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The New Magdalen

4. The Temptation
Some letters, tied together with a ribbon, attracted Mercy's attention first. The ink in
which the addresses were written had faded with age. The letters, directed alternately to
Colonel Roseberry and to the Honorable Mrs. Roseberry, contained a correspondence
between the husband and wife at a time when the Colonel's military duties had obliged
him to be absent from home. Mercy tied the letters up again, and passed on to the papers
that lay next in order under her hand.
These consisted of a few leaves pinned together, and headed (in a woman's handwriting)
"My Journal at Rome." A brief examination showed that the journal had been written by
Miss Roseberry, and that it was mainly devoted to a record of the last days of her father's
life.
After replacing the journal and the correspondence in the case, the one paper left on the
table was a letter. The envelope, which was unclosed, bore this address: "Lady Janet Roy,
Mablethorpe House, Kensington, London." Mercy took the inclosure from the open
envelope. The first lines she read informed her that she had found the Colonel's letter of
introduction, presenting his daughter to her protectress on her arrival in England
Mercy read the letter through. It was described by the writer as the last efforts of a dying
man. Colonel Roseberry wrote affectionately of his daughter's merits, and regretfully of
her neglected education--ascribing the latter to the pecuniary losses which had forced him
to emigrate to Canada in the character of a poor man. Fervent expressions of gratitude
followed, addressed to Lady Janet. "I owe it to you," the letter concluded, "that I am
dying with my mind at ease about the future of my darling girl. To your generous
protection I commit the one treasure I have left to me on earth. Through your long
lifetime you have nobly used your high rank and your great fortune as a means of doing
good. I believe it will not be counted among the least of your virtues hereafter that you
comforted the last hours of an old soldier by opening your heart and your home to his
friendless child."
So the letter ended. Mercy laid it down with a heavy heart. What a chance the poor girl
had lost! A woman of rank and fortune waiting to receive her--a woman so merciful and
so generous that the father's mind had been easy about the daughter on his deathbed--and
there the daughter lay, beyond the reach of Lady Janet's kindness, beyond the need of
Lady Janet's help!
The French captain's writing-materials were left on the table. Mercy turned the letter over
so that she might write the news of Miss Roseberry's death on the blank page at the end.
She was still considering what expressions she should use, when the sound of
complaining voices from the next room caught her ear. The wounded men left behind
were moaning for help--the deserted soldiers were losing their fortitude at last.
 
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