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Page) am I not reading your own wiser thoughts now, Mr. Noel?—you
know better than to put your enemies on their guard by employing the police in
this matter too soon. I quite agree with you—no police just yet. You will allow
this anonymous man or anonymous woman to suppose you are easily frightened; you
will lay a trap for the information in return for the trap laid for your money;
you will answer the letter, and see what comes of the answer; and you will only
pay the expense of employing the police when you know the expense is necessary.
I quite agree with you again—no expense, if we can help it. In every particular,
Mr. Noel, my mind and your mind in this matter are one."
"It strikes you in that light,
Lecount—does it?" said Mr. Noel Vanstone. "I think so myself; I certainly think
so. I won't pay the police a farthing if I can possibly help it." He took up the
letter again, and became fretfully perplexed over a second reading of it. "But
the man wants money!" he broke out, impatiently. "You seem to forget, Lecount,
that the man wants money."
"Money which you offer him, Sir,"
rejoined Mrs. Lecount; "but—as your thoughts have already anticipated—money
which you don't give him. No! no! you say to this man, 'Hold out your hand,
Sir;' and when he has held it, you give him a smack for his pains, and put your
own hand back in your pocket. I am so glad to see you laughing, Mr. Noel; so
glad to see you getting back your good spirits. We will answer the letter by
advertisement, as the writer directs—advertisement is so cheap! Your poor hand
is trembling a little—shall I hold the pen for you? I am not fit to do more, but
I can always promise to hold the pen."
Without waiting for his reply she
went into the back parlor and returned with pen, ink, and paper. Arranging a
blotting-book on her knees, and looking a model of cheerful submission, she
placed herself once more in front of her master's chair.
"Shall I write from your
dictation, Sir?" she
inquired. "Or shall I make a
little sketch, and will you correct it afterward? I will make a little sketch.
Let me see the letter. We are to advertise in the Times, and we are to address
'An Unknown Friend.' What shall I say, Mr. Noel? Stay; I will write it, and then
you can see for yourself: 'An Unknown Friend is requested to mention (by
advertisement) an address at which a letter can reach him. The receipt of the
information which he offers will be acknowledged by a reward of—' What sum of
money do you wish me to set down, Sir?''
"Set down nothing," said Mr. Noel
Vanstone, with a sudden outbreak of impatience. "Money-matters are my business—I
say, money-matters are my business, Lecount. Leave it to me."
"Certainly, Sir," replied Mrs.
Lecount, handing her master the blotting-book. "You will not forget to be
liberal in offering money when you know beforehand you don't mean to part with
"Don't dictate, Lecount! I won't
submit to dictation!" said Mr. Noel Vanstone, asserting his own independence
more and more impatiently. "I mean to conduct this business for myself. I am
"You are master, Sir."
"My father was master before me.
And I am my father's son. I tell you, Lecount, I am my father's son!"
Mrs. Lecount bowed submissively.
"I mean to set down any sum of
money I think right," pursued Mr. Noel Vanstone, nodding his little flaxen head
vehemently. "I mean to send this advertisement myself. The servant shall take it
to the stationer's to be put into the Times. When I ring the bell twice send the
servant. You understand, Lecount? Send the servant."
Mrs. Lecount bowed again, and
walked slowly to the door. She knew to a nicety when to lead her master, and
when to let him go alone. Experience had taught her to govern him in all
essential points by giving way to him afterward on all points of minor detail.
It was a characteristic of his weak nature—as it is of all weak natures—to
assert itself obstinately on trifles. The filling in of the blank in the
advertisement was the trifle in this case; and Mrs. Lecount quieted her master's
suspicions that she was leading him by instantly conceding it. "My mule has
kicked," she thought to herself, in her own language, as she opened the door. "I
can do no more with him to-day."
"Lecount!" cried her master, as
she stepped into the passage. "Come back."
Mrs. Lecount came back.
"You're not offended with me, are
you?" asked Mr. Noel Vanstone, uneasily.
"Certainly not, Sir," replied
Mrs. Lecount. "As you said just now, you are master."
"Good creature! Give me your
hand." He kissed her hand, and smiled in high approval of his own affectionate
proceeding. "Lecount, you are a worthy creature!"
"Thank you, Sir," said Mrs.
Lecount. She courtesied and went out. "If he had any brains in that monkey-head
of his," she said to herself in the passage, "what a rascal he would be!"
Left by himself, Mr. Noel
Vanstone became absorbed in anxious reflection over the blank space in the
advertisement. Mrs. Lecount's apparently superfluous hint to him, to be liberal
in offering money when he knew he had no intention of parting with it, had been
founded on an intimate knowledge of his character. He had inherited his father's
sordid love of money without inheriting his father's hard-headed capacity for
seeing the uses to which money can be put. His one idea in connection with his
wealth was the idea of keeping it. He was such an inborn miser that the bare
prospect of being liberal, in theory only, daunted him. He took up the pen,
laid it down again, and read the
anonymous letter for the third time, shaking his head over it suspiciously. "If
I offer this man a large sum of money," he thought, on a sudden, "how do I know
he may not find a means of making me actually pay it? Women are always in a
hurry. Lecount is always in a hurry. I have got the afternoon before me—I'll
take the afternoon to consider it."
He fretfully put away the
blotting-book and the sketch of the advertisement on the chair which Mrs.
Lecount had just left. As he returned to his own seat he shook his little head
solemnly, and arranged his white dressing-gown over his knees, with the air of a
man absorbed in anxious thought. Minute after minute passed away; the quarters
and the half hours succeeded each other on the dial of Mrs. Lecount's watch, and
still Mr. Noel Vanstone remained lost in doubt—still no summons for the servant
disturbed the tranquillity of the parlor bell.
Meanwhile, after parting with
Mrs. Lecount, Magdalen had cautiously abstained. from crossing the road to her
lodgings, and had only ventured to return after making a circuit in the
neighborhood. When she found herself once more in Vauxhall Walk, the first
object which attracted her attention was a cab drawn up before the door of the
lodgings. A few steps more in advance showed her the landlady's daughter,
standing at the cab-door, engaged in a dispute with the driver on the subject of
his fare. Noticing that the girl's back was turned toward her, Magdalen
instantly profited by that circumstance, and slipped unobserved into the house.
She glided along the passage,
ascended the stairs, and found herself on the first landing, face to face with
her traveling companion! There stood Mrs. Wragge, with a pile of small parcels
hugged up in her arms, anxiously waiting the issue of the dispute with the
cabman in the street. To return was impossible—the sound of the angry voices
below was advancing into the passage. To hesitate was worse than useless. But
one choice was left—the choice of going on—and Magdalen desperately took it. She
pushed by Mrs. Wragge without a word; ran into her own room, tore off her cloak,
bonnet, and wig, and threw them down out of sight, in the blank space between
the sofa-bedstead and the wall.
For the first few moments
astonishment bereft Mrs. Wragge of the power of speech, and rooted her to the
spot where she stood. Two out of the collection of parcels in her arms fell from
them on the stairs. The sight of that catastrophe roused her. "Thieves!" cried
Mrs. Wragge, suddenly struck by an idea. "Thieves!"
Magdalen heard her through the
room door which she had not had time to close completely.
"Is that you, Mrs. Wragge?" she
called out in her own voice. "What is the matter?" She snatched up a towel while
she spoke, dipped it in water, and passed it rapidly over the lower part of her
face. At the sound of the familiar voice Mrs. Wragge turned round—dropped a
third parcel—and, forgetting it in her astonishment, ascended the second flight
of stairs. Magdalen stepped out on the first-floor landing, with the towel held
over her forehead as if she was suffering from headache. Her false eyebrows
required time for their removal, and a headache, assumed for the occasion,
suggested the most convenient pretext she could devise for hiding them as they
were hidden now.
"What are you disturbing the
house for?" she asked. "Pray be quiet. I am half blind with the headache."
"Any thing wrong, ma'am?"
inquired the landlady from the passage.
"Nothing whatever," replied
Magdalen. "My friend is timid, and the dispute with the cabman has frightened
her. Pay the man what he wants, and let him go."
"Where is she?" asked Mrs. Wragge,
in a tremulous whisper. "Where's the woman who scuttled by me into your room?"
"Pooh!" said Magdalen. "No woman
scuttled by you, as you call it. Look in and see for yourself."
She threw open the door. Mrs.
Wragge walked into the room—looked all over it—saw nobody, and indicated her
astonishment at the result by dropping a fourth parcel and trembling helplessly
from head to foot.
"I saw her go in here," said Mrs.
Wragge, in awe-struck accents. "A woman in a gray cloak and a poke bonnet. A
rude woman. She scuttled by me on the stairs—she did. Here's the room, and no
woman in it. Give us a Prayer-Book!" cried Mrs. Wragge, turning deadly pale, and
letting her whole remaining collection of parcels fall about her in a little
cascade of commodities. "I want to read something Good. I want to think of my
latter end. I've seen a Ghost!"
"Nonsense!" said Magdalen.
"You're dreaming; the shopping has been too much for you. Go into your own room,
and take your bonnet off."
"I've heard tell of ghosts in
night-gowns, ghosts in sheets, and ghosts in chains," proceeded Mrs. Wragge,
standing petrified in her own magic circle of linen-drapers' parcels. "Here's a
worse ghost than any of 'em—a ghost in a gray cloak and a poke bonnet. I know
what it is," continued Mrs. Wragge, melting into penitent tears. "It's a
judgment on me for being so happy away from the captain. It's a judgment on me
for having been down at heel in half the shops in London, first with one shoe
and then with the other, all the time I've been out. I'm a sinful creature.
Don't let go of me—whatever you do, my dear, don't let go of me!" She caught
Magdalen fast by the arm, and fell into another trembling fit at the bare idea
of being left by herself.
The one remaining chance in such
as this was to submit to
circumstances. Magdalen took Mrs. Wragge to a chair, having first placed it in
such a position as might enable her to turn her back on her traveling-companion
while she removed the false eyebrows by the help of a little water. "Wait a
minute there," she said, "and try if you can compose yourself while I bathe my
"Compose myself?" repeated Mrs.
Wragge. "How am I to compose myself when my head feels off my shoulders? The
worst Buzzing I ever had with the Cookery-book was nothing to the Buzzing I've
got now with the Ghost. Here's a miserable end to a holiday! You may take me
back again, my dear, whenever you like —I've had enough of it already!"
Having at last succeeded in
removing the eyebrows, Magdalen was free to combat the unfortunate impression
produced on her companion's mind by every weapon of persuasion which her
ingenuity could employ.
The attempt proved useless. Mrs.
Wragge persisted—on evidence which, it may be remarked in parenthesis, would
have satisfied many wiser ghost-seers than herself—in believing that she had
been supernaturally favored by a visitor from the world of spirits. All that
Magdalen could do was to ascertain by cautious investigation that Mrs. Wragge
had not been quick enough to identify the supposed ghost with the character of
the old North-country lady in the Entertainment. Having satisfied herself on
this point, she had no resource but to leave the rest to the natural
incapability of retaining impressions—unless those impressions were perpetually
renewed—which was one of the characteristic infirmities of her companion's weak
mind. After fortifying Mrs. Wragge by reiterated assurances that one appearance
(according to all the laws and regulations of ghosts) meant nothing unless it
was immediately followed by two more—after patiently leading back her attention
to the parcels dropped on the floor and on the stairs, and after promising to
keep the door of communication ajar between the two rooms, if Mrs. Wragge would
engage on her side to retire to her own chamber, and to say no more on the
terrible subject of the ghost, Magdalen at last secured the privilege of
reflecting uninterruptedly on the events of that memorable day.
Two serious consequences had
followed her first step forward. Mrs. Lecount had entrapped her into speaking in
her own voice, and accident had confronted her with Mrs. Wragge in disguise.
What advantage had she gained to
set against these disasters? The advantage of knowing more of Noel Vanstone and
of Mrs. Lecount than she might have discovered in months, if she had trusted to
inquiries made for her by others. One uncertainty which had hitherto perplexed
her was set at rest already. The scheme she had privately devised against
Michael Vanstonewhich Captain Wragge's sharp insight had partially penetrated
when she first warned him that their partnership must be dissolved—was a scheme
which she could now plainly see must be abandoned as hopeless in the case of
Michael Vanstone's son. The father's habits of speculation had been the pivot on
which the whole machinery of her meditated conspiracy had been constructed to
turn. No such vantage-ground was discoverable in the doubly sordid character of
the son. Mr. Noel Vanstone was invulnerable on the very point which had
presented itself in his father as open to attack.
Having reached this conclusion,
how was she to shape her future course? What new means could she discover which
would lead her secretly to her end, in defiance of Mrs. Lecount's malicious
vigilance, and Noel Vanstone's miserly distrust?
She was seated before the
looking-glass, mechanically combing out her hair, while that all-important
consideration occupied her mind. The agitation of the moment had raised a
feverish color in her cheeks, and had brightened the light in her large gray
eyes. She was conscious of looking her best; conscious how her beauty gained by
contrast after the removal of the disguise. Her lovely light-brown hair looked
thicker and softer than ever now that it had escaped from its imprisonment under
the gray wig. She twisted it this way and that, with quick, dextrous fingers;
she laid it in masses on her shoulders; she threw it back from them in a heap,
and turned sideways to see how it fell—to see her back and shoulders freed from
the artificial deformities of the padded cloak. After a moment she faced the
looking-glass once more, plunged both hands deep in her hair, and, resting her
elbows on the table, looked closer and closer at the reflection of herself,
until her breath began to dim the glass. "I can twist any man alive round my
finger," she thought, with a smile of superb triumph, "as long as I keep my
looks! If that contemptible wretch saw me now—" She shrank from following the
thought to its end, with a sudden horror of herself; she drew back from the
glass, shuddering, and put her hands over her face. "Oh, Frank!" she murmured,
"but for you, what a wretch I might be!" Her eager fingers snatched the little
white silk bag from its hiding-place in her bosom; her lips devoured it with
silent kisses. "My darling! my angel! Oh, Frank, how I love you!" The tears
gushed into her eyes. She passionately dried them, restored the bag to its
place, and turned her back on the looking-glass. "No more of myself," she
thought; "no more of my mad, miserable self for to-day!"
Shrinking from all further
contemplation of her next step in advance—shrinking from the fast-darkening
future, with which Noel Vanstone was now associated in her inmost thoughts—she
looked impatiently about the room for some homely occupation which might take
her out of herself. The disguise which she had flung down between the wall and
the bed recurred to
her memory. It was impossible to
leave it there. Mrs. Wragge (now occupied in sorting her parcels) might weary of
her employment, might come in again at a moment's notice, might pass near the
bed and see the gray cloak. What was to be done?
Her first thought was to put the
disguise back in her trunk. But after what had happened there was danger in
trusting it so near to herself while she and Mrs. Wragge were together under the
same roof. She resolved to be rid of it that evening, and boldly determined on
sending it back to Birmingham. Her bonnet-box fitted into her trunk. She took
the box out, thrust in the wig and cloak, and remorselessly flattened down the
bonnet at the top. The gown (which she had not yet taken off) was her own; Mrs.
Wragge had been accustomed to see her in it—there was no need to send the gown
back. Before closing the box she hastily traced these lines on a sheet of paper:
"I took the inclosed things away by mistake. Please keep them for me with the
rest of my luggage in your possession until you hear from me again." Putting the
paper on the top of the bonnet she directed the box to Captain Wragge, of
Birmingham, took it down stairs immediately, and sent the landlady's daughter
away with it to the nearest Receiving House. "That difficulty is disposed of,"
she thought, as she went back to her own room again.
Mrs. Wragge was still occupied in
sorting her parcels on her narrow little bed. She turned round with a faint
scream when Magdalen looked in at her. "I thought it was the ghost again," said
Mrs. Wragge. ''I'm trying to take warning, my dear, by what's happened to me.
I've put all my parcels straight, just as the captain would like to see 'em. up
at heel with both shoes. If I close my eyes to-night—which I don't think I
shall—I'll go to sleep as straight as my legs will let me. And I'll never have
another holiday as long as I live. I hope I shall be forgiven," said Mrs. Wragge,
mournfully shaking her head. 'I humbly hope I shall be forgiven."
"Forgiven!" repeated Magdalen.
women wanted as little forgiving
as you do—Well! well! Suppose you open some of these parcels. Come! I want to
see what you have been buying to day."
Mrs. Wragge hesitated, sighed
penitently, considered a little, stretched out her hand timidly toward one of
the parcels, thought of the supernatural warning, and shrank back from her own
purchases with a desperate exertion of self-control.
"Open this one," said Magdalen to
encourage her: "What is it!"
Mrs. Wragge's faded blue eyes
began to brighten dimly in spite of her remorse, but she self-denyingly shook
her head. The master passion of shopping might claim his own again—but the ghost
was not laid yet.
"Did you get it a bargain?" asked
"Dirt cheap," cried poor Mrs.
Wragge, falling headlong into the snare, and darting at the parcel as eagerly as
if nothing had happened.
Magdalen kept her gossiping over
her purchases for an hour or more, and then wisely determined to distract her
attention from all ghostly recollections in another way by taking her out for a
As they left the lodgings the
door of Noel Vanstone's house opened, and the woman-servant appeared, bent on
another errand. She was apparently charged with a letter on this occasion, which
she carried carefully in her hand. Conscious of having formed no plan yet,
either for attack or defense, Magdalen wondered, with a momentary dread, whether
Mrs. Lecount had decided already on opening fresh communications, and whether
the letter was directed to "Miss Garth."
The letter bore no such address.
Mr. Noel Vanstone had solved his pecuniary problem at last. The blank space in
the advertisement was filled up, and Mrs. Lecount's acknowledgment of the
captain's anonymous warning was now on its way to insertion in the Times.
THE END OF THE THIRD SCENE.
ARMY OF THE POTOMAC.
WE devote a large portion of our
space to illustrations of the
Army of the Potomac, whose deeds have been the
one subject of men's talk and thoughts during the past week.
BATTLE OF GAINES'S MILLS.
page 452 we
publish an illustration of CAPTAIN DE HART'S BATTERY SHELLING THE REBEL ADVANCE
AT THE BATTLE OF
GAINES'S MILLS, on Friday, June 27. It will be remembered that on
Thursday, 26th, General Fitz-John
Porter, in obedience to instructions, fell back to Gaines's Mills.
There the enemy attacked him. The correspondent of the Times gives a full
account of the affair, which we abridge:
McCall's brigade of Pennsylvania
reserves, and Sykes's brigade of regulars took up a position upon the high land
overlooking the valley of
the Chickahominy, eastward of and near the
roads leading from Gainer's Mills to Coal Harbor.
Sykes's brigade, consisting of
the Third, Fourth, Twelfth, and Thirteenth United States Infantry, Duryea's
Zouaves, and Weed's battery, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel R. C. Buchanan,
were disposed on both sides of the road leading north from Gaines's Mills, and
parallel to the road to Coal Harbor. The Zouaves were drawn up in the open
field, facing the line of the enemy's approach, while the regulars were placed
to the right, heft, and rear, in the same field and along the road. Captain
Weed, in anticipation of the attempt of the enemy to push their lines up the
Coal harbor road to our right, found an admirable position for his battery of
3-inch Parrotts in a wheat-field about forty rods to the right of his original
position, on a slight eminence which commanded a cross-road intersecting that to
Coal Harbor. Here he could sweep a mile of the cross-road, and effectually
prevent the passage of any considerable body of the rebels to the right.
Experience soon showed that this position was well chosen, for it (Next