The New Magdalen HTML version

18. The Search In The Grounds
GRACE ROSEBERRY, still listening in the conservatory, saw the door open, and
recognized the mistress of the house. She softly drew back, and placed herself in safer
hiding, beyond the range of view from the dining-room.
Lady Janet advanced no further than the threshold. She stood there and looked at her
nephew and her adopted daughter in stern silence.
Mercy dropped into the chair at her side. Julian kept his place by her. His mind was still
stunned by the discovery that had burst on it; his eyes still rested on her in mute terror of
inquiry. He was as completely absorbed in the one act of looking at her as if they had
been still alone together in the room.
Lady Janet was the first of the three who spoke. She addressed herself to her nephew.
"You were right, Mr. Julian Gray," she said, with her bitterest emphasis of tone and
manner. "You ought to have found nobody in this room on your return but me. I detain
you no longer. You are free to leave my house."
Julian looked round at his aunt. She was pointing to the door. In the excited state of his
sensibilities at that moment the action stung him to the quick. He answered without his
customary consideration for his aunt's age and his aunt's position toward him.
"You apparently forget, Lady Janet, that you are not speaking to one of your footmen," he
said. "There are serious reasons (of which you know nothing) for my remaining in your
house a little longer. You may rely upon my trespassing on your hospitality as short a
time as possible."
He turned again to Mercy as he said those words, and surprised her timidly looking up at
him. In the instant when their eyes met, the tumult of emotions struggling in him became
suddenly stilled. Sorrow for her--compassionating sorrow--rose in the new calm and
filled his heart. Now, and now only, he could read in the wasted and noble face how she
had suffered. The pity which he had felt for the unnamed woman grew to a tenfold pity
for her. The faith which he professed--honestly professed--in the better nature of the
unnamed woman strengthened into a tenfold faith in her. He addressed himself again to
his aunt, in a gentler tone. "This lady," he resumed, "has something to say to me in
private which she has not said yet. That is my reason and my apology for not
immediately leaving the house."
Still under the impression of what she had seen on entering the room, Lady Janet looked
at him in angry amazement. Was Julian actually ignoring Horace HolmcroftÕs claims, in
the presence of Horace HolmcroftÕs betrothed wife? She appealed to her adopted
daughter. "Grace!" she exclaimed, "have you heard him? Have you nothing to say? Must
I remind you--"