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The New Magdalen

29. The Last Trial
THE servant left them together. Mercy spoke first.
"Mr. Gray!" she exclaimed, "why have you delayed my message? If you knew all, you
would know that it is far from being a kindness to me to keep me in this house."
He advanced closer to her--surprised by her words, alarmed by her looks.
"Has any one been here in my absence?" he asked.
"Lady Janet has been here in your absence. I can't speak of it--my heart feels crushed--I
can bear no more. Let me go!"
Briefly as she had replied, she had said enough. Julian's knowledge of Lady Janet's
character told him what had happened. His face showed plainly that he was disappointed
as well as distressed.
"I had hoped to have been with you when you and my aunt met, and to have prevented
this," he said. "Believe me, she will atone for all that she may have harshly and hastily
done when she has had time to think. Try not to regret it, if she has made your hard
sacrifice harder still. She has only raised you the higher--she has additionally ennobled
you and endeared you in my estimation. Forgive me if I own this in plain words. I cannot
control myself--I feel too strongly."
At other times Mercy might have heard the coming avowal in his tones, might have
discovered it in his eyes. As it was, her delicate insight was dulled, her fine perception
was blunted. She held out her hand to him, feeling a vague conviction that he was kinder
to her than ever--and feeling no more.
"I must thank you for the last time," she said. "As long as life is left, my gratitude will be
a part of my life. Let me go. While I can still control myself, let me go!"
She tried to leave him, and ring the bell. He held her hand firmly, and drew her closer to
him.
"To the Refuge?" he asked.
"Yes," she said. "Home again!"
"Don't say that!" he exclaimed. "I can't bear to hear it. Don't call the Refuge your home!"
"What else is it? Where else can I go?"
"I have come here to tell you. I said, if you remember, I had something to propose."
 
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