The New Magdalen
14. Coming Events Cast Their Shadows Before
"I WENT first to Mannheim, Lady Janet, as I told you I should in my letter, and I heard
all that the consul and the hospital doctors could tell me. No new fact of the slightest
importance turned up. I got my directions for finding the German surgeon, and I set forth
to try what I could make next of the man who performed the operation. On the question
of his patient's identity he had (as a perfect stranger to her) nothing to tell me. On the
question of her mental condition, however, he made a very important statement. He
owned to me that he had operated on another person injured by a shell-wound on the head
at the battle of Solferino, and that the patient (recovering also in this case) recovered--
mad. That is a remarkable admission; don't you think so?"
Lady Janet's temper had hardly been allowed time enough to subside to its customary
"Very remarkable, I dare say," she answered, "to people who feel any doubt of this
pitiable lady of yours being mad. I feel no doubt--and, thus far, I find your account of
yourself, Julian, tiresome in the extreme. Go on to the end. Did you lay your hand on
"Did you hear anything of her?"
"Nothing. Difficulties beset me on every side. The French ambulance had shared in the
disasters of France--it was broken up. The wounded Frenchmen were prisoners
somewhere in Germany, nobody knew where. The French surgeon had been killed in
action. His assistants were scattered--most likely in hiding. I began to despair of making
any discovery, when accident threw in my way two Prussian soldiers who had been in the
French cottage. They confirmed what the German surgeon told the consul, and what
Horace himself told me--namely, that no nurse in a black dress was to be seen in the
place. If there had been such a person, she would certainly (the Prussians inform me)
have been found in attendance on the injured Frenchmen. The cross of the Geneva
Convention would have been amply sufficient to protect her: no woman wearing that
badge of honor would have disgraced herself by abandoning the wounded men before the
Germans entered the place."
"In short, "interposed Lady Janet, "there is no such person as Mercy Merrick."
"I can draw no other conclusion, "said Julian, "unless the English doctor's idea is the right
one. After hearing what I have just told you, he thinks the woman herself is Mercy
Lady Janet held up her hand as a sign that she had an objection to make here.