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" I had no idea that you intended coming downstairs to-day," said Lord Leftbury. “I do hope that it will do you no harm.”

“None at all," was the reassuring reply. “I feel quite right again now. Thank you, Marie; that is all I require," continued Mary, turning to her maid as she made the latter remark.

Upon this Marie, who had tucked a fur rug over her mistress' feet, and smoothed the cushions behind her back with the utmost care, withdrew from the scene; and Lord Leftbury and Mary were left alone.

“You see, Papa, it was much better for me to come down here to-day. Doctor Sleek assured me it could do my ankle no harm to move it a little now; and you may be sure I was most delighted to hear it. He seemed to think we might safely return to Dunstable to-morrow; and if we are to do so, as I hope is the case, it will be far better for me to feel my way a little to-day, before my journey there,” explained Mary diplomatically, in a quiet, practical tone, as soon as Marie had closed the door. “I foresaw that I might feel rather weak and funny just at first; and naturally had no wish to faint, or do anything ridiculous of that kind on my way home." “Certainly, my dear, certainly,” murmured Lord Leftbury.

, “Only would it not have been wiser to have come down later in the day? And we had never dreamt of your walking at all tomorrow. We had arranged that, if we went, your journey should have been no fatigue to you."

Mary laughed. "Impossible, my dear Papa!” she returned lightly. “Doctor Sleek must know very little about his profession, if he imagined that a journey of that distance would be no fatigue to anyone who had been laid up for a fortnight.”

a "I questioned the prudence of it myself,” agreed Lord Leftbury. “But Sleek seemed to be so satisfied with the state of your health, and I knew how desirable it was that you should leave this uncomfortable place. He had hoped you would be able to come down to-day. Of course, had you not been able to do so quite satisfactorily, I should not have sanctioned——”

Again Mary laughed. Her lowest, most modulated laugh. And, as she did so, she laid her hand affectionately on his arm.

My dear Papa, I know all this,” she remarked quietly. “Of course I know that everything that is kind and best is being done for me. Equally, of course, I wish with all my heart to return to Dunstable as soon as possible. I am delighted that it

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will be possible to do so so soon. My ankle is far stronger than I imagined, I am thankful to say. Perhaps I have been too fussy about it, and taken unnecessary care ; but I so dreaded its getting bad, and my not being able to hunt on account of it for some time to come." “I am truly glad that for once in your

life

you have been rather more prudent than usual,” replied Lord Leftbury. “You see that you are rewarded for it.”

Yes,” granted Mary, in a slightly dubious tone. “Only it has been such a bore."

“My poor girl, yes,” murmured Lord Leftbury sympathetically. “I know well what this fortnight must have been to you." " And to you also, Papa," said Mary.

No, no, my dear! I have been right enough, or rather would have been so, if I had not been so unhappy and anxious about you,” was the quick reply.

“There has been no cause for anxiety though, really," put in Mary. “I do not think the sprain was at all a bad one. Only these local men do so delight in making a fuss about things, and one always feels a little doubtful of them.”

“Yes, just so,” agreed his lordship readily. “Why in the world I never thought of calling in Sleek before, goodness alone knows. Such a comfort to have him, and to be told in a straightforward manner exactly how the case stands, and what is wrong.”

“Yes,” said Mary quietly ; but she had difficulty in suppressing a smile as she spoke. Doctor Sleek could hardly be said to have been a source of much comfort to her; and although he had certainly discovered what was wrong, it was hardly in the way that Lord Leftbury meant. As to his understanding the case better than Doctor Berry did, no one knew better than Mary how very simple a case it was, or how little there was to understand about it ; and in her own mind she felt fairly assured that Doctor Berry was by far the more clever man of the two.

After this there was a short pause, which Mary broke.

“By-the-bye,” she said calmly, in a careless tone. Doctor Sleek say anything to you about that scar on my foot ?" "No," replied Lord Leftbury, looking up in a surprised

What scar?” Mary drew a long breath! For a moment she found it impossible to reply; when she did so it was in the same calm tone as before.

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" Have you forgotten ? ” she replied lightly. "I have a scar on my foot, you know.”

“Ah, yes,” returned Lord Leftbury, who now that he came to think of it suddenly remembered a long forgotten fact. “So

" you have, to be sure.”

A short pause. “So I have,” agreed Mary laughingly. “Only do not tell Doctor Sleek so; because I am just now amusing myself by letting him imagine he has discovered a quite unique fact in natural history."

Lord Leftbury looked amused, but slightly puzzled. “ Yes?" he said questioningly.

"He had forgotten which foot it was on, that is all,” said Mary. “Let me think," murmured his lordship. “Your left?”

His suggestion was received by a low, amused laugh. Wrong!” she exclaimed brightly. “ How delicious-you are both wrong!” "No, am I?” was the lightly given reply. “And Sleek too?

. Well eighteen years is a long time, Mary. And this fact in natural history? What of it?"

“Only this. I could not resist pretending that I knew nothing about any scar at all as soon as I saw his puzzled state of mind when he did not find it on the foot he imagined it was on. So now he believes it has gone, and you cannot imagine how greatly his mind is exercised about its disappearance.”

Lord Leftbury laughed. The matter evidently struck him as being quite as amusing as she wished him to find it.

“ Capital, Mary!” he returned approvingly. “Excellent! No doubt he thinks he is on the eve of discovering a method by which a future generation may be enabled to grow a finger or toe, if they happen to lose one by accident. You are evidently not so very ill, after all, my dear; and I am most delighted to have so good a proof of it.”

Mary was smiling. Success seemed to be staring her in the face; and added to that she had just made an extremely important discovery."

“ You will be sure not to say a word to him about it, until I give you leave,” she said quickly. “If he should mention the subject, pretend to have forgotten all about it. It will not be untrue, you know ; you had forgotten.”

“Trust me, my dear," said Lord Leftbury; and as he spoke Doctor Sleek opened the door and entered the room.

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CHAPTER XXXVIII.

A CRITICAL POSITION.

DR. SLEEK had appeared upon the scene a little sooner than Mary had either calculated upon or desired. That he should have done so, for a few seconds caused her heart to beat rather unpleasantly and a feeling of temporary nervousness to take possession of her.

She had arranged everything to her own satisfaction beforehand, and Dr. Sleek's entrance into the room had upset her plan of action. She had fully intended to sec Dr. Sleek alone when next they met, and she was by no means prepared to do so in Lord Leftbury's presence.

She drew a long breath, and began to fully realize how very dangerous a game she had undertaken. Yesterday she might have withdrawn from the case with seeming honour, to-day, if she failed to win it, she would be placed in a very awkward position indeed.

There was no longer any middle course possible. She was playing her very last card, and she either won or lost everything she possessed in the world.

Yesterday, pretending complete ignorance of the existence of any scar, had discovery followed it would naturally have been supposed that she had had no idea that there ought to have been one, and that she was perfectly unaware of the fact that, since her childhood, she had been standing in another woman's place. When the truth had become known, everyone would have pitied her and no one would have condemned, and although the pity of her fellow creatures would not have been particularly pleasing to her, it would have possibly been preferable to the condemnation which, in the event of failure, now awaited her.

She had now told Lord Leftbury a very decided lie-a lie which could easily be proved to be a lie, and a lie of a very serious kind indeed; a lie which, if proved, would at once disclose the fact that she had been aware of her true position ; a lie which would for ever place a barrier between herself and the man who had so far believed her to be his daughter ; a lie which he would never forgive or forget, and which, if made public property, would ruin her character for life.

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Yes; it was a very dangerous move, this last one that she had made, so dangerous that, for a few long seconds after Dr. Sleek's sudden appearance in the doorway, Mary would have given much if she could have retracted it.

Then she looked at Lord Leftbury and smiled.

" Papa, dear,” she said quietly, “I am sure it is time that you wended your way towards the stables; my poor horses must miss me terribly, and I know that a sight of your face would cheer them up and do them ever so much good.”

“ A pretty decided hint that, eh, Sleek ? ” returned his lordship, rising as he spoke and bestowing a side glance at Mary. "She is considerably better this morning, thanks to you. Your mere presence here seems to have done her a world of good.”

“Do go away, Papa,” protested Mary. “This lavish flattery is so very bad for Doctor Sleek, poor man, and I am quite certain that he is longing to have a talk with me about my tiresome foot.”

Lord Leftbury's eyes and Mary's met, and they both smiled; then Lord Leftbury turned away and walked out of the room.

Mary gave a sigh of relief. The coast was clear now, and she and old Dr. Sleek could fight out their battle alone. She glanced surreptitiously at him, wondering whether victory or failure awaited her. Of one thing she was very sure ; although prosy and tiresome as a companion and not very brilliant as a medical adviser, old Dr. Sleek was no fool. He had all his wits about him yet, seemed to possess a most inconveniently good memory—and, as she knew very well indeed, he most cordially detested her and had done so for years.

She wished now, not for the first time lately, that she had known beforehand what Fate had had in store for her. Had she done so, she would have made a point of being most civil to Dr. Sleek and not bestowing snubs upon him. She regretted those snubs now very much indeed.

Would that one smile could have effaced them from the doctor's memory! If that had been possible, the smile with which she now looked up at him would assuredly have done it. It was Mary's very most bewitching smile, and to do her justice, it was far from being unattractive.

"Well,” she exclaimed brightly,“ have you solved the difficulty yet, Doctor Sleek?"

“The difficulty, Miss Dunstable ?” he replied in a bewildered tone, “what difficulty do you refer to?"

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