The New Magdalen
20. The Policeman In Plain Clothes
JULIAN looked round the room, and stopped at the door which he had just opened.
His eyes rested first on Mercy, next on Grace.
The disturbed faces of both the women told him but too plainly that the disaster which he
had dreaded had actually happened. They had met without any third person to interfere
between them. To what extremities the hostile interview might have led it was impossible
for him to guess. In his aunt's presence he could only wait his opportunity of speaking to
Mercy, and be ready to interpose if anything was ignorantly done which might give just
cause of offense to Grace.
Lady Janet's course of action on entering the dining-room was in perfect harmony with
Lady Janet's character.
Instantly discovering the intruder, she looked sharply at Mercy. "What did I tell you?"
she asked. "Are you frightened? No! not in the least frightened! Wonderful!" She turned
to the servant. "Wait in the library; I may want you again." She looked at Julian. "Leave it
all to me; I can manage it." She made a sign to Horace. "Stay where you are, and hold
your tongue." Having now said all that was necessary to every one else, she advanced to
the part of the room in which Grace was standing, with lowering brows and firmly shut
lips, defiant of everybody.
"I have no desire to offend you, or to act harshly toward you," her ladyship began, very
quietly. "I only suggest that your visits to my house cannot possibly lead to any
satisfactory result. I hope you will not oblige me to say any harder words than these--I
hope you will understand that I wish you to withdraw."
The order of dismissal could hardly have been issued with more humane consideration
for the supposed mental infirmity of the person to whom it was addressed. Grace
instantly resisted it in the plainest possible terms.
"In justice to my father's memory and in justice to myself," she answered, "I insist on a
hearing. I refuse to withdraw." She deliberately took a chair and seated herself in the
presence of the mistress of the house.
Lady Janet waited a moment--steadily controlling her temper. In the interval of silence
Julian seized the opportunity of remonstrating with Grace.
"Is this what you promised me?" he asked, gently. "You gave me your word that you
would not return to Mablethorpe House."
Before he could say more Lady Janet had got her temper under command. She began her
answer to Grace by pointing with a peremptory forefinger to the library door.