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varied career, had Captain Wragge felt such
difficulty in keeping his countenance, as he felt now.
Contempt for the outburst of miserly gratitude
of which he was the object; triumph in the sense
of successful conspiracy against a man who had
rated the offer of his protection at five pounds;
regret at the lost opportunity of effecting a fine
stroke of moral agriculture, which his dread of
involving himself in coming consequences had
forced him to let slipall these varied emotions
agitated the captain's mind; all strove together
to find their way to the surface, through the
outlets of his face or his tongue. He allowed
Mr. Noel Vanstone to keep possession of his
hand, and to heap one series of shrill protestations
and promises on another, until he had regained
his usual mastery over himself. That result
achieved, he put the little man back in his chair,
and returned forthwith to the subject of Mrs.

"Suppose we now revert to the difficulty
which we have not conquered yet," said the
captain. " Let us say that I do violence to my own
habits and feelings; that I allow the considerations
I have already mentioned to weigh with
me; and that I sanction your wish to be united
to my niece, without the knowledge of Mrs.
Lecount. Allow me to inquire, in that case, what
means you can suggest for the accomplishment of
your end?"

"I can't suggest anything," replied Mr. Noel
Vanstone, helplessly. " Would you object to
suggest for me?"

"You are making a bolder request than you
think, Mr. Vanstone. I never do things by
halves. When I am acting with my customary
candour, I am frank (as you know already) to the
utmost verge of imprudence. When exceptional
circumstances compel me to take an opposite
course, there isn't a slyer fox alive than I am. If,
at your express request, I take off my honest
English coat here, and put on a Jesuit's gown
if, purely out of sympathy for your awkward
position, I consent, to keep your secret for you
from Mrs. LecountI must have no unseasonable
scruples to contend with on your part. If
it is neck or nothing on my side, sirit must be
neck or nothing on yours also!"

"Neck or nothing by all means," said Mr.
Noel Vanstone, briskly—"on the understanding
that you go first. I have no scruples about
keeping Lecount in the dark. But she is
devilish cunning, Mr. Bygrave. How is it to be

"You shall hear directly," replied the captain.
"Before I develop my views, I should
like to have your opinion on an abstract question
of morality. What do you think, my dear sir,
of pious frauds in general?"

Mr. Noel Vanstone looked a little embarrassed
by the question.

"Shall I put it more plainly?" continued
Captain Wragge. " What do you say to the
universally-accepted maxim, that 'all stratagems are
fair in love and war?'—Yes, or No?"

"Yes!" answered Mr. Noel Vanstone, with
the utmost readiness.

"One more question, and I have done," said
the captain. " Do you see any particular
objection to practising a pious fraud on Mrs.

Mr. Noel Vanstone's resolution began to
falter a little.

"Is Lecount likely to find it out?" he asked,

"She can't possibly discover it until after you
are married, and out of her reach."

"You are sure of that?"

"Quite sure."

"Play any trick you like on Lecount," said
Mr. Noel Vanstone, with an air of unutterable
relief. " I have had my suspicions lately, that she
is trying to domineer over meI am beginning
to feel that I have borne with Lecount long
enough. I wish I was well rid of her."

"You shall have your wish," said Captain
Wragge. " You shall be rid of her in a week or
ten days."

Mr. Noel Vaustone rose eagerly and
approached the captain's chair.

"You don't say so!" he exclaimed. " How do
you mean to send her away?"

"I mean to send her on a journey," replied
Captain Wragge.


"From your house at Aldborough, to her
brother's bedside at Zurich."

Mr. Noel Vanstone started back at the answer,
and returned suddenly to his chair.

"How can you do that?" he inquired, in the
greatest perplexity. " Her brother (hang him!)
is much better. She had another letter from
Zurich to say so, this morning."

"Did you see the letter?"

"Yes. She always worries about her brother
she would show it to me."

"Who was it from? and what did it say?"

"It was from the doctorhe always writes to
her. I don't care two straws about her brother;
and I don't remember much of the letter, except
that it was a short one. The fellow was much
better; and if the doctor didn't write again, she
might take it for granted that he was getting
well. That was the substance of it."

"Did you notice where she put the letter, when
you gave it her back again?"

"Yes. She put it in the drawer, where she
keeps her account-books."

"Can you get at that drawer?"

"Of course I can! I have got a duplicate
keyI always insist on a duplicate key of the
place where she keeps her account-books. I never
allow the account-books to be locked up from my
inspection: it's a rule of the house."

"Be so good as to get that letter to-day, Mr.
Vanstone, without your housekeeper's knowledge;
and add to the favour by letting me have it here
privately for an hour or two."

"What do you want it for?"

"I have some more questions to ask, before I