The New Magdalen (Chapter 5, page 1 of 12)


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Chapter 5

THE youngest of the three strangers--judging by features, complexion,
and manner--was apparently an Englishman. He wore a military cap and
military boots, but was otherwise dressed as a civilian. Next to him
stood an officer in Prussian uniform, and next to the officer was the
third and the oldest of the party. He also was dressed in uniform, but
his appearance was far from being suggestive of the appearance of a
military man. He halted on one foot, he stooped at the shoulders, and
instead of a sword at his side he carried a stick in his hand. After
looking sharply through a large pair of tortoise-shell spectacles, first
at Mercy, then at the bed, then all round the room, he turned with
a cynical composure of manner to the Prussian officer, and broke the
silence in these words: "A woman ill on the bed; another woman in attendance on her, and no one
else in the room. Any necessity, major, for setting a guard here?"

"No necessity," answered the major. He wheeled round on his heel and
returned to the kitchen. The German surgeon advanced a little, led by
his professional instinct, in the direction of the bedside. The young
Englishman, whose eyes had remained riveted in admiration on Mercy, drew
the canvas screen over the doorway and respectfully addressed her in the
French language.

"May I ask if I am speaking to a French lady?" he said.

"I am an Englishwoman," Mercy replied.

The surgeon heard the answer. Stopping short on his way to the bed,
he pointed to the recumbent figure on it, and said to Mercy, in good
English, spoken with a strong German accent.

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