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IF Captain Wragge could have looked into
Mrs. Lecount's roomwhile he stood on the
parade watching the light in her windowhe
would have seen the housekeeper sitting absorbed
in meditation over a worthless little morsel of
brown stuff, which lay on her toilet-table.

However exasperating to herself the conclusion
might be, Mrs. Lecount could not fail to see that
she had been thus far met and baffled successfully
at every point. What was she to do next? If
she sent for Mr. Pendril when he came to
Aldborough (with only a few hours spared from his
business at her disposal)—what definite course
would there be for him to follow? If she showed
Mr. Noel Vanstone the original letter from which
her note had been copied, he would apply
instantly to the writer for an explanation; would
expose the fabricated story by which Mrs.
Lecount had succeeded in imposing on Miss Garth;
and would, in any event, still declare, on the
evidence of his own eyes, that the test by the marks
on the neck had utterly failed. Miss Vanstone,
the elder, whose unexpected presence at
Aldborough might have done wonderswhose voice
in the hall at North Shingles, even if she had
been admitted no farther, might have reached her
sister's ears, and led to instant resultsMiss
Vanstone, the elder, was out of the country, and
was not likely to return for a month at least.
Look as anxiously as Mrs. Lecount might along
the course which she had hitherto followed,
she failed to see her way through the accumulated
obstacles which now barred her advance.

Other women, in this position, might have
waited until circumstances altered, and helped
them. Mrs. Lecount boldly retraced her steps,
and determined to find her way to her end in
a new direction. Resigning, for the present, all
further attempt to prove that the false Miss
Bygrave was the true Magdalen Vanstoneshe
resolved to narrow the range of her next efforts;
to leave the actual question of Magdalen's
identity untouched; and to rest satisfied with
convincing her master of this simple factthat the
young lady who was charming him at North
Shingles, and the disguised woman who had
terrified him in Vauxhall Walk, were one and the
same person.

The means of effecting this new object were,
to all appearance, far less easy of attainment
than the means of effecting the object which
Mrs. Lecount had just resigned. Here, no help
was to be expected from othersno ostensibly
benevolent motives could be put forward as a
blindno appeal could be made to Mr. Pendril
or to Miss Garth. Here, the housekeeper's only
chance of success depended in the first place on
her being able to effect a stolen entrance into
the house; and, in the second place, on her ability
to discover whether that memorable alpaca dress
from which she had secretly cut the fragment of
stuff, happened to form part of Miss Bygrave's

Taking the difficulties now before her in their
order as they occurred, Mrs. Lecount first
resolved to devote the next few days to watching
the habits of the inmates of North Shingles, from
early in the morning to late at night; and to testing
the capacity of the one servant in the house to
resist the temptation of a bribe. Assuming that
results proved successful, and that, either by money
or by stratagem, she gained admission to North
Shingles (without the knowledge of Mr. Bygrave
or his niece), she turned next to the second
difficulty of the twothe difficulty of obtaining
access to Miss Bygrave's wardrobe.

If the servant proved corruptible, all obstacles
in this direction might be considered as removed
beforehand. But, if the servant proved honest,
the new problem was no easy one to solve.

Long and careful consideration of the question
led the housekeeper, at last, to the bold resolution
of obtaining an interviewif the servant
failed herwith Mrs. Bygrave herself. What
was the true cause of this lady's mysterious
seclusion? Was she a person of the strictest
and the most inconvenient integrity? or a person
who could not be depended on to
preserve a secret? or a person who was as artful
as Mr. Bygrave himself, and who was kept in
reserve to forward the object of some new
deception which was yet to come? In the first
two cases, Mrs. Lecount could trust in her
own powers of dissimulation, and in the results
which they might achieve. In the last case
(if no other end was gained), it might be of vital
importance to her to discover an enemy hidden