The New Magdalen (Chapter 3, page 1 of 8)


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Chapter 3

A THIRD rifle-shot rang through the night air, close to the cottage.
Grace started and approached the window in alarm.

"What does that firing mean?" she asked.

"Signals from the outposts," the nurse quietly replied.

"Is there any danger? Have the Germans come back?"

Surgeon Surville answered the question. He lifted the canvas screen, and
looked into the room as Miss Roseberry spoke.

"The Germans are advancing on us," he said. "Their vanguard is in
sight."

Grace sank on the chair near her, trembling from head to foot. Mercy
advanced to the surgeon, and put the decisive question to him.

"Do we defend the position?" she inquired.

Surgeon Surville ominously shook his head.

"Impossible! We are outnumbered as usual--ten to one."

The shrill roll of the French drums was heard outside.

"There is the retreat sounded!" said the surgeon. "The captain is not
a man to think twice about what he does. We are left to take care of
ourselves. In five minutes we must be out of this place."

A volley of rifle-shots rang out as he spoke. The German vanguard
was attacking the French at the outposts. Grace caught the surgeon
entreatingly by the arm. "Take me with you," she cried. "Oh, sir, I have
suffered from the Germans already! Don't forsake me, if they come back!"
The surgeon was equal to the occasion; he placed the hand of the pretty
Englishwoman on his breast. "Fear nothing, madam," he said, looking
as if he could have annihilated the whole German force with his
own invincible arm. "A Frenchman's heart beats under your hand. A
Frenchman's devotion protects you." Grace's head sank on his shoulder.
Monsieur Surville felt that he had asserted himself; he looked round
invitingly at Mercy. She, too, was an attractive woman. The Frenchman
had another shoulder at _her_ service. Unhappily the room was dark--the
look was lost on Mercy. She was thinking of the helpless men in the
inner chamber, and she quietly recalled the surgeon to a sense of his
professional duties.

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