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II 


From Norah Vanstone to Miss Garth.

"Portland Place.

"MY DEAR MISS GARTH -- More sorrow, more disappointment! I have just returned from Aldborough, without making any discovery. Magdalen is still lost to us.

"I cannot attribute this new overthrow of my hopes to any want of perseverance or penetration in making the necessary inquiries. My inexperience in such matters was most kindly and unexpectedly assisted by Mr. George Bartram. By a strange coincidence, he happened to be at Aldborough, inquiring after Mr. Noel Vanstone, at the very time when I was there inquiring aft er Magdalen. He sent in his card, and knowing, when I looked at the name, that he was my cousin -- if I may call him so -- I thought there would be no impropriety in my seeing him and asking his advice. I abstained from entering into particulars for Magdalen's sake, and I made no allusion to that letter of Mrs. Lecount's which you answered for me. I only told him Magdalen was missing, and had been last heard of at Aldborough. The kindness which he showed in devoting himself to my assistance exceeds all description. He treated me, in my forlorn situation, with a delicacy and respect which I shall remember gratefully long after he has himself perhaps forgotten our meeting altogether. He is quite young -- not more than thirty, I should think. In face and figure, he reminded me a little of the portrait of my father at Combe-Raven -- I mean the portrait in the dining-room, of my father when he was a young man.

"Useless as our inquiries were, there is one result of them which has left a very strange and shocking impression on my mind.

"It appears that Mr. Noel Vanstone has lately married, under mysterious circumstances, a young lady whom he met with at Aldborough, named Bygrave. He has gone away with his wife, telling nobody but his lawyer where he has gone to. This I heard from Mr. George Bartram, who was endeavoring to trace him, for the purpose of communicating the news of his housekeeper's serious illness -- the housekeeper being the same Mrs. Lecount whose letter you answered. So far, you may say, there is nothing which need particularly interest either of us. But I think you will be as much surprised as I was when I tell you that the description given by the people at Aldborough of Miss Bygrave's appearance is most startlingly and unaccountably like the description of Magdalen's appearance. This discovery, taken in connection with all the circumstances we know of, has had an effect on my mind which I cannot describe to you -- which I dare not realize to myself. Pray come and see me! I have never felt so wretched about Magdalen as I feel now. Suspense must have weakened my nerves in some strange way. I feel superstitious about the slightest things. This accidental resemblance of a total stranger to Magdalen fills me every now and then with the most horrible misgivings -- merely because Mr. Noel Vanstone's name happens to be mixed up with it. Once more, pray come to me; I have so much to say to you that I cannot, and dare not, say in writing.

"Gratefully and affectionately yours,

"NORAH."

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