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"There is one little difficulty, Mr. Vanstone,
which I think we have both overlooked. Your
housekeeper's recent conduct inclines me to
fear that she will view the approaching change in
your life with anything but a friendly eye.
Probably, you have not thought it necessary yet to
inform her of the new tie which you propose to

Mr. Noel Vanstone turned pale at the bare
idea of explaining himself to Mrs. Lecount.

"I can't tell what I'm to do," he said, glancing
aside nervously at the window, as if he expected
to see the housekeeper peeping in. "I hate all
awkward positions; and this is the most
unpleasant position I ever was placed in. You
don't know what a terrible woman Lecount is.
I'm not afraid of her; pray don't suppose I'm
afraid of her–—"

At those words, his fears rose in his throat,
and gave him the lie direct by stopping his

"Pray don't trouble yourself to explain," said
Captain Wragge, coming to the rescue. "This
is the common story, Mr. Vanstone. Here
is a woman who has grown old in your service,
and in your father's service before you; a woman
who has contrived, in all sorts of small underhand
ways, to presume systematically on her
position for years and years past; a woman, in
short, whom your inconsiderate but perfectly
natural kindness, has allowed to claim a right of
property in you–—–"

"Property!" cried Mr. Noel Vanstone,
mistaking the captain, and letting the truth escape
him through sheer inability to conceal his fears
any longer. " I don't know what amount
of property she won't claim. She'll make me pay
for my father, as well as for myself. Thousands,
Mr. Bygravethousands of pounds sterling out
of my pocket!!!" He clasped his hands in
despair at the picture of pecuniary compulsion,
which his fancy had conjured uphis own golden
life-blood spouting from him in great jets of
prodigality under the lancet of Mrs. Lecount!

"Gently, Mr. Vanstonegently! The woman
knows nothing so far, and the money is not gone

"No, no; the money is not gone, as you say.
I'm only nervous about it; I can't help being
nervous. You were saying something just now;
you were going to give me advice. I value your
adviceyou don't know how highly I value your
advice." He said those words with a conciliatory
smile, which was more than helpless: it was
absolutely servile in its dependence on his
judicious friend.

"I was only assuring you, my dear sir, that
I understood your position," said the captain.
"I see your difficulty as plainly as you can see
it yourself. Tell a woman like Mrs. Lecount
that she must come off her domestic throne, to
make way for a young and beautiful
successor, armed with the authority of a wife;
and an unpleasant scene must be the inevitable
result. An unpleasant scene, Mr. Vanstone, if
your opinion of your housekeeper's sanity is well
founded.  Something far more serious, if my
opinion that her intellect is unsettled, happens to
turn out the right one."

"I don't say it isn't my opinion, too," rejoined
Mr. Noel Vanstone. "Especially after what has
happened to-day."

Captain Wragge immediately begged to know
what the event alluded to might be.

Mr. Noel Vanstone, thereupon, explained
with an infinite number of parentheses, all
referring to himselfthat Mrs. Lecount had put the
dreaded question relating to the little note in
her master's pocket, barely an hour since. He
had answered her inquiry as Mr. Bygrave had
advised him. On hearing that the accuracy
of the personal description had been fairly put to
the test, and had failed in the one important
particular of the moles on the neck, Mrs.
Lecount had considered a little, and had then asked
him whether he had shown her note to Mr.
Bygrave, before the experiment was tried? He had
answered in the negative, as the only safe
form of reply that he could think of, on the spur
of the momentand the housekeeper had there-
upon addressed him in these strange and startling
words: "You are keeping the truth from me,
Mr. Noel. You are trusting strangers, and
doubting your old servant and your old friend.
Every time you go to Mr. Bygrave's house, every
time you see Miss Bygrave, you are drawing
nearer and nearer to your destruction. They
have got the bandage over your eyes, in spite of
me; but I tell them, and tell you, before many
days are over, I will take it off!" To this
extraordinary outbreakaccompanied, as it was,
by an expression in Mrs. Lecount's face which
he had never seen there beforeMr. Noel
Vanstone made no reply. Mr. Bygrave's conviction
that there was a lurking taint of insanity in the
housekeeper's blood, had recurred to his memory,
and he had left the room at the first opportunity.

Captain Wragge listened with the closest
attention to the narrative thus presented to him.
But one conclusion could be drawn from itit
was a plain warning to him to hasten the end.

"I am not surprised," he said, gravely, "to
hear that you are inclining more favourably to my
opinion. After what you have just told me, Mr.
Vanstone, no sensible man could do otherwise.
This is becoming serious. I hardly know what
results may not be expected to follow the
communication of your approaching change of life
to Mrs. Lecount. My niece may be involved in
those results. She is nervous; she is sensitive
in the highest degree; she is the innocent object
of this woman's unreasoning hatred and distrust.
You alarm me, sir! I am not easily thrown off
my balancebut I acknowledge you alarm me
for the future." He frowned, shook his head,
and looked at his visitor despondently.

Mr. Noel Vanstone began to feel uneasy. The
change in Mr. Bygrave's manner seemed ominous
of a reconsideration of his proposals from a new,