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cried to it with the daring of her despair Drive
me on!

For days and days together, she had bent her
mind on the one object which occupied it, since
she had received the lawyer's letter. For days
and days together, she had toiled to meet the first
necessity of her positionto find a means of
discovering the Secret Trust. There was no hope,
this time, of assistance from Captain Wragge.
Long practice had made the old militiaman an
adept in the art of vanishing. The plough of the
moral agriculturist left no furrowsnot a trace
of him was to be found!  Mr. Loscombe was too
cautious to commit himself to an active course of
any kind: he passively maintained his opinion,
and left the rest to his clienthe desired to know
nothing, until the Trust was placed in his hands.
Magdalen's interests were now in Magdalen's
own sole care. Risk, or no risk, what she did
next, she must do by herself.

The prospect had not daunted her. Alone she
had calculated the chances that might be tried.
Alone she was now determined to make the

"The time has come," she said to herself, as she
sat over the fire. "I must sound Louisa first."

She collected the scattered coins in her lap,
and placed them in a little heap on the table
then rose, and rang the bell. The landlady
answered it.

"Is my servant down stairs?" inquired

"Yes, ma'am. She is having her tea."

"When she has done, say I want her up here.
Wait a moment. You will find your money on
the tablethe money I owe you for last week.
Can you find it? or would you like to have a

"It's rather dark, ma'am."

Magdalen lit a candle. "What notice must I
give you," she asked, as she put the candle on the
table, "before I leave?"

"A week is the usual notice, ma'am. I hope
you have no objection to make to the house?"

"None whatever. I only ask the question,
because I may be obliged to leave these lodgings
rather sooner than I had anticipated. Is the
money right?"

"Quite right, ma'am. Here is your receipt."

"Thank you. Don't forget to send Louisa to
me, as soon as she has done her tea."

The landlady withdrew. As soon as she was
alone again, Magdalen extinguished the candle,
and drew an empty chair close to her own chair,
on the health. This done, she resumed her
former place, and waited until Louisa appeared.
There was doubt in her face, as she sat looking
mechanically into the fire. "A poor chance,"
she thought to herself; "but, poor as it is, a
chance that I must try."

In ten minutes more, Louisa's meek knock
was softly audible outside. She was surprised on
entering the room to find no other light in it than
the light of the fire.

"Will you have the candles, ma'am?" she
inquired respectfully.

"We will have the candles if you wish for
them yourself," replied Magdalen; "not otherwise.
I have something to say to you. When I
have said it, you shall decide whether we sit
together in the dark or in the light."

Louisa waited near the door, and listened to
those strange words in silent astonishment.

"Come here," said Magdalen, pointing to the
empty chair; "come here and sit down."

Louisa advanced, and timidly removed the
chair from its position at her mistress's side.
Magdalen instantly drew it back again. "No!"
she said. "Come closercome close by me."
After a moment's nervous hesitation, Louisa

"I ask you to sit near me," pursued Magdalen,
"because I wish to speak to you on equal
terms. Whatever distinctions there might once
have been between us, are now at an end. I am
a lonely woman thrown helpless on my own
resources, without rank or place in the world. I
may or may not keep you as my friend. As
mistress and maid, the connexion between us must
come to an end."

"Oh, ma'am, don't, don't say that!" pleaded
Louisa, faintly.

Magdalen sorrowfully and steadily went on.

"When you first came to me," she resumed,
"I thought I should not like you. I have learnt
to like youI have learnt to be grateful to you.
From first to last you have been faithful and good
to me. The least I can do in return, is not to
stand in the way of your future prospects."

"Don't send me away, ma'am!" said Louisa,
imploringly. "If you can only help me with a
little money now and then, I'll wait for my wages
I will indeed."

Magdalen took her hand, and went on, as
sorrowfully and as steadily as before.

"My future life is all darkness, all uncertainty,"
she said. "The next step I take, may
lead me to my prosperity or may lead me to my
ruin. Can I ask you to share such a prospect as
this? If your future was as uncertain as mine
isif you, too, were a friendless woman thrown
on the worldmy conscience might be easy in
letting you cast your lot with mine. I might
accept your attachment, for I might feel I was not
wronging you. How can I feel this in your case?
You have a future to look to. You are an excellent
servant; you can get another placea far
better place than mine. You can refer to me; and,
if the character I give is not considered sufficient,
you can refer to the mistress you served
before me——"

At the instant when that reference to the girl's
last employer escaped Magdalen's lips, Louisa
snatched her hand away, and started up affrightedly
from her chair. There was a moment's
silence. Both mistress and maid were equally
taken by surprise.

Magdalen was the first to recover herself.

"Is it getting too dark?" she asked, significantly.