The New Magdalen
2. Magdalen--In Modern Times
"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 them?"
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
"Answer me," the nurse insisted. "Have you heard of the Refuges? Have you heard of the
"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
"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 kind."
At that appeal Grace composed herself, and spoke. "I don't wish to offend you--" she
Mercy Merrick stopped her there.