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WHAT had happened at Aldborough, in
Captain Wragge's absence?

These were the events that occurred, from the
time of his departure to the time of his return.

As soon as the chaise had left North Shingles,
Mrs. Wragge received the message which her
husband had charged the servant to deliver.
She hastened into the parlour, bewildered by
her stormy interview with the captain, and
penitently conscious that she had done wrong,
without knowing what the wrong was. If
Magdalen's mind had been unoccupied by the
one idea of the marriage which now filled it
if she had possessed composure enough to listen
to Mrs. Wragge's rambling narrative of what
had happened during her interview with the
housekeeperMrs. Lecount's visit to the
wardrobe must, sooner or later, have formed part of
the disclosure; and Magdalen, although she
might never have guessed the truth, must at
least have been warned that there was some
element of danger lurking treacherously in the
Alpaca dress. As it was, no such consequence
as this followed Mrs. Wragge's appearance in
the parlour; for no such consequence was now

Events which had happened earlier in the
morning, events which had happened for days
and weeks past, had vanished as completely from
Magdalen's mind, as if they had never taken
place. The horror of the coming Mondaythe
merciless certainty implied in the appointment
of the day and hourpetrified all feeling in her,
and annihilated all thought. Mrs. Wragge made
three separate attempts to enter on the subject
of the housekeeper's visit. The first time she
might as well have addressed herself to the wind,
or to the sea. The second attempt seemed
likely to be more successful. Magdalen sighed,
listened for a moment indifferently, and then
dismissed the subject. "It doesn't matter," she
said. "The end has come all the same. I'm
not angry with you. Say no more." Later in
the day, from not knowing what else to talk
about, Mrs. Wragge tried again. This time,
Magdalen turned on her impatiently. "For
God's sake, don't worry me about trifles! I
can't bear it." Mrs. Wragge closed her lips on
the spot, and returned to the subject no more.
Magdalen, who had been kind to her at all other
times, had angrily forbidden it. The captain
utterly ignorant of Mrs. Lecount's interest in
the secrets of the wardrobehad never so much
as approached it. All the information that he
had extracted from his wife's mental confusion,
he had extracted by putting direct questions,
derived purely from the resources of his own
knowledge. He had insisted on plain answers,
without excuses of any kind; he had carried his
point as usual; and his departure the same
morning had left him no chance of reopening the
question, even if his irritation against his wife
had permitted him to do so. There the Alpaca
dress hung, neglected in the dark; the unnoticed,
unsuspected centre of dangers that were still to

Towards the afternoon, Mrs. Wragge took
courage to start a suggestion of her ownshe
pleaded for a little turn in the fresh air.

Magdalen passively put on her hat; passively
accompanied her companion along the public
walk, until they reached its northward extremity.
Here the beach was left solitary, and here they
sat down, side by side, on the shingle. It was a
bright exhilarating day; pleasure-boats were sailing
on the calm blue water; Aldborough was
idling happily afloat and ashore. Mrs. Wragge
recovered her spirits in the gaiety of the prospect
she amused herself, like a child, by tossing
pebbles into the sea. From time to time she
stole a questioning glance at Magdalen, and saw
no encouragement in her manner, no change to
cordiality in her face. She sat silent on the
slope of the shingle, with her elbow on her knee,
and her head resting on her hand, looking out
over the sealooking with a rapt attention, and
yet with eyes that seemed to notice nothing.
Mrs. Wragge wearied of the pebbles, and lost
her interest in looking at the pleasure-boats.
Her great head began to nod heavily, and
she dozed in the warm drowsy air. When she
woke, the pleasure-boats were far off; their sails
were white specks in the distance. The idlers
on the beach were thinned in number; the sun
was low in the heaven; the blue sea was
darker, and rippled by a breeze. Changes on
sky and earth and ocean told of the waning day;
change was everywhereexcept close at her
side. There Magdalen sat, in the same position,