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The New Magdalen

24. Lady Janet's Letter
THE narrative leaves Lady Janet and Horace Holmcroft together, and returns to Julian
and Mercy in the library.
An interval passed--a long interval, measured by the impatient reckoning of suspense--
after the cab which had taken Grace Roseberry away had left the house. The minutes
followed each other; and still the warning sound of Horace's footsteps was not heard on
the marble pavement of the hall. By common (though unexpressed) consent, Julian and
Mercy avoided touching upon the one subject on which they were now both interested
alike. With their thoughts fixed secretly in vain speculation on the nature of the interview
which was then taking place in Lady Janet's room, they tried to speak on topics
indifferent to both of them--tried, and failed, and tried again. In a last and longest pause
of silence between them, the next event happened. The door from the hall was softly and
suddenly opened.
Was it Horace? No--not even yet. The person who had opened the door was only Mercy's
maid.
"My lady's love, miss; and will you please to read this directly?"
Giving her message in those terms, the woman produced from the pocket of her apron
Lady Janet's second letter to Mercy, with a strip of paper oddly pinned round the
envelope. Mercy detached the paper, and found on the inner side some lines in pencil,
hurriedly written in Lady Janet's hand. They ran thus.
"Don't lose a moment in reading my letter. And mind this, when H. returns to you--meet
him firmly: say nothing."
Enlightened by the warning words which Julian had spoken to her, Mercy was at no loss
to place the right interpretation on those strange lines. Instead of immediately opening the
letter, she stopped the maid at the library door. Julian's suspicion of the most trifling
events that were taking place in the house had found its way from his mind to hers.
"Wait!" she said. "I don't understand what is going on upstairs; I want to ask you
something."
The woman came back--not very willingly.
"How did you know I was here?" Mercy inquired.
"If you please, miss, her ladyship ordered me to take the letter to you some little time
since. You were not in your room, and I left it on your table."
"I understand that. But how came you to bring the letter here?"
 
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