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EARLY the next morning Miss Garth and Norah met in the garden and spoke
together privately. The only noticeable result of the interview, when they
presented themselves at the breakfast-table, appeared in the marked silence
which they both maintained on the topic of the theatrical performance. Mrs.
Vanstone was entirely indebted to her husband and to her youngest daughter for
all that she heard of the evening's entertainment. The governess and the elder
daughter had evidently determined on letting the subject drop.
After breakfast was over Magdalen proved to be missing, when the ladies
assembled as usual in the morning-room. Her habits were so little regular that
Mrs. Vanstone felt neither surprise nor uneasiness at her absence. Miss Garth
and Norah looked at one another significantly, and waited in silence. Two hours
passed -- and there were no signs of Magdalen. Norah rose, as the clock struck
twelve, and quietly left the room to look for her.
She was not upstairs dusting her jewelry and disarranging her dresses. She was
not in the conservatory, not in the flower-garden; not in the kitchen teasing the
cook; not in the yard playing with the dogs. Had she, by any chance, gone out
with her father? Mr. Vanstone had announced his intention, at the breakfast-
table, of paying a morning visit to his old ally, Mr. Clare, and of rousing the
philosopher's sarcastic indignation by an account of the dramatic performance.
None of the other ladies at Combe-Raven ever ventured themselves inside the
cottage. But Magdalen was reckless enough for anything -- and Magdalen might
have gone there. As the idea occurred to her, Norah entered the shrubbery.
At the second turning, where the path among the trees wound away out of sight
of the house, she came suddenly face to face with Magdalen and Frank: they
were sauntering toward her, arm in arm, their heads close together, their
conversation apparently proceeding in whispers. They looked suspiciously
handsome and happy. At the sight of Norah both started, and both stopped.