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ON returning to the house, Magdalen felt her shoulder suddenly touched from
behind as she crossed the hall. She turned and confronted her sister. Before she
could ask any questions, Norah confusedly addressed her, in these words: "I beg
your pardon; I beg you to forgive me."
Magdalen looked at her sister in astonishment. All memory, on her side, of the
sharp words which had passed between them in the shrubbery was lost in the
new interests that now absorbed her; lost as completely as if the angry interview
had never taken place. "Forgive you!" she repeated, amazedly. "What for?"
"I have heard of your new prospects," pursued Norah, speaking with a
mechanical submissiveness of manner which seemed almost ungracious; "I
wished to set things right between us; I wished to say I was sorry for what
happened. Will you forget it? Will you forget and forgive what happened in the
shrubbery?" She tried to proceed; but her inveterate reserve -- or, perhaps, her
obstinate reliance on her own opinions -- silenced her at those last words. Her
face clouded over on a sudden. Before her sister could answer her, she turned
away abruptly and ran upstairs.
The door of the library opened, before Magdalen could follow her; and Miss
Garth advanced to express the sentiments proper to the occasion.
They were not the mechanically-submissive sentiments which Magdalen had just
heard. Norah had struggled against her rooted distrust of Frank, in deference to
the unanswerable decision of both her parents in his favor; and had suppressed
the open expression of her antipathy, though the feeling itself remained
unconquered. Miss Garth had made no such concession to the master and
mistress of the house. She had hitherto held the position of a high authority on all
domestic questions; and she flatly declined to get off her pedestal in deference to
any change in the family circumstances, no matter how amazing or how
unexpected that change might be.