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his head. Though his youngest daughter might
resemble him in nothing else, it was easy to see
where Magdalen's unmethodical habits came

"I dare say I have left it in the library, along
with my other keys," said Mr. Vanstone. "Go
and look for it, my dear."

"You really should check Magdalen," pleaded
Mrs. Vanstone, addressing her husband, when
her daughter had left the room. "Those habits
of mimicry are growing on her; and she speaks
to you with a levity which it is positively shocking
to hear."

"Exactly what I have said myself, till I am
tired of repeating it," remarked Miss Garth.
"She treats Mr. Vanstone as if he was a kind
of younger brother of hers."

"You are kind to us in everything else, papa;
and you make kind allowance for Magdalen's
high spiritsdon't you?" said the quiet Norah,
taking her father's part and her sister's, with so
little show of resolution on the surface, that few
observers would have been sharp enough to
detect the genuine substance beneath it.

"Thank you, my dear," said good-natured Mr.
Vanstone. "Thank you, for a very pretty
speech. As for Magdalen," he continued,
addressing his wife and Miss Garth, "she's an
unbroken filly. Let her caper and kick in the
paddock to her heart's content. Time enough to
break her to harness, when she gets a little older."

The door opened, and Magdalen returned with
the key. She unlocked the post-bag at the
sideboard and poured out the letters in a heap.
Sorting them gaily in less than a minute, she
approached the breakfast-table with both hands
full; and delivered the letters all round with the
business-like rapidity of a London postman.

"Two for Norah," she announced, beginning
with her sister. "Three for Miss Garth. None
for mamma. One for me. And the other six all
for papa. You lazy old darling, you hate
answering letters, don't you?" pursued Magdalen,
dropping the postman's character and assuming
the daughter's. "How you will grumble and
fidget in the study! and how you will wish there
were no such things as letters in the world! and
how red your nice old bald head will get at the
top with the worry of writing the answers! and
how many of the answers you will leave until
to-morrow, after all! The Bristol Theatre's
open, papa" she whispered, slyly and suddenly
in her father's ear; "I saw it in the newspaper
when I went to the library to get the key. Let's
go to-morrow night!"

While his daughter was chattering, Mr.
Vanstone was mechanically sorting his letters. He
turned over the first four, in succession, and
looked carelessly at the addresses. When he
came to the fifth, his attention, which had
hitherto wandered towards Magdalen, suddenly
became fixed on the post-mark of the letter.

Stooping over him, with her head on his
shoulder, Magdalen could see the post-mark as
plainly as her father saw it:—NEW ORLEANS.

"An American letter, papa!" she said. " Who
do you know at New Orleans?"

Mrs. Vanstone started, and looked eagerly at
her husband, the moment Magdalen spoke those

Mr. Vanstone said nothing. He quietly
removed his daughter's arm from his neck, as if he
wished to be free from all interruption. She
returned accordingly to her place at the breakfast-
table. Her father, with the letter in his
hand, waited a little before he opened it; her
mother looking at him, the while, with an eager
expectant attention, which attracted Miss Garth's
notice and Norah's, as well as Magdalen's.

After a minute or more of hesitation, Mr.
Vanstone opened the letter.

His face changed colour the instant he read
the first lines; his cheeks fading to a dull,
yellow-brown hue, which would have been ashy
paleness in a less florid man; and his expression
becoming saddened and overclouded in a
moment. Norah and Magdalen, watching anxiously,
saw nothing but the change that passed over
their father. Miss Garth alone observed the
effect which that change produced on the attentive
mistress of the house.

It was not the effect which she, or any one, could
have anticipated. Mrs. Vanstone looked excited
rather than alarmed. A faint flush rose on her
cheeksher eyes brightenedshe stirred the tea
round and round in her cup in a restless
impatient manner which was not natural to her.

Magdalen, in her capacity of spoilt child, was,
as usual, the first to break the silence.

"What is the matter, papa?" she asked.

"Nothing," said Mr. Vanstone, sharply, without
looking up at her.

"I'm sure there must be something," persisted
Magdalen. "I'm sure there is bad news, papa,
in that American letter."

"There is nothing in the letter that concerns
you" said Mr. Vanstone.

It was the first direct rebuff that Magdalen
had ever received from her father. She looked
at him with an incredulous surprise, which would
have been irresistibly absurd under less serious

Nothing more was said. For the first time,
perhaps, in their lives, the family sat round the
breakfast-table in painful silence. Mr.
Vanstone's hearty morning appetite, like his hearty
morning spirits, was gone. He absently broke
off some morsels of dry toast from the rack near
him, absently finished his first cup of teathen
asked for a second, which he left before him

"Norah," he said, after an interval, "you
needn't wait for me. Magdalen, my dear, you
can go when you like."

His daughters rose immediately; and Miss
Garth considerately followed their example.
When an easy-tempered man does assert himself
in his family, the rarity of the demonstration
invariably has its effect; and the will of that
easy-tempered man is Law.