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The Legacy of Cain

10. Miss Chance Reappears
A week had passed, since the Minister's wife had left me, when I received a letter from
the Minister himself.
After surprising me, as he innocently supposed, by announcing the birth of his child, he
mentioned some circumstances connected with that event, which I now heard for the first
time.
"Within an easy journey of the populous scene of my present labors," he wrote, "there is a
secluded country village called Low Lanes. The rector of the place is my wife's brother.
Before the birth of our infant, he had asked his sister to stay for a while at his house; and
the doctor thought she might safely be allowed to accept the invitation. Through some
error in the customary calculations, as I suppose, the child was born unexpectedly at the
rectory; and the ceremony of baptism was performed at the church, under circumstances
which I am not able to relate within the limits of a letter: Let me only say that I allude to
this incident without any sectarian bitterness of feeling--for I am no enemy to the Church
of England. You have no idea what treasures of virtue and treasures of beauty maternity
has revealed in my wife's sweet nature. Other mothers, in her proud position, might find
their love cooling toward the poor child whom we have adopted. But my household is
irradiated by the presence of an angel, who gives an equal share in her affections to the
two little ones alike."
In this semi-hysterical style of writing, the poor man unconsciously told me how
cunningly and how cruelly his wife was deceiving him.
I longed to exhibit that wicked woman in her true character--but what could I do? She
must have been so favored by circumstances as to be able to account for her absence from
home, without exciting the slightest suspicion of the journey which she had really taken,
if I declared in my reply to the Minister's letter that I had received her in my rooms, and
if I repeated the conversation that had taken place, what would the result be? She would
find an easy refuge in positive denial of the truth--and, in that case, which of us would
her infatuated husband believe?
The one part of the letter which I read with some satisfaction was the end of it.
I was here informed that the Minister's plans for concealing the parentage of his adopted
daughter had proved to be entirely successful. The members of the new domestic
household believed the two children to be infant-sisters. Neither was there any danger of
the adopted child being identified (as the oldest child of the two) by consultation of the
registers.
Before he left our town, the Minister had seen for himself that no baptismal name had
been added, after the birth of the daughter of the murderess had been registered, and that
no entry of baptism existed in the registers kept in places of worship. He drew the
 
 
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