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weather; he hated the place; he foresaw the
annoyance of more meetings with Mr. Bygrave
and he was determined to go to St. Crux the
first thing the next morning. Lecount could stay
behind to pack up the curiosities, and settle with
the tradespeople, and could follow him to the
admiral's on the next day. The housekeeper
was a little staggered by the tone and manner in
which he gave these orders. He had, to her own
certain knowledge, effected no communication of
any sort with North Shinglesand yet he seemed
determined to leave Aldborough at the earliest
possible opportunity. For the first time she
hesitated in her adherence to her own conclusions.
She remembered that her master had
complained of the Bygraves, before they returned to
Aldborough; and she was conscious that her own
incredulity had once already misled her, when
the appearance of the travelling carriage at the
door had proved even Mr. Bygrave himself to be
as good as his word.

Still, Mrs. Lecount determined to act with
unrelenting caution to the last. That night, when
the doors were closed, she privately removed the
keys from the door in front and the door at the
back. She then softly opened her bedroom window,
and sat down by it, with her bonnet and cloak on,
to prevent her taking cold. Mr. Noel Vanstone's
window was on the same side of the house as
her own. If any one came in the dark to speak
to him from the garden beneath, they would
speak to his housekeeper as well. Prepared at
all points to intercept every form of clandestine
communication which stratagem could invent,
Mrs. Lecount watched through the quiet night.
When morning came, she stole down stairs before
the servant was up, restored the keys to their
places, and re-occupied her position in the
parlour, until Mr. Noel Vanstone made his appearance
at the breakfast-table. Had he altered his
mind? No. He declined posting to the railway,
on account of the expense; but he was as
firm as ever in his resolution to go to St. Crux.
He desired that an inside place might be secured
for him in the early coach. Suspicious to the
last, Mrs. Lecount sent the baker's man to take
the place. He was a public servant, and Mr.
Bygrave would not suspect him of performing a
private errand.

The coach called at Sea View. Mrs. Lecount
saw her master established in his place, and
ascertained that the other three inside seats were
already occupied by strangers. She inquired of
the coachman if the outside places (all of which
were not yet filled up) had their full complement
of passengers also. The man replied in the
affirmative. He had two gentlemen to call for in
the town, and the others would take their places
at the inn. Mrs. Lecount forthwith turned her
steps towards the inn, and took up her position
on the parade opposite, from a point of view
which would enable her to see the last of the
coach on its departure. In ten minutes more it
rattled away, full outside and in; and the
housekeeper's own eyes assured her that neither Mr.
Bygrave himself, nor any one belonging to North
Shingles, was among the passengers.

There was only one more precaution to take,
and Mrs. Lecount did not neglect it. Mr.
Bygrave had doubtless seen the coach call at Sea
View. He might hire a carriage and follow it to
the railway, on pure speculation. Mrs. Lecount
remained within view of the inn (the only place
at which a carriage could be obtained) for nearly
an hour longer, waiting for events. Nothing
happened; no carriage made its appearance; no
pursuit of Mr. Noel Vanstone was now within
the range of human possibility. The long strain
on Mrs. Lecount's mind relaxed at last. She
left her seat on the parade, and returned, in
higher spirits than usual, to perform the closing
household ceremonies at Sea View.

She sat down alone in the parlour, and drew a
long breath of relief. Captain Wragge's calculations
had not deceived him. The evidence of her
own senses had at last conquered the housekeeper's
incredulity, and had literally forced her
into the opposite extreme of belief.

Estimating the events of the last three days
from her own experience of them; knowing (as
she certainly knew) that the first idea of going to
St. Crux had been started by herself, and that
her master had found no opportunity and shown
no inclination to inform the family at North
Shingles that he had accepted her proposalMrs.
Lecount was fairly compelled to acknowledge
that not a fragment of foundation remained to
justify the continued suspicion of treachery in
her own mind. Looking at the succession of
circumstances under the new light thrown on
them by results, she could see nothing unaccountable
nothing contradictory anywhere. The
attempt to pass off the forged pictures as originals,
was in perfect harmony with the character of
such a man as Mr. Bygrave. Her master's
indignation at the attempt to impose on him; his
plainly-expressed suspicion that Miss Bygrave
was privy to it; his disappointment in the niece;
his contemptuous treatment of the uncle on the
parade; his weariness of the place which had
been the scene of his rash intimacy with strangers,
and his readiness to quit it that morningall
commended themselves as genuine realities to the
housekeeper's mind, for one sufficient reason.
Her own eyes had seen Mr. Noel Vanstone take
his departure from Aldborough without leaving,
or attempting to leave, a single trace behind him
for the Bygraves to follow.

Thus far the housekeeper's conclusions led
herbut no farther. She was too shrewd a
woman to trust the future to chance and fortune.
Her master's variable temper might relent. Accident
might, at any time, give Mr. Bygrave an
opportunity of repairing the error that he had
committed, and of artfully regaining his lost place
in Mr. Noel Vanstone's estimation. Admitting
that circumstances had at last declared themselves
unmistakably in her favour, Mrs. Lecount
was not the less convinced that nothing would
permanently assure her master's security for the