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The New Magdalen by Wilkie Collins

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To the observation of women these remote defects were too far
below the surface to be visible. He charmed the sex in general by
his rare personal advantages, and by the graceful deference of
his manner. To Lady Janet he was endeared, not by his own merits
only, but by old associations that were connected with him. His
father had been one of her many admirers in her young days.
Circumstances had parted them. Her marriage to another man had
been a childless marriage. In past times, when the boy Horace had
come to her from school, she had cherished a secret fancy (too
absurd to be communicated to any living creature) that he ought
to have been _her_ son, and might have been her son, if she had
married his father! She smiled charmingly, old as she was--she
yielded as his mother might have yielded--when the young man took
her hand and entreated her to interest herself in his marriage.
"Must I really speak to Grace?" she asked , with a gentleness of
tone and manner far from characteristic, on ordinary occasions,
of the lady of Mablethorpe House. Horace saw that he had gained
his point. He sprang to his feet; his eyes turned eagerly in the
direction of the conservatory; his handsome face was radiant with
hope. Lady Janet (with her mind full of his father) stole a last
look at him, sighed as she thought of the vanished days, and
recovered herself.

"Go to the smoking-room," she said, giving him a push toward the
door. "Away with you, and cultivate the favorite vice of the
nineteenth century." Horace attempted to express his gratitude.
"Go and smoke!" was all she said, pushing him out. "Go and

Left by herself, Lady Janet took a turn in the room, and
considered a little.

Horace's discontent was not unreasonable. There was really no
excuse for the delay of which he complained. Whether the young
lady had a special motive for hanging back, or whether she was
merely fretting because she did not know her own mind, it was, in
either case, necessary to come to a distinct understanding,
sooner or later, on the serious question of the marriage. The
difficulty was, how to approach the subject without giving
offense. "I don't understand the young women of the present
generation," thought Lady Janet. "In my time, when we were fond
of a man, we were ready to marry him at a moment's notice. And
this is an age of progress! They ought to be readier still."

Arriving, by her own process of induction, at this inevitable
conclusion, she decided to try what her influence could
accomplish, and to trust to the inspiration of the moment for
exerting it in the right way. "Grace!" she called out,
approaching the conservatory door. The tall, lithe figure in its
gray dress glided into view, and stood relieved against the green
background of the winter-garden.

"Did your ladyship call me?"

"Yes; I want to speak to you. Come and sit down by me."

With those words Lady Janet led the way to a sofa, and placed her
companion by her side.



"You look very pale this morning, my child."

Mercy sighed wearily. "I am not well," she answered. "The
slightest noises startle me. I feel tired if I only walk across
the room."

Lady Janet patted her kindly on the shoulder. "We must try what a
change will do for you. Which shall it be? the Continent or the

"Your ladyship is too kind to me."

"It is impossible to be too kind to you."

Mercy started. The color flowed charmingly over her pale face.
"Oh!" she exclaimed, impulsively. "Say that again!"

"Say it again?" repeated Lady Janet, with a look of surprise.

"Yes! Don't think me presuming; only think me vain. I can't hear
you say too often that you have learned to like me. Is it really
a pleasure to you to have me in the house? Have I always behaved
well since I have been with you?"

(The one excuse for the act of personation--if excuse there could
be--lay in the affirmative answer to those questions. It would be
something, surely, to say of the false Grace that the true Grace
could not have been worthier of her welcome, if the true Grace
had been received at Mablethorpe House!)

Lady Janet was partly touched, partly amused, by the
extraordinary earnestness of the appeal that had been made to

"Have you behaved well?" she repeated. "My dear, you talk as if
you were a child!" She laid her hand caressingly on Mercy's arm,
and continued, in a graver tone: "It is hardly too much to say,
Grace, that I bless the day when you first came to me. I do
believe I could be hardly fonder of you if you were my own

Mercy suddenly turned her head aside, so as to hide her face.
Lady Janet, still touching her arm, felt it tremble. "What is the
matter with you?" she asked, in her abrupt, downright manner.

"I am only very grateful to your ladyship--that is all." The
words were spoken faintly, in broken tones. The face was still
averted from Lady Janet's view. "What have I said to provoke
this?" wondered the old lady. "Is she in the melting mood to-day?
If she is, now is the time to say a word for Horace!" Keeping
that excellent object in view, Lady Janet approached the delicate
topic with all needful caution at starting.

"We have got on so well together," she resumed, "that it will not
be easy for either of us to feel reconciled to a change in our
lives. At my age, it will fall hardest on me. What shall I do,
Grace, when the day comes for parting with my adopted daughter?"

Mercy started, and showed her face again. The traces of tears
were in her eyes. "Why should I leave you?" she asked, in a tone
of alarm.

"Surely you know!" exclaimed Lady Janet.

"Indeed I don't. Tell me why."

"Ask Horace to tell you."

The last allusion was too plain to be misunderstood. Mercy's head
drooped. She began to tremble again. Lady Janet looked at her in
blank amazement.

"Is there anything wrong between Horace and you?" she asked.


"You know your own heart, my dear child? You have surely not
encouraged Horace without loving him?"

"Oh no!"

"And yet--"

For the first time in their experience of each other Mercy
ventured to interrupt her benefactress. "Dear Lady Janet," she
interposed, gently, "I am in no hurry to be married. There will
be plenty of time in the future to talk of that. You had
something you wished to say to me. What is it?"

It was no easy matter to disconcert Lady Janet Roy. But that last
question fairly reduced her to silence. After all that had
passed, there sat her young companion, innocent of the faintest
suspicion of the subject that was to be discussed between them!
"What are the young women of the present time made of?" thought
the old lady, utterly at a loss to know what to say next. Mercy
waited, on her side, with an impenetrable patience which only
aggravated the difficulties of the position. The silence was fast
threatening to bring the interview to a sudden and untimely end,
when the door from the library opened, and a man-servant, bearing
a little silver salver, entered the room.

Lady Janet's rising sense of annoyance instantly seized on the
servant as a victim. "What do you want?" she asked, sharply. "I
never rang for you."

"A letter, my lady. The messenger waits for an answer."

The man presented his salver with the letter on it, and withdrew.

Lady Janet recognized the handwriting on the address with a look
of surprise. "Excuse me, my dear," she said, pausing, with her
old-fashioned courtesy, before she opened the envelope. Mercy
made the necessary acknowledgment, and moved away to the other
end of the room, little thinking that the arrival of the letter
marked a crisis in her life. Lady Janet put on her spectacles.
"Odd that he should have come back already!" she said to herself,
as she threw the empty envelope on the table.

The letter contained these lines, the writer of them being no
other than the man who had preached in the chapel of the Refuge:

"DEAR AUNT--I am back again in London before my time. My friend
the rector has shortened his holiday, and has resumed his duties
in the country. I am afraid you will blame me when you hear of
the reasons which have hastened his return. The sooner I make my
confession, the easier I shall feel. Besides, I have a special
object in wishing to see you as soon as possible. May I follow my
letter to Mablethorpe House? And may I present a lady to you--a
perfect stranger--in whom I am interested? Pray say Yes, by the
bearer, and oblige your affectionate nephew,


Lady Janet referred again suspiciously to the sentence in the
letter which alluded to the "lady."

Julian Gray was her only surviving nephew, the son of a favorite
sister whom she had lost. He would have held no very exalted
position in the estimation of his aunt--who regarded his views in
politics and religion with the strongest aversion--but for his
marked resemblance to his mother. This pleaded for him with the
old lady, aided as it was by the pride that she secretly felt in
the early celebrity which the young clergyman had achieved as a
writer and a preacher. Thanks to these mitigating circumstances,
and to Julian's inexhaustible good-humor, the aunt and the nephe
w generally met on friendly terms. Apart from what she called
"his detestable opinions," Lady Janet was sufficiently interested
in Julian to feel some curiosity about the mysterious "lady"
mentioned in the letter. Had he determined to settle in life? Was
his choice already made? And if so, would it prove to be a choice
acceptable to the family? Lady Janet's bright face showed signs
of doubt as she asked herself that last question. Julian's
liberal views were capable of leading him to dangerous extremes.
His aunt shook her head ominously as she rose from the sofa and
advanced to the library door.

"Grace," she said, pausing and turning round, "I have a note to
write to my nephew. I shall be back directly."

Mercy approached her, from the opposite extremity of the room,
with an exclamation of surprise.

"Your nephew?" she repeated. "Your ladyship never told me you had
a nephew."

Lady Janet laughed. "I must have had it on the tip of my tongue
to tell you, over and over again," she said. "But we have had so
many things to talk about--and, to own the truth, my nephew is
not one of my favorite subjects of conversation. I don't mean
that I dislike him; I detest his principles, my dear, that's all.
However, you shall form your own opinion of him; he is coming to
see me to-day. Wait here till I return; I have something more to
say about Horace."

Mercy opened the library door for her, closed it again, and
walked slowly to and fro alone in the room, thinking.

Was her mind running on Lady Janet's nephew? No. Lady Janet's
brief allusion to her relative had not led her into alluding to
him by his name. Mercy was still as ignorant as ever that the
preacher at the Refuge and the nephew of her benefactress were
one and the same man. Her memory was busy now with the tribute
which Lady Janet had paid to her at the outset of the interview
between them: "It is hardly too much to say, Grace, that I bless
the day when you first came to me." For the moment there was balm
for her wounded spirit in the remembrance of those words. Grace
Roseberry herself could surely have earned no sweeter praise than
the praise that she had won. The next instant she was seized with
a sudden horror of her own successful fraud. The sense of her
degradation had never been so bitterly present to her as at that
moment. If she could only confess the truth--if she could
innocently enjoy her harmless life at Mablethorpe House--what a
grateful, happy woman she might be! Was it possible (if she made
the confession) to trust to her own good conduct to plead her
excuse? No! Her calmer sense warned her that it was hopeless. The
place she had won--honestly won--in Lady Janet's estimation had
been obtained by a trick. Nothing could alter, nothing could
excuse, _that_. She took out her handkerchief and dashed away the
useless tears that had gathered in her eyes, and tried to turn
her thoughts some other way. What was it Lady Janet had said on
going into the library? She had said she was coming back to speak
about Horace. Mercy guessed what the object was; she knew but too
well what Horace wanted of her. How was she to meet the
emergency? In the name of Heaven, what was to be done? Could she
let the man who loved her--the man whom she loved--drift
blindfold into marriage with such a woman as she had been? No! it
was her duty to warn him. How? Could she break his heart, could
she lay his life waste by speaking the cruel words which might
part them forever? "I can't tell him! I won't tell him!" she
burst out, passionately. "The disgrace of it would kill me!" Her
varying mood changed as the words escaped her. A reckless
defiance of her own better nature--that saddest of all the forms
in which a woman's misery can express itself--filled her heart
with its poisoning bitterness. She sat down again on the sofa
with eyes that glittered and cheeks suffused with an angry red.
"I am no worse than another woman!" she thought. "Another woman
might have married him for his money." The next moment the
miserable insufficiency of her own excuse for deceiving him
showed its hollowness, self-exposed. She covered her face with
her hands, and found refuge--where she had often found refuge
before--in the helpless resignation of despair. "Oh, that I had
died before I entered this house! Oh, that I could die and have
done with it at this moment!" So the struggle had ended with her
hundreds of times already. So it ended now.

The door leading into the billiard-room opened softly. Horace
Holmcroft had waited to hear the result of Lady Janet's
interference in his favor until he could wait no longer.

He looked in cautiously, ready to withdraw again unnoticed if the
two were still talking together. The absence of Lady Janet
suggested that the interview had come to an end. Was his
betrothed wife waiting alone to speak to him on his return to the
room? He advanced a few steps. She never moved; she sat heedless,
absorbed in her thoughts. Were they thoughts of _him?_ He
advanced a little nearer, and called to her.


She sprang to her feet, with a faint cry. "I wish you wouldn't
startle me," she said, irritably, sinking back on the sofa. "Any
sudden alarm sets my heart beating as if it would choke me."

Horace pleaded for pardon with a lover's humility. In her present
state of nervous irritation she was not to be appeased. She
looked away from him in silence. Entirely ignorant of the
paroxysm of mental suffering through which she had just passed,
he seated himself by her side, and asked her gently if she had
seen Lady Janet. She made an affirmative answer with an
unreasonable impatience of tone and manner which would have
warned an older and more experienced man to give her time before
he spoke again. Horace was young, and weary of the suspense that
he had endured in the other room. He unwisely pressed her with
another question.

"Has Lady Janet said anything to you--"

She turned on him angrily before he could finish the sentence.
"You have tried to make her hurry me into marrying you," she
burst out. "I see it in your face!"

Plain as the warning was this time, Horace still failed to
interpret it in the right way. "Don't be angry!" he said,
good-humoredly. "Is it so very inexcusable to ask Lady Janet to
intercede for me? I have tried to persuade you in vain. My mother
and my sisters have pleaded for me, and you turn a deaf ear--"

She could endure it no longer. She stamped her foot on the door
with hysterical vehemence. "I am weary of hearing of your mother
and your sisters!" she broke in violently. "You talk of nothing

It was just possible to make one more mistake in dealing with
her--and Horace made it. He took offense, on his side, and rose
from the sofa. His mother and sisters were high authorities in
his estimation; they variously represented his ideal of
perfection in women. He withdrew to the opposite extremity of the
room, and administered the severest reproof that he could think
of on the spur of the moment.

"It would be well, Grace, if you followed the example set you by
my mother and my sisters," he said. "_They_ are not in the habit
of speaking cruelly to those who love them."

To all appearance the rebuke failed to produce the slightest
effect. She seemed to be as indifferent to it as if it had not
reached her ears. There was a spirit in her--a miserable spirit,
born of her own bitter experience--which rose in revolt against
Horace's habitual glorification of the ladies of his family. "It
sickens me," she thought to herself, "to hear of the virtues of
women who have never been tempted! Where is the merit of living
reputably, when your life is one course of prosperity and
enjoyment? Has his mother known starvation? Have his sisters been
left forsaken in the street?" It hardened her heart--it almost
reconciled her to deceiving him--when he set his relatives up as
patterns for her. Would he never understand that women detested
having other women exhibited as examples to them? She looked
round at him with a sense of impatient wonder. He was sitting at
the luncheon-table, with his back turned on her, and his head
resting on his hand. If he had attempted to rejoin her, she would
have repelled him ; if he had spoken, she would have met him with
a sharp reply. He sat apart from her, without uttering a word. In
a man's hands silence is the most terrible of all protests to the
woman who loves him. Violence she can endure. Words she is always
ready to meet by words on her side. Silence conquers her. After a
moment's hesitation, Mercy left the sofa and advanced
submissively toward the table. She had offended him--and she
alone was in fault. How should he know it, poor fellow, when he
innocently mortified her? Step by step she drew closer and
closer. He never looked round; he never moved. She laid her hand
timidly on his shoulder. "Forgive me, Horace," she whispered in
his ear. "I am suffering this morning; I am not myself. I didn't
mean what I said. Pray forgive me." There was no resisting the
caressing tenderness of voice and manner which accompanied those
words. He looked up; he took her hand. She bent over him, and
touched his forehead with her lips. "Am I forgiven?" she asked.

"Oh, my darling," he said, "if you only knew how I loved you!"

"I do know it," she answered, gently, twining his hair round her
finger, and arranging it over his forehead where his hand had
ruffled it.

They were completely absorbed in each other, or they must, at
that moment, have heard the library door open at the other end of
the room.

Lady Janet had written the necessary reply to her nephew, and had
returned, faithful to her engagement, to plead the cause of
Horace. The first object that met her view was her client
pleading, with conspicuous success, for himself! "I am not
wanted, evidently," thought the old lady. She noiselessly closed
the door again and left the lovers by themselves.

Horace returned, with unwise persistency, to the question of the
deferred marriage. At the first words that he spoke she drew back
directly--sadly, not angrily.

"Don't press me to-day," she said; "I am not well to-day."

He rose and looked at her anxiously. "May l speak about it

"Yes, to-morrow." She returned to the sofa, and changed the
subject. "What a time Lady Janet is away!" she said. "What can be
keeping her so long?"

Horace did his best to appear interested in the question of Lady
Janet's prolonged absence. "What made her leave you?" he asked,
standing at the back of the sofa and leaning over her.

"She went into the library to write a note to her nephew.
By-the-by, who is her nephew?"

"Is it possible you don't know?"

"Indeed, I don't."

"You have heard of him, no doubt," said Horace. "Lady Janet's
nephew is a celebrated man." He paused, and stooping nearer to
her, lifted a love-lock that lay over her shoulder and pressed it
to his lips. "Lady Janet's nephew," he resumed, "is Julian Gray."

She started off her seat, and looked round at him in blank,
bewildered terror, as if she doubted the evidence of her own

Horace was completely taken by surprise. "My dear Grace!" he
exclaimed; "what have I said or done to startle you this time?"

She held up her hand for silence. "Lady Janet's nephew is Julian
Gray," she repeated; "and I only know it now!"

Horace's perplexity increased. "My darling, now you do know it,
what is there to alarm you?" he asked.

(There was enough to alarm the boldest woman living--in such a
position, and with such a temperament as hers. To her mind the
personation of Grace Roseberry had suddenly assumed a new aspect:
the aspect of a fatality. It had led her blindfold to the house
in which she and the preacher at the Refuge were to meet. He was
coming--the man who had reached her inmost heart, who had
influenced her whole life! Was the day of reckoning coming with

"Don't notice me," she said, faintly. "I have been ill all the
morning. You saw it yourself when you came in here; even the
sound of your voice alarmed me. I shall be better directly. I am
afraid I startled you?"

"My dear Grace, it almost looked as if you were terrified at the
sound of Julian's name! He is a public celebrity, I know; and I
have seen ladies start and stare at him when he entered a room.
But _you_ looked perfectly panic-stricken."

She rallied her courage by a desperate effort; she laughed--a
harsh, uneasy laugh--and stopped him by putting her hand over his
mouth. "Absurd!" she said, lightly. "As if Mr. Julian Gray had
anything to do with my looks! I am better already. See for
yourself!" She looked round at him again with a ghastly gayety;
and returned, with a desperate assumption of indifference, to the
subject of Lady Janet's nephew. "Of course I have heard of him,"
she said. "Do you know that he is expected here to-day? Don't
stand there behind me--it's so hard to talk to you. Come and sit

He obeyed--but she had not quite satisfied him yet. His face had
not lost its expression of anxiety and surprise. She persisted in
playing her part, determined to set at rest in him any possible
suspicion that she had reasons of her own for being afraid of
Julian Gray. "Tell me about this famous man of yours," she said,
putting her arm familiarly through his arm. "What is he like?"

The caressing action and the easy tone had their effect on
Horace. His face began to clear; he answered her lightly on his

"Prepare yourself to meet the most unclerical of clergymen," he
said. "Julian is a lost sheep among the parsons, and a thorn in
the side of his bishop. Preaches, if they ask him, in Dissenters'
chapels. Declines to set up any pretensions to priestly authority
and priestly power. Goes about doing good on a plan of his own.
Is quite resigned never to rise to the high places in his
profession. Says it's rising high enough for _him_ to be the
Archdeacon of the afflicted, the Dean of the hungry, and the
Bishop of the poor. With all his oddities, as good a fellow as
ever lived. Immensely popular with the women. They all go to him
for advice. I wish you would go, too."

Mercy changed color. "What do you mean?" she asked, sharply.

"Julian is famous for his powers of persuasion," said Horace,
smiling. "If _he_ spoke to you, Grace, he would prevail on you to
fix the day. Suppose I ask Julian to plead for me?"

He made the proposal in jest. Mercy's unquiet mind accepted it as
addressed to her in earnest. "He will do it," she thought, with a
sense of indescribable terror, "if I don't stop him!" There is
but one chance for her. The only certain way to prevent Horace
from appealing to his friend was to grant what Horace wished for
before his friend entered the house. She laid her hand on his
shoulder; she hid the terrible anxieties that were devouring her
under an assumption of coquetry painful and pitiable to see.

"Don't talk nonsense!" she said, gayly. "What were we saying just
now--before we began to speak of Mr. Julian Gray?"

"We were wondering what had become of Lady Janet," Horace

She tapped him impatiently on the shoulder. "No! no! It was
something you said before that."

Her eyes completed what her words had left unsaid. Horace's arm
stole round her waist.

"I was saying that I loved you," he answered, in a whisper.

"Only that?"

"Are you tired of hearing it?"

She smiled charmingly . "Are you so very much in earnest
about--about--" She stopped, and looked away from him.

"About our marriage?"


"It is the one dearest wish of my life."



There was a pause. Mercy's fingers toyed nervously with the
trinkets at her watch-chain. "When would you like it to be?" she
said, very softly, with her whole attention fixed on the

She had never spoken, she had never looked, as she spoke and
looked now. Horace was afraid to believe in his own good fortune.
"Oh, Grace!" he exclaimed, "you are not trifling with me?"

"What makes you think I am trifling with you?"

Horace was innocent enough to answer her seriously. "You would
not even let me speak of our marriage just now, "he said.

"Never mind what I did just now," she retorted, petulantly. "They
say women are changeable. It is one of the defects of the sex."

"Heaven be praised for the defects of the sex!" cried Horace,
with devout sincerity. "Do you really leave me to decide?"

"If you insist on it."

Horace considered for a moment--the subject being the law of
marriage. "We may be married by license in a fortnight," he said.
"I fix this day fortnight."

She held up her hands in protest.

"Why not? My lawyer is ready. There are no preparations to make.
You said when you accepted me that it was to be a private

Mercy was obliged to own that she had certainly said that.

"We might be married at once--if the law would only let us. This
day fortnight! Say--Yes!" He drew her closer to him. There was a
pause. The mask of coquetry--badly worn from the first--dropped
from her. Her sad gray eyes rested compassionately on his eager
face. "Don't look so serious!" he said. "Only one little word,
Grace! Only Yes."

She sighed, and said it. He kissed her passionately. It was only
by a resolute effort that she released herself.

"Leave me!" she said, faintly. "Pray leave me by myself!"

She was in earnest--strangely in earnest. She was trembling from
head to foot. Horace rose to leave her. "I will find Lady Janet,"
he said; "I long to show the dear old lady that I have recovered
my spirits, and to tell her why." He turned round at the library
door. "You won't go away? You will let me see you again when you
are more composed?"

"I will wait here," said Mercy.

Satisfied with that reply, he left the room.

Her hands dropped on her lap; her head sank back wearily on the
cushions at the head of the sofa. There was a dazed sensation in
her: her mind felt stunned. She wondered vacantly whether she was
awake or dreaming. Had she really said the word which pledged her
to marry Horace Holmcroft in a fortnight? A fortnight! Something
might happen in that time to prevent it: she might find her way
in a fortnight out of the terrible position in which she stood.
Anyway, come what might of it, she had chosen the preferable
alternative to a private interview with Julian Gray. She raised
herself from her recumbent position with a start, as the idea of
the interview--dismissed for the last few minutes--possessed
itself again of her mind. Her excited imagination figured Julian
Gray as present in the room at that moment, speaking to her as
Horace had proposed. She saw him seated close at her side--this
man who had shaken her to the soul when he was in the pulpit, and
when she was listening to him (unseen) at the other end of the
chapel--she saw him close by her, looking her searchingly in the
face; seeing her shameful secret in her eyes; hearing it in her
voice; feeling it in her trembling hands; forcing it out of her
word by word, till she fell prostrate at his feet with the
confession of the fraud. Her head dropped again on the cushions;
she hid her face in horror of the scene which her excited fancy
had conjured up. Even now, when she had made that dreaded
interview needless, could she feel sure (meeting him only on the
most distant terms) of not betraying herself? She could _not_
feel sure. Something in her shuddered and shrank at the bare idea
of finding herself in the same room with him. She felt it, she
knew it: her guilty conscience owned and feared its master in
Julian Gray!

The minutes passed. The violence of her agitation began to tell
physically on her weakened frame.

She found herself crying silently without knowing why. A weight
was on her head, a weariness was in all her limbs. She sank lower
on the cushions--her eyes closed--the monotonous ticking of the
clock on the mantelpiece grew drowsily fainter and fainter on her
ear. Little by little she dropped into slumber--slumber so light
that she started when a morsel of coal fell into the grate, or
when the birds chirped and twittered in their aviary in the

Lady Janet and Horace came in. She was faintly conscious of
persons in the room. After an interval she opened her eyes, and
half rose to speak to them. The room was empty again. They had
stolen out softly and left her to repose. Her eyes closed once
more. She dropped back into slumber, and from slumber, in the
favoring warmth and quiet of the place, into deep and dreamless



After an interval of rest Mercy was aroused by the shutting of a
glass door at the far end of the conservatory. This door, leading
into the garden, was used only by the inmates of the house, or by
old friends privileged to enter the reception-rooms by that way.
Assuming that either Horace or Lady Janet was returning to the
dining-room, Mercy raised herself a little on the' sofa and

The voice of one of the men-servants caught her ear. It was
answered by another voice, which instantly set her trembling in
every limb.

She started up, and listened again in speechless terror. Yes!
there was no mistaking it. The voice that was answering the
servant was the unforgotten voice which she had heard at the
Refuge. The visitor who had come in by the glass door was--Julian

His rapid footsteps advanced nearer and nearer to the
dining-room. She recovered herself sufficiently to hurry to the
library door. Her hand shook so that she failed at first to open
it. She had just succeeded when she heard him again--speaking to

"Pray don't run away! I am nothing very formidable. Only Lady
Janet's nephew--Julian Gray."

She turned slowly, spell-bound by his voice, and confronted him
in silence.

He was standing, hat in hand, at the entrance to the
conservatory, dressed in black, and wearing a white cravat, but
with a studious avoidance of anything specially clerical in the
make and form of his clothes. Young as he was, there were marks
of care already on his face, and the hair was prematurely thin
and scanty over his forehead. His slight, active figure was of no
more than the middle height. His complexion was pale. The lower
part of his face, without beard or whiskers, was in no way
remarkable. An average observer would have passed him by without
notice but for his eyes. These alone made a marked man of him.
The unusual size of the orbits in which they were set was enough
of itself to attract attention; it gave a grandeur to his head,
which the head, broad and firm as it was, did not possess. As to
the eyes themselves, the soft, lustrous brightness of them defied
analysis No two people could agree about their color; divided
opinion declaring alternately that they were dark gray or black.
Painters had tried to reproduce them, and had given up the
effort, in despair of seizing any one expression in the
bewildering variety of expressions which they presented to view.
They were eyes that could charm at one moment and terrify at
another; eyes that could set people laughing or crying almost at
will. In action and in repose they were irresistible alike. When
they first descried Mercy running to the door, they brightened
gayly with the merriment of a child. When she turned and faced
him, they changed instantly, softening and glowing as they mutely
owned the interest and the admiration which the first sight of
her had roused in him. His tone and manner altered at the same
time. He addressed her with the deepest respect when he spoke his
next words.

"Let me entreat you to favor me by resuming your seat," he said.
"And let me ask your pardon if I have thoughtlessly intruded on

He paused, waiting for her reply before he advanced into the
room. Still spell-bound by his voice, she recovered self-control
enough to bow to him and to resume her place on the sofa. It was
impossible to leave him now. After looking at her for a moment,
he entered the room without speaking to her again. She was
beginning to perplex as well as to interest him. "No common
sorrow," he thought, "has set its mark on that woman's face; no
common heart beats in that woman's breast. Who can she be?"

Mercy rallied her courage, and forced herself to speak to him.

"Lady Janet is in the library, I believe," she said, timidly.
"Shall I tell her you are here?"

"Don't disturb Lady Janet, and don't disturb yourself." With that
answer he approached the luncheon-table, delicately giving her
time to feel more at her ease. He took up what Horace had left of
the bottle of claret, and poured it into a glass. "My aunt's
claret shall represent my aunt for the present," he said,
smiling, as he turned toward her once more. "I have had a long
walk, and I may venture to help myself in this house without
invitation. Is it useless to offer you anything?"

Mercy made the necessary reply. She was beginning already, after
her remarkable experience of him, to wonder at his easy manners
and his light way of talking.

He emptied his glass with the air of a man who thoroughly
understood and enjoyed good wine. "My aunt's claret is worthy of
my aunt," he said, with comic gravity, as he set down the glass.
"Both are the genuine products of Nature." He seated himself at
the table and looked critically at the different dishes left on
it. One dish especially attracted his attention. "What is this?"
he went on. "A French pie! It seems grossly unfair to taste
French wine and to pass over French pie without notice." He took
up a knife and fork, and enjoyed the pie as critically as he had
enjoyed the wine. "Worthy of the Great Nation!" he exclaimed,
with enthusiasm. "_Vive la France!_"

Mercy listened and looked, in inexpressible astonishment. He was
utterly unlike the picture which her fancy had drawn of him in
everyday life. Take off his white cravat, and nobody would have
discovered that this famous preacher was a clergyman!

He helped himself to another plateful of the pie, and spoke more
directly to Mercy, alternately eating and talking as composedly
and pleasantly as if they had known each other for years.

"I came here by way of Kensington Gardens," he said. "For some
time past I have been living in a flat, ugly, barren,
agricultural district. You can't think how pleasant I found the
picture presented by the Gardens, as a contrast. The ladies in
their rich winter dresses, the smart nursery maids, the lovely
children, the ever moving crowd skating on the ice of the Round
Pond; it was all so exhilarating after what I have been used to,
that I actually caught myself whistling as I walked through the
brilliant scene! (In my time boys used always to whistle when
they were in good spirits, and I have not got over the habit
yet.) Who do you think I met when I was in full song?"

As well as her amazement would let her, Mercy excused herself
from guessing. She had never in all her life before spoken to any
living being so confusedly and so unintelligently as she now
spoke to Julian Gray!

He went on more gayly than ever, without appearing to notice the
effect that he had produced on her.

"Whom did I meet," he repeated, "when I was in full song? My
bishop! If I had been whistling a sacred melody, his lordship
might perhaps have excused my vulgarity out of consideration for
my music. Unfortunately, the composition I was executing at the
moment (I am one of the loudest of living whistlers) was by
Verdi--" La Donna e Mobile"--familiar, no doubt, to his lordship
on the street organs. He recognized the tune, poor man, and when
I took off my hat to him he looked the other way. Strange, in a
world that is bursting with sin and sorrow, to treat such a
trifle seriously as a cheerful clergyman whistling a tune!" He
pushed away his plate as he said the last words, and went on
simply and earnestly in an altered tone. "I have never been
able," he said, "to see why we should assert ourselves among
other men as belonging to a particular caste, and as being
forbidden, in any harmless thing, to do as other people do. The
disciples of old set us no such example; they were wiser and
better than we are. I venture to say that one of the worst
obstacles in the way of our doing good among our fellow-creatures
is raised by the mere assumption of the clerical manner and the
clerical voice. For my part, I set up no claim to be more sacred
and more reverend than any other Christian man who does what good
he can." He glanced brightly at Mercy, looking at him in helpless
perplexity. The spirit of fun took possession of him again. "Are
you a Radical?" he asked, with a humorous twinkle in his large
lustrous eyes. "I am!"

Mercy tried hard to understand him, and tried in vain. Could this
be the preacher whose words had charmed, purified, ennobled her?
Was this the man whose sermon had drawn tears from women about
her whom she knew to be shameless and hardened in crime? Yes! The
eyes that now rested on her humorously were the beautiful eyes
which had once looked into her soul. The voice that had just
addressed a jesting question to her was the deep and mellow voice
which had once thrilled her to the heart. In the pulpit he was an
angel of mercy; out of the pulpit he was a boy let loose from

"Don't let me startle you," he said, good-naturedly, noticing her
confusion. "Public opinion has called me by harder names than the
name of 'Radical.' I have been spending my time lately--as I told
you just now--in an agricultural district. My business there was
to perform the duty for the rector of the place, who wanted a
holiday. How do you think the experiment has ended? The Squire of
the parish calls me a Communist; the farmers denounce me as an
Incendiary; my friend the rector has been recalled in a hurry,
and I have now the honor of speaking to you in the character of a
banished man who has made a respectable neighborhood too hot to
hold him."

With that frank avowal he left the luncheon table, and took a
chair near Mercy.

"You will naturally be anxious," he went on, "to know what my
offense was. Do you understand Political Economy and the Laws of
Supply and Demand?"

Mercy owned that she did _not_ understand them.

"No more do I--in a Christian country," he said. "That was my
offense. You shall hear my confession (just as my aunt will hear
it) in two words." He paused for a little while; his variable
manner changed again. Mercy, shyly looking at him, saw a new
expression in his eyes--an expression which recalled her first
remembrance of him as nothing had recalled it yet. "I had no
idea," he resumed, "of what the life of a farm-laborer really
was, in some parts of England, until I undertook the rector's
duties. Never before had I seen such dire wretchedness as I saw
in the cottages. Never before had I met with such noble patience
under suffering as I found among the people. The martyrs of old
could endure, and die. I asked myself if they could endure, and
_live_, like the martyrs whom I saw round me?--live, week after
week, month after month, year after year, on the brink of
starvation; live, and see their pining children growing up round
them, to work and want in their turn; live, with the poor man's
parish prison to look to as the end, when hunger and labor have
done their worst! Was God's beautiful earth made to hold such
misery as this? I can hardly think of it, I can hardly speak of
it, even now, with dry eyes!"

His head sank on his breast. He waited--mastering his emotion
before he spoke again. Now, at last, she knew him once more. Now
he was the man, indeed, whom she had expected to see.
Unconsciously she sat listening, with her eyes fixed on his face,
with his heart hanging on his words, in the very attitude of the
by-gone day when she had heard him for the first time!

"I did all I could to plead for the helpless ones," he resumed.
"I went round among the holders of the land to say a word for the
tillers of the land. 'These patient people don't want much' (I
said); 'in the name of Christ, give them enough to live on!'
Political Economy shrieked at the horrid proposal; the Laws of
Supply and Demand veiled their majestic faces in dismay.
Starvation wages were the right wages, I was told. And why?
Because the laborer was obliged to accept them! I determined, so
far as one man could do it, that the laborer should _not_ be
obliged to accept them. I collected my own resources--I wrote to
my friends--and I removed some of the poor fellows to parts of
England where their work was better paid. Such was the conduct
which made the neighborhood too hot to hold me. So let it be! I
mean to go on. I am known in London; I can raise subscriptions.
The vile Laws of Supply and Demand shall find labor scarce in
that agricultural district; and pitiless Political Economy shall
spend a few extra shillings on the poor, as certainly as I am
that Radical, Communist, and Incendiary--Julian Gray!"

He rose--making a li ttle gesture of apology for the warmth with
which he had spoken--and took a turn in the room. Fired by _his_
enthusiasm, Mercy followed him. Her purse was in her hand, when
he turned and faced her.

"Pray let me offer my little tribute--such as it is!" she said,

A momentary flush spread over his pale cheeks as he looked at the
beautiful compassionate face pleading with him.

"No! no!" he said, smiling; "though I am a parson, I don't carry
the begging-box everywhere." Mercy attempted to press the purse
on him. The quaint humor began to twinkle again in his eyes as he
abruptly drew back from it. "Don't tempt me!" he said. "The
frailest of all human creatures is a clergyman tempted by a
subscription." Mercy persisted, and conquered; she made him prove
the truth of his own profound observation of clerical human
nature by taking a piece of money from the purse. "If I must take
it--I must!" he remarked. "Thank you for setting the good
example! thank you for giving the timely help! What name shall I
put down on my list?"

Mercy's eyes looked confusedly away from him. "No name," she
said, in a low voice. "My subscription is anonymous."

As she replied, the library door opened. To her infinite
relief--to Julian's secret disappointment--Lady Janet Roy and
Horace Holmcroft entered the room together.

"Julian!" exclaimed Lady Janet, holding up her hands in

He kissed his aunt on the cheek. "Your ladyship is looking
charmingly." He gave his hand to Horace. Horace took it, and
passed on to Mercy. They walked away together slowly to the other
end of the room. Julian seized on the chance which left him free
to speak privately to his aunt.

"I came in through the conservatory," he said. "And I found that
young lady in the room. Who is she?"

"Are you very much interested in her?" asked Lady Janet, in her
gravely ironical way.

Julian answered in one expressive word. "Indescribably!"

Lady Janet called to Mercy to join her.

"My dear," she said, "let me formally present my nephew to you.
Julian, this is Miss Grace Roseberry--" She suddenly checked
herself. The instant she pronounced the name, Julian started as
if it was a surprise to him. "What is it?" she asked, sharply.

"Nothing," he answered, bowing to Mercy, with a marked absence of
his former ease of manner. She returned the courtesy a little
restrainedly on her side. She, too, had seen him start when Lady
Janet mentioned the name by which she was known. The start meant
something. What could it be? Why did he turn aside, after bowing
to her, and address himself to Horace, with an absent look in his
face, as if his thoughts were far away from his words? A complete
change had come over him; and it dated from the moment when his
aunt had pronounced the name that was not _her_ name---the name
that she had stolen!

Lady Janet claimed Julian's attention, and left Horace free to
return to Mercy. "Your room is ready for you," she said. "You
will stay here, of course?" Julian accepted the
invitation---still with the air of a man whose mind was
preoccupied. Instead of looking at his aunt when he made his
reply, he looked round at Mercy with a troubled curiosity in his
face, very strange to see. Lady Janet tapped him impatiently on
the shoulder. "I expect people to look at me when people speak to
me," she said. "What are you staring at my adopted daughter for?"

"Your adopted daughter?" Julian repeated--looking at his aunt
this time, and looking very earnestly.

"Certainly! As Colonel Roseberry's daughter, she is connected
with me by marriage already. Did you think I had picked up a

Julian's face cleared; he looked relieved. "I had forgotten the
Colonel," he answered. "Of course the young lady is related to
us, as you say."

"Charmed, I am sure, to have satisfied you that Grace is not an
impostor," said Lady Janet, with satirical humility. She took
Julian's arm and drew him out of hearing of Horace and Mercy.
"About that letter of yours?" she proceeded. "There is one line
in it that rouses my curiosity. Who is the mysterious 'lady' whom
you wish to present to me?"

Julian started, and changed color.

"I can't tell you now," he said, in a whisper.

"Why not?"

To Lady Janet's unutterable astonishment, instead of replying,
Julian looked round at her adopted daughter once more.

"What has _she_ got to do with it?" asked the old lady, out of
all patience with him.

"It is impossible for me to tell you," he answered, gravely,
"while Miss Roseberry is in the room."



LADY JANET'S curiosity was by this time thoroughly aroused.
Summoned to explain who the nameless lady mentioned in his letter
could possibly be, Julian had looked at her adopted daughter.
Asked next to explain what her adopted daughter had got to do
with it, he had declared that he could not answer while Miss
Roseberry was in the room.

What did he mean? Lady Janet determined to find out.

"I hate all mysteries," she said to Julian. "And as for secrets,
I consider them to be one of the forms of ill-breeding. People in
our rank of life ought to be above whispering in corners. If you
_must_ have your mystery, I can offer you a corner in the
library. Come with me."

Julian followed his aunt very reluctantly. Whatever the mystery
might be, he was plainly embarrassed by being called upon to
reveal it at a moment's notice. Lady Janet settled herself in her
chair, prepared to question and cross-question her nephew, when
an obstacle appeared at the other end of the library, in the
shape of a man-servant with a message. One of Lady Janet's
neighbors had called by appointment to take her to the meeting of
a certain committee which assembled that day. The servant
announced that the neighbor--an elderly lady--was then waiting in
her carriage at the door.

Lady Janet's ready invention set the obstacle aside without a
moment's delay. She directed the servant to show her visitor into
the drawing-room, and to say that she was unexpectedly engaged,
but that Miss Roseberry would see the lady immediately. She then
turned to Julian, and said, with her most satirical emphasis of
tone and manner: "Would it be an additional convenience if Miss
Roseberry was not only out of the room before you disclose your
secret, but out of the house?"

Julian gravely answered: "It may possibly be quite as well if
Miss Roseberry is out of the house."

Lady Janet led the way back to the dining-room.

"My dear Grace, "she said, "you looked flushed and feverish when
I saw you asleep on the sofa a little while since. It will do you
no harm to have a drive in the fresh air. Our friend has called
to take me to the committee meeting. I have sent to tell her that
I am engaged--and I shall be much obliged if you will go in my

Mercy looked a little alarmed. "Does your ladyship mean the
committee meeting of the Samaritan Convalescent Home? The
members, as I understand it, are to decide to-day which of the
plans for the new building they are to adopt. I cannot surely
presume to vote in your place?"

"You can vote, my dear child, just as well as I can," replied the
old lady. "Architecture is one of the lost arts. You know nothing
about it; I know nothing about it; the architects themselves know
nothing about it. One plan is, no doubt, just as bad as the
other. Vote, as I should vote, with the majority. Or as poor dear
Dr. Johnson said, 'Shout with the loudest mob.' Away with
you--and don't keep the committee waiting."

Horace hastened to open the door for Mercy.

"How long shall you be away?" he whispered, confidentially. "I
had a thousand things to say to you, and they have interrupted

"I shall be back in an hour."

"We shall have the room to ourselves by that time. Come here when
you return. You will find me waiting for you."

Mercy pressed his hand significantly and went out. Lady Janet
turned to Julian, who had thus far remained in the background,
still, to all appearance, as unwilling as ever to enlighten his

"Well?" she said. "What is tying your tongue now? Grace is out of
the room; why won't you begin? Is Horace in the way?"

"Not in the least. I am only a little uneasy--"

"Uneasy about what?"

"I am afra id you have put that charming creature to some
inconvenience in sending her away just at this time "

Horace looked up suddenly, with a flush on his face.

"When you say 'that charming creature,'" he asked, sharply, "I
suppose you mean Miss Roseberry?"

"Certainly," answered Julian. "Why not?"

Lady Janet interposed. "Gently, Julian," she said. "Grace has
only been introduced to you hitherto in the character of my
adopted daughter--"

"And it seems to be high time," Horace added, haughtily, "that I
should present her next in the character of my engaged wife."

Julian looked at Horace as if he could hardly credit the evidence
of his own ears. "Your wife!" he exclaimed, with an irrepressible
outburst of disappointment and surprise.

"Yes. My wife," returned Horace. "We are to be married in a
fortnight. May I ask," he added, with angry humility, "if you
disapprove of the marriage?"

Lady Janet interposed once more. "Nonsense, Horace," she said.
"Julian congratulates you, of course."

Julian coldly and absently echoed the words. "Oh, yes! I
congratulate you, of course."

Lady Janet returned to the main object of the interview.

"Now we thoroughly understand one another," she said, "let us
speak of a lady who has dropped out of the conversation for the
last minute or two. I mean, Julian, the mysterious lady of your
letter. We are alone, as you desired. Lift the veil, my reverend
nephew, which hides her from mortal eyes! Blush, if you like--and
can. Is she the future Mrs. Julian Gray?"

"She is a perfect stranger to me," Julian answered, quietly.

"A perfect stranger! You wrote me word you were interested in

"I _am_ interested in her. And, what is more, you are interested
in her, too."

Lady Janet's fingers drummed impatiently on the table. "Have I
not warned you, Julian, that I hate mysteries? Will you, or will
you not, explain yourself?"

Before it was possible to answer, Horace rose from his chair.
"Perhaps I am in the way?" he said.

Julian signed to him to sit down again.

"I have already told Lady Janet that you are not in the way," he
answered. "I now tell you--as Miss Roseberry's future
husband--that you, too, have an interest in hearing what I have
to say."

Horace resumed his seat with an air of suspicious surprise.
Julian addressed himself to Lady Janet.

"You have often heard me speak," he began, "of my old friend and
school-fellow, John Cressingham?"

"Yes. The English consul at Mannheim?"

"The same. When I returned from the country I found among my
other letters a long letter from the consul. I have brought it
with me, and I propose to read certain passages from it, which
tell a very strange story more plainly and more credibly than I
can tell it in my own words."

"Will it be very long?" inquired Lady Janet, looking with some
alarm at the closely written sheets of paper which her nephew
spread open before him.

Horace followed with a question on his side.

"You are sure I am interested in it?" he asked. "The consul at
Mannheim is a total stranger to me."

"I answer for it, "replied Julian, gravely, "neither my aunt's
patience nor yours, Horace, will be thrown away if you will favor
me by listening attentively to what I am about to read."

With those words he began his first extract from the consul's

* * * "'My memory is a bad one for dates. But full three months
must have passed since information was sent to me of an English
patient, received at the hospital here, whose case I, as English
consul, might feel an interest in investigating.

"'I went the same day to the hospital, and was taken to the

"'The patient was a woman--young, and (when in health), I should
think, very pretty. When I first saw her she looked, to my
uninstructed eye, like a dead woman. I noticed that her head had
a bandage over it, and I asked what was the nature of the injury
that she had received. The answer informed me that the poor
creature had been present, nobody knew why or wherefore, at a
skirmish or night attack between the Germans and the French, and
that the injury to her head had been inflicted by a fragment of a
German shell.'"

Horace--thus far leaning back carelessly in his chair--suddenly
raised himself and exclaimed, "Good heavens! can this be the
woman I saw laid out for dead in the French cottage?"

"It is impossible for me to say," replied Julian. "Listen to the
rest of it. The consul's letter may answer your question."

He went on with his reading:

"'The wounded woman had been reported dead, and had been left by
the French in their retreat, at the time when the German forces
took possession of the enemy's position. She was found on a bed
in a cottage by the director of the German ambulance--"

"Ignatius Wetzel?" cried Horace.

"Ignatius Wetzel," repeated Julian, looking at the letter.

"It _is_ the same!" said Horace. "Lady Janet, we are really
interested in this. You remember my telling you how I first met
with Grace? And you have heard more about it since, no doubt,
from Grace herself?"

"She has a horror of referring to that part of her journey home,"
replied Lady Janet. "She mentioned her having been stopped on the
frontier, and her finding herself accidentally in the company of
another Englishwoman, a perfect stranger to her. I naturally
asked questions on my side, and was shocked to hear that she had
seen the woman killed by a German shell almost close at her side.
Neither she nor I have had any relish for returning to the
subject since. You were quite right, Julian, to avoid speaking of
it while she was in the room. I understand it all now. Grace, I
suppose, mentioned my name to her fellow-traveler. The woman is,
no doubt, in want of assistance, and she applies to me through
you. I will help her; but she must not come here until I have
prepared Grace for seeing her again, a living woman. For the
present there is no reason why they should meet."

"I am not sure about that," said Julian, in low tones, without
looking up at his aunt.

"What do you mean? Is the mystery not at an end yet?"

"The mystery has not even begun yet. Let my friend the consul

Julian returned for the second time to his extract from the

"'After a careful examination of the supposed corpse, the German
surgeon arrived at the conclusion that a case of suspended
animation had (in the hurry of the French retreat) been mistaken
for a case of death. Feeling a professional interest in the
subject, he decided on putting his opinion to the test. He
operated on the patient with complete success. After performing
the operation he kept her for some days under his own care, and
then transferred her to the nearest hospital--the hospital at
Mannheim. He was obliged to return to his duties as army surgeon,
and he left his patient in the condition in which I saw her,
insensible on the bed. Neither he nor the hospital authorities
knew anything whatever about the woman. No papers were found on
her. All the doctors could do, when I asked them for information
with a view to communicating with her friends, was to show me her
linen marked with her, name. I left the hospital after taking
down the name in my pocket-book. It was "Mercy Merrick."'"

Lady Janet produced _her_ pocket-book. "Let me take the name down
too," she said. "I never heard it before, and I might otherwise
forget it. Go on, Julian."

Julian advanced to his second extract from the consul 's letter:

"'Under these circumstances, I could only wait to hear from the
hospital when the patient was sufficiently recovered to be able
to speak to me. Some weeks passed without my receiving any
communication from the doctors. On calling to make inquiries I
was informed that fever had set in, and that the poor creature's
condition now alternated between exhaustion and delirium. In her
delirious moments the name of your aunt, Lady Janet Roy,
frequently escaped her. Otherwise her wanderings were for the
most part quite unintelligible to the people at her bedside. I
thought once or twice of writing to you, and of begging you to
speak to Lady Janet. But as the doctors informed me that the
chances of life or death were at this time almost equally
balanced, I decided to wait until time should
determine whether it was necessary to trouble you or not.'"

"You know best, Julian," said Lady Janet. "But I own I don't
quite see in what way I am interested in this part of the story."

"Just what I was going to say," added Horace. "It is very sad, no
doubt. But what have _we_ to do with it?"

"Let me read my third extract," Julian answered, "and you will

He turned to the third extract, and read as follows:

"'At last I received a message from the hospital informing me
that Mercy Merrick was out of danger, and that she was capable
(though still very weak) of answering any questions which I might
think it desirable to put to her. On reaching the hospital, I was
requested, rather to my surprise, to pay my first visit to the
head physician in his private room. "I think it right," said this
gentleman, "to warn you, before you see the patient, to be very
careful how you speak to her, and not to irritate her by showing
any surprise or expressing any doubts if she talks to you in an
extravagant manner. We differ in opinion about her here. Some of
us (myself among the number) doubt whether the recovery of her
mind has accompanied the recovery of her bodily powers. Without
pronouncing her to be mad--she is perfectly gentle and
harmless--we are nevertheless of opinion that she is suffering
under a species of insane delusion. Bear in mind the caution
which I have given you--and now go and judge for yourself." I
obeyed, in some little perplexity and surprise. The sufferer,
when I approached her bed, looked sadly weak and worn; but, so
far as I could judge, seemed to be in full possession of herself.
Her tone and manner were unquestionably the tone and manner of a
lady. After briefly introducing myself, I assured her that I
should be glad, both officially and personally, if I could be of
any assistance to her. In saying these trifling words I happened
to address her by the name I had seen marked on her clothes. The
instant the words "Miss Merrick" passed my lips a wild,
vindictive expression appeared in her eyes. She exclaimed
angrily, "Don't call me by that hateful name! It's not my name.
All the people here persecute me by calling me Mercy Merrick. And
when I am angry with them they show me the clothes. Say what I
may, they persist in believing they are my clothes. Don't you do
the same, if you want to be friends with me." Remembering what
the physician had said to me, I made the necessary excuses and
succeeded in soothing her. Without reverting to the irritating
topic of the name, I merely inquired what her plans were, and
assured her that she might command my services if she required
them. "Why do you want to know what my plans are?" she asked,
suspiciously. I reminded her in reply that I held the position of
English consul, and that my object was, if possible, to be of
some assistance to her. "You can be of the greatest assistance to
me," she said, eagerly. "Find Mercy Merrick!" I saw the
vindictive look come back into her eyes, and an angry flush
rising on her white cheeks. Abstaining from showing any surprise,
I asked her who Mercy Merrick was. "A vile woman, by her own
confession," was the quick reply. "How am I to find her?" I
inquired next. "Look for a woman in a black dress, with the Red
Geneva Cross on her shoulder; she is a nurse in the French
ambulance." "What has she done?" "I have lost my papers; I have
lost my own clothes; Mercy Merrick has taken them." "How do you
know that Mercy Merrick has taken them?" "Nobody else could have
taken them--that's how I know it. Do you believe me or not?" She
as beginning to excite herself again; I assured her that I would
at once send to make inquiries after Mercy Merrick. She turned
round contented on the pillow. "There's a good man!" she said.
"Come back and tell me when you have caught her." Such was my
first interview with the English patient at the hospital at
Mannheim. It is needless to say that I doubted the existence of
the absent person described as a nurse. However, it was possible
to make inquiries by applying to the surgeon, Ignatius Wetzel,
whose whereabouts was known to his friends in Mannheim. I wrote
to him, and received his answer in due time. After the night
attack of the Germans had made them masters of the French
position, he had entered the cottage occupied by the French
ambulance. He had found the wounded Frenchmen left behind, but
had seen no such person in attendance on them as the nurse in the
black dress with the red cross on her shoulder. The only living
woman in the place was a young English lady, in a gray traveling
cloak, who had been stopped on the frontier, and who was
forwarded on her way home by the war correspondent of an English

"That was Grace," said Lady Janet.

"And I was the war correspondent," added Horace.

"A few words more," said Julian, "and you will understand my
object in claiming your attention."

He returned to the letter for the last time, and concluded his
extracts from it as follows:

"'Instead of attending at the hospital myself, I communicated by
letter the failure of my attempt to discover the missing nurse.
For some little time afterward I heard no more of the sick woman,
whom I shall still call Mercy Merrick. It was only yesterday that
I received another summons to visit the patient. She had by this
time sufficiently recovered to claim her discharge, and she had
announced her intention of returning forthwith to England. The
head physician, feeling a sense of responsibility, had sent for
me. It was impossible to detain her on the ground that she was
not fit to be trusted by herself at large, in consequence of the
difference of opinion among the doctors on the case. All that
could be done was to give me due notice, and to leave the matter
in my hands. On seeing her for the second time, I found her
sullen and reserved. She openly attributed my inability to find
the nurse to want of zeal for her interests on my part. I had, on
my side, no authority whatever to detain her. I could only
inquire whether she had money enough to pay her traveling
expenses. Her reply informed me that the chaplain of the hospital
had mentioned her forlorn situation in the town, and that the
English residents had subscribed a small sum of money to enable
her to return to her own country. Satisfied on this head, I asked
next if she had friends to go to in England. "I have one friend,"
she answered, "who is a host in herself--Lady Janet Roy." You may
imagine my surprise when I heard this. I found it quite useless
to make any further inquiries as to how she came to know your
aunt, whether your aunt expected her, and so on. My questions
evidently offended her; they were received in sulky silence.
Under these circumstances, well knowing that I can trust
implicitly to your humane sympathy for misfortune, I have decided
(after careful reflection) to insure the poor creature's safety
when she arrives in London by giving her a letter to you. You
will hear what she says, and you will be better able to discover
than I am whether she really has any claim on Lady Janet Roy. One
last word of information, which it may be necessary to add, and I
shall close this inordinately long letter. At my first interview
with her I abstained, as I have already told you, from irritating
her by any inquiries on the subject of her name. On this second
occasion, however, I decided on putting the question.'"

As he read those last words, Julian became aware of a sudden
movement on the part of his aunt. Lady Janet had risen softly
from her chair and had passed behind him with the purpose of
reading the consul's letter for herself over her nephew's
shoulder. Julian detected the action just in time to frustrate
Lady Janet's intention by placing his hand over the last two
lines of the letter.

"What do you do that for?" inquired his aunt, sharply.

"You are welcome, Lady Janet, to read the close of the letter for
yourself," Julian replied. "But before you do so I am anxious to
prepare you for a very great surprise. Compose yourself and let
me read on slowly, with your eye on me, until I uncover the last
two words which close my friend's letter."

He read the end of the letter, as he h ad proposed, in these

"'I looked the woman straight in the face, and I said to her,
"You have denied that the name marked on the clothes which you
wore when you came here was your name. If you are not Mercy
Merrick, who are you?" She answered, instantly, "My name is--"'"

Julian removed his hand from the page. Lady Janet looked at the
next two words, and started back with a loud cry of astonishment,
which brought Horace instantly to his feet.

"Tell me, one of you!" he cried. "What name did she give?"

Julian told him.




FOR a moment Horace stood thunderstruck, looking in blank
astonishment at Lady Janet. His first words, as soon as he had
recovered himself, were addressed to Julian. "Is this a joke?" he
asked, sternly. "If it is, I for one don't see the humor of it."

Julian pointed to the closely written pages of the consul's
letter. "A man writes in earnest," he said, "when he writes at
such length as this. The woman seriously gave the name of Grace
Roseberry, and when she left Mannheim she traveled to England for
the express purpose of presenting herself to Lady Janet Roy." He
turned to his aunt. "You saw me start," he went on, "when you
first mentioned Miss Roseberry's name in my hearing. Now you know
why." He addressed himself once more to Horace. "You heard me say
that you, as Miss Roseberry's future husband, had an interest in
being present at my interview with Lady Janet. Now _you_ know

"The woman is plainly mad," said Lady Janet. "But it is certainly
a startling form of madness when one first hears of it. Of course
we must keep the matter, for the present at least, a secret from

"There can be no doubt," Horace agreed, "that Grace must be kept
in the dark, in her present state of health. The servants had
better be warned beforehand, in case of this adventuress or
madwoman, whichever she may be, attempting to make her way into
the house."

"It shall be done immediately," said Lady Janet. "What surprises
_me_ Julian (ring the bell, if you please), is that you should
describe yourself in your letter as feeling an interest in this

Julian answered--without ringing the bell.

"I am more interested than ever," he said, "now I find that Miss
Roseberry herself is your guest at Mablethorpe House."

'You were always perverse, Julian, as a child, in your likings
and dislikings," Lady Janet rejoined. "Why don't you ring the

"For one good reason, my dear aunt. I don't wish to hear you tell
your servants to close the door on this friendless creature."

Lady Janet cast a look at her nephew which plainly expressed that
she thought he had taken a liberty with her.

"You don't expect me to see the woman?" she asked, in a tone of
cold surprise.

"I hope you will not refuse to see her," Julian answered,
quietly. "I was out when she called. I must hear what she has to
say--and I should infinitely prefer hearing it in your presence.
When I got your reply to my letter, permitting me to present her
to you, I wrote to her immediately, appointing a meeting here."

Lady Janet lifted her bright black eyes in mute expostulation to
the carved Cupids and wreaths on the dining-room ceiling.

"When am I to have the honor of the lady's visit?" she inquired,
with ironical resignation.

"To-day," answered her nephew, with impenetrable patience.

"At what hour?"

Julian composedly consulted his watch. "She is ten minutes after
her time," he said, and put his watch back in his pocket again.

At the same moment the servant appeared, and advanced to Julian,
carrying a visiting card on his little silver tray.

"A lady to see you, sir."

Julian took the card, and, bowing, handed it to his aunt.

"Here she is, "he said, just as quietly as ever.

Lady Janet looked at the card, and tossed it indignantly back to
her nephew. "Miss Roseberry!" she exclaimed. "Printed--actually
printed on her card! Julian, even MY patience has its limits. I
refuse to see her!"

The servant was still waiting--not like a human being who took an
interest in the proceedings, but (as became a perfectly bred
footman) like an article of furniture artfully constructed to
come and go at the word of command. Julian gave the word of
command, addressing the admirably constructed automaton by the
name of "James."

"Where is the lady now?" he asked.

"In the breakfast-room, sir."

"Leave her there, if you please, and wait outside within hearing
of the bell."

The legs of the furniture-footman acted, and took him noiselessly
out of the room. Julian turned to his aunt.

"Forgive me," he said, "for venturing to give the man his orders
in your presence. I am very anxious that you should not decide
hastily. Surely we ought to hear what this lady has to say?"

Horace dissented widely from his friend's opinion. "It's an
insult to Grace," he broke out, warmly, "to hear what she has to

Lady Janet nodded her head in high approval. "I think so, too,"
said her ladyship, crossing her handsome old hands resolutely on
her lap.

Julian applied himself to answering Horace first.

"Pardon me," he said. "I have no intention of presuming to
reflect on Miss Roseberry, or of bringing her into the matter at
all.--The consul's letter," he went on, speaking to his aunt,
"mentions, if you remember, that the medical authorities of
Mannheim were divided in opinion on their patient's case. Some of
them--the physician-in-chief being among the number--believe that
the recovery of her mind has not accompanied the recovery of her

"In other words," Lady Janet remarked, "a madwoman is in my
house, and I am expected to receive her!"

"Don't let us exaggerate," said Julian, gently. "It can serve no
good interest, in this serious matter, to exaggerate anything.
The consul assures us, on the authority of the doctor, that she
is perfectly gentle and harmless. If she is really the victim of
a mental delusion, the poor creature is surely an object of
compassion, and she ought to be placed under proper care. Ask
your own kind heart, my dear aunt, if it would not be downright
cruelty to turn this forlorn woman adrift in the world without
making some inquiry first."

Lady Janet's inbred sense of justice admitted not over
willingly--the reasonableness as well as the humanity of the view
expressed in those words. "There is some truth in that, Julian,"
she said, shifting her position uneasily in her chair, and
looking at Horace. "Don't you think so, too?" she added.

"I can't say I do," answered Horace, in the positive tone of a
man whose obstinacy is proof against every form of appeal that
can be addressed to him.

The patience of Julian was firm enough to be a match for the
obstinacy of Horace. "At any rate," he resumed, with undiminished
good temper," we are all three equally interested in setting this
matter at rest. I put it to you, Lady Janet, if we are not
favored, at this lucky moment, with the very opportunity that we
want? Miss Roseberry is not only out of the room, but out of the
house. If we let this chance slip, who can say what awkward
accident may not happen in the course of the next few days?"

"Let the woman come in," cried Lady Janet, deciding headlong,
with her customary impatience of all delay. "At once,
Julian--before Grace can come back. Will you ring the bell this

This time Julian rang it. "May I give the man his orders?" he
respectfully inquired of his aunt.

"Give him anything you like, and have done with it!" retorted the
irritable old lady, getting briskly on her feet, and taking a
turn in the room to compose herself.

The servant withdrew, with orders to show the visitor in.

Horace crossed the room at the same time--apparently with the
intention of leaving it by the door at the opposite end.

"You are not going away?" exclaimed Lady Janet.

"I see no use in my remaining here," replied Horace, not very

"In that case," retorted Lady Janet, "remain here because I wish

"Certainly--if you wish it. Only remember," he added, more
obstinately than ever," that I differ entirely from Julian's
view. In my opinion the woman has no claim on us."

A passing movement of irritation escaped Julian for the fir st
time. "Don't be hard, Horace," he said, sharply. "All women have
a claim on us."

They had unconsciously gathered together, in the heat of the
little debate, turning their backs on the library door. At the
last words of the reproof administered by Julian to Horace, their
attention was recalled to passing events by the slight noise
produced by the opening and closing of the door. With one accord
the three turned and looked in the direction from which the
sounds had come.



JUST inside the door there appeared the figure of a small woman
dressed in plain and poor black garments. She silently lifted her
black net veil and disclosed a dull, pale, worn, weary face. The
forehead was low and broad; the eyes were unusually far apart;
the lower features were remarkably small and delicate. In health
(as the consul at Mannheim had remarked) this woman must have
possessed, if not absolute beauty, at least rare attractions
peculiarly her own. As it was now, suffering--sullen, silent,
self-contained suffering--had marred its beauty. Attention and
even curiosity it might still rouse. Admiration or interest it
could excite no longer.

The small, thin, black figure stood immovably inside the door.
The dull, worn, white face looked silently at the three persons
in the room.

The three persons in the room, on their side, stood for a moment
without moving, and looked silently at the stranger on the
threshold. There was something either in the woman herself, or in
the sudden and stealthy manner of her appearance in the room,
which froze, as if with the touch of an invisible cold hand, the
sympathies of all three. Accustomed to the world, habitually at
their ease in every social emergency, they were now silenced for
the first time in their lives by the first serious sense of
embarrassment which they had felt since they were children in the
presence of a stranger.

Had the appearance of the true Grace Roseberry aroused in their
minds a suspicion of the woman who had stolen her name, and taken
her place in the house?

Not so much as the shadow of a suspicion of Mercy was at the
bottom of the strange sense of uneasiness which had now deprived
them alike of their habitual courtesy and their habitual presence
of mind. It was as practically impossible for any one of the
three to doubt the identity of the adopted daughter of the house
as it would be for you who read these lines to doubt the identity
of the nearest and dearest relative you have in the world.
Circumstances had fortified Mercy behind the strongest of all
natural rights--the right of first possession. C!circumstances
had armed her with the most irresistible of all natural
forces--the force of previous association and previous habit. Not
by so much as a hair-breadth was the position of the false Grace
Roseberry shaken by the first appearance of the true Grace
Roseberry within the doors of Mablethorpe House. Lady Janet felt
suddenly repelled, without knowing why. Julian and Horace felt
suddenly repelled, without knowing why. Asked to describe their
own sensations at the moment, they would have shaken their heads
in despair, and would have answered in those words. The vague
presentiment of some misfortune to come had entered the room with
the entrance of the woman in black. But it moved invisibly; and
it spoke as all presentiments speak, in the Unknown Tongue.

A moment passed. The crackling of the fire and the ticking of the
clock were the only sounds audible in the room.

The voice of the visitor--hard, clear, and quiet--was the first
voice that broke the silence.

"Mr. Julian Gray?" she said, looking interrogatively from one of
the two gentlemen to the other.

Julian advanced a few steps, instantly recovering his
self-possession. "I am sorry I was not at home," he said, "when
you called with your letter from the consul. Pray take a chair."

By way of setting the example, Lady Janet seated herself at some
little distance, with Horace in attendance standing near. She
bowed to the stranger with studious politeness, but without
uttering a word, before she settled herself in her chair. "I am
obliged to listen to this person," thought the old lady. "But I
am _not_ obliged to speak to her. That is Julian's business--not
mine. Don't stand, Horace! You fidget me. Sit down." Armed
beforehand in her policy of silence, Lady Janet folded her
handsome hands as usual, and waited for the proceedings to begin,
like a judge on the bench.

"Will you take a chair?" Julian repeated, observing that the
visitor appeared neither to heed nor to hear his first words of
welcome to her.

At this second appeal she spoke to him. "Is that Lady Janet Roy?"
she asked, with her eyes fixed on the mistress of the house.

Julian answered, and drew back to watch the result.

The woman in the poor black garments changed her position for the
first time. She moved slowly across the room to the place at
which Lady Janet was sitting, and addressed her respectfully with
perfect self-possession of manner. Her whole demeanor, from the
moment when she had appeared at the door, had expressed--at once
plainly and becomingly--confidence in the reception that awaited

"Almost the last words my father said to me on his death-bed,
"she began, "were words, madam, which told me to expect
protection and kindness from you."

It was not Lady Janet's business to speak. She listened with the
blandest attention. She waited with the most exasperating silence
to hear more.

Grace Roseberry drew back a step--not intimidated--only mortified
and surprised. "Was my father wrong?" she asked, with a simple
dignity of tone and manner which forced Lady Janet to abandon her
policy of silence, in spite of herself.

"Who was your father?" she asked, coldly.

Grace Roseberry answered the question in a tone of stern

"Has the servant not given you my card?" she said. "Don't you
know my name?"

"Which of your names?" rejoined Lady Janet.

"I don't understand your ladyship."

"I will make myself understood. You asked me if I knew your name.
I ask you, in return, which name it is? The name on your card is
'Miss Roseberry.' The name marked on your clothes, when you were
in the hospital, was 'Mercy Merrick.'"

The self-possession which Grace had maintained from the moment
when she had entered the dining-room, seemed now, for the first
time, to be on the point of failing her. She turned, and looked
appealingly at Julian, who had thus far kept his place apart,
listening attentively.

"Surely," she said, "your friend, the consul, has told you in his
letter about the mark on the clothes?"

Something of the girlish hesitation and timidity which had marked
her demeanor at her interview with Mercy in the French cottage
re-appeared in her tone and manner as she spoke those words. The
changes--mostly changes for the worse--wrought in her by the
suffering through which she had passed since that time were now
(for the moment) effaced. All that was left of the better and
simpler side of her character asserted itself in her brief appeal
to Julian. She had hitherto repelled him. He began to feel a
certain compassionate interest in her now.

"The consul has informed me of what you said to him," he
answered, kindly. "But, if you will take my advice, I recommend
you to tell your story to Lady Janet in your own words."

Grace again addressed herself with submissive reluctance to Lady

"The clothes your ladyship speaks of," she said, "were the
clothes of another woman. The rain was pouring when the soldiers
detained me on the frontier. I had been exposed for hours to the
weather--I was wet to the skin. The clothes marked 'Mercy
Merrick' were the clothes lent to me by Mercy Merrick herself
while my own things were drying. I was struck by the shell in
those clothes. I was carried away insensible in those clothes
after the operation had been performed on me."

Lady Janet listened to perfection--and did no more. She turned
confidentially to Horace, and said to him, in her gracefully
ironical way: "She is ready with her explanation."

Horace answered in the same tone: "A great deal too ready."

Grace looked from one of them to the other. A faint flush o f
color showed itself in her face for the first time.

"Am I to understand," she asked, with proud composure, "that you
don't believe me?"

Lady Janet maintained her policy of silence. She waved one hand
courteously toward Julian, as if to say, "Address your inquiries
to the gentleman who introduces you." Julian, noticing the
gesture, and observing the rising color in Grace's cheeks,
interfered directly in the interests of peace

"Lady Janet asked you a question just now," he said; "Lady Janet
inquired who your father was."

"My father was the late Colonel Roseberry."

Lady Janet made another confidential remark to Horace. "Her
assurance amazes me!" she exclaimed.

Julian interposed before his aunt could add a word more. "Pray
let us hear her," he said, in a tone of entreaty which had
something of the imperative in it this time. He turned to Grace.
"Have you any proof to produce," he added, in his gentler voice,
"which will satisfy us that you are Colonel Roseberry's

Grace looked at him indignantly. "Proof!" she repeated. "Is my
word not enough?"

Julian kept his temper perfectly. "Pardon me," he rejoined, "you
forget that you and Lady Janet meet now for the first time. Try
to put yourself in my aunt's place. How is she to know that you
are the late Colonel Roseberry's daughter?"

Grace's head sunk on her breast; she dropped into the nearest
chair. The expression of her face changed instantly from anger to
discouragement. "Ah," she exclaimed, bitterly, "if I only had the
letters that have been stolen from me!"

"Letters, "asked Julian, "introducing you to Lady Janet?"

"Yes." She turned suddenly to Lady Janet. "Let me tell you how I
lost them," she said, in the first tones of entreaty which had
escaped her yet.

Lady Janet hesitated. It was not in her generous nature to resist
the appeal that had just been made to her. The sympathies of
Horace were far less easily reached. He lightly launched a new
shaft of satire--intended for the private amusement of Lady
Janet. "Another explanation!" he exclaimed, with a look of comic

Julian overheard the words. His large lustrous eyes fixed
themselves on Horace with a look of unmeasured contempt.

"The least you can do," he said, sternly, "is not to irritate
her. It is so easy to irritate her!" He addressed himself again
to Grace, endeavoring to help her through her difficulty in a new
way. "Never mind explaining yourself for the moment," he said.
"In the absence of your letters, have you any one in London who
can speak to your identity?"

Grace shook her head sadly. "I have no friends in London," she

It was impossible for Lady Janet--who had never in her life heard
of anybody without friends in London--to pass this over without
notice. "No friends in London!" she repeated, turning to Horace.

Horace shot another shaft of light satire. "Of course not!" he

Grace saw them comparing notes. "My friends are in Canada," she
broke out, impetuously. "Plenty of friends who could speak for
me, if I could only bring them here."

As a place of reference--mentioned in the capital city of
England--Canada, there is no denying it, is open to objection on
the ground of distance. Horace was ready with another shot. "Far
enough off, certainly," he said.

"Far enough off, as you say," Lady Janet agreed.

Once more Julian's inexhaustible kindness strove to obtain a
hearing for the stranger who had been confided to his care. "A
little patience, Lady Janet," he pleaded. "A little
consideration, Horace, for a friendless woman."

"Thank you, sir," said Grace. "It is very kind of you to try and
help me, but it is useless. They won't even listen to me." She
attempted to rise from her chair as she pronounced the last
words. Julian gently laid his hand on her shoulder and obliged
her to resume her seat.

"_I_ will listen to you," he said. "You referred me just now to
the consul's letter. The consul tells me you suspected some one
of taking your papers and your clothes."

"I don't suspect," was the quick reply; "I am certain! I tell you
positively Mercy Merrick was the thief. She was alone with me
when I was struck down by the shell. She was the only person who
knew that I had letters of introduction about me. She confessed
to my face that she had been a bad woman--she had been in a
prison--she had come out of a refuge--"

Julian stopped her there with one plain question, which threw a
doubt on the whole story.

"The consul tells me you asked him to search for Mercy Merrick,"
he said. "Is it not true that he caused inquiries to be made, and
that no trace of any such person was to be heard of?"

"The consul took no pains to find her," Grace answered, angrily.
"He was, like everybody else, in a conspiracy to neglect and
misjudge me."

Lady Janet and Horace exchanged looks. This time it was
impossible for Julian to blame them. The further the stranger's
narrative advanced, the less worthy of serious attention he felt
it to be. The longer she spoke, the more disadvantageously she
challenged comparison with the absent woman, whose name she so
obstinately and so audaciously persisted in assuming as her own.

"Granting all that you have said," Julian resumed, with a last
effort of patience, "what use could Mercy Merrick make of your
letters and your clothes?"

"What use?" repeated Grace, amazed at his not seeing the position
as she saw it. "My clothes were marked with my name. One of my
papers was a letter from my father, introducing me to Lady Janet.
A woman out of a refuge would be quite capable of presenting
herself here in my place."

Spoken entirely at random, spoken without so much as a fragment
of evidence to support them, those last words still had their
effect. They cast a reflection on Lady Janet's adopted daughter
which was too outrageous to be borne. Lady Janet rose instantly.
"Give me your arm, Horace," she said, turning to leave the room.
"I have heard enough."

Horace respectfully offered his arm. "Your ladyship is quite
right," he answered. "A more monstrous story never was invented."

He spoke, in the warmth of his indignation, loud enough for Grace
to hear him. "What is there monstrous in it?" she asked,
advancing a step toward him, defiantly.

Julian checked her. He too--though he had only once seen
Mercy--felt an angry sense of the insult offered to the beautiful
creature who had interested him at his first sight of her.
"Silence!" he said, speaking sternly to Grace for the first time.
"You are offending--justly offending--Lady Janet. You are talking
worse than absurdly--you are talking offensively--when you speak
of another woman presenting herself here in your place."

Grace's blood was up. Stung by Julian's reproof, she turned on
him a look which was almost a look of fury.

"Are you a clergyman? Are you an educated man?" she asked. "Have
you never read of cases of false personation, in newspapers and
books? I blindly confided in Mercy Merrick before I found out
what her character really was. She left the cottage--I know it,
from the surgeon who brought me to life again--firmly persuaded
that the shell had killed me. My papers and my clothes
disappeared at the same time. Is there nothing suspicious in
these circumstances? There were people at the Hospital who
thought them highly suspicious--people who warned me that I might
find an impostor in my place." She suddenly paused. The rustling
sound of a silk dress had caught her ear. Lady Janet was leaving
the room, with Horace, by way of the conservatory. With a last
desperate effort of resolution, Grace sprung forward and placed
herself in front of them.

"One word, Lady Janet, before you turn your back on me," she
said, firmly. "One word, and I will be content. Has Colonel
Roseberry's letter found its way to this house or not? If it has,
did a woman bring it to you?"

Lady Janet looked--as only a great lady can look, when a person
of inferior rank has presumed to fail in respect toward her.

"You are surely not aware," she said, with icy composure, "that
these questions are an insult to Me?"

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