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disgrace to all his relatives. He had been
expelled the militia regiment in which he once
held a commission. He had tried one employment
after another, and had discreditably failed
in all. He had lived on his wits in the lowest
and basest meaning of the phrase. He had
married a poor ignorant woman, who had served as a
waitress at some low eating-house, who had
unexpectedly come into a little money, and whose
small inheritance he had mercilessly squandered
to the last farthing. In plain terms, he was an
incorrigible scoundrel; and he had now added
one more to the list of his many misdemeanours,
by impudently breaking the conditions on which
Mrs. Vanstone had hitherto assisted him. She
had written at once to the address indicated on
his card, in such terms and to such purpose as
would prevent him, she hoped and believed,
from ever venturing near the house again.
Such were the terms in which Mrs. Vanstone
concluded that first part of her letter which
referred exclusively to Captain Wragge.

Although the statement thus presented
implied a weakness in Mrs. Vanstone's character
which Miss Garth, after many years of intimate
experience, had never detected, she accepted the
explanation as a matter of course; receiving it
all the more readily, inasmuch as it might, without
impropriety, be communicated in substance
to appease the irritated curiosity of the two
young ladies. For this reason especially, she
perused the first half of the letter with an agreeable
sense of relief. Far different was the
impression produced on her, when she advanced
to the second half, and when she had read it to
the end.

The second part of the letter was devoted to
the subject of the journey to London.

Mrs. Vanstone began by referring to the long
and intimate friendship which had existed
between Miss Garth and herself. She now felt it
due to that friendship to explain confidentially
the motive which had induced her to leave home
with her husband. Miss Garth had delicately
refrained from showing it, but she must
naturally have felt, and must still be feeling, great
surprise at the mystery in which their departure
had been involved; and she must doubtless have
asked herself why Mrs. Vanstone should have
been associated with family affairs which (in her
independent position as to relatives) must
necessarily concern Mr. Vanstone alone.

Without touching on those affairs, which it
was neither desirable nor necessary to do, Mrs.
Vanstone then proceeded to say that she would
at once set all Miss Garth's doubts at rest, so
far as they related to herself, by one plain
acknowledgment. Her object in accompanying
her husband to London was to see a certain
celebrated physician, and to consult him
privately on a very delicate and anxious matter
connected with the state of her health. In
plainer terms still, this anxious matter meant
nothing less than the possibility that she might
again become a mother.

When the doubt had first suggested itself, she
had treated it as a mere delusion. The long
interval that had elapsed since the birth of her
last child; the serious illness which had afflicted
her after the death of that child in infancy; the
time of life at which she had now arrivedall
inclined her to dismiss the idea as soon as it
arose in her mind. It had returned again and
again in spite of her. She had felt the necessity
of consulting the highest medical authority;
and had shrunk, at the same time, from alarming
her daughters by summoning a London
physician to the house. The medical opinion,
sought under the circumstances already
mentioned, had now been obtained. Her doubt was
confirmed as a certainty; and the result, which
might be expected to take place towards the
end of the summer, was, at her age and with her
constitutional peculiarities, a subject for serious
future anxiety, to say the least of it. The
physician had done his best to encourage her; but
she had understood the drift of his questions
more clearly than he supposed, and she knew
that he looked to the future with more than
ordinary doubt.

Having disclosed these particulars, Mrs.
Vanstone requested that they might be kept a secret
between her correspondent and herself. She had
felt unwilling to mention her suspicions to
Miss Garth, until those suspicions had been
confirmedand she now recoiled, with even
greater reluctance, from allowing her daughters
to be in any way alarmed about her. It
would be best to dismiss the subject for
the present, and to wait hopefully till the
summer came. In the mean time they would all,
she trusted, be happily reunited on the twenty-
third of the month, which Mr. Vanstone had
fixed on as the day for their return. With this
intimation, and with the customary messages,
the letter abruptly, and confusedly, came to an

For the first few minutes, a natural sympathy
for Mrs. Vanstone was the only feeling of which
Miss Garth was conscious after she had laid the
letter down. Ere long, however, there rose
obscurely on her mind a doubt which perplexed
and distressed her. Was the explanation which
she had just read, really as satisfactory and as
complete as it professed to be? Testing it
plainly by facts, surely not.

On the morning of her departure, Mrs.
Vanstone had unquestionably left the house in good
spirits. At her age, and in her state of health,
were good spirits compatible with such an errand
to a physician as the errand on which she was
bent? Then, again, had that letter from New
Orleans, which had necessitated Mr. Vanstone's
departure, no share in occasioning his wife's
departure as well? Why, otherwise, had she
looked up so eagerly the moment her daughter
mentioned the post-mark? Granting the avowed
motive for her journeydid not her manner, on
the morning when the letter was opened, and
again on the morning of departure, suggest the
existence of some other motive which her letter
kept concealed?

If it was so, the conclusion that followed was