No Name, by Wilkie Collins

Between the Scenes.

Progress of the Story Through the Post.

i.

From Miss Garth to Mr. Pendril.

“DEAR MR. PENDRIL— I write, as you kindly requested, to report how Norah is going on, and to tell you what changes I see for the better in the state of her mind on the subject of her sister.

“I cannot say that she is becoming resigned to Magdalen’s continued silence — I know her faithful nature too well to say it. I can only tell you that she is beginning to find relief from the heavy pressure of sorrow and suspense in new thoughts and new hopes. I doubt if she has yet realized this in her own mind; but I see the result, although she is not conscious of it herself. I see her heart opening to the consolation of another interest and another love. She has not said a word to me on the subject, nor have I said a word to her. But as certainly as I know that Mr. George Bartram’s visits have lately grown more and more frequent to the family at Portland Place — so certainly I can assure you that Norah is finding a relief under her suspense, which is not of my bringing, and a hope in the future, which I have not taught her to feel.

“It is needless for me to say that I tell you this in the strictest confidence. God knows whether the happy prospect which seems to me to be just dawning will grow brighter or not as time goes on. The oftener I see Mr. George Bartram — and he has called on me more than once — the stronger my liking for him grows. To my poor judgment he seems to be a gentleman in the highest and truest sense of the word. If I could live to see Norah his wife, I should almost feel that I had lived long enough. But who can discern the future? We have suffered so much that I am afraid to hope.

“Have you heard anything of Magdalen? I don’t know why or how it is; but since I have known of her husband’s death, my old tenderness for her seems to cling to me more obstinately than ever. Always yours truly,

“HARRIET GARTH.”

ii

From Mr. Pendril to Miss Garth.

“DEAR MISS GARTH— Of Mrs. Noel Vanstone herself I have heard nothing. But I have learned, since I saw you, that the report of the position in which she is left by the death of her husband may be depended upon as the truth. No legacy of any kind is bequeathed to her. Her name is not once mentioned in her husband’s will.

“Knowing what we know, it is not to be concealed that this circumstance threatens us with more embarrassment, and perhaps with more distress. Mrs. Noel Vanstone is not the woman to submit, without a desperate resistance, to the total overthrow of all her schemes and all her hopes. The mere fact that nothing whatever has been heard of her since her husband’s death is suggestive to my mind of serious mischief to come. In her situation, and with her temper, the quieter she is now, the more inveterately I, for one, distrust her in the future. It is impossible to say to what violent measures her present extremity may not drive her. It is impossible to feel sure that she may not be the cause of some public scandal this time, which may affect her innocent sister as well as herself.

“I know you will not misinterpret the motive which has led me to write these lines; I know you will not think that I am inconsiderate enough to cause you unnecessary alarm. My sincere anxiety to see that happy prospect realized to which your letter alludes has caused me to write far less reservedly than I might otherwise have written. I strongly urge you to use your influence, on every occasion when you can fairly exert it, to strengthen that growing attachment, and to place it beyond the reach of any coming disasters, while you have the opportunity of doing so. When I tell you that the fortune of which Mrs. Noel Vanstone has been deprived is entirely bequeathed to Admiral Bartram; and when I add that Mr. George Bartram is generally understood to be his uncle’s heir — you will, I think, acknowledge that I am not warning you without a cause. Yours most truly,

“WILLIAM PENDRIL.”

iii.

From Admiral Bartram to Mrs. Drake (housekeeper at St. Crux).

“MRS. DRAKE— I have received your letter from London, stating that you have found me a new parlor-maid at last, and that the girl is ready to return with you to St. Crux when your other errands in town allow you to come back.

“This arrangement must be altered immediately, for a reason which I am heartily sorry to have to write.

“The illness of my niece, Mrs. Girdlestone — which appeared to be so slight as to alarm none of us, doctors included — has ended fatally. I received this morning the shocking news of her death. Her husband is said to be quite frantic with grief. Mr. George has already gone to his brother-in-law’s, to superintend the last melancholy duties and I must follow him before the funeral takes place. We propose to take Mr. Girdlestone away afterward, and to try the effect on him of change of place and new scenes. Under these sad circumstances, I may be absent from St. Crux a month or six weeks at least; the house will be shut up, and the new servant will not be wanted until my return.

“You will therefore tell the girl, on receiving this letter, that a death in the family has caused a temporary change in our arrangements. If she is willing to wait, you may safely engage her to come here in six weeks’ time; I shall be back then, if Mr. George is not. If she refuses, pay her what compensation is right, and so have done with her. Yours,

ARTHUR BARTRAM.”

iv.

From Mrs. Drake to Admiral Bartram.

“HONORED SIR— I hope to get my errands done, and to return to St. Crux to-morrow, but write to save you anxiety, in case of delay.

“The young woman whom I have engaged (Louisa by name) is willing to wait your time; and her present mistress, taking an interest in her welfare, will provide for her during the interval. She understands that she is to enter on her new service in six weeks from the present date — namely, on the twenty-fifth of February next.

“Begging you will accept my respectful sympathy under the sad bereavement which has befallen the family,

“I remain, honored sir, your humble servant,

“SOPHIA DRAKE.”

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/c/collins/wilkie/c71no/chapter47.html

Last updated Thursday, March 13, 2014 at 21:30