The New Magdalen (Chapter 2, page 1 of 7)

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Chapter 2

"WHEN your mother was alive were you ever out with her after nightfall
in the streets of a great city?"

In those extraordinary terms Mercy Merrick opened the confidential
interview which Grace Roseberry had forced on her. Grace answered,
simply, "I don't understand you."

"I will put it in another way," said the nurse. Its unnatural hardness
and sternness of tone passed away from her voice, and its native
gentleness and sadness returned, as she made that reply. "You read the
newspapers like the rest of the world," she went on; "have you ever
read of your unhappy fellow-creatures (the starving outcasts of the
population) whom Want has driven into Sin?"

Still wondering, Grace answered that she had read of such things often,
in newspapers and in books.

"Have you heard--when those starving and sinning fellow-creatures
happened to be women--of Refuges established to protect and reclaim

The wonder in Grace's mind passed away, and a vague suspicion of
something painful to come took its place. "These are extraordinary
questions," she said, nervously. "What do you mean?"

"Answer me," the nurse insisted. "Have you heard of the Refuges? Have
you heard of the Women?"


"Move your chair a little further away from me." She paused. Her voice,
without losing its steadiness, fell to its lowest tones. "_I_ was once
of those women," she said, quietly.

Grace sprang to her feet with a faint cry. She stood petrified--
incapable of uttering a word.

"_I_ have been in a Refuge," pursued the sweet, sad voice of the other
woman. "_I_ have been in a Prison. Do you still wish to be my friend? Do
you still insist on sitting close by me and taking my hand?" She waited
for a reply, and no reply came. "You see you were wrong," she went on,
gently, "when you called me cruel--and I was right when I told you I was

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