The New Magdalen HTML version
8. The Man Appears
After an interval of rest Mercy was aroused by the shutting of a glass door at the far end
of the conservatory. This door, leading into the garden, was used only by the inmates of
the house, or by old friends privileged to enter the reception-rooms by that way.
Assuming that either Horace or Lady Janet was returning to the dining-room, Mercy
raised herself a little on the' sofa and listened.
The voice of one of the men-servants caught her ear. It was answered by another voice,
which instantly set her trembling in every limb.
She started up, and listened again in speechless terror. Yes! there was no mistaking it.
The voice that was answering the servant was the unforgotten voice which she had heard
at the Refuge. The visitor who had come in by the glass door was--Julian Gray!
His rapid footsteps advanced nearer and nearer to the dining-room. She recovered herself
sufficiently to hurry to the library door. Her hand shook so that she failed at first to open
it. She had just succeeded when she heard him again--speaking to her.
"Pray don't run away! I am nothing very formidable. Only Lady Janet's nephew--Julian
She turned slowly, spell-bound by his voice, and confronted him in silence.
He was standing, hat in hand, at the entrance to the conservatory, dressed in black, and
wearing a white cravat, but with a studious avoidance of anything specially clerical in the
make and form of his clothes. Young as he was, there were marks of care already on his
face, and the hair was prematurely thin and scanty over his forehead. His slight, active
figure was of no more than the middle height. His complexion was pale. The lower part
of his face, without beard or whiskers, was in no way remarkable. An average observer
would have passed him by without notice but for his eyes. These alone made a marked
man of him. The unusual size of the orbits in which they were set was enough of itself to
attract attention; it gave a grandeur to his head, which the head, broad and firm as it was,
did not possess. As to the eyes themselves, the soft, lustrous brightness of them defied
analysis No two people could agree about their color; divided opinion declaring
alternately that they were dark gray or black. Painters had tried to reproduce them, and
had given up the effort, in despair of seizing any one expression in the bewildering
variety of expressions which they presented to view. They were eyes that could charm at
one moment and terrify at another; eyes that could set people laughing or crying almost at
will. In action and in repose they were irresistible alike. When they first descried Mercy
running to the door, they brightened gayly with the merriment of a child. When she
turned and faced him, they changed instantly, softening and glowing as they mutely
owned the interest and the admiration which the first sight of her had roused in him. His
tone and manner altered at the same time. He addressed her with the deepest respect
when he spoke his next words.