"That minute, Reverend Fathers, began the resurrection of Alta. The old woman told me how it happened. He was twenty-five miles away attending one of his missions when the blizzard was at its height. McDermott fell sick and a telegram was sent for the priest—the last message before the wires came down. Father Belmond started to drive through the storm back to Alta. He succeeded in reaching McDermott's bedside and gave him the last Sacraments. He did not break down himself until he returned to the vestry, but for twenty-four hours he tossed in fever before they found him.
"McDermott grew better. He sent for me when he heard I was in town. The first question he asked was: 'Is he dead?' I told McDermott the story just as I am telling you. 'God forgive me,' said the sick man, 'that priest died for me. When he came here I ordered him out of my office, yet when they told him I was sick he drove through the storm for my sake. He believed in the worth of a soul, and he himself was the noblest soul that Alta ever had.'
"I said nothing. Somebody better than a mere bishop was talking to McDermott, and I, His minister, was silent in His presence. 'Bishop,' said McDermott, after long thought, 'I never really believed until now; I'm sorry that it took a man's life to bring back the Faith of my fathers. Send us a priest to Alta—one who can do things: one after the stamp of the saint in the vestry. I'll be his friend and together we will carry on the work he began. I'll see him through if God spares me.'
"Dear Fathers, it is needless to say what I did.
"Father Broidy, on this happy day I have not re-echoed the praises that have been showered upon you as much as perhaps I might have done, because I reserved for you a praise that is higher than all of them. I believed when I sent you here that you were of his stamp. You have done your duty and you have done it well. I am not ungrateful and I shall not forget. But your best praise from me is, that I firmly believe that you, under like circumstances, would also have willingly given your life for the resurrection of Alta."
THE MAN WITH A DEAD SOUL
Years ago there lived a man whose soul had died; and died as only a soul may die, by the man's own deed. His body lived still for debauchery, his mind lived still to ponder on evil, but his soul was stifled in a flood of sin. So the man lived his life with a dead soul.
When the soul died the man's dreams changed. The fairy children of his youth came no more to play with him and his visions were of lands bare and desolate, with great rocks instead of green trees; and sandy, dry and arid plains instead of bright grass and flowers. But out of the rocks shone fiery veins of virgin gold and the pitiless sun that dried the plain reflected countless smaller suns of untouched diamonds. Hither in dreams came often the man with the dead soul.
The years passed and the man realized with his mortal eyes the full of his dreams and touched mortal foot to the desert that now was all his own. Greedily he picked and dug till his weary body cried "enough." Then only he left, when his strength could dig no more. So he began to live more evilly because of his new power of wealth; and his soul was farther than ever from resurrection.
Now it happened that the man with the dead soul soon found that he had become a leper because of his sins, and so with all his gains was driven from among men. He went back to the desert and watched the gold veins in the rocks and the shining of the diamonds, all the time hoping for more strength to dig. But while waiting, his musings turned to hateful thoughts of all his kindred, and abhorrence of all good. So he said: "I have been driven from among men because they love virtue, henceforth I will hate it; because they loved God, henceforth I will love only evil; because they use their belongings to work mercy, henceforth I will use mine to inflict revenge. I may not go to men, so I will go to those who do men harm."
So the man with the dead soul went to live among the beasts. He dwelt for a long time in the forests and the most savage of the brutes were his friends. One day he saw a hermit at the door of his cave. "How livest thou here?" he asked.
"From the offerings of the raven who brings me bread and the wild bees who give it sweetness and the great beasts who clothe me," answered the hermit. Then the man with the dead soul left the beasts because they did good and were merciful.
Out of the forest the North Wind met the man and tossed him upon its wings and buffeted him and chilled him to the marrow. In vain he asked for mercy, the North Wind would give none. Half frozen and sore with blows the man gasped—
"'Tis well! I will dwell with thee for thou givest nothing but evil." So he went to dwell in the cave of the North Wind and the chill of the pitiless cold was good to him on account of his dead soul.
One day he saw the clouds coming, headed for his own desert, and the North Wind went to meet them and a mighty battle took place in the air; but the North Wind was the victor. White on the ground where the chill had flung them lay the clouds in snow crystals; and the man laughed his joy at the sight of the ruin—for he knew that the rain-clouds would have greened his desert and made it beautiful. But he heard the men who cultivated the land on which the snow had fallen bless the North Wind that it had given their crops protection and promised plenty to the fields of wheat. Then the man with the dead soul cursed the North Wind and went to dwell in the ocean.
The waters bade him stay and daily he saw their work of evil. Down in the depths dead men's bones whitened beside the wealth of treasure the ocean had claimed. He walked along the bottom for years exulting in destruction before he came to the surface to watch the storms and laugh at the big waves eating the great ships. But there was only a gentle breeze blowing that day, and he saw great vessels laden with treasure and wealth passing from nation to nation. He saw the dolphins play over the bosom of the waters and the sea-gulls happy to ride the waves. Then afar off he saw the bright columns where all day long the sun kept working, drawing moisture to the sky from the waters to spread it, even over the man's barren desert, to make it bloom.
Cursing again, the man with the dead soul left the waters and buried himself beneath the earth, to hide in dark caves where neither light nor sound could go. But a glowworm that lived in the cave made it all too bright. By its lantern he saw the hidden mysterious forces working. Through tiny paths warmth and nourishment ran to be near the surface that baby seeds might germinate, live and flourish for man's benefit. He saw great forests draw their strength from the very Earth into which he had burrowed, to fall again in death into its kindly arms and so to change into carbon and remain stored away for man's future comfort. Then the man with the dead soul could live in earth no longer, and neither could he go to the beasts, to the air, or to the waters.
"I will return to my desert," he said, "for there is more of evil in the gold and diamonds than anywhere else."
So he went back where the gold still shone from the veins in the cliffs and the diamonds twinkled in the pitiless sun rays. But a throne had been raised on a hillock and a king sat thereon with a crown on his head and a trident in his hand.
"Who art thou who invadest my desert?" asked the man.
"Thy master," answered the king.
"And who is my master?" asked the man.
"The spirit of evil."
"Then would I dwell with thee," said the man.
"Thou hast served me well and thou art welcome," said the king. "Behold!"
He stretched forth the trident and demons peopled the desert.
"These are thy companions. Thou shalt dwell with them, and without torture, unless thy evil deeds be turned to good to torture me. Know that thou hast passed from mortal life, and thy deeds of evil have brought thee my favor. If thou hast been successful in reaping the evil thou has sown, thou shalt be my friend. But know that for every good thing that comes from it, thou shalt be tortured with whips of scorpions."
So the man with the dead soul walked through rows of demons with whips in their hands; but no arm was raised to strike, for he had sown his evil well and the king did not frown on him.
Then one day a single whip of scorpions fell upon his shoulders. Pain-racked he looked at the king and saw that his face was twisted with agony: then he knew that somewhere an evil deed of his own had been turned to good. And even while he looked the whips began to fall mercilessly from all sides and the king, frantic with agony, cried out:
"Tear aside the veil. Let him see."
In an instant the whips ceased to fall and the man with the dead soul saw all the Earth before him—and understood. A generation had passed since he had gone, but his keen eye sought and found his wealth. The finger of God had touched it and behold good had sprung from it everywhere. It was building temples to the mighty God where the poor could worship; and the hated Cross met his eye wherever he looked, dazzling his vision and blinding him with its light. Wherever the Finger of God glided the good came forth; the hungry were nourished, the naked clothed, the frozen warmed and the truth preached. Before him was the good growing from his impotent evil every moment and multiplying as it grew; and behind him he heard the howls of the tortured demons and the impatient hisses of the whips that hungered for his back.
Shuddering he closed his eyes, but a voice ringing on the air made him open them again. The voice was strangely like his own, yet purified and sweet with sincerity and goodness. It was singing the "Miserere," and the words beat him backward to the demons as they arose.
He caught a glimpse of the singer, a young man clad in a brown habit of penance with the cord of purity girt about him. His eyes looked once into the eyes of the man with the dead soul. They were the eyes of the one to whom he had left his legacy of hate and wealth and evil—his own and his only son.
Shuddering, the man with the dead soul awoke from his dream, and behold, he was lying in the desert where the gold tempted him from out of the great rocks and the diamonds shone in the sunlight. He looked at them not at all, but straightway he went to where good men sang the "Miserere" and were clad in brown robes. And as he went it came to pass that his dead soul leaped in the joy of a new resurrection.
THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A DOLLAR
I was born in a beautiful city on the banks of a charming river, the capital of a great nation. Unlike humans, I can remember no childhood, though it is said that I had a formative period in the care of artists whose brains conceived the beauty of my face and whose hands realized the glory of their dreams. But to them I was only a pretty thing of paper with line and color upon it. They gave me nothing else, and I really began to live only when some one representing the Great Nation stamped a seal upon me. Though a bloodless thing, yet I felt a throb of being. I lived, and the joy of it went rioting through me.
I remember that at first I was confined in a prison, bound with others by an elastic band which I longed to break that I might escape to the welcoming hands of men who looked longingly at me through the bars. But soon one secured me and I went out into a great, wide and very beautiful world.
Of the first months of my life I can remember but very little, only that I was feverishly happy in seeing, and particularly in doing. I was petted and admired and sought after. I went everywhere and did everything. So great was my popularity that some even bartered their peace of mind to obtain me, and others, forced to see me go, shed tears at the parting. Some, unable to have me go to them otherwise, actually stole me. But all the time I cared nothing, for I was living and doing—making men smile and laugh when I was with them and weep when I went away. It was all the same to me whether they laughed or cried. I only loved the power that was in me to make them do it and I believed that the power was without limit.
I was not yet a year old when I began to lose my beauty. I noticed it first when I fell into the hands of a man with long hair and pointed beard, who frowned at me and said: "You poor, faded, dirty thing, to think that I made you!" But I did not care. He had not made me. It was the Great Nation. Anyhow I could still do things and make even him long for me. So I was happy.
I was one year and a half old when I formed my first great partnership with others of my kind, and it came about like this: I had been in the possession of a poor woman who had guarded me for a week in a most unpleasant smelling old purse, when I heard a sharp voice ask for me—nay, demand me, and couple the demand with a threat that my guardian should lose her home were the demand refused. I was given over, I hoped, to better quarters, but in this I was sadly disappointed, for my new owner confined me in a strong but ill-favored box where thousands like myself were growing mouldy and wrinkled, away from the light of day. Sometimes we were released at night to be carefully counted by candle-light, but that was all. Thus we who were imprisoned together formed a partnership, but even then we were not strong enough to free ourselves. One night the box was opened with a snap and I saw the thin, pale face of my master looking down at us. He selected me and ninety-nine of my companions and placed us outside the box.
"There's the money," he said, "as I told you. It's all yours. Are you satisfied now?" I looked across the table at a young girl with a white, set face that was very, very beautiful. She did not answer.
"If you want it why don't you take it?" he snarled at her. "I can tell you again that there is nothing else for you."
The girl had something in her hand that I saw. I see more than most men. The thing she had made a sharp noise and spit a flame at him. He fell across the table and something red and warm went all over me. I began to be unhappy, for I thought I saw that there was something in the world that could not be bought. For him I cared nothing.
It was strange that after my transfers I was at last used to pay the judge who tried the girl. I was in the judge's pocket when he sentenced her to death. He said: "May the Lord have mercy on your soul." But I knew, for I told you I could see more than most men, that he didn't believe in the Lord or in souls. He left the court to spend me at a ——, but I think that I will not mention that shameful change. There was nothing strange about my falling into the hangman as part of his pay. I had been in worse hands in the interim.
I saw her die. Not a word did she say about the man she killed, though it might have saved her to tell of the mock marriage and the other things I knew she could reveal. She thought it better to die, I suppose, than be shamed. So she died—unbought. It made me still more unhappy to think of it at all. The dark stain never left me, but I cared nothing for that. What troubled was that I knew she wanted me, was starving for what I could buy, but spurned me and died rather than take me. There was something that had more power than I possessed.
I made up my mind to forget, so my next effort was the greatest I had yet made—my partnership with millions of others. I traveled long distances over and over again. I dug gold from the earth and so produced others like myself. I built railroads, skyscrapers, steamships and great public works. I disguised myself, in order to enhance my power, under new forms of paper and metal, coin, drafts, checks, orders and notes. Indeed I scarcely knew myself when I returned to the bill with the red stain upon it. My partners were nearly all with us one day when the master came in with a man and pointed us out to him. The man shook his head. It was a great, massive head, good to look at. My master talked a long time with him but he never changed. Then he placed a great roll of us in his hand. He threw us down, kicked us, and went out without a look back. I was more unhappy than ever. He had spurned me, though I knew by his look that he wanted me. I felt cursed. I had not much power at all. There was another thing I could not buy.
But a curse came in good earnest two days later. The terror of that has never left me. I saw a man die who loved me better than his honor or his God. He refused, dying, to give me back to the man from whom he had stolen me. The priest who stood by his bed implored him. He refused and the priest turned from him without saying the words of absolution. When the chill came on him he hissed and spit at us, and croaked his curses, but the death rattle kept choking them back into him, only to have him vomit them into our faces again and again till he died. The priest came back and looked at him.
"Poor fool!" he said to him, but to me and my companions he said: "YOU sent him to Hell."
Ah! What a power that was, but while I rejoiced in it I was not glad enough. He could have conquered had he only willed it. I knew he was my master long before I mastered him.
His dissipated and drunken children fought for us beside his very bed. I was wrenched from one hand to the other, falling upon the dirty floor to be trampled on again and again. When the fight ended I was torn and filthy, so that, patched and ugly, my next master sent me back to the great capital to be changed; to have the artists work again on me and restore my beauty. They did it well, but no artist could give me new life.
Again I went forth and fell into the hands of a good man. I knew he was good when I heard him speak to me and to those who were with me. "God has blessed me," he said, "with riches and knowledge and strength, but I am only His steward. This money like all the rest shall be spent in His service." Then we were sent out, thousands of us, returning again and again, splitting into great and small parties, but all coming and going hither and thither on errands of mercy.
Now I felt my love of doing return. Never did I now see a tear that I did not dry. Never did I hear a sigh that I did not change to a laugh; never a wound that I did not heal; never a pain that I did not soothe; nor a care I did not lighten. Where the sick were found, I visited them; where the poor were, I bought them bread. Out on the plains and in the desert I lifted the Cross of Hope and the Chalice of Salvation. To the dying I sped the Minister of Pardon. Into the darkness and the shadow of death I sent the Light of love and hope and truth, till, rich in the deeds of mercy I did in my master's name, I felt the call to another deathbed—his own. I saw my companions flying from the bounds of the great earth to answer the call. They knew he needed them now with the rich interest of good deeds they had won for him. Fast they came and the multitude of them filled him with wonder. The enemy who hated him pointed to them in derision. "Gold buys hell, not heaven," he laughed, but we stood around the bed and the enemy could not pass us. Then we, and deeds we did for him at his command, began to pray and the prayer was like sweetest music echoing against the very vault of heaven; and other sounds, like the gentle tones of harps, were wafted over us, swelling louder and louder till all seemed changed to a thousand organs, with every stop attuned to the praying. They were the voices of the children from parts and regions where we had lifted the Cross. One by one they joined the mighty music till on the wings of the melody the master was borne aloft, higher and higher as new voices coming added of their strength. I watched till he was far above and still rising to heights beyond the ken of dreams.
An Angel touched me.
"Be thou clean," he said, "and go, I charge thee, to thy work. Thy master is not dead, but only begins his joy. While time is, thou shalt work for him and thy deeds of good shall be his own. Wherever thou shalt go let the Cross arise that, under its shadow, the children may gather and the song find new strength and new volume to lift him nearer and nearer the Throne."
So I am happy that I have learned my real power; that I can do what alone is worth doing—for His sake.
LE BRAILLARD DE LA MAGDELEINE
This is the story that the old sailor from Tadousac told me when the waves were leaping, snapping, and frothing at us from the St. Lawrence, and over the moan of the wind and the anger of the waters rose the wail of the Braillard de la Magdeleine.
"You hear him? Every storm he calls so loud. I think of my own baby when I hear him, always the same, always so sorrowful. Poor baby!
"Yes, it is a baby. Across there you might see, but the storm darkens everything, yonder toward Gaspe, where the little mother lived—pauvre mere. She was only a child, innocent and good and happy, when he came—the great lord, the Grand Seigneur, from France—came with the Commandant to Quebec and then to Tadousac.
"She loved him, loved him and forgot—forgot her father and mother—forgot the good name they gave her—forgot the innocence that made her beautiful—forgot the pure Mother and the good God, for him and his love. She went to Quebec with him, but the Cure had not blessed them in the church.
"Then the baby came. That is the baby who cries out there in the storm. The Grand Seigneur killed the little baby, killed it to save her from disgrace, killed it without baptism, and it cries and wails out there, pauvre enfant.
"The mother? She is here, too, in the storm. She has been here for more than two hundred years listening to her baby cry. Poor mother. The baby calls her and she wanders through the storm to find him. But she never sees, only hears him cry for her—and God. Till the great Day of Judgment will the baby cry, and she—pauvre mere—will pay the price of her sin, pay it out of her empty mother heart and hungry mother arms, that will not be filled. You hear the soft wind from the shore battle with the great wind from the Gulf? Perhaps it is she, pauvre mere—perhaps.
"The Grand Seigneur? He never comes, for he died unrepentant and unpardoned. The lost do not return to Earth and Hope. He never comes. Only the mother comes—the mother who weeps and seeks, and hears the baby cry."
 Near the mouth of the St. Lawrence can be heard a sound like wailing whenever there is a great storm. The people call it Le Braillard de la Magdeleine and countless tales are told concerning it.
THE LEGEND OF DESCHAMPS
From Tadousac to the far-off Lake of Saint John the rock-bound Saguenay rolls through a mystic country, sublime in natural beauty, and alive with traditions, legends and folk-lore tales. Ghosts of the past people its shores, phantom canoes float down the river of mystery; and disembodied spirits troop back to earth at the dreamer's call; traders, trappers, soldiers, women strong in love and valor, heroes in the long ago, and saintly missionaries offering up mortal life that savages may know the Christian's God.
Beauty, mysticism and music—music in all things, from the silver flow of the river to the soft notes of the native's tongue, and dominating all, simple faith and deep-rooted, God-implanted patriotism.
Such was French Canada, the adopted country of Deschamps the trapper, a native of old France, who made his home in Tadousac while Quebec was yet a growing city; and, caring nothing for toil or hardship, gradually grew to be a grand monsieur in the estimation of the people about him. He loved his country well and, when war came, sent forth three sturdy sons to help repel the British foe. Many were the tears the patriot shed, because age forbade the privilege of shouldering musket and marching himself.
Weary months dragged by before tidings came. Quebec had fallen. The gallant Montcalm had passed through the Gate of Saint John to a hero's rest, and two of the trapper's sons lay dead on the Plains of Abraham. They had died bravely, as Deschamps hoped they would, with their faces to the foe, and with a whispered message of love to the old father at Tadousac.
And Pascal, the best beloved?
Pascal was—a traitor!
The blood of Deschamps in the veins of a traitor! Wife, daughter and gallant sons had been riven from him by death and the Christian's hope lightened the; mourner's desolation. But disgrace! Neither earth nor heaven held consolation for such wrong as his. Deschamps brooded on his woe; alone he endured his agony, giving utterance to his despair in the words: "France! Pascal! Traitor!"
Years passed and the trapper lived on, a senile wreck, ever brooding on defeat, then breaking into fierce invective. Misery had isolated him from his kind; the grand monsieur was the recluse of Tadousac. One day he disappeared from his lonely cabin and no one knew whither he had gone.
Treason had purchased prosperity for the recreant son. Wealth and honors were his and an English wife, a haughty woman of half-noble family, who completed the work of alienation. Traitorous deed, kindred and race were all forgotten, and when the joy-bells rang for the birth of an heir there was revel in the magnificent mansion of Pascal Deschamps.
"Summon our friends," said the happy father. "A son to the house of Deschamps! Let his baptism be celebrated as becomes the heir of wealth, power and position."
So heralds went forth from town to town, making known the tidings, but bore no message to the lonely grandsire in Tadousac.
"The curse is lifted!" said the pious peasants, mindful of Pascal's treason. "A child at last! The good God has forgiven him."
From Quebec to Malbaie came so-called friends, English who despised his treachery, French who hated his name, but courtiers all; and with them came an unbidden guest, an aged trapper, unshorn and roughly clad, who lurked in the shadows of the great hall, and whispered ever: "France! Pascal! Traitor!"
Beautiful as an angel was the baby heir, fair with the patrician beauty of his English mother, strong of limb as befitted the trapper's descendant. Unconscious of the homage paid him, he slept in his nurse's arms, his baptismal robes sweeping the floor.
"A sturdy fellow, my friends," said his laughing sponsor. "An English Deschamps."
"An English Deschamps!" cried the English guests, pleased with the conceit. "Long may his line endure."
"A traitor Deschamps!" said a voice instinct with wrath. "Unhappy man, your taint is in him!"
The revelers shrank back appalled, as from the shadows came the unbidden guest and stood among them, his mien majestic with the dignity of sorrow. Pascal alone recognized him and forced his ashen lips to speak the word: "Father."
"Yes, your father, unhappy boy; unlettered, old and broken with the burden of your disgrace, but loyal still to God and country. I have guarded those great virtues well, for God gave them to me, and I would have transmitted them to my posterity, and linked the name of Deschamps forever with patriotism and Faith. But your treachery has destroyed my hope and smirched the memory of your brothers, whose names are written on the roll of martyrs to their Faith and country. Ah, Pascal, how I loved you! And your son? An English Deschamps you say! A son born to perpetuate his father's degradation! No, Pascal, I shall save my honor! Your traitor blood shall never taint posterity. You may live your life of misery, but you shall live it alone."
And snatching the child from its nurse's arms the old trapper passed from the house and had reached his canoe before the stupefied revelers were roused into pursuit. But they had no boats. The old trapper had driven holes through the sides of every one but his own.
With swift strokes Deschamps paddled down the St. Lawrence, through the rocky entrance to the Saguenay, and over its dark waters till a harbor was reached in a cleft of the coast. Here the madman landed, climbed to the summit of the rock, and laying down the boy, kindled a fire of driftwood. "I may see his face," he muttered. "The last of my line! The English cross shows! The strain shows! I must wash it out! Hush, my little one, thy grandfather guards thee; soon shalt thou sleep in my arms—arms that cradled thy father, and shall hold thee forever. I, who was ever gentle, who spared the birds and beasts, and sorrowed with the trapped beaver, will spare thee, too, my baby—will save thee from thy father. Here where the wind speaks of freedom; here where the river even in its anger, as to-night, whispers peace; here where Deschamps worked and hoped; here where Deschamps sorrowed and mourned; here, little one, shall we rest together. Child, for you and me life means disgrace; the better part is death and freedom."
A leap from the rock! The baptismal robes, fluttering white like angels' wings, dipped to the surface and disappeared. The race of Deschamps was ended. The black water of Saguenay was its pall, the storm its requiem.
THE THOUSAND DOLLAR NOTE
The three men who sat together around the little library table of the Rectory felt the unpleasant tension of a half-minute of dead silence. The big burly one, with his feet planted straight on the carpet, passed his tongue over his lips and nervously folded and opened the paper in his hands. The tall young chap with creased trousers kept crossing and re-crossing his legs. Neither of them looked at the young priest, who ten minutes before had welcomed them with a merry laugh and had placed them in the most comfortable chairs of his little bookish den, as cordially as if they were the best friends he had in the world. Now the young priest looked old and the half-minute had done it. He was just an enthusiastic boy when the contractor and architect arrived; but he was a care-filled man now, as he sat and nervously passed a handkerchief over his forehead, to find it wet, though the room was none too warm. He seemed to be surmounting an actual physical barrier when he spoke to the big man.
"I do not quite see, Mr. McMurray" (it had been "John" ten minutes before), "I do not quite see," he repeated anxiously, "how I can owe you so much. You know our contract was plain, and the bid that I accepted from you was six thousand eight hundred dollars."
"Yes, sur; yes, sur; it was, sur," answered McMurray with shifting embarrassment, "but you know these other things were extras, sur."
"But I did not order any extras, Mr. McMurray," urged the priest.
"Yes, sur; yes, sur, you did, sur. I told you the foundations was sandy, sur, and that we had to go down deeper than the specifications called fur. It cost in labor, sur,"—McMurray did not seem to be enjoying his explanation—"fur diggin' and layin' the stone. Then you know, sur, it takes more material to do it, sur. You said, yes—to go ahead, sur."
"But you did not tell me it would cost more," urged the priest.
"No, sur; no, sur; I didn't, sur; but a child would know that. Now look here at the plans."
"Just a minute, Mr. McMurray," broke in the architect, suavely. "Let me explain. You see, Father, I was your representative both as architect and superintendent of the building. I know that McMurray's bill of extras is right. I passed on them and everything he did was necessary. There are extras, you know, on every building."
"But," said the priest, "I told you I had only eight thousand dollars, and that the furnishings would take all over the amount called for by the contract. You can not expect to get blood out of a stone. Here now you say I must pay a thousand dollars more; but where can I get the money?"
"Well, Father," said the architect, "I don't think you will have to worry much about that. You priests always manage somehow, and you got off cheap enough. That church is worth ten thousand dollars, if it's worth a cent; and McMurray did you a clean, nice job. Now one thousand dollars won't hurt you; the Bishop will be reasonable and you will get the money in a year or so."
"It looks as if I had to get it, somehow. I don't see how I can do anything else," answered the priest. "This thing has sort of stunned me. Give me one month and let me do my best. I wish I had never started that building at all."
"Yes, sur; yes, sur," said McMurray quickly. "You can have a month, sur. I am not a hard man, sur; but I've got to pay off me workers, you know. But take the month, sur, take it—take it."
McMurray looked longingly at the door.
All three had arisen; but the priest's step had lost its spring as he escorted his visitors out.
Both of them were silent for the distance of a block away from the Rectory, and then McMurray said:
"Yes, sur; yes, sur; I feel like ——."
"I do too," broke in the architect. "I know what you were going to say. He took it pretty hard."
Not another word was spoken by either of them until the hotel was reached, and they had drowned the recollection of the young face, with the look of age upon it, in four drinks at the bar.
When the priest, with a slight look of relief, closed the door upon his visitors and bolted it after them, he had perhaps seen a little humor in the situation; but the bolting of the door was the only sign of it. His face was still grave when he stood, silent and stunned, staring at the bill on the table.
"The good Lord help me," he prayed. "One thousand dollars and the Bishop coming in two weeks! What can I say to him? What can I do?"
He pulled out a well thumbed letter from his pocket and read it to himself, though he knew every word by heart.
"DEAR FATHER RYAN,—I am pleased at your success, especially that you built the church, as I told you to, without debt. The congregation is too poor for any such burden. I will be there for the dedication on the 26th.
"And by the way. You may get ready for that change I spoke of. I am as good as my word, and will not delay about promoting you. The parish of Lansville is vacant. In a month you may consider yourself its pastor. In the meantime, I will look around to select one of the young men to take your place and begin the work of building a house. God bless you.
"Sincerely yours in Christ,
THOMAS, Bishop of Tolma.
"All these years," whispered the young priest, "all these years, I have waited for that place. I meant to have a home and mother with me, and at least enough to live on after my ten years of sacrifice; but one thousand dollars spoils it all. How can I raise it? I can not do it before the 26th and the Bishop will ask for my report. How can I tell him after that letter?"
He dropped the letter over the contractor's bill and sat down, with discouragement written on every line of his face. He was trying to think out the hardest problem of his life.
The town wherein Father Ryan had built his church had been for years on the down-grade, so far as religion was concerned. There were in it forty indifferent, because neglected, Catholic families. They had just enough religion left in them to desire a little more, and they had a certain pride left, too, in their Faith.
Father Ryan builded on that pride. It was a long and arduous work he had faced. But after ten years he succeeded in erecting the little church. His warnings to the architect had gone without heed; and he found himself plunged into what was for him an enormous debt, just at the time when promotion was assured.
All night long his problem was before him, and in the morning it was prompt to rise up and confront him.
After breakfast the door-bell rang. He answered it himself, to find two visitors on the steps. One was a very venerable looking old priest, who had a kindly way about him and who laid his grip very tenderly on the floor before he shook hands with Father Ryan. His companion looked vastly different as he flung a little satchel into the corner, and with a voice as big and hearty as his body informed his host that both had come to stay over Sunday.
"Barry and I have been off for two weeks and we got tired of it," said Father Fanning, the big man. "First vacation in ten years for both of us, but there is nothing to it. Barry got worrying over his school, and I got worrying over Barry, so there you are."
"But why didn't both of you go home?" asked Father Ryan.
"Home! confound it, that's the trouble. I would give anything to go on the other ten miles and get off the train at my little burg, and so would Barry, for that matter; but we were both warned to stay away until Wednesday—reception and all that sort of thing. So now we are going to stay here."
"That's all right," said Father Ryan. "I am glad to have you, but this is Saturday and to-morrow is Sunday, and—"
"Now, now, go easy, young man, go easy. I simply won't preach. It is no use asking me. I am on a vacation, I tell you. So is Barry. He won't talk, so I have to defend him. You wouldn't want a man to work on his vacation, would you?"
"Well, if you won't, you won't," replied Father Ryan, "but you will say the late Mass, anyhow? You'll have to do something for your board."
"All right, I will, then. Barry can say his Mass in private, and you say the first, yourself. Then you can preach as short and as well as you can, which is not saying much for you."
"Well, seeing that it is Seminary Collection Sunday," interrupted Father Ryan, "I won't lack for a subject."
Father Ryan had a great weakness for the Seminary, which was entitled to an annual collection in the entire Diocese. He had studied there for six years and, since his ordination, not one of his old professors had been changed. Then he knew his obligations to the Seminary; he was one of those who took obligations seriously. So Father Fanning was obliged, after hearing the sermon next day, to change his mind regarding his friend's ability to preach well. Father Ryan's discourse was an appeal, simple and heartfelt, for his Alma Mater.
He closed it very effectively: "I owe the Seminary, my dear friends," he said, "about all that I have of priestly equipment. Nothing that I may ever say or do can repay even a mite of the obligation that is upon me. As for you, and the other Catholics of this Diocese, you owe the Seminary for nine-tenths of the priests who have been successfully carrying on God's work in your midst. The collection to-day is for that Seminary. In other words, it is for the purpose of helping to train priests who shall take our places when we are gone. On the Seminary depends the future of the Church amongst you: therefore, the future of religion in your families. Looking at this thing in a selfish way, for the present alone, there is perhaps no need of giving your little offering to this collection; but if you are thinking of your children and your children's children, and the future of religion, not only in this community but all over our State, and even in the Nation, you will be generous—even lavish, in your gifts. This is a poor little parish. We have struggled hard, God knows, to build our church, and we need every dollar we can scrape together; but I would rather be in need myself than refuse this appeal. I am entitled by the laws of the Diocese to take out of the collection the average amount of the Sunday collection. I would be ungrateful if I took a cent, so I don't intend to. Every dollar, every penny that you put into this collection shall be sent to the Bishop for the Seminary; to help him educate worthy priests for our Diocese."
After Mass, Father Fanning shook hands with the preacher.
"I feel ashamed of myself, Ryan," he said, "that I never looked at things in such a light before. That was a great appeal you made. My collection is probably postponed until next Sunday, when I get home to take it up; and I tell you I am going to use every bit of that sermon that I can remember."
Father Ryan had had little time to think over his troubles since his two friends arrived; but, somehow, they seemed to worry him now that the sermon was off his mind. The one thousand dollar debt was weighing upon him even when he went to the door of the church to meet some of the people.
A stranger brushed past him—a big, bluff, hearty looking man, all bone and muscle, roughly dressed and covered with mud. There was a two-horse rig from the livery, at the curb. The stranger started for it; but turned back on seeing the priest.
"I am a stranger here, Father," he said. "I have just come down from the mountains, where I have been prospecting. I have to drive over to Caanan to get the fast train. I find that you have no trains here on Sunday. I hadn't been to Mass for three months, for we have no place to go out there where I was; so it was a great consolation for me to drop in and hear a good sermon. And I tell you it was a good sermon. That was a great appeal you made."
Father Ryan could only murmur, "Thank you. You are not staying very long with us?"
"No, I can't stay, Father. I have to get to New York and report on what I found. I have about fourteen miles of mud before me now, and have driven twenty miles this morning. I don't belong around here at all. I live in New York; but I may be here a good deal later, and you are the nearest priest to me. Take this and put it in the collection."
The rough man shoved a note into Father Ryan's hand. By this time they both had reached the livery rig. A quick "Good-bye" from the visitor, and a "God bless you" from Father Ryan, ended the conversation.
The priest thrust the note into his pocket and returned to the house. When he entered the dining-room, Father Fanning was taking breakfast at the table. Father Barry was occupying himself with a book, which he found difficulty in reading, on account of the enthusiastic comments of his friend on Father Ryan's sermon.
"We were talking about you, Ryan," he said. "And there is no need of telling you what we had to say about you; but there is one thing I would like to ask. What's wrong with you since we came?"
"Why, nothing," said Father Ryan. "Haven't I treated you better than you deserve?"
"That is all right, that is all right," interrupted his big neighbor, "but there is something wrong. You were worried at first. Then you dropped it, but you started to worry again just as soon as you came out of the sanctuary. You were at it when we came in and you are at it now. Come, Ryan, let us know what it is. If it is money, well—"
Father Barry looked up quickly from his book and said: "Surely, it is not the new church, is it?"
The young pastor sat down in a chair at the table and looked at his friends, before he spoke. "Well, I never could keep a secret," he said. "Therefore, I suppose I never will be a trusted counselor of anybody, and must always be seeking a counselor for myself."
"I always hate a man who can keep a secret," said Father Fanning. "I always believe that the fellow who can keep a secret is the fellow you have to watch. You never know what he is thinking about, so nobody ever is sure of him. Don't be ashamed now of not being able to keep a secret, and don't worry yourself by keeping this one. Out with it."
"Well, it is about the church," said Father Ryan.
And he told his story.
"Well, of all the strange characters I ever met," said Father Fanning, "you certainly are the worst, Ryan. Here you are in a box about that thousand dollars and yet this morning you gave away your own share of the collection, besides booming the Seminary. Why man, the Seminary ought not ask anything from you, in your present condition. But there is no use trying to pound sense into you. What are you going to do about this? It is too much money for Barry and myself to take care of. Bless your heart, I don't think he has fifty dollars to his name and I wouldn't like to tell you the state of my finances. We have to think out some way. Maybe Barry can see the Bishop."
"Well, we'll have to stop thinking about it," said Father Ryan. "I might just as well settle down where I am. I certainly will not get very much of a promotion now. By the way, did you notice the big man, covered with mud, in the church?"
"No," said Father Fanning, "I did not notice him. Who was he? What about him?"
"He was a stranger," said Father Ryan, "and was very pleasant. He is a prospector from New York. He has been up in the mountains and away from church for the last three months. He must have found something up there, because he is going on to New York to meet his backers; at least, that is what I judged from his talk. He is driving over to Caanan to-day to catch the fast train."
"I wonder if he put anything in the collection?" said Father Fanning.
"No, he did not," answered the pastor, "but he gave it to me afterward and told me to put it in. By the way, here it is."
He pulled the note out of his pocket and laid it flat on the table. The three men gasped for breath. It was a thousand dollars.
Father Fanning was the first to find words. "Great Scott, Ryan," he said, "you ought to go out and thank God on your knees before the altar. Here is the end of your trouble. Why the man must be a millionaire."
Father Ryan's face was all smiles. "Yes," he said, "it is the end of my trouble. I never dreamed it would come to an end so easily. Thanks be to God for it."
The little old priest with the book in front of him seemed to have no comment to make. He let his two friends ramble on, both overjoyed at the good fortune that had extricated Father Ryan from his dilemma. But he was not reading. He was thinking. By and by he spoke.
"What did you say you preached on to-day, Father Ryan?"
"Why," broke in Fanning, "he preached on the Seminary. Didn't I tell you! And a good sermon—"
"Yes, I preached on the Seminary," said Father Ryan.
"But did I not hear Father Fanning say that you pledged every dollar that came into the collection to the Seminary."
"Why, surely," said Father Ryan, "but this did not come in through the collection."
"Yes," persisted Father Barry, "but did you not say that the strange man told you to put it into the collection?"
"Why—yes—yes, he did say something like that."
"Well, then," urged Father Barry, "is it not a question to be debated as to whether or not you can do anything else with the money?"
"Oh, confound it all, Barry," cried Father Fanning. "You are a rigorist. You don't understand this case. Now there's no use bringing your old syllogisms into this business. This man is in a hole. He has got to get out of it. What difference is it if I put my money in one pocket or in the other pocket. This all belongs to God anyhow. The thousand dollar note was given to the Church, and the most necessary thing now is to pay the debt on that part of it that's here. Why the Seminary doesn't need it. The old Procurator would drop dead if he got a thousand dollars from this parish."
"Well, so far as I can see," said Father Barry, "what you say does not change matters any. Father Ryan promised every dollar—and every cent for that matter—in that collection to the Seminary. This money forms part of the collection. I know perfectly well that most men would argue as you do, but this is a case of conscience. The money was given for a specific purpose, and in my judgment, if Father Ryan uses it for any other purpose than the one for which it was given, he simply will have to make restitution later on to the Seminary.
"That's an awful way of looking at things," said Father Fanning. "Confound it, I am glad I don't have to go to you for direction. Why, its getting worse instead of better, you are. The giver of this money would be only too glad to have it go to pay off the debt. What does he know about the Seminary? He was attending the little church out here, and whatever good he got from his visit came through Father Ryan and his people. He is under obligation to them first. Can't you see that it does not make any difference, after all. It is the same thing."
"No, it is not the same thing," said Father Barry. "Perhaps we are too much tempted to believe that gifts of this kind might be interchangeable. We are full of zeal for the glory of God at home, and that means that sometimes we unconsciously are full of zeal for our own glory. Look it up. I may be wrong, and I do not want to be a killjoy; but we would not wish our friend here to act first and do a lot of sorrowful thinking afterward."
It was Wednesday morning when the two visitors left, and the discussions only ended when the door closed upon them. There was not a theological book in Father Ryan's library left unconsulted.
When Father Fanning was at the door, grip in hand, he said: "Well, I guess we have come to no conclusion, Ryan. You will have to finish it, yourself, and decide for yourself. But there is one thing I can testify to, besides the stubbornness of my venerable friend here, and that is that I have learned more theology out of this three-day discussion than I learned in three years previously. There is nothing like a fight to keep a fellow in training."
His friends gone, Father Ryan went straight to his desk and wrote this letter to his Bishop:
YOUR LORDSHIP—I am sending herewith enclosed my Seminary collection. It amounts to $1,063.10. You may be surprised at the first figure; but there was a thousand dollar note handed to me for that particular collection. I congratulate the Seminary on getting it.
"The church is ready for dedication as your Lordship arranged.
"Kindly wire me and I will meet you at the train."
Then Father Ryan went to bed. He did not expect to sleep very much that night; but in spite of his worry, and to his own great surprise, he had the most peaceful sleep of all the years of his priesthood.
The church was dedicated. The Bishop, severe of face, abrupt in manner, but if the truth were known, kindly at heart, finished his work before he asked to see the books of the parish.
Father Ryan was alone with his Lordship when the time for that ordeal came. He handed the books to the Bishop and laid a financial statement before him. The Bishop glanced at it, frowned and then read it through. The frown was still on his face as he looked up at the young priest before him.
"This looks as if you had been practicing a little deceit upon me, Father Ryan," he said. "You wrote me that the church was finished without debt."
"I thought so, my Lord, when I wrote you the letter. I had the money on hand to pay the exact amount of the contract. The architect and the builder came to me later and informed me that there had been extras, of which I knew nothing, amounting to one thousand dollars. I am one thousand dollars behind. I assure your Lordship that it was not my fault, except that perhaps I should have known more about the tactics of the men I was dealing with. I will have to raise the money some way; and, of course, I do not expect your Lordship to send me to Lansville. I am sorry, but I have done the best I could. I will know more about building next time."
The Bishop had no word to say. Though the frown appeared pretty well fixed upon his face, it did not seem quite natural. There was a twinkle in his eye that only an expert on bishops could perceive.
"But you sent me one thousand dollars more than I could have expected only this week, for the Seminary," he said. That surely indicates that you have some people here who might help you out of your dilemma."
"I am sorry, your Lordship," said Father Ryan, "but it does not indicate that at all. I have no rich people. All of my people have done the best they could for the new church. I will have to give them a rest for a year and stay here and face the debt. The man who gave the thousand dollar bill was a stranger—a miner. I do not know him at all. He did not even give his name, but said the money was for the collection. I could not find any authority for keeping it for the church here, though, to be candid, I wanted to do it. That is all."
The Bishop still kept his eye on him. "Of course you know that your appointment to Lansville was conditional."
"I understand that, your Lordship," said Father Etan. "You have no obligation to me at all in that regard."
"Will you kindly step to the door and ask my Chancellor to come in?"
When the Chancellor entered, the Bishop said to him: "Have you the letter I received from Mr. Wilcox?"
The Chancellor handed the Bishop the letter, who unfolded it and, taking another glance at the dejected young pastor, read it to him. It was very much to the point.
"DEAR BISHOP,—You may or may not know me, but I knew you when you were pastor of St. Alexis in my native town. The fact is, you baptized me. I would not even have known where you were, had it not been for a mistake I made this morning. I came down from the mountains and went to Mass at Ashford. When I was going away I gave the young priest a thousand dollar note. If you recognize my name, you will understand that it was not too much for me to give, for though I am a stingy sort of fellow, the Lord has blessed me with considerable wealth. I remember saying to the young priest that I wanted him to put it in the collection, which as I remember now, was for the Seminary. I figured it out that he would be sending the collection to you.
"Now, I don't like to disappoint you, dear Bishop, but I did not intend that money to go to the Seminary, but to the pastor for the little parish. Later on, when developments start in the mountains, and they will start when I get back to New York, I may need that young priest to come up and take care of my men; so I want the money to go to his church, which, from what my driver told me coming over, needs it. I may take care of the Seminary later on, for I expect to be around your section of the country a great deal in the future.
Through tear-dimmed eyes Father Ryan saw all the sternness go out of the Bishop's face.
"Mr. Wilcox," said his Lordship, "is a millionaire many times over. He is one of the largest mine operators in the world. He likes to do things of this kind. You may go to Lansville, Father Ryan; but I think, if I were you, I would stay here. When Wilcox says things are going to move, they usually do. Think it over and take your choice. Here is your thousand dollars. I do not find it a good thing, Father, to praise people; especially those I have to govern, so I am not going to praise you for what you have done. It was right, and it was your duty. I appreciate it."
Mr. O'Brien of No. 32 Chestnut street had his entire family with him, as he hurried to the eight o'clock Mass. Mrs. O'Brien was already tired, though she had gone only a block from the house; for Elenora, who always was tardy, had to be dressed in a hurry. Then Tom had come down stairs with an elegant part to that portion of his hair which was right above his forehead, but the back section, which the mirror did not show, was tousled and unkempt. It took an effort on Mrs. O'Brien's part to make the children presentable; and hurry plus effort was not good for—well, for folks who do not weigh as little as they did when they were younger.
Dr. Reilly met the O'Briens at the corner.
"Hello," he called, "it's the whole family, bedad. What brings ye all to the 'eight o'clock'?"
Mr. O'Brien answered his family doctor only when the children were left behind where they could not hear: "It's Father Collins' turn to preach at the High Mass, Doc," he explained.
"Sure, it is," said the Doctor. "Faith, I forgot that. I was going to High Mass meself, but I ran over to see ye. Yes, it's his turn. Sure, the poor man puts me to sleep, and sleepin' in the House of God is neither respectful nor decorous. But what is a man to do?"
"He is the finest priest in the city," said Mr. O'Brien, looking back to see if his regiment was following, "and the worst preacher. I can't sit still and listen to him. He loses his voice the minute he gets before the people, and some day I think he'll pull the pulpit down, trying to get his words out. Faith, Doc, he makes me want to get up and say it for him."
"Well, O 'Brien, I believe you could say it, judging from the way you lecture us at the council meetings. And that brings me to the business I had when I ran off to see you. Couldn't you let the Missis take care of the children at this Mass? McGarvey wants to talk over something with us. He's sick and can't get out. We'd both go to the 'nine o'clock' and that will miss the sermon, too."
Mr. O'Brien nodded his head complacently. They had reached the front of the church, and whom should they meet but Father Collins hurrying out from the vestry on his way to the rectory across the street.
"Good morning, Father," cried the children in chorus, just as they did when one of the priests visited their room in the parochial school. The two men touched their hats in greeting. Father Collins returned the salute. He crossed the street quickly and ran up stairs to his own room in the rectory, but did not notice that O'Brien and the doctor went past the church.
Be it known that Father Collins was the third assistant. He had been ordained one year. The first assistant, who was still fasting, with the obligation of singing High Mass upon him, was installed in Father Collins' favorite chair, when the owner of it entered.
"Come in, come in, Collins, come in to your own house," the first assistant called. "Come in, man, and be at home. I couldn't sleep, so I had to get up and wait around, hungry enough; but," he had caught the expression on his friend's face, "what is the matter?"
"Oh, nothing much, nothing much," replied Father Collins, "only I see the whole parish is turning out to-day for the eight o'clock Mass. The O'Briens and Doctor Reilly have just gone in. You know, they always go to High Mass."
"Which," remarked Father Grady, "is no compliment either to my singing, or your Eminence's preaching, or to both."
"Oh, your singing is all right," assured Father Collins.
"Well," said Father Grady, "I accept the correction. I am a modest man, but I must acknowledge that I can sing—at least, relatively speaking, for I haven't very much to compete against. However, if it is not my singing, then it must be your preaching."
"It is, it is," answered his friend, with just a touch of shakiness in his voice. "Look here Grady, you know I made a good course in the Seminary. You know I am not an ignoramus and you know that I work hard. I prepare every sermon and write it out; when the manuscript is finished I know it by heart. Now, here is the sermon for to-day. Look at it and if you love me, read it. Tell me what is wrong with it."
Father Grady took the papers and began to look them over, while Father Collins picked up a book and pretended to be interested in it. In truth, he was glancing at his companion very anxiously over the top, until the manuscript had been laid down.
"My dear Collins, you are right," said Father Grady. "It is a good sermon. I wish I could write one half as good. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it."
"But," urged Father Collins, "I shall spoil it."
"Well," said his friend, "candor compels me to acknowledge that you probably shall. I don't know why. Can't you raise your voice? Can't you have courage? The people won't bite you. You can talk well enough to the school children. You can talk well enough to me. Why can't you stand up and be natural? Just be yourself and talk to them as you talk to us. That is the whole secret."
"It is my nervousness, Grady," said Father Collins. "I am afraid the minute I enter the church to preach. When I open my mouth, I lose my voice out of fear. That is what it is—fear. I am simply an arrant coward. I tell you, Grady, I hate myself for it."
"Now, look here," said his companion earnestly, "you are not a coward. You can preach. It is in you, and it will come out, yet. I call this sermon nothing short of a masterpiece. If you can not brace up now, the occasion will come to loosen your tongue. It surely will."
"This is the worst day I have had," groaned poor Father Collins. "I am shaking like a leaf, already. Look here, Grady, do me a favor just this once. You preach so easily. You can get up a sermon in half an hour. You have nothing to do until half past ten. Now, let me go out and make the announcements and read the Gospel at the nine o'clock Mass. Most of the children will be there and I can say a few words to them. You preach at High Mass."
"Well, I ought not to do it," said Father Grady, thoughtfully, "for if I do such things, it may spoil you. You ought not to give way, but—you are white as a sheet, man. Well, I am going to do it this time, so I had better look over something."
Father Collins was overjoyed. He could not help it. He went to the church to prepare for the Mass and prompt to the minute he was in the sanctuary.
The Mass had proceeded as far as the end of the first Gospel, when the Sacristan came to the priest's side and whispered a message. He was plainly excited, and trying hard to conceal it from the congregation. Father Collins leaned over to hear what he had to say.
"Keep your head, Father. There is a fire in the church basement now, right under your feet. The firemen are working on it, but can't put it out. We have stopped people from coming in to stampede the others. The galleries are filled with the children, and we have to get them out, first. If there is a rush the children will be killed at the bottom of the gallery stairs, where they meet the people from the body of the church out in that vestibule. The chief sent me to you to tell you to go on preaching and hold the grown folks down stairs for ten minutes. The firemen will get the little ones out without noise or fuss, if you can keep the attention of the people. I'll whisper 'all right' to you when they are gone. Then you tell the rest to file out quietly. It is the only chance you have to save those children in this ramshackle old building, so you preach for all you are worth and don't let the people look up at the galleries. There will be hundreds of little ones owe their lives to you, Father, if you can hold the fort."
The Sacristan left and, with a gasp of horror, the priest thought of the galleries emptying into the little vestibule and meeting a rush of the people from the church.
Father Collins took off his chasuble and maniple and placed them upon the altar. He wondered at his own coolness. He advanced to the front of the altar platform, opening his book; but he closed it again coolly. Then, in a clear voice, that reached every corner of the building, which he could not believe was his own, he began.
"On second thought, my friends," he said, "I will not read the Epistle or the Gospel to-day. I have a few words to say to you, though a sermon is not expected at this Mass."
In a front pew Doctor Reilly and Mr. O'Brien groaned softly. They had been caught by the dreaded sermon.
Father Collins announced his text. The congregation was surprised that it was to have a sermon instead of the usual reading, but it was more surprised at the change in Father Collins; so much, indeed, that it was almost breathless. The priest glanced up at the gallery, quickly, and saw that the children had begun to leave the rear pews. He had ten minutes to fill in. The people below could see only the front rows of the gallery, which in this church, built in the old style, ran on three sides. So Father Collins preached. It was the sermon he had prepared for the High Mass, but which he could not deliver. The beauty of it had been plain to Father Grady when he read it; but it was plainer to the enraptured congregation which sat listening to every syllable. Neither the Doctor nor Mr. O'Brien attempted to sleep. In fact there were no sleepers at all, for upright in the pews sat every man and woman, hanging on the preacher's words.
In the midst of his discourse Father Collins detected the smell of smoke and thought that all was lost. But he made another effort. His voice rose higher and his words thundered over the heads of the astonished people, who were so rapt that they could not even ask themselves what had wrought the miracle. If they smelled the smoke, they gave no sign, for a born orator, who had found himself, held them in the grip of his eloquence. Father Collins took another glance at the gallery. The front row would go in a moment. Above all, the people must not be distracted now. Something must be done to hold their attention when the noise of the moving of that front row would fall upon their ears. In two minutes all would be well. That two minutes were the greatest of the priest's life. Into them centered every bit of intensity, earnestness and enthusiasm he possessed. He rapidly skipped part of his sermon and came to the burst of appeal, with which he was to close. The people could see him tremble in every limb. His face was as white as his surplice. His eyes were wide open and shining as if he were deeply moved by his own pleadings. He quickly descended the steps of the altar and advanced to the railing. The congregation did not dare to take its eyes away from him. The noise of the departing children fell upon unheeding ears. The intensity of the man had been transferred to his listeners. A whispered 'all right' reached the priest from the lips of the Sacristan behind, and Father Collins stopped. His voice dropped back to the tone with which he began his discourse. It was a soft, musical voice, that people till now did not know he possessed.
"My friends," he said, "keep your seats for a moment. Those in the front pews will go out quietly now. Let one pew empty at a time. Do not crowd. There is no danger, at present, but a fire has broken out below, and we want to take every precaution for safety."
"Stop," he thundered, and his voice went up again. "You, who are leaving from the center of the church, remain in your seats. Do not start a rush. Do not worry about the children, they are all out. Look at the galleries. They are empty. The children were cool. Do not let the little ones shame you. Now, give the old and feeble a chance."
With voice and gesture, he directed the movement of the people, and then, the church emptied, he looked toward the vestry door. The Sacristan was there.
"Hurry, Father," he called, tearing off his cassock. "The floor here may give way any moment. Father Grady has the Blessed Sacrament. Hurry!"
They were out before the floor fell and the flames burst into the big church, which, poor old relic of the days of wood, went down into the ashes of destruction.
Mr. O'Brien of 32 Chestnut street walked home with Dr. Reilly, but neither of them had much to say. Both paused at the corner where their ways parted.
Then Mr. O'Brien spoke: "What did you think of the sermon, Doc?"
"I think," said the doctor, deliberately, "that though it cost us the price of a new church, 'twas well worth it."
THE YANKEE TRAMP
They were old cronies, M. le Cure de St. Eustace and M. le Cure de Ste. Agatha, though the priestly calling seemed all they had in common. The first was small of stature, thin of face, looking like a mediaeval, though he was a modern, saint; the other tall, well filled out like an epicure, yet not even Bonhomme Careau, the nearest approach to a scoffer in the two parishes, ever went so far as to call the Cure of Ste. Agatha by such an undeserved name, since the good, fat priest had the glaring fault of stinginess which all the country knew but never mentioned. They loved him too much to mention his faults. He was good to the sick and faithful to their interests, though—"Il etait fort tendu, lui, mais bien gentil, tout de meme." Besides, the Cure of St. Eustace was too generous. Every beggar got a meal from him and some of them money, till he spoiled the whole tribe of them and they became so bold—well there was serious talk of protesting to the Cure of St. Eustace about his charities.
The garden of St. Eustace was the pleasantest place on earth for both the cronies after Vespers had been sung in their parishes on Sunday afternoons, and the three miles covered from the Presbytery of Ste. Agatha to the Presbytery of St. Eustace. On a fine day it was delightful to sit under the great trees and see the flowers and chat and smoke, with just the faint smell of the evening meal stealing out of Margot's kingdom. It was a standing rule that this meal was to be taken together on Sunday and the visit prolonged far into the night—until old Pierre came with the worn-looking buggy and carried his master off about half-past ten. "Grand Dieu. Quelle dissipation!" Only on this night did either one stay up after nine.
What experiences were told these Sunday nights! Big and authoritative were the words of M. le Cure de Ste. Agatha. Stern and unbending were his comments and the accounts of his week's doings. And his friend's? Bien, they were not much, but "they made him a little pleasure to narrate"—what he would tell of them.
This night they were talking of beggars, a new phase of the old question. They had only beggars in Quebec, mild old fellows mostly. A few pennies would suffice for them, and when they got old there were always the good Sisters of the Poor to care for them. There were no tramps.
"This fellow was different, mon ami," the Cure de St. Eustace was saying, "he would almost bother you yourself with all your experience. He came from over the line—from the States, and he had a remarkable story."
"Bien oui, they all have," broke in his friend, "but I send them to Marie and she feeds them—nothing more. They can not trap me with any of their foolish tales. It is not charity to give to them. I am hard of heart about such things, and very sensible."
"Well, I will tell you about him. It will pass the time till dinner. I found the man seated on the gallery in front. He spoke only English. When I came up he arose and took off his cap, very politely for a Yankee too. But, God forgive me, I had no right to say that, for the Yankees are as the bon Dieu made them and they are too busy to be polite.
"'You are the priest?' he asked me.
"'Yes, Monsieur, I am.'
"'You speak English?'
"'Enough to understand. What is it?'
"'I am not a tramp, Father,'—he looked very weary and sad—'and it is not money; though I am very hungry. You will give me something? Thanks, but I want you to hear my story first. Yes, you can help—very much.'
"I gave him a seat and he dropped into it.
"'Father, do not be shocked if I tell you that I am just out of prison. I was discharged yesterday in New York and I lost no time in coming here. This is not my first visit. I was here ten years ago with my chum. We were burglars and we were running away after a big operation in New York. We had stolen $8,000 in money and valuables, and we had it all with us. We wanted to rest here in this quiet village till the storm would blow over. Among the valuables was a strange ring. I had never seen anything like it and my chum wanted it for himself, but we were afraid and took it to one of your jewelers—right down the street to the left—Nadeau was his name—to have it altered a little and made safe to wear. That little jeweler suspected us. I saw it at once and we were alarmed. He informed the constable of the ring matter. We were watched and then we saw that it would be better to go. We feared that the New York police would learn of us, so we took the stuff out three miles in the country one dark night and buried it. I know the spot, for it is near the old school where the road turns for Sherbrooke. Then we went West, to Michigan. We broke into a store there and we were arrested, but New York heard of the capture and the Michigan authorities gave us up. We were tried and a lawyer defended us by the Judge's order. He got us off with ten years in Sing Sing. I have been there till yesterday, as I told you. My chum? Well, that brings me to it. Pardon me. I did not intend to break down. He is dead. He died well. A priest converted him, and my chum repented of his life and begged me to change mine when I got out. I am going to do it, Father. I am, so help me God. I'll never forget his death. He called me and said: 'Bunky, that loot is worrying me. The priest says that it must be returned if the owner or his heirs can be found. If they can not it must be spent in works of charity. Promise me that you will go to St. Eustace and get it, Bunky, and give it back. Promise!'
"Then he broke down, mon ami, and I fear that I cried just a little too. It was sad, for he was a great strong man.
"When he could, he looked up and continued: 'Well, Father, I am here to do it. I want your help. May I have it?'
"I told him I would do what I could. He wanted me to take the money and give it to the owner. He would tell me his name. I was glad to aid the poor man who was so repentant.
"'All I want is a pick and shovel and a reliable man to go with me to-night. I can find the place,' he said.
"I offered to send the sexton with him and let him have the pick and shovel from the cemetery. I gave him food and thanked God as I watched him eat, that grace was working in his heart again.
"'I will wait for the man at seven to-night, Father,' he said when he was leaving. 'Let him meet me with the horse and buggy just outside of the town. If there is danger I will not see him, and he can return. I will take the pick and shovel now, and bring the stuff to you in a valise by 10 o'clock. Wait up for me.'
"He left and the sexton went to the road at seven, but did not see him. At 10 o'clock I heard him coming. It was very dark and he knocked sharply and quickly, as if afraid. I opened the door and he thrust a valise into my hand. It was heavy.
"'Here it is, Father. Keep it till morning when I will bring the key. The valise is locked. Give me something that I may buy a night's lodging and I will come back at seven.'
"I gave him the first note in my purse and he hurried away.
"Now I fear, mon ami, that I never quite overcame my childish curiosity, for I felt a burning desire to see all that treasure, especially the strange ring. I must root out that fault before I die or my purgatory will be long. I went to the kitchen where I had a good chisel, and I am sorry to confess that I opened the valise just a very little to see the heap of precious things. There was an old cigar-box and something heavy rolled in cotton. I thrust the chisel down till I opened the box. There was no treasure in it at all, but just a lot of iron-shavings. I felt that I had been fooled and I broke the valise open. The heavy stuff rolled in the cotton was only a lot of old coupling-pins from the railroad. I was disgusted with this sinner, this thief. But it was droll—it was droll—and I could scarcely sleep with laughing at the whole farce. I know that was sinful. I should have cried. But he was clever, that Yankee tramp."
"And the valise? What did you do with it?" asked the hard-hearted Cure of Ste. Agatha, who must have felt sorry that the friend could be so easily duped. "What did you do with the valise?"
"I let it go. I knew that he had left it with me and I couldn't understand why. It was so good—almost new. I felt that the sight of it would make me hard to the poor who really were deserving. I wanted to forget how foolish I was, so I gave it to the good Sisters at the Hospital, to use when they must travel to Sherbrooke."
The Cure of Ste. Agatha was agitated. He plainly wanted to speak but choked back twice. Then he rose and looked at his friend with a face as red as fire, and started toward the gate. He took two steps, came back, and spoke rapidly. "Do you think the Sisters will bring it back, the valise? Mon Dieu! It was mine."
Ten miles from St. Eustace and thirteen miles from Ste. Agatha a Yankee tramp was hurrying toward the parish of Ste. Catherine. He had the money for one pick and one shovel in his pocket keeping company with one note from the purse of the generous Cure of St. Eustace and one of a much larger denomination, from the wise but hard-hearted Cure of Ste. Agatha, who never gave to tramps.
And this is the lesson of the story as the Cure of St. Eustace saw it: that some gloomy and worried millionaires are lost to the States, to make a few irresponsible but happy rascals who live by their wits, and whose sins even are amusing. One must not blame them overmuch.
As to the Cure of Ste. Agatha. He has no opinions on the matter at all, for the Sisters gave him back his new valise.
HOW FATHER TOM CONNOLLY BEGAN TO BE A SAINT
If you knew Father Tom Connolly, you would like him, because—well, just because Father Tom Connolly was one of the kind whom everybody liked. He had curly black hair, over an open and smiling face; he was big, but not too big, and he looked the priest, the soggarth aroon kind, you know, so that you just felt that if you ever did get into difficulties, Father Tom Connolly would be the first man for you to talk it all over with. But Father Tom had a large parish, in a good-sized country town, to look after; and so, while you thought that you might monopolize all of his sympathy in your bit of possible trouble, he had hundreds whose troubles had already materialized, and was waiting for yours with a wealth of experience which would only make his smile deeper and his grasp heartier when the task of consoling you came to his door and heart.
Now, there lived in the same town as Father Tom another priest of quite a different make. He, too, had a Christian name. It was Peter; but no one ever called him Father Peter. Every one addressed him as Father Ilwin. Somehow this designation alone fitted him. It was not that this other priest was unkind—not at all—but it was just that in Father Tom's town he did not quite fit.
Father Ilwin had been sent by the Bishop to build a new church, and that on a slice of Father Tom's territory, which the Bishop lopped off to form a new parish. Father Ilwin was young. He had no rich brogue on his tongue to charm you into looking at his coat in expectation of seeing his big heart burst out to welcome you. He was thoughtful-looking and shy, so he did not get on well and his new church building grew very slowly.
I have given you the characters of my little story, but, for the life of me, I can not tell you which one is to be the hero and which the villain—but, let that go, for I am sure of one thing at least: this story has no villain. But it followed just as naturally as day follows night—for which figure of speech, my thanks to Mr. Shakespeare—that when Father Ilwin failed to do well, he grew gloomy and sad; and just as naturally—God help us—there was enough of human nature in Father Tom to say, "I told you so" to himself, and to have him pity Father Ilwin to others in that superior sort of way that cuts and stings more than a whip of scorpions. Then, when Father Tom spoke to some of his people of Father Ilwin's poor success and said, "He meant well, good lad," they all praised the soft, kind heart of Father Tom; but when Father Ilwin heard of this great kindness he just shut his lips tightly, and all the blood was chased from his set face to grip his heart in a spell of resentment. Why? Oh, human nature, you know! and human nature explains a lot of things which even story-writers have to give up. Of course, people did say that Father Ilwin was ungracious and unappreciative; yet, as I write, much as I like Father Tom, I have a tear in my eye for the lonely man who knew well that the only obstacle to his success was the one that people never could see, and that the obstacle himself was never likely to see.
But let us go on. Of all the things in this world that Father Tom believed in, it was that his "parish rights" were first and foremost. So he never touched foot in his neighbor's parish, except to pay him a friendly visit, or to go to his righteous confession. He visited no homes out of his territory, though he had baptized pretty nearly every little curly-headed fairy in each. They were his no longer and that was enough. He wanted no visitor in his limits either, except on the same terms. So no one in Father Tom's parish had helped much in building the church across the river. The people understood.
It had never occurred to Father Tom that his own purse—not too large, but large enough—might stand a neighborly assessment. No, he had "built his church by hard scraping, and that is how churches should be built." Now, do not get a bad opinion of Father Tom on this account. He thought he was right, and perhaps he was. It is not for me to criticize Father Tom, whom every poor person in the town loved as a father; only I did feel sorry that poor Father Ilwin grew so thin and worn, and that his building work was stopped, and people did not seem to sympathize with him, at all, at all. Over in his parish there were open murmurs that "the people had built one church and should not be asked now to build another"; or "what was good enough for Father Tom was good enough for anyone"; or "the Bishop should have consulted us before he sent this young priest into Father Tom's parish." In the other part of the town, however, everything was quiet enough, and none would think of offending his pastor by showing any interest in Father Ilwin, financially or otherwise. Father Ilwin said nothing; but do you wonder that one day when a generous gift was announced from "the Rev. Thomas Connolly, our respected fellow citizen," to help in the erection of a Soldier's Monument for the town, Father Ilwin read it and went back into his room, where, on the table, were laid out the plans of his poor little church, and cried like a baby?
It happened that Father Tom rarely ever left his parish, which was again much to his credit with the people. "Sure, he never takes a vacation at all," they said. But at last a call came that he could not refuse, and, having carefully made his plans to secure a monk from a monastery quite far away to take his place over Sunday, he left to see a sick brother from whom he had seldom heard, and who lived far in the Southwest. Perhaps it was significant, perhaps not—I do not know, and I do not judge—that Father Tom was particular to say in his letter to the monastery that, "as the weather is warm, the father who comes to take my place need only say a Low Mass and may omit the usual sermon." It was known that Father Tom did not care for preachers from outside. He could preach a little himself, and he knew it.
It was a long and tiresome journey to the bedside of Father Tom's dying brother, so when the big, good-natured priest stepped off the train at Charton station in Texas, he was worn out and weary. But he soon had to forget both. A dapper young man was waiting for him in a buggy. The young lad had a white necktie and wore a long coat of clerical cut. Father Tom passed the buggy, but was called back by its occupant.
"Are you not the Reverend Thomas Connolly?"
"I am," said the priest in surprise.
"Then father is waiting for you. I am your nephew. Get in with me."
Father Tom forgot his weariness in his stupefaction.
"You—you are a clergyman?" he stammered.
"Oh, yes! Baptist pastor over in the next village. Father was always a Romanist, but the rest of us, but one, are Christians."
If you could only have seen Father Tom's face. No more was said; no more was needed. In a few minutes the buggy stopped before the Connolly farm home and Father Tom was with his brother. He lost no time.
"Patrick," said he, "is that young Baptist minister your son?"
"Yes, Tom, he is."
"Good Lord! Thank Him that mother died before she knew. 'Twill be no warm welcome she'll be giving ye on the other side."
"Perhaps not, Tom. I've thought little of these things, except as to how I might forget them, till now. Somehow, it doesn't seem quite right. But I did the best I could. I have one of the children to show her."
"How did one stay?"
"She didn't stay. She came back to the Faith. She was converted by a priest who was down here for his health and who was stationed in this town for about a year. He went back North when he got better. I would not have sent even for you, Tom, only she made me."
Father Tom felt something grip his heart and he did not speak for a long minute. Then he took his brother's hand and said in his old boy language: "Paddy, lad, tell me all about it—how you fell away. Maybe there was something of an excuse for it."
"I thought there was," said the dying man, "but now all seems different. When I came here first, I was one of the few Catholic settlers, and I was true to my religion. I saw the other churches built, but never went into them, though they tried hard enough to get me, God knows. But I was fool enough to let a pretty face catch me. It was a priest from Houston who married us. She never interfered; and later a few more Catholics came. The children were all baptized and we got together to build a church. I gave the ground and all I had in the bank—one hundred and fifty dollars. We were only a few, but we got a thousand dollars in all. We could get no more, and money was bringing twelve per cent, so we couldn't borrow. We had to give it all back and wait. Without church or priest, the children went to the Sunday-schools and—I lost them. Then, I, somehow, seemed to drift until this priest came for his health. He got us few Catholics together and converted my best—my baby girl—Kathleen. She was named after mother, Tom. We could only raise eight hundred dollars this time, but the priest said: 'I'll go to my neighbors and ask help.' So he went over to Father Pastor and Father Lyons, but they refused to help at all. They have rich parishes, whose people would be glad to give something; but the priests said, 'No.' They thought helping was a mistake. It hurt our priest, for he could do nothing on eight hundred dollars. We needed only another five hundred. But that ended the struggle. I say my beads and wait alone. Murphy and Sullivan went away. Keane died. His family are all 'fallen away.' My boy went to a college his mother liked—and you saw him. The others—except Kathleen—are all Baptists. I suppose I have a heavy load to bear before the judgment seat, but Tom—Tom, you don't know the struggle it cost, and the pain of losing was greater than the pain of the fight."
A beautiful girl came into the room. The sick man reached out his hand which she took as she sat beside him.
"This is Kathleen, Tom. He's your uncle and a priest, my darling. She sits by me this way, Tom, and we say our beads together. I know it won't be long now, dearie, 'till you can go with your uncle where there is a church and a chance to profit by it."
Father Tom closed his brother's eyes two days later.
He left with Kathleen when the funeral was over. His nephew accompanied them to the train and said with unction:
"Good-bye, brother, I shall pray for you," and Father Tom groaned down to his heart of hearts.
Father Ilwin was at the train when Father Tom and his niece arrived home, though quite by accident. Kathleen's eyes danced when she saw him and she rushed to shake hands. Father Tom said:
"Sure, I had no idea that you knew one another."
"Yes, indeed, we do," cried the child. "Why, uncle, it was Father Peter who converted me."
Father Tom heard, but did not say a word.
It was only three days later when Father Tom stood in the miserable little room that Father Ilwin called his library. On the table still reposed the plans of the new church, but no sound of hammer was heard outside. Father Tom had little to say, but it was to the point. He had profited by his three days at home to think things out. He had arrived at his conclusions, and they were remarkably practical ones.
"Ilwin, me lad, I don't think I've treated ye just as a priest and Christian should—but I thought I was right. I know now that I wasn't. Ilwin, we can build that church and we will. Here are a thousand dollars as a start to show that I mean it. There'll be a collection for you in St. Patrick's next Sunday. After that I intind going about with ye. I think I know where we can get some more."
Then and there Father Tom Connolly began to be a Saint.
THE UNBROKEN SEAL
The priest ran right into a mob of strikers as he turned the corner of the road leading from the bridge over the shallow, refuse-filled Mud Run, and touched foot to the one filthy, slimy street of the town. He was coming from the camp of the militia, where he had been called to administer the last Sacraments to a lieutenant, whom the strikers had shot down the night before.
Slevski was haranguing the mob and his eye caught that of the priest while he was in the midst of an impassioned period, but a look of hate alone showed that he had seen him. Only a few of the people in the rear of the crowd noticed the priest's presence at all. He was glad enough of that, for suspicion was in the air and he knew it. Right in his way was Calvalho, who had been one of his trustees and his very best friend when he first came to the parish. It looked now as if he had no longer a friend in all the mud-spattered, bare and coal-grimed town. Calvalho returned his salute with a curt nod. The priest caught a few words of Slevski's burning appeal to hatred and walked faster, with that peculiar nervous feeling of danger behind him. He quickened his steps even more for it.
"Company—oppressors of the poor—traitors"; even these few words, which followed him, gave the priest the gist of the whole tirade.
The women were in the crowd or hanging about the edges of it. A crash of glass behind him made the priest turn for an instant, and he saw that Maria Allish had flung a stone through the bank window. She had a shawl quite filled with large stones. With the crash came a cheer from the crowd around Slevski, who could see the bank from their position in front of the livery stable.
A soldier almost bumped into the priest, as he came running down the street, gun in hand, followed by half a dozen others. One of them saluted. "Bad business, Father," he said. "Will the lieutenant live?"
"I am afraid he will not," answered the priest.
"They will surely burn down the company's buildings," said the soldier. "God! There they go now." And the soldier hurried on.
Later the priest watched the red glow from his window. It reminded him of blood, and he shuddered.
His old housekeeper called him to his frugal supper.
"I can not go out much now," he said to her. "I am a Pole. What could a Pole do with these Huns who have no sympathy with him, or the Italians whose language he can not speak?"
He wondered if he were a coward. Why should he discuss this with his servant?
"Slevski," she said, "makes the people do what he wants. He cursed me on the street this morning."
"Yes," said the priest, "he speaks in curses. He has never tried to speak to God, so he has never learned any other language; and these men are his property now."
"There will be no one at Mass next Sunday," said the old housekeeper. "Even the women won't come. They think you are in league with the soldiers."
"Never mind, Judith," said the priest, "at heart they are good people, and this will pass away. The women fear God."
"They fear God sometimes," said Judith, "but now they fear Slevski always."
The priest said nothing in reply. He was here the patient Church which could wait and does not grow old.
After his meal, he again stood at the window to watch the red glow of the burning buildings. He heard shots, but he knew that it would be useless to interfere. He waited for some one to come and call him to the dying; for he feared people had been hurt, else why the shots?
A knock sounded on the door. He opened it, and a woman entered. The priest knew her well, by sight, and wondered, for she was Slevski's wife. She was not of these people by race, nor of his own. She was English-speaking and did not come to church. Slevski had married her three years before in Pittsburgh. She looked frightened as he waited for her to speak.
"Tell me," she began very rapidly, is it true that no single word of a confession may ever be revealed by the priest?"
"It is true," he answered.
"Even if he were to die for it?" she urged.
"Even if he were to die."
The priest's eyes wore a puzzled expression, but she went on:
"May he even not betray it by an action?"
"Not even by an action."
"Even if he died for it?" Her voice was full of anxiety.
"I wish to confess," she said. "May I do it, here? I will kneel afterward, if necessary, but I can tell it better here—and I must do it quickly."
"It will take only a minute if we go to the church," he answered. "It is irregular to hear your confession outside of the proper place, unless in case of illness."
"Then let us go," she said, "and hurry."
They entered the church, and she knelt on the penitent's side of the confessional. Later she told all that had happened.
"What troubles you?" asked the priest. "Have you been to confession of late?"
"Three years ago," and she shuddered, "I was to confession. It was before I married him, never since. Yes, yes, I ought to be known to you. Listen now, for there isn't very much time." He bent his head and said: "I am listening."
She went on without taking breath. "They are going to murder you. I heard it, for I was in the secret. I consented to summon you, but I could not. They charged that you were in the company's pay and working against the men. One of them will come to-night and ask you to go on a sick-call. They intend to shoot you at the bridge over Mud Run. I had to warn you to prepare. I could not see you killed without—without a prayer. It is too cruel. Do what you can for yourself. That's all I can say."
"It is very simple," said the priest. "I need not go."
"Then they will know that I told you," she answered breathlessly. Her eyes showed her fright.
"You are right," said the priest. "I fear that it would violate the Seal if I refused to go."
"Yes," she said, "and he would know at once that I had told, and he—he suspects me already. He may have followed me, for I refused to call you. If he knows I am here he will be sure I confessed to you. I am not ready to die—and he would kill me."
"Then do not trouble your mind about it any more. God will take care of me," said the priest. "Finish your confession."
In ten minutes she had left. The priest was alone with himself, and his duty. Through the open door of the church he saw Slevski—and he knew that the woman had been followed.
He sat for a long time where he was, staring straight ahead with wide open eyes, the lashes of which never once stirred. Then he went back to the house and mechanically, almost, picked up his breviary and finished his daily office. He laid the book down on the arm of his chair, went to his desk and wrote a few lines, sealed them in an envelope and left it addressed on the blotter. He was outwardly calm, but his face was gray as ashes. His eyes fell upon the crucifix above his desk and he gave way in an instant, dropping on his knees before it. The prayer that came out of his white lips was hoarse and whispering:
"Oh, Crucified Lord, I can not, I can not do it. I am young. Have pity on me. I am not strong enough to be so like You."
Then he began to doubt if the Seal would really be broken if he did not go. Perhaps Slevski had not suspected his wife at all—but had the priest not seen him outside the church?
The sweat was over his face, and he walked to the door to get a breath of air. The priest knew there was no longer even a lingering doubt as to what he should do. He went back to the church, and, before the altar, awaited his call.
It was not long in coming. The old housekeeper appeared in half an hour to summon him.
"Kendis is in the house. He lives on the other side of the Run. It is for his wife, who is sick, that he comes. She is dying."
The priest bowed and followed the old servant into the house, but Kendis had left.
The priest looked at his few books and lovingly touched some of his favorites. His reading chair was near. His eyes filled as he looked at it, with the familiar breviary on its wide arm. The crucified Christ gazed down from His cross at him and seemed to smile; but the priest's eyes swam with tears, and a great sob burst from him. He opened the door, but lingered on the threshold. When he passed out on the street his walk was slow, his lips moving, as he went along with the step of a man very weary and bending beneath the weight of a Great Something.
The people did not know then that their one dark and muddy street was that night a Via Dolorosa; that along it a man who loved them dragged a heavy Cross for their sake; that it ended for him, as had another sorrowful way ended for his Master, in a cruel Calvary.