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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 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 l’ 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

[graphic]

'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 I'

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 clashed 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 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.'

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