+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

protection of the law. Mr. Noel Vanstone, having
been expressly cautioned against Miss Magdalen
Vanstone, by his late lamented father, has not yet
forgotten his father's advice. Considers it a
reflection cast on the honoured memory of the best
of men to suppose that his course of action
towards the Miss Vanstones can be other than the
course of action which his father pursued. This
is what he has himself instructed Mrs. Lecount
to say. She has endeavoured to express herself
in the most conciliatory language she could
select; she has tried to avoid giving unnecessary
pain, by addressing Miss Vanstone (as a matter
of courtesy) by the family name; and she trusts
these concessions, which speak for themselves,
will not be thrown away.—[Such is the substance
of the letter,—and so it ends.]

I draw two conclusions from this little document.
Firstthat it will lead to serious mischief.
Secondlythat Mrs. Lecount, with all her politeness,
is a dangerous woman to deal with. I wish I
saw my way safe before me. I don't see it yet.

29th.—Miss Vanstone has abandoned my
protection; and the whole lucrative future of the
dramatic entertainment has abandoned me with
her. I am swindledI, the last man under
Heaven who could possibly have expected to
write in those disgraceful terms of himselfI

Let me chronicle the events. They exhibit
me, for the time being, in a sadly helpless point
of view. But the nature of the man prevails: I
must have the events down in black and white.

The announcement of her approaching
departure was intimated to me yesterday. After
another civil speech about the information I had
procured at Brighton, she hinted that there was a
necessity for pushing our inquiries a little
further. I immediately offered to undertake them,
as before.  "No," she said; "they are not in
your way this time. They are inquiries relating
to a woman; and I mean to make them
myself!" Feeling privately convinced that this
new resolution pointed straight at Mrs.
Lecount, I tried a few innocent questions on the
subject. She quietly declined to answer them.
I asked next, when she proposed to leave. She
would leave on the twenty-eighth. For what
destination? London. For long? Probably
not. By herself? No. With me? No. With
whom then? With Mrs. Wragge, if I had no
objection. Good Heavens! for what possible
purpose? For the purpose of getting a respectable
lodging, which she could hardly expect to
accomplish unless she was accompanied by an
elderly female friend. And was I, in the capacity
of elderly male friend, to be left out of the
business altogether? Impossible to say at
present. Was I not even to forward any letters
which might come for her at our present address?
No: she would make the arrangement herself at
the post-office; and she would ask me, at the
same time, for an address, at which I could
receive a letter from her, in case of necessity for
future communication. Further inquiries, after
this last answer, could lead to nothing but waste
of time. I saved time by putting no more

It was clear to me, that our present position
towards each other was what our position had
been previously to the event of Michael
Vanstone's death. I returned, as before, to my
choice of alternatives. Which way did my
private interests point? Towards trusting the
chance of her wanting me again? Towards
threatening her with the interference of her
relatives and friends? Or towards making the
information which I possessed a marketable
commodity between the wealthy branch of the family
and myself? The last of the three was the
alternative I had chosen in the case of the father. I
chose it once more in the case of the son.

The train started for London nearly four hours
since, and took her away in it, accompanied by
Mrs. Wragge. My wife is far too great a fool,
poor soul, to be actively valuable in the present
emergency; but she will be passively useful in
keeping up Miss Vanstone's connexion with me
and, in consideration of that circumstance, I
consent to brush my own trousers, shave my own
chin, and submit to the other inconveniences
of waiting on myself for a limited period.
Any faint glimmerings of sense which Mrs.
Wragge may have formerly possessed, appear to
have now finally taken their leave of her. On
receiving permission to go to London, she
favoured us immediately with two inquiries. Might
she do some shopping? and might she leave the
cookery-book behind her? Miss Vanstone said,
Yes, to one question; and I said, Yes, to the
otherand from that moment, Mrs. Wragge has
existed in a state of perpetual laughter. I am
still hoarse with vainly-repeated applications of
vocal stimulant; and I left her in the railway
carriage, to my inexpressible disgust, with both
shoes down at heel. Under ordinary circumstances,
these absurd particulars would not have
dwelt on my memory. But, as matters actually
stand, my unfortunate wife's imbecility may, in
her present position, lead to consequences which
we none of us foresee. She is nothing more or
less than a grown-up child; and I can plainly
detect that Miss Vanstone trusts her, as she
would not have trusted a sharper woman, on
that very account. I know children, little and
big, rather better than my fair relative does,
and I saybeware of all forms of human
innocence, when it happens to be your interest to
keep a secret to yourself.

Let me return to business. Here I am, at two
o'clock on a fine summer's afternoon, left entirely
alone, to consider the safest means of approaching
Mr. Noel Vanstone, on my own account.
My private suspicions of his miserly character
produce no discouraging effect on me. I have
extracted cheering pecuniary results in my time
from people quite as fond of their money as he
can be. The real difficulty to contend with is
the obstacle of Mrs. Lecount. If I am not mistaken,