The New Magdalen
25. The Confession
HE stopped just inside the door. His first look was for Mercy; his is second look was for
"I knew it!" he said, with an assumption of sardonic composure. "If I could only have
persuaded Lady Janet to bet, I should have won a hundred pounds." He advanced to
Julian, with a sudden change from irony to anger. "Would you like to hear what the bet
was?" he asked.
"I should prefer seeing you able to control yourself in the presence of this lady," Julian
"I offered to lay Lady Janet two hundred pounds to one," Horace proceeded, "that I
should find you here, making love to Miss Roseberry behind my back."
Mercy interfered before Julian could reply.
"If you cannot speak without insulting one of us," she said, "permit me to request that you
will not address yourself to Mr. Julian Gray."
Horace bowed to her with a mockery of respect.
"Pray don't alarm yourself--I am pledged to be scrupulously civil to both of you," he said.
"Lady Janet only allowed me to leave her on condition of my promising to behave with
perfect politeness. What else can I do? I have two privileged people to deal with--a
parson and a woman. The parson's profession protects him, and the woman's sex protects
her. You have got me at a disadvantage, and you both of you know it. I beg to apologize
if I have forgotten the clergyman's profession and the lady's sex."
"You have forgotten more than that," said Julian. "You have forgotten that you were born
a gentleman and bred a man of honor. So far as I am concerned, I don't ask you to
remember that I am a clergyman--I obtrude my profession on nobody--I only ask you to
remember your birth and your breeding. It is quite bad enough to cruelly and unjustly
suspect an old f riend who has never forgotten what he owes to you and to himself. But it
is still more unworthy of you to acknowledge those suspicions in the hearing of a woman
whom your own choice has doubly bound you to respect."
He stopped. The two eyed each other for a moment in silence.
It was impossible for Mercy to look at them, as she was looking now, without drawing
the inevitable comparison between the manly force and dignity of Julian and the
womanish malice and irritability of Horace. A last faithful impulse of loyalty toward the
man to whom she had been betrothed impelled her to part them, before Horace had
hopelessly degraded himself in her estimation by contrast with Julian.