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a very distressing one. Mrs. Vanstone, feeling
what was due to her long friendship with Miss
Garth, had apparently placed the fullest
confidence in her, on one subject, by way of
unsuspiciously maintaining the strictest reserve
towards her on another. Naturally frank and
straightforward in all her own dealings, Miss
Garth shrank from plainly pursuing her doubts
to this result: a want of loyalty towards her
tried and valued friend seemed implied in the
mere dawning of it on her mind.

She locked up the letter in her desk; roused
herself resolutely to attend to the passing
interests of the day; and went down stairs again to
the breakfast-room. Amid many uncertainties,
this at least was clear: Mr. and Mrs. Vanstone
were coming back on the twenty-third of the
month. Who could say what new revelations
might not come back with them?


No new revelations came back with them:
no anticipations associated with their return
were realised. On the one forbidden subject
of their errand in London, there was no
moving either the master or the mistress of the
house. Whatever their object might have been,
they had to all appearance successfully
accomplished itfor they both returned in perfect
possession of their every-day looks and manners.
Mrs. Vanstone's spirits had subsided to their
natural quiet level; Mr. Vanstone's imperturbable
cheerfulness sat as easily and indolently
on him as usual. This was the one noticeable
result of their journeythis, and no more.
Had the household revolution run its course
already? Was the secret, thus far hidden
impenetrably, hidden for ever?

Nothing in this world is hidden for ever. The
gold which has lain for centuries unsuspected
in the ground, reveals itself one day on the
surface. Sand turns traitor, and betrays the
footstep that has passed over it; water gives
back to the tell-tale surface the body that has
been drowned. Fire itself leaves the confession,
in ashes, of the substance consumed in it. Hate
breaks its prison-secrecy in the thoughts, through
the doorway of the eyes; and Love finds the
Judas who betrays it by a kiss. Look where we
will, the inevitable law of revelation is one of the
laws of nature: the lasting preservation of a secret
is a miracle which the world has never yet seen.

How was the secret now hidden in the household
at Combe-Raven, doomed to disclose itself?
Through what coming event in the daily lives of
the father, the mother, and the daughters, was
the law of revelation destined to break the fatal
way to discovery? The way opened (unseen by
the parents, and unsuspected by the children)
through the first event that happened after Mr.
and Mrs. Vanstone's returnan event which
presented, on the surface of it, no interest of
greater importance than the trivial social
ceremony of a morning call.

Three days after the master and mistress of
Combe-Raven had come back, the female
members of the family happened to be assembled
together in the morning-room. The view from
the windows looked over the flower-garden and
shrubbery; this last being protected at its outward
extremity by a fence, and approached from
the lane beyond by a wicket-gate. During an
interval in the conversation, the attention of the
ladies was suddenly attracted to this gate by
the sharp sound of the iron latch falling in its
socket. Some one had entered the shrubbery
from the lane; and Magdalen at once placed
herself at the window to catch the first sight of
the visitor through the trees.

After a few minutes, the figure of a gentleman
became visible, at the point where the shrubbery
path joined the winding garden-walk which led
to the house. Magdalen looked at him
attentively, without appearing, at first, to know
who he was. As he came nearer, however, she
started in astonishment; and turning quickly
to her mother and sister, proclaimed the gentleman
in the garden to be no other than "Mr.
Francis Clare."

The visitor thus announced, was the son of
Mr. Vanstone's oldest associate and nearest

Mr. Clare the elder inhabited an unpretending
little cottage situated just outside the shrubbery
fence which marked the limit of the Combe-
Raven grounds. Belonging to the younger
branch of a family of great antiquity, the one
inheritance of importance that he had derived
from his ancestors, was the possession of a
magnificent library, which not only filled all the
rooms in his modest little dwelling, but lined
the staircases and passages as well. Mr. Clare's
books represented the one important interest of
Mr. Clare's life. He had been a widower for
many years past, and made no secret of his
philosophical resignation to the loss of his wife.
As a father, he regarded his family of three sons
in the light of a necessary domestic evil, which
perpetually threatened the sanctity of his study
and the safety of his books. When the boys
went to school, Mr. Clare said "Good-by" to
themand "Thank God" to himself. As for
his small income, and his still smaller domestic
establishment, he looked at them both from the
same satirically indifferent point of view. He
called himself a pauper with a pedigree. He
abandoned the entire direction of his household
to the slatternly old woman who was his only
servant, on the condition that she was never to
venture near his books, with a duster in her
hand, from one year's end to the other. His
favourite poets were Horace and Pope; his
chosen philosophers, Hobbs and Voltaire. He
took his exercise and his fresh air under protest;
and always walked the same distance to a yard,
on the ugliest high road in the neighbourhood.
He was crooked of back, and quick of temper.
He could digest radishes, and sleep after green
tea. His views of human nature were the views
of Diogenes, tempered by Rochefoucault; his
personal habits were slovenly in the last degree;
and his favourite boast was, that he had outlived
all human prejudices.