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my only alternative is to get the thing over as soon as possible. Do you mind waiting? ’ ‘Certainly not. Have you any idea of what Lady Janet wants with you ? ’ ‘ No. Whatever it is, she shall not keep me long away from you. You will be quite alone here ; I have warned the servants not to show anyone in.’ With those words, he left her. Mercy’s first sensation was a sensation of reliefsoon lost in a feeling of shame at the weakness which could welcome any temporary relief in such a position as hers. The emotion thus roused merged in its turn into a sense of impatient regret. ‘ But for Lady Janet’s message,’ she thought to herself, ‘ I might have known my fate by this time I’ The slow minutes followed eacli other drearily. She paced to and fro in the library, faster and faster, under the intolerable irritation, the maddening uncertainty, of her own suspense. Ere long, even the spacious room seemed to be too small for her. The sober monotony of the long book-lined shelves oppressed and offended her. She threw open the door which led into the dining-room, and dashed in, eager for a change of objects, athirst for more space and more air. At the first step, she checked herself; rooted to the spot, under a sudden revulsion of feeling which quieted her in an instant. '1`he room was only illuminated by the waning firelight. A man was obscurely visible seated on the sofa, with his elbows on his knees and his head resting on his hands. He looked up, as the open door let in

the light from the library lamps. The mellow glow reached his face, and revealed Julian Gray.

Mercy was standing with her back to the light; her face being necessarily hidden in deep shadow. He recognised her by her figure, and by the attitude into which it unconsciously fell. That unsought grace, that lithe long beauty of line, belonged to but one woman in the house. He rose, and approached her.

'I have been wishing to see you,' he said,'and hoping that accident might bring about some such meeting as this.'

He offered her a chair. Mercy hesitated before she took her seat. This was their first meeting alone since Lady Janet had interrupted her at the moment when she was about to confide to Julian the melancholy story of the past. Was he anxious to seize the opportunity of returning to her confession? The terms in which he had addressed her seemed to imply it. She put the question to him in plain words.

'I feel the deepest interest in hearing all that you have still to confide to me,' he answered. 'But anxious as I may be, I will not hurry you. I will wait, if you wish it.'

'I am afraid I must own that I do wish it,' Mercy rejoined. 'Not on my own account—but because my time is at the disposal of Horace Holmcroft. I expect to see him in a few minutes.'

'Could you give me those few minutes?' Julian asked. 'I have something, on my side, to say to you, which I think you ought to know, before you see anyone—-Horace himself included.'

He spoke with a certain depression of tone which was not associated with her previous experience of him. His face looked prematurely old and care-worn, in the red light of the fire. Something had plainly happened to sadden and to disappoint him since they had last met.

'I willingly offer you all the time that I have at my own command,' Mercy replied. 'Does what you have to tell me relate to Lady Janet?'

He gave her no direct reply. 'What I have to tell you of Lady Janet,' he said gravely, 'is soon told. So far as she is concerned, you have nothing more to dread. Lady Janet knows all.'

Even the heavy weight of oppression caused hy the impending interview with Horace failed to hold its place in Mercy's mind when Julian answered her in those words.

'Come into the lighted room,' she said faintly. 'It is too terrible to hear you say that in the dark.'

Julian followed her into the library. Her limbs trembled under her. She dropped into a chair, and shrank under his great bright eyes, as he stood by her side looking sadly down on her.

'Lady Janet knows all!' she repeated, with her head on her breast, and the tears falling slowly over her cheeks. 'Have you told her?'

'I have said nothing to Lady Janet or to anyone. Your confidence is a sacred confidence to me, until you have spoken first.'

'Has Lady Janet said anything to you?'

'Not a word. She has looked at von with the

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'A man was obscurely visible, seated on the sofa."—p. 263

my only alternative is to get the thing over as soon as possible. Do you mind waiting?'

'Certainly not. Have you any idea of what Lady Janet wants with you?'

'No. Whatever it is, she shall not keep me long away from you. You will be quite alone here; I have warned the servants not to show anyone in.' With those words, he left her.

Mercy's first sensation was a sensation of relief— soon lost in a feeling of shame at the weakness which could welcome any temporary relief in such a position as hers. The emotion thus roused merged in its turn into a sense of impatient regret. 'But for Lady Janet's message,' she thought to herself,' I might have known my fate by this time!'

The slow minutes followed each" other drearily. She paced to and fro in the library, faster and faster, under the intolerable irritation, the maddening uncertainty, of her own suspense. Ere long, even the spacious room seemed to be too small for her. The sober monotony of the long book-lined shelves oppressed and offended her. She threw open the door which led into the dining-room, and dashed in, eager for a change of objects, athirst for more space and more air.

At the first step, she checked herself; rooted to the spot, under a sudden revulsion of feeling which quieted her in an instant.

The room was only illuminated by the waning firelight. A man was obscurely visible seated on the sofa, with his elbows on his knees and his head resting on his hands. He looked up, as the open door let in

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