Behind a Mask (Chapter 3, page 1 of 21)


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Chapter 3

For several weeks the most monotonous tranquillity seemed to reign at
Coventry House, and yet, unseen, unsuspected, a storm was gathering.
The arrival of Miss Muir seemed to produce a change in everyone, though
no one could have explained how or why. Nothing could be more
unobtrusive and retiring than her manners. She was devoted to Bella,
who soon adored her, and was only happy when in her society. She
ministered in many ways to Mrs. Coventry's comfort, and that lady
declared there never was such a nurse. She amused, interested and won
Edward with her wit and womanly sympathy. She made Lucia respect and
envy her for her accomplishments, and piqued indolent Gerald by her
persistent avoidance of him, while Sir John was charmed with her
respectful deference and the graceful little attentions she paid him in
a frank and artless way, very winning to the lonely old man. The very
servants liked her; and instead of being, what most governesses are, a
forlorn creature hovering between superiors and inferiors, Jean Muir
was the life of the house, and the friend of all but two.

Lucia disliked her, and Coventry distrusted her; neither could exactly
say why, and neither owned the feeling, even to themselves. Both watched
her covertly yet found no shortcoming anywhere. Meek, modest, faithful,
and invariably sweet-tempered--they could complain of nothing and
wondered at their own doubts, though they could not banish them.

It soon came to pass that the family was divided, or rather that two
members were left very much to themselves. Pleading timidity, Jean Muir
kept much in Bella's study and soon made it such a pleasant little nook
that Ned and his mother, and often Sir John, came in to enjoy the music,
reading, or cheerful chat which made the evenings so gay. Lucia at first
was only too glad to have her cousin to herself, and he too lazy to care
what went on about him. But presently he wearied of her society, for she
was not a brilliant girl, and possessed few of those winning arts which
charm a man and steal into his heart. Rumors of the merry-makings that
went on reached him and made him curious to share them; echoes of fine
music went sounding through the house, as he lounged about the empty
drawing room; and peals of laughter reached him while listening to
Lucia's grave discourse.

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