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circumstances which I am here to disclose
circumstances so painful, that I hardly know how
to communicate them to you with my own lips."

Miss Garth looked him steadfastly in the face.

"Circumstances, sir, which affect the dead
parents, or the living children?"

"Which affect the dead and the living both,"
answered the lawyer. "Circumstances, I grieve
to say, which involve the future of Mr.
Vanstone's unhappy daughters."

"Wait," said Miss Garth; "wait a little."
She pushed her grey hair back from her temples,
and struggled with the sickness of heart, the
dreadful faintness of terror, which would have
overpowered a younger, or a less resolute
woman. Her eyes dim with watching, weary with
grief, searched the lawyer's unfathomable face.
"His unhappy daughters?" she repeated to
herself, vacantly. "He talks as if there was some
worse calamity than the calamity which has made
them orphans." She paused once more; and
rallied her sinking courage. "I will not make
your hard duty, sir, more painful to you than I
can help," she resumed. "Show me the place in
the will. Let me read it, and know the worst."

Mr. Pendril turned back to the first page, and
pointed to a certain place in the cramped lines
of writing. "Begin here," he said.

She tried to begin; she tried to follow his
finger, as she had followed it already to the
signatures and the dates. But her senses seemed to
share the confusion of her mindthe words
mingled together, and the lines swam before her

"I can't follow you," she said. "You must
tell it, or read it to me." She pushed her chair
back from the table, and tried to collect herself.
"Stop!" she exclaimed, as the lawyer, with
visible hesitation and reluctance, took the papers
in his own hand, "One question, first. Does
his will provide for his children?"

"His will provided for them, when he made it."

"When he made it?" (Something of her
natural bluntness broke out in her manner as
she repeated the answer.) "Does it provide for
them now?"

"It does not?"

She snatched the will from his hand, and threw
it into a corner of the room. "You mean well,"
she said; "you wish to spare mebut you are
wasting your time, and my strength. If the will is
useless, there let it lie. Tell me the truth, Mr.
Pendril tell it plainly, tell it instantly, in your
own words!"

He felt that it would be useless cruelty to
resist that appeal. There was no merciful alternative
but to answer it on the spot.

"I must refer you to the spring of the present
year, Miss Garth. Do you remember the fourth
of March?"

Her attention wandered again; a thought
seemed to have struck her at the moment when
he spoke. Instead of answering his inquiry,
she put a question of her own.

"Let me break the news to myself, she said
"let me anticipate you, if I can. His useless will,
the terms in which you speak of his daughters,
the doubt you seem to feel of my continued
respect for his memory, have opened a new view to
me. Mr. Vanstone has died a ruined manis
that what you had to tell me?

"Far from it. Mr. Vanstone has died, leaving
a fortune of more than eighty thousand pounds
a fortune invested in excellent securities. He
lived up to his income, but never beyond it; and
all his debts added together would not reach two
hundred pounds. If he had died a ruined man,
I should have felt deeply for his children but I
should not have hesitated to tell you the truth,
as I am hesitating now. Let me repeat a question
which escaped you, I think, when I first
put it. Carry your mind back to the spring of
this year. Do you remember the fourth of

Miss Garth shook her head. "My memory for
dates is bad at the best of times," she said. "I
am too confused to exert it at a moment's
notice. Can you put your question in no other

He put it in this form:—

"Do you remember any domestic event in the
spring of the present year, which appeared to
affect Mr. Vanstone more seriously than usual?"

Miss Garth leaned forward in her chair, and
looked eagerly at Mr. Pendril across the table.
"The journey to London!" she exclaimed. "I
distrusted the journey to London from the first!
Yes! I remember Mr. Vanstone receiving a
letterI remember his reading it, and looking
so altered from himself that he startled us all."

"Did you notice any apparent understanding
between Mr. and Mrs. Vanstone, on the subject
of that letter?"

"Yes: I did. One of the girlsit was
Magdalenmentioned the post-mark; some place
in America. It all comes back to me, Mr.
Pendril. Mrs. Vanstone looked excited and
anxious, the moment she heard the place named.
They went to London together, the next day;
they explained nothing to their daughters,
nothing to me. Mrs. Vanstone said the journey
was for family affairs. I suspected
something wrong; I couldn't tell what. Mrs.
Vanstone wrote to me from London, saying that
her object was to consult a physician on the state
of her health, and not to alarm her daughters by
telling them. Something in the letter rather hurt
me at the time. I thought there might be some
other motive that she was keeping from me. Did
I do her wrong?"

"You did her no wrong. There was a motive
which she was keeping from you. In revealing
that motive, I reveal the painful secret which
brings me to this house. All that I could do to
prepare you, I have done. Let me now tell the
truth in the plainest and fewest words. When
Mr. and Mrs. Vanstone left Combe-Raven, in the
March of the present year——"

Before he could complete the sentence, a
sudden movement of Miss Garth's interrupted him.