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The New Magdalen

17. The Guardian Angel
"You were here when I fainted, were you not?" Mercy began. "You must think me a sad
coward, even for a woman."
He shook his head. "I am far from thinking that, "he replied. "No courage could have
sustained the shock which fell on you. I don't wonder that you fainted. I don't wonder that
you have been ill."
She paused in rolling up the ball of wool. What did those words of unexpected sympathy
mean? Was he laying a trap for her? Urged by that serious doubt, she questioned him
more boldly.
"Horace tells me you have been abroad," she said. "Did you enjoy your holiday?"
"It was no holiday. I went abroad because I thought it right to make certain inquiries--"
He stopped there, unwilling to return to a subject that was painful to her.
Her v oice sank, her fingers trembled round the ball of wool; but she managed to go on.
"Did you arrive at any results?" she asked.
"At no results worth mentioning."
The caution of that reply renewed her worst suspicions of him. In sheer despair, she
spoke out plainly.
"I want to know your opinion--" she began.
"Gently!" said Julian. "You are entangling the wool again."
"I want to know your opinion of the person who so terribly frightened me. Do you think
her--"
"Do I think her--what?"
"Do you think her an adventuress?"
(As she said those words the branches of a shrub in the conservatory were noiselessly
parted by a hand in a black glove. The face of Grace Roseberry appeared dimly behind
the leaves. Undiscovered, she had escaped from the billiard-room, and had stolen her way
into the conservatory as the safer hiding-place of the two. Behind the shrub she could see
as well as listen. Behind the shrub she waited as patiently as ever.)
 
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