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BY MRS. ROBERT JOCELYN. Author of "THE M. F. H.'s DAUGHTER,” “ £100,000 VERSUS Ghosts,"

“The CRITON HUNT MYSTERY,” etc., etc.



As Mary felt, her position now was too serious not to be dealt with with the utmost caution. She stood face to face with almost the greatest difficulty which could have overtaken her. She must show that convictingly unblemished left foot of hers to Dr. Sleek.

She saw at once that this was imperative, and, overpowering as the idea was, she did not allow herself to again lose her head.

There were only two ways in which exposure could be avoided. Dr. Sleek might have forgotten all about that scar, and in that case she determined that nothing she must do must bring any remembrance of it back to his memory. She must show him her foot without a moment's hesitation, seem glad that he should be consulted about it, and keep herself absolutely cool and calm. If this failed, there was but one other course open to her. It would be most dangerous, might prove of no avail, and must be avoided if possible ; but as a last hope she would adopt it, if Dr. Sleek's memory proved to be too good.

All this passed through her mind during the few hours which intervened before Dr. Sleek's arrival. She received him with a smile so gracious that he hardly knew her. Miss Dunstable had never deigned to waste such smiles upon him before.

“So Papa has really sent for you?” she remarked pleasantly. " He is terribly anxious about this sprain of mine, but it is the merest nothing, as you will see; just a little care and it will be as strong as ever again."

"I hope so, I hope so, Miss Dunstable," replied the old man cheerily. “No reason for thinking otherwise, is there? but it is natural his lordship should be anxious, and I am most happy to come”

"No doubt of it, you old humbug,” murmured Mary to herself, but she looked up and smiled again.

have come, I suppose you had better see this

Since you

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tiresome foot of mine!” she remarked in a light, half-jesting tone. " But really there is nothing whatever to see.”

Yes, I must certainly see it,” replied Dr. Sleek, in a tone which he fancied he was adapting to hers. "Your left foot too, is it not ? Curious that it should be your left foot."

In spite of all her efforts at self-command, the expression on Mary's face changed ; a curious grey shade overspread it, and for a second or two she looked away, avoiding the doctor's glance.

Then she looked up calmly enough and her eyes met his.

" Why?” she enquired quietly. “I do not know why it should be especially curious.”

"Perhaps not! Perhaps not !” he replied hurriedly. “Only if things went by turns, it ought to have been your right foot this time, you know."

Why?” she again enquired, in the same calm, harsh tone. Dr. Sleek looked a little puzzled for a moment or two, then a light broke over his face. “ Knows nothing about all that, of course,” he mentally remarked. What an ass I am, to be sure.”

“ I was only thinking of that curious mark,” he replied quietly.

"Mark ?" she replied, with well-assumed surprise. " What mark? What are you talking about, Doctor Sleek?”

Then Mary and Dr. Sleek stared blankly at each other in mute surprise.

“The mark on your left foot, Miss Dunstable,” replied the doctor. “ The mark on your left foot which you have had since you were a baby.”

For a moment Mary was staggered and at a loss as to what she could do next. Then she laughed, really quite naturally.

“You seem to know more about it than I do, Doctor Sleek,” she remarked in a light, unruffled tone. “ If there is a mark at all it must be a very small one, for I have never even noticed it.”

“Bless my soul!” exclaimed the old man. “ But that's impossible!”

Mary turned deadly white, and an expression came into her fine eyes which it was not pleasant to behold; but she threw back her head with apparent dignity, and replied in a cold, surprised voice, which had no quiver in it:

"I do not understand you, Doctor Sleek. I remarked that I had never noticed any mark on my left foot. You seem to think there is something wonderful in that fact. Will you be good enough to explain yourself? ”

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“Presently! Presently, Miss Dunstable,” was the soothinglygiven reply. “Will you kindly permit me to examine this sprain first. I will give you a full explanation afterwards."

That the doctor was in a highly-excited frame of mind by this time was evident. He had assumed a fussy, business-like manner which Mary found intolerable. The whole situation seemed as bad as it well could be indeed; but still Mary kept her head, and in an offended, dignified way, indicated that he had her permission to inspect her injury.

The covering removed which had so far hidden it from view, there lay that all-important left foot of hers, the skin which covered it, beyond all doubt, unblemished.

With an expression on his face which might have amused any disinterested onlooker, Dr. Sleek, instead of examining the sprain on Mary's ankle, gazed down in mute bewilderment at Mary's foot, as he did so muttering to himself, “Bless my soul! Most extraordinary!” and a running series of such-like comments.

At last Mary steadied her voice and broke in upon his thoughts. Her heart was beating like a sledge-hammer, and her breath came quick and short; but the tone in which she spoke had lost none of its calm, unruffled composure.

“ Something seems to surprise you, Doctor Sleek,” she remarked, in a half-sarcastic, half-reproving tone. “But meanwhile you apparently forget that you came here to examine my sprained ankle. May I be allowed to suggest that there has been much time lost already, and that Doctor Berry may be here any moment."

Thus reprimanded Dr. Sleek at once drew himself up in a thoroughly business-like manner, and proceeded to see what he thought of the sprain which he had just made a three hours railway journey to see.

Dr. Berry very soon afterwards arrived, and the two doctors held a ten minutes' consultation in a downstairs sitting-room, as in duty bound. Dr. Berry, during that ten minutes, explained the situation. Miss Dunstable's sprain was not severe, but Miss Dunstable seemed in no hurry to leave her rooin, and chose to think that her ankle was recovering very slowly.

After this they saw Lord Leftbury. In Dr. Sleek's opinion, Dr. Berry had done everything that could be done. Neither of them thought seriously of Miss Dunstable's sprain. His lordship was reassured, and Dr. Sleek was conducted to the room which

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had been prepared for him. He was to stay the night at Delton Carr, and it was time that he changed his clothes for dinner.

But, as he did so, Dr. Sleek could think of nothing except that scar which he knew full well ought to have been very visible on Mary's foot. Never in his life had he been so surprised before! And the more he thought about it the more surprised he felt. As he told himself “it was quite, quite impossible that since her babyhood Miss Mary Dunstable could have lost that long, deep scar, and have grown a toe !

Meanwhile Miss Mary Dunstable, left alone, was in a far from cnviable frame of mind. In sheer desperation she had faced the matter well enough when Dr. Sleek had been with her; but as she told herself, this could not last. Dr. Sleek seemingly had a most reliable memory, and that scar which ought to have been on her foot, was evidently no slight scratch, but a blemish of a very decided order.

Mary did not think that a suspicion of the truth had yet flashed across the doctor's mind ; so far he apparently looked upon the absence of that blemish as a wonderful phenomenon which he could in no way account for, and the existence of which, in spite of having seen it with his own eyes, he could hardly believe.

But that state of affairs could only last a very short time. And even if it could have lasted, Mary felt most unwilling that her foot should become an interesting subject for medical research. In that case the doctors would assuredly become like the frogs in the fable; the game might be sport to them, but it would be death to her.

No! There was no way out of the difficulty this time. Discovery was imminent, and she only had a very short time longer in which she could pose as an heiress and be received in society as the Honble. Mary Dunstable, Lord Leftbury's only daughter.

Mary pressed a feverish hand to a hot head. Could she endure it? The humiliation and turmoil of the immediate future? A hundred lesser troubles and annoyances would meet her at every turn; even putting aside the greater and more terrible side of the position.

No! It was not to be endured! A conviction that Lord Leftbury would be kindness itself to her, and that Jennie would do everything in her power to save her pain, did not give her the slightest comfort. Lord Leftbury's kindness would be unbearable, Jennie's endeavours to help her, unendurable!

In her way she had been fond of Jennie, but she had shown her affection in a manner that would make matters extremely trying now. Mary had by no means been above patronizing Jennie. To play the “great lady” to Jennie's “cottage girl," had been one of the great charms in their friendship-to her; and to become an object of Jennie's pity was not a pleasing prospect at all.

No! To remain quietly on the scene of action in the face of the turmoil which was imminent was out of the question. All her life she had avoided all personal inconvenience and discomfort; and to face it now; so much all at once ; was more than she felt inclined to do. Anything better than that! And, if she managed the matter well, she might so easily avoid it all!

Avoid being there to face the heat of the contest. Avoid exposure, questions, well-mcant kindness, pity, fuss and trouble of every kind! Yes, she might avoid it all, without appearing even to avoid it, if she could forget the kind, noble face of the man she had learnt to love, and bind herself for life to the man who she believed loved her, and who would be only too delighted, at an hour's notice, to make her his wife.

She told herself that she had not a long time in which to think about it all. The time had now arrived in which she must decide her whole future course. She must either beat an almost immediate retreat, or remain where she was and face the consequences.

She listened attentively. No one was near her room in the passage outside. Cautiously she got out of bed and walked slowly across the room. Yes, her ankle was still a little weak; but she could walk upon it quite casily. She knew that before, having several times, when quite alone, ventured out of bed to see how it was going on. Noiselessly she stole into bed again, took some writing materials from a table by the bed-side, and laid them on her knee.

Having done this she paused, and for a few minutes gazed intently into the fire, which was burning cheerfully, and was full in view from where she lay. Presently a smile appeared upon her lips. She took up her pen, dipped it in the ink-bottle, and quickly began to write the following letter :

"The Royal Hotel, Delton Carr.

“Wednesday. “MY DEAR TOM,

“ I daresay you have been hoping that I would write beforc this; but I seldom write letters if I can help it, and

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