"Oh, I did all I could to prevent it!" cried Mary, in despair. "All is over, I am afraid. I was sitting on the doorstep, preparing some arrowroot, when I saw Aunt Lizzy go out the gate. I thought it strange at the time of day, but never suspected the truth. Presently I saw her coming back with the priest, and knew in an instant she had gone for him. I was determined to prevent his seeing my uncle, if possible, and fastened the front door. Before I could lock my uncle's, he wrenched open the window, and sprang in. I tried to put the key in my pocket, and told him he could not go in then; but he made Aunt Lizzy hold one of my hands, while he forced open my fingers and took the key. Oh! that Dr. Bryant had been here." She showed Mrs. Carlton the marks of his grasp on her wrist. "Tell, oh, tell me what I can do to save him!"
"Alas! nothing, Mary. He is completely under the control of the Padre, and no reasoning will avail him now."
With a sad heart Mrs. Carlton took leave, advising Mary "to offer no further resistance, as it was now impossible to convince her uncle of his error."
"He's gone—his soul hath ta'en its earthless flight, Whither? I dread to think—but he is gone!"
Mr. Hamilton, though perfectly conscious that his end was rapidly approaching, had scrupulously avoided the subject in the presence of the girls. One morning, after a night of more than ordinary suffering, he lay quite exhausted. Death was at hand, and feeling intuitively that the appointed hour had arrived, he requested all to withdraw, save Florence. When they were alone, he laid his hand on her head, and said, in a low, feeble tone—"Florence, I am going. I cannot survive this day, and I wish to give you my last advice. I am afraid your lot will be a hard one, when I am gone; trials without number are in store for you. Oh! my proudhearted, beautiful Florence, what will become of you now?" He covered his face with his hands a moment, then continued—"I do not wish you to return to your native place. My child must be dependent on no one, yet to leave you here so unprotected, is hard indeed. Dr. Bryant has promised to watch over you, and the Carltons are kind friends. Florence you must depend upon yourself. Thank God, you are strong-minded, and Mary, our kind, good Mary, will be near, to comfort and assist you. I am growing weaker, but there is one more thing I wish to say."
He paused, and for the first time Florence spoke.
"My father, tell me every wish; fear nothing for me, there is nothing I cannot bear now."
"For my sake, Florence, if not for your own, will you promise to be guided by Father Mazzolin?"
"Do you mean in matters of religion, my father?"
"I mean in all things: matters of interest, as well as matters of faith. He will assist you much, if you will but follow his advice and directions."
There was a pause, and then Florence said slowly, as if weighing every word—"Rest assured your wishes shall be my law. I will consult the Padre as you desire."
With a look of relief the dying man sank back on his pillow, and closed his eyes. Florence quickly summoned the physician, and her aunt and cousin. A little while after, as Mr. Hamilton's eye fell on the weeping Mary, he extended his hand, and when she bent over him, drew her face down, and imprinted a long kiss on her pale cheek. Even as he did so, a dark form glided to the bedside. Another moment, the uncle and niece were separated; none knew how, yet the Padre stood between, whispering low in the sufferer's ear. Almost gasping for breath, the latter intimated his desire to confess for the last time. And they were left alone.
Nearly an hour after, the priest entered the apartment where Florence and Mary sat. He trembled visibly, yet, in his usual tone, said that he wished the family to be present at the last rites about to be performed for the dying Papist. They immediately repaired to the sick room, and the spectacle there presented made Mary quiver in every limb. The sufferer had been placed for convenience on a low couch, and was supported by pillows in an upright position. A dozen candles burnt around him, and a cloud of incense wreathed slowly along the wall. The room had been profusely sprinkled with holy water, and a chalice containing the consecrated wafer, sat near. Gasping for breath, Mr. Hamilton clasped a crucifix to his lips, though unable from weakness to secure it there; for twice it fell from his fingers, and rolled to the floor.
Father Mazzolin, attired in a surplice ornamented with the insignia of his order, stood beside the bed, holding in one hand a superbly-bound volume—in the other, a silver cup containing oil.
After a moment's pause he opened the book, and hurriedly read in a low, muttering tone, a Latin service of several pages. At the conclusion he carefully poured out a few drops of the oil, and just touched the palms of the sufferer's hands and the soles of his feet, bidding him at the same time cross himself. Perceiving that he was utterly unable to do so, he hastily signed the figure and resumed his reading. How long he would have gabbled on it is impossible to say, but a gasping sound from the dying man declared that dissolution was at hand, and, snatching the chalice, he hastily administered the wafer, which was swallowed with difficulty. For the third time, Father Mazzolin strove to replace the crucifix in his hand and bend it to his lips. The cold fingers refused to clasp the consecrated wood, and sank, stiffened and powerless, by his side.
Mary had gazed mournfully on as this mummery was enacted. A death-bed for a theater, weeping relatives an audience, and Father Mazzolin an amateur performer. Aunt Lizzy was kneeling beside the Padre, ever and anon invoking the Virgin; while Florence sat with her face in her hands, almost as unconscious of what passed as her dying parent She bent over him now, and in heartrending accents conjured him not to leave her. He struggled in vain to utter words of comfort; they died away in whispers, and, with a slight moan, the spirit returned to the God that gave it. The Padre snatched his hat and hastily left the house, while Mary gave vent to an uncontrollable burst of sorrow. Florence seemed suddenly frozen, so rigid was her countenance, as she gazed on the cold form before her. She neither wept nor moaned, but closed the eyes with a long, long kiss, and drawing a sheet over the marble features, turned, with a slow, unfaltering step, away.
"For now that Hope's last ray is gone, Sure Lethe's dream would bless: In grief to think of bliss tha'ts flown, Adds pangs to wretchedness."
A fortnight had passed, and again it was evening. In the small dining-room of Florence Hamilton's humble home assembled the now diminished family circle. Florence sat sadly apart, leaning her head, with closed eyes, against the window. The tea bell rang; she lifted her head, glanced round the room, and wearily dropped her brow again on its resting-place. Mary approached, and taking her hand, said, in a gentle, winning tone, "Come, Florry dear."
"Eat your supper, Mary; I do not wish any."
"But you have not eaten anything to-day, and need something; do try, for my sake."
"I cannot. If you knew how both head and heart ache, you would not urge me."
Mary turned away, and ate the usually joyous meal with a heavy heart. Florence had left her seat, and was standing in the door: as her cousin rose from the table she beckoned to her, and passed hurriedly out. Mary strove to catch her arm but she hastened on, as if trying to escape from herself. Suddenly she paused by the river side, and clasped her hands convulsively over her head.
"Mary! Mary! you know not what I suffer."
"Florry, sit down, and lean your weary head on my shoulder."
She dipped her hand in the water, and dashed the cold, sparkling drops on her cousin's burning brow, speaking the while in a low, soothing tone. Florence rested a few moments in her cousin's arms, then threw herself on a grassy bank, and covered her face; one long, deep groan alone attesting her mental anguish. Mary wept more bitterly than she had yet done; still, she was so quiet, none would have known her grief, save from the tears that fell over her hand and arms. Can it be, that the spirits of departed friends hover near us while on earth, and draw closer in hours of woe? If so, why is it denied to the suffering one to hear again the dear accents of the "loved and lost?" Why may not their silver pinions fan the burning brow of sorrowing mortality, and the echo of Heaven's own melody murmur gently, "Peace, peace and joy for evermore?"
Florence stood up before her cousin; all trace of emotion had passed away, and left her calm. The bright moon shone full on her face. Oh! how changed since the morning she stood in Madame ——'s schoolroom. The large dark eyes were sunken; the broad brow marked with lines of mental anguish; the cheeks colorless, and her long raven hair tossed back, and hanging like a veil below her slender waist. There was a hollow, wasted look in every feature; the expression was one of hopeless misery, and a something there was which made the heart ache, yet the haughty glance of other days might still be seen.
"Mary, look at me!"
"Well, Florry, I have looked at you, and sad enough it makes me feel."
"I am changed Mary, strangely changed, am I not? Answer me truly."
"Yes, you look weary and ill; but why do you ask me such a question? You have had cause to look pale."
"Ah! you say truly; but, Mary, have you never suspected that a secret grief was freezing the life-blood in my cheeks?"
"Florry, what do you mean? I am afraid you are feverish!" and Mary laid her hand anxiously on her cousin's. It was flung contemptuously off.
"Mary, listen to what I have to say. I am in a strange mood to-night, and you must not contradict me. Where shall I begin? When my mother died I was four years old, they say, and a very delicate child. My mother! how strange it sounds. Yet I can at times faintly remember her beautiful face. Very faintly, as in a dream, I have seen an angel visitant. My mother, why did you leave your hapless babe? Oh! why? my mother! I was left much to myself, and followed unrestrained my own inclinations. You know my fondness for books; that fondness was imbibed in girlhood, as I wandered in my own sunny home—my lost home. My father taught me to conceal my emotions—to keep down the rising sob, to force back the glittering tear; and when I smiled over some childish grief, applauded my stoicism. I became unnatural, cold, haughty, but not unfeeling. I remember well how your pale face and mourning dress touched my heart, and waked my sympathies. From that hour I lavished my love on my father and yourself. Years passed and we went to New Orleans—" Here Florence paused, and closed her eyes for a moment, but quickly resumed—"You know how I studied. Mary, was it merely from love of metaphysics and philosophy, think you? No. no! Mr. Stewart's look of surprise and pleasure as, one by one, I mastered various intricacies, was the meed for which I toiled. Mary, from the first day we met, I loved him, for his was a master spirit I worshiped him in my inmost soul, and he loved me in return. I know—I feel that he did. Yet he was even prouder than myself, and would have scorned to speak of love to one who never smiled in his presence. Oh! often when, he stood beside my desk giving instruction, my heart has sprung to him. I have longed to hear the words of tenderness that welled up from his heart, but scorned to tremble on his lips. No look of love ever fell on me. His glance was cold and haughty. Oh, how inconsistent is woman! I yearned for his love; yet, had he tendered it, under my haughtiness would have dropped my idol—have shivered it at my feet. Weeks passed, and while near him I knew no sorrow; but the morning of my life was destined to be short. The cloud that had lowered on the horizon suddenly darkened around. That never-to-be-forgotten letter came, and I saw a great gulf open at my feet. An invisible hand placed Dudley Stewart on one brink, and I was left upon the other; and an unknown messenger thundered the decree of separation—'Forget the past and live again in the future!' I started as from a frightful dream. The cold reality forced itself upon me. Mary, a suspicion stole into my heart, and stung me. I thought for a brief time that Mr. Stewart loved you, and whose hand may register the darkened thoughts that crowded bitterly up? The morning we left New Orleans, I went into the schoolroom for our books. Ah! who may know the agony of that hour! I sat down in his chair, and laid my head on his desk, and groaned in mine anguish of spirit. Oh! Mary, that was the blackest, bitterest hour of my life. I had fancied he loved me: I feared I was deceived; I hated—despised myself for my weakness. Yet I could not reproach him; he had never sought my love.
"I had just risen from his desk when Mr. Stewart came in. He did not seem to see me, but took a seat near the door. I was well-nigh exhausted, but strove to appear as cold and indifferent as ever. I gathered up my books and turned to go, then he laid down his pen, and came to me.
"'I believe you and your cousin leave to-day?'
"'Yes. in this evening's boat,' I answered, much as usual.
"'I wish you a safe and pleasant voyage. My kindest adieux to your cousin. Good-by, Miss Hamilton.'
"He held out his hand. I said 'good-by' as clearly and coldly as himself. Our hands met but an instant: there was no pressure—no warmth, and then he opened the door for me to pass. As he did so our eyes met; his glance was calm and cold, but his lips were firmly compressed. Had he looked sad, mournful, or tender, I should have passed out and triumphed; but my overtasked strength gave way; a cold shudder crept through my frame, and consciousness forsook me. I never fainted before or since. When I revived, I raised my head and looked about me, I was reclining on a couch; he kneeling beside me, calmly, as he would have stood in class. He held my hand, and pressed it warmly.
"'Are you better now, Florence?'
"'Oh, yes, thank you,' I said, and rose to my feet.
"He still held my hand. I withdrew it, and turned to the door. He placed himself before it, and said—'Florence, it was well done; you are an admirable dissembler, but I am not deceived. You love me, and have for long, yet I freely acknowledge your love can never exceed my own. I love you better than my life, though perfectly aware that we are now parted forever. I am a poor tutor, dependent on my daily exertions for subsistence; you the cherished daughter of a wealthy and ambitious parent.'
"He drew me to him, and imprinted a long kiss on my lips; then put me gently back, and left the room.
"I never saw him again, but did I doubt his love? No, no! I would sooner doubt my own existence. We embarked, as you know, in the evening. That night was beautiful—just such a one as this—serene and heavenly. I stole out on deck when others slumbered, and for a long weary hour paced to and fro. There was a wild tumult in my soul which would not be stilled, and every restraining effort but fanned the flame that raged within. A never-to-be-forgotten contest was waged that night, and my heart was the arena. My guardian angel whispered low, 'Forget the past as a feverish dream; it is not well for thee; forget, forget!' But the heaven-born accents were suddenly drowned by the wild shriek of my dark destiny—'Of Lethe's waters thou shall never taste! I have shattered the goblet at thy feet, and scattered the draught to the winds of heaven! Behold the apotheosis of thine idol! At this shrine shalt thou bow evermore—evermore!'
"A new impulse was implanted within me; and, impotent to resist, I was impelled onward, and onward, till a chasm yawned at my feet. Yet a moment I trembled on the brink, then plunged desperately forward. Mary, listen. I knelt on the damp, glistening deck, and implored Almighty God to register my words in heaven. In his awful name and presence, I solemnly swore to love Dudley Stewart alone—to be his wife, or go down to the tomb as Florence Hamilton. I rose up calm—the fierce warring was stilled. Yet it was not inward peace that succeeded. My fate was sealed—the last page of destiny transcribed.
"Time passed on, oblivious of the darkened hours it bore on its broad bosom. Mary, I have watched for one loved form, and listened for that calm, proud step. I have loved, and trusted, and believed that we should meet again. Deluded Florence! a period is put to thy hopes and fears! Mary, he is married! All is over for me. The dull, heavy weight resting upon my heart will soon crush out the life spark, and lay low my proud head. Ah! I my cousin, you weep. I wish that I could; but tears have been too often scornfully repulsed; they come not now at my call. Oh, Mary, I am weary, weary! I long for rest, even the rest of the dark, still tomb! I have no hope—no wish. I am passive now. At last nature has broken the bonds so long forced upon her, and the reaction is strong indeed. You ask how I received my information: ah! you need not doubt its authenticity. Aunt Lizzy and his mother were old friends, and she received a letter the day before my father died, announcing his approaching union with a beautiful cousin! I am deservedly punished: I worshiped the creature and forgot the God. I needed a desperate remedy, and it is administered."
As Florence concluded she leaned heavily against a tree, and raised her eyes to the jeweled vault above. Just then a dense black cloud, which had floated up from the west, passed directly over the moon, obscuring the silvery rays. She pointed to it, and said, in a low, mournful voice—"How typical of my life and heart; shut out from joy and hope in one brief hour, unlike it ever to be brightened again."
"Oh! Florry, dear Florry! turn to God for comfort and succor in this hour of need. He will enable you to bear this trial, and go steadily on in the path of duty."
"Mary, I have no incitement to exertion; nothing to anticipate. My future is blank and dreary. I know my lot in life; I have nothing to hope for."
"Not so, Florry. Your future life will be an active one. Are we not dependent on our exertions for subsistence? and does not our little school open to-morrow? Cheer up, darling all may yet be bright. Bury the painful remembrances of the past; believe me, peace, if not joyousness, will surely follow the discharge of your duties."
"I cannot forget the past. Had he sought my love, I could scorn him for his baseness; but it is not so, I almost wish it were. Yet I know and feel that he loves me; and oblivion of the past is as impossible for him as, myself. I know not what strange impulse has induced me to tell you all this. I did it half unconsciously, hoping for relief by revealing that which has pressed so heavily on my heart. Mary, never speak to me of it again; and, above all, do not mention his name. It has passed my lips for the last time, and all shall be locked again within my own heart. We will open the school to-morrow; and may God help me, Mary, pray, oh, pray for me! I had no mother to teach me, and prayer is a stranger to my lips."
She walked hurriedly to the house, and shut herself within her own apartment.
"Freedom calls you! Quick! be ready: Think of what your sires have been: Onward! onward! strong and steady, Drive the tyrant to his den."
How intoxicating is the love of power; and how madly the votaries of ambition whirl to the vortex of that moral Corbrechtan, which has ingulfed so many hapless victims. Our own noble Washington stands forth a bright beacon to warn every ruler, civil or military, of the thundering whirlpool. Father of your country! you stand alone on the pedestal of greatness; and slowly rolling years shall pour their waters into the boundless deep of eternity ere another shall be placed beside you.
When Iturbide attempted to free his oppressed countrymen from the crushing yoke of Spanish thraldom, Liberty was the watchword. Success crowned his efforts—sovereign power lay before him. He grasped it, and made himself a despot. Ambition hurled him from the throne of the Montezumas, and laid his proud head low. A new star rose on the stormy horizon of the west; pure and softly fell the rays on the troubled thousands round. The voice of the new-comer said "Peace," and the wild tumult subsided. Ten years passed; Santa Anna culminated. The gentle tones of the arch-deceiver were metamorphosed into the tiger's growl, the constitution of 1824 subverted in a day, and he ruled in the room of the lost Iturbide.
* * * * *
The Alamo was garrisoned. Dark bodies of Mexican troops moved heavily to and fro, and cannon bristled from the embrasures. The usually quiet town was metamorphosed into a scene of riot and clamor, and fandangos, at which Bacchus rather than Terpsichore presided, often welcomed the new-born day. The few Americans[A] in San Antonio viewed with darkened brows the insolent cavaliers. The gauntlet was flung down—there was no retraction, no retreat. They knew that it was so, and girded themselves for a desperate conflict.
[Footnote [A]: It doubtless appears absurd to confine the title of "Americans" to the few citizens of the United States who emigrated to Texas, when all who inhabit the continent are equally entitled to the appellation. Yet the distinction is Mexican; "Los Americanos" being the name applied to all who are not of Spanish descent.]
The declaration of independence was enthusiastically hailed by the brave-hearted Texans, as they sprang with one impulse to support the new-born banner, that floated so majestically over the sunny prairies of their western home. Mechanic, statesman, plowboy, poet, pressed forward to the ranks, emulous of priority alone. A small, but intrepid band, they defied the tyrant who had subverted the liberties of his country; defied Santa Anna and his fierce legions, and spurned the iron yoke which the priests of Mexico vainly strove to plant upon their necks. Liberty, civil and religious, was the watchword, and desperately they must struggle in the coming strife.
Manuel Nevarro had eagerly enlisted in the Mexican ranks, and in a few weeks after General Cos's arrival, donned his uniform. Thus accoutered, he presented himself, for the first time since their disagreement, before Inez, who had but recently returned from San Jose, doubting not that her admiration of his new dress would extend to him who filled it. In truth, his was a fine form and handsome face; yet sordid selfishness, and, in common parlance, "a determination to have his own way," were indelibly stamped upon his countenance.
Inez was busily preparing the evening meal when he entered; and though perfectly aware of his presence, gave no indication of it. He stood aside and watched her movements, as she shaped and turned the tortillas. Presently she began to sing
"He quits his mule, and mounts his horse, And through the streets directs his course— Through the streets of Gacatin, To the Alhambra spurring in, Wo is me, Alhama.
"And when the hollow drums of war Beat the loud alarm afar, That the Moors of town and plain Might answer to the martial strain, Wo is me, Alhama.
As the mournful cadence died away, she turned, and started with well-feigned surprise on meeting the piercing glance fixed upon her.
"Ah, Manuel!" She held out both hands, with a most amicable expression of countenance. He grasped them, and would have kissed her beautiful lips, but she slipped adroitly to one side—"No, no! Manuel. I'll not permit that till I am Senora Nevarro."
"And when will that be, Senorita?"
"Not till the war is over."
"But it has not begun yet; and it will be many moons before we whip these cursed Americanos."
"How many, think you, Manuel?"
"I can't tell, Inez; therefore we will not wait till the war is over. The Padre is ready any time, and why not marry at once?"
"Sacra Dios! I'll do no such thing."
"And why not, Inez?"
"Because they might kill you, Manuel, and then what would become of me?"
"You would be as well off then as now; there would be no difference, only you would be married. You will mourn, any how, if I am killed."
"How do you know I would?" Her Spanish eyes twinkled as she spoke; but for fear of going too far, she laid her hand on his shoulder. Manuel turned sharply round.
"You deserve to be shot, Manuel, for joining in a miff. Why didn't you tell me you were going to be a soldier?"
He grasped her hand tighter, but made no reply.
"I say, why did not you tell me first?"
"And if I had told you, what then?"
"Why, I should not have let you do it, you savage. If you had only asked me, I might be willing to marry you next week. But as it is, I am not going to be left a widow, I can tell you."
"Inez, I don't believe you care whether I am killed of not. I do not understand you at all."
The girl's eyes filled, and her lip quivered with emotion. "Manuel do you think me a brute? There is nobody to love Inez but her father and you. I am not cold-hearted."
"You speak truth, Inez; and my uncle will not live very long, for he has seen many years. When he is gone, there will be nobody to take care of you but me; so the sooner we are married the better."
"Not so. You must come and see us as often as you can till the war is over; but I will marry no one now."
"Will you promise it shall be as soon as the war is over?"
Inez coquettishly tossed her beautiful head, and advancing to the fire, gaily exclaimed—"While we talked the tortillas burned. Come, eat some supper. I know they are as good as those you get at the Alamo."
Manuel seated himself on a buffalo-robe, and while partaking of the evening meal, Inez chatted away on indifferent subjects, asking, during the conversation, what news had been received from the Texan army.
"We got news to-day that they are marching down to Gonzales, but I am thinking they will find hot work."
"How many men may we number, Manuel, and think you the chances are for us?"
"By the blessed Virgin, if we were not ten to five Manuel Nevarro would not eat his tortilla in peace. The Captain says we will scatter them like pecans in a high wind."
"What bone is there to fight for at Gonzales?"
"Cannon, Inez, cannon. Don't you know we sent a thousand men to bring it here, and the white rascal sent five hundred to keep it there. By the Virgin, we will see who gets it!"
"Holy Mother protect us! Manuel, take care of yourself, man, and rush not into danger. It will profit you little that we have many men, if some strong arm tells your length on the sward."
"Never fear, Inez—never fear. We must not stop till every American turns his back on the Alamo, and his face to the East."
"But you will not harm those that live here in peace with all men?"
"The Padre told our General, yesterday, that we must fight till all submitted, or the last American child was driven to the far bank of the Sabine."
Inez laid her hand on his arm, and looking him full in the face, asked, in a low tone—"Manuel, would you help to drive Mary from her home among us? She who nursed me in sickness, and bound the white bread to your bleeding arm, and made the tea for my dying mother, when none other came to help? Manuel! Manuel! she is alone in the world, with only her cousin. Spare Mary in her little home; she hurts none, but makes many to die in peace."
Manuel's face softened somewhat, but he replied in the same determined tone—"The Padre says she is an accursed heretic, and he will not rest till she is far away. But I tell you now, Inez, she will not be harmed; for he said he would see that she was protected, and would himself take her to a place of safety. He said she had been kind to our people, and none should molest her or her cousin; but leave all to him."
"If the Padre promised, he will place them in safety; he never forgets to do what he says. I am satisfied, Manuel; and for the rest of the Americans, the sooner they are driven out the better."
"You say truly, Inez, the sooner the better: all, all shall go, even their Doctor, that carries himself with such a lordly air, and sits in saddle as though never man had horse before. But the moon is up; I must return, for I watch to-night, and must be back in time." He put on his hat as he spoke.
"Manuel, come as often as you can, and let me know what is going on. You are the only one whose word I believe; there are so many strange tales nowadays, I put little faith in any. And before you go, put this crucifix about your neck: 'twill save you in time of danger, and think of Inez when you see it." She undid the fastening which held it round her own throat, and pressing it to her lips, laid it in his hand.
Astonished at a proof of tenderness so unexpected, Manuel caught her in his arms, but disengaging herself, she shook her finger threateningly at him, and pointed to the door. He lighted his cigarrita, and promising to come often, returned to the Alamo.
Left alone, the Spanish maiden sought her own apartment, muttering as she ascended the steps—"The Padre protect you, Mary! Yes, even as the hawk the new chicken. Take thee to a place of safety! even as the eagle bears the young lamb to his eyrie. Yes, Manuel, I have bound the handkerchief about your eyes, You think I love you, and trust both Padre and crucifix! Trust on, I too have been deceived."
More like somnambulism than waking reality was now the life of Florence Hamilton. No duty was unperformed, so exertion spared to conduce to the comfort of the now diminished family circle. No words of repining or regret were uttered—no tear dimmed the large dark eyes. She moved and lived as it were mechanically, without the agency of feeling or sympathy; yet though she obtruded her grief on none, it was equally true that no gleam of returning cheerfulness ever lightened the gloom which enveloped her. A something there was in the hopeless, joyless expression of her beautiful face, which made the heart ache; yet none offered sympathy, or strove to console her, for she seemed unapproachable, with the cold, haughty glance of other days. Painfully perceptible was the difference between Christian fortitude and perfect hopelessness—gentle, humble resignation and despair. There was no peace in her soul, for her future was shrouded in gloom: she had no joys in anticipation. The sun of hope had set forever to her vision, and she lived and bore her grief like one who had counted the cost, and knew that for a little while longer she must struggle on; and that oblivion of the past was dispensed only by the angel of death. She acquiesced in Mary's plan of opening a small school, and unfalteringly performed her allotted task as assistant teacher. Unexpected success had crowned their efforts, and fifteen pupils daily assembled in the room set apart for the purpose. Mary had feared opposition on the part of the Padre, and was agreeably surprised at the number of Catholic children committed to her care.
One morning early in October, having finished her household duties, she repaired to the schoolroom for the day. Florence was already at her post, though suffering from violent nervous headache. Mary seated herself with her back to the door, and called one of her classes. Arithmetic it proved; and if the spirits of the departed were ever allowed to return in vindication of their works, the ghost of Pythagoras would certainly have disturbed the equanimity of the "muchachos," who so obstinately refused the assistance and co-operation of his rules and tables. In vain she strove to impress on one that 2 from 8 left 6. Like the little girl that Wordsworth met, he persisted "it was seven." Despairing at last, she remanded the class to their seats. Anxious to facilitate the progress of her pupils, Mary spared no pains to make perspicuous what to them appeared obscure. The little savages could not, or would net understand that the earth was like a ball, and not only turned upon its own axis, but made the entire circumference of the sun. A pair of globes could not be procured, and she taxed her ingenuity for a substitute. Selecting two apples, one enormous, the other medium size, she carefully introduced a reed through the center of the smaller apple, thus causing it to revolve on its axis. Calling up the tyros in geography, she took the smallest, or "Earth," as she designated it, and while causing it to perform the diurnal motion, she carried it slowly round the larger, or "Sun," as she termed it; thus illustrating the combined movements of our globe. Even the dullest could not fail to comprehend; and well satisfied with the result of her experiment, she carefully put her planets by in one corner of the schoolroom, and proceeded with her questions. The imperfect recitation finished, Mary glanced across the room, hoping her cousin's patience was not so tried, and some brilliant coruscations in that direction fixed her attention. Florence had dropped her aching head on the desk in front, shading her eyes with her hand; before her, in dark array, stood some half dozen small boys just beginning to spell. Each held a book containing illustrations of various well-known articles and animals, having the name beneath.
"U-r-n—teapot." Elliot Carlton, whose seat was near, gave a suppressed giggle. Florence looked around inquiringly, then dropt her head again on her hand, bidding the boy "spell on."
"S-t-a-g—goat." Elliot crammed his handkerchief into his mouth, and Mary smiled.
"W-i-g—curly head." Florence was effectually roused this time by a shout of laughter from Elliot, in which he was joined by Mary, and Dr. Bryant, who had just entered and was standing in such a position that no one had perceived him.
"Really, Miss Hamilton, I must congratulate you on the extraordinary progress your pupils make; I was not aware that you cultivated their powers of comparison in connection with the rudiments of orthoepy,"
"To what do you allude, Doctor; I am scarcely conscious of what passes around me this morning," said Florence, wearily pressing her hand across her aching brow.
"I am not surprised that you are somewhat stunned, though, after all," he continued, pointing to the picture of a ringleted pate, "the little fellow was not far wrong, for this wig is incontestibly a curly head,"
With a faint smile which passed as quickly as it came, she dismissed the class with an additional lesson.
"I am sorry to see you suffering so much this morning," said Frank, seating himself beside her: "and should certainly not recommend this schoolroom as an antidote to nervous attacks. Miss Mary, why do you allow your cousin to overtax her strength? However, I bring you good news. We have had an engagement at Gonzales, and, thank Heaven, are victorious. The brave five hundred sent to preserve the field-piece there, encountered double their number of the enemy, and not only saved the cannon, but scattered the Mexicans in all directions. Our brave band are marching to Coliad, where they expect to supply themselves and comrades with ammunition; they have probably taken the magazine before this, and are returning."
"Thank Heaven we have triumphed!" cried Mary, fervently clasping her hands; "but oh! if the tide should turn this way, what will become of us? The Mexicans are numerous here, and the Alamo strongly fortified and in their possession." She turned her eyes inquiringly on Frank, and started as she met the earnest, searching expression of his, bent full upon her face.
"How pale you have grown of late," he murmured as to himself, and replied to her questioning glance—"I think, myself, there is much danger incurred by remaining here; but rest assured you shall not be harmed. I am watching the signs of the times, and will warn you should peril approach."
He took Florence's hand, and pressed it as he spoke; then turning to Mary, who had walked away, he said—"I must insist on your cousin having rest; she is weary and too much excited, and you, who are a good nurse, must take better care of her."
"Indeed, Doctor, I did my best to prevent her teaching to-day, but she would not listen to my entreaties," replied Mary, with averted head.
"If I might venture to advise yourself and cousin, Miss Hamilton, I should suggest the discontinuance of your school, at least for the present; for in these stormy times one scarce knows what a day may bring forth: and, indeed, your pupils are dropping off within the last few days, and you had better disband voluntarily."
"I believe you are right, Doctor; and if Mary concurs with us, I think we will follow your advice."
"Do as you think best, Florry; I suppose we would have no pupils soon, even if we continued our efforts; yet I dislike very much to give up the school so very soon." Her voice faltered slightly, and her cheek grew paler.
"Your reluctance to dismiss these children, I am not surprised at; and if it will relieve you in the least, allow me to see their parents, and arrange all pecuniary matters. You certainly feel no hesitation in confiding this to me."
"Thank you, Dr. Bryant, you are very kind; but we will not burden you with an additional trouble. I prefer taking these children home to their parents, who committed them to my care; and as you and Florry think it advisable, we will close our school this evening. Believe me, however, that in refusing your kind offer, I am not insensible to, but appreciate fully the motives which dictated it."
"Feel no hesitation in calling on me to perform any of the many services a gentleman friend may so often render. If you knew how gladly I would serve you, I am sure you would not fail to do so."
Shaking hands with Florence who stood near, he turned to go, but paused at the threshold.
At this moment a slight disturbance in a distant corner of the room attracted their attention, and springing forward, little Maria Carlton exclaimed—"Oh, Miss Mary, what do you think? Somebody has eat up the world, and bit a great big piece out of the sun!"
When the merriment this excited had in some degree subsided, Dr. Bryant laughingly said—"I am much afraid you have a Polyphemus among your pupils. Miss Mary, do discover the incipient monster and eject him forthwith. Heavens, what powers of digestion he must possess! Good morning, ladies—good morning." And with a bow he left the house.
"Florry, dear, do try and sleep some; I will do all that is necessary about the children. True, there is not enough to occupy me long, and meanwhile you must impart the news of this victory to Aunt Lizzy."
"——I might not this believe Without the sensible and true avouch Of mine own eyes."
Twilight had fallen slowly, for the evening was heavy and wet, and dark masses of cloud driven by the northern blasts sailed gloomily overhead. Nature wore a dreary aspect, and one involuntarily turned inward for amusement. A bright light gleamed from the window of Florence Hamilton's humble home, and her little dining-room seemed by contrast extremely cheerful; yet the hearts of its inmates were more in accordance with the gloom which reigned without. Aunt Lizzy, growing somewhat infirm of late, had retired earlier than usual. Florence had been sewing all the afternoon, but now lay with closed eyes on the couch, her hands clasped over her head. Mary sat near the table holding an open volume, but her thoughts had evidently wandered far away; for her gaze was fixed abstractedly on the fire which blazed and crackled at her feet. The girl's countenance was an interesting study, as she sat rapt in her saddened thoughts. A careworn expression rested upon her face, as though some weighty responsibility too soon had fallen on one so frail. The cheeks were very pale, and now and then across the lips there came a quiver, as though she struggled inwardly, and fain would give no outward show of grief. In truth, an almost spiritual expression had come over her features; the impress of some deep and hidden sorrow, nobly borne, though chasing the rosy hue from her cheeks. Sadder grew the look, and some acute pain wrinkled her brow as she threw aside the book, and covered her face with her hands; while a heavy, yet smothered sigh, struggled forth, as if striving to relieve the aching heart.
The door opened noiselessly, and a dark shrouded form glided with soft steps to the chair, and laid a heavy hand on her shoulder. Mary raised her head, and starting up, gazed inquiringly at the muffled face, while the intruder pointed to the motionless form of Florence, and laid a finger on her lip. Then beckoning Mary to follow, she receded, with stealthy tread, to the door, which was softly closed, and walked hurriedly on till she reached a large rose-tree, which shaded the window. Mary shivered as the piercing wind swept over her, and strove in vain to suppress a fit of coughing. There was a moment's silence.
"You did not know me?"
Mary started. "I did not, till you spoke; but, Inez, what brings you out on such a night?"
Inez took off the mantilla which had so effectually concealed her features, and threw it round the frail, drooping form before her.
"No, no, Inez, you will take cold;" and Mary tendered it back.
It was tossed off contemptuously, and mingled with a bitter laugh came the reply—"I am not cold, Marinita, nor ever shall be but once again. I am burning with an inward fire that will not be quenched"
"You are ill, Inez, and want some medicine; tell me where and how you suffer?"
"No, no. I want nothing from you or yours: I come to help, not to ask. Mary, why is it you have made me love you so, when I hate yonder dark-eyed girl? But I am losing time. I come to warn you of danger, and even now I am watched; but no matter, listen to what I have to say. The Padre hates you, even as—as I hate him, and has sworn your ruin. I tell you now you must fly from San Antonio, and fly quickly, for danger is at hand. My countrymen are many here, and he is stronger than all. You and I have thwarted him, and the walls of a far off convent are our destination—you, and your cousin, and myself. I am at heart no Catholic; I have seen the devil, if there be one, in my confessor. I have heard him lie, and seen him take the widow's and the orphan's portion. Mary, if there was a God, would he suffer such as my Padre to minister in his holy place, and touch the consecrated vessels? No, no; there is none, or he would be cut off from the face of the earth."
"Inez! Inez! stop and hear me."
"No, no! time waits for none, and I have little more to say, Mary, you are deceived; your cousin is not what you think. She is a Catholic; for mine own eyes have seen her in the confessional, and mine own ears have listened to her aves and paters."
Mary uttered a deep groan, and clasped Inez's arm, murmuring—"You are—you must be delirious or mad: Florry deceive me! impossible!"
"Ah! poor deluded Mary: do you trust any on earth? Yet I would trust you, with your white face and soft blue eyes; and there is one other I would trust—but no more. You will not believe that Florence has turned from the faith of her fathers? Go to her as she sleeps yonder, and feel with your own hand the crucifix around her neck. Ha! you hold tight to my arm: I tell you your Cousin Florence is as black-hearted as the Padre, for he told me she had promised her dying father to follow his advice in all things, yet she tells you not of this: and again, has she not won the love of a good, a noble man, and does she not scorn his love; else why is his cheek pale, and his proud step slow? Marinita, I have read you long ago. You love your Doctor, but he loves that Florence, whose heart is black and cold as this night You are moaning in your agony; but all must suffer. I have suffered more than you; I shall always suffer. My stream of bitterness is inexhaustible; daily I am forced to quaff the black, burning waters. Ha! I know my lot—I swallow and murmur not. Mary, I am sorry to make you drink so much that is bitter to-night; but you must, for your own good; better a friend should hold the cup and let you taste, than have it rudely forced upon you."
"Why have you told me this, Inez? I never did you harm, or gave you pain."
"Poor pale face! I want to save you from worse than death—yea, from a living death. Go from this place; for if you are here a month hence, you will be lost. Your people here will be defeated, and then the Mexicans will hand you all over to the Padre, who says he means to put you where you will be protected. Mark me: you will be sent where no cry for succor will ever be heard. You will be imprisoned for life, where none can come back to tell the tale. Mary, go to your friends in the States; or if you cannot get there, go where your people are many, and take your Doctor with you, for blood will yet run down these streets, and I would not that his swelled the stream. He has promised to watch over you; tell him to take you from here—from this cursed place. I have crept from home this dark night to tell you of your danger; I am watched, for the Padre suspects me, but you were always good; you nursed me and my dying mother, and were kind to Manuel, and I would risk more than I have to help you. I have done all I can; I charge you, wait not till the last moment."
Inez stretched out her hand for her mantilla, which she folded closely about her face, and then clasped Mary's hand in hers.
"Inez! oh, Inez!"
"Well, Marinita, I may not linger here. I will see you again if I can; but if we meet no more, forget not Inez de Garcia, or the love she bears you; and as the greatest blessing now for you, I hope you may soon find peace in the quiet grave. I shall never find rest till I sleep that last, unbroken sleep!"
"Inez, my heart is wrung by what I have heard to-night; but I beg of you, as a last favor, do not, oh, do not turn away from God! Inez, there is a God; and death is not an everlasting sleep. Hereafter is an awful tribunal; and if not again on earth, you and I shall assuredly meet before God. Oh I believe that he will yet bless you; that he will enable you to bear all earthly trials; and, if faithful, he will receive you at last into the kingdom of eternal rest. Try to forget the past, and in this book you will find the path of duty so clearly marked out, that you cannot mistake it. 'Tis all I have about me, yet I pray God it may be the greatest treasure you possess."
She drew a small Bible from her pocket as she spoke, and pressed it within Inez's fingers, adding—"I cannot sufficiently thank you for your kindness in warning me of my danger; I shall leave this place as soon as possible, and shall constantly pray that you may be spared and blessed."
She held out her hands. Inez clasped them tightly for a moment, and then glided down the walk as noiselessly as she came.
Be sure that you teach nothing to the people but what is certainly to be found in Scripture."
Mary Irving sought her chamber, and sinking on her knees, fervently implored the blessing and guidance of Him who is very precious help in time of need. She prayed for strength to meet with Christian fortitude the trials which awaited her, and in all the vicissitudes of her checkered life to pursue unfalteringly the path of duty. She strove to collect her scattered thoughts, and with what composure she could assume, returned to the dining-room. The fire was burning low on the hearth, and the single candle gave but a faint, unsteady light. Florence was slowly pacing up and down the floor; she raised her head as Mary entered, then sunk it wearily on her bosom, and resumed her walk.
"Florry, come sit here by me—I want to consult you."
"Is it very important, Mary? I feel to-night as though I could comprehend nothing; let me wear off this dull pain in my heart and head by walking, if possible."
"My dear Florry, it is important; and therefore you will forgive me if I claim your attention."
Florence seated herself, and as she did so, leaned her head on Mary's shoulder, while the latter wound her arm fondly about her, and gently stroked back the raven hair from her aching brow.
"Since we broke up our school, I have been warned that we are in danger, and advised to leave San Antonio as speedily as possible; for strife is evidently at hand, and a battleground is no place for those so unprotected as you and I."
"Dr. Bryant has promised to watch over us: and surely you have implicit confidence in both his judgment and honor. What do you fear, Mary?"
"Everything. We may remain here too long—till escape will be impossible; and then who may predict with any degree of certainty the chances of war? That Dr. Bryant will do all that a friend or brother would, I doubt not; but he may be powerless to help when danger assails; and even if he should not, to travel from here in stormy times would not be so easy as you imagine."
"Who has been filling your head with such ideas? It could be none other than that dark-browed Inez."
"If she has, could aught but disinterested friendship actuate her to such a course?"
"Really, Mary, I should not have given you credit for so much credulity. Do you place any confidence in what that girl may tell you?"
"I do rely on what she confides to me. Has she ever given you cause to doubt her sincerity? Indeed, Florry, you do her injustice. I would willingly—God only knows how willingly—doubt some portions of what I have heard from her lips, but I dare not."
"Mary, can you not perceive that she is jealous of us, and hopes, by operating on your fears, to drive us from this place? The Padre hinted as much to me not long since."
"Florry, it is for you to say whether Inez speaks truth. From her lips I had the words—Your Cousin Florence is a Papist, wears a crucifix about her neck, and kneels in the confessional. Oh, Florry! will you—can you—do you deny the charge?"
The cousins stood up, and each gazed full upon the other. Mary's face was colorless as marble, and her hands were tightly clasped as she bent forward with a longing, searching, eager look. A crimson glow rushed to Florence's very temples; then receded, leaving an ashy paleness.
"I am a member of the Church of Rome."
Mary groaned and sank back into her chair, at this confirmation of her fears. Florence leaned against the chimney, and continued in a low, but clear voice—"I have little to say in defense of what you may consider a deception. I deny the right of any on earth to question my motives of actions; yet I would not that you, Mary, who have loved me so long and truly, should be alienated, without hearing the reasons which I have to allege in favor of my conduct. Mary, think well when I ask you what prospect of happiness there was for me a month since? Alone in the wide world, with ruined hopes, and a long, long, joyless future stretching gloomily before me. I was weary of life. I longed for death, not as a passport to the joys of heaven (for I had never sought or deserved them), but as bringing rest, peace, and oblivion of the past I viewed it only as a long, last, dreamless sleep. Mary, I was groping my way in what seemed endless night, when suddenly there came a glimmer of light, faint as the first trembling rays of the evening star, and just pierced the darkness in which I wandered. The Padre came to me, and pointed to the long-forgotten God, and bade me seek him who hath said, come unto me all ye who are weary, and I will give you rest. Mary, do you wonder that I clasped the hand outstretched to save me, and besought him to lead me to the outraged and insulted God? My eyes were opened, and looking down the long, dark vista of the past. I saw how, worshiping a creature, I built a great barrier between myself and heaven. I saw my danger, and resolved, ere it was too late, to dedicate the remainder of my life to him who gave it. The door of the church was opened, and Father Mazzolin pointed out the way by which I might be saved. The paths seem flowery, and he tells me the ways are those of pleasantness and peace, and I have resolved to try them. Once, and once only, I met him at confession, hoping, by unveiling my sufferings to a man of God, to receive comfort of a higher order than I might otherwise expect. He has granted me absolution for the past, and I doubt not that in future the intercession of the blessed saints in heaven will avail with my offended Maker."
"Florry, my own dear Florry! hear me, for none on earth love you as I do. Do you not believe the Bible—God's written word? Has he not said, 'there is one mediator between God and man—the man Christ Jesus?' Has not Christ made propitiation for our sin, and assured us there is but one way whereby we may be saved, repentance for our past sins and faith in the sufficiency of his atonement? Do you doubt the efficacy of Christ's suffering and death? Tell me, Florry, by what authority you invoke your saints? Surely you do so in opposition to the express declaration of the Bible already quoted—'there is one mediator between God and man.'"
"The holy Fathers of our church have been in the habit of praying for the intercession of saints from the earliest periods, and none have questioned their fervent piety, or doubted the orthodoxy of their faith," replied Florence.
"In the first place," said Mary, "it would be ridiculous in the extreme to advocate all the opinions and tenets advanced by those same Fathers. St. Augustine doubted the existence of the antipodes; Tertullian emphatically pronounced second marriages adultery; Origen denied the sin of David in causing the death of Uriah, and has often been accused of favoring Arianism, and the doctrine of transmigration of soul; while it is a well-known fact, that Jerome, to vindicate Peter from the charge of dissimulation, actually accused St. Paul of lying, and thereby favoring deceit. In the second place, are you quite sure that they were in the habit of invoking saints?"
"Certainly, Mary; for it is undeniable that St. Augustine in his Meditations calls on the Blessed Virgin, and all the angels and apostles in heaven, to intercede with God in his behalf. Father Mazzolin pointed out the passage no later than last week, to remove the doubts which I confess I entertained, as to whether it was proper and in accordance with the practise of the Fathers to implore such intercession."
"And does your conviction rest on so frail a basis? Hear what the Rev. Dr. Milner says on this subject, in the first volume of his Ecclesiastical History;" and taking it from the shelf, Mary read:
'The book of Meditations, though more known to English readers than any other of the works ascribed to Augustine, on account of the translation of it into our language by Stanhope, seems not to be his, both on account of its style, which is sententious, concise, abrupt, and void of any of those classical elegancies which now and then appear in our author's genuine writings; and also, on account of the prayers to deceased saints which it contains. This last circumstance peculiarly marks it to have been of a later date than the age of Augustine. Frauds of this, kind were commonly practised on the works of the Fathers in the monastic times.'
"And why, Florry, does it peculiarly mark it as spurious? Because, had he entertained these views on so vital a point, the expression of them would most certainly have occurred in his other very voluminous works. I have searched his Confessions for instances of this invocation, either from himself or anxious mother, and had he believed, as the Catholic prelates assert, in this intercession of the dead, it would most assuredly have been sought in the hour of his suffering and fear, lest he should be given over. But I find none. On the contrary, these two passages occur in his Confessions: 'I now sought the way of obtaining strength to enjoy thee, and found it not, till I embraced the mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ, who is above all, God, blessed forever, calling and saying I am the way, the truth, and the life.' And here, Florry, is another extract from the same book still more conclusive—'Whom shall I look to as my mediator? Shall I go to angels? Many have tried this, and have been fond of visions, and have deserved to be the sport of the illusions which they loved. The true mediator, whom in thy secret mercy thou hast shown to the humble, and hast sent that by his example they might also learn humility, the man Christ Jesus, hath appealed a mediator between mortal sinners and the immortal Holy One, that he might justify the ungodly, and deliver them from death.' Yet in your manuals you are directed to say 'Mother of God command thy son;' and one of your prayers, Florry, is as follows: 'Hail, Holy Queen! Mother of Mercy—our life, our sweetness, and our hope! To thee do we cry, poor banished sons of Eve, to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in the valley of tears. Turn thee, most gracious Advocate, thy eyes of mercy toward us.' And at vespers you say,
'Hail, Mary! queen of heavenly spheres, Hail! whom the angelic host reveres!'
Florry, in all candor, let us investigate this subject; we will consult both the Bible and the Fathers, or, if you prefer it, by the words of the latter only we will decide; for truth we are searching."
"Mary, let me read a second time those passages from St. Augustine. Strange I should have been so deceived," she continued, as, having perused them, she returned the book to her cousin.
"Florry, can you perceive any encouragement there given to the practise of invocation? Does not St. Augustine expressly denounce it?"
"There can be no doubt of his sentiments on this point; but, Mary, this is only one decision, when I have been assured that the united voices of many Fathers established it without a doubt, even supposing there was no authority in Holy Writ for such a custom—which, however, we have, for did not Jacob wrestle with an angel and did not his blessing descend upon him?"
"But Christ had not then died; neither had the Christian dispensation succeeded to the old Jewish rites and customs. If you will turn to Jeremiah, you will also read how the curse of God was pronounced against the idolaters who offered incense to the Queen of Heaven: yet you do the same. Still, by the tradition of the elders, we will judge. Hear the words of Paulinus on this subject—'Paul is not a mediator; he is an ambassador for Christ. John intercedes not, but declares that this mediator is the propitiation for our sin. The Son of Almighty God, because he redeemed us with the price of his blood, is justly called the true Redeemer,' Again, the great and good Ambrose—'We follow thee, Lord Jesus, but draw us up that we may follow. No one rises without thee. Let us seek him, and embrace his feet, and worship him, that he may say to us, Fear not. I am the remission of sin, I am the light, I am the life. He that cometh to me shall not see death; because he is the fulness of divinity.' One more, Florry—'Come to yourselves again, ye wretched transgressors! Return ye blind to your light! Shall we not believe God, when he swears that neither Noah, nor Daniel, or Job, shall deliver one son or daughter by their righteousness. For this end he makes the declaration, that none might put confidence in the intercession of saints. Ye fools! who run to Rome to seek there for the intercession of an Apostle. When will ye be wise? What would St. Augustine say of you, whom ye have so often quoted?' Such, Florry, are the words of the celebrated Claud of Turin; but as he is regarded by your church somewhat as a reformer, I will just read one passage from Anselm, whose orthodoxy no Papist ever questioned. Speaking of the intercession of Christ—'If the people sin a thousand times, they need no other Saviour; because this suffices for all things, and cleanses from all sin.' Florry, we have jointly admired the character of one of the earliest martyrs, St. Cyprian. Will you hear him on this subject?—'Christ, if it be possible, let us all follow. Let us be baptized in his name. He opens to us the way of life. He brings us back to Paradise. He leads us to the heavenly kingdom. Redeemed by his blood, we shall be the blessed of God the Father,' Yet you say in your prayers, 'We fly to thy patronage, oh! holy Mother of God!' And again—
'Hail sacred gate.'
Florence, you have cited the Fathers: by their own words are you not convinced as to intercession?"
"Mary, I was asking myself if vital Christianity could exist in any church which allows such a system of deceit on the part of its clergy: for deceived I assuredly have been."
"You should remember, Florry, that the promulgation of Papal doctrines, and the aggrandizement of the Romish church, is the only aim of its priesthood; consequently, all means which conduce to this great object are unscrupulously employed. Even crime is sanctioned where the good of the church can be promoted."
"Surely, Mary, you cannot mean what you say? Crime sanctioned by the Romish clergy! Impossible! How dare you make such an assertion!"
"It doubtless strikes you, Florry, as strangely uncharitable and unchristian; yet, if you will consult the records of the past, I venture to say you will think very differently. What memorable event occurred on one of your saints' days—the 24th of August, 1572? At dead of night the signal was given, and the Papal ministers of France perpetrated the foulest deed that stains the page of history. Thirty thousand Huguenots were butchered in their beds. And what distinguished the murderer from the doomed victim? A white cross on the hat of the former. How did Imperial Rome receive the tidings of this massacre? The cannons were discharged, the Pope ordered a jubilee and grand procession, and caused a Te Deum to be chanted. I ask you, Florry, was not this sanctioning crime? Again, how died the great Henry IV? The celebrated edict of Nantes sealed his doom, and the infamous Ravaillac, for the good of the Romish church, conveniently forgot the commandment of Jehovah, and meritoriously assassinated him. Florry, I have myself heard a Papist say, 'that whatever her priest commanded, she would unhesitatingly perform.' Shocked at the broad assertion, I replied: 'You surely do not know what you are saying. Obey the priest in all things! Why, you would not commit murder at his command?' 'Certainly I would, if my priest bid me; for if I obey him, I cannot do wrong.' I know this to be true; and I ask you what is the inference? You admit that you have been deceived. Pious frauds were committed in the time of Ambrose and Chrysostom; yet hear what St. Augustine says: 'Lying is the saying of one thing, and thinking of another;' and in all cases, even for most pious purposes, he excludes lying as unchristian and anti-scriptural."
Florence was leaning with clasped hands on the table gazing intently at her cousin; while Mary knelt on the other side, her hand resting on the large family Bible. The light fell full on her pale face as she knelt; her chestnut curls half veiling the pure white cheek, and the dark-blue eyes, earnest, and yet almost angelic, in their gentle, loving expression.
"Oh, Florry! need I implore you in future to look to Christ alone as the author of our salvation?"
"One more question, Mary. Is there not a passage in Revelations substantiating the doctrine of intercession? Father Mazzolin assured me the testimony was conclusive in favor of that practise."
"The passages to which you allude are these: 'And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censor; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it, with the prayers of all saints, upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand.' No word of intercession occurs here; and are we not as free to suppose that the prayers so offered were in their own behalf as that of their friends? Had it been as the Padre tells you, would not St. John have said intercession or prayers in behalf of others?"
"Mary, can you have mistaken the passage? This cannot be his boasted testimony."
"I know that these two verses are highly prized by Papists, as establishing the doctrine in question; yet I cannot see them in that light—can you?" "No, no; and if these are the strongest arguments they can adduce in the defense of invocation, I reject it as a remnant of the dark ages, during which period it certainly crept into the church."
"If you do this, Florry, you cause the whole fabric to totter, for on this doctrine, as a foundation, rests the arch, of which confession is the keystone."
"'Confess ye your sins, one to another,' is very strong in our favor, Mary?"
"Florry, we are searching for truth, and let us in all humility and candor investigate this particularly important point. It seems to me that St. James's meaning is this—when we have offended or harmed our fellow-men or brethren, we should make all the amends in our power; confess our faults unto them; implore their pardon, and abstain from offensive conduct in future. Do you not think that if he had intended us to interpret it differently, he would have said—'Confess your faults unto your priest, and he will give you absolution.' Setting aside all bias, do you not think this reasonable; the more so, when we call to mind those words of our Saviour in his sermon on the mount: 'Therefore, if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.' If our Lord had intended the ordinance of confession, would he not have said on this occasion, 'First confess thy sins unto thy priest, and when he has absolved thee, then come with clean hands and offer thy gift.' Mark the difference, and ask your own heart if there is any encouragement here for confessing to your Padre?"
"If this passage of James were all we could adduce in favor of confession, I should think with you, Mary; yet it is not so. When about to dismiss his Apostles on their errands of mercy, Christ said to them—'Peace be with you; as my Father hath sent me, even so I send you;' and when he had breathed upon them, he said unto them—'Receive ye the Holy Ghost; whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them, and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained.' Now, Mary, do you not plainly perceive that the power of forgiving sin was conferred upon the Apostles?"
"Most assuredly I do; and avow my belief that they were enabled to forgive sin, and at the same time other miraculous powers were conferred on the 'Twelve.' 'Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases.' We know that they cast out devils, restored the blind, and raised the dead. Power to forgive sin was one among many wonderful gifts conferred upon them. Yet you do not believe that the power of raising the dead was transmitted to posterity. How, then, can you say the gift of absolution was?"
"But, Mary, Christ says in another place—'Thou art Peter: and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.'"
"I perfectly agree with you, Florry, in believing that St. Peter had miraculous powers bestowed on him by our Saviour; but it seems absurd to suppose that these powers were perpetuated in the ministers of the Roman Catholic Church. Our Saviour said, what 'Peter loosed, should be loosed in heaven,' and not what Peter's successors loosed should be observed and loosed in heaven. We should not judge of Christ's views by isolated passages, but rather from all his teachings; for if we did, what would you say to the verse just below those already quoted, 'And he said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offense unto me: for thou savorest not the things which be of God, but those that be of men.' But this is wandering from the subject. In St. Augustine's Confessions, though I admit somewhat abridged, I find nothing relating to confessing to priests. This passage alone appears: 'O Lord, thou knowest!—have I not confessed my sins to thee? and hast thou not pardoned the iniquity of my heart?' Speaking of a sudden illness during his boyhood, he says he eagerly desired baptism, fearing to die, and his mother was about to comply with his request, when he quickly recovered. Now, had he considered confession necessary, would he not have urged it upon all who read his Confessions, which you will mark, Florry, were not made to a priest, but obviously to God himself,"
There followed a long pause, while Florence dropped her face in her hands and sighed heavily.
"Florry, it is very late; our candle has burnt low—see, it is flickering in the socket; we have not heeded the lapse of time." She rose and replaced the books she had been consulting.
"Mary, Mary! why have you shaken my faith? I had thought to find comfort in future, but you have torn my hope from me, and peace flies with the foundations which you have removed!"
"Florry, you have been blinded, deceived. They have cried unto you, Peace! peace! when there was no peace. But oh! there is a source of rest, and strength, and comfort, which is to be attained not by confession, or the intercession of the dead or living, but by repentance for the past, and an active, trusting faith in the mediation of our blessed Lord Jesus Christ"
"The purple clouds Are putting on their gold and violet, To look the meeter for the sun's bright coming. How hallowed is the hour of morning! Meet— Ay! beautifully meet—for the pure prayer."
Morn broke in the East; or, in the beautiful language of the Son of Fingal, "Sol's yellow hair streamed on the Eastern gale." Awakened by the first chirping of the feathered tribe, Florence rose as the gray morning light stole into her chamber, and seating herself at the window, looked out on the town before her. Quiet reigned as yet, broken only by the murmuring and gurgling of the river, which roiled swiftly on, just below their little gate. How delightful to her seemed
"The cool, the fragrant, and the silent hour To meditation due."
Calmly she now weighed the conversation of the preceding night, and, engrossed in earnest thought, sat gazing out till the Orient shone resplendent, and an October sun poured his rays gloriously around her. Then she knelt, and prayed as she had never done before. She sought the "pure fountain of light," and implored strength and guidance in her search after truth. Rising, her glance fell on her sleeping cousin, and she was struck with the change which within the last month had taken place in her appearance. Approaching the bed, she lifted the masses of chestnut hair that clung to the damp brow. As she looked on the pure, pale face, there came a gush of tenderness into her soul, and bending, she imprinted a long, warm kiss. Mary stirred, and opened her eyes.
"Ah, Florry, you are up earlier than usual." She closed them again, murmuring slowly, "I feel as though I had no strength remaining; I can scarcely lift my head."
"Sleep, Mary, if you can. I will shut out the light, and call you again after a while."
"No, Florry, I must not give way to such feelings; indeed they are getting quite too common of late; I can't think what makes me so weak and feverish."
An hour later, as they stood together at the door of their little dining-room, a body of Mexican cavalry dashed furiously past their gate. The cousins looked full at each other. Then Florence said in a low, calm tone: "You are right, Mary; we will go from this place; I feel now that it is for the best." She averted her face; but Mary saw an expression of keen agony resting there. "Florry, let us consult Mrs. Carlton. She will advise us what would be best to do in this emergency."
"Go and see her yourself; I cannot. Whatever you decide upon I will agree to. Oh! Mary, how desolate and unprotected we are."
"No, not while there is an Almighty One to watch over us. But, Florry, I am much troubled about Aunt Lizzy. I mentioned our wish to leave here, and she opposed it strenuously, on the grounds that the Padre had promised his protection. Now what are we to do?"
"Go to Mrs. Carlton's, Mary, and I will convince aunt that it is best we should remove from here immediately. You need apprehend no difficulty on her part. As you return from Mrs. Carlton's, meet me in the churchyard."
"Florry, do not go till I come home; or, if you prefer it, let us go there at once."
"No, Mary, I wish to be there alone."
"But I am afraid it is not quite safe for you to venture out so far from home."
"I fear nothing: who would harm a daughter beside her father's grave?"
Mary sighed heavily, but offered no further opposition. Her walk to Mrs. Carlton's was a sad one, for her heart clung to the scenes she had learned to love so well, and the prospect of departure, and the uncertainty of the future, weighed heavily on her heart, and made her step unwontedly slow. She found her friend alone, and much depressed. Mrs. Carlton clasped her tenderly in her arms, while the tears rolled silently down her cheeks.
"I hope nothing has happened to distress you?" said Mary, anxiously.
"You are the very one I wished to see. Mr. Carlton said, this morning, that he was unwilling for me to remain here any longer, as our troops are marching to attack the Alamo. He says he will take us to Washington, and I could not bear the idea of leaving you here."
"I have come to consult you on this subject; for some of my Mexican friends have advised us to leave San Antonio; and not knowing where or how to go, concluded to come and see you. But Washington is far, very far from here. How will we ever reach it in these unsettled times?"
"Mr. Carlton and Frank have gone to make all necessary preparation for our immediate departure. We will have two tents, and carry such cooking utensils and provisions as are needful for a tedious journey: one wagon is all we hope to obtain for conveying these. I suppose we shall all ride horseback; for you know there is not a carriage in the town. Frank does not wish us to leave this place, for he suggested your coming to remain with us till these stormy times were over. But this is not a suitable home for you. Surely your cousin and aunt will consent to accompany us?"
"Yes, I think so; for Florry left it entirely with me, and certainly we should go now."
"I am very glad to hear you say so, Mary; not only upon your own account, but also for Frank. He will consider himself bound to accompany you; for he promised your dying uncle to watch over you both with a brother's care, and otherwise he could not be induced to leave San Antonio at this crisis. He seems completely rapt in the issue of the contest; and would you believe it, Mary, he is anxious to enlist; but my entreaties have as yet prevented him."
"Dear Mrs. Carlton, there is no obligation resting on him to go with us. He has been very kind and careful, and though deeply grateful, we could not consent to his leaving against his own inclinations. Oh, no! we could not allow this. Yet should he remain, what may be the result? Oh! Mrs. Carlton, this is terrible."
Mary's cheek was very pale, and her lips quivered convulsively, while the small hands, clasped each other tightly.
"Mary, for my sake, use your influence with him in favor of going to Washington. I can't go in peace, and feel that he is here exposed to such imminent danger, for when I am gone, what will restrain him? Mary, Mary! do not deter him, if he feels it incumbent on him to see you to a place of of safety."
"Mrs. Carlton, you can appreciate the peculiar position in which I am placed. Florry and I would shrink from drawing him away, in opposition to his wishes, particularly when there is no danger attendant on our traveling; for with you and Mr. Carlton we would feel no apprehension; and even if we did, we could not consent to such a sacrifice on his part. Yet I sympathize with you, most sincerely, and will willingly do all that in propriety I can to alleviate your sorrow; but knowing his sentiments, how could I advise, or even acquiesce in his going?"
"My pure-hearted girl, forgive a request made so thoughtlessly. I had not considered, as I should have done; yet you can appreciate the anxious feelings which dictated it." As she spoke, Mrs. Carlton clasped her friend to her heart, and wept on her shoulder. No tear dimmed Mary's eye; yet that she suffered, none who looked on her pale brow and writhing lips could doubt. As she raised her head to reply, Dr. Bryant entered, and started visibly on seeing her, Mrs. Carlton endeavored to regain her composure; and, with a slightly faltering voice, asked how he succeeded in procuring horses?
"Better than I had hoped," was the rejoinder; and he held out his hand to Mary. She gave him hers, now cold as ice. He held it a moment, and pressed it gently, saying: "You see my sister is going to run away on the first intimation of danger. I hope she has not infected you with her fears; though, to judge from your looks, I should almost predict a stampede in another direction."
"Indeed you are quite right. Florry and I are going with her; though we had decided on leaving before we knew she intended doing so."
"Ah! you did not seem to apprehend any immediate danger when we conversed on this subject a few days since. What has changed your views?"
"I have been warned not to risk the dangers attendant on the approaching conflict by a Mexican friend, whose attachment I have every reason to believe is sincere; and besides, it needed but little to augment my fears: and Florry and I concluded, if practicable, to remove to a place of greater safety."
"Can you be ready within two days, think you, Miss Mary? for, if we leave at all, it is advisable that we do so immediately."
"Oh, yes! I know we can be ready by that time."
"Let me see—how many additional horses shall we need? Yourself, your cousin, and aunt, and myself."
Mary looked eagerly at Mrs. Carlton; but she had averted her head; and for a moment a terrible struggle within kept the gentle girl silent.
"Dr. Bryant, I know you do not wish to leave here at this juncture, intensely interested as you are in the event, and I fear you are sacrificing your own wishes for our benefit. Let me beg you to consult your inclinations, and do not feel it in the least incumbent on you to attend us, particularly when we are in the kind care of Mr. Carlton; and you have already done so much toward contributing to our comfort."
"Thank you for your consideration. Nevertheless, I shall not rest satisfied till I place you in safety on the banks of the Brazos. One of my greatest pleasures has been to render you service, and you would not abridge them, I hope, by refusing my company on your journey?"
Mary's eyes were fixed earnestly on his face while he spoke, and though there was no change in his kind, gentle tone, there came an undefinable expression over his noble countenance—an expression in which coldness and sorrow predominated. She could not understand him; yet a shudder crept though her frame, and a sensation of acute pain stole into her heart. She felt as through a barrier had suddenly risen between them, yet could not analyze the cause.
"Your servants will take all possible care of the house and furniture during your absence, which, I hope, will be but temporary. They will not be molested; and I am afraid we could not conveniently carry two additional persons. What think you of this arrangement?"
"I think with you, that under existing circumstances the servants could not well accompany us; and though they will incur no danger, I regret the necessity of leaving them, particularly should they object."
"I hope you will find no difficulty in arranging everything to your entire satisfaction, previous to our departure. You and my sister must consult as to all minor points, and I must look to our preparations. My respects to your cousin. I will see you again to-morrow;" and bidding her good morning, he turned away.
"Oh, such a weight is lifted from my heart!" exclaimed Mrs. Carlton. "I can now exert myself as I am called on to do."
"Florry will be waiting for me, and we have much to do at home; so good-by," and Mary lifted her pale face for a farewell kiss.
Mrs. Carlton affectionately embraced her, and bidding her "make all speed," they parted.
"'There is a soul just delivered from Purgatory!' It was found to be a frog dressed in red flannel."
Florence having succeeded, as she imagined, in convincing her aunt that it was advisable to remove from San Antonio, slowly proceeded to the churchyard, little dreaming that the door had scarce closed behind her ere Aunt Lizzy, with swift steps, directed her way to the house of the Padre, He was writing, but gave his attention, and heard, with ill-disguised chagrin, that Florence distrusted his promised protection.
"Does she doubt in matters of faith, think you?" he eagerly inquired.
"Indeed, Padre, I cannot say. All I know is, that she and Mary sat till midnight, reading and talking, and she has not seemed like herself since."
"Where shall I find Florence?" said he, taking his hat.
"In the churchyard, I think, beside her father's grave."
"Say nothing to her, but apparently acquiesce in her plans; and, above all, do not let her dream that you have told me these things."
Ah, Florence! who may presume to analyze the anguish of your tortured heart as you throw yourself, in such abandonment of grief, on the tomb of your lost parent? The luxuriant grass, swaying to and fro in the chill October blast, well-nigh concealed the bent and drooping form, as she knelt and laid her head on the cold granite.
"My father! oh, my father!" and tears, which she had not shed before, fell fast, and somewhat eased the desolate, aching heart. Florence had not wept before in many years; and now that the fountain was unsealed, she strove not to repress the tears which seemed to lift and bear away the heavy weight which had so long crushed her spirits.
What a blessing it is to be able to weep; and happy are they who can readily give vent to tears, and thus exhaust their grief! Such can never realize the intensity of anguish which other natures suffer—natures to whom this great relief is denied, and who must keep the withering, scorching agony pent up within the secret chambers of their desolate, aching hearts. Sobs and tears are not for these. No, no; alone and in darkness they must wrestle with their grief, crush it down into their inmost soul, and with a calm exterior go forth to meet the world. But ah! the flitting, wintry smile, the short, constrained laugh, the pale brow marked with lines of mental anguish, will ofttimes, tell of the smoldering ruin....
"My daughter, God has appointed me in place of the parent he has taken hence; turn to me, and our most holy church, and you will find comfort such as naught else can afford."
Florence sprung to her feet, and shuddered at the sound of his low, soft voice. The Padre marked the shudder, and the uneasy look which accompanied it: "Padre, I have confessed, and I have prayed to almost every saint in the Calendar, and I have had your prayers in addition to my own; yet I find no comfort. No joy has stolen to my heart, as you promised it inevitably would."
"My daughter, if peace has not descended on thy spirit, I fear you have not been devout. Tell me truly if you have not doubted in matters of faith, for our most holy Mother ever grants the prayers of her faithful and loving children?"
"I have searched the Bible, and I nowhere find authority for invoking saints or the Virgin."
"I can convince you, without doubt, that there is such authority—nay, command."
"'Tis useless, you may save yourself the trouble; for my mind is clearly made up that we have not even the sanction of the Fathers."
"Holy Mary, pardon her unbelief, and send down light into her darkened soul!"
Florence fixed her eyes full upon him, and replied—"Christ expressly declares 'I am the light, I am the life.'"
"Daughter, your heretic cousin has done you a great injury. May God protect you, and forgive her blasphemy."
"She needs no forgiveness, for she is pure in heart before God, and truthful in all things."
The swarthy cheek of the Italian flushed—"Florence, you and your aunt must come and stay at my house till it is safe here; and, I doubt not when you are at leisure to hear me, you will duly repent your hasty speeches. I shall pray God and our Lady to give you a more trusting, believing heart, and intercede with the blessed saints for your entire conversion."
"Not so, Father Mazzolin; we shall leave this place in a very few days, and I have come to bid adieu to the grave of my father: leave me, for I wish to be alone and in peace."
"Do you doubt my will or ability to protect you, my daughter? Beneath my roof no danger can assail."
"We have fully decided to go from here, and further reasoning or entreaty would be vain; accept, however, my thanks for your proffered kindness."
"Girl, you have gone too far! Hear me while I am placable, for I tell you now, without my consent, you cannot—shall not leave here."
"You have neither right nor power to detain me."
"Have I not? I swear, if you do not hear and abide by what I say, your father's soul will remain forever in purgatory, where it justly belongs."
"How dare you make so miserable a threat?" said the calm, clear voice of Mary, who had approached unobserved.
"Cursed believer in a cursed creed, what do you here? Begone, or dread the vengeance I shall surely inflict on so blasphemous and damnable a heretic!"
Winding her arm tightly about Florence's waist, she replied—"'Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord. I will repay;' and though I have never injured you, Padre—even if I had, it ill becomes a consecrated priest to utter such language, or so madly to give vent to passion."
"Silence!" thundered the Padre, livid with rage; "I will compass heaven and earth rather than you shall escape me."
"Come, Florry, this is no place for us now; even the churchyard is not sacred. Come home."
"Florence, dare you curse your own father?" The girl's lips quivered, but no sound came forth—she seemed stunned.
"You would usurp the prerogatives of Jehovah, Father Mazzolin; but your threat is vain. You cannot bless or damn my uncle at will. How dare you, guilty as you are, hold such impious language?"
For a moment he quailed before the calm, unflinching girl, then seizing Florence's arm, hoarsely exclaimed: "One more chance I give you. Florence, I am your brother—your father, my father. On his death-bed he confessed his sins and discovered his son."
A deep groan burst from Florence's lips, and her slender frame quivered like a reed in a wintry blast. The Padre laid his head on the granite slab which covered the remains of Mr. Hamilton, and continued: "I call God in heaven, and all the saints to witness the truth of what I say, and if I prove it not, may I sink into perdition. When your father was yet young, he made the tour of Europe. Traveling in Italy, he met at Florence a poor but beautiful girl; and she, struck, in turn, by the handsome face of the stranger, left her humble home, and listened to the voice of seduction. He remained five months at Florence, and then suddenly left Italy for his native country, without apprising the unfortunate woman of his intentions. Hatred succeeded to love, and she vowed vengeance. That woman was my mother; and when ten years had passed, she told me my parentage, and made me swear on the altar of her patron saint that I would fulfil her vow of vengeance. She died, and I became a priest of Rome, and in time was sent by my order to Mexico, and thence here to assist my aged and infirm predecessor. I had in my possession a miniature of my father, and no sooner had I met him here than I recognized the base being who had deserted my mother. I kept my peace; but ere he died, he confessed that one sin—heavier than everything beside—weighed on his conscience. In the agony and remorse of that hour my mother was revenged. I told my parentage, and he discovered his child. Feeling that I was your brother, he bade you remain here, claim my protection, and follow my advice. But, Florence, hear me—your misery touched my heart; a kindred feeling for you made me desire to serve you; but I swear now that if you hear not my voice, and return to the bosom of our church, your father's soul shall linger in damnation, and my vengeance shall follow you. You know not my power, and wo to you if you defy me!"
Had the specter-form of the deceased, leaving the shadowy band of the spirit-world, risen on the granite slab before them the two girls could not have been more startled. Tightly they clung one to another, their eyes riveted on the face of the Padre. There was a long pause; then Florence lifted herself proudly up, and cold and haughty was her tone: "It is not for me to deny your statement. If my father sinned, peace to his memory, and may God forgive him. One so sinful and malignant as yourself cannot be invested with divine prerogatives. I have known your intentions with regard to myself since the hour I knelt in confession. I was destined for a convent, and I tacitly acquiesced in your plans, hoping that so secluded from the world I should be comparatively happy; but my feelings are changed on many points, and any further interference from you will be received with the scorn it merits. No love for me actuates your movements, else you would have spared me the suffering of this hour."
"You defy me, then?"
Florence had turned away, and heeded not his question; but Mary, clasping her hands, looked appealingly in his face; "Oh, Padre, by the tie which you declare exists between yourself and Florry—for the sake of your lost parent—do not put your threat in execution. Spare an unprotected orphan. You will not harm your sister!"
"Know you not, girl, that when a Jesuit priest takes the oath of his order, he tears his heart from his breast and lays it at the feet of his superior? Appeal not to ties of relationship: we repudiate them, and pity is unknown among us."
With a shudder Mary joined her cousin, and rapidly and in perfect silence they retraced their steps homeward. When they reached their gate, Mary would have opened it, but her cousin, taking her hand, led the way to their old seat beside the river.
Florence seated herself as near the water as possible, and then tightly clasping the hand she held, asked in a voice of suppressed emotion; "Tell me, Mary, is there a purgatory?"
"No, Florry; I think there is less foundation for that doctrine than any advanced by your church."
"Mary, you speak truth, and all that you say I can implicitly believe. Tell me what grounds support the theory?"
"You remember the words of our Saviour. 'All sin shall be forgiven, save blasphemy of the Holy Ghost; that shall not be forgiven, either in this world or the next.' Now Papists argue in this way: Then other sins can be forgiven in another world; there is no sin in heaven, in hell no forgiveness, consequently, there must exist a middle place, or, in other words, a purgatory. Florry, you smile, yet I assure you I have seen this advanced as unanswerable. In the book of Maccabees is a very remarkable passage authorizing prayers for the dead, and on this passage they build their theory and sanction their practise. Yet you know full well it is one of the Apocryphal books rejected by the Jews, because not originally written in their language. It was never quoted by our Saviour, nor even received as inspired by your own church till the Council of Trent, when it was admitted to substantiate the doctrine of purgatory, and sanction prayers for the dead. I admit that on this point St. Augustine's practise was in favor of it; though it was only near the close of his long life that he speaks of the soul of his mother. Yet already history informs us that the practise of praying for the dead was gaining ground in the church, along with image worship. St. Cyprian, who lived long before him, and during a purer state of the church, leaves no doubt on our minds as to his sentiments on this subject; his words are these: 'When ye depart hence, there will be no room for repentance—no method of being reconciled to God. Here eternal life is either lost or won. Here, by the worship of God, and the fruit of faith, provision is made for eternal salvation. And let no man be retarded, either by his sins or years, from coming to obtain it. No repentance is too late while a man remains in this world.' Our Saviour nowhere gives any encouragement for such a doctrine. On the contrary, he said to the dying thief: 'This day shalt thou be with me in Paradise.' I know of no other argument which Papists advance in favor of their darling theory, save the practise of the latter Fathers of their church."
"Mary, I cannot believe this doctrine, without further proof of Divine sanction."
"Indeed, Florry, I know of no other reason in its favor, and have long supposed it a system of extortion in connection with indulgences, now used, only as a means of gain by the dissolute clergy of the Romish faith. I need scarcely say, that the abuse of this latter doctrine drove Luther to reformation. It is a well-known fact, that in the 16th century, Tetzel, a Dominican monk high in his order, drove through Germany in a wagon, containing two boxes—one holding indulgences, the other the money received for them. You will smile, Florry, when I repeat a translation of the German lines Written on the outside of the latter box:
"'When in this chest the money rings, The soul straight up to heaven springs.'"
Yet the boldness and audacity of his general language was quite in accordance: 'Indulgences,' said he, 'are the most precious of God's gifts. I would not exchange my privileges for those of St. Peter in heaven; for I have saved more souls with my indulgences than he with all his sermons. There is no sin so great that the indulgence will not remit it. Even repentance is not necessary. Indulgences save the dead; for the very moment the money chinks against the bottom of this chest, the soul escapes from purgatory, and flies to heaven,'
"Yet this inquisitor was high in favor with Pope Leo X. You will say, Florry, that the abuse of a doctrine should be no test of its soundness; and I admit that had he received the punishment he so richly merited it would not; yet this is only one instance among many. We have conversed on the doctrines of the Romish faith merely as theories, should we not now look at the practise? We need not go very far. When Aunt Fanny expressed surprise on seeing our Mexican shepherd eat meat last Friday, did he not reply in extenuation, 'I have paid the priest and can eat meat'? Now if it was necessary for him to abstain previously, could the small sum paid to the Padre exempt him from the duty? Again we see the working of the system: was not Herrara scrupulously exact on the same point? yet he rose from the table and told a most positive lie. With regard to indulgences, there is not a Papist who will admit that they are a license to sin. The voice of history declares that 'a regular scale for absolution was graded,' and the fact is authenticated by a recent traveler, who asserts that in the chancel of Santa Croce, at Rome, is hung a catalogue of the indulgences granted to all who worship in that church. Yet your priests will tell you they are the remission of sins already committed. Did not Herrara say, 'I have paid the Padre and can eat meat'? Now I ask you if this is not a license to commit what would otherwise be considered a heinous offense by all devout Papists?"