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Nonsense, Marie !” remarked her mistress shortly. “I assure you, Vi, it will be all right again in next to no time."
“Then its looks very much belie it, Mary ; that is all that I can say,” replied Lady Violet, cynically surveying the inflamed and swollen foot and ankle, upon which no fomentations had the power to effect a cure.
“ It would have been all right long ago if only it had not been that my boot was tight and irritated it,” was the impatient reply.
Much puzzled by her friend's curious manner and behaviour, Lady Violet presently left her room under the pretext of going to change her habit. She could not understand Mary's humour at all. That the injury she had received was by no means slight
there seemed little doubt; that it caused Mary a great deal of · pain was perfectly apparent. And yet, Mary, who she knew, as a rule, was impatient and out of temper if she had a finger-ache, made light of the whole matter, and pretended that she was hardly suffering at all.
The whole adventure had roused Lady Vi's curiosity extremely. She had heard that Sir John had been upon the spot when the accident occurred, and that it had been he who had assisted Mary to the nearest farmhouse and sent her home. That fact alone was enough to cause Lady Vi to feel excited and wishful to know more ; and although she had seen how impossible it would have been, under the circumstances, with Marie in the room, to question Mary as to how it had all happened, Lady Vi left her friend's room feeling very discontented, because she knew no more then than she had done when she had entered it.
And then Mary's strange conduct ? What could it mean? That there was some strong motive for it Lady Vi felt certain, for Lady Vi was a very far-seeing young lady indeed; but as to what it meant, that certainly perplexed her. She could find no reason for it; raking up the past in her memory she could remember nothing that gave her the slightest clue.
Instead of going to her room to take off her habit, she hurried downstairs to look for her father, and on making enquiries heard that he was in his own room changing his things.
Lady Vi straightway went upstairs again, and knocked at his door.
“Can't come in! Who is there?” was the impatient reply to her summons. A moment later, Deighton, her father's valet, opened the door and joined her in the passage.
“ His lordship's compliments and he will be ready to see your ladyship in five minutes," he informed her in apologetic accents. "And his lordship would be glad to hear how Miss Dunstable is going on, my lady."
“Tell his lordship that it is about Miss Dunstable I wish to see him, and that I will go down to the sitting-room and wait for him there," was the evasive reply.
“Here, I say, Vi! It is all right! Come in,” exclaimed a loud, cheery voice from the other side of the door. “Anything the matter? How is Mary?”
By this time Lord Morescliffe's door had opened, and his lordship was standing in the doorway in his shirt-sleeves.
“Something is certainly the matter," replied his daughter quietly, entering the room as she spoke and closing the door.
Mary has either broken or sprained her ankle ; and she will not allow me to send for a doctor."
Lord Morescliffe gave a prolonged whistle.
“ By George!” he remarked, thoughtfully. “That's uncommonly awkward.”
“ It is more than awkward,” replied his daughter. “It is ridiculous! If her ankle is broken, as I shrewdly suspect is the case, there will be no setting it for ever so long unless it is done at once.”
Lord Morescliffe, a tall, fair-haired, fresh-complexioned man of about five-and-forty, who looked younger than his years, and was, in his way, undeniably good-looking, for several seconds made no reply.
During those seconds he gazed perplexedly into his daughter's face, and began to wish that when he came to Delton Carr he had left Lady Vi and her friend at home.
He was very fond of Lady Vi, and could always hit it off very well with her, which was more than everyone could do with Lady Vi, or he could do with his wife. Up to now he had always been glad to take her about with him when he went anywhere to hunt; she was always cheerful and could always take entire care of herself. She was clever enough not to interfere with any of his personal arrangements, and she was sufficiently attractive and more than sufficiently good-looking to be able to make herself agreeable to his friends.
In fact, when alone with her father, Lady Violet was always at her best. She liked being alone with him, and therefore found it worth her while to be so. She did not like being at Morescliffe ; she liked even less being in London ; and was then a very different being. Her mother really would not have known her, had she seen her when she and her father were alone. Not that Lady Vi was so greatly devoted to Lord Morescliffe ; it was not Lady Vi's way to be greatly devoted to anybody but herself, but simply because, as she herself would have expressed it, they "hit it off so well together," which interpreted meant that he always allowed Lady Vi to have entirely her own way and that Lady Vi's and her father's way happened to lie in the same direction.
Yes! Lady Vi had never before caused him any trouble or inconvenience; personally he felt he owed her no grudge; but he there and then decided that in the future he would "bar" Lady Vi's friends. At the time he had not objected to the idea of Mary Dunstable's joining their party ; when she had not got a sprained or broken ankle, he rather admired Mary; but now it was a very different matter, and he naturally wished greatly that she had stayed at home.
“ That is certain," he replied, in answer to his daughter's last remark. “Of course, a doctor must be sent for at once.”
“Of course," agreed Lady Vi, with an impatient laugh. “ And equally of course, when he arrives, he will find his patient's door locked in his face, and his patient and her maid safely on the inside of it. I tell you, Papa, she positively refuses to see a doctor, and if you think that anything either you or I can say will make Mary Dunstable change her mind, all I can assure you is this—you do not know Mary.”
" It seems I do not,” was the dry reply. “ She has, so far, always appeared to me to be a sensible young woman. It is apparent now that she is little short of being a lunatic.”
Lady Vi looked up at her father with a curious, cynical expression on her handsome face. “Ah!” she said quietly,“ men are so easily deceived. Personally, I like Mary, although I really cannot tell you why ; but as to her having any sense, I never for a moment credited her with having any at all!”
"Come, come, Vi!” laughed his lordship. “Our friend may have her faults and plenty of them ; but I still maintain that as a rule she is both sensible and sincere. Her manners, we all know, are not always very polished, but give them their due, they are both practical and straightforward.”
"Manners are not always to be relied upon,” returned Lady Vi. “And I never yet met anyone with more deceptive ones than the young lady we are talking about.” Then followed a short silence, which Lord Morescliffe broke.
There is one thing very certain," he remarked briskly. “Neither you nor I are being practical just now.
Instead of discussing our friend's character, I propose we now discuss the setting of her broken bones. It is a little more to the point.”
Certainly,” agreed his daughter. “Well, and how is it to be done ? I assure you that I am just as anxious to find an answer to that question as you can be."
"Surely you can bring her to reason, Vi?" murmured his lordship, glancing hopefully into her face, and speaking almost plaintively now.
“I am positive that I can not,” was the decided reply. is already in a very excited state, and I have no doubt I could easily put her into a high fever ; but, as for persuading her to listen to reason, it is hopeless. I have done my best. I can do no more.”
Lord Morescliffe seized his hair - brushes and began to vigorously brush his hair.
“ Hang it all, Vi!” he exclaimed hotly. “You brought her here, you know !"
“Oh, I know that, Papa,” replied Lady Vi, with a slight, halfamused, half-annoyed laugh.
" And the least you can do is to take your fair share of this business off my hands," continued her father, still brushing his hair vehemently. "Very well,” agreed his daughter, coolly. “I am perfectly
I ready to do so."
A short pause; then she looked up at him with an amused expression in her eyes, and laughed again. “And what share are you going to take, Papa ?" she enquired drily.
Lord Morescliffe laughed. “I am going to wire to Leftbury,"
he replied, taking up his coat as he spoke, and beginning to put it on.
"The very best thing that you can do,” returned his daughter.
And so, unknown to Mary Dunstable, a telegram was sent forthwith to Lord Leftbury; and, by her own short-sighted folly, her future fate was sealed.
MARY HAS MADE A MISTAKE.
LADY VIOLET DESBOROUGH had hardly had time to change her habit before she received a message from Mary Dunstable to the effect that she wished to see her.
By this time, Mary had arrived at the conclusion that she was acting in a very foolish manner. Unfortunately, she had made this discovery just a quarter-of-an-hour too late.
She told herself plainly enough now, that in her panic she had quite lost her head; that although she had injured her left foot, nobody at Delton Carr knew anything at all about that scar which ought to be upon it, but was not. That instead of being in despair, and thinking that fate was dead against her, she ought to have felt how fortunate it was that she had had this accident while away from Mudshire, her father, and, worst of all ! that horrible old man, Doctor Sleek !
She saw it all quite clearly now! the fact that she had a serious and terrible secret to hide from the world had made a coward of her, and really, if only her ankle would soon get right again, she had nothing to fear. So long as she was at Delton Carr, she was perfectly safe, and the only thing to be done, was to take care that her foot was cured before she left it.
The first thing to do was to get it cured. How very, very stupid she had been not to see that from the first! Of course, she need not have feared the Delton Carr doctor at all, and equally, of course, he ought to have been sent for at once on her return.
In a panic she sent that hasty summons to Lady Vi, and when that young lady appeared upon the scene, greatly