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The New Magdalen

15. A Woman's Remorse
HAVING warmed his feet to his own entire satisfaction, Horace turned round from the
fireplace, and discovered that he and Lady Janet were alone.
"Can I see Grace?" he asked.
The easy tone in which he put the question--a tone, as it were, of proprietorship in
"Grace"--jarred on Lady Janet at the moment. For the first time in her life she found
herself comparing Horace with Julian--to Horace's disadvantage. He was rich; he was a
gentleman of ancient lineage; he bore an unblemished character. But who had the strong
brain? who had the great heart? Which was the Man of the two?
"Nobody can see her," answered Lady Janet. "Not even you!"
The tone of the reply was sharp, with a dash of irony in it. But where is the modern
young man, possessed of health and an independ ent income, who is capable of
understanding that irony can be presumptuous enough to address itself to him? Horace
(with perfect politeness) declined to consider himself answered.
"Does your ladyship mean that Miss Roseberry is in bed?" he asked.
"I mean that Miss Roseberry is in her room. I mean that I have twice tried to persuade
Miss Roseberry to dress and come downstairs, and tried in vain. I mean that what Miss
Roseberry refuses to do for Me, she is not likely to do for You--"
How many more meanings of her own Lady Janet might have gone on enumerating, it is
not easy to calculate. At her third sentence a sound in the library caught her ear through
the incompletely closed door and suspended the next words on her lips. Horace heard it
also. It was the rustling sound (traveling nearer and nearer over the library carpet) of a
silken dress.
(In the interval while a coming event remains in a state of uncertainty, what is it the
inevitable tendency of every Englishman under thirty to do? His inevitable tendency is to
ask somebody to bet on the event. He can no more resist it than he can resist lifting his
stick or his umbrella, in the absence of a gun, and pretending to shoot if a bird flies by
him while he is out for a walk.)
"What will your ladyship bet that this is not Grace?" cried Horace.
Her ladyship took no notice of the proposal; her attention remained fixed on the library
door. The rustling sound stopped for a moment. The door was softly pushed open. The
false Grace Roseberry entered the room.
 
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