Behind a Mask (Chapter 2, page 1 of 18)

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Chapter 2

Only the housemaids were astir when Miss Muir left her room next morning
and quietly found her way into the garden. As she walked, apparently
intent upon the flowers, her quick eye scrutinized the fine old house
and its picturesque surroundings.

"Not bad," she said to herself, adding, as she passed into the adjoining
park, "but the other may be better, and I will have the best."

Walking rapidly, she came out at length upon the wide green lawn which
lay before the ancient hall where Sir John Coventry lived in solitary
splendor. A stately old place, rich in oaks, well-kept shrubberies, gay
gardens, sunny terraces, carved gables, spacious rooms, liveried
servants, and every luxury befitting the ancestral home of a rich and
honorable race. Miss Muir's eyes brightened as she looked, her step grew
firmer, her carriage prouder, and a smile broke over her face; the smile
of one well pleased at the prospect of the success of some cherished
hope. Suddenly her whole air changed, she pushed back her hat, clasped
her hands loosely before her, and seemed absorbed in girlish admiration
of the fair scene that could not fail to charm any beauty-loving eye.
The cause of this rapid change soon appeared. A hale, handsome man,
between fifty and sixty, came through the little gate leading to the
park, and, seeing the young stranger, paused to examine her. He had only
time for a glance, however; she seemed conscious of his presence in a
moment, turned with a startled look, uttered an exclamation of surprise,
and looked as if hesitating whether to speak or run away. Gallant Sir
John took off his hat and said, with the old-fashioned courtesy which
became him well, "I beg your pardon for disturbing you, young lady.
Allow me to atone for it by inviting you to walk where you will, and
gather what flowers you like. I see you love them, so pray make free
with those about you."

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