The New Magdalen (Chapter 8, page 1 of 10)


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Chapter 8

After an interval of rest Mercy was aroused by the shutting of a glass
door at the far end of the conservatory. This door, leading into the
garden, was used only by the inmates of the house, or by old friends
privileged to enter the reception-rooms by that way. Assuming that
either Horace or Lady Janet was returning to the dining-room, Mercy
raised herself a little on the' sofa and listened.

The voice of one of the men-servants caught her ear. It was answered by
another voice, which instantly set her trembling in every limb.

She started up, and listened again in speechless terror. Yes! there
was no mistaking it. The voice that was answering the servant was the
unforgotten voice which she had heard at the Refuge. The visitor who had
come in by the glass door was--Julian Gray!

His rapid footsteps advanced nearer and nearer to the dining-room. She
recovered herself sufficiently to hurry to the library door. Her hand
shook so that she failed at first to open it. She had just succeeded
when she heard him again--speaking to her.

"Pray don't run away! I am nothing very formidable. Only Lady Janet's
nephew--Julian Gray."

She turned slowly, spell-bound by his voice, and confronted him in
silence.

He was standing, hat in hand, at the entrance to the conservatory,
dressed in black, and wearing a white cravat, but with a studious
avoidance of anything specially clerical in the make and form of his
clothes. Young as he was, there were marks of care already on his face,
and the hair was prematurely thin and scanty over his forehead. His
slight, active figure was of no more than the middle height. His
complexion was pale. The lower part of his face, without beard or
whiskers, was in no way remarkable. An average observer would have
passed him by without notice but for his eyes. These alone made a marked
man of him. The unusual size of the orbits in which they were set was
enough of itself to attract attention; it gave a grandeur to his head,
which the head, broad and firm as it was, did not possess. As to the
eyes themselves, the soft, lustrous brightness of them defied analysis
No two people could agree about their color; divided opinion declaring
alternately that they were dark gray or black. Painters had tried to
reproduce them, and had given up the effort, in despair of seizing any
one expression in the bewildering variety of expressions which they
presented to view. They were eyes that could charm at one moment and
terrify at another; eyes that could set people laughing or crying almost
at will. In action and in repose they were irresistible alike. When they
first descried Mercy running to the door, they brightened gayly with
the merriment of a child. When she turned and faced him, they changed
instantly, softening and glowing as they mutely owned the interest and
the admiration which the first sight of her had roused in him. His tone
and manner altered at the same time. He addressed her with the deepest
respect when he spoke his next words.

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