The New Magdalen
7. The Man Is Coming
"You look very pale this morning, my child."
Mercy sighed wearily. "I am not well," she answered. "The slightest noises startle me. I
feel tired if I only walk across the room."
Lady Janet patted her kindly on the shoulder. "We must try what a change will do for
you. Which shall it be? the Continent or the sea-side?"
"Your ladyship is too kind to me."
"It is impossible to be too kind to you."
Mercy started. The color flowed charmingly over her pale face. "Oh!" she exclaimed,
impulsively. "Say that again!"
"Say it again?" repeated Lady Janet, with a look of surprise.
"Yes! Don't think me presuming; only think me vain. I can't hear you say too often that
you have learned to like me. Is it really a pleasure to you to have me in the house? Have I
always behaved well since I have been with you?"
(The one excuse for the act of personation--if excuse there could be--lay in the
affirmative answer to those questions. It would be something, surely, to say of the false
Grace that the true Grace could not have been worthier of her welcome, if the true Grace
had been received at Mablethorpe House!)
Lady Janet was partly touched, partly amused, by the extraordinary earnestness of the
appeal that had been made to her.
"Have you behaved well?" she repeated. "My dear, you talk as if you were a child!" She
laid her hand caressingly on Mercy's arm, and continued, in a graver tone: "It is hardly
too much to say, Grace, that I bless the day when you first came to me. I do believe I
could be hardly fonder of you if you were my own daughter."
Mercy suddenly turned her head aside, so as to hide her face. Lady Janet, still touching
her arm, felt it tremble. "What is the matter with you?" she asked, in her abrupt,
"I am only very grateful to your ladyship--that is all." The words were spoken faintly, in
broken tones. The face was still averted from Lady Janet's view. "What have I said to
provoke this?" wondered the old lady. "Is she in the melting mood to-day? If she is, now
is the time to say a word for Horace!" Keeping that excellent object in view, Lady Janet
approached the delicate topic with all needful caution at starting.