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The New Magdalen

9. News From Mannheim
LADY JANET'S curiosity was by this time thoroughly aroused. Summoned to explain
who the nameless lady mentioned in his letter could possibly be, Julian had looked at her
adopted daughter. Asked next to explain what her adopted daughter had got to do with it,
he had declared that he could not answer while Miss Roseberry was in the room.
What did he mean? Lady Janet determined to find out.
"I hate all mysteries," she said to Julian. "And as for secrets, I consider them to be one of
the forms of ill-breeding. People in our rank of life ought to be above whispering in
corners. If you must have your mystery, I can offer you a corner in the library. Come with
me."
Julian followed his aunt very reluctantly. Whatever the mystery might be, he was plainly
embarrassed by being called upon to reveal it at a moment's notice. Lady Janet settled
herself in her chair, prepared to question and cross-question her nephew, when an
obstacle appeared at the other end of the library, in the shape of a man-servant with a
message. One of Lady Janet's neighbors had called by appointment to take her to the
meeting of a certain committee which assembled that day. The servant announced that the
neighbor--an elderly lady--was then waiting in her carriage at the door.
Lady Janet's ready invention set the obstacle aside without a moment's delay. She
directed the servant to show her visitor into the drawing-room, and to say that she was
unexpectedly engaged, but that Miss Roseberry would see the lady immediately. She then
turned to Julian, and said, with her most satirical emphasis of tone and manner: "Would it
be an additional convenience if Miss Roseberry was not only out of the room before you
disclose your secret, but out of the house?"
Julian gravely answered: "It may possibly be quite as well if Miss Roseberry is out of the
house."
Lady Janet led the way back to the dining-room.
"My dear Grace, "she said, "you looked flushed and feverish when I saw you asleep on
the sofa a little while since. It will do you no harm to have a drive in the fresh air. Our
friend has called to take me to the committee meeting. I have sent to tell her that I am
engaged--and I shall be much obliged if you will go in my place."
Mercy looked a little alarmed. "Does your ladyship mean the committee meeting of the
Samaritan Convalescent Home? The members, as I understand it, are to decide to-day
which of the plans for the new building they are to adopt. I cannot surely presume to vote
in your place?"
 
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