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winter and summer, when the admiral became
anxious about the condition of the rooms which
he was not occupying at the time; and when he
insisted on investigating the state of the furniture,
the pictures, and the books with his own
eyes. On these occasionsin summer as in
wintera blazing fire was kindled for some days
previously, in the large grate, and the charcoal
was lit in the tripod-pan, to keep the Banqueting-
Hall as warm as circumstances would admit.
As soon as the old gentleman's anxieties were
set at rest, the rooms were shut up again; and
"Freeze-your-Bones" was once more abandoned
for weeks and weeks together to damp, desolation,
and decay. The last of these temporary migrations
had taken place only a few days since; the
admiral had satisfied himself that the rooms in
the east wing were none the worse for the absence
of their masterand he might now be safely
reckoned on as settled in the north wing for
weeks, and perhaps, if the season was cold, for
months to come.

Trifling as they might be in themselves, these
particulars were of serious importance to
Magdalenfor they helped her to fix the limits of
the field of search. Assuming that the admiral
was likely to keep all his important documents
within easy reach of his own hand, she might
now feel certain that the Secret Trust was secured
in one or other of the rooms in the north wing.

In which room? That question was not easy
to answer.

Of the four inhabitable rooms which were all
at the admiral's disposal during the daythat
is to say, of the dining-room, the library, the
morning-room, and the drawing-room opening
out of the vestibulethe library appeared to be
the apartment in which, if he had a preference,
he passed the greater part of his time. There
was a table, in this room, with drawers that
locked; there was a magnificent Italian cabinet,
with doors that locked; there were five cupboards
under the bookcases, every one of which locked.
There were receptacles similarly secured, in the
other rooms; and in all or any of these papers
might be kept.

She had answered the bell, and had seen him
locking and unlocking, now in one room, now
in anotherbut oftenest in the library. She
had noticed occasionally that his expression
was fretful and impatient, when he looked round
at her from an open cabinet or cupboard, and
gave his orders; and she inferred that something
in connexion with his papers and possessionsit
might, or might not, be the Secret Trust
irritated and annoyed him from time to time. She
had heard him, more than once, lock something
up in one of the roomscome out, and go into
another roomwait there a few minutesthen
return to the first room, with his keys in his
handand sharply turn the locks, and turn them
again. This fidgety anxiety about his keys and
his cupboards might be the result of the inbred
restlessness of his disposition, aggravated in a
naturally active man, by the aimless indolence of
a life in retirementa life drifting backwards and
forwards among trifles, with no regular employment
to steady it at any given hour of the day.
On the other hand, it was just as probable that
these comings and goings, these lockings and
unlockings, might be attributable to the
existence of some private responsibility, which
had unexpectedly intruded itself into the old
man's easy existence, and which tormented him
with a sense of oppression, new to the
experience of his later years. Either one of these
interpretations might explain his conduct as
reasonably and as probably as the other. Which
was the right interpretation of the two, it was,
in Magdalen's position, impossible to say.

The one certain discovery at which she arrived,
was made in her first day's observation of him.
The admiral was a rigidly careful man with his

All the smaller keys, he kept on a ring in the
breast-pocket of his coat. The larger, he locked
up together; generally, but not always, in one
of the drawers of the library-table. Sometimes,
he left them secured in this way, at night;
sometimes, he took them up to the bedroom with him
in a little basket. He had no regular times for
leaving them, or for taking them away with him;
he had no discoverable reason for now securing
them in the library-table drawer, and now again
locking them up in some other place. The
inveterate wilfulness and caprice of his proceedings,
in these particulars, defied every effort to reduce
them to a system, and baffled all attempts at
calculating on them beforehand.

The hope of gaining positive information to
act on, by laying artful snares for him which
he might fall into in his talk, proved, from the
outset, to be utterly futile.

In Magdalen's situation, all experiments of this
sort would have been in the last degree difficult
and dangerous, with any man. With the admiral,
they were simply impossible. His tendency to
veer about from one subject to another; his
habit of keeping his tongue perpetually going,
so long as there was anybody, no matter whom,
within reach of the sound of his voice; his
comical want of all dignity and reserve with his
servants, promised, in appearance, much; and
performed, in realitynothing. No matter how
diffidently, or how respectfully, Magdalen might
presume on her master's example, and on her
master's evident liking for herthe old man
instantly discovered the advance she was making
from her proper position, and instantly put her
back in it again, with a quaint good humour
which inflicted no pain, but with a blunt
straightforwardness of purpose which permitted no
escape. Contradictory as it may sound, Admiral
Bartram was too familiar to be approached; he
kept the distance between himself and his
servant more effectually than if he had been the
proudest man in England. The systematic
reserve of a superior towards an inferior, may
be occasionally overcomethe systematic
familiarity, never.