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The New Magdalen

13. Enter Julian
A WEEK has passed. The scene opens again in the dining-room at Mablethorpe House.
The hospitable table bears once more its burden of good things for lunch. But on this
occasion Lady Janet sits alone. Her attention is divided between reading her newspaper
and feeding her cat. The cat is a sleek and splendid creature. He carries an erect tail. He
rolls luxuriously on the soft carpet. He approaches his mistress in a series of coquettish
curves. He smells with dainty hesitation at the choicest morsels that can be offered to
him. The musical monotony of his purring falls soothingly on her ladyship's ear. She
stops in the middle of a leading article and looks with a careworn face at the happy cat.
"Upon my honor," cries Lady Janet, thinking, in her inveterately ironical manner, of the
cares that trouble her, "all things considered, Tom, I wish I was You!"
The cat starts--not at his mistress's complimentary apostrophe, but at a knock at the door,
which follows close upon it. Lady Janet says, carelessly enough, "Come in;" looks round
listlessly to see who it is; and starts, like the cat, when the door opens and discloses--
Julian Gray!
"You--or your ghost?" she exclaims.
She has noticed already that Julian is paler than usual, and that there is something in his
manner at once uneasy and subdued--highly uncharacteristic of him at other times. He
takes a seat by her side, and kisses her hand. But--for the first time in his aunt's
experience of him--he refuses the good things on the luncheon table, and he has nothing
to say to the cat! That neglected animal takes refuge on Lady Janet's lap. Lady Janet, with
her eyes fixed expectantly on her nephew (determining to "have it out of him" at the first
opportunity), waits to hear what he has to say for himself. Julian has no alternative but to
break the silence, and tell his story as he best may.
"I got back from the Continent last night," he began. "And I come here, as I promised, to
report myself on my return. How does your ladyship do? How is Miss Roseberry?"
Lady Janet laid an indicative finger on the lace pelerine which ornamented the upper part
of her dress. "Here is the old lady, well," she answered--and pointed next to the room
above them. "And there," she added, "is the young lady, ill. Is anything the matter with
you, Julian?"
"Perhaps I am a little tired after my journey. Never mind me. Is Miss Roseberry still
suffering from the shock?"
"What else should she be suffering from? I will never forgive you, Julian, for bringing
that crazy impostor into my house."
 
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