+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error




THE postmark and the handwriting on the
address (admirably imitated from the original),
warned Mrs. Lecount of the contents of the
letter before she opened it.

After waiting a moment to compose herself,
she read the announcement of her brother's relapse.

There was nothing in the handwriting, there
was no expression in any part of the letter,
which could suggest to her mind the faintest
suspicion of foul play. Not the shadow of a
doubt occurred to her that the summons to
her brother's bedside was genuine. The hand
that held the letter dropped heavily into her
lap; she became pale, and old, and haggard,
in a moment. Thoughts, far removed from her
present aims and interests; remembrances that
carried her back to other lands than England, to
other times than the time of her life in service,
prolonged their inner shadows to the surface, and
showed the traces of their mysterious passage
darkly on her face. The minutes followed each
other; and still the servant below stairs waited
vainly for the parlour bell. The minutes followed
each other; and still she sat, tearless and quiet,
dead to the present and the future, living in the

The entrance of the servant, uncalled, roused
her. With a heavy sigh, the cold and secret
woman folded the letter up again, and addressed
herself to the interest and the duties of the passing

She decided the question of going or not going,
to Zurich, after a very brief consideration of it.
Before she had drawn her chair to the breakfast-table,
she had resolved to go.

Admirably as Captain Wragge's stratagem had
worked, it might have failedunassisted by the
occurrence of the morningto achieve this result.
The very accident against which it had
been the captain's chief anxiety to guardthe
accident which had just taken place in spite of
himwas, of all the events that could have happened,
the one event which falsified every previous
calculation, by directly forwarding the
main purpose of the conspiracy! If Mrs. Lecount
had not obtained the information of which
she was in search, before the receipt of the letter
from Zurich, the letter might have addressed
her in vain. She would have hesitated, before
deciding to leave England; and that hesitation
might have proved fatal to the captain's scheme.

As it was, with the plain proofs in her possession
with the gown discovered in Magdalen's
wardrobe; with the piece cut out of it, in her
own pocket-book; and with the knowledge, obtained
from Mrs. Wragge, of the very house in
which the disguise had been put onMrs. Lecount
had now at her command the means of
warning Mr. Noel Vanstone, as she had never
been able to warn him yetor, in other words,
the means of guarding against any dangerous
tendencies towards reconciliation with the Bygraves,
which might otherwise have entered his
mind during her absence at Zurich. The only
difficulty which now perplexed her, was the difficulty
of deciding whether she should communicate
with her master personally, or by writing, before
her departure from England.

She looked again at the doctor's letter. The
word "instantly," in the sentence which summoned
her to her dying brother, was twice underlined.
Admiral Bartram's house was at some
distance from the railway; the time consumed in
driving to St. Crux, and driving back again,
might be time fatally lost on the journey to
Zurich. Although she would infinitely have preferred
a personal interview with Mr. Noel Vanstone,
there was no choice, on a matter of life
and death, but to save the precious hours by
writing to him.

After sending to secure a place at once in the
early coach, she sat down to write to her master.

Her first thought was to tell him all that
had happened at North Shingles that morning.
On reflection, however, she rejected the
idea. Once already (in copying the personal
description from Miss Garth's letter) she had
trusted her weapons in her master's hands, and
Mr. Bygrave had contrived to turn them against
her. She resolved this time to keep them
strictly in her own possession. The secret of the
missing fragment of the Alpaca dress was known
to no living creature but herself; and, until her
return to England, she determined to keep it to
herself. The necessary impression might be produced
on Mr. Noel Vanstone's mind without