Monsignor looked too at the paper that lay before him. Some thirty paragraphs, carefully numbered, dated, and signed, gave, as it seemed, a list of the cases to be examined.
“Number fourteen,” murmured the monk.
Number fourteen, it appeared, was a case of fractured spine—a young girl, aged sixteen; a German. The accident had happened four months before. The notes, signed by half a dozen names, described the complete paralysis below the waist, with a few other medical details.
Monsignor looked again at the girl on the other side of the table, guarded by the brancardiers and a couple of doctors, while the monk talked to him rapidly in Latin. He saw her closed eyes and colourless lips.
“This case has attracted a good deal of attention,” whispered the monk. “The Emperor’s said to be interested in it, through one of the ladies of the Court, whose servant the girl was. It’s interesting for two or three reasons. First, the fracture is complete, and it’s marvellous she hasn’t died. Then it’s been taken up as a kind of test case by a group of materialists in Berlin. They’ve taken it up, because the girl has declared again and again that she is perfectly certain she will be cured at Lourdes. She claims to have had a vision of Our Lady, who told her so. Her father’s a freethinker, by the way, and has only finally allowed her to come so that he can use her as an argument afterwards.”
“Who has examined her?” asked Monsignor sharply.
“She was examined last night on her arrival, and again this morning. Dr. Meurot, the President here” (he indicated with his head the doctor who sat three places off, who was putting his questions rapidly to the two attending physicians)—“Dr. Meurot examined her himself early this morning. This is just the formal process before she goes to the grotto. The fracture is complete. It’s between the eleventh and twelfth dorsal vertebrae.”
“And you think she’ll be cured?” The monk smiled.
“Who can tell?” he said. “We’ve only had one case before, and the papers on that are not quite in order, though it’s commonly believed to be genuine.”
“But it’s possible?”
“Oh, certainly. And her own conviction is absolute. It’ll be interesting.”
“You seem to take it pretty easily,” murmured the prelate.
“Oh, the facts are established a hundred times over—the facts, I mean, that cures take place here which are not even approached in mental laboratories. But—–”
He was interrupted by a sudden movement of the brancardiers.
“See, they’re removing her,” he said. “Now, what’ll you do, Monsignor? Will you go down to the grotto, or would you sooner watch a few more cases?”
“I think I’d sooner stay here,” said the other, “at least for an hour or two.”
It was the hour of the evening procession and of the
Benediction of the Sick.