TOWARD six o'clock the next morning, the light pouring in on her face awoke Magdalen in the bedroom in Rosemary Lane.
She started from her deep, dreamless repose of the past night with that painful sense of bewilderment, on first waking, which is familiar to all sleepers in strange beds. "Norah!" she called out mechanically, when she opened her eyes. The next instant her mind roused itself, and her senses told her the truth. She looked round the miserable room with a loathing recognition of it. The sordid contrast which the place presented to all that she had been accustomed to see in her own bed-chamber -- the practical abandonment, implied in its scanty furniture, of those elegant purities of personal habit to which she had been accustomed from her childhood -- shocked that sense of bodily self-respect in Magdalen which is a refined woman's second nature. Contemptible as the influence seemed, when compared with her situation at that moment, the bare sight of the jug and basin in a corner of the room decided her first resolution when she woke. She determined, then and there, to leave Rosemary Lane.
How was she to leave it? With Captain Wragge, or without him?
She dressed herself, with a dainty shrinking from everything in the room which her hands or her clothes touched in the process, and then opened the window. The autumn air felt keen and sweet; and the little patch of sky that she could see was warmly bright already with the new sunlight. Distant voices of bargemen on the river, and the chirping of birds among the weeds which topped the old city wall, were the only sounds that broke the morning silence. She sat down by the window; and searched her mind for the thoughts which she had lost, when weariness overcame her on the night before.
The first subject to which she returned was the vagabond subject of Captain Wragge.
The "moral agriculturist" had failed to remove her personal distrust of him, cunningly as he had tried to plead against it by openly confessing the impostures that he had practiced on others. He had raised her opinion of his abilities; he had amused her by his humor; he had astonished her by his assurance; but he had left her original conviction that he was a Rogue exactly where it was when he first met with her. If the one design then in her mind had been the design of going on the stage, she would, at all hazards, have rejected the more than doubtful assistance of Captain Wragge on the spot.
But the perilous journey on which she had now adventured herself had another end in view -- an end, dark and distant -- an end, with pitfalls hidden on the way to it, far other than the shallow pitfalls on the way to the stage. In the mysterious stillness of the morning, her mind looked on to its second and its deeper design, and the despicable figure of the swindler rose before her in a new view.
She tried to shut him out -- to feel above him and beyond him again, as she had felt up to this time.
After a little trifling with her dress, she took from her bosom the white silk bag which her own hands had made on the farewell night at Combe-Raven. It drew together at the mouth with delicate silken strings. The first thing she took out, on opening it, was a lock of Frank's hair, tied with a morsel of silver thread; the next was a sh eet of paper containing the extracts which she ha d copied from her father's will and her father's letter; the last was a closely-folded packet of bank-notes, to the value of nearly two hundred pounds -- the produce (as Miss Garth had rightly conjectured) of the sale of her jewelry and her dresses, in which the servant at the boarding-school had privately assisted her. She put back the notes at once, without a second glance at them, and then sat looking thoughtfully at the lock of hair as it lay on her lap. "You are better than nothing," she said, speaking to it with a girl's fanciful tenderness. "I can sit and look at you sometimes, till I almost think I am looking at Frank. Oh, my darling! my darling!" Her voice faltered softly, and she put the lock of hair, with a languid gentleness, to her lips. It fell from her fingers into her bosom. A lovely tinge of color rose on her cheeks, and spread downward to her neck, as if it followed the falling hair. She closed her eyes, and let her fair head droop softly. The world passed from her; and, for one enchanted moment, Love opened the gates of Paradise to the daughter of Eve.
The trivial noises in the neighboring street, gathering in number as the morning advanced, forced her back to the hard realities of the passing time. She raised her head with a heavy sigh, and opened her eyes once more on the mean and miserable little room.
The extracts from the will and the letter -- those last memorials of her father, now so closely associated with the purpose which had possession of her mind -still lay before her. The transient color faded from her face, as she spread the little manuscript open on her lap. The extracts from the will stood highest on the page; they were limited to those few touching words in which the dead father begged his children's forgiveness for the stain on their birth, and implored them to remember the untiring love and care by which he had striven to atone for it. The extract from the letter to Mr. Pendril came next. She read the last melancholy sentences aloud to herself: "For God's sake come on the day when you receive this -- come and relieve me from the dreadful thought that my two darling girls are at this moment unprovided for. If anything happened to me, and if my desire to do their mother justice ended (through my miserable ignorance of the law) in leaving Norah and Magdalen disinherited, I should not rest in my grave!" Under these lines again, and close at the bottom of the page, was written the terrible commentary on that letter which had fallen from Mr. Pendril's lips: "Mr. Vanstone's daughters are Nobody's Children, and the law leaves them helpless at their uncle's mercy."
Helpless when those words were spoken -- helpless still, after all that she had resolved, after all that she had sacrificed. The assertion of her natural rights and her sister's, sanctioned by the direct expression of her father's last wishes; the recall of Frank from China; the justification of her desertion of Norah -- all hung on her desperate purpose of recovering the lost inheritance, at any risk, from the man who had beggared and insulted his brother's children. And that man was still a shadow to her! So little did she know of him that she was even ignorant at that moment of his place of abode.
She rose and paced the room with the noiseless, negligent grace of a wild creature of the forest in its cage. "How can I reach him in the dark?" she said to herself. "How can I find out -- ?" She stopped suddenly. Before the question had shaped itself to an end in her thoughts, Captain Wragge was back in her mind again.
A man well used to working in the dark; a man with endless resources of audacity and cunning; a man who would hesitate at no mean employment that could be offered to him, if it was employment that filled his pockets -- was this the instrument for which, in its present need, her hand was waiting? Two of the necessities to be met, before she could take a single step in advance, were plainly present to her -- the necessity of knowing more of her father's brother than she knew now; and the necessity of throwing him off his guard by concealing herself personally during the process of inquiry. Resolutely self-dependent as she was, the inevitable spy's work at the outset must be work delegated to another. In her position, was there any ready human creature within reach but the vagabond downstairs? Not one. She thought of it anxiously, she thought of it long. Not one! There the choice was, steadily confronting her: the choice of taking the Rogue, or of turning her back on the Purpose.
She paused in the middle of the room. "What can he do at his worst?" she said to herself. "Cheat me. Well! if my money governs him for me, what then? Let him have my money!" She returned mechanically to her place by the window. A moment more decided her. A moment more, and she took the first fatal step downward -she determined to face the risk, and try Captain Wragge.
At nine o'clock the landlady knocked at Magdalen's door, and informed her (with the captain's kind compliments) that breakfast was ready.
She found Mrs. Wragge alone, attired in a voluminous brown holland wrapper, with a limp cape and a trimming of dingy pink ribbon. The ex-waitress at Darch's Dining-rooms was absorbed in the contemplation of a large dish, containing a leathery-looking substance of a mottled yellow color, profusely sprinkled with little black spots.
"There it is!" said Mrs. Wragge. "Omelette with herbs. The landlady helped me. And that's what we've made of it. Don't you ask the captain for any when he comes in -- don't, there's a good soul. It isn't nice. We had some accidents with it. It's been under the grate. It's been spilled on the stairs. It's scalded the landlady's youngest boy -- he went and sat on it. Bless you, it isn't half as nice as it looks! Don't you ask for any. Perhaps he won't notice if you say nothing about it. What do you think of my wrapper? I should so like to have a white one. Have you got a white one? How is it trimmed? Do tell me!"
The formidable entrance of the captain suspended the next question on her lips. Fortunately for Mrs. Wragge, her husband was far too anxious for the promised expression of Magdalen's decision to pay his customary attention to questions of cookery. When breakfast was over, he dismissed Mrs. Wragge, and merely referred to the omelette by telling her that she had his full permission to "give it to the dogs."
"How does my little proposal look by daylight?" he asked, placing chairs for Magdalen and himself. "Which is it to be: 'Captain Wragge, take charge of me?' or, 'Captain Wragge, good-morning?'"
"You shall hear directly," replied Magdalen. "I have something to say first. I told you, last night, that I had another object in view besides the object of earning my living on the stage -- "
"I beg your pardon," interposed Captain Wragge. "Did you say, earning your living?"
"Certainly. Both my sister and myself must depend on our own exertions to gain our daily bread."
"What!!!" cried the captain, starting to his feet. "The daughters of my wealthy and lamented relative by marriage reduced to earn their own living? Impossible -- wildly, extravagantly impossible!" He sat down again, and looked at Magdalen as if she had inflicted a personal injury on him.
"You are not acquainted with the full extent of our misfortune," she said, quietly. "I will tell you what has happened before I go any further." She told him at once, in the plainest terms she could find, and with as few details as possible.
Captain Wragge's profound bewilderment left him conscious of but one distinct result produced by the narrative on his own mind. The lawyer's offer of Fifty Pounds Reward for the missing young lady ascended instantly to a place in his estimation which it had never occupied until that moment.
"Do I understand," he inquired, "that you are entirely deprived of present resources?"
"I have sold my jewelry and my dresses," said Magdalen, impatient of his mean harping on the pecuniary string. "If my want of experience keeps me back in a theater, I can afford to wait till the stage can affo rd to pay me."
Captain Wragge mentally appraised t he rings, bracelets, and necklaces, the silks, satins, and laces of the daughter of a gentleman of fortune, at -- say, a third of their real value. In a moment more, the Fifty Pounds Reward suddenly sank again to the lowest depths in the deep estimation of this judicious man.
"Just so," he said, in his most business-like manner. "There is not the least fear, my dear girl, of your being kept back in a theater, if you possess present resources, and if you profit by my assistance."
"I must accept more assistance than you have already offered -- or none," said Magdalen. "I have more serious difficulties before me than the difficulty of leaving York, and the difficulty of finding my way to the stage."
"You don't say so! I am all attention; pray explain yourself!"
She considered her next words carefully before they passed her lips.
"There are certain inquiries," she said, "which I am interested in making. If I undertook them myself, I should excite the suspicion of the person inquired after, and should learn little or nothing of what I wish to know. If the inquiries could be made by a stranger, without my being seen in the matter, a service would be rendered me of much greater importance than the service you offered last night."
Captain Wragge's vagabond face became gravely and deeply attentive.
"May I ask," he said, "what the nature of the inquiries is likely to be?"
Magdalen hesitated. She had necessarily mentioned Michael Vanstone's name in informing the captain of the loss of her inheritance. She must inevitably mention it to him again if she employed his services. He would doubtless discover it for himself, by a plain process of inference, before she said many words more, frame them as carefully as she might. Under these circumstances, was there any intelligible reason for shrinking from direct reference to Michael Vanstone? No intelligible reason -- and yet she shrank.
"For instance," pursued Captain Wragge, "are they inquiries about a man or a woman; inquiries about an enemy or a friend -- ?"
"An enemy," she answered, quickly.
Her reply might still have kept the captain in the dark -- but her eyes enlightened him. "Michael Vanstone!" thought the wary Wragge. "She looks dangerous; I'll feel my way a little further."
"With regard, now, to the person who is the object of these inquiries," he resumed. "Are you thoroughly clear in your own mind about what you want to know?"
"Perfectly clear," replied Magdalen. "I want to know where he lives, to begin with."
"Yes. And after that?"
"I want to know about his habits; about who the people are whom he associates with; about what he does with his money -- " She considered a little. "And one thing more," she said; "I want to know whether there is any woman about his house -- a relation, or a housekeeper -- who has an influence over him."
"Harmless enough, so far," said the captain. "What next?"
"Nothing. The rest is my secret."
The clouds on Captain Wragge's countenance began to clear away again. He reverted, with his customary precision, to his customary choice of alternatives. "These inquiries of hers," he thought, "mean one of two things -- Mischief, or Money! If it's Mischief, I'll slip through her fingers. If it's Money, I'll make myself useful, with a view to the future."
Magdalen's vigilant eyes watched the progress of his reflections suspiciously. "Captain Wragge," she said, "if you want time to consider, say so plainly."
"I don't want a moment," replied the captain. "Place your departure from York, your dramatic career, and your private inquiries under my care. Here I am, unreservedly at your disposal. Say the word -- do you take me?"
Her heart beat fast; her lips turned dry -- but she said the word.
There was a pause. Magdalen sat silent, struggling with the vague dread of the future which had been roused in her mind by her own reply. Captain Wragge, on his side, was apparently absorbed in the consideration of a new set of alternatives. His hands descended into his empty pockets, and prophetically tested their capacity as receptacles for gold and silver. The brightness of the precious metals was in his face, the smoothness of the precious metals was in his voice, as he provided himself with a new supply of words, and resumed the conversation.
"The next question," he said, "is the question of time. Do these confidential investigations of ours require immediate attention -- or can they wait?"
"For the present, they can wait," replied Magdalen. "I wish to secure my freedom from all interference on the part of my friends before the inquiries are made."
"Very good. The first step toward accomplishing that object is to beat our retreat -- excuse a professional metaphor from a military man -- to beat our retreat from York to-morrow. I see my way plainly so far; but I am all abroad, as we used to say in the militia, about my marching orders afterward. The next direction we take ought to be chosen with an eye to advancing your dramatic views. I am all ready, when I know what your views are. How came you to think of the theater at all? I see the sacred fire burning in you; tell me, who lit it?"
Magdalen could only answer him in one way. She could only look back at the days that were gone forever, and tell him the story of her first step toward the stage at Evergreen Lodge. Captain Wragge listened with his usual politeness; but he evidently derived no satisfactory impression from what he heard. Audiences of friends were audiences whom he privately declined to trust; and the opinion of the stage-manager was the opinion of a man who spoke with his fee in his pocket and his eye on a future engagement.
"Interesting, deeply interesting," he said, when Magdalen had done. "But not conclusive to a practical man. A specimen of your abilities is necessary to enlighten me. I have been on the stage myself; the comedy of the Rivals is familiar to me from beginning to end. A sample is all I want, if you have not forgotten the words -- a sample of 'Lucy,' and a sample of 'Julia.'"
"I have not forgotten the words," said Magdalen, sorrowfully; "and I have the little books with me in which my dialogue was written out. I have never parted with them; they remind me of a time -- " Her lip trembled, and a pang of the heart-ache silenced her.
"Nervous," remarked the captain, indulgently. "Not at all a bad sign. The greatest actresses on the stage are nervous. Follow their example, and get over it. Where are the parts? Oh, here they are! Very nicely written, and remarkably clean. I'll give you the cues -- it will all be over (as the dentists say) in no time. Take the back drawing-room for the stage, and take me for the audience. Tingle goes the bell; up runs the curtain; order in the gallery, silence in the pit -- enter Lucy!"
She tried hard to control herself; she forced back the sorrow -- the innocent, natural, human sorrow for the absent and the dead -- pleading hard with her for the tears that she refused. Resolutely, with cold, clinched hands, she tried to begin. As the first familiar words passed her lips, Frank came back to her from the sea, and the face of her dead father looked at her with the smile of happy old times. The voices of her mother and her sister talked gently in the fragrant country stillness, and the garden-walks at Combe-Raven opened once more on her view. With a faint, wailing cry, she dropped into a chair; her head fell forward on the table, and she burst passionately into tears.
Captain Wragge was on his feet in a moment. She shuddered as he came near her, and waved him back vehemently with her hand. "Leave me!" she said; "leave me a minute by myself!" The compliant Wragge retired to the front room; looked out of the window; and whistled under his breath. "The family spirit again!" he said. "Complicated by hysterics."
After waiting a minute or two he returned to make inquiries.
"Is there anything I can offer you?" he asked. "Cold water? burned feathers? smelling salts? medical assistance? Shall I summon Mrs. Wragge? Shall we put it off till to-morrow?"
She started up, wild and flushed, with a desperate s elf-command in her face, with an angry resolution in her manner.
"No!" she said. "I must harden myself -- and I will! Sit down again and see me act."
"Bravo!" cried the captain. "Dash at it, my beauty -- and it's done!"
She dashed at it, with a mad defiance of herself -- with a raised voice, and a glow like fever in her cheeks. All the artless, girlish charm of the performance in happier and better days was gone. The native dramatic capacity that was in her came, hard and bold, to the surface, stripped of every softening allurement which had once adorned it. She would have saddened and disappointed a man with any delicacy of feeling. She absolutely electrified Captain Wragge. He forgot his politeness, he forgot his long words. The essential spirit of the man's whole vagabond life burst out of him irresistibly in his first exclamation. "Who the devil would have thought it? She can act, after all!" The instant the words escaped his lips he recovered himself, and glided off into his ordinary colloquial channels. Magdalen stopped him in the middle of his first compliment. "No," she said; "I have forced the truth out of you for once. I want no more."
"Pardon me," replied the incorrigible Wragge. "You want a little instruction; and I am the man to give it you."
With that answer, he placed a chair for her, and proceeded to explain himself.
She sat down in silence. A sullen indifference began to show itself in her manner; her cheeks turned pale again; and her eyes looked wearily vacant at the wall before her. Captain Wragge noticed these signs of heart-sickness and discontent with herself, after the effort she had made, and saw the importance of rousing her by speaking, for once, plainly and directly to the point. She had set a new value on herself in his mercenary eyes. She had suggested to him a speculation in her youth, her beauty, and her marked ability for the stage, which had never entered his mind until he saw her act. The old militia-man was quick at his shifts. He and his plans had both turned right about together when Magdalen sat down to hear what he had to say.
"Mr. Huxtable's opinion is my opinion," he began. "You are a born actress. But you must be trained before you can do anything on the stage. I am disengaged -I am competent -- I have trained others -- I can train you. Don't trust my word: trust my eye to my own interests. I'll make it my interest to take pains with you, and to be quick about it. You shall pay me for my instructions from your profits on the stage. Half your salary for the first year; a third of your salary for the second year; and half the sum you clear by your first benefit in a London theater. What do you say to that? Have I made it my interest to push you, or have I not?"
So far as appearances went, and so far as the stage went, it was plain that he had linked his interests and Magdalen's together. She briefly told him so, and waited to hear more.
"A month or six weeks' study," continued the captain, "will give me a reasonable idea of what you can do best. All ability runs in grooves; and your groove remains to be found. We can't find it here -- for we can't keep you a close prisoner for weeks together in Rosemary Lane. A quiet country place, secure from all interference and interruption, is the place we want for a month certain. Trust my knowledge of Yorkshire, and consider the place found. I see no difficulties anywhere, except the difficulty of beating our retreat to-morrow."
"I thought your arrangements were made last night?" said Magdalen.
"Quite right," rejoined the captain. "They were made last night; and here they are. We can't leave by railway, because the lawyer's clerk is sure to be on the lookout for you at the York terminus. Very good; we take to the road instead, and leave in our own carriage. Where the deuce do we get it? We get it from the landlady's brother, who has a horse and chaise which he lets out for hire. That chaise comes to the end of Rosemary Lane at an early hour to-morrow morning. I take my wife and my niece out to show them the beauties of the neighborhood. We have a picnic hamper with us, which marks our purpose in the public eye. You disfigure yourself in a shawl, bonnet, and veil of Mrs. Wragge's; we turn our backs on York; and away we drive on a pleasure trip for the day -- you and I on the front seat, Mrs. Wragge and the hamper behind. Good again. Once on the highroad, what do we do? Drive to the first station beyond York, northward, southward, or eastward, as may be hereafter determined. No lawyer's clerk is waiting for you there. You and Mrs. Wragge get out -- first opening the hamper at a convenient opportunity. Instead of containing chickens and Champagne, it contains a carpet-bag, with the things you want for the night. You take your tickets for a place previously determined on, and I take the chaise back to York. Arrived once more in this house, I collect the luggage left behind, and send for the woman downstairs. 'Ladies so charmed with such and such a place (wrong place of course), that they have determined to stop there. Pray accept the customary week's rent, in place of a week's warning. Good day.' Is the clerk looking for me at the York terminus? Not he. I take my ticket under his very nose; I follow you with the luggage along your line of railway -- and where is the trace left of your departure? Nowhere. The fairy has vanished; and the legal authorities are left in the lurch."
"Why do you talk of difficulties?" asked Magdalen. "The difficulties seem to be provided for."
"All but ONE," said Captain Wragge, with an ominous emphasis on the last word. "The Grand Difficulty of humanity from the cradle to the grave -- Money." He slowly winked his green eye; sighed with deep feeling; and buried his insolvent hands in his unproductive pockets.
"What is the money wanted for?" inquired Magdalen.
"To pay my bills," replied the captain, with a touching simplicity. "Pray understand! I never was -- and never shall be -- personally desirous of paying a single farthing to any human creature on the habitable globe. I am speaking in your interest, not in mine."
"Certainly. You can't get safely away from York to-morrow without the chaise. And I can't get the chaise without money. The landlady's brother will lend it if he sees his sister's bill receipted, and if he gets his day's hire beforehand -not otherwise. Allow me to put the transaction in a business light. We have agreed that I am to be remunerated for my course of dramatic instruction out of your future earnings on the stage. Very good. I merely draw on my future prospects; and you, on whom those prospects depend, are naturally my banker. For mere argument's sake, estimate my share in your first year's salary at the totally inadequate value of a hundred pounds. Halve that sum; quarter that sum -- "
"How much do you want?" said Magdalen, impatiently.
Captain Wragge was sorely tempted to take the Reward at the top of the handbills as his basis of calculation. But he felt the vast future importance of present moderation; and actually wanting some twelve or thirteen pounds, he merely doubled the amount, and said, "Five-and-twenty."
Magdalen took the little bag from her bosom, and gave him the money, with a contemptuous wonder at the number of words which he had wasted on her for the purpose of cheating on so small a scale. In the old days at Combe-Raven, five-and-twenty pounds flowed from a stroke of her father's pen into the hands of any one in the house who chose to ask for it.
Captain Wragge's eyes dwelt on the little bag as the eyes of lovers dwell on their mistresses. "Happy bag!" he murmured, as she put it back in her bosom. He rose; dived into a corner of the room; produced his neat dispatch-box; and solemnly unlocked it on the table between Magdalen and himself.
"The nature of the man, my dear girl -- the nature of the man," he said, opening one of his plump little books bound in calf and vellum. "A transaction has taken place between us. I must have it down in black and white." He opened the book at a blank page, and wrote at the top, in a fine mercantile hand: "Miss Vanstone , the Younger: In account with Horatio Wragge, late o f the Royal Militia. Dr. -Cr. Sept. 24th, 1846. Dr.: To estimated value of H. Wragge's interest in Miss V.'s first year's salary -- say -- 200 pounds. Cr. By paid on account, 25 pounds." Having completed the entry -- and having also shown, by doubling his original estimate on the Debtor side, that Magdalen's easy compliance with his demand on her had not been thrown away on him -- the captain pressed his blotting-paper over the wet ink, and put away the book with the air of a man who had done a virtuous action, and who was above boasting about it.
"Excuse me for leaving you abruptly," he said. "Time is of importance; I must make sure of the chaise. If Mrs. Wragge comes in, tell her nothing -- she is not sharp enough to be trusted. If she presumes to ask questions, extinguish her immediately. You have only to be loud. Pray take my authority into your own hands, and be as loud with Mrs. Wragge as I am!" He snatched up his tall hat, bowed, smiled, and tripped out of the room.
Sensible of little else but of the relief of being alone; feeling no more distinct impression than the vague sense of some serious change having taken place in herself and her position, Magdalen let the events of the morning come and go like shadows on her mind, and waited wearily for what the day might bring forth. After the lapse of some time, the door opened softly. The giant figure of Mrs. Wragge stalked into the room, and stopped opposite Magdalen in solemn astonishment.
"Where are your Things?" asked Mrs. Wragge, with a burst of incontrollable anxiety. "I've been upstairs looking in your drawers. Where are your night-gowns and night-caps? and your petticoats and stockings? and your hair-pins and bear's grease, and all the rest of it?"
"My luggage is left at the railway station," said Magdalen.
Mrs. Wragge's moon-face brightened dimly. The ineradicable female instinct of Curiosity tried to sparkle in her faded blue eyes -- flickered piteously -- and died out.
"How much luggage?" she asked, confidentially. "The captain's gone out. Let's go and get it!"
"Mrs. Wragge!" cried a terrible voice at the door.
For the first time in Magdalen's experience, Mrs. Wragge was deaf to the customary stimulant. She actually ventured on a feeble remonstrance in the presence of her husband.
"Oh, do let her have her Things!" pleaded Mrs. Wragge. "Oh, poor soul, do let her have her Things!"
The captain's inexorable forefinger pointed to a corner of the room -- dropped slowly as his wife retired before it -- and suddenly stopped at the region of her shoes.
"Do I hear a clapping on the floor!" exclaimed Captain Wragge, with an expression of horror. "Yes; I do. Down at heel again! The left shoe this time. Pull it up, Mrs. Wragge! pull it up! -- The chaise will be here to-morrow morning at nine o'clock," he continued, addressing Magdalen. "We can't possibly venture on claiming your box. There is note-paper. Write down a list of the necessaries you want. I will take it myself to the shop, pay the bill for you, and bring back the parcel. We must sacrifice the box -- we must, indeed."
While her husband was addressing Magdalen, Mrs. Wragge had stolen out again from her corner, and had ventured near enough to the captain to hear the words "shop" and "parcel." She clapped her great hands together in ungovernable excitement, and lost all control over herself immediately.
"Oh, if it's shopping, let me do it!" cried Mrs. Wragge. "She's going out to buy her Things! Oh, let me go with her -- please let me go with her!"
"Sit down!" shouted the captain. "Straight! more to the right -- more still. Stop where you are!"
Mrs. Wragge crossed her helpless hands on her lap, and melted meekly into tears.
"I do so like shopping," pleaded the poor creature; "and I get so little of it now!"
Magdalen completed her list; and Captain Wragge at once left the room with it. "Don't let my wife bore you," he said, pleasantly, as he went out. "Cut her short, poor soul -- cut her short!"
"Don't cry," said Magdalen, trying to comfort Mrs. Wragge by patting her on the shoulder. "When the parcel comes back you shall open it."
"Thank you, my dear," said Mrs. Wragge, meekly, drying her eyes; "thank you kindly. Don't notice my handkerchief, please. It's such a very little one! I had a nice lot of them once, with lace borders. They're all gone now. Never mind! It will comfort me to unpack your Things. You're very good to me. I like you. I say -- you won't be angry, will you? Give us a kiss."
Magdalen stooped over her with the frank grace and gentleness of past days, and touched her faded cheek. "Let me do something harmless!" she thought, with a pang at her heart -- "oh let me do something innocent and kind for the sake of old times!"
She felt her eyes moistening, and silently turned away.
That night no rest came to her. That night the roused forces of Good and Evil fought their terrible fight for her soul -- and left the strife between them still in suspense when morning came. As the clock of York Minster struck nine, she followed Mrs. Wragge to the chaise, and took her seat by the captain's side. In a quarter of an hour more York was in the distance, and the highroad lay bright and open before them in the morning sunlight.Next