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will consent to join us. We
propose leaving Aldborough punctually at eleven o'clock.
"Believe me, dear Sir, your
"Who is the letter from?" asked
Magdalen, noticing a change in Captain Wragge's face as he read it. "What do
they want with us at Sea-View Cottage?"
"Pardon me," said the captain,
gravely, " this requires consideration. Let me have a minute or two to think."
He took a few turns up and down
the room—then suddenly stepped aside to a table in a corner, on which his
writing materials were placed. "I was not born yesterday, ma'am!" said the
captain, speaking jocosely to himself. He winked his brown eye, took up his pen,
and wrote the answer.
"Can you speak now?" inquired
Magdalen, when the servant had left the room. "What does that letter say, and
how have you answered it?"
The captain placed the letter in
her hand. "I have accepted the invitation," he replied, quietly.
Magdalen read the letter. "Hidden
enmity yesterday," she said, "and open friendship to-day. What does it mean?"
"It means," said Captain Wragge,
"that Mrs. Lecount is even sharper than I thought her. She has found you out."
"Impossible!" cried Magdalen. "
Quite impossible in the time!"
"I can't say how she has found
you out," proceeded the captain, with perfect composure. "She may know more of
your voice than we supposed she knew. Or she may have thought us, on reflection,
rather a suspicious family; and any thing suspicious, in which a woman was
concerned, may have taken her mind back to that morning call of yours in
Vauxhall Walk. Whichever way it may be, the meaning of this sudden change is
clear enough. She has found you out, and she wants to put her discovery to the
proof by slipping in an awkward question or two, under cover of a little
friendly talk. My experience of humanity has been a varied one, and Mrs. Lecount
is not the first sharp practitioner in petticoats whom I have had to deal with.
All the world's a stage, my dear girl, and one of the scenes on our little stage
is shut in from this moment."
With those words he took his copy
of Joyce's Scientific Dialogues out of his pocket. "You're done with already, my
friend!" said the captain, giving his useful information a farewell smack with
his hand, and locking it up in the cupboard. "Such is human popularity!"
continued the indomitable vagabond, putting the key cheerfully in his pocket.
"Yesterday Joyce was my all-in-all. To-day I don't care that for him!" He
snapped his fingers and sat down to breakfast.
"I don't understand you," said
Magdalen, looking at him angrily. "Are you leaving me to my own resources for
"My dear girl!" cried Captain
Wragge, "can't you accustom yourself to my dash of humor yet? I have done with
my ready-made science, simply because I am quite sure that Mrs. Lecount has done
believing in me. Haven't I accepted the invitation to Dunwich? Make your mind
easy. The help I have given you already counts for nothing compared with the
help I am going to give you now. My honor is concerned in bowling out Mrs.
Lecount. This last move of hers has made it a personal matter between us. The
woman actually thinks she can take me in!!!" cried the captain, striking his
knife-handle on the table in a transport of virtuous indignation. "By Heavens, I
never was so insulted before in my life! Draw your chair in to the table, my
dear, and give me half a minute's attention to what I have to say next."
Magdalen obeyed him. Captain
Wragge cautiously lowered his voice before he went on.
"I have told you all along," he
said, "the one thing needful is never to let Mrs. Lecount catch you with your
wits wool-gathering. I say the same, after what has happened this morning. Let
her suspect you! I defy her to find a fragment of foundation for her suspicions
unless we help her. We shall see to-day if she has been foolish enough to betray
herself to her master before she has any facts to support her. I doubt it. If
she has told him, we will rain down proofs of our identity with the Bygraves on
his feeble little head till it absolutely aches with conviction. You have two
things to do on this excursion. First, to distrust every word Mrs. Lecount says
to you. Secondly, to exert all your fascinations, and make sure of Mr. Noel
Vanstone, dating from to-day. I will give you the opportunity when we leave the
carriage and take our walk at Dunwich. Wear your hat, wear your smile; do your
figure justice, lace tight; put on your neatest boots and brightest gloves; tie
the miserable little wretch to your apron-string—tie him fast; and leave the
whole management of this matter after that to me. Steady! here is Mrs. Wragge:
we must be doubly careful in looking after her now. Show me your cap, Mrs.
Wragge! show me your shoes! What do I see on your apron? A spot? I won't have
spots! Take it off after breakfast and put on another. Pull your chair to the
middle of the table—more to the left—more still. Make the breakfast."
At a quarter before eleven Mrs.
Wragge (with her own entire concurrence) was dismissed to the back-room, to
bewilder herself over the science of dressmaking for the rest of the day.
Punctually as the clock struck the hour Mrs. Lecount and her master drove up to
the gate of North Shingles, and found Magdalen and Captain Wragge waiting for
them in the garden.
On the way to Dunwich nothing
occurred to disturb the enjoyment of the drive. Mr. Noel Vanstone was in
excellent health and high good-
humor. Lecount had apologized for
the little misunderstanding of the previous night; Lecount had petitioned for
the excursion as a treat to herself. He thought of these concessions, and looked
at Magdalen, and smirked and simpered without intermission. Mrs. Lecount acted
her part to perfection. She was motherly with Magdalen, and tenderly attentive
to Noel Vanstone. She was deeply interested in Captain Wragge's conversation,
and meekly disappointed to find it turn on general subjects to the exclusion of
science. Not a word or look escaped her which hinted in the remotest degree at
her real purpose. She was dressed with her customary elegance and propriety; and
she was the only one of the party on that sultry summer's day who was perfectly
cool in the hottest part of the journey.
As they left the carriage on
their arrival at Dunwich, the captain seized a moment when Mrs. Lecount's eye
was off him and fortified Magdalen by a last warning word.
" 'Ware the cat!" he whispered.
"She will show her claws on the way back."
They left the village and walked
to the ruins of a convent near at hand—the last relic of the once-populous city
of Dunwich which has survived the destruction of the place centuries since by
the all-devouring sea. After looking at the ruins they sought the shade of a
little wood between the village and the low sand-hills which overlook the German
Ocean. Here Captain Wragge manoeuvred so as to let Magdalen and Noel Vanstone
advance some distance in front of Mrs. Lecount and himself—took the wrong path,
and immediately lost his way with the most consummate dexterity. After a few
minutes wandering (in the wrong direction) he reached an open space near the
sea, and politely opening his camp-stool for the housekeeper's accommodation,
proposed waiting where they were until the missing members of the party came
that way and discovered them.
Mrs. Lecount accepted the
proposal. She was perfectly well aware that her escort had lost himself on
purpose; but that discovery exercised no disturbing influence on the smooth
amiability of her manner. Her day of reckoning with the captain had not come
yet—she merely added the new item to her list, and availed herself of the
camp-stool. Captain Wragge stretched himself in a romantic attitude at her feet;
and the two determined enemies (grouped like two lovers in a picture) fell into
as easy and pleasant a conversation as if they had been friends of twenty years'
"I know you, ma'am!" thought the
captain, while Mrs. Lecount was talking to him. "You would like to catch me
tripping in my ready-made science, and you wouldn't object to drown me in the
"You villain with the brown eye
and the green!" thought Mrs. Lecount, as the captain caught the ball of
conversation in his turn; "thick as your skin is I'll sting you through it yet!"
In this frame of mind toward each other, they talked fluently on general
subjects, on public affairs, on local scenery, on society in England and society
in Switzerland, on health, climate, books, marriage, and money—talked without a
moment's pause, without a single misunderstanding on either side for nearly an
hour before Magdalen and Noel Vanstone strayed that way and made the party of
four complete again.
When they reached the Inn at
which the carriage was waiting for them, Captain Wragge left Mrs. Lecount in
undisturbed possession of her master and signed to Magdalen to drop back for a
moment and speak to him.
"Well?" asked the captain in a
whisper; "is he fast to your apron-string?"
She shuddered from head to foot
as she answered.
"He has kissed my hand," she
said. "Does that tell you enough? Don't let him sit next me on the way home! I
have borne all I can bear—spare me for the rest of the day."
"I'll put you on the front seat
of the carriage," replied the captain, "side by side with me."
On the journey back Mrs. Lecount
verified Captain Wragge's prediction. She showed her claws.
The time could not have been
better chosen; the circumstances could hardly have favored her more. Magdalen's
spirits were depressed; she was weary in body and mind; and she sat exactly
opposite the housekeeper—who had been compelled by the new arrangement to occupy
the seat of honor next her master. With every facility for observing the
slightest changes that passed over Magdalen's face, Mrs. Lecount tried her first
experiment by leading the conversation to the subject of London, and to the
relative advantages offered to residents by the various quarters of the
metropolis on both sides of the river. The ever-ready Wragge penetrated her
intention sooner than she had anticipated, and interposed immediately. "You're
coming to Vauxhall Walk, ma'am," thought the captain; "I'll get there before
He entered at once into a purely
fictitious description of the various quarters of London in which he had himself
resided, and adroitly mentioning Vauxhall Walk as one of them, saved Magdalen
from the sudden question relating to that very locality with which Mrs. Lecount
had proposed startling her to begin with. From his residences he passed smoothly
to himself, and poured his whole family history (in the character of Mr. Bygrave)
into the housekeeper's ears —not forgetting his brother's grave in Honduras,
with the monument by the self-taught negro artist, and his brother's hugely
corpulent widow, on the ground-floor of the boarding-house at Cheltenham. As a
means of giving Magdalen time to compose herself this outburst of
autobiographical information attained its object, but it answered no other
purpose. Mrs. Lecount listened, without being imposed on by a
single word the captain said to
her. He merely confirmed her conviction of the hopelessness of taking Noel
Vanstone into her confidence before she had facts to help her against Captain
Wragge's otherwise unassailable position in the identity which he had assumed.
She quietly waited until he had done, and then returned to the charge.
"It is a coincidence that your
uncle should once have resided in Vauxhall Walk," she said, addressing herself
to Magdalen. "My master has a house in the same place; and we lived there before
we came to Aldborough. May I inquire, Miss Bygrave, whether you know any thing
of a lady named Miss Garth?"
This time she put time question
before the captain could interfere. Magdalen ought to have been prepared for it
by what had already passed in her presence; but her nerves had been shaken by
the earlier events of the day, and she could only answer the question in the
negative, after an instant's preliminary pause to control herself. Her
hesitation was of too momentary a nature to attract the attention of any
unsuspicious person. But it lasted long enough to confirm Mrs. Lecount's private
convictions, and to encourage her to advance a little further.
"I only asked," she continued,
steadily fixing her eyes on Magdalen, steadily disregarding the efforts which
Captain Wragge made to join in the conversation, "because Miss Garth is a
stranger to me, and I am curious to find out what I can about her. The day
before we left town, Miss Bygrave, a person who presented herself under the name
I have mentioned, paid us a visit under very extraordinary circumstances."
With a smooth, ingratiating
manner, with a refinement of contempt that was little less than devilish in its
ingenious assumption of the language of pity, she now boldly described
Magdalen's appearance in disguise, in Magdalen's own presence. She slightingly
referred to the master and mistress of Combe-Raven as persons who had always
annoyed the elder and more respectable branch of the family; she mourned over
the children as following their parents' example, and attempting to take a
mercenary advantage of Mr. Noel Vanstone under the protection of a respectable
person's character and a respectable person's name. Cleverly including her
master in the conversation, so as to prevent the captain from effecting a
diversion in that quarter; sparing no petty aggravation, striking at every
tender place which the tongue of a spiteful woman can wound, she would, beyond
all doubt, have carried her point, and tortured Magdalen into openly betraying
herself, if Captain Wragge had not checked her in full career by a loud
exclamation of alarm and a sudden clutch at Magdalen's wrist.
"Ten thousand pardons, my dear
madam!" cried the captain. "I see in my niece's race, I feel in my niece's
pulse, that one of her violent neuralgic attacks has come on again. My dear
girl! Why hesitate among friends to confess that you are in pain? What mistimed
politeness! Her face shows she is suffering—doesn't it, Mrs. Lecount? Darting
pains, Mr. Vanstone, darting pains on the left side of the head. Pull down your
veil, my dear, and lean on me. Our friends will excuse you; our excellent
friends will excuse you for the rest of the day."
Before Mrs. Lecount could throw
an instant's doubt on the genuineness of the neuralgic attack her master's
fidgety sympathy declared itself exactly as the captain had anticipated, in the
most active manifestations. He stopped the carriage, and insisted on an
immediate change in the arrangement of the places—the comfortable back seat for
Miss Bygrave and her uncle, the front seat for Lecount and himself. Had Lecount
got her smelling-bottle? Excellent creature! Let her give it directly to Miss
Bygrave, and let the coachman drive carefully. If the coachman shook Miss
Bygrave he should not have a half-penny for himself. Mesmerism was frequently
useful in these cases. Mr. Noel Vanstone's father had been the most powerful
mesmerist in Europe, and Mr. Noel Vanstone was his father's son. Might he
mesmerize? Might he order that infernal coachman to draw up in a shady place
adapted for the purpose? Would medical help be preferred? Could medical help be
found any nearer than Aldborough? That ass of a coachman didn't know. Stop every
respectable man who passed in a gig, and ask him it' he was a doctor! So Mr.
Noel Vanstone ran on—with brief intervals for breathing-time—in a continually
ascending scale of sympathy and self-importance throughout the drive home.
Mrs. Lecount accepted her defeat
without uttering a word. From the moment when Captain Wragge interrupted her her
thin lips closed, and opened no more for the remainder of the journey. The
warmest expressions of her master's anxiety for the suffering young lady
provoked from her no outward manifestations of anger. She took as little notice
of him as possible. She paid no attention whatever to the captain, whose
exasperating consideration for his vanquished enemy made him more polite to her
than ever. The nearer and the nearer they got to Aldborough, the more and more
fixedly Mrs. Lecount's hard black eyes looked at Magdalen reclining on the
opposite seat, with her eyes closed and her veil down. It was only when the
carriage stopped at North Shingles, when Captain Wragge was handing Magdalen
out, that the housekeeper at last condescended to notice him. As he smiled and
took off his hat at the carriage-door the strong restraint she had laid on
herself suddenly gave way, and she flashed one look at him which scorched up the
captain's politeness on the spot. He turned at once, with a hasty acknowledgment
of Noel Vanstone's last sympathetic inquiries, and took Magdalen into the house.
"I told you she would show her
claws," he said. "It is not my fault that she scratched you
before I could stop her. She
hasn't hurt you, has she?"
"She has hurt me to some
purpose," said Magdalen—"she has given me the courage to go on. Say what must be
done to-morrow, and trust me to do it." She sighed heavily as she said those
words, and went up to her room.
Captain Wragge walked
meditatively into the parlor and sat down to consider. He felt by no means so
certain as he could have wished of the next proceeding on the part of the enemy
after the defeat of that day. The housekeeper's farewell look had plainly
informed him that she was not at the end of her resources yet, and the old
militiaman felt the full importance of preparing himself in good time to meet
the next step which she took in advance. He lit a cigar, and bent his wary mind
on the dangers of the future.
While Captain Wragge was
considering in the parlor at North Shingles, Mrs. Lecount was meditating in her
bedroom at Sea View. Her exasperation at the failure of her first attempt to
expose the conspiracy had not blinded her to the instant necessity of making a
second effort before Noel Vanstone's growing infatuation got beyond her control.
The snare set for Magdalen having failed, the chance of entrapping Magdalen's
sister was the next chance to try. Mrs. Lecount ordered a cup of tea, opened her
writing-case, and began the rough draught of a letter to be sent to Miss
Vanstone: the elder by the morrow's post.
So the day's skirmish ended. The
heat of the battle was yet to come.
STREAMETH the sunset through the
pane, Glitter the drops of summer-rain,
That, soothing, fall in sparkling
shower Upon the couching Passion-flower.
As pensive, but not sad, I muse
Upon—a tiny pair of shoes!
A tiny white-laced frock. Ah !
I love the pretty "bagatelle!"
A cradle-couch beside my knee,
A tiny home of mystery;
The little fingers in their clasp
The coverlet unconscious grasp.
As yet unwaked, the soul within
Her Chrysalis lies slumbering.
The first blush of that opening
Who dreams what in the casket
A solemn trust!—and yet how dear!
Ah! but for children blooming
This earth a joyless earth would
be, And life itself a vacancy!
'Tis little fingers mould us all,
'Tis little voices heavenward
'Tis little hearts that heaven
prepare, And little angels lead us there!
MEETING AT WASHINGTON.
page 529 we give an illustration of the
GREAT WAR MEETING
which was held at Washington on 6th. It was a large and most enthusiastic
gathering, and the feeling in favor of the thorough prosecution of the war was
unanimous. The President was present, and in compliance with the earnest request
of the crowd, made a few remarks as follows:
FELLOW-CITIZENS,—I believe there
is no precedent for my appearing before you on this occasion—[applause]—but it
is also true that there is no precedent for your being here yourselves—[applause
and laughter]—and I offer in justification of myself and of you that, upon
examination, I have found nothing in the Constitution against it. [Renewed
applause.] I, however, have an impression that there are younger gentleman who
will entertain you better—[voices—"No, no: none can do better than yourself; go
on!"]—and better address your understanding than I will or could, and therefore
I propose but to detain you a moment longer. [Cries—"Go on! Tar and feather the
rebels !"] I am very little inclined on any occasion to say any thing unless I
hope to produce some good by it. [A voice—"You do that. Go on!"] The only thing
I think of just now not likely to be better said by some one else is a matter in
which we have heard some other persons blamed for what I did myself.
[Voice—"What is it?"] There has been a very wide-spread attempt to have a
General McClellan and the Secretary of War.
Now, I occupy a position that enables me to believe at least these two gentlemen
are not nearly so deep in the quarrel as some presuming to be their friends.
[Cries of "Good!"] General McClellan's attitude is such that in the very
selfishness of his nature he can not but wish to be successful —and I hope he
will—and the Secretary of War is precisely in the same situation. If the
military commanders in the field can not be successful, not only the Secretary
of War, but myself, for the time being the master of them both, can not be but
failures. [Laughter and applause.] I know General McClellan wishes to be
successful, and I know he does not wish it any more than the Secretary of War
for him, and both of them together no more than I wish it. [Applause and cries
of "Good!"] Sometimes we have a dispute about how many men General McClellan has
had, and those who would disparage him say he has had a very large number, and
those who would disparage the Secretary of War insist that General McClellan has
had a very small number. The basis for this is, there is always a wider
difference, and, on this occasion, perhaps a wide one between the grand total on
McClellan's rolls and the men actually fit for duty; and those who would
disparage him talk of the grand total on paper, and those who would disparage
the Secretary of War talk of those at present fit for duty. General McClellan
has sometimes asked for things that the Secretary of War did not give him.
General McClellan is not to blame for asking for what he wanted and needed, and
the Secretary of War is not to blame for not giving when he had none to give.
[Applause, laughter, and cried of "Good, good!"] And I say here, so far as I
know, the Secretary of War has withheld no one thing at any time in my power to
give him. [Wild applause, and a voice—"Give him enough now!"] I have no
accusation against him. I believe he is a brave and able man—[applause]—and I
stand here, as justice requires me to do, to take upon myself what has been
charged on the Secretary of War as withholding from him. I have talked longer
than I expected to do—[cries of "No," "no;'' "go on!"] and now I avail myself of
my privilege of saying no more.