Behind a Mask (Chapter 8, page 1 of 12)


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Chapter 8

All the next day, Jean was in a state of the most intense anxiety, as
every hour brought the crisis nearer, and every hour might bring defeat,
for the subtlest human skill is often thwarted by some unforeseen
accident. She longed to assure herself that Sir John was gone, but no
servants came or went that day, and she could devise no pretext for
sending to glean intelligence. She dared not go herself, lest the
unusual act should excite suspicion, for she never went till evening.
Even had she determined to venture, there was no time, for Mrs. Coventry
was in one of her nervous states, and no one but Miss Muir could amuse
her; Lucia was ill, and Miss Muir must give orders; Bella had a studious
fit, and Jean must help her. Coventry lingered about the house for
several hours, but Jean dared not send him, lest some hint of the truth
might reach him.

He had ridden away to his new duties when Jean did not
appear, and the day dragged on wearisomely. Night came at last, and as
Jean dressed for the late dinner, she hardly knew herself when she stood
before her mirror, excitement lent such color and brilliancy to her
countenance. Remembering the wedding which was to take place that
evening, she put on a simple white dress and added a cluster of white
roses in bosom and hair. She often wore flowers, but in spite of her
desire to look and seem as usual, Bella's first words as she entered the
drawing room were "Why, Jean, how like a bride you look; a veil and
gloves would make you quite complete!"

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