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a species of family connection;
and she had weakly sanctioned the intrusion, solely from the dread that he would
otherwise introduce himself to Mr. Vanstone's notice, and take unblushing
advantage of Mr. Vanstone's generosity. Shrinking, naturally, from allowing her
husband to be annoyed, and probably cheated as well, by any person who claimed,
however preposterously, a family connection with herself, it had been her
practice, for many years past, to assist the captain from her own purse, on the
condition that he should never come near the house, and that he should not
presume to make any application whatever to Mr. Vanstone.
Readily admitting the imprudence
of this course, Mrs. Vanstone further explained that she had perhaps been the
more inclined to adopt it, through having been always accustomed, in her early
days, to see the captain living now upon one member and now upon another of her
mother's family. Possessed of abilities which might have raised him to
distinction in almost any career that he could have chosen, he had nevertheless,
from his youth upward, been a 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
misdemeanors, by imprudently 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
WILKIE COLLINS, ESQ.
IN connection with the
commencement of Mr. WILKIE COLLINS'S new Tale, "NO NAME," we publish herewith a
portrait of this distinguished man.
WILLIAM WILKIE COLLINS was born
in London in 1824. His father was a painter, who went to Italy shortly after his
son's birth, and remained there till the latter had reached manhood. Mr. Wilkie
Collins's first work,
"ANTONINA," which was published
in 1850, revealed his remarkable genius; but the subject was ill chosen, and the
book did not meet with great success. His later Novels, and especially the
"WOMAN IN WHITE," published in Harper's Weekly, have placed him in the first
rank of contemporaneous Novel writers.
Mr. Collins is allied to the
family of Mr. Charles Dickens.
[Entered according to Act of
Congress, in the Year 1862, by Harper & Brothers, in the Clerk's Office of the
District Court for the Southern District of New York.]
BY WILKIE COLLINS,
AUTHOR OF THE "WOMAN IN WHITE,"
"DEAD SECRET," ETC., ETC.
ILLUSTRATED BY JOAN M'LENAN.
Printed from the Manuscript and
early Proof-sheets purchased by the Proprietors of "Harper's
WHEN she returned to the house,
Miss Garth made no attempt to conceal her unfavorable opinion of the stranger in
black. His object was, no doubt, to obtain pecuniary assistance from Mrs.
Vanstone. What the nature of his claim on her might be seemed less
intelligible—unless it was the claim of a poor relation. Had Mrs. Vanstone ever
mentioned, in the presence of her daughters, the name of Captain Wragge? Neither
of them recollected to have heard it before. Had Mrs. Vanstone ever referred to
any poor relations who were dependent on her? On the contrary, she had mentioned
of late years that she doubted having any relations at all who were still
living. And yet Captain Wragge had plainly declared that the name on his card
would recall "a family matter" to Mrs. Vanstone's memory. What did it mean? A
false statement, on the stranger's part, without any intelligible reason for
making it? Or a second mystery, following close on the heels of the mysterious
journey to London?
All the probabilities seemed to
point to some hidden connection between the "family affairs" which had taken Mr.
and Mrs. Vanstone so suddenly from home, and the "family matter" associated with
the name of Captain Wragge. Miss Garth's doubts of the day before thronged back
on her mind as she sealed her letter to Mrs. Vanstone, with the captain's card
added by way of inclosure.
By return of post the answer
Always the earliest riser among
the ladies of the house, Miss Garth was alone in the breakfast-room
when the letter was brought in.
Her first glance at its contents convinced her of the necessity of reading it
carefully through in retirement before any embarrassing questions could be put
to her. Leaving a message with the servant requesting Norah to make the tea that
morning, she went up stairs at once to the solitude and security of her own
Mrs. Vanstone's letter extended
to some length. The first part of it referred to Captain Wragge, and entered
unreservedly into all necessary explanations relating to the man himself and to
the motive which had brought him to Combe-Raven.
It appeared from Mrs. Vanstone's
statement that her mother had been twice married. Her mother's first husband had
been a certain Doctor Wragge—a widower with young children; and one of those
children was now the unmilitary-looking captain, whose address was "
Post-office, Bristol." Mrs. Wragge had left no family by her first husband; and
had afterward married Mrs. Vanstone's father. Of that second marriage Mrs.
Vanstone herself was the only issue. She had lost both her parents while she was
still a young woman; and, in course of years, her mother's family connections
(who were then her nearest surviving relatives) had been one after another
removed by death. She was left, at the present writing, without a relation in
the world—excepting perhaps certain cousins whom she had never seen, and of
whose existence even, at the present moment, she possessed no positive
Under these circumstances, what
family claim had Captain Wragge on Mrs. Vanstone?
None whatever. As the son of her
mother's first husband, by that husband's first wife, not even the widest
stretch of courtesy could have included him at any time in the list of Mrs.
Vanstone's most distant relations. Well knowing this (the letter proceeded to
say), he had nevertheless persisted in forcing himself upon her as