WHEN she returned to the house, Miss Garth made no attempt to conceal her
unfavorable opinion of the stranger in black. His object was, no doubt, to obtain
pecuniary assistance from Mrs. Vanstone. What the nature of his claim on her
might be seemed less intelligible -- unless it was the claim of a poor relation. Had
Mrs. Vanstone ever mentioned, in the presence of her daughters, the name of
Captain Wragge? Neither of them recollected to have heard it before. Had Mrs.
Vanstone ever referred to any poor relations who were dependent on her? On
the contrary she had mentioned of late years that she doubted having any
relations at all who were still living. And yet Captain Wragge had plainly declared
that the name on his card would recall "a family matter" to Mrs. Vanstone's
memory. What did it mean? A false statement, on the stranger's part, without any
intelligible reason for making it? Or a second mystery, following close on the
heels of the mysterious journey to London?
All the probabilities seemed to point to some hidden connection between the
"family affairs" which had taken Mr. and Mrs. Vanstone so suddenly from home
and the "family matter" associated with the name of Captain Wragge. Miss
Garth's doubts thronged back irresistibly on her mind as she sealed her letter to
Mrs. Vanstone, with the captain's card added by way of inclosure.
By return of post the answer arrived.
Always the earliest riser among the ladies of the house, Miss Garth was alo ne in
the breakfast-room when the letter was brought in. Her first glance at its contents
convinced her of the necessity of reading it carefully through in retirement, before
any embarrassing questions could be put to her. Leaving a message with the
servant requesting Norah to make the tea that morning, she went upstairs at
once to the solitude and security of her own room.
Mrs. Vanstone's letter extended to some length. The first part of it referred to
Captain Wragge, and entered unreservedly into all necessary explanations