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THERE was a pause of a few minutes, while
Mrs. Lecount opened the second of the two
papers which lay before her on the table, and
refreshed her memory by looking it rapidly
through. This done, she once more addressed
herself to Noel Vanstone carefully lowering
her voice, so as to render it inaudible to any
one who might be listening in the passage

"I must beg your permission, sir," she began,
"to return to the subject of your wife. I do so
most unwillingly; and I promise you that what
I have now to say about her, shall be said, for
your sake and for mine, in the fewest words.
What do we know of this woman, Mr. Noel
judging her by her own confession when she came
to us in the character of Miss Garth, and by her
own acts afterwards at Aldborough? We know
that, if death had not snatched your father out
of her reach, she was ready with her plot to rob
him of the Combe-Raven money. We know that
when you inherited the money in your turn, she
was ready with her plot to rob you. We know
how she carried that plot through to the end;
and we know that nothing but your death is
wanted, at this moment, to crown her rapacity
and her deception with success. We are sure
of these things. We are sure that she is young,
bold, and cleverthat she has neither doubts,
scruples, nor pityand that she possesses the
personal qualities which men in general (quite
incomprehensibly to me!) are weak enough to
admire. These are not fancies, Mr. Noel, but facts
you know them as well as I do."

He made a sign in the affirmative, and Mrs.
Lecount went on:

"Keep in your mind what I have said of the
past, sir, and now look with me to the future.
I hope and trust you have a long life still before
you; but let us, for the moment only, suppose
the case of your deathyour death leaving this
will behind you, which gives your fortune to your
cousin George. I am told there is an office in
London, in which copies of all wills must be
kept. Any curious stranger who chooses to pay
a shilling for the privilege, may enter that office,
and may read any will in the place, at his or her
discretion. Do you see what I am coming to,
Mr. Noel? Your disinherited widow pays her
shilling, and reads your will. Your disinherited
widow sees that the Combe-Raven money, which
has gone from your father to you, goes next from
you to Mr. George Bartram. What is the certain
end of that discovery? The end is that you leave
to your cousin and your friend, the legacy of this
woman's vengeance and this woman's deceit
vengeance made more resolute, deceit made more
devilish than ever by her exasperation at her own
failure. What is your cousin George? He is a
generous, unsuspicious man; incapable of deceit
himself, and fearing no deception in others.
Leave him at the mercy of your wife's unscrupulous
fascinations and your wife's unfathomable
deceitand I see the end, as certainly as I see
you sitting there! She will blind his eyes, as
she blinded yours; and, in spite of you, in spite
of me, she will have the money!"

She stopped; and left her last words time to
gain their hold on his mind. The circumstances
had been stated so clearly, the conclusion from
them had been so plainly drawn, that he seized
her meaning without an effort, and seized it at

"I see!" he said, vindictively clenching his
hands. "I understand, Lecount! She shan't
have a farthing. Only tell me what to doshall
I leave it to the admiral?" He paused, and
considered a little. "No," he resumed; " there's
the same danger in leaving it to the admiral that
there is in leaving it to George."

"There is no danger, Mr. Noel, if you will take
my advice."

"What is your advice?"

"Follow your own idea, sir. Take the pen in
hand again, and leave the money to Admiral

He mechanically dipped the pen in the ink
and then hesitated.

"You shall know where I am leading you, sir,"
said Mrs. Lecount, "before you sign your will.
In the mean time, let us gain every inch of ground
we can, as we go on. I want the will to be all
written out before we advance a single step
beyond it. Begin your third paragraph, Mr.
Noel, under the lines which leave me my legacy
of five thousand pounds."