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XI 


From Magdalen to Captain Wragge.

"Vauxhall Walk, July 17th.

"If I am not mistaken, it was arranged that I should write to you at Birmingham as soon as I felt myself composed enough to think of the future. My mind is settled at last, and I am now able to accept the services which you have so unreservedly offered to me.

"I beg you will forgive the manner in which I received you on your arrival in this house, after hearing the news of my sudden illness. I was quite incapable of controlling myself -- I was suffering an agony of mind which for the time deprived me of my senses. It is only your due that I should now thank you for treating me with great forbearance at a time when forbearance was mercy.

"I will mention what I wish you to do as plainly and briefly as I can.

"In the first place, I request you to dispose (as privately as possible) of every article of costume used in the dramatic Entertainment. I have done with our performances forever; and I wish to be set free from everything which might accidentally connect me with them in the future. The key of my box is inclosed in this letter.

"The other box, which contains my own dresses, you will be kind enough to forward to this house. I do not ask you to bring it yourself, because I have a far more important commission to intrust to you.

"Referring to the note which you left for me at your departure, I conclude that you have by this time traced Mr. Noel Vanstone from Vauxhall Walk to the residence which he is now occupying. If you have made the discovery -- and if you are quite sure of not having drawn the attention either of Mrs. Lecount or her master to yourself -- I wish you to arrange immediately for my residing

(with you and Mrs. Wragge) in the same town or village in which Mr. Noel Vanstone has taken up his abode. I write this, it is hardly necessary to say, under the impression that, wherever he may now be living, he is settled in the place for some little time.

"If you can find a small furnished house for me on these conditions which is to be let by the month, take it for a month certain to begin with. Say that it is for your wife, your niece, and yourself, and use any assumed name you please, as long as it is a name that can be trusted to defeat the most suspicious inquiries. I leave this to your experience in such matters. The secret of who we really are must be kept as strictly as if it was a secret on which our lives depend.

"Any expenses to which you may be put in carrying out my wishes I will immediately repay. If you easily find the sort of house I want, there is no need for your returning to London to fetch us. We can join you as soon as we know where to go. The house must be perfectly respectable, and must be reasonably near to Mr. Noel Vanstone's present residence, wherever that is.

"You must allow me to be silent in this letter as to the object which I have now in view. I am unwilling to risk an explanation in writing. When all our preparations are made, you shall hear what I propose to do from my own lips; and I shall expect you to tell me plainly, in return, whether you will or will not give me the help I want on the best terms which I am able to offer you.

"One word more before I seal up this letter.

"If any opportunity falls in your way after you have taken the house, and before we join you, of exchanging a few civil words either with Mr. Noel Vanstone or Mrs. Lecount, take advantage of it. It is very important to my present object that we should become acquainted with each other -- as the purely accidental result of our being near neighbors. I want you to smooth the way toward this end if you can, before Mrs. Wragge and I come to you. Pray throw away no chance of observing Mrs. Lecount, in particular, very carefully. Whatever help you can give me at the outset in blindfolding that woman's sharp eyes will be the most precious help I have ever received at your hands.

"There is no need to answer this letter immediately -- unless I have written it under a mistaken impression of what you have accomplished since leaving London. I have taken our lodgings on for another week; and I can wait to hear from you until you are able to send me such news as I wish to receive. You may be quite sure of my patience for the future, under all possible circumstances. My caprices are at an end, and my violent temper has tried your forbearance for the last time.

MAGDALEN."

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