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A WEEK passed, after my return to London,
without the receipt of any communication from
Miss Halcombe.

On the eighth day, a letter in her handwriting
was placed among the other letters on
my desk.

It announced that Sir Percival Glyde had been
definitely accepted, and that the marriage was to
take place, as he had originally desired, before
the end of the year. In all probability the ceremony
would be performed during the last fortnight
in December. Miss Fairlie's twenty-first
birthday was late in March. She would, therefore,
by this arrangement, become Sir Percival's
wife about three months before she was of

I ought not to have been surprised, I ought
not to have been sorry; but I was surprised and
sorry, nevertheless. Some little disappointment,
caused by the unsatisfactory shortness of Miss
Halcombe's letter, mingled itself with these
feelings, and contributed its share towards
upsetting my serenity for the day. In six lines my
correspondent announced the proposed marriage;
in three more, she told me that Sir Percival had
left Cumberland to return to his house in Hampshire;
and in two concluding sentences she informed
me, first, that Laura was sadly in want of
change and cheerful society; secondly, that she
had resolved to try the effect of some such change
forthwith, by taking her sister away with her on
a visit to certain old friends in Yorkshire. There
the letter ended, without a word to explain
what the circumstances were which had decided
Miss Fairlie to accept Sir Percival Glyde in one
short week from the time when I had last seen

At a later period, the cause of this sudden
determination was fully explained to me. It is
not my business to relate it imperfectly, on
hearsay evidence. The circumstances came
within the personal experience of Miss Halcombe;
and, when her narrative succeeds mine,
she will describe them in every particular, exactly
as they happened. In the mean time, the plain
duty for me to performbefore I, in my turn,
lay down my pen and withdraw from the story
is to relate the one remaining event connected
with Miss Fairlie's proposed marriage in which
I was concerned, namely, the drawing of the

It is impossible to refer intelligibly to this
document, without first entering into certain
particulars, in relation to the bride's pecuniary
affairs. I will try to make my explanation
briefly and plainly, and to keep it free from
professional obscurities and technicalities. The
matter is of the utmost importance. I warn all
readers of these lines that Miss Fairlie's
inheritance is a very serious part of Miss Fairlie's
story; and that Mr. Gilmore's experience, in
this particular, must be their experience also, if
they wish to understand the narratives which
are yet to come.

Miss Fairlie's expectations, then, were of a
twofold kind; comprising her possible inheritance
of real property, or land, when her uncle
died, and her absolute inheritance of personal
property, or money, when she came of age.

Let us take the land first.

In the time of Miss Fairlie's paternal grandfather
(whom we will call Mr. Fairlie, the elder)
the entailed succession to the Limmeridge estate
stood thus:

Mr. Fairlie, the elder, died and left three sons,
Philip, Frederick, and Arthur. As eldest son,
Philip succeeded to the estate. If he died without
leaving a son, the property went to the
second brother, Frederick. And if Frederick
died also without leaving a son, the property
went to the third brother, Arthur.

As events turned out, Mr. Philip Fairlie died
leaving an only daughter, the Laura of this
story; and the estate, in consequence, went, in
course of law, to the second brother, Frederick,
a single man. The third brother, Arthur, had
died many years before the decease of Philip,
leaving a son and a daughter. The son, at the
age of eighteen, was drowned at Oxford. His
death left Laura, the daughter of Mr. Philip
Fairlie, presumptive heiress to the estate; with
every chance of succeeding to it, in the ordinary
course of nature, on her uncle Frederick's death,
if the said Frederick died without leaving male

Except in the event, then, of Mr. Frederick
Fairlie's marrying and leaving an heir (the two
very last things in the world that he was likely to
do), his niece, Laura, would have the property on
his death; possessing, it must be remembered,