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The New Magdalen

21. The Footstep In The Corridor
MERCY was alone.
She had secured one half hour of retirement in her own room, designing to devote that
interval to the writing of her confession, in the form of a letter addressed to Julian Gray.
No recent change in her position had, as yet, mitigated her horror of acknowledging to
Horace and to Lady Janet that she had won her way to their hearts in disguise. Through
Julian only could she say the words which were to establish Grace Roseberry in her right
position in the house.
How was her confession to be addressed to him? In writing? or by word of mouth?
After all that had happened, from the time when Lady Janet's appearance had interrupted
them, she would have felt relief rather than embarrassment in personally opening her
heart to the man who had so delicately understood her, who had so faithfully befriended
her in her sorest need. But the repeated betrayals of Horace's jealous suspicion of Julian
warned her that she would only be surrounding herself with new difficulties, and be
placing Julian in a position of painful embarrassment, if she admitted him to a private
interview while Horace was in the house.
The one course left to take was the course that she had adopted. Determining to address
the narrative of the Fraud to Julian in the form of a letter, she arranged to add, at the
close, certain instructions, pointing out to him the line of conduct which she wished him
to pursue,
These instructions contemplated the communication of her letter to Lady Janet and to
Horace in the library, while Mercy--self-confessed as the missing woman whom she had
pledged herself to produce--awaited in the adjoining room whatever sentence it pleased
them to pronounce on her. Her resolution not to screen herself behind Julian from any
consequences which might follow the confession had taken root in her mind from the
moment when Horace had harshly asked her (and when Lady Janet had joined him in
asking) why she delayed her explanation, and what she was keeping them waiting for.
Out of the very pain which those questions inflicted, the idea of waiting her sentence in
her own person in one room, while her letter to Julian was speaking for her in another,
had sprung to life. "Let them break my heart if they like," she had thought to herself, in
the self-abasement of that bitter moment; "it will be no more than I have deserved."
She locked her door and opened her writing-desk. Knowing what she had to do, she tried
to collect herself and do it.
The effort was in vain. Those persons who study writing as an art are probably the only
persons who can measure the vast distance which separates a conception as it exists in the
mind from the reduction of that conception to form and shape in words. The heavy stress