utensils from India and Peru,
mosaic work from Italy, and bronzes from France
were all heaped together, pell-mell, with the
coarse deal boxes and dingy leather cases which
served to pack them for travelling. The little
man apologised, with a cheerful and simpering
conceit, for his litter of curiosities, his dressing-
gown, and his delicate health; and, waving his
hand towards a chair, placed his attention, with
pragmatical politeness, at the visitor's disposal.
Magdalen looked at him with a momentary doubt
whether Mrs. Lecount had not deceived her.
Was this the man who mercilessly followed the
path on which his merciless father had walked
before him? She could hardly believe it. "Take
a seat, Miss Garth," he repeated. Observing her
hesitation, and announcing his own name, in a
high, thin, fretfully-consequential voice: "I am
Mr. Noel Vanstone. You wished to see me
here I am!"

"May I be permitted to retire, sir?" inquired
Mrs. Lecount.

"Certainly not!" replied her master. "Stay
here, Lecount, and keep us company. Mrs.
Lecount has my fullest confidence," he continued,
addressing Magdalen. "Whatever you say to
me, ma'am, you say to her. She is a domestic
treasure. There is not another house in
England has such a treasure as Mrs. Lecount."

The housekeeper listened to the praise of her
domestic virtues with eyes immovably fixed on
her elegant chemisette. But Magdalen's quick
penetration had previously detected a look that
passed between Mrs. Lecount and her master,
which suggested that Mr. Noel Vanstone had
been instructed beforehand what to say and do
in his visitor's presence. The suspicion of this
and the obstacles which the room presented to
arranging her position in it so as to keep her face
from the lightwarned Magdalen to be on her

She had taken her chair at first nearly midway
in the room. An instant's after-reflection
induced her to move her seat towards the
left hand, so as to place herself just inside, and
close against, the left post of the folding-door. In
this position, she dexterously barred the only
passage by which Mrs. Lecount could have
skirted round the large table, and contrived to
front Magdalen by taking a chair at her master's
side. On the right hand of the table the empty
space was well occupied by the fireplace and
fender, by some travelling trunks and a large
packing-case. There was no alternative left for
Mrs. Lecount but to place herself on a line with
Magdalen, against the opposite post of the folding-
dooror to push rudely past the visitor, with
the obvious intention of getting in front of her.
With an expressive little cough, and with one
steady look at her master, the housekeeper
conceded the point, and took her seat against the
right-hand door-post. "Wait a little," thought
Mrs. Lecount; "my turn next!"

"Mind what you are about, ma'am!" cried Mr.
Noel Vanstone, as Magdalen accidentally
approached the table, in moving her chair. "Mind the