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Title: My New Curate
Author: Sheehan, P.A.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "My New Curate" ***

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[Illustration: So there they were at last, the dream of half a life
time. (p. 475.)]



MY NEW CURATE

 A STORY

_Gathered from the Stray Leaves of an Old Diary_



By the Rev. P. A. SHEEHAN, P. P.
DONERAILE (DIOCESE OF CLOYNE)

_Author of_ "Geoffrey Austin: Student," "The Triumph of Failure," &c.


BOSTON
MARLIER & COMPANY, Limited
1902



Contents


CHAPTER                                         PAGE

I.      The Change                                 1

II.     A Retrospect                              14

III.    A Night Call                              23

IV.     The Pantechnicon                          34

V.      A Slight Misunderstanding                 48

VI.     At the Station                            61

VII.    Scruples                                  74

VIII.   Our Concert                               83

IX.     Severely Reprimanded                      97

X.      Over the Walnuts, and the ----           113

XI.     Beside the Singing River                 129

XII.    Church Improvements                      140

XIII.   "All Things to All Men"                  154

XIV.    First Fridays                            170

XV.     Holly and Ivy                            187

XVI.    Violent Contrasts                        205

XVII.   A Clerical Symposium                     226

XVIII.  The Kampaner Thal                        241

XIX.    Literary Attempts                        255

XX.     Madonna Mia                              272

XXI.    The Factory                              297

XXII.   The May Conference                       316

XXIII.  A Battle of Giants                       332

XXIV.   The Sermon                               349

XXV.    May Devotions                            364

XXVI.   At the Zenith                            378

XXVII.  The "Star of the Sea"                    394

XXVIII. Sub Nube                                 410

XXIX.   Stigmata?                                429

XXX.    All's Well                               449

XXXI.   Farewell!                                475



Illustrations


                                                           Page

"So there they were at last, the dream of half a lifetime"
                                                   Frontispiece

"You will take something?" I said. "You have
had a long drive"                                     facing 10

"My door was suddenly flung open, and a bunch of
keys was thrown angrily on the table"                        49

"Do you call that clean?"                                    54

"Here I am, your Reverence!"                          facing 56

"Good Heavens!" was all I could say                   facing 94

"The orator was caught by the nape of the neck"             133

"'T is the way we wants to go to confession, Fader"         176

"And why don't you tell his reverence about the rice
puddin'?"                                                   223

"It broke in my fingers and revealed the little dreams
and ambitions of nearly forty years ago"                    262

"Was there anything wrong with the chicken?"         facing 294

"I read that over three times to make quite sure of it"     321

"Ahem!--Reginald Ormsby, wilt thou take Mrs.
Darcy--"                                             facing 390

"Come down to Mrs. Haley's; there isn't a better
dhrop betune this and Dublin"                        facing 450

"Come on, you ruffian!"                                     451

"For the love of God, Jem, is 't yourself or your
ghost?"                                                     453

"Hallo, there!... who the ---- are ye?"              facing 460

Waiting for my New Curate                                   479



_MY NEW CURATE_

_Gathered from Stray Leaves of an Old Diary by an Irish Parish Priest_



CHAPTER I

THE CHANGE


It is all my own fault. I was too free with my tongue. I said in a
moment of bitterness: "What can a Bishop do with a parish priest? He's
independent of him." It was not grammatical, and it was not respectful.
But the bad grammar and the impertinence were carried to his Lordship,
and he answered: "What can I _do_? I can send him a curate who will
break his heart in six weeks."

I was not too much surprised, then, when one evening my dear old friend
and curate, Father Tom Laverty, came to me, with tears in his eyes and
an open letter in his hand:--

"I am off, Father Dan. Look at this!"

It was a succinct, laconic order to present himself to a parish priest
twenty miles distant, and to be in time to discharge his duties in that
parish the following Saturday and Sunday, for his jurisdiction was
transferred, etc.

It was a hard stroke. I was genuinely attached to Father Tom. We had the
same tastes and habits,--easy, contented, conservative, with a cordial
dislike of innovations of any kind. We held the same political opinions,
preached the same sermons, administered the Sacraments in the old way,
and had a reverence for antiquities in general. It was a sad break in my
life to part with him; and it is a harmless vanity on my part to say
that he was sorry to part from me.

"I suppose there's no help for it?" said he.

"No," said I; "but if you care--"

"No use," said he; "when _he_ has made up his mind you might as well be
talking to a milestone."

"And you must be off to-morrow?" said I, consulting the bishop's letter.

"Yes," said he, "short shrift."

"And who am I getting?" I wondered.

"Hard to guess," said he. He was in no humor for conversation.

The following week, that most melancholy of processions, a curate's
furniture _en route_, filed slowly through the village, and out along
the highroad, that led through bog and fen, and by lake borders to the
town of N----. First came three loads of black turf, carefully piled and
roped; then two loads of hay; a cow with a yearling calf; and lastly,
the house furniture, mostly of rough deal. The articles, that would be
hardly good enough for one of our new laborers' cottages, were crowned
by a kitchen table, its four legs pointing steadily to the firmament,
like an untrussed fowl's, and between them, carefully roped, was the
plague and the pet of the village, Nanny the goat, with her little kid
beside her. What Nanny could not do in the way of mischief was so
insignificant, that it need not be told. But the Celtic vocabulary,
particularly rich in expletives, failed to meet the ever-growing
vituperative wants of the villagers. They had to fall back on the Saxon,
and call her a "rep," "a rip," "de ribble," etc., etc. I walked side by
side with Father Laverty, who, with head bent on his breast, scarcely
noticed the lamentations of the women, who came to their cross-doors,
and poured out a Jeremiad of lamentations that made me think my own
well-meant ministrations were but scantily appreciated.

"Wisha, God be wid you, Father, wherever you go!"

"Wisha, may your journey thry wid you. Sure 't is we'll miss you!"

"Yerra, what'll the poor do now, whin he's gone?"

"Bishop, inagh, 't is aisy for him wid his ring and his mitre, and his
grand carriage. Couldn't he let him alone?"

"Father," said a young girl, earnestly, her black hair blinding her
eyes, "may God be with you." She ran after him. "Pray for me," she
whispered. "You don't know all the good you done me." She hadn't been
very sensible.

He turned towards her.

"Yes! Nance, I'll remember you. And don't forget all that I told you."

He held out his hand. It was such an honor, such a condescension, that
she blushed scarlet: and hastily rubbing her hand in her apron, she
grasped his.

"May God Almighty bless you," she said.

But the great trial came when we were passing the school-house. It was
after three o'clock, the time for breaking up: and there at the wall
were all the little boys and the _sheilas_ with their wide eyes full of
sorrow. He passed by hastily, never looking up. His heart was with these
children. I believe the only real pleasure he ever allowed himself was
to go amongst them, teach them, amuse them, and listen to their little
songs. And now--

"Good by, Father--"

"Good by, Father--"

Then, Alice Moylan gave a big "boo-hoo!" and in a moment they were all
in tears; and I, too, began to wink, in a queer way, at the landscape.

At last, we came to the little bridge that humps itself over the trout
stream. Many a summer evening we had made this the terminus of our
evening's walk; for I was feeble enough on my limbs, though my head is
as clear as a boy's of seventeen. And here we used to lean over the
parapet, and talk of all things, politics, literature (the little we
knew of it), the old classics, college stories, tales of the mission,
etc.; and now we were to part.

"Good by, Father Tom," I said. "You know, there's always a bite and a
sup and a bed, whenever you come hither. Good by. God knows, I'm sorry
to part with you."

"Good by," he said. Not another word. I watched and waited, till I saw
the melancholy procession fade away, and until he became a speck on the
horizon. Then, with a heavy heart I turned homewards.

If I had the least doubt about the wonderful elasticity of the Irish
mind, or its talent for adaptation, it would have been dispelled as I
passed again through the village. I had no idea I was so popular, or
that my little labors were so warmly appreciated.

"Well, thank God, we have _himself_ whatever."

Gentle reader, "himself" and "herself" are two pronouns, that in our
village idioms mean the master and mistress of the situation, beyond
whom there is no appeal.

"Wisha, the Lord spare him to us. God help us, if _he_ wint."

"The heads of our Church, God spare them long! Wisha, your reverence
might have a copper about you to help a poor lone widow?"

I must say this subtle flattery did not raise my drooped spirits. I went
home, sat down by my little table, and gave myself up to gloomy
reflections.

It must have been eight o'clock, or more, for the twilight had come
down, and my books and little pictures were looking misty, when a
rat-tat-tat rang at the door. I didn't hear the car, for the road was
muddy, I suppose; but I straightened myself up in my arm-chair, and drew
my breviary towards me. I had read my Matins and Lauds for the following
day, before dinner; I always do, to keep up the old tradition amongst
the Irish priests; but I read somewhere that it is always a good thing
to edify people who come to see you. And I didn't want any one to
suspect that I had been for a few minutes asleep. In a moment, Hannah,
my old housekeeper, came in. She held a tiny piece of card between her
fingers, which were carefully covered with her check apron, lest she
should soil it. I took it--while I asked--

"Who is it?"

"I don't know, your reverence."

"Is 't a priest?"

"No, but I think he's a gintleman," she whispered. "He talks like the
people up at the great house."

She got a candle, and I read:--

Rev. Edward Letheby, B. A., C. C.

"'Tis the new curate," I said.

"Oyeh," said Hannah, whose dread and admiration for the "strange
gintleman" evaporated, when she found he was a mere curate.

I went out and welcomed with what warmth I could my new coöperator. It
was too dark for me to see what manner of man he was; but I came to some
rapid conclusions from the way he spoke. He bit off his words, as
riflemen bite their cartridges, he chiselled every consonant, and gave
full free scope to every vowel. This was all the accent he had, an
accent of precision and determination and formalism, that struck like a
knell, clear and piercing on my heart.

"I took the liberty of calling, Sir," he said, "and I hope you will
excuse my troubling you at such an unseasonable hour; but I am utterly
unacquainted with the locality, and I should be thankful to you if you
would refer me to a hotel."

"There's but one hotel in the village," I replied slowly. "It has also
the advantage of being the post-office, and the additional advantage of
being an emporium for all sorts of merchandise, from a packet of pins to
Reckitt's blue, and from pigs' crubeens to the best Limerick flitches.
There's a conglomeration of smells," I continued, "that would shame the
City on the Bosphorus; and there are some nice visitors there now in
the shape of two Amazons who are going to give selections from
'Maritana' in the school-house this evening; and a drunken acrobat, the
leavings of the last circus."

"Good heavens," he said under his breath.

I think I astonished him, as I was determined to do. Then I relented, as
I had the victory.

"If, however," said I, "you could be content with the humble
accommodation and poor fare that this poor presbytery affords, I shall
be delighted to have you as my guest, until you can secure your own
little domicile."

"I thank you very much, Sir," said he, "you are extremely kind. Would
you pardon me a moment, whilst I dismiss the driver and bring in my
portmanteau?"

He was a little humbled and I was softened. But I was determined to
maintain my dignity.

He followed me into the parlor, where the lamp was now lighting, and I
had a good opportunity of observing him. I always sit with my back to
the light, which has the double advantage of obscuring my own features
and lighting up the features of those whom I am addressing. He sat
opposite me, straight as an arrow. One hand was gloved; he was toying
gently with the other glove. But he was a fine fellow. Fairly tall,
square shouldered, not a bit stout, but clean cut from head to spur, I
thought I should not like to meet him in a wrestling bout, or try a
collision over a football. He had a mass of black hair, glossy and
curled, and parted at the left side. Large, blue-black luminous eyes,
that looked you squarely in the face, were hardly as expressive as a
clear mouth that now in repose seemed too quiet even for breathing. He
was dressed _ad_ ----. Pardon me, dear reader, I have had to brush up my
classics, and Horace is like a spring eruption. There was not a line of
white visible above his black collar; but a square of white in front,
where the edges parted. A heavy chain hung from his vest; and his boots
glistened and winked in the lamplight.

"You'll take something?" I said. "You have had a long drive."

"If not too much trouble," he said, "I'll have a cup of tea."

I rang the bell.

"Get a cup of tea, Hannah," I said.

"A cup of wha--at?" queried Hannah. She had the usual feminine contempt
for men that drink tea.

"A cup of tea," I said decisively, "and don't be long."

"Oyeh!" said Hannah. But she brought in a few minutes later the tea and
hot cakes that would make an alderman hungry, and two poached eggs on
toast. I was awfully proud of my domestic arrangements. But I was
puzzled. Hannah was not always so courteous. She explained next day.

"I didn't like him at all, at all," she said, "but whin I came out and
saw his portmanty all brass knobs, and took up his rug, whew! it was
that soft and fine it would do to wrap up the Queen, I said to myself,
'this is a gintleman, Hannah; who knows but he's the Bishop on his
tower.'"

"I hope you like your tea?" I said.

"It's simply delicious," he answered.

He ate heartily. Poor fellow, he was hungry after a long drive; but he
chewed every morsel as a cow would chew the cud on a lazy summer
afternoon, without noise or haste, and he lifted my poor old china cup
as daintily as if it were Sèvres. Then we fell to talking.

"I am afraid," I said tentatively, "that you'll find this place dull
after your last mission. But have you been on the mission before?"

"Oh yes, Father," he said, "I thought the Bishop might have written to
you."

"Well," I said, "I had reason to know you were coming; but the Bishop is
rather laconic in his epistles. He prides himself on his virtue of
reticence."

I said this, because it would never do to let him suppose that the
Bishop would send me a curate without letting me know of it. And I
thought I was using select language, an opinion which, after the nine
years and more of Horace, I have no reason to alter.

[Illustration: "You will take something?" I said. "You have had a long
drive."]

"My only mission hitherto," he said, "has been in Manchester, at St.
Chad's. It was a populous mission, and quite full of those daily trials
and contingencies that make life wearisome to a priest. I confess I was
not sorry to have been called home."

"But you had society," I interjected, "and unless you wish to spend an
hour at the constabulary barracks, you must seek your society here in an
occasional _conversazione_ with some old woman over her cross-door, or a
chat with the boys at the forge--"

"But I have got my books, Father," he said, "and I assure you I want
some time to brush up the little I have ever read. I haven't opened a
serious book for seven years."

This was candid; and it made me warm towards him.

"Then," I said, "there's no use in preaching fine English sermons, they
won't be understood. And you must be prepared for many a night call to
mountain cabins, the only access to which is through a bog or the bed of
a mountain stream; and your income will reach the princely sum of sixty
pounds per annum. But," I added hastily, "you'll have plenty of turf,
and oats and hay for your horse, an occasional pound of butter, and
you'll have to export all the turkeys you'll get at Christmas."

"You have painted the lights and shadows, Father," he said cheerily,
"and I am prepared to take them together. I am sure I'll like the poor
people. It won't be my fault."

Then my heart rose up to this bright, cheery, handsome fellow, who had
no more pride in him than a barelegged gossoon; and who was prepared to
find his pleasure amongst such untoward surroundings. But I didn't like
to let myself out as yet. I had to keep up some show of dignity.

My education commenced next morning. He had served my mass, and said his
own in my little oratory; and he came down to breakfast, clean, alert,
happy. I asked him how he had slept.

"Right well," he said, "I never woke till I heard some far off bell in
the morning."

"The six o'clock bell at the great house," I replied. "But where are you
going?"

"Nowhere, Sir," said he, "I understood I was to remain over Sunday."

"But you're shaved?" said I.

"Oh yes," he said, with the faintest ripple of a smile. "I couldn't
think of sitting down to breakfast, much less of celebrating the Holy
Sacrifice, without shaving."

"And you have a clean collar. Do you mean to say you change your collar
every morning?"

"Certainly, Sir," he said.

"Poor Father Tom!" I exclaimed mentally, "this is a change." But I said
nothing; but sent out my razors in the afternoon to be set.

There was a letter from the Bishop. It ran thus:--

     My dear Father Dan:--I have thought it necessary to make a change
     of curates in your parish. I have removed Father Laverty on
     promotion; and I am sending you one of the most promising young
     priests in my diocese. He has just returned from England, where he
     won golden opinions from the people and the priests. I may mention
     that he was an exhibitioner under the Intermediate System; and took
     a gold medal for Greek. Perhaps you will stimulate him to renew his
     studies in that department, as he says he has got quite rusty from
     want of time to study. Between you both, there will be quite an
     Academia at Kilronan.

     Yours in Christ.

"Clever, my Lord," I soliloquized, "clever!" Then, as the "gold medal in
Greek" caught my eye again, I almost let the letter fall to the ground;
and I thought of his Lordship's words: "I can send him a curate who will
break his heart in six weeks." But as I looked over my cup at Father
Letheby, I couldn't believe that there was any lurking _diablerie_
there. He looked in the morning a frank, bright, cheery, handsome
fellow. But, will he do?



CHAPTER II

A RETROSPECT


Long ago, when I used to read an occasional novel, if the author dared
to say: "But I am anticipating; we must go back here twenty years to
understand the thread of this history," I invariably flung down the book
in disgust. The idea of taking you back to ancient history when you were
dying to know what was to become of the yellow-haired Blumine, or the
grand chivalrous Roland. Well, I am just going to commit the very same
sin; and, dear reader, be patient just a little while.

It is many years since I was appointed to the parish of Kilronan. It
happened in this wise. The Bishop, the old man, sent for me; and said,
with what I would call a tone of pity or contempt, but he was incapable
of either, for he was the essence of charity and sincerity:--

"Father Dan, you are a bit of a litterateur, I understand. Kilronan is
vacant. You'll have plenty of time for poetizing and dreaming there.
What do you say to it?"

I put on a little dignity, and, though my heart was beating with
delight, I quietly thanked his Lordship. But, when I had passed beyond
the reach of episcopal vision, which is far stretching enough, I spun
my hat in the air, and shouted like a schoolboy: "Hurrah!"

You wonder at my ecstasies! Listen. I was a dreamer, and the dream of my
life, when shut up in musty towns, where the atmosphere was redolent of
drink, and you heard nothing but scandal, and saw nothing but sin,--the
dream of my life was a home by the sea, with its purity and freedom, and
its infinite expanse, telling me of God. For, from the time when as a
child the roar of the surges set my pulse beating, and the scents of the
weed and the brine would make me turn pale with pleasure, I used to pray
that some day, when my life's work would be nearly done, and I had put
in my years of honest labor in the dusty streets, I might spend my
declining years in the peace of a seaside village, and go down to my
grave, washed free from the contaminations of life in the daily watching
and loving of those

    "Moving waters at their priestlike task
    Of cold ablution round earth's human shores."

My wish was realized, and I was jubilant.

Returning home by train, when my emotion had calmed down, my mind could
not help recurring to the expression used by the Bishop; and it
suggested the following reflections: How has it come to pass in Ireland
that "poet" and "saint" are terms which denote some weakness or
irregularity in their possessors? At one time in our history we know
that the bard was second only to the King in power and influence; and
are we not vaguely proud of that title the world gives us,--Island of
Saints? Yet, nowadays, through some fatal degeneracy, a poet is looked
upon as an idealist, an unpractical builder of airy castles, to whom no
one would go for advice in an important matter, or intrust with the
investment of a five-pound note. And to speak of a man or woman as a
"saint" is to hint at some secret imbecility, which it would be
charitable to pass over in silence. I was quite well aware, therefore,
on that day, when I had the secret pleasure and the sublime misfortune
of seeing my name in print over some wretched verses, that I was ruining
my prospects in life. The fact of being a litterateur, although in the
most modest and hidden manner, stamped me as a volatile, flighty
creature, who was no more to be depended upon than a feather in the
wind; or, as the Italians say, _qu' al piume al vento_. It is a curious
prejudice, and a purely insular one. And sometimes I think, or rather I
used to think, that there was something infinitely grotesque in these
narrow ideas, that shut us out from sympathy with the quick moving,
subtle world as completely as if we were fakirs by the banks of the
sacred Ganges. For what does modern literature deal with? Exactly those
questions of philosophy, ethics, and morality which form the staple
material of theological studies and discussions in our own colleges and
academies. Novels, poetry, essays, lectures, treatises on the natural
sciences,--all deal with the great central questions of man's being, his
origin, and his conduct. And surely it is folly to ignore these
discussions in the market places of the world, because they are
literature, and not couched in scholastic syllogisms. Dear me! I am
philosophizing,--I, old Daddy Dan, with the children plucking at my
coat-tails and the brown snuff staining my waistcoat, and, ah, yes! the
place already marked in my little chapel, where I shall sleep at last. I
must have been angry, or gloomy, that day, thirty years ago, when I
stepped on the platform at M----, after my interview with the Bishop,
and met my friends, who had already become aware that I was elevated out
of the junior ranks, and had become an independent officer of the Church
Militant.

"You don't mean to say that you have accepted that awful place?" said
one.

"You'll have nothing but fish to eat," said another. "The butcher's van
goes there but once a week."

"And no society but fishermen," said a third. "And they speak nothing
but Irish, and you know you cannot bless yourself in Irish."

"Well," I replied, "my Job's comforters, I have accepted Kilronan, and
am going there. If all things go well, and you are good boys, I may ask
for some of you as curate--"

"You'll be glad to get a curacy yourself in six months," they shouted in
chorus.

And so I came to Kilronan, and here have I been since. The years have
rolled by swiftly. Life is a coach, whose wheels move slowly and
painfully at the start; but, once set moving, particularly when going
down the deep decline of life, the years move so swiftly you cannot see
the spokes in the wheels, which are the days we number so sadly. What
glorious resolutions I made the first months of my residence here! How I
would read and write and burn the midnight oil, and astonish the world,
and grow from dignity to dignity into an honored old age! Alas!
circumstances are too much for us all, and here I am, in my seventieth
year, poor old Daddy Dan, with no great earthly trouble, indeed, and
some few consolations,--my breviary and the grand psalms of hope,--my
daily Mass and its hidden and unutterable sweetness,--the love of little
children and their daily smiles,--the prayers of my old women, and, I
think, the reverence of the men. But there comes a little sting
sometimes, when I see young priests, who served my Masses long ago,
standing in cathedral stalls in all the glory of purple and ermine, and
when I see great parishes passing into the hands of mere boys, and poor
old Daddy Dan passed over in silence. I know, if I were really good and
resigned, I would bless God for it all, and I do. But human nature will
revolt sometimes, and people will say, "What a shame, Father Dan; why
haven't you the red buttons as well as so and so," or, "What ails the
Bishop, passing over one of the most learned men in the diocese for a
parcel of gossoons!" I suppose it was my own fault. I remember what
magnificent ideas I had. I would build factories, I would ferr the
streets, I would establish a fishing station and make Kilronan the
favorite bathing resort on the western coast; I would write books and
be, all round, a model of push, energy, and enterprise. And I did try. I
might as well have tried to remove yonder mountain with a pitchfork, or
stop the roll of the Atlantic with a rope of sand. Nothing on earth can
cure the inertia of Ireland. It weighs down like the weeping clouds on
the damp heavy earth, and there's no lifting it, nor disburthening of
the souls of men of this intolerable weight. I was met on every side
with a stare of curiosity, as if I were propounding something immoral or
heretical. People looked at me, put their hands in their pockets,
whistled dubiously, and went slowly away. Oh, it was weary, weary work!
The blood was stagnant in the veins of the people and their feet were
shod with lead. They walked slowly, spoke with difficulty, stared all
day at leaden clouds or pale sunlight, stood at the corners of the
village for hours looking into vacuity, and the dear little children
became old the moment they left school, and lost the smiles and the
sunlight of childhood. It was a land of the lotos. The people were
narcotized. Was it the sea air? I think I read somewhere in an old
philosopher, called Berkeley, that the damp salt air of the sea has a
curious phlegmatic effect on the blood, and will coagulate it and
produce gout and sundry disorders. However that be, there was a weary
weight on everything around Kilronan. The cattle slept in the fields,
the fishermen slept in their coracles. It was a land of sleep and
dreams.

I approached the agent about a foreshore for the pier, for you cannot,
in Ireland, take the most preliminary and initial step in anything
without going, cap in hand, to the agent. I explained my intentions. He
smiled, but was polite.

"Lord L----, you know, is either in Monte Carlo or yachting in the
Levant. He must be consulted. I can do nothing."

"And when will his Lordship return?"

"Probably in two years."

"You have no power to grant a lease of the foreshore, or even give
temporary permission to erect a pier?"

"None whatever."

I went to the Presentment Sessions about a grant for paving or flagging
the wretched street. I woke a nest of hornets.

"What! More taxation! Aren't the people crushed enough already? Where
can we get money to meet rates and taxes? Flagging Kilronan! Oh, of
course! Wouldn't your reverence go in for gas or the electric light?
Begor, ye'll be wanting a water supply next," etc., etc.

I applied to a factory a few miles distant to establish a local industry
by cottage labor, which is cheap and remunerative.

"They would be delighted, but--" And so all my castles came tumbling
down from the clouds, and left them black and lowering and leaden as
before. Once or twice, later on, I made a few spasmodic efforts to
galvanize the place into life; they, too, failed, and I accepted the
inevitable. When Father Laverty came he helped me to bear the situation
with philosophical calmness. He had seen the world, and had been rubbed
badly in contact with it. He had adopted as his motto and watchword the
fatal _Cui bono?_ And he had printed in large Gothic letters over his
mantelpiece the legend:

'TWILL BE ALL THE SAME IN A HUNDRED YEARS.

And so I drifted, drifted down from high empyreans of great ideals and
lofty speculations into a humdrum life, that was only saved from
sordidness by the sacred duties of my office. After all, I find that we
are not independent of our circumstances. We are fashioned and moulded
by them as plaster of Paris is fashioned and moulded into angels or
gargoyles by the deft hand of the sculptor. "Thou shalt lower to his
level," true of the wife in Locksley Hall, is true of all who are
thrown by fate or fortune into unhappy environments. In my leisure
moments, when I took up my pen to write, some evil spirit whispered,
_Cui bono?_ and I laid down my pen and hid my manuscript. Once or twice
I took up some old Greek poets and essayed to translate them. I have
kept the paper still, frayed and yellow with age; but the fatal _Cui
bono?_ disheartened me, and I flung it aside. Even my love for the sea
had vanished, and I had begun to hate it. During the first few years of
my ministry I spent hours by the cliffs and shores, or out on the
heaving waters. Then the loneliness of the desert and barren wastes
repelled me, and I had begun to loathe it. Altogether I was soured and
discontented, and I had a dread consciousness that my life was a
failure. All its possibilities had passed without being seized and
utilized. I was the barren fig tree, fit only to be cut down. May I
escape the fire! Such were my surroundings and disposition when Father
Letheby came.



CHAPTER III

A NIGHT CALL


It must have been about two o'clock on Sunday morning, when the house
bell was pulled violently and a rapid series of fierce, sharp knocks
woke up the house. What priest does not know that tocsin of the night,
and the start from peaceful slumbers? I heard the housekeeper wake up
Father Letheby; and in a short time I heard him go down stairs. Then
there was the usual hurried colloquy at the hall door, then the
retreating noises of galloping feet. I pulled the blankets around my
shoulders, lifted the pillow, and said, "Poor fellow!" He had to say
last Mass next day, and this was some consolation, as he could sleep a
few hours in the morning. I met him at breakfast about half past one
o'clock. There he was, clean, cool, cheerful, as if nothing had
happened.

"I was sorry you had that night call," I said; "how far had you to go?"

"To some place called Knocktorisha," he replied, opening his egg; "'t
was a little remote, but I was well repaid."

"Indeed," said I; "the poor people are very grateful. And they generally
pay for whatever trouble they give."

He flushed up.

"Oh, I didn't mean any pecuniary recompense," he said, a little
nettled. "I meant that I was repaid by the extraordinary faith and
fervor of the people."

I waited.

"Why, Father," said he, turning around and flicking a few invisible
crumbs with his napkin, "I never saw anything like it. I had quite an
escort of cavalry, two horsemen, who rode side by side with me the whole
way to the mountain, and then, when we had to dismount and climb up
through the boulders of some dry torrent course, I had two linkmen or
torchbearers, leaping on the crest of the ditch on either side, and
lighting me right up to the door of the cabin. It was a picture that
Rembrandt might have painted."

He paused and blushed a little, as if he had been pedantic.

"But tell me, Father," said he, "is this the custom in the country?"

"Oh yes," said I; "we look upon it as a matter of course. Your
predecessors didn't make much of it."

"It seems to me," he said, "infinitely picturesque and beautiful. It
must have been some tradition of the Church when she was free to
practise her ceremonies. But where do they get these torches?"

"Bog-oak, steeped in petroleum," I said. "It is, now that you recall
it, very beautiful and picturesque. Our people will never allow a
priest, with the Blessed Sacrament with him, to go unescorted."

"Now that you have mentioned it," he said, "I distinctly recall the
custom that existed among the poor of Salford. They would insist always
on accompanying me home from a night sick-call. I thought it was
superfluous politeness, and often insisted on being alone, particularly
as the streets were always well lighted. But no. If the men hesitated,
the women insisted; and I had always an escort to my door. But this
little mountain ceremony here is very touching."

"Who was sick?"

"Old Conroy,--a mountain ranger, I believe. He is very poorly; and I
anointed him." "By Jove," said he after a pause, "how he did pray,--and
all in Irish. I could imagine the old Hebrew prophets talking to God
from their mountains just in that manner. But why do they expect to be
anointed on the breast?"

"I do not know," I replied, "I think it is a Gallican custom introduced
by the French refugee priests at the beginning of the century. The
people invariably expect it."

"But you don't?" he asked in surprise.

"Oh dear, no. It would be hardly orthodox. Come, and if you are not too
tired, we'll have a walk."

I took him through the village, where he met salaams and genuflections
enough; and was stared at by the men, and blessed by the women, and
received the mute adoration of the children. We passed along the bog
road, where on either side were heaps of black turf drying, and off the
road were deep pools of black water, filling the holes whence the turf
was cut. It was lonely; for to-day we had not even the pale sunshine to
light up the gloomy landscape, and to the east the bleak mountains
stood, clear-cut and uniform in shagginess and savagery, against the
cold, gray sky. The white balls of the bog cotton waved dismally in the
light breeze, which curled the surface of a few pools, and drew a curlew
or plover from his retreat, and sent him whistling dolefully, and
beating the heavy air, as he swept towards mountain or lake. After half
an hour's walking, painful to me, the ground gently rose, and down in
the hollow a nest of poplars hid from the western gales. I took Father
Letheby through a secret path in the plantation. We rested a little
while, and talked of many things. Then we followed a tiny path, strewn
with withered pine needles, and which cut upward through the hill. We
passed from the shelter of the trees, and stood on the brow of a high
declivity. I never saw such surprise in a human face before, and such
delight. Like summer clouds sweeping over, and dappling a meadow,
sensations of wonder and ecstasy rolled visibly across his fine mobile
features. Then, he turned, and said, as if not quite sure of himself:--

"_Why! 't is the sea!_"

So it was. God's own sea, and his retreat, where men come but seldom,
and then at their peril. There the great ball-room of the winds and
spirits stretched before us, to-day as smooth as if waxed and polished,
and it was tessellated with bands of blue and green and purple, at the
far horizon line, where, down through a deep mine shaft in the clouds,
the hidden sun was making a silent glory. It was a dead sea, if you
will. No gleam of sail, near or afar, lit up its loneliness. No flash of
sea bird, poised for its prey, or beating slowly over the desolate
waste, broke the heavy dulness that lay upon the breast of the deep. The
sky stooped down and blackened the still waters; and anear, beneath the
cliff on which we were standing, a faint fringe of foam alone was proof
that the sea still lived, though its face was rigid and its voice was
stilled, as of the dead.

Father Letheby continued gazing in silence over the solemn scene for
some time. Then lifting his hat he said aloud:--

    "Mirabiles elationes maris;
    Mirabilis in altis Dominus!"

"Not very many 'upliftings' to-day," I replied. "You see our great
friend at a disadvantage. But you know she has moods: and you will like
her."

"Like her!" he replied. "It is not liking. It is worship. Some kind of
Pantheism which I cannot explain. Nowhere are the loneliness and
grandeur of God so manifested. Mind, I don't quite sympathize with that
comparison of St. Augustine's where he detects a resemblance between yon
spectra of purple and green and the plumage of a dove. What has a dove
to do with such magnificence and grandeur? It was an anti-climax, a
bathos, of which St. Augustine is seldom guilty. 'And the Spirit of God
moved upon the face of the waters.' There's the sublime!"

"It is desolate," said I. "Not even a seamew or a gull."

"Quite so," he replied. "It is limitless and unconditioned. There is its
grandeur. If that sea were ploughed by navies, or disfigured by the
hideous black hulks of men-of-war, it would lose its magnificence. It
would become a poor limited thing, with pygmies sporting on its bosom.
It is now unlimited, free, unconditioned, as space. It is the infinite
and the eternal in it that appeals to us. When we were children, the
infinite lay beyond the next mountain, because it was the unknown. We
grew up and we got knowledge; and knowledge destroyed our dreams, and
left us only the commonplace. It is the unknown and unlimited that still
appeals to us,--the _something_ behind the dawn, and beyond the sunset,
and far away athwart the black line of that horizon, that is forever
calling, calling, and beckoning to us to go thither. Now, there is
something in that sombre glory that speaks to you and me. It will
disappear immediately; and we will feel sad. What is it? Voiceless
echoes of light from the light that streams from the Lamb?"

"I hope," I said demurely, for I began to fear this young enthusiast,
"that you don't preach in that tone to the people!"

"Oh dear, no," he said, with a little laugh, "but you must forgive my
nonsense. You gave me such a shock of surprise."

"But," he said, after a pause, "how happy your life must have been here!
I always felt in Manchester that I was living at the bottom of a black
chimney, in smoke and noise and fetor, material and spiritual. Here, you
have your holy people, and the silence and quiet of God. How happy you
must have been!"

"What would you think if we returned," I said. "It's almost our dinner
hour."

It was not so late, however, but that I was able to take a ten minutes'
stroll through the village, and bid "good day" to some of my
parishioners.

I suppose there was a note of interrogation hidden away somewhere under
my greeting, for I was told in different tones and degrees of
enthusiasm:--

"Yerra, your reverence, he's a nate man."

"Yerra, we never saw his likes before."

"He spakes almost as plain and common as yourself."

"They say, your reverence, that he's the son of a jook."

Some old cronies, who retained a lingering gratitude for Father
Laverty's snuff, diluted their enthusiasm a little.

"He is, indeed, a rale nice man. But God be with poor Father Tom
wherever he is. Sure 't was he was kind to the poor."

There was a deputation of young men waiting at my house. I have been
pestered from deputations and speeches since the Land League. A shaggy
giant stepped forward and said:--

"We have preshumed, your reverence, to call upon you to ascertain
whether you'd be agreeable to our what I may call unanimous intinsion of
asking the new cojutor to be prisident of the Gaelic association of
Kilronan, called the 'Holy Terrors.'"

I said I was agreeable to anything they wished: and Father Letheby
became president of the "Holy Terrors."

After dinner something put me into better humor. I suppose it was the
mountain mutton, for there's nothing like it in Ireland,--mutton raised
on limestone land, where the grass is as tender to the lips of the
sheep, as the sheep to the lips of men. I thought I had an excellent
opportunity of eliciting my curate's proficiency in his classics. With
a certain amount of timidity, for you never know when you are treading
on a volcano with these young men, I drew the subject around. I have a
way of talking enigmatically, which never fails, however, to reveal my
meaning. And after a few clever passes, I said, demurely, drawing out my
faded and yellow translation, made nearly thirty years ago:--

"I was once interested in other things. Here is a little weak
translation I once made of a piece of Greek poetry, with which you are
quite familiar. Ah me! I had great notions at the time, ideas of
corresponding with classical journals, and perhaps, sooner or later, of
editing a classic myself. But _Cui bono?_ paralyzed everything. That
fatal _Cui bono?_ that is the motto and watchword of every thinking and
unthinking man in Ireland. However, now that you have come, perhaps--who
knows? What do you think of this?"

I read solemnly:--

    "I have argued and asked in my sorrow
      What shall please me? what manner of life?
    At home am I burdened with cares that borrow
      Their color from a world of strife.
    The fields are burdened with toil,
      The seas are sown with the dead,
    With never a hand of a priest to assoil
      A soul that in sin hath fled.
    I have gold: I dread the danger by night;
      I have none: I repine and fret;
    I have children: they darken the pale sunlight;
      I have none: I'm in nature's debt.
    The young lack wisdom; the old lack life;
      I have brains; but I shake at the knees;
    Alas! who could covet a scene of strife?
      Give me peace in this life's surcease!"

"What do you think of this? It is a loose translation from Posidippus."

"It swings well," said Father Letheby. "But who was he?"

"One of the gnomic, or sententious poets," I replied.

"Greek or Latin?" he asked.

Then I succumbed.

"You never heard his name before?" I said.

"Never," said he emphatically.

I paused and reflected.

"The Bishop told me," said I, "that you were a great Greek scholar, and
took a medal in Greek composition?"

"The Bishop told me," said he, "that you were the best Greek scholar in
Ireland, with the exception, perhaps, of a Jesuit Father in Dublin."

We looked at each other. Then burst simultaneously into a fit of
laughter, the likes of which had not been heard in that room for many a
day.

"I am not sure," said I, "about his Lordship's classical attainments;
but he knows human nature well."

Father Letheby left next morning to see after his furniture. He had
taken a slated, one-storied cottage in the heart of the village. It was
humble enough; but it looked quite aristocratic amongst its ragged
neighbors.



CHAPTER IV

THE PANTECHNICON


The usual deadly silence of a country village in Ireland, which is never
broken but by the squeal of a pig, or the clucking of chickens, or a
high voice, heard occasionally in anger, was rudely shocked on the
following Thursday evening. The unusual commotion commenced with a
stampede of sans-culottish boys, and red-legged, wild-eyed girls, who
burst into the village streets with shouts of

"Rah! rah! the circus! the circus! the wild baste show! Rah! rah!"

In an instant every door frame was filled with a living picture. Women
of all shapes, and in all manners of _habille_ and _dishabille_, leaned
over the cross-doors and gazed curiously at the coming show. The men,
too phlegmatic even in their curiosity, simply shifted the pipe from one
side of the mouth to the other; and, as the object of all this curiosity
lumbered into the street, three loafers, who supported a blank wall
opposite my door, steered round as slowly as a vessel swings with the
tide, and leaned the right shoulder, instead of the left, against the
gable. It was a tremendous expenditure of energy; and I am quite sure
it demanded a drink. And I, feeling from these indications that
something unusual was at hand, drew back my window curtains, and stared
decorously at the passing wonder. It was a long van, drawn by two
horses, which sweated and panted under the whip of their driver. It was
painted a dark green; and in gold letters that glittered on the green, I
read the magic legend:--

PANTECHNICON.

"Pan" is Greek for "all," thought I; and "technicon" is appertaining to
art. It means an exhibition of all the arts; that is, a Gypsy wagon with
bric-à-brac, or one of these peep-shows, which exhibits to admiring
youngsters Napoleon crossing the Alps, or Marius sitting on the ruins of
Carthage. I let the curtain fall, and went back to my books; but in a
moment I heard the caravan stopping just a few doors below, and I heard
my bedroom window raised; and I knew that Hannah was half way between
heaven and earth. I have not a particle of curiosity in my composition,
but I drew back the curtain again, and looked down the street. The van
had stopped at Father Letheby's new house, and a vast crowd surged
around it. The girls kept at a respectful distance, whilst the men
unyoked their horses; but the boys stood near, in the attitude of
runners at a tournament, ready to make off the moment the first ominous
growl was heard. The adults were less excited, though quite as curious,
and I could hear the questionings over the silence of expectation that
had fallen on the village.

"Yerra, what is it?"

"How do I know? It's the place where the circus people live."

"O--yeh! what a quare place to live in? And where do they sleep?"

"In the wagon."

"An' ate?"

"In the wagon."

"Yerra, they're not Christians at all, at all."

Then the men slowly opened the door of the wagon, and took out, from a
mass of canvas and straw, a dainty satin-covered chair. A tidy, well
dressed servant, with a lace cap perched on the top of her head, and
what the village folk called "sthramers" flying behind, came out of
Father Letheby's cottage, and helped to take the furniture within. As
each pretty article appeared, there was a chorus of "oh-h-hs" from the
children. But the climax of delight was reached when a gilt mirror
appeared. Then for the first time sundry boys and girls saw their own
dear smutty faces; and huge was their delight. But I am wrong. The
climax came when the heaviest article appeared. Great was the curiosity.

"What is it? what is it?" "A bed?" "No." "A dresser?" "No." "A thing for
books?" "No."

But one enlightened individual, who had been up to the great house at a
spring cleaning, astonished the natives by declaring that it was a
piano.

"A pianney? Yeh, for what? A priest with a pianney! Yerra, his niece is
going to live wid him. Yerra, no! He'll play it himself."

Which last interpretation was received with shouts of incredulous
laughter. What a versatile people we are! And how adoration and
laughter, and reverence and sarcasm, move side by side in our character,
apparently on good terms with each other. Will the time come when the
laughter and the wit, grown rampant, will rudely jostle aside all the
reverential elements in our nature, and mount upwards to those fatal
heights which other nations have scaled like Satan,--and thence have
been flung into the abyss?

I was curious to know what Hannah thought of it all. Hannah too is
versatile; and leaps from adoration to envy with wonderful facility.

"Father Letheby's furniture, I suppose?" I said, when she brought in the
dinner.

"I believe so," she replied, in a tone of ineffable scorn,--"a parcel of
gimcracks and kimmeens."

"I thought they looked nice from here," I said.

"Don't sit on his chairs, unless you have your will made," she said.

"Did I see a looking-glass?" I asked.

"Oh yes! to curl his hair, I suppose. And a pianney to play polkas."

"It isn't as solid as ours, Hannah," I said. This opened the
flood-gates of wrath.

"No," she said, in that accent of sarcasm in which an Irish peasant is
past master, "nor purtier. Look at that sophy now. Isn't it fit for any
lady in the land? And these chairs? Only for the smith, they'd be gone
to pieces long ago. And that lovely carpet? 'T would do for a flag for
the 'lague.' You haven't one cup and saucer that isn't cracked, nor a
plate that isn't burnt, nor a napkin, nor a tablecloth, nor a
saltcellar, nor--nor a--nor a--"

"I'll tell you what, Hannah," I said. "Father Letheby is going to show
us what's what. I'll furnish the whole house from top to bottom. Was
that his housekeeper?"

"I suppose so," she said contemptuously. "Some poor girl from an
orphanage. If she wasn't, she wouldn't wear them curifixes."

I admit that Hannah's scorn for my scanty belongings was well bestowed.
The sofa, which appeared to affect her æsthetic sense most keenly, was
certainly a dilapidated article. Having but three legs, it leaned in a
loafing way against the wall, and its rags of horsehair and protruding
springs gave it a most trampish and disreputable appearance. The chairs
were solid, for the smith had bound them in iron clamps. And the
carpet?--Well, I pitied it. It was threadbare and transparent. Yet,
when I looked around, I felt no feminine scorn. They all appealed to me
and said:--

"We have been forty years in your service. We have seen good things and
evil things. Our faces are familiar to you. We have spent ourselves in
your service."

And I vowed that, even under the coming exigencies, when I should have
to put on an appearance of grace and dignity,--exigencies which I
clearly foresaw the moment my curate made his appearance, these old
veterans should never be set aside or cast as lumber, when their
aristocratic friends would make their appearance. And my books looked at
me as much as to say:--

"You're not ashamed of us?"

No, dear silent friends, I should be the meanest, most ungrateful of
mortals if I could be ashamed of you. For forty years you have been my
companions in solitude; to you I owe whatever inspirations I have ever
felt; from you have descended in copious streams the ideas that raised
my poor life above the commonplace, and the sentiments that have
animated every good thing and every holy purpose that I have
accomplished. Friends that never obtruded on my loneliness by idle
chatter and gossip, but always spoke wise, inspiriting things when most
I needed them; friends that never replied in irritation to my own
disturbed imaginings, but always uttered your calm wisdom like voices
from eternity, to soothe, to control, or to elevate; friends that never
tired and never complained; that went back to your recesses without a
murmur; and never resented by stubborn silence my neglect,--treasures of
thought and fountains of inspiration, you are the last things on earth
on which my eyes shall rest in love, and like the orphans of my flock
your future shall be my care. True, like your authors, you look
sometimes disreputable enough. Your clothes, more to my shame, hang
loose and tattered around you, and some of your faces are ink-stained or
thumb-worn from contact with the years and my own carelessness. I would
dress you in purple and fine linen if I may, yet you would reproach me
and think I was weary of your homely faces. Like the beggar-maid you
would entreat to be allowed to go back from queenly glory and pomp to
the tatters and contentment of your years. So shall it be! but between
you and me there must be no divorce, so long as time shall last for me.
Other friends will come and go, but nothing shall dissolve our union
based upon gratitude and such love as man's heart may have for the ideal
and insensible.

When there had been time for perfecting all his arrangements, I strolled
down to pay a formal visit to Father Letheby. The atmosphere of absolute
primness and neatness struck my senses when I entered. Waxed floors,
dainty rugs, shining brasses, coquettish little mirrors here and there,
a choice selection of daintily bound volumes, and on a writing desk a
large pile of virgin manuscript, spoke the scholar and the gentleman. My
heart sank, as I thought how sick of all this he will be in a few weeks,
when the days draw in, and the skies scowl, and the windows are washed,
and the house rocked under the fierce sou'westers that sweep up the
floor of the Atlantic, and throw all its dripping deluges on the little
hamlet of Kilronan. But I said:--

"You have made a cosey little nest for yourself, Father Letheby; may you
long enjoy it."

"Yes," he said, as if answering my horrible scepticism, "God has been
very good to send me here."

Now what can you do with an optimist like that?

"There is just one drawback," I said, with a faint attempt at humor, "to
all this æstheticism." I pointed to a window against which four very
dirty noses were flattened, and four pairs of delighted eyes were
wandering over this fairy-land, and a dirty finger occasionally pointed
out some particularly attractive object.

"Poor little things," he said, "it gives them pleasure, and does me no
harm."

"Then, why not bring them in?" I said.

"Oh, no," he replied, with a little laugh, "I draw the line there." He
pointed to the shining waxed floors. "Besides, it would destroy their
heaven. To touch and handle the ideal, brings it toppling down about our
ears."

We spoke long and earnestly about a lot of things. Then, looking a
little nervously at me, he made a great leap of thought.

"Would you mind my saying a serious word to you, sir?" said he.

"Certainly not," I replied, "go ahead."

"It seems to me, then," he said, deliberately, "that we are not making
all that we might out of the magnificent possibilities that lie at our
disposal. There is no doubt things are pretty backward in Ireland. Yet,
we have an intelligent people, splendid natural advantages,--an
infernally bad government, it is true,--but can we not share the blame
with the government in allowing things to remain as they are? Now, I am
not an advocate for great political designs: I go in for
decentralization, by which I mean that each of us should do his very
best exactly in that place where Providence has placed him. To be
precise, what is there to prevent us from improving the material
condition of these poor people? There is a pier to be built. I am told
shoals of fish whiten the sea in the summer, and there are no appliances
to help our fishermen to catch them and sell them at a vast profit.
There is an old mill lying idle down near the creek. Why not furnish it
up, and get work for our young girls there? We have but a poor water
supply; and, I am told, there is a periodical recurrence of fever.
Pardon me, sir," he continued, "if I seem to be finding fault with the
ministry of the priests here, but I am sure you do not misunderstand
me?"

"Certainly not," said I, "go on."

And he went on with his airy optimism, drawing wonderful castles with
the light pencils of his young fancy, and I seemed to hear my own voice
echoing back from thirty years long passed by, when the very same words
were on my lips and the same ideas throbbed through my brain. But would
it be kind to leave him undeceived? I decided not.

"Your first step," I said, "is to see the landlord, who owns the sloping
fields and the foreshore."

"Certainly," he said, "that's quite easy. What's his address?" He took
up his note-book.

"I am not quite sure," I replied. "He is probably this moment staking
half his property on the red at Monte Carlo, or trying to peep into a
harem at Stamboul, or dining off bison steak in some cañon in the
Sierras."

He looked shocked.

"But his agent,--his representative?"

"Oh! he's quite available. He will be very polite, and tell you in well
chosen words that he can do--nothing."

"But the Governmental Office,--the Board of Works?"

"Quite so. You'll write a polite letter. It will be answered in four
weeks to the day: 'We beg to acknowledge receipt of your communication,
which shall have our earliest attention.' You'll write again. Reply in
four weeks: 'We beg to acknowledge receipt of your communication, which
we have placed before the Board.' You'll hear no more on the matter. But
don't let me depress you!"

"But is there no redress? What about Parliament?"

"Oh, to be sure! A question will be asked in the House of Commons. The
Chief Secretary will reply: 'The matter is under the deliberation of the
Board of Works, with whose counsels we do not wish to interfere.'"

He was silent.

"About the factory," I continued. "You know there is a large shirt
factory in Loughboro, six miles away. If you apply to have a branch
factory established here, the manager will come down, look at the store,
turn up his nose, ask you where are you to find funds to put the
building in proper order, and do you propose to make the store also a
fish-curing establishment; and then he will probably write what a
high-born lady said of the first Napoleon: 'Il salissait tout ce qu'il
touchait.'"

"It's a damned lie," said Father Letheby, springing up, and, I regret to
say, demolishing sundry little Japanese gimcracks, "our people are the
cleanest, purest, sweetest people in the world in their own personal
habits, whatever be said of their wretched cabins. But you are not
serious, sir?"

He bent his glowing eyes upon me. I liked his anger. And I liked very
much that explosive expletive. How often, during my ministry, did I
yearn to be able to utter that emphatic word! Mind, it is not a
cuss-word. It is only an innocent adjective--condemned. But what
eloquence and emphasis there is in it! How often I could have flung it
at the head of a confirmed toper, as he knelt at my feet to take the
pledge. How often I could have shot it at the virago, who was disturbing
the peace of the village; and on whom my vituperation, which fell like a
shot without powder, made no impression! It sounded honest. I like a
good fit of anger, honest anger, and such a gleam of lightning through
it.

"I am," I said, "quite serious. You want to create a Utopia. You forget
your Greek."

He smiled.

"I am reserving the worst," I said.

"What is it?" he cried. "Let me know the worst."

"Well," I said slowly, "the people won't thank you even in the
impossible hypothesis that you succeed."

He looked incredulous.

"What! that they won't be glad to lift themselves from all this squalor
and misery, and be raised into a newer and sweeter life?"

"Precisely. They are happy. Leave them so. They have not the higher
pleasures. Neither have they the higher perils. 'They sow not, neither
do they spin.' But neither do they envy Solomon in all his glory. Jack
Haslem and Dave Olden sleep all day in their coracles. They put down
their lobster pots at night. Next day, they have caught enough of these
ugly brutes to pay for a glorious drunk. Then sleep again. How can you
add to such happiness? By building a schooner, and sending them out on
the high seas, exposed to all the dangers of the deep; and they have to
face hunger and cold and death, for what? A little more money, and a
little more drink; and your sentence: Why didn't he leave us alone?
Weren't we just as well off as we were? which is the everlasting song
of your respected predecessor, only he put it in Latin: _Cui bono?_"

He pondered deeply for a long time. Then he said: "It sounds sensible;
but there is some vile fallacy at the bottom of it. Anyhow, I'll try.
Father, give me your blessing!"

"There again," I said, "see how innocent you are. You don't know the
vernacular."

He looked surprised.

"When you know us better," I answered, in reply to his looks, "you will
understand that by that formula you ask for a drink. And as I don't
happen to be under my own roof just now--"

His glorious laugh stopped me. It was like the ringing of a peal of
bells.

"No matter," he said. "I may go on?"

"Certainly," I replied. "You'll have a few gray hairs in your raven
locks in twelve months time,--that's all."

"What a hare," I thought as I went home, "is madness, the youth, to leap
over the meshes of good counsel, the cripple." Which is not mine, but
that philosopher, Will Shakespeare; or is it Francis Bacon?



CHAPTER V

A SLIGHT MISUNDERSTANDING


Father Letheby commenced sooner than I had expected.

I think it was about nine or ten days after his formal instalment in his
new house, just as I was reading after breakfast the _Freeman's Journal_
of two days past, the door of my parlor was suddenly flung open, a bunch
of keys was thrown angrily on the table, and a voice (which I recognized
as that of Mrs. Darcy, the chapel woman), strained to the highest
tension of indignation, shouted:--

"There! and may there be no child to pray over my grave if ever I touch
them again! Wisha! where in the world did you get him? or where did he
come from, at all, at all? The son of a jook! the son of a draper over
there at Kilkeel. Didn't Mrs. Morarty tell me how she sowld socks to
his ould father? An' he comes here complaining of dacent people! 'Dirt,'
sez he. 'Where?' sez I. 'There,' sez he. 'Where?' sez I. I came of as
dacent people as him. Wondher _you_ never complained. But you're too
aisy. You always allow these galivanters of curates to crow over you.
But I tell you I won't stand it. If I had to beg my bread from house to
house, I won't stand being told I'm dirty. Why, the ladies of the
Great House said they could see their faces in the candlesticks; and
didn't the Bishop say 't was the natest vestry in the diocese? And this
new cojutor with his gran' accent, which no one can understand, and his
gran' furniture, and his whipster of a servant, begor, no one can stand
him. We must all clear out. And, after me eighteen years, scrubbing, and
washing, and ironing, wid me two little orphans, which that blackguard,
Jem Darcy (the Lord have mercy on his sowl!) left me, must go to
foreign countries to airn me bread, because I'm not good enough for his
reverence. Well, 't is you'll be sorry. But, if you wint down on your
two binded knees and said: 'Mrs. Darcy, I deplore you to take up them
kays and go back to your juties,' I wouldn't! No! Get some whipster
that will suit his reverence. Mary Darcy isn't good enough."

[Illustration: "My door was suddenly flung open, and a bunch of keys was
thrown angrily on the table."]

She left the room, only to return. She spoke with forced calmness.

"De thrifle of money you owe me, yer reverence, ye can sind it down to
the house before I start for America. And dere's two glasses of althar
wine in the bottle, and half a pound of candles."

She went out again, but returned immediately.

"The surplus is over at Nell O'Brien's washing, and the black vestment
is over at Tom Carmody's since the last station. The kay of the safe is
under the door of the linny[1] to de left, and the chalice is in the
basket, wrapped in the handkercher. And, if you don't mind giving me a
charackter, perhaps, Hannah will take it down in the evening."

She went out again; but kept her hand on the door.

"Good by, your reverence, and God bless you! Sure, thin, you never said
a hard word to a poor woman." Then there was the sound of falling
tears.

To all this tremendous philippic I never replied. I never do reply to a
woman until I have my hand on the door handle and my finger on the key.
I looked steadily at the column of stocks and shares on the paper,
though I never read a word.

"This is rather a bad mess," said I. "He is coming out too strong."

The minute particulars I had from Hannah soon after. Hannah and Mrs.
Darcy are not friends. Two such village potentates could not be friends
any more than two poets, or two critics, or two philosophers. As a rule,
Hannah rather looked down on the chapel woman, and generally addressed
her with studied politeness. "How are you _to-day_, Mrs. Darcy?" or more
frequently, "Good _morning_, Mrs. Darcy." On the other hand, Mary Darcy,
as arbitress at stations, wakes, and weddings, had a wide influence in
the parish, and I fear used to speak contemptuously sometimes of my
housekeeper. But now there was what the newspapers call a Dual Alliance
against the newcomers, and a stern determination that any attempt at
superiority should be repressed with a firm hand, and to Mrs. Darcy's
lot it fell to bear the martyrdom of high principle and to fire the
first shot, that should be also the final one. And so it was, but not in
the way Mrs. Darcy anticipated.

It would appear, then, that Father Letheby had visited the sacristy, and
taken a most minute inventory of its treasures, and had, with all the
zeal of a new reformer, found matters in a very bad state. Now, he was
not one to smile benignantly at such irregularities and then throw the
burden of correcting them on his pastor. He was outspoken and honest. He
tore open drawers, and drew out their slimy, mildewed contents, sniffed
ominously at the stuffy atmosphere, flung aside with gestures of
contempt some of Mrs. Darcy's dearest treasures, such as a magnificent
reredos of blue paper with gold stars; held up gingerly, and with curled
lip, corporals and purificators, and wound up the awful inspection with
the sentence:--

"I never saw such abominable filth in my life."

Now, you may accuse us in Ireland of anything you please from coining to
parricide, but if you don't want to see blazing eyes and hear vigorous
language don't say, Dirt. Mrs. Darcy bore the fierce scrutiny of her
menage without shrinking, but when he mentioned the ugly word, all her
fury shot forth, and it was all the more terrible, because veiled under
a show of studied politeness.

"Dirt!" she said. "I'd be plazed to see your reverence show one speck of
dirt in the place."

"Good heavens, woman!" he said, "what do you mean? There is dirt
everywhere, in the air, under my feet, in the grate, on the altar. It
would take the Atlantic to purify the place."

"You're the first gentleman that ever complained of the place," said
Mrs. Darcy. "Of coorse, there aren't carpets, and bearskins, and
cowhides, which are now the fashion, I believe. An' dere isn't a
looking-glass, nor a pianney; but would your reverence again show me the
dirt. A poor woman's charackter is all she has."

"I didn't mean to impute anything to your character," he said, mildly,
"but if you can't see that this place is frightfully dirty, I suppose I
can't prove it. Look at that!"

He pointed to a grewsome heap of cinders, half-burnt papers, brown
ashes, etc., that choked up the grate.

"Yerra. Glory be to God!" said Mrs. Darcy, appealing to an imaginary
audience, "he calls the sweepings of the altar, and the clane ashes,
dirt. Yerra, what next?"

"This next," he said, determinedly; "come here." He took her out and
pointed to the altar cloth. It was wrinkled and grimy, God forgive me!
and there were stars of all sizes and colors darkening it.

"Isn't that a disgrace to the Church?" he said, sternly.

"I see no disgrace in it," said Mrs. Darcy. "It was washed and made up
last Christmas, and is as clane to-day as the day it came from the
mangle."

"Do you call that clean?" he shouted, pointing to the drippings of the
candles.

"Yerra, what harm is that," said she, "a bit of blessed wax that fell
from the candles? Sure, 't is of that they make the Agnus Deis."

"You're perfectly incorrigible," he said. "I'll report the whole
wretched business to the parish priest, and let him deal with you."

[Illustration: "Do you call that clean?"]

"Begor you may," said she, "but I'll have my story first."

And so she had. Father Letheby gave me his version afterwards. He did so
with the utmost delicacy, for it was all an indirect indictment of my
own slovenliness and sinful carelessness. I listened with shamed face
and bent head? And determined to let him have his way. I knew that Mrs.
Darcy would not leave for America just yet.

But what was my surprise on the following Sunday, when, on entering the
sacristy to prepare for Mass, I slid along a polished floor, and but for
the wall would probably have left a vacancy at Kilronan to some
expectant curate. The floor glinted and shone with wax; and there were
dainty bits of fibre matting here and there. The grate was black-leaded,
and there was a wonderful firescreen with an Alpine landscape. The clock
was clicking steadily, as if Time had not stood still for us all for
many years: and there were my little altar boys in snowy surplices as
neat as the acolytes that proffered soap and water to the Archbishop of
Rheims, when he called for bell and book in the famous legend.

But oh! my anguish when I drew a stiff white amice over my head, instead
of the dear old limp and wrinkled one I was used to; and when I feebly
tried to push my hands through the lace meshes of an alb, that would
stand with stiffness and pride, if I placed it on the floor. I would
gladly have called for my old garment; but I knew that I too had to
undergo the process of the new reformation; and, with much agony, I
desisted. But I drew the line at a biretta which cut my temples with its
angles, and I called out:--

"Mrs. Darcy."

A young woman, with her hair all tidied up, and with a white apron,
laced at the edges, and pinned to her breast, came out from a recess.
She was smiling bashfully, and appeared as if she would like to run away
and hide somewhere.

"Mrs. Darcy," I called again.

The young woman smiled more deeply, and said with a kind of smirk:--

"Here I am, your reverence!"

It is fortunate for me that I have acquired, after long practice, the
virtue of silence; for when I recognized the voice of my old friend, I
was thunderstruck. I'm sure I would have said something very emphatic,
but my habits restrained me. But I regret to say it was all a source of
distraction to me in the celebration of the Divine Mysteries, and during
the day. What had occurred? I was dying to know; but it would not be
consistent with the dignity of my position to ask. To this day, I
congratulate myself on my reticence; for, who could help asking how?
when face to face with a miracle. It was some days before I discovered
the secret of the magical transformation.

[Illustration: "Here I am, your Reverence!" (p. 56.)]

It would appear, then, that the late lamented Jem Darcy, when he
departed to his reward, left his poor widow two charges in the shape of
children. What do I say? Charges? No. She would scornfully repudiate the
word. For was not Patsey, the baby of eighteen months, "the apple of
her eye," and Jemmy, the little hunchback of six summers, "the core of
her heart"? For them she labored and toiled, and "moiled," as she used
to say; and worked herself into oil to get them bread, and a pink ribbon
for the baby's shoulder knot, and a navy cap, with "Hero" in gold
letters for Jemmy. And across her troubled life, full of cares and
apprehensions, poor soul! was there any gleam of sunshine, except that
which was reflected in the iris of her baby's eyes; or that which
dappled the mud floor of her cabin, when Jemmy lay there and played hide
and seek with the gossamer threads that shone through the chink in the
half-door! Ah me! it is easy to lecture the poor, and complain of their
horrid ways; but the love such as no man hath gilds and enamels most of
the crooked and grimy things that disfigure their poor lives in the eyes
of the fastidious; and perhaps makes the angels of Him, before whose
Face the stars are not spotless, turn from the cold perfection of the
mansion and the castle to gaze lovingly on the squalid lowliness of the
hamlet and the cabin. Well. On the morning that Mrs. Darcy gave me
formal notice of her relinquishment of the solemn office she held, she
bent her steps homeward with a heavy heart. She had done her duty, like
all the other great people who have done disagreeable things; but it
brought no consolation. And she had flung behind her her little cabin,
and all the sweet associations connected therewith, and the pomp and
pride of power, when she officiated at the public offices of the Church,
and every one knew her to be indispensable. For who could tell the name
of a defaulter at the station, but Mrs. Darcy? And who arranged the
screaming baby in the clumsy arms of a young godmother, but Mrs. Darcy?
And who could lay out a corpse like Mrs. Darcy? And who but Mrs. Darcy
found the ring when the confused and blushing bridegroom fumbled in
every pocket at the altar, and the priest looked angry, and the bride
ashamed?

And then her pride in the Church! How wonderful were her designs in
holly and ivy at Christmas! What fantasies she wove out of a rather
limited imagination! What art fancies, that would shame William Morris,
poet and socialist, did she conceive and execute in the month of May for
the Lady Altar! Didn't Miss Campion say that she was a genius, but
undeveloped? Didn't Miss Campion's friend from Dublin declare that
there was nothing like it in Gardiner Street? And when her time would be
spent, and she was old and rheumatized, would not little Jemmy, the
hunchback, who was a born pre-Raphaelite, take her place, and have a
home, for he could not face the rough world? Ah me! and it was all gone;
cast behind her through a righteous feeling of pride and duty. She moved
through the village with a heavy heart; and her check apron went to her
eyes.

She had an amiable habit of never entering her cabin without playing
"Peek-a-boo!" through the window with the baby. For this purpose, the
cradle was always drawn so that the baby faced the window; and when it
saw the round face, which it knew so well, peeping over the speck
blossoms of the mignonette, well--there were developments. On this
particular morning, Mrs. Darcy was in no humor for playacting; but the
force of habit is strong, and she peered through the little window with
reddened eyes. And these eyes, as she afterwards described it, "sprod in
her head" at what she saw. For, on the floor, in his favorite attitude,
his head propped between his hands, was the hunchback, Jemmy, studying
with all the intense appreciation of an Edison, how to construct an airy
castle out of certain painted wood-blocks, which strewed the floor; and
there, his back turned towards the window, was her arch-enemy, Father
Letheby, his right hand raised aloft and dangling an india-rubber baby;
whilst Patsey, his eyes dilated with excitement, made frantic attempts
to seize the prize, and crowed and chuckled in the exuberance of his
delight. Mrs. Darcy drew back hastily, then peeped again. No doubt of
it. It was no phantasm of the imagination. She looked again. Then
whispered something softly to herself, and, with a great lump in her
throat, sped swiftly through the village and up to the "Great House."
The result of her interview with Miss Campion we have seen. Father
Letheby has scored again. There were heavy bets of fifteen to one in
half-gallons of porter, laid by desperate gamblers, that Father Letheby
would make Mrs. Darcy wash her face. It was supposed to be a wild plunge
in a hopeless speculation. I am told now, that the betting has gone up
at the forge, and is now fifty to one that, before a month, she'll have
a lace cap and "sthramers" like the maids at the "Great House."

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 1: Saxon, linhay.]



CHAPTER VI

AT THE STATION


Captain Campion was one of that singular race of Catholics, with which
Ireland was familiar fifty years ago, but which is now dying rapidly
away under the new conditions and environments of our age. A strong,
rough lot they were, with whom a word meant a blow; gentlemen every inch
of them, who would die for the faith whose dogmas they knew nothing of,
and whose commands they ignored. Often in the town and country clubs of
Ireland strange things happened, of which the outer world heard nothing;
for stewards are discreet, and managers imbibe the spirit of
respectability from their superiors. But the walls could tell of wine
glasses shattered, and billiard cues broken, and hot blows exchanged for
a word about the Pope, or against the priests; it was a leap of hot
flame, which died out in a moment, and they were gentlemen again. And
the perfervid imagination of the Celt had invented some such heroism
about Captain Campion,--particularly one brilliant achievement at a
hunt, when he unhorsed with the butt of his riding whip, and then cut
and lashed an unfortunate young officer in the Lancers, who had dared
say something about Bittra,--the "lovely Papist," who was toasted at the
mess in distant Galway, and had set half the hunting men of the country
wild with her beauty and her prowess. It may be supposed then that
Captain Campion was not a practical Catholic. He came to Mass
occasionally, where he fidgeted in his pew, and twisted and writhed
under the sermon. He never went to Confession; not even to his Easter
duty,--which prevented me from accepting the hospitalities which he
freely proffered. There were other little circumstances which made me
wish not to be too intimate. Whatever political opinions I held, and
they were thin and colorless enough, were in direct antagonism to his.
He was a three-bottle Tory, who regarded the people as so many serfs,
who provided laborers for his comfort, and paid him for the privilege of
living on stony mountain or barren bog. The idea of their having any
rights struck him as positively ludicrous. There was but one thing that
had rights, and that was the fetish, property. Every attempt, therefore,
to lift the people from that condition of serfdom he regarded as
absolutely treasonable; and he was my chief opponent in any futile
attempts I made to introduce some improvements into the wretched place.
And of course he was hated. There was hardly a family to whom he had not
done an injury, for he pushed the law to savage extremes. He had
evicted, and burnt down the deserted cottages; he had driven honest lads
for some paltry act of poaching into criminal and dishonest courses; he
had harassed the widow and unhoused the orphan; and every prayer that
went up for the sweet face of his child was weighted with a curse for
the savage and merciless father. He knew it, and didn't care. For there
were plenty to fawn upon him and tell him he was quite right. Ah me! how
the iron has sunk into our souls! Seven centuries of slavery have done
their work well.

Bittra Campion sat in the large drawing-room, with the high, broad
windows, that looked over a dun, brown moorland, to where the sea-line
threw its clear curve athwart the sky. She was working quietly at some
little garment for a poor peasant girl or half-clad boy in the
mountains; but over her gentle and usually placid face stole a look of
apprehension, as if a shadow of coming evil was thrown forward by the
undefined future. Yet why should she fear, who hated no one, but poured
her love abroad upon all? Ah, why? is it not upon the gentle and the
kind that the hailstones of destiny beat oftenest, as if they felt that
here, and not upon the rugged and the stern, their pitiless strength
should succeed? From time to time, Bittra looked to the door, or paused
in her work, to listen for a footstep. At last it came,--her father's
heavy step, as he strode across the corridor, and the doors slammed
behind him.

"All alone, mignonne," he said. "A penny, nay, a pound for your
thoughts."

"Agreed, father," she said eagerly, "I want a pound rather badly just
now."

"Some new idiot discovered in the hills," he said, "or some disreputable
tramp with a good imagination. You shall have it, Bittra," he said,
coming over, and gently stroking her hair. He looked down fondly upon
her, and said, suddenly changing his voice:--

"I am hungry as a hawk, Bittra; would you get me some tea?"

She rose to meet his wishes, and as her tall, beautiful figure passed
from the room, he said to himself:--

"God, how like her mother!"

He threw himself on a sofa, and looked out over the moor. But he saw--

A long, low island, with the plumes of palms crowning the hill; and
beneath, the white waves creeping up the coral crests to mingle with the
lazy waters of the lagoon. A cottage, shaded with palms, close down by
the beach, with magnolias clustering round the windows, and orchids far
back in the moist shades, and creeping vines tangled in and out amongst
the palms, and a strong sun, going down in an orange and crimson sky,
and a cool, welcome breeze from the sea, that just lifts up the fans of
the palms, and a stray curl on the forehead of a girl--for she was
hardly more than a girl--who sat out on the tiny lawn, and at her feet
the young naval officer, who had carried off his bride at the last
season at the Castle and brought her here under southern skies, and
believed that this was the world--and heaven. His ship lay at anchor on
the eastern side; and here they were stationed for weeks, it may be for
months, away from civilization and all its nuisances, and alone with
Nature and the children of Nature, who came by degrees to love at least
the gentle lady who was so kind to them and their brown babies. Alas for
human happiness! One short year, and he was a widower, with the charge
of a little babe.

"It was a bitter fate," he said to himself, "and I called her 'Bittra'
in my rage. I must change that name."

He started, for the door opened and Bittra came in, immediately followed
by the servant with tea.

"We've got a new neighbor, mignonne," he said, as he broke up his toast,
"and must call immediately. Can you guess?"

"No, father," she said; but it fitted in with her apprehensions and made
her shudder.

"Neither can I," he said, laughing. "But I have got mysterious hints
that indicate a neighbor."

"Judith again," said Bittra. "She can never be explicit."

Then, after a long pause, she said, as if communing with herself:--

"I don't like new acquaintances. They are pretty certain to be
troublesome. Can't we live for one another, father?"

"Gladly, my child," he said, darkly, "but what can you do? Life is warp
and woof. It must be held together somehow. And the woof is what we call
society."

"Father," she said timidly, "there will be a station at the glen in the
morning. Might I ask the priests to breakfast here?"

"By all means," he replied, "it will be better than a dejeuner in a room
with two beds, and a squalling baby, with the bread taken from the
blankets, and the butter from the top of the dresser."

"Ah, no, pap, 't is never so bad as that. They do their best, poor
things--"

"All right," he cried. "Bring up their reverences. There are two or
three sole brought up from the yacht."

It was rather a remarkable station, that at Glencarn, although we did
not accept Miss Campion's invitation. I was rather apprehensive of the
effect these country stations would have on my fastidious curate; and I
narrowly watched him, as we left our car on the hills, and strode
through soft yellow mud and dripping heather to some mountain cabin. And
I think there was a little kindly malice in my thoughts when I allowed
him enter first, and plunge into the night of smoke that generally
filled these huts. Then the saying of Mass on a deal table, with a horse
collar overhead, and a huge collie dog beneath, and hens making frantic
attempts to get on the altar-cloth,--I smiled to myself, and was quite
impatient to know what effect all these primitive surroundings would
have on such refinement and daintiness. "He'll never stand it," I
thought, "he'll pitch up the whole thing, and go back to England." As
usual, I was quite wrong. Where I anticipated disgust, there were almost
tears of delight and sympathy; where I expected indignation, I found
enthusiasm.

"There's nothing like it in the world," he used say (this was a favorite
expression of his); "such faith, such reverence, such kindly courtesy!
Why, no empress could do the honors of the table like that poor woman!
Did you notice her solicitude, her eagerness, her sensitiveness lest she
should be intruding on our society. But those men in that smoky
kitchen,--it took me a long time to discern their faces in the gloom of
the smoke. And then I'd have given half that I have ever learned to be
able to paint them,--strong, brave mountaineers, their faces ruddy from
sun and wind; and such a reverential attitude! And then the idea of
their coming over to me, a young lad like themselves, and kneeling down
on the cobblestones, and whispering their little story,--there in the
presence of their comrades; and the little maidens with their sweet,
pure faces hidden under the hoods of their shawls, and the eyes of
wondering children, and the old men, bending over the fire,--why you
ought to be the happiest man on the face of the earth,--they are a
people to die for!"

Well, this morning at Glencarn we had a scene; and, as an easy,
good-tempered old man, I hate scenes, and keep away from them. The
morning was sullenly wet,--not in fierce, autumnal gusts, but there was
a steady persistent downpour of soft, sweet rain, that bathed your face
like a sponge, and trickled under your coat collar, and soaked your
frieze and waterproof, and made you feel flabby and warm and
uncomfortable. We did not see the cabin until we were quite close to it;
and when we entered, the first person we saw, kneeling on the mud floor,
but the kindness of the people had placed a bag under her knees, was
Bittra Campion. She was wrapped round about with a waterproof cloak, the
hood of which, lined with blue, covered her head, and only left her face
visible. There she knelt among the simple people; and if the saint of
the day appeared in bodily form, I am not sure that he would have
received more reverence than was poured around that gentle figure from
the full hearts that beat silently near her. I was not much surprised,
for I had seen Miss Campion at stations before; but Father Letheby
started back in astonishment, and looked inquiringly at me. I took no
notice, but passed into the little bedroom, and commenced hearing
confessions.

The tinkling of the little bell was the only indication I had of the
progress of the Holy Sacrifice; and when I knew it was ended, and was
studying some faded photographs of American friends over the rude
mantelpiece, I heard, amid the profound silence, Father Letheby's voice
suddenly raised in anger.

"Kneel down at once! Have you no respect for Him whom you have just
received, and who is before you on the altar?"

The people had arisen the moment the last prayer was said. It grated on
the feelings of the young priest, who, as I afterwards found, had the
most intense reverence and devotion towards the Most Holy Sacrament. I
waited for some minutes; then came out, and read the Station List, and
returned to the little bedroom off the kitchen. Miss Campion came in,
and proffered the hospitality of her home. We gladly declined. It would
have pained our humble hosts to have turned our backs upon them; and I
confess I was infinitely more at my ease there in that little bedroom
with its mud floor and painted chairs, than in Captain Campion's
dining-room. It is quite true, that James Casey cut the bread very
thick, and drank his tea with a good deal of expression from his saucer.
But these were slight drawbacks. The eggs were fresh and milky, the
cream delicious, the tea strong, the bread crispy, the butter sweet and
golden; and the daughters of the house and the mother waited on us with
a thoroughness and courtesy, that would have done credit to a court; and
we talked on all subjects,--the weather, the harvest, the neighbors; and
chaffed old Dan Downey--who was a great Biblical scholar--about the
"Jeroakims," and asked him where a hare might be found on the mountains;
but this was professional, so he stuffed his mouth with bread, and
insured his statutory silence. Then the little children crept in shyly
for bits of sugar; and the neighbors waited patiently till the clergy
were served; and we left the house with our blessing, and such gratitude
as only an Irish priest can feel for his flock.

The same steady, persistent downpour of rain continued as we passed over
the boulders of the torrent, and made our way through slushy mud and
dripping heather to where our horse was waiting. Father Letheby was
slightly moody.

At last, taking off his hat, and shaking down streams of water, he
said:--

"That was a shocking thing this morning. You heard me speak angrily.
Imagine those people standing up coolly, immediately after having
received Holy Communion; and I have spoken to them so repeatedly about
reverence."

"Did you notice where they were kneeling?" I said, not unkindly.

"Well, indeed it was not velvet."

"No," I said, "but rough cobblestones, rather pointed, like some
allusions in our sermons. Do you know how long they were kneeling
there?"

"During Mass," he said.

"No," I replied, "they knelt there during the confessions, and during
Mass. I am not excusing them, but did you ever hear of the ancient
penance of wearing peas in pilgrims' shoes? Some, I believe, and I think
Erasmus is the authority, had the wisdom to boil those peas. But you
cannot boil cobblestones. I never realized this part of our people's
sufferings till a poor fellow one morning, whilst I sat comfortably by
the fire, interrupted his confession to say:--

"For the love of God, your reverence, would you lave me put my cap under
my knees?"

My curate laughed good-naturedly. We got out on the highroad at last;
and as we jogged home in the soft, warm rain, I took the opportunity of
giving a little advice. It is a little luxury I am rather fond of, like
the kindred stimulant of a pinch of snuff; and as I have had but few
luxuries in my life, no one ought grudge me this.

"My dear Father Letheby," I said, as we sat comfortably together, "the
great principle of Irish life is _quieta non movere_. Because, when you
lay a finger on the most harmless and impotent things, they spring at
once into hissing and spitting things, like the Lernæan hydra; and then,
like that famous monster, you must cauterize the wound to heal, or
prevent new hideous developments. You have, as yet, no idea of how many
ways, all different and mutually antagonistic, there are, of looking at
things in Ireland. To your mind there seems but one,--one judgment, and
therefore one course of action. There are a hundred mirrors concentrated
on the same object, and each catches its own shape and color from
passion and interest. And each is quite honest in its own portraiture,
and each is prepared to fight for its own view to the bitter end."

"I beg your pardon, sir," my curate said, deferentially, "I am following
you with great attention. Do I understand you to say that each mirror is
prepared to fight for its own view to the bitter end? I have seen
something like that in a comic picture--"

"You know, you rascal, what I mean," I said, "I mean the hands that hold
the mirrors."

"Of course," he said, "my stupidity. But I am a little bit of a purist
in language."

Now, isn't this annoying? Poor Father Tom never interrupted me. He
always used say: "Yes! yes! to be sure! to be sure!" or, "Ki bono? ki
bono?" which grated horribly on my ears. I see I must be more careful;
and I shall defer this lecture.

"Might I ask you to proceed, sir?" he said. "It is very interesting,
indeed. You were talking about the pugnacity of mirrors."

There was a slight acidity here; but the poor fellow was put out.

"Never mind," I said, "you have a great deal to learn yet--with wrinkles
and gray hairs. But if you want to keep these raven locks, now wet and
dripping, intact, remember, _quieta non movere_! And if you want to keep
your face, now smooth and ruddy, but, I regret to say, glistening with
rain, free from wrinkles, remember, _quieta non movere_. Take now your
frequent altar denunciations of local superstitions,--the eggs found in
the garden, and the consequent sterility of the milk, the evil eye and
the cattle dying, etc., etc.,--it will take more than altar
denunciations, believe me,--it will take years of vigorous education to
relegate these ideas into the limbo of exploded fantasies. And the
people won't be comfortable without them. You take away the poetry,
which is an essential element in the Gaelic character, and you make the
people prosaic and critical, which is the worst thing possible for them.
Thiggin-thu? But I beg your pardon. You are beyond all that."

"It sounds plausible," he said, getting down from the gig; "but it
sounds also, pardon the expression, cowardly. However, we'll see!"



CHAPTER VII

SCRUPLES


Captain Campion gave a large dinner party on All-Hallows-Eve. It is a
ghostly time; and, in Ireland, every one, even the most advanced and
materialistic, feels that the air is full of strange beings, who cannot
be accounted for either by the microscope or the scalpel. Father Letheby
was invited and went. I was rather glad he did go, for I felt that the
village was rather dull for such a brilliant young fellow; and I had a
kind of pardonable pride in thinking that he would be fully competent to
meet on their own level any pretentious people that might stray hither
from more civilized centres. There is hardly, indeed, any great risk of
meeting too intellectual people in Ireland just now. The anatomy of a
horse is about the term and end of the acquired knowledge of the
stronger sex; and the latest ball--well, this won't do! I must suspend
this criticism, otherwise I shall wound, and that does not suit an old
priest, who is beginning to hear the murmurs of the eternal seas.

Father Letheby walked over across the moor to the "Great House." It was
growing dark when he left home, and he allowed himself a full hour, as
he had to make some calls by the way. One of these calls led him to a
house where an old woman was bedridden. Her son, a strong man of thirty
years or more, was doing something strange when the priest unexpectedly
entered. He was suffering from a scrofulous ulcer in the neck, and it
was a hideous disfigurement. He had just been standing before a broken
piece of looking-glass, stuck in the rough plaster of the wall; and he
hastily hid something as the priest entered. Father Letheby's suspicions
were instantly aroused. And he said hastily,--for he detested anything
like concealment,--

"What have you been doing?"

"Nothing, your reverence," said the peasant, nervously.

"Then, what are you hiding?" said Father Letheby.

"Nothing, your reverence," said the poor fellow.

"Tell the priest, Ned, alanna," said the old woman from her bed. "Sure,
't is only a charm which the good 'oman has set, Father. And it's cured
him already."

The young man scowled at his aged mother; and in response to an emphatic
gesture from the priest, he pulled out a little coil of rope, partly
worn at the end into a little wisp of flax.

"And are you such an utter fool," said the priest, angrily, holding the
rope gingerly between his fingers, "as to believe that that wretched
thing could cure you?"

"It _has_ cured me," said the young man. "Look here!"

Father Letheby looked; and sure enough, there was but a faint scar, as
of a burn, on the place where he knew well there had been a hideous
running ulcer a few days ago. He was struck dumb.

"I am not surprised," he said, recovering himself rapidly; "I know Satan
possesses supernatural power. But you, unhappy man, do you not know that
it is to the devil you owe your cure?"

"I told him so, your reverence," whimpered the poor mother. "I said,
better be sick forever, Ned, than break God's law. Sure, nothing good
can come from it."

"Thin why did God allow it?" said the young man, angrily.

"If you knew anything of your religion," said the priest, "you might
know that God permits evil things to happen. So much the worse for evil
doers. You have committed grave sin."

"But, sure, this is good," said the poor fellow, feebly groping after
theological lights, "and whatever is good comes from God."

"The effect may be good," said the priest, "the instrument is bad. What
is that?" and he pointed to the rope that was dangling in his hand.

The young man was silent.

"You are afraid to tell? Now what is it? There's something uncanny about
it?"

He fumbled with his vest, and looked sullenly into the darkening night.

"Then, as you won't answer, I'll take it with me," said the priest,
folding the rope into a coil, and preparing to put it in his pocket.

There was a sullen smile around the young man's mouth.

"The owner will be looking for it," said he.

"Tell the owner that Father Letheby has it, and she can come to me for
it," said the priest. He put the rope in his pocket and moved to the
door.

"Don't! don't! Father dear," said the old woman. "It isn't good. Give
it back, and Ned will give it to the good 'oman to-morrow."

"No! I shall give it myself," said the priest, "and a bit of my mind
with it."

The young man moved to the door, and stood beside the priest.

"You would not touch it if you knew what it was," he whispered.

"What?" said Father Letheby.

"Do you remember old Simmons, the pinsioner, down at Lougheagle?"

"Who destroyed himself?"

"Yes! he hanged himself to a rafter in the barn."

"I remember having heard of it."

"He hanged himself with a rope."

"I presume so."

"Your reverence has the rope in your pocket."

The priest stepped back as if stung. The thing was so horrible that he
lost his self-possession. Then a great flood of anger swept his soul;
and taking the hideous instrument from his pocket, he passed over to the
open hearth; with one or two turns of the wheel, that answers the
purpose of a bellows in Ireland, he kindled the smouldering ashes into
flame, buried the rope deep down in the glowing cinders, and watched it
curl into a white ash, that bent and writhed like a serpent in pain. The
old woman told her beads, and then blessed the priest, with, however, a
tremor of nervous fear in her voice. The young man lifted his hat, as
the priest, without a word, passed into the darkness.

"She'll be after asking for the rope, your reverence?" he said at
length, when the priest had gone a few yards.

"Refer her to me," Father Letheby said. "And look here, young man," he
cried, coming back and putting his face close to the peasant's, "I'd
advise you to go to your confession as soon as you can, lest, in the
words of Scripture, 'something worse happen to you.'"

It was a pleasant dinner party at the "Great House." Colonel Campion
presided. Bittra sat opposite her father. Captain Ormsby, Inspector of
Coast Guards, was near her. There were some bank officials from a
neighboring town; Lord L----'s agent and his wife; a military surgeon; a
widower, with two grown daughters; the new Protestant Rector and his
wife. Father Letheby was very much pleased. He was again in the society
that best suited his natural disposition. It was tolerably intelligent
and refined. The lights, the flowers, the music, told on his senses,
long numbed by the quietness and monotony of his daily life. He entered
into the quiet pleasures of the evening with zest, made all around him
happy, and even fascinated by the brilliancy with which he spoke, so
much so that Bittra Campion said to him, as he was leaving about eleven
o'clock:--

"Father, we are infinitely obliged to you."

He returned home, filled with a pleasant excitement, that was now so
unusual to him in his quiet, uneventful life. The moonlight was
streaming over sea and moorland, and he thought, as he passed over the
little bridge that spanned the fiord, and stepped out into the broad
road:--

"A delightful evening! But I must be careful. These Sybaritic banquets
unfit a man for sterner work! I shall begin to hate my books and to
loathe my little cabin. God forbid! But how pleasant it was all. And how
Campion and Ormsby jumped at that idea of mine about the fishing
schooner. I look on the matter now as accomplished. After all, perhaps,
these Irish gentry are calumniated. Nothing could equal the ardor of
these men for the welfare of the poor fishermen. Who knows? In six
months' time, the 'Star of the Sea' may be ploughing the deep, and a
fleet of sailing boats in her wake; and then the fish-curing stores,
and, at last, the poor old village will look up and be known far and
wide. Dear me! I must get that lovely song out of my brain, and the odor
of those azaleas out of my senses. 'T will never do! À Kempis would
shame me; would arraign me as a rebel and a traitor. What a lovely
night! and how the waters sleep in the moonlight! Just there at the bend
we'll build the new pier. I see already the 'Star of the Sea' putting
out, and the waters whitening in her wake."

He looked around, and saw the cottages of the peasants and the laborers
gleaming against the dark background of the moor and the mountain; and
the thought smote him: Perhaps there some little children went to bed
hungry to-night. He went home sadly, and, sitting down, he said:--

"Let me see! Soup, entrées, joints, sweets, fruits, wine, coffee. Let me
see! White roses, azaleas, chrysanthemums. Let me see! Waldteufel,
Strauss, Wagner! Let me see!"

He went over, and opened what appeared to be a rather highly decorated
cupboard. He drew back three shutters, and revealed a triptych, sunk
deep in the wall of his little parlor. It was the only thing of real
value he held. It was given to him by a Roman lady, who, for one reason
or another, chose to reside in England. It nearly filled the entire
space on the low wall. As he drew back the shutters, the lamplight fell
on the figure that occupied the whole of the central panel. It was the
Christ. The tall shape was closely wrapped around in the Jewish
kethoneth,--the first of the _vestes albæ_ of the priest, as St. John
represents in the Apocalypse. The capouche fell loosely over His head,
and was embroidered in many colors, as was also the hem of His long
white robe, which fell in folds over His sandalled feet. The hood of the
capouche shaded His eyes and threw a dark shadow on the face as far as
the lips. But the sacred figure also held its right hand to shelter the
eyes more deeply from a strong glare of sunset. The left hand fell
loosely by His side, and the first of a large flock of sheep had nestled
its head comfortably in the open palm. The large, gray eyes of Christ
were filled with an anxious light, as they gazed over the silent desert,
questing for some lost object; and the mouth, lightly fringed with
beard, was querulous with pain and solicitude. It was a beautiful
picture,--one worthy to be screened from indevout eyes, or revealed only
to those who loved and worshipped.

The young priest gazed long and lovingly at this presentment of his
Divine Master, whom he loved with the strongest personal affection.
Then he knelt down and pressed his forehead against the dust-stained
feet of Christ, and moaned:--

"Master, if I have done wrong in aught this night, let me know it! If I
have betrayed Thy interests, or brought Thy Name to shame, teach me in
the sharpest tones and flames of Thy anger, for I need a monitor; and
where shall I find so loving or so truthful a monitor as Thou? Alas! how
weak and pitiful I am, and how this poor unsubdued nature of mine craves
for things beyond Thee! I know there is no truth but in Thee,--no
sincerity, no constancy. I know what men are; how deceitful in their
words; how unkind in their judgments. Yet this lower being within my
being forever stretches out its longings to sensible things that
deceive, and will not rest in Thee, who art all Truth. But I must be
brought back to Thee through the sharp pangs of trial and tears. Spare
me not, O Master! only do not punish with the deprivation of Thy Love!"

He rose up strengthened, yet with a premonition in his heart of great
trials awaiting him. Who would dream of such tragic things under the
heavy skies and the dull environments of life in Ireland?



CHAPTER VIII

OUR CONCERT


The winter stole in quietly, heralded by the white frosts of late
October; and nothing occurred to disturb the quiet of the village,
except that Father Letheby's horse, a beautiful bay, ran suddenly lame
one evening, as he topped a hill, and a long reach of mountain lay
before him on his way to a sick-call. There were, of course, a hundred
explanations from as many amateurs as to the cause of the accident. Then
a quiet farmer, who suspected something, found a long needle driven deep
into the hoof. It had gone deeper and deeper as the action of the horse
forced it, until it touched the quick, and the horse ran dead lame. The
wound festered, and the animal had to be strung up with leather bands to
the roof of his stable for three months. Father Letheby felt the matter
acutely; but it was only to myself he murmured the one significant word,
Ahriman.

Late one evening in November a deputation waited on me. It consisted of
the doctor, the schoolmaster, and one or two young fellows, generally
distinguished by their vocal powers at the public house, when they were
asked for "their fisht and their song." The doctor opened negotiations.
I have a great regard for the doctor, and he knows it. He is a fine
young fellow, a great student, and good and kind to the poor. I often
spent a pleasant hour in his surgery over his microscope, where I saw
wonderful things; but what has haunted me most is the recollection of a
human brain, which the doctor had preserved in spirits, and on which he
has given me several lectures. I remember well my sensations when I
first held the soft, dark, pulpy mass in my hand. All that I had ever
read in psychology and metaphysics came back to me. This is the
instrument of God's masterpiece,--the human soul. Over these nodes and
fissures it floated, like the spirit of God over the face of the deep.
Here, as on a beautiful instrument, the spirit touched the keys, and
thought, like music, came forth; and here were impressed indelibly ideas
of the vast universe without, of time and eternity; yea, even of the
Infinite and Transcendent,--of God. Hushed in the silence of prayer,
here the soul brooded as a dove above its nest; and here in moments of
temptation and repentance, it argued, reasoned, prayed, implored the
inferior powers that rebelled or recanted beneath. With what sublime
majesty it ruled and swayed the subjects that owned its imperial
dominion; and how it touched heaven on the one hand for pity, and earth
on the other in power! And when the turbulent passions raged and
stormed, it soothed and quelled their rebellion; and then, in recompense
to itself, it went out and up towards the celestials, and joined its
emancipated sisters before the great white throne, and drank in peace
and the blessedness of calm from the silences and worship of Heaven.
Where is that soul now? Whither has it gone? Silent is the instrument,
just crumbling to inevitable decay. But where in the boundless ocean of
space is the deathless spirit that once ruled it in majesty, and drew
from it music whose echoes roll through eternity? And how has science
mapped and parcelled it, like a dead planet. Here is the "island of
Reil," here the "pons Varolii"; here is the "arbor vitæ"; and here is
the "subarachnoid space"; and here that wonderful contrivance of the
great Designer that regulates the arterial supplies. I lift my hat
reverentially and whisper, _Laudate_!

Well, the doctor knew how much I appreciated him. He was not nervous,
therefore, in broaching the subject.

"We have come to see you, sir, about a concert."

"A what?" I said.

"A concert," he replied, in a little huff. "They have concerts every
winter over at Labbawally, and at Balreddown, and even at Moydore; and
why shouldn't we?"

I thought a little.

"I always was under the impression," I said, "that a concert meant
singers."

"Of course," they replied.

"Well, and where are you to get singers here? Are you going to import
again those delectable harridans that illustrated the genius of Verdi
with rather raucous voices a few weeks ago?"

"Certainly not, sir," they replied in much indignation. "The boys here
can do a little in that way; and we can get up a chorus amongst the
school-children; and--and--"

"And the doctor himself will do his share," said one of the deputation,
coming to the aid of the modest doctor.

"And then," I said, "you must have a piano to accompany you, unless it
is to be all in the style of 'come-all-yeen's.'"

"Oh, 't will be something beyond that," said the doctor. "I think you'll
be surprised, sir."

"And what might the object of the concert be?" I asked.

"Of course, the poor," they all shouted in chorus. "Wait, your
reverence," said one diplomatist, "till you see all we'll give you for
the poor at Christmas."

Visions of warm blankets for Nelly Purcell, and Mag Grady; visions of
warm socks for my little children; visions of tons of coal and cartloads
of timber; visions of vast chests of tea and mountains of currant-cake
swam before my imagination; and I could only say:--

"Boys, ye have my blessing."

"Thank your reverence," said the doctor. "But what about a
subscription?"

"For what?" I said. "If we all have to subscribe, what is the meaning of
the concert?"

"Ah, but you know, sir, there are preliminary expenses,--getting music,
etc.,--and we must ask the respectable people to help us there."

This meant the usual guinea. Of course, they got it.

The evening of the concert came, and I was very reluctant to leave my
arm-chair and the fire and the slippers. And now that my curate and I
had set to work steadily at our Greek authors, to show the Bishop we
could do something, I put aside my Homer with regret, and faced the
frost of November. The concert was held in the old store down by the
creek; and I shivered at the thought of two hours in that dreary room,
with the windows open and a sea draught sweeping through. To my intense
surprise, I gave up my ticket to a well-dressed young man with a basket
of flowers in his button-hole; and I passed into a hall where the light
blinded me, and I was dazed at the multitude of faces turned towards me.
And there was a great shout of cheering; and I took off my great-coat,
and was glad I had come.

There was a stage in front, covered with plants and carpeted; and a
grand piano peeped out from a forest of shrubs and palms; and lamps
twinkled everywhere; and I began to think it was all a dream, when Miss
Campion came over, and said she was _so_ glad I had come, etc., and I
whispered:--

"I understand all now, when I see the little witch that has made the
transformation."

Father Letheby sat by me, quiet and demure, as usual. He looked as if he
had known nothing of all this wonder-working; and when I charged him
solemnly with being chief organizer, builder, framer, and designer in
all this magic, he put me off gently:--

"You know we must educate the people, sir. And you know our people are
capable of anything."

I believed him.

Presently, there was a great stir at the end of the long room, and I
looked around cautiously; for we were all so grand, I felt I should be
dignified indeed.

"Who are these gentry, coming up the centre of the hall?" I whispered;
for a grand procession was streaming in.

"Gentry?" he said. "Why, these are the performers." They were just
passing,--dainty little maidens, in satin from the bows in their wavy
and crisp locks down to their white shoes; and they carried bouquets,
and a subtle essence of a thousand odors filled the air.

"Visitors at the Great House?" I whispered.

"Not at all," he cried impatiently. "They are our own children. There's
Mollie Lennon, the smith's daughter; and there's Annie Logan, whose
father sells you the mackerel; and there's Tessie Navin, and Maudie
Kennedy, and--"

"Who's that grand young lady, with her hair done up like the Greek girls
of Tanagra?" I gasped.

"Why, that's Alice Moylan, the monitress."

"Good heavens," was all I could say. And the doctor sailed in with his
cohort, all in swallow-tails and white fronts, their hair plastered down
or curled, like the fiddlers in an orchestra; and the doctor stooped
down and saw my amazement, and whispered:--

"Didn't I tell you we'd surprise you, Father Dan?"

Just then a young lad, dressed like a doll, and with white kid gloves,
handed me a perfumed programme.

"I charge a penny all around, but not to you, Father Dan."

I thanked him politely and with reverence.

"Who's that young gentleman?" I whispered.

"Don't you know him?" said Father Letheby, smothering a laugh.

"I never saw him before," I said.

"You cuffed him last Sunday for ringing the bell at the _Agnus Dei_."

"I cuffed that young ruffian, Carl Daly," I said.

"That's he," said Father Letheby. Then I thought Father Letheby was
making fun of me, and I was getting cross, when I heard, "Hush!" and
Miss Campion rose up and passed on to the stage, and took her place at
the piano, and with one little wave of the hand, she marshalled them
into a crescent, and then there was a pause, and then--a crash of music
that sent every particle of blood in my old body dancing waltzes, and I
began to feel that I was no longer Daddy Dan, the old pastor of
Kilronan, but a young curate that thinks life all roses, for his blood
leaps up in ecstasy, and his eyes are straining afar.

One by one the singers came forward, timid, nervous, but they went
through their parts well. At last, a young lady, with bronze curls cut
short, but running riot over her head and forehead, came forward. She
must have dressed in an awful hurry, for she forgot a lot of things.

"What's the meaning of this?" I whispered angrily.

"Sh', 't is the fashion," said Father Letheby. "She's not from our
parish."

"Thank God," I said fervently. I beckoned to Mrs. Mullins, a fine
motherly woman, who sat right across the aisle. She came over.

"Have you any particular use of that shawl lying on your lap, Mrs.
Mullins?" I said.

"No," she said, "I brought it against the night air."

"Then you'd do a great act of charity," I said, "if you'd just step up
on that stage and give it to that young lady to cover her shoulders and
arms. She'll catch her death of cold."

"For all the money you have in the National Bank, Father Dan," said Mrs.
Mullins, "and they say you have a good little nest there, I wouldn't do
it. See how she's looking at us. She knows we are talking about her. And
her mother is Julia Lonergan, who lives at the Pike, in the parish of
Moydore."

Sure enough, Phœbe Lonergan, for that was her name, was looking at
us; and her eyes were glinting and sparkling blue and green lights, like
the dog-star on a frosty night in January. And I knew her mother well.
When Julia Lonergan put her hands on her hips, and threw back her head,
the air became sulphurous and blue. I determined not to mind the
scantiness of the drapery, though I should not like to see any of my own
little children in such a state. Whilst I was meditating thus, she came
to the end of her song; and then let a yell out of her that would
startle a Red Indian.

"Why did she let that screech out of her?" said I to Father Letheby.
"Was it something stuck in her?"

"Oh, not at all," said he, "that's what they call a _bravura_."

I began to feel very humble. And then a queer thing happened. I thought
I was a young curate, long before the days of Maynooth statutes, and all
these new regulations that bind us as tightly as Mrs. Darcy's new alb.
We were out at the hunt on a glorious November morning, the white frost
on the grass, and the air crisp and sunny. The smell of the fields, the
heather, and the withered bracken, came to us, and the bay coats and the
black coats of the horses shone like silk in the sunlight. There were
the usual courtesies, the morning salutes, and the ladies' smiles; and
then we moved to the cover, the dogs quivering with excitement, and we
not too composed. And then far across the ploughed field we saw the
arch-enemy, Reynard, his brush straight out from his back; and with one
shout, Hoicks! and Harkaway! we broke out into the open, and, with every
nerve and muscle strained, and the joy of the chase in our hearts, we
leaped onward to the contest. All the exhilaration and intense joy of
youth and freedom and the exercise of life were in my veins, and I
shouted Tally-ho! Harkaway, my boys! at the top of my voice.

A gentle hand was laid on mine, and I awoke from my dream. The people
were all smiling gravely, and the chorus was just finishing the last
bars of that best of all finales: Tally-ho! It was the witchery of the
music that called up the glorious past.

Then there was hunting for shawls and wraps, and such a din:--

"Wasn't it grand, Father Dan?"

"Aren't you proud of your people, Father Dan?"

"Where is Moydore now, Father Dan?"

"Didn't we do well, Father Dan?"

And then Miss Campion came over demurely and asked:--

"I hope you were pleased with our first performance, Father?"

And what could I say but that it was all beautiful and grand, and I
hoped to hear it repeated, etc.

But then, when I had exhausted my enthusiasm, a band of these young
fairies, their pretty faces flushed with excitement, and the stars in
their curls bobbing and nodding at me, came around me.

"It's now our turn, Father Dan. We want one little dance before we go."

"What?" I cried, "children like you dancing! I'd be well in my way,
indeed. Come now, sing 'Home, Sweet Home,' and away to Blanketland as
fast as you can."

"Ah, do, Father Dan!"

"Ah, do, Father Dan!"

"One little dance!"

"We'll be home in half an hour!"

"Ah do, _Daddy_ Dan!"

There was consternation. I knew that I was called by that affectionate,
if very undignified title; but this was the first time it was spoken to
my face; and there was horror on the faces of the young ones. But it
carried the day. I looked around, and saw some white waistcoats peeping
shyly behind a glass door.

"The boys are all gone home, I believe?" I said innocently.

"Oh, long and merry ago, Father. The lazy fellows wouldn't wait."

"And all the dancing will be amongst yourselves?"

Chorus: "Of course, Father!"

"And no waltzes or continental abominations?"

Chorus: "Oh dear, no!"

"And you'll all be in your beds at twelve o'clock?"

Chorus: "To the minute, Father."

"Well, God forgive me, but what can I do? Go on, you little heathens,
and--"

"Thank you, Father--"

"Thank you, Father--"

"Thank you, Father--," etc., etc.

I went home with a troubled conscience, and I read that blessed Maynooth
statute about dances. Then I had no sleep that night.

The doctor and the deputation called on me about a fortnight later to
settle accounts. I thought they were not very enthusiastic. They left
the door open, and sat near it.

"We came to settle about the concert, sir," said the doctor; "we thought
you'd would like to see our balance-sheet."

[Illustration: "Good Heavens!" was all I could say. (p. 89.)]

"Yes," I said, demurely, "and, of course, if the balance itself was
convenient--"

"It isn't as much as we thought," said the doctor, laying a small brown
parcel on the table. "The expenses were enormous. Now, look at these,"
he said, softly detaining my hand, as it moved towards the parcel.

I read the list of expenses. It was appalling. I cast a corner of my eye
farther down, and read, without pretending to see anything:--

"Total balance = 4_s_. 11-1/2_d_."

"Boys," said I, as I saw them putting their hands over their mouths with
that unmistakable Hibernian gesture, "you have done yourselves a great
injustice."

"I assure you, sir," said the schoolmaster--

"You mistake my meaning," I interrupted. "What I was about to say was
this,--when young men give their services gratuitously, and undertake
great labor in the cause of religion and charity, it would be most
unfair to expect that they would also make a pecuniary sacrifice."

They looked relieved.

"Now, I have reason to know that you all have undergone great expense in
connection with this concert."

There was a smirk of pharisaical satisfaction on their faces.

"But I cannot allow it. My conscience would not permit me. I see no
record in this balance-sheet of the three dozen of Guinness that was
ordered for the dressing-room. And there is not a word about the box of
Havanas, which William Mescal ordered specially from Dublin; nor any
mention of the soda-water and accompaniments that were hauled up in a
basket through the back window. Really, I cannot allow it, gentlemen,
your generosity is overpowering--"

The deep silence made me look around. They had vanished. I opened the
brown parcel, and counted four shillings and eleven-pence halfpenny in
coppers.



CHAPTER IX

SEVERELY REPRIMANDED


It was quite impossible that these changes or innovations could take
place without a certain amount of reclamation, to use the theological
expression, amongst the brethren. We are a conservative race, and our
conservatism has been eminently successful in that matter of supreme
moment,--the preservation of the faith and the purity of our people. It
is difficult, therefore, to see the necessity of change, to meet the
exigencies of the times, and the higher demands of the nation and the
race. Yet we have been forewarned a hundred times that we cannot put new
wine into old bottles, and that a spirit is stirring amongst our people
that must become unbridled and incontinent if not guided by new methods
and new ideas. This is not intuitive wisdom on my part. It is gathered
slowly and painfully amongst the thorns of experience.

But I cannot say I was too surprised when, one morning, an old and most
valued friend called on me, and revealed his anxiety and perturbation of
spirit by some very deep remarks about the weather. We agreed
wonderfully on that most harmonious topic, and then I said:--

"You have something on your mind?"

"To be candid with you, Father Dan," he replied, assuming a sudden
warmth, "I have. But I don't like to be intrusive."

"Oh, never mind," I replied. "I am always open to fraternal correction."

"You know," he continued nervously, "we are old friends, and I have
always had the greatest interest in you--"

"For goodness' sake, Father James," I said, "spare me all that. That is
all _subintellectum_, as the theologians say when they take a good deal
for granted."

"Well, then," said he,--for this interruption rather nettled him,--"to
be very plain with you, your parish is going to the dogs. You are
throwing up the sponge and letting this young man do what he likes. Now,
I can tell you the people don't like it, the priests don't like it, and
when he hears it, as he is sure to hear it, the Bishop won't like it
either."

"Well, Father James," I said slowly, "passing by the mixed metaphors
about the dogs and the sponge, what are exactly the specific charges
made against this young man?"

"Everything," he replied vaguely. "We don't want young English mashers
coming around here to teach old priests their business. We kept the
faith--"

"Spare me that," I said. "And don't say a word about the famine years.
That episode, and the grandeur of the Irish priests, is written in
Heaven. We want a Manzoni to tell it,--that is, if we would not prefer
to leave it unrecorded, except in the great book,--which is God's
memory."

He softened a little at this.

"Now," said I, "you are a wise man. What do you want me to do?"

"I want you to pitch into that young fellow," he said, "to cuff him and
make him keep his place."

"Very good. But be particular. Tell me, what am I to say?"

"Say? Tell him you'll stand no innovations in your parish. _Nil
innovetur, nisi quod prius traditum est._ Tell him that he must go along
with all the other priests of the diocese and conform to the general
regulations,--_Quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus_. Tell him that
young men must know their place; and then take up the _Selva_, or the
Fathers, and prove it to him."

"God bless you!" said I, thankfully and humbly. "You have taken a load
off my heart. Now, let me see would this do."

I took down from the dusty shelves a favorite little volume,--a kind of
Anthology of the early Fathers, and I opened it.

"We'll try the _sortes Virgilianæ_" I said, and read slowly and with
emphasis:--

"At nunc, etiam sacerdotes Dei, omissis Evangeliis et Prophetis, vidimus
comœdias legere, amatoria Bucolicorum versuum verba cantare, tenere
Virgilium, et id quod in pueris necessitatis est, crimen in se facere
voluptatis."

"That's not bad," said my hearer, critically, whilst I held the book
open with horror and amazement. "That applies to him, I'm sure. But
what's the matter, Father Dan? You are not ill?"

"No," said I, "I'm not; but I'm slightly disconcerted. That anathema
strikes me between the two eyes. What else have I been doing for fifty
years but thumbing Horace and Virgil?"

"Oh, never mind," he said, airily. "Who wrote that? That's extreme, you
know."

"An altogether wise and holy man, called St. Jerome," I said.

"Ah, well, he was a crank. I don't mean that. That sounds disrespectful.
But he was a reformer, you know."

"A kind of innovator, like this young man of mine?" I said.

"Ah, well, try some sensible saint. Try now St. Bernard. He was a wise,
gentle adviser."

I turned to St. Bernard, and read:--

    "Lingua magniloqua--manus otiosa!
    Sermo multus--fructus nullus!
    Vultus gravis--actus levis!
    Ingens auctoritas--nutans stabilitas!"

That hit my friend between the eyes. The auguries were inauspicious. He
took up his hat.

"You are not going?" said I, reaching for the bell. "I am just sending
for Father Letheby to let you see how I can cuff him--"

"I--I--must be going," he said; "I have a sick-call--that is--an
engagement--I--er--expect a visitor--will call again. Good day."

"Stay and have a glass of wine!" I said.

"No, no, many thanks; the mare is young and rather restive. _Au
revoir!_"

"_Au revoir!_" I replied, as I took up my hat and gold-headed cane and
set out to interview and reprimand my curate. Clearly, something should
be done, and done quickly. There was a good deal of talk abroad, and I
was supposed to be sinking into a condition of senile incompetence. It
is quite true that I could not challenge my curate's conduct in a single
particular. He was in all things a perfect exemplar of a Christian
priest, and everything he had done in the parish since his arrival
contributed to the elevation of the people and the advancement of
religion. But it wouldn't do. Every one said so; and, of course, every
one in these cases is right. And yet there was some secret misgiving in
my mind that I should do violence to my own conscience were I to check
or forbid Father Letheby's splendid work; and there came a voice from my
own dead past to warn me: "See that you are not opposing the work of
the right hand of the Most High."

These were my doubts and apprehensions as I moved slowly along the road
that led in a circuitous manner around the village and skirted the path
up to the school-house. I woke from my unpleasant reverie to hear the
gentle murmur of voices, moving rhythmically as in prayer; and in a
short bend of the road I came face to face with the children leaving
school. I had been accustomed to seeing these wild, bare-legged
mountaineers breaking loose from school in a state of subdued frenzy,
leaping up and down the side ditches, screaming, yelling, panting, with
their elf-locks blinding their eyes, and their bare feet flashing amid
the green of grasses or the brown of the ditch-mould. They might
condescend to drop me a courtesy, and then--anarchy, as before. Today
they moved slowly, with eyes bent modestly on the ground, three by
three, and all chanting in a sweet, low tone--the Rosary. The centre
girl was the coryphæus with the "Our Fathers" and "Hail Marys"; the
others, the chorus. I stood still in amazement and challenged them:--

"I am happy to see my little children so well employed. How long since
you commenced to say the Rosary thus in common?"

In a twinkling the solemnity vanished and I was surrounded by a
chattering group.

"Just a week, Fader; and Fader Letheby, Fader, he tould us of a place
where they do be going to work in the morning, Fader, and dey all saying
de Rosary togeder, Fader; and den, Fader, we do be saying to ourselves,
why shouldn't we, Fader, say de Rosary coming to school, de same as
dese Germans, Fader?"

"That's excellent," I said, running my eyes over the excited group; "and
have you all got beads?"

"I have, Fader," said one of the coryphæi, "and de oders do be saying it
on their fingers."

"I must get beads for every one of you," I said; "and to commence, here,
Anstie, is my own."

I gave a little brown-eyed child my own mother-of-pearl beads, mounted
in silver, and was glad I had it to give. The children moved away,
murmuring the Rosary as before.

Now, here clearly was an innovation. Wasn't this intolerable? Who ever
heard the like? Where would all this stop? Why, the parish is already
going to the dogs! He has played right into my hands. Yes? Stop the
Rosary? Prevent the little children from singing the praises of their
Mother and Queen? I thought I saw the face of the Queen Mother looking
at me from the skies; and I heard a voice saying, prophetically: "Ex ore
infantium et lactantium perfecisti laudem propter inimicos tuos, ut
destruas inimicum et ultorem." Clearly, the fates are against me.

"Father Letheby was not at home, but would be back presently. Would I
take a chair and wait for a few moments?"

I sat down in a comfortable arm-chair lined with the soft rug that first
elicited my housekeeper's admiration. I looked around. Books were strewn
here and there, but there was no slovenliness or untidiness; and, ha!
there were the first signs of work on the white sheets of manuscript
paper. I wonder what is he writing about. It is not quite honorable, but
as I am on the war path, perhaps I could get here a pretext for scalping
him. Notes!

     "November 1. Dipped into several numbers of _Cornhill Magazine_.
     Specially pleased with an article on 'Wordsworth's Ethics,' in the
     August number, 1876.

     "November 2. Read over Sir J. Taylor's poems, principally 'Philip
     van Artevelde,' 'Isaac Comnenus,' 'Edwin the Fair,' the 'Eve of the
     Conquest.'

          "Comnenus.--Not much the doubt
    Comnenus would stand well with times to come,
    Were there the hand to write his threnody,
    Yet is he in sad truth a faulty man.

           *       *       *       *       *

    But be it said he had this honesty,
    That, undesirous of a false renown,
    He ever wished to pass for what he was,
    One that swerved much, and oft, but being still
    Deliberately bent upon the right,
    Had kept it in the main; one that much loved
    Whate'er in man is worthy high respect,
    And in his soul devoutly did aspire
    To be it all: yet felt from time to time
    The littleness that clings to what is human,
    And suffered from the shame of having felt it."

"Humph! This is advanced," I thought. "I wonder does he feel like
Comnenus? It is a noble portrait, and well worthy imitation."

Just then he came in. After the usual greetings he exclaimed, in a tone
of high delight:--

"Look here, Father, here's a delicious tit-bit. Confess you never read
such a piece of sublime self-conceit before."

He took up a review that was lying open on the desk, and read this:--

     "As for claims, these are my opinions. If Lord Liverpool takes
     simply the claims of the scholar, Copleston's are fully equal to
     mine. So, too, in general knowledge the world would give it in
     favor of him. If Lord Liverpool looks to professional merits, mine
     are to Copleston's as _the Andes to a molehill_. There is no
     comparison between us; Copleston is no theologue; I am. If, again,
     Lord Liverpool looks to weight and influence in the University, I
     will give Copleston a month's start and beat him easily in any
     question that comes before us. As to popularity in the appointment,
     mine will be popular through the whole profession; Copleston's the
     contrary.... I thought, as I tell you, honestly, I should be able
     to make myself a bishop in due time.... I will conclude by telling
     you my own real wishes about myself. My anxious desire is to make
     myself a great divine, and to be accounted the best in England. My
     second wish is to become the founder of a school of theology at
     Oxford. Now, no bishopric will enable me to do this but the See of
     Oxford. I have now told you my most secret thoughts. What I desire
     is, after a few years, to be sure of a retirement, with good
     provision in some easy bishopric, or Van Mildert deanery. I want
     neither London nor Canterbury: they will never suit me. But I want
     money, because I am poor and have children; and I desire character,
     because I cannot live without it."

"Isn't that simply delicious?" said Father Letheby, laying down the
review, and challenging my admiration.

"Poor fellow," I could not help saying; "the last little bit of pathos
about his children gilds the wretched picture. Who was he?"

"No less a person than Dr. Lloyd, Regius Professor of Divinity in
Oxford, and _the_ originator of the Tractarian Movement. But can you
conceive a Catholic priest writing such a letter?"

"No," I replied slowly, "I cannot. But I can conceive a Catholic priest
thinking it. I am not so much unlike the rest of mankind; and I remember
when I came out on the mission, and had time to look around me, like a
chicken just out of its shell, two things gave me a shock of intense
surprise. First, I could not conceive how the Catholic Church had got on
for eighteen hundred years without my cooperation and ability; and,
secondly, I could not understand what fatuity possessed the Bishop to
appoint as his vicar-general a feeble old man of seventy, who preached
with hesitation, and, it was whispered, believed the world was flat, and
that people were only joking when they spoke of it as a globe; and pass
over such a paragon of perfection, an epitome of all the talents, like
myself. It took me many years to recover from that surprise; and, alas!
a little trace of it lingers yet. Believe me, my dear young friend, a
good many of us are as alien in spirit to the _Imitation_ as Dr. Lloyd,
but we must not say it."

"By Jove!" he said, "I thought there was but one other Dr. Lloyd in the
world, and that was Father James----," mentioning the name of my morning
visitor.

It was the first chink I had seen in the armor of my young Goliath, and
I put in my rapier.

"You are not very busy?" I said.

"No, Father," he replied, surprised.

"Would you have time to listen to a little story?"

"Certainly," he said, settling back in his chair, his head on his hands.

"Well," I said slowly, "in the first years of my mission I had a fellow
curate, a good many years younger than myself. I consequently looked
down on him, especially as he was slightly pompous in his manner and too
much addicted to Latin and French quotations. In fact, he looked quite a
hollow fellow, and apparently a selfish and self-contented one. I
changed my opinion later on. He was particularly fond of horses, though
he never rode. He was a kind of specialist in horseflesh. His opinion
was regarded as infallible. He never kept any but the highest breed of
animal. He had a particularly handsome little mare, which he called
'Winnie,' because he thought he saw in her some intelligence, like what
he read of in the famous mare of a famous Robin Hood. She knew him, and
followed him like a dog. He allowed no one to feed her, or even to groom
her, but himself. He never touched her with a whip. He simply spoke to
her, or whistled, and she did all he desired. He had refused one hundred
and fifty pounds for her at a southern fair a few days before the
occurrence which I am about to relate. One day he had been at
conference, or rather we were both there, for he drove me to the
conference and back. It was thirteen miles going and the same returning.
The little mare came back somewhat fagged. He was no light-weight, nor
was I.

"'I shall not drive her there again,' he said; 'I'll get an old hack for
these journeys.'

"Before he sat down to dinner he fed and groomed her, and threw her rug
over her for the night. She whinnied with pleasure at reaching her own
stable. Just as he sat down to dinner a sick-call was announced. It was
declared 'urgent.' After a while you won't be too much alarmed at these
'urgent' calls, for they generally mean but little; but on this occasion
a short note was put into the priest's hand. It was from the doctor. It
ran: 'Come as quickly as possible. It is a most critical case.'

"There was no choice there.

"'Have you brought a horse?' the priest cried.

"'No, your reverence,' said the messenger. 'I crossed down the mountain
by the goat-path. There was no time.'

"The priest went straight to the stable and unlocked it. The mare
whinnied, for she knew his footstep. He flashed the light upon her as
she turned her big eyes towards him.

"'Come, little woman,' he said, 'we must be on the road again.'

"She understood him, and moaned.

"He led her out and put her to his trap. Then, without a word, he gave
her the rein, and they pushed on in the darkness. The road for five
miles was as level as that table, and she went rapidly forward. Then a
steep hill rose before them for about two miles, and he relaxed a
little, not wishing to drive her against the hill. Just then, on the
brow he saw lights flashing and waving to and fro in the night. He knew
the significance of it, and shook out the reins. The poor little animal
was so tired she could not breast the hill. He urged her forward. She
refused. Then, for the first time in his life, he took out his whip. He
did not strike her, and to this day he thanks God for it. But he merely
shook it over her head. Stung by the indignity, she drew herself
together and sprang against the hill. She went up and up, like a deer,
whilst the trap jolted and swung from side to side. Just as they
reached the crest of the hill and heard the shouts, 'Hurry, your
reverence, you'll never overtake her,' the little mare plunged forward
and fell heavily. The priest was flung against a boulder and struck
insensible. When he came to, the first word he heard was, 'She's dead, I
fear, your reverence.' 'Who?' said the priest; 'the woman?' 'No, your
reverence, but the mare!' 'Thank God!' said the priest; and he meant it.
Dazed, stupefied, bleeding, he stumbled across rocks of red sandstone,
heather, gorse; he slipped over some rude stepping-stones that crossed a
mountain torrent; and, at last, made his way to the rude cabin in the
rough gorges of the mountain. The doctor was washing his instruments as
the priest entered.

"'It's all right, Father James,' he said cheerily. 'The neatest case I
ever had. But it was touch and go. Hello! you're bleeding on the temple.
What's up?'

"'Oh, nothing,' said the priest. 'The mare stumbled and threw me. I may
go in?'

"'Certainly,' said the doctor; 'but just allow me to wash that ugly
wound.'

"'Wound? 't is only a scratch.'

"The priest went in and went through his ordinary ministrations. Then he
came out, and still dazed and not knowing what to think, he stumbled
back to the crest of the mountain road. There were men grouped around
the fallen animal and the broken trap. They made way for him. He knelt
down by the poor beast and rubbed her ears, as he was in the habit of
doing, and whispered, 'Winnie!' The poor animal opened her eyes full
upon him, then trembled convulsively, and died.

"'You will bury her, boys,' said the priest, 'over there under that
cairn of stones, and bring me down the trap and harness in the morning.'

"What his feelings were, as he walked home, I leave you to realize. We
did not hear of it for some days; but that 'Thank God!' changed all my
opinions of him. I looked up to him ever since, and see under all his
pomposity and dignity a good deal of the grit that makes a man a hero or
a saint."

"I retract my remark unreservedly," said my curate; "it was unjust and
unfair. It is curious that I have never yet made an unkind remark but I
met with prompt punishment."

"You may not be a great theologian nor a deep thinker," said I, "but no
man ever uttered a more profound saying. God may ignore our petty
rebellions against Himself; but when we, little mites, sit in
contemptuous judgment on one another, He cannot keep His hands from us!
And so, _festina lente! festina lente!_ It is wholesome advice, given in
many languages."

"Is the accent on the _festina_ or the _lente_, Father?" he said
demurely.

I looked at him.

"Because," he said, "I have been doing things lately that sometimes seem
inopportune,--that concert for example, and--"

"They are all right," I said, "but _lente! lente!!_"

"And that little interview with the chapel woman,--I felt I could have
done better--?"

"It is all right," I repeated, "but _lente! lente!!_"

"And I think we must stop those little children from saying the
Rosary--"

This time I looked at him quite steadily. He was imperturbable and
sphinx-like.

"Good evening," I said. "Come up after dinner and let us have a chat
about that line in the 'Odes' we were speaking about."

I went homewards slowly, and, as I went, the thought would obtrude
itself, how far I had recovered my lost authority, and succeeded in
satisfying that insatiable monster called Public Opinion. For my curate
had been reading for me a story by some American author, in which the
narrative ended in a problem whether a lady or a tiger would emerge from
a cage under certain circumstances; and hence, a conundrum was puzzling
the world,--the tiger or the lady, which? And my conundrum was, Had I
lectured my curate, or had my curate lectured me? I am trying to solve
the problem to this day.



CHAPTER X

OVER THE WALNUTS, AND THE ----


Father Letheby did come up, and we had one of those pleasant meetings on
which my memory dwells with gratitude. I hope he thinks of them
tenderly, too; for I believe he gave more pleasure and edification than
he received. We old men are garrulous, and rather laudatory of the past
than enthusiastic about the present. And this must needs chafe the
nerves of those whose eyes are always turned toward the sanguine future.
Well, this evening we had the famous epilogue of the Third Book of the
Odes of Horace for discussion, and our thoughts turned on the poet's
certainty of immortality,--the immortality of fame, in which alone he
believed. I remarked what a curious thing it was that men are forever
craving for that which, when attained, they fling aside and despise.

"I remember a good old priest," I said, "who was very angry because he
did not receive the ecclesiastical honors that sometimes accompany old
age. And when I asked, rather foolishly indeed, of what possible use
could they be to him, the answer was, he would like to die with his full
meed of honors. Well, he got them at last; and after a few months his
regret was that he had spent nine pounds on the rochet and mozetta."

"Do you think he would be satisfied to go back to the condition of a
'simplex sacerdos' again, and to be called 'Father'?" said my curate.

"I do. He had received recognition and was satisfied," I replied.

"There must be something in it. I remember now that bitter letter about
Fame, which Tennyson wrote when he had attained a world-wide reputation.
He found Fame to be hostility from his peers, indifference from his
superiors, worship from those he despised. He would barter all his Fame
for £5,000 a year; and was sorry he ever wrote a line."

"What then is it all? Of what consequence was it to Horace that a poor
old priest, in the Ultima Thule of the earth, should find a little
pleasure in his lines, some eighteen hundred years after his death?" I
said, half musingly.

"None whatever. But these passions are the minor wheels of human action,
and therefore of human progress, when the great motor, religion, is set
aside."

"And you think God permits them for that reason?"

"Possibly. By the way, Father Dan, allow me to congratulate you on your
excellent taste. Why, you have made this little parlor a nest of luxury
and refinement."

"Alas! yes. But all my comfort is gone. I blame you for it all, you
rascal. Why did you come introducing your civilization here? We were
happy enough without it. And like Fame, luxury brings its trials. Hannah
wasn't easy until she rivalled your splendid establishment; and when
taste came in, comfort went out by the window. God bless me! All I have
suffered for the last fortnight! I must wipe my boots at the door, and
hang up my hat in the hall, and walk on tiptoe on these waxed floors. I
am afraid to sit down, lest I should break these doll's chairs. I am
afraid to get up lest I should slip and break my old bones. I am afraid
to eat lest I should soil those new napkins. I am afraid to drink lest I
should break one of these new gilt cups. I have no comfort but in bed.
What in the world did I do that you should have been sent here?"

"There's something in it," he said, laughing. "It is the universal law
of compensation. But, honestly, it is all very tasteful and neat, and
you'll get used to it. You know it is one of the new and laughable
arguments against the eternity of punishment, that you can get used to
anything."

"I can't get that poor fellow, Lloyd, out of my head," I said, changing
the subject. "That was a pitiful letter. And the pity is that a strictly
private document, such as that was, should see the light and be
discussed fifty years after it was written, by two priests on the west
coast of Ireland To whom did he write it?"

"To Sir Robert Peel, then Prime Minister."

"There was a dear old friend of my youth," I said, "who was fond of
giving advice. I suppose I picked up the evil habit from him. But his
summary of all wisdom was this:--

"Never consult a doctor!

"Never go security!

"Never write a letter that may not be read in the market square!"

"I hope you have followed this sapient, but rather preternatural
advice," said Father Letheby.

"No," I replied. "It would have been well for me if I had done so."

We both lapsed into a brown study.

"It is not easy for us priests to take advice," he said at last; "I
suppose our functions are so magisterial that we cannot understand even
the suggestion of inferiority in reproof. Was it not Dean Stanley who
said that the Anglican clergy are polished into natural perfection by
domestic interchanges of those silent corrections that are so necessary,
and that it is the absence of these correctives that accounts for the so
many nodes and excrescences of our social characteristics?"

"True. But we won't take correction. Or rather, no one dare give it. The
Bishop can and will; but then a word from a bishop smites like a Nasmyth
hammer, and he is necessarily slow of reproof. A Parish priest nowadays
dare not correct a curate--"

"I beg pardon, sir," Father Letheby said; "I am sure you'll do me an
infinite favor if you kindly point out my many imprudences and
inconsistencies."

"And you'll take it well?"

"Well," he said dubiously, "I won't promise that I shall not be nettled.
But I'll take it respectfully."

"All right. We'll commence this moment. Give up that coffee-drinking,
and take an honest glass of punch."

He laughed in his own musical way. He knew the anguish that coffee had
cost Hannah. She had taken to Father Letheby wonderfully. He had found
for her a new brand of snuff, and had praised her cooking. And lo! a
miracle. Hannah, the Parish priest's housekeeper, had actually gone down
and visited his servant. It was a tremendous condescension, involving a
great deal of thought. But there was a new alliance,--dual again; it is
almost like the kaleidoscopic changes of European politicians. Then for
several days there were conferences and colloguings, the result being
that, as a reward of humility, which indeed always brings its reward
even in this world, Hannah has her house furnished _à la mode_, and has
learned the science of coffee-making,--a science little known as yet in
Ireland. Of course, there have been crosses. It is not pleasant, when a
brother priest comes in, to see him stand in amazement and appear quite
distracted whilst his politeness will not allow him to demand
explanations. And when a more demonstrative character shouts Hallo! when
he comes into your parlor, and vents his surprise in a prolonged
whistle, and looks at you curiously when your attention is engaged, it
is slightly embarrassing. Then, again, I'm told that the villagers are
making sarcastic remarks about my little _ménage_: "Begor, Hannah won't
be left a pinny"; or, "Begor, Kilronan is looking up"; or, "Begor, he'll
be expecting an incrase of the jues"; and one old woman, who gets an
occasional letter from America with an enclosure, is quite sure I have
embezzled her money, and she comes to the door three times a week
with--"that little letther, your reverence? Sure, I don't begredge it to
you. You're welcome to it over and over again; but whin 't is
convanient, sure you won't see me wantin'? But sure, Mary will think it
quare that I never wrote to thank her." I have given up protesting that
I have received no letter lately from Mary; but the "purty boys" down at
the forge have set the poor woman crazy. "Yerra, where 'ud he get de
money for all them grand tings he has?" "Yerra, Kate, you'll never see
dat post-office order." "Write to the Bishop, 'oman, and he'll see you
rightified." And then, to crown all, comes the bill, just double what I
expected. But it is wonderful how many extras there were, and how wages
and the price of material went up. Alas! my little deposit of fifty
pounds, which was to secure a few masses after my death, where is it?
And poor old Hannah? Well, she'll have it all after my death, and that
will make her doubly careful, and me--doubly miserable.

"Now," I said to Father Letheby, as he daintily balanced his spoon over
his cup, and I leisurely stirred the sugar in,--well, no matter, "I
don't like that coffee. It is not sociable. It makes you too cautious,
while we, under the potent and expanding influence of native
manufacture, are inclined to develop. Now, if you want to succeed in
life, give up that Turkish drug and do what all your predecessors did."

"I'm too Irish for that," he said, rather paradoxically, I thought. "I'm
afraid I should be talking about my ancestors, and asking some one to be
good enough to tread on the tail of my coat."

He knew well that I did not wish to interfere with his tastes.

"Well, however, think kindly of us who cling to old traditions. We too
had our day."

I was silent, thinking of old times.

"You never slept in a lime-kiln, I presume," said I, starting from a
long reverie.

"God forbid," he said with a start.

"Well, I did. It happened in this way. It was nearly ten o'clock at
night when I arrived at the door of the old pastor, to whose care I was
committed on my first mission. I knocked, and knocked, and knocked. No
answer. 'T was all the same. Father L---- had but one room and the
kitchen; and that room was parlor, library, drawing-room, bedroom, and
all. I dismissed the jarvey, left my portmanteau at the door, and
wandered out into the night. I dared not rouse up the farmers around. It
was the time of the White-boys, and I might get a charge of shot or a
thrust of a pike for my pains. The night was cold and starry. And after
wandering about for some time I came to a kiln. The men--the
lime-burners--were not long gone, and the culm was still burning. I went
in. The warmth was most grateful. I lay down quietly, took out my beads,
and whilst saying the Rosary I fell fast asleep. I awoke to hear: 'Come,
get out of this.' And, then, 'Good God! it is a priest.' Ah! well, how
times have changed! But think kindly of us old men. We too have borne
the burden and the heat,--the _pondus diei et æstus_."

A deep silence fell upon us both, broken only by the crackling of the
turf and wood fire, I busy with the past, and he sunk in his own
reflections. At length I said:--

"Would I trouble you to hand me down that 'Pars Verna' with the morocco
cover? Thanks! This little time-stained book saw some curious scenes.
It was my companion in many a rough adventure. In these old times it was
quite a common experience for myself to leave home at six o'clock in the
morning so as to be at the station-house by seven. By the way, you did
murder the names of the mountain town-lands when calling the stations
last Sunday. You must try and get the 'bloss' of the Irish on your
tongue. Well, we usually heard confessions from seven to three o'clock
in the afternoon, with just an interval for breakfast--"

"Pardon me, sir, but do you mean to say the people remained fasting and
received Holy Communion at three o'clock?"

"Yes, my dear young man, that was an every-day experience. I remember a
mission that was given in the town of N----, where I was curate in '54,
the year the first great missions were given by Fathers Bernard and
Petcherine. One evening, dead tired after a continuous day's work, I was
crossing the church toward the sacristy, when a huge shaggy countryman
stopped me. It was just half-past ten o'clock. 'I'm for Communion, your
reverence,' said he. I was a little irritable and therefore a little
sarcastic at the time. 'It is usually the habit of Catholics to receive
Holy Communion fasting,' said I, never dreaming but that the man was
after his supper. 'For the matter of that, your reverence,' said he, 'I
could have received Communion any minit these last three days; for God
is my witness, neither bite nor sup has crossed my lips, not even a
spoonful of wather.' But to come back. Dear me, how easy it is to get me
off the rail! After three o'clock I used to start out for my sick-calls;
and, will you believe me, I was often out all night, going from one
cabin to another, sometimes six or seven miles apart; and I often rode
home in the morning when the larks were singing above the sod and the
sun was high in the sky. Open that quarto."

He did. The leaves were as black as the cover, and clung together,
tattered as they were.

"The rain and the wind of Ireland," I said. "It was no easy job to read
Matins, with one hand clutching the reins and the pommel of the saddle,
and the other holding that book in a mountain hurricane. But you are not
a Manichæan, are you?"

He looked at me questioningly.

"I mean you don't see Mephistopheles rising in that gentle cloud of
steam from my glass?"

"Oh no," he said; "you have your tastes, and I mine. Both are equally
innocuous. But the fact is," he said, after a pause, "I cannot touch
wine or spirits, because I want to work at night, and I must have all my
faculties clear."

"Then you are working hard. God bless you! I saw your notes the other
day. But don't forget your Greek. French is the language of diplomacy,
Italian the language of love, German the language of philosophy,
English the language of commerce, Latin the language of the Church,
Greek the language of the scholar, and Hebrew the language of God. But I
remember it gave a new zest to my studies long ago, when I read
somewhere that our Divine Lord spoke Greek, at least amongst the
learned, for Greek in the East was what Latin has been in the West."

"Yes, but 't is pitiful," he replied, with a blush; "I did get a gold
medal from all Ireland in Greek; and yet, when I took up such an easy
book as Homer the other day, why, 't was all Greek to me."

Here Hannah broke in, opening the door.

"Won't you take another cup of coffee, sir?" Awaiting the reply, Hannah
poked up the fire and sent the blazes dancing merrily up the chimney.
Then she raised the flame of the lamp, and did a great many other
unnecessary things; but the kitchen is lonesome.

"Well, Hannah," said Father Letheby enthusiastically, "I will. You have
made me a confirmed teetotaler. I would not even think of punch when
your fragrant coffee is before me."

"Wisha, then, sir, but there's more life in the little drop of sperrits.
However, your reverence is welcome to whatever you like in this house."

This is not the first time Hannah has assumed a tone of proprietorship
in my little establishment. Well, no matter. It is our Irish
communism,--very like that of the Apostles, too.

"You must not be disheartened about that," I said. "I read some time ago
that no less a person than Lord Dufferin declared that, although he had
taken a degree in Greek, he could not read a line of it in after years
till he had learned it all over again, and in his own way."

"I am delighted to hear that," said Father Letheby.

"And when you do master your Greek," I said, "use your knowledge where
it will profit you most."

He waited.

"On the Greek Fathers. Believe me, there is more poetry, science,
philosophy, and theology there than in all modern literature, since
Shakespeare. We don't know it. The Anglican divines do. I suspect that
many a fairly sculptured sermon and learned treatise was cut from these
quarries."

I suppose the poor fellow was weary from all the lecturing. Indeed, I
think too his mind had rather a practical cast; for he began to ply me
with questions about the parish that fairly astonished me.

"Did Pat Herlihy's big boy make his First Communion? What about
establishing a First Confession class? He heard there was a night-dance
at the cross-roads, half-ways to Moydore. Why don't the Moydore priests
stop it? Did I know Winifred Lane, a semi-imbecile up in the mountains?
He did not like one of the teachers. He thought him disrespectful. What
was the cause of the coolness between the Learys and the Sheas? Was it
the way that one of the Sheas, about sixty years ago, served on a jury,
at which some disreputable Leary was convicted? What about a bridge over
that mountain torrent at Slieveogue? He had written to the surveyor. Did
I think the nuns in Galway would take a postulant? He heard that there
was a sister home from New Zealand who was taking out young girls--"

"My dear young friend," I said, when I had tried to answer imperfectly
this catechism, "I know you are a saint, and therefore endowed with the
privilege of bilocation; but I did not know that you could dictate to
six amanuenses at the same time, like Cæsar or Suarez."

"Oh, by the way," he said, putting up his note-book, "I was near
forgetting. With your permission, sir, I intend to put up a little crib
at Christmas. Now, the roof is leaking badly over St. Joseph's Chapel.
If you allow me, I shall put Jem Deady on the roof. He says you know him
well, and can recommend him, and there are a few pounds in my hands from
the Living Rosary."

It was true. I knew Jem Deady very well, as a confirmed dipsomaniac, who
took the Total Abstinence Pledge for life regularly every three months.
I also knew that that leak over St. Joseph's Chapel had been a steady
source of income to Jem for the last ten years. Somehow it was an
incurable malady, a kind of stone and mortar scrofula that was always
breaking out, and ever resisting the science of this amiable physician.
Sometimes it was "ground-damp," sometimes the "weeping wall"; and there
were dread dissertations on barge courses and string courses, but there
the evil was, ugly and ineradicable.

"I dare say, Jem told you that I had been putting cobblers from the
village every winter for the last ten years on that roof and that he
alone possesses the secret that will make that wall a 'thing of beauty
and a joy forever'?"

"Well, indeed, he said something of the kind. But I have taken a fancy
to the fellow. He sings like an angel, and since the Concert he
entertains me every night with a variety of melodies, amongst which I
think 'Her Bright Smile Haunts Me Still' is his masterpiece."

"He does not sing 'Two Lovely Black Eyes'?" I asked.

"No," said Father Letheby, seriously.

"I think his wife sings that," I said, as Father Letheby rose to go.

"By the way," I said, as I helped him on with his great coat in the
hall, for he is one for whom I would make any sacrifice, "how have you
acquired such a minute knowledge of my parishioners in such a short
time?"

"Well," said he, tying a silk handkerchief around his neck, "I was once
at a military review in England, having been invited by some Catholic
officers. I stood rather near the Duke of Cambridge. And this struck me.
The Duke called out, 'Who commands that company?' 'I, sir.' 'What is the
name of the third man on the right? Married or single? Term of service?
Character? Trade?' And I was utterly amazed at the accurate information
of the officers. Now, I often thought, if our great Commander-in-Chief
questioned us in that manner, could we reply with the same precision?
And I determined to know, as soon as possible, the name, history, and
position of every man, woman, and child in this parish."

"And you have succeeded," I said admiringly. "You know them better than
I, who have spent thirty years amongst them. But"--I could not resist
the temptation of a little lecture--"if you are asked, accept no
responsibility in money matters; and if two cocks are fighting down the
street, and consequently diplomatic courtesies are suspended between the
neighbors, I would not, if I were you, trouble much to ascertain which
of the belligerents had ethical and moral right on his side; and if Mrs.
Gallagher, by pure accident, should happen to be throwing out a pail of
particularly dirty water just at the psychological moment when Mrs.
Casey is passing her door; and if the tailor-made gown of the latter is
thereby desecrated, and you see a sudden eclipse of the sun, and hear
the rumble of distant thunder, don't throw aside your Æschylus to see
the 'Furies'; and if Mrs. Deady--"

"Thank you! thank you, Father," he said, abruptly, "never fear. 'T will
be all right!"

I closed the door on his fine, manly figure, and went back to my
arm-chair, murmuring:--

"[Greek: Pathêmata--mathêmata]. So shall it be to the end, O Father of
history!"



CHAPTER XI

BESIDE THE SINGING RIVER


Father Letheby was coming home a few nights ago, a little after twelve
o'clock, from a hurried sick-call, and he came down by the cliffs; for,
as he said, he likes to see the waters when the Almighty flings his net
over their depths, and then every sea-hillock is a star, and there is a
moon in every hollow of the waves. As he skirted along the cliff that
frowns down into the valleys of the sea on the one hand, and the valleys
of the firs and poplars on the other, he thought he heard some voices
deep down in the shadows, and he listened. Very soon the harsh rasp of a
command came to his ears, and he heard: "_'Shun! 'verse arms_," etc. He
listened very attentively, and the tramp of armed men echoed down the
darkness; and he thought he saw the glint of steel here and there where
the moonbeams struck the trees.

"It was a horrible revelation," he said, "that here in this quiet place
we were nursing revolution, and had some secret society in full swing
amongst us. But then, as the little bit of history brought up the past,
I felt the tide of feeling sweeping through me, and all the dread
enthusiasm of the race woke within me:--

    'There beside the singing river
      That dark mass of men are seen,
    Far above their shining weapons
      Hung their own immortal green!'

But this is a bad business, sir, for soul and body. What's to be done?"

"A bad business, indeed," I echoed. "But worse for soul than body. These
poor fellows will amuse themselves playing at soldiers, and probably
catching pneumonia; and there 't will end. You didn't see any policemen
about?"

"No. They could be hiding unknown to me."

"Depend upon it, they were interested spectators of the midnight
evolutions. I know there are some fellows in the village in receipt of
secret service money, and all these poor boys' names are in the Castle
archives. But what is worse, this means anti-clericalism, and
consequently abstention from Sacraments, and a long train of evils
besides. It must be handled gently."

"You don't mean to say, sir," he replied, "that that Continental poison
has eaten its way in Ireland?"

"Not to a large extent; but it is there. There is no use in burying our
heads in the sands and pretending not to see. But we must act
judiciously. A good surgeon never acts hastily,--never hurries over an
operation. _Lente,--lente_."

I saw a smile faintly rippling around the corners of his mouth. But I
was afraid he might rush matters here, and it would be dangerous. But
where's the use? He understood but one way of acting,--to grapple with
an abuse and strangle it. "You drop stones," he used to say, "and they
turn up armed men."

How he learned their place of meeting I don't know. But Sunday afternoon
was a favorite time for the rebels; and the coursing match on the black
hills and the rabbit hunt in the plantations were only preliminaries to
more important and secret work. Whether by accident or design, Father
Letheby stumbled on such a meeting about four o'clock one Sunday
afternoon. A high ditch and a strong palisade of fir trees hid him from
sight, and he was able to hear a good deal, and had no scruple in
playing the listener. This is what he heard. The village tailor, lame in
one leg, and familiarly known as "Hop-and-go-one," was the orator:--

"Fellow countrymen, de time for action has come. From ind to ind of the
land, the downtrodden serfs of Ireland are rising in their millions. Too
long have dey been juped by false pretences; too long have the hirelings
of England chated and decaved them. We know now what a shimmera,[2] what
a fraud, was Home Rule. Our counthry has been dragged at the tail of
English parties, who were purshuing their own interests. But 't is all
past. No more constitutional agitation, no more paceful struggle. Lead
will do what fine speeches didn't. And if the black militia, wid dere
ordhers from Rome, attimpt this time to interfere, we know what answer
to give dem. De West's awake, and 't isn't priests will set us to sleep
agin--"

At this juncture the orator was caught by the nape of the neck, and
lifted bodily off the turf ditch, which was his forum. When he looked
around, and saw who was his captor, he shrieked for mercy; and Father
Letheby, dropping him, as one would drop a rat, he scurried off as fast
as his lame leg would permit, whilst the priest, turning round to the
stupefied boys, warned them of their folly and madness:--

"God knows, boys," he said, "I pity you. You are bent on a desperate and
foolish course, the end of which no man can foresee. I know it is
useless to reason with you on the score of danger; but I warn you that
you are violating the laws of God and the Church, and that no blessing
comes from such action. And yet," he continued, placing his hand in the
breast-pocket of his coat, and drawing out a blue official paper, "this
may convince you of your folly; at least, it may convince you of the
fact that there is a traitor and informer in your midst. Who he is I
leave yourselves to conjecture!"

He read out slowly the name of every young man that had been sworn in
that secret society in the parish. The young men listened sullenly, and
swore angrily between their teeth. But they could not deny their
betrayal. They were vexed, humbled, disgraced; but they had to make some
defence.

[Illustration: "The orator was caught by the nape of the neck."]

"The priests are always agin the people," said one keen-looking fellow,
who had been abroad.

"That's an utter falsehood," said Father Letheby, "and you know it. You
know that priests and people for seven hundred years have fought side
by side the battle of Ireland's freedom from civil and religious
disabilities. I heard your own father say how well he remembered the
time when the friar stole into the farmyard at night, disguised as a
pedlar, and he showed me the cavern down there by the sea-shore where
Mass was said, and the fishermen heard it, as they pretended to haul in
their nets."

"Thrue enough for you, your reverence," said a few others; "'t is what
our fathers, and our fathers' fathers, have tould us."

"And now," continued Father Letheby, "look at the consequences of your
present folly. Possible imprisonment in the dungeons of Portland and
Dartmoor; exile to America, enforced by the threats of prosecution; and
the sense of hostility to the Church, for you know you are breaking the
laws. You dare not go to confession, for you cannot receive absolution;
you are a constant terror to your mothers and sisters--and all at the
dictation of a few scoundrels, who are receiving secret service money
from the government, and a few newspapers that are run by Freemasons and
Jews."

"Ah, now, your reverence," said one of the boys, a litterateur, "you are
drawing the long bow. How could Irish newspapers be run by Freemasons
and Jews?"

"Would you be surprised to hear," said Father Letheby, "that all the
great Continental papers are the property of Freemasons and Jews; that
all the rancor and bitterness stirred up against the Church for the past
fifty years has been their work; that the anti-clerical feeling in
Germany and in France has been carefully originated and fostered by
them; that hatred of the Holy See is their motto; and that they have got
into Ireland. You can see the cloven foot in the virulent anti-religious
and anti-clerical articles that you read by the light of the fire at the
forge; and yet, the very prayer-books you used at Mass to-day, and the
beads that rolled through your mothers' fingers, have been manufactured
by them. But the Irish are always fools,--never more so than now."

It was a magnificent leap of imagination on Father Letheby's part,--that
which attributed to Jews and Freemasons the manufacture of beads and
prayer-books on the one hand, and anti-clericalism on the other. Yet
there was truth in what he had said. Indeed, there were many
indications, as I could point out to him to his surprise, which proved
that the anti-Catholic agencies here in Ireland were pursuing exactly
the same tactics which had led to the extinguishing of the faith in
parts of France and Italy,--namely, the dissemination of pornographic
literature. They know well that there is but one thing that can destroy
Irish faith, and that is the dissemination of ideas subversive of
Catholic morality. Break down the earthworks that guard the purity of
the nation, and the citadel of faith is taken. He was very silent all
that evening, as I notice all Irish priests grow grave when this awful
fact, which is under their very eyes, is made plain to them. It is so
easy to look at things without seeing them. Then, as the full revelation
of this new _diablerie_ dawned upon him, he grew very angry. I think
this is the most charming thing about my curate, that he is a thorough
hater of everything cunning and concealed, and breaks out into noble
philippics against whatever is foul and vicious. But I know he will be
now on the alert; and God help any unfortunate that dares to peddle
unwholesome wares under the necklaces and matches of his basket!

The tailor came duly to report Father Letheby for the drastic treatment
he had received. He was rather too emphatic in demanding his immediate
removal, and hinting at suspension. In lieu of that satisfaction, he
would immediately institute proceedings in the Court of Queen's Bench
for assault and battery, and place the damages at several thousand
pounds. I listened to him patiently, then hinted that an illiterate
fellow like him should not be making treasonable speeches. He bridled up
at the word "illiterate," and repudiated the vile insinuation. He could
read and write as well as any priest in Connaught.

"But you cannot read your own writing?" I said, tentatively.

"Couldn't he? Try him!"

I thrust under his eyes his last letter to the sub-inspector of the
district. I thought he would get a fit of apoplexy.

"Now, you scoundrel," I said, folding the letter and placing it beyond
reach, "I forgive you all your deception and treason. What Father
Letheby has got in store for you I cannot say. But I'll never forgive
you, you most unscientific and unmathematical artist, for having given
me so many shocking misfits lately, until I have looked like a scarecrow
in a cornfield; even now you are smelling like a distillery. And tell
me, you ruffian, what right had you to say at Mrs. Haley's public house
that I was 'thauto--thauto--gogical' in my preaching? If I, with all the
privileges of senility, chose to repeat myself, to drive the truths of
Christianity into the numskulls of this pre-Adamite village, what is
that to you,--you ninth part of a man? Was it not the immortal Homer
that declared that every tailor--"

"For God's sake, spare me, your reverence, and I'll never do it again."

"Do you promise to cut my garments mathematically in the future?"

"I do, your reverence." He spoke as emphatically as if he were renewing
his baptismal vows at a great mission.

"Do you promise to speak respectfully of me and my sermons for the
future?"

"I do, your reverence."

"Now, go. _Exi, erumpe, evade_, or I'll turn you into a _Sartor
Resartus_. I hand you over now, as the judge hands the culprit, to
Father Letheby. Don't be too much surprised at eventualities. Do you
know, did you ever hear, what the women of Marblehead did to a certain
Floyd Ireson? Well, go ask Father Letheby. He'll tell you. And I shall
be much surprised if the women of Kilronan are much behind their sisters
of Marblehead in dealing with such a scoundrel as you."

       *       *       *       *       *

I proposed this conundrum to Father Letheby that same evening: "Why is
it considered a greater crime to denounce and correct an evil than to
commit it?" He looked at me as if he doubted my sanity. I put it in a
more euphemistic form: "Why is success always the test of merit? To come
down from the abstract to the concrete, Why is a gigantic swindler a
great financier, and a poor fellow that steals a loaf of bread a felon
and a thief? Why is a colossal liar a great diplomatist, and a petty
prevaricator a base and ignoble fraud? Why is Napoleon a hero, and that
wretched tramp an ever to be dreaded murderer? Why is Bismarck called
great, though he crushed the French into a compost of blood and rags,
ground them by taxation into paupers, jested at dying children, and lied
most foully, and his minor imitators are dubbed criminals and thieves?
Look here, now, young man! If you, by a quiet, firm, indomitable
determination succeed in crushing out and stamping out forever this
secret society here, it will redound to your infinite credit in all
men's eyes. But mark, if with all your energy and zeal you fail, or if
you pass into a leaderette in some Freemason journal, and your zeal is
held up as fanaticism and your energy as imprudence, the whole world
will regard you as a hot-headed young fool, and will ask with rage and
white lips, What is the Bishop doing in allowing these young men to take
the reins into their own hands and drive the chariot of the sun? It is
as great a crime to be a young man to-day as it was in the days of Pitt.
Nothing can redeem the stigma and the shame but success. Of course, all
this sounds very pagan, and I am not identifying myself with it. I
believe with that dear barefooted philosopher, St. Francis, who is to me
more than fifty Aristotles, as à Kempis is more than fifty Platos, that
a man is just what he is in the eyes of God, and no more. But I am only
submitting to you this speculative difficulty to keep your mind from
growing fallow these winter evenings. And don't be in a hurry to answer
it. I'll give you six months; and then you'll say, like the interlocutor
in a Christy Minstrel entertainment: 'I give it up.'"

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 2: Chimera.]



CHAPTER XII

CHURCH IMPROVEMENTS


I am afraid Father Letheby is getting irritable. Perhaps he is studying
too hard, and I don't spare him there, for he has the makings of a
bishop in him; or perhaps it is that wretched coffee,--but he is losing
that beautiful equanimity and enthusiasm which made him so attractive.

"I cannot understand these people," he said to me, soon after his
adventure with the "boys." "Such a compound of devotion and irreverence,
meanness and generosity, cunning and child-like openness, was never
seen. When I give Holy Communion with you, sir, on Sunday morning, my
heart melts at the seraphic tenderness with which they approach the
altar. That striking of the breast, that eager look on their faces, and
that 'Cead milé failté, O Thierna!'[3] make me bless God for such a
people; but then they appear to be waiting for the last words of the _De
Profundis_, to jump up and run from the church as if in a panic. I can
understand now how _extemplo_ came to mean _in a hurry_, for if the roof
were falling they could not rush from the building more promptly. Then
an old woman will haggle over sixpence in buying a pair of chickens, and
then come to you the following day and offer you in a stocking all she
had saved in this world. I give them up. They are unintelligible."

From which I perceive that our good schoolmaster, experience, is trying
the rod on this most hopeful and promising pupil.

"I hope you did not perceive any such abrupt and sudden contrasts in
your protégé, Jem Deady," I said. "He has realized your ideas of a
nineteenth century _Goban Saor_."[4]

He laughed loudly.

"There's no use in talking," he said. I notice he is coming down
gradually from his polished periods to our village colloquialisms.

"Thou shalt lower to their level." God forbid! 'Twas bad enough with
myself; but with this bright, accomplished fellow, 't would be too bad.
He then told me with delight and chagrin, rage and laughter, his
experiences with Jem.

It would appear that he made a solemn contract with this architect to
stop the leak and restore the wall in St. Joseph's Chapel for
twenty-five shillings. "'Twas too little," said Jem, "but what can you
do with a gintleman that doesn't know a trowel from a spade." All
materials were to be found by the contractor.

On Monday afternoon there was a knock at Father Letheby's door, and Jem
was announced.

"Well, Jem," said Father Letheby, cheerfully, "getting on with the job?"

"Yes, your reverence, getting on grand," said Jem. "But I come to you
about the laddher."

"The-e ladder?" echoed Father Letheby.

"Yes, your reverence," echoed Jem confidentially, "the laddher to get up
on the roof, you know."

"But I understood you to say that you were getting through with this
little job."

"Oh, of course, your reverence, we're getting through the preliminaries;
but I must get on the roof, you know."

"I presume so," said Father Letheby, a little nettled, "and why don't
you go there?"

"Does your reverence take me for an aigle, and want me to fly?"

"Well, not exactly," said Father Letheby, with a slight touch of
flattery and sarcasm, "I am more disposed to take you for a
nightingale!"

"Well, then, your reverence," said Jem, melting under the happy
allusion, "a gintleman of your grate expayrince in building should know
that, of all things else, a laddher is the wan thing necessary."

"Then you expect me to construct a ladder for your convenience?"

"Oh, not at all, your reverence; but if you gave me a little note up to
the 'Great House,' I'd have it down while you'd be saying
'trapsticks.'"

There were some reasons why it was not at all desirable that he should
ask favors from the "Great House"; but there was no help, and Jem got
the letter.

"Now, this is all you require," said Father Letheby, with determination.

"That is all," said Jem. "Do you think I'd be throubling your reverence
every minit. Long life to your reverence. May you be spared long in the
parish."

About four o'clock that afternoon, Father Letheby was startled by a
sudden commotion in the village. All the dogs were barking, and there
are as many dogs in Kilronan as in Constantinople, and they are just as
vicious; all the women were at the doors, rubbing their hands in their
aprons; and the village loafers were all turned towards where a solemn
procession was moving through the street. First came a gang of
youngsters, singing, "Sure, We're the Boys of Wexford," then a popular
ditty; then came two laborers, dragging along a ladder with as much show
of expended energy as if it were a piece of heavy ordnance; then the
cart on which the ladder was placed; then two more laborers behind,
making desperate efforts to second the arduous endeavors of their mates
in front; then a squadron of bare-legged girls, trying to keep the hair
out of their eyes; and finally, the captain of the expedition, Jem
Deady, leisurely walking along, with his hands in his pockets, a
wheaten straw in his mouth, whilst he looked from cabin to cabin to
receive the admiration of the villagers. It was expressed in various
ways:--

"Wisha, thin, Jem, 't is you're the divil painted."

"Where is he taking it?"

"To the chapel."

"Wisha, thin, I thought the priests had some sinse."

"Whisht, 'uman, he's come around the new cojutor and got a job."

"Th' ould job?"

"Th' ould job!"

"Wisha, God help his poor wife now. 'T is she'll suffer," etc.

The men made desperate efforts as they passed Father Letheby's windows.
He looked on hopelessly, as you look at a charade of which you have not
got the key.

At six o'clock there was a deputation at the door, consisting of four
laborers and the owner of the cart.

"We come for our day's hire, your reverence," said the foreman,
unabashed.

"Oh, indeed," said Father Letheby, "I am not aware that you are in my
employment."

"We dhrew the laddher down from the Great House to the chapel; and I may
tell your reverence 't was a tough job. I wouldn't do it again for five
shillings."

"Nor I, ayther."

"Nor I, ayther."

"Nor I, ayther, begor."

"Well, look here," said Father Letheby, "I'm not going to submit to this
infamous extortion. I didn't employ you, and I acknowledge no
responsibility whatsoever."

"That manes you won't pay us, your reverence?" said the foreman, in a
free translation.

"Precisely," said Father Letheby, closing the door abruptly.

He heard them murmuring and threatening outside, but took no notice of
them. Later in the evening he took his usual stroll. He found these
fellows loafing around the public house. They had been denouncing him
vigorously, and occasionally a Parthian shaft came after him:--

"Begor, 't is quare, sure enough."

"Begor, we thought the priests couldn't do any wrong."

But when he turned the corner he met a good deal of sympathy:--

"Wisha, begor, 't is your reverence was wanted to tache these
blackguards a lesson."

"Wisha, 't was God sent you," etc., etc.

Now, one shilling would have given these fellows lashings of porter, and
secured their everlasting fealty and an unlimited amount of popularity.
I told him so.

"Never," he said, drawing back his head, and with flashing eyes, "I
shall never lend myself to so demoralizing a practice. We must get these
people out of the mire."

The next day, he thought he was bound to see how Jem was progressing
with his contract. He went down to the little church and passed into the
sacristy, whence he had a clear view of the roof of St. Joseph's Chapel.
Jem was there, leisurely doing nothing, and on the graveyard wall were
eight men, young and old, surveying the work and offering sundry
valuable suggestions. They took this shape:--

"Wisha, Jem, take the world aisy. You're killing yerself, man."

"What a pity he's lost his wice (voice); sure 't was he was able to rise
a song."

"Dey say," interjected a young ragamuffin, "dat Fader Letheby is going
to take Simon Barry into his new choir. Simon is a tinner, and Jem is
only a bannitone."

"Hould your tongue, you spalpeen," said a grown man, "Jem can sing as
well as twinty Simons, dat is if he could only wet his whistle."

"Thry dat grand song, Jem, ''T is Years Since Last We Met.'"

"No, no," said the chorus, "give us 'Larry McGee.'"

"Wisha, byes, wouldn't wan of ye run over to Mrs. Haley's for a pint.
'T is mighty dhry up here."

"Here ye are," said the chorus, chipping in and making up the requisite
"tuppence." "Don't be long about it, ye young ruffian."

"But what about the pledge, Jem?" asked a conscientious spectator.
"Shure your time isn't up yet."

"'T is up long ago," cried another. "'Twas three months yesterday since
he took the pledge."

"Byes," said Jem, who was troubled at the possible scandal he was about
to give, "I promised not to dhrink in a public house; and shure this
isn't a public house, glory be to God!"

They took off their hats reverently; and then the pint came, was taken
up the ladder with great care and solemnity, and a few minutes after,
Father Letheby heard:--

"What is it going to be, byes? I've left me music on the pianney!"

"'Larry McGee!' 'Larry McGee!' No. No. 'T is Yares Since Last----.' No.
No. 'The Byes of Wexford.'"

"Byes, I think the majority is in favor of 'Larry McGee.'--Here's to yer
health!"

And then came floating from the roof in various quavers and semiquavers
and grace-notes the following, which is all Father Letheby can remember.

    "I--in the town of Kilkinny lived Larry McGee,
    Oh--oh the divil's own boy at divarshion was he;
    He--he had a donkey, a pig, but he hadn't a wife,
    His cabin was dreary, and wretched his life."

Then the notes came wavering and fitful, as the wind took them up, and
carried them struggling over the moorland; and all that Father Letheby
could hear was about a certain Miss Brady, who was reared up a lady, and
who was requested to accept the name of Mrs. McGee. This suit must have
been successful, because, as the wind lulled down, the words came
clearly:--

    "Sure the chickens were roasted,--the praties was biled,
    They were all in their jackets, for fear they'd be spiled;
    And the neighbors came flockin', for to fling up the stockin',
    And dance at the weddin' of Larry McGee."

It was interesting; but Father Letheby's temper was rising with the
undulations of the song. He came out into the graveyard, and there was a
stampede of the spectators. Jem was lifting the porter to his lips, and
looked down calmly and philosophically at the young priest.

"Mr. Deady," said the latter, putting on his strongest accent, "I do not
think I engaged you to entertain the village with your vocal powers,
much as I esteem them. I engaged you to work,--to do honest work for
honest wages."

"Begor," said the unabashed Jem, "if I was a Turk, or a Armaynian, I'd
be allowed to ate my dinner."

"But this is not your dinner hour!"

"Twelve to wan is the dinner hour, except when I dines at the Grate
House, whin, for my convaynience, they puts it off till aight."

It was a sly cut at Father Letheby, and he felt it.

"And your dinner, I presume, is the usual quantity of filthy porter,
such as I see represented in your hand."

"It is, your reverence, excep' whin I dines with the Captain. Den we
haves roast beef and champagne."

All this Father Letheby told me, with a look of puzzled anger, and with
many exclamations.

"I never saw such a people; I'll never understand them," etc. His
magnificent impetuosity again.

"Tell me," I said, for he had given me most cordially the privilege of
speaking freely, "do you make your meditation regularly?"

"Well, I do," he replied, "in a kind of way."

"Because," I went on to say, "apart from the spiritual advantages it
affords, that closing of our eyes daily and looking steadily into
ourselves is a wonderfully soothing process. It is solitude--and
solitude is the mother country of the strong. It is astonishing what an
amount of irritation is poured from external objects through the windows
of the soul,--on the retina, where they appear to be focused, and then
turned like a burning-glass on the naked nerves of the soul. To shut
one's eyes and turn the thoughts inward is like sleep, and, like sleep,
gives strength and peace. Now, would you accept from me a subject of
meditation?"

"Willingly, sir," he said, like a child.

"All that you want to be perfect is to curb your impetuosity. I notice
it everywhere. Probably it is natural; probably it is accentuated by
your residence in feverish cities. Now, I have a right to give an advice
on this matter, for I got it and took it myself. When I was as young as
you I said Mass in twenty minutes, and said the Office in forty minutes.
How? Because I slurred over words, spoke to the Almighty as a
ballad-singer, and for a few years went through these awful and sacred
duties without ever resting or dwelling on their sublime signification.
One day a holy old priest said to me:--

"'Father, would you kindly give me an easy translation of the first
stanza of the hymn for Terce?'

"I was completely at sea. He saw it.

"'Ah, never mind. But what means _factus sum, sicut uter in pruina?_ You
say it every day nearly.'

"I couldn't tell him.

"'_Herodii domus dux est eorum._' What is that?"

"I made a feeble attempt here, and translated boldly, 'The house of
Herod is their leader.'

"The venerable man looked smilingly at me; and then asked me to look up
my Bible. I did, and found that I had been speaking an unknown language
to Almighty God for years, and I called it prayer."

Father Letheby looked humbled. He said: "True, Father, I fear; and if
you had to say the entire Office, commencing Matins at eleven o'clock at
night; or if you had to crush Vespers and Compline, under the light of a
street lamp, into the ten minutes before twelve o'clock, you'd see the
absurdity of the whole thing more clearly. A strictly conscientious
confrère of mine in England used always commence Prime about ten o'clock
at night; but then he always lighted a candle, for consistency, before
he uttered _Jam lucis orto sidere_. It is a wonder we were never taught
the very translation of the psalms in college."

"Well, we're wandering. But set apart, _hic et nunc_, a half-hour for
Matins and Lauds; twenty minutes for the Small Hours; a quarter of an
hour for Vespers and Compline; and take up no other duty until that time
has expired. Then never say your Office from memory, even the parts you
know best. Read every line from your Breviary. It is not my advice, but
that of St. Charles Borromeo. Take half an hour for the celebration of
Mass. It will be difficult at first, but it will come all right. Lastly,
train yourself to walk slowly and speak slowly and deliberately--"

"You are clipping my wings, Father," said he, "and putting soles of lead
on my feet."

"Did you ever hear of Michael Montaigne?" I said.

"Yes. But that's all I know about him."

"Quite enough, indeed. He hardly improves on acquaintance. But his
father trained himself to wear leaden shoes in order that he might leap
the higher. That's what I want from you. But where's this we were? Oh,
yes! You must take these poor people more easily. You cannot undo in a
day the operations of three hundred years--"

"Yes, but look how these people spring into the very van of civilization
when they go to England or America. Why, they seem to assume at once all
the graces of the higher life."

"Precisely,--the eternal question of environment. But under our
circumstances we must be infinitely patient."

"What vexes me most," said Father Letheby, "is that we have here the
material of saints; and yet--look now at that wretched Deady! I don't
mind his insolence, but the shifty dishonesty of the fellow."

"Let him alone! By this time he is stung with remorse for what he said.
Then he'll make a general confession to his wife. She'll flay him with
her tongue for having dared to say a disrespectful word to God's
minister. Then he'll go on a desperate spree for a week to stifle
conscience, during which orgies he'll beat his wife black and blue;
finally, he'll come to you, sick, humbled, and repentant, to apologize
and take the pledge for life again. That's the programme."

"'T is pitiful," said the young priest.

But the following Sunday he recovered all his lost prestige and secured
immortal fame at the football match between the "Holy Terrors" of
Kilronan and the "Wolfe Tones" of Moydore. For, being asked to "kick
off" by these athletes, he sent the ball up in a straight line seventy
or eighty feet, and it struck the ground just three feet away from where
he stood. There was a shout of acclamation from the whole field, which
became a roar of unbounded enthusiasm when he sent the ball flying in a
parabola, not six feet from the ground, and right to the hurdles that
marked the opposite goal. The Kilronan men were wild about their young
curate, and under his eye they beat their opponents hollow; and one
admirer, leaning heavily on his _caman_, was heard to say:--

"My God, if he'd only lade us!"

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 3: "A hundred thousand welcomes, Lord."]

[Footnote 4: A famous Irish architect.]



CHAPTER XIII

"ALL THINGS TO ALL MEN"


In pursuing my course of lectures to my young curate--lectures which he
returned with compound interest by his splendid example of zeal and
energy--I put into his hands the following lines, addressed by that
gentle saint, Francis de Sales, to some one in whom he had a similar
interest:--

     "Accustom yourself to speak softly and slowly, and to go--I mean
     walk--quite composedly; to do all that you do gently and quietly,
     and you will see that in three or four years you will have quite
     regulated this hasty impetuosity. But carefully remember to act
     thus gently and speak softly on occasions when the impetuosity is
     not urging you, and when there is no appearance of danger of it,
     as, for example, when sitting down, rising up, eating, when you
     speak to N. N., etc.; and in fact everywhere and in everything
     dispense not yourself from it. Now, I know that you will make a
     thousand slips a day over all this, and that your great natural
     activity will be always breaking out; but I do not trouble myself
     about this provided that it is not your will, your deliberation;
     and that, when you perceive these movements, you always try to calm
     them. Equableness of mind and of outward demeanor is not a
     particular virtue, but the interior and exterior ornament of a
     friend of Jesus Christ." (Letter VII.)

Now, here's the difficulty. Undoubtedly he is impetuous, he rushes at
conclusions too rapidly, he judges hastily; and with an imperfect
knowledge of human nature, which is a mass of irregularities, he worries
himself because he cannot bring a whole parish up to his level in a few
weeks. That impetuosity shows itself everywhere. He is an anachronism, a
being from another time and world, set down in sleepy Kilronan. For the
first few weeks that he was here, whenever he slammed his hall door and
strode down the village street with long, rapid, undulating steps, all
the dogs came out and barked at him for disturbing their slumbers, and
all the neighbors came to their doors and asked wildly, "Who's dead?
What happened? Where's the fire?" etc., and the consequence was that the
wildest rumors used to be circulated; and then, when a few days'
experience disproved them, the cumulative wrath of the disappointed
villagers fell on Father Letheby's devoted head.

"Why the mischief doesn't he go aisy? Sure, you'd think he was walking
for a wager. He'll kill himself in no time if he goes on that way."

He used to laugh airily at all this commotion. And now here was the
puzzle. No doubt whatever he can do more work in one day than I or
Father Tom Laverty could do in a month. And if I clip his wings, and
put lead in his shoes, as he remarked, he may take to slippers and the
gout, and all his glorious work be summarily spoiled. That would never
do. I have no scruple about what I said regarding the Office and Mass;
but if I shall see him creeping past my window in a solemn and dignified
manner, I know I shall have qualms of conscience. And yet--

It was in the beginning of December, and one day I had occasion to go
down through the village. It was not a day to attract any one out of
doors; it was one of those dreadful days which leave an eternal landmark
behind them in the trees that are bent inwards toward the mountains from
the terrible stress of the southwest winds. Land and sea were wiped out
in the cataracts of rain that poured their deluges on sea and moor and
mountain; and the channels of the village ran fiercely with brown muddy
water; and every living thing was housed, except the ducks, which
contemptuously waded through the dirty ruts, and only quacked
melodiously when the storm lifted their feathers and flung them from
pool to pool of the deserted street. I called on Father Letheby.

"This is dismal weather," I said, "enough to give any one a fit of the
blues in this awful place."

He looked at me, as if this were an attempt to draw him. There was a
roar of wind that shook his window-sashes, as if it said, "We will get
in and spoil your pleasure, whether you like it or not"; and there was
a shower of bullets, as from a Maxim, that threatened to smash in and
devastate all the cosey comforts.

"By Jove," said he, turning round, "I never felt happier in my life. And
every roar and splash of the tempest makes me draw closer and closer to
this little nest, which I can call my own home."

It was a cosey nest, indeed. The fire burned merrily,--a little coal, a
good deal of bogwood and turf, which is the cleanest fire in the world;
there was cleanliness, neatness, tidiness, taste everywhere; the
etchings and engravings gave tone to the walls; the piano lay open, as
if saying, "Come, touch me"; the books, shining in gold and red and blue
and purple, winked in the firelight; and, altogether, it was a picture
of delight accentuated by the desolation outside.

"What do I want?" he continued. "Ease? here it is; comfort? here it is;
health? thank God, perfect; society? here are the kings of men on my
shelves. I have only to summon them,--here Plato, Aristotle, Æschylus,
Virgil, Dante, Shakespeare! come here, and they come; speak, and they
open their dead lips; be silent, and back they go to their shelves. I
have not got your Greek Fathers yet; but they'll come. You notice that
my theological library is rather scant. But I can borrow St. Thomas,
Lugo, Suarez; I cannot borrow the others, for you are so jealous about
your books."

"Rather clever economy!" I said. "But now tell me what you do without
the morning paper?"

"Well, now, there you touched a sore point. At least it was; but it is
healing. For the first few weeks it was my daily penance. I used always
breakfast in England with the paper propped against the teapot. They
said it was bad for digestion, but it made me eat slowly; and you may
perhaps have perceived,--indeed, you have perceived,--that I am rather
quick in my habits."

I nodded oracularly.

"Well, the first few weeks I was here that was my only misery. Without
the paper everything looked lonely and miserable. I used to go to the
door every five minutes to see whether there was a newsboy on the
horizon; but you cannot understand the feeling."

"Can't I? I know it well. You remember what the uprooted tree was to the
blinded giant in Virgil:

              'Ea sola voluptas,
    Solamenque mali.'

Well, that was the newspaper to me. But how do you get on now?"

"I never care to see one. Nay, I should rather have a feeling of
contempt for any one whom I should see wasting valuable time on them."

"But the news of the world, politics, wars, the amenities of Boards of
Guardians, Town Commissioners, etc.; the suicides, the divorces, stocks
and shares, etc.;--don't these things interest you?"

"No. My only regret is, when the boys ask me about the war, I am afraid
I appear awfully ignorant. And they're so learned. Why, every fellow
down at the forge thinks himself a General or an Admiral. 'Ah, if I had
dem troops, wouldn't I settle so and so!' Or, 'Why the d---- didn't
Gineral S---- bring out his cavalry? 'T is the cavalry does it.
Bourbaki--he was the Gineral!' 'Yerra, what was he to Skobeloff?' And
they look at me rather mournfully."

Here an awful blast swept the house, as if to raze it to its
foundations.

"A pleasant day for a sick-call to Slieveogue!" I said.

"I shouldn't mind one bit. 'T would make the fire the merrier when I
returned. I enjoy nothing half so much as walking in the teeth of wind
and rain, along the smooth turf on yonder cliffs, the cool air lapping
you all round, and the salt of the sea on your lips. Then, when you
return, a grand throw-off, and the little home pleasanter by the
contrast. By the way, I was out this morning."

"Out this morning? Where?" I exclaimed.

"Up at Campion's."

"Nonsense!"

"Quite true. And would you guess for what, sir?"

"Go on. I am a poor hand at conundrums."

"You don't know Mrs. C----, a constable's widow at Moydore?"

"I can't say I have that pleasure. Stop! Did she come about a license?"

"She did."

"And you helped her?--No! God forbid! That would be too great a
somersault!"

"I did."

"What?"

He looked embarrassed, and said, apologetically: "Well, pardon me, sir,
and I'll tell you all. She came in here this morning, wet and
bedraggled. Her poor widow's weeds were dripping with the rain. She sat
there. You see where her boots have left their mark. She said her
husband had just died, and left her, of course, penniless, with four
young children. There was nothing before her but the workhouse, unless I
would help her,--and she heard that I was good to the poor; sure every
one was talking about me,--you understand?"

I nodded.

"Well, there was but one possible way in which she could be helped, and
that was to get her a license to sell porter and spirits. I stopped her
abruptly, and said: 'My dear woman, you might as well ask me to get you
appointed lady in waiting to the Queen. But in any case I'd rather cut
off my right hand than help any one to get a license. Nay, I am fully
determined to cut down every license in this parish until but one is
left.' She looked at me in amazement. Then her Celtic temper rose.
'Wisha, 't is aisy for you to lecture poor people who have not a bite or
a sup, nor a roof over their heads, wid your carpets, and your pictures,
and your pianney, and your brass fire-irons; but if you had four little
_garlachs_ to feed, as I have, you'd have a different story.' Here she
arose to go; and, as a parting shot: 'God help the poor, however; sure
they have no one to go to when their priests desart them.' I don't know
what it was," continued Father Letheby, "but I softened a little here,
and said: 'Now, I have told you that I cannot do anything towards
getting you a license--it's against all my principles; but I'll tell you
what I'll do. I'll go up to Captain Campion's with you, and introduce
you on the strength of these letters from your parish priest; but
remember, not one word shall I say in favor of your demand. Do you
understand?' 'I do, your reverence,' she said; 'may God bless you!' The
hot fires were ashes again. We both went up in the awful rain. It was
rather early even for a morning call, and Captain Campion was not yet
down stairs. So I left the widow in the hall, and went out to a
sheltered spot, where I could watch the action of the storm on the
waves. In half an hour I returned. There was no necessity for an
introduction. The good woman had introduced herself, and secured Captain
Campion's vote and influence for the next licensing sessions. I was
never so sorry--nor so glad."

"'T is a bad business," I said mournfully. "Imagine eight public houses
in this wretched village of three hundred souls!"

"'Tis, sir!" he said, as if his conscience stung him; "but I did some
good by my visit; I think I have brought Captain Campion around."

"To what?" I exclaimed.

"To recognize his duty to the Church, and the people, and God, by going
to his duty."

"You don't say so?" I said, and I _was_ surprised. I could not help
thinking of what a glorious triumph it would be to that gentle saint,
whose brow was never troubled but with the thought of her father's
perversity. How often, how ardently, she had prayed for that day; how
many Masses, how many Communions, she had offered to obtain that grace!
Many a time I have seen her, after Holy Communion, straining her eyes on
the Tabernacle, and I knew she was knocking vigorously at the Heart of
Christ; and many a time have I seen her, a Lady of Sorrows, imploring
the Queen of Sorrows to take that one trouble from her life. Oh! if men
could only know what clouds of anguish and despair their indifference to
the practices of their holy religion brings down upon gentle hearts,
that dare not speak their sorrow, the Church would not have to mourn so
many and such faithless and rebellious children.

I said to Father Letheby: "God bless you; but how did you work the
miracle?"

"Well," he said bashfully, "it was not the work of one day or of one
visit. I have been laying my train to the citadel; to-day I fired it,
and he capitulated. Tell me, sir, did you ever hear of the _Halcyone_?"

Did I ever hear of the _Halcyone_? Who didn't? Was there a man, woman,
or child, from the Cliffs of Moher to Achill Island, that did not know
the dainty five-ton yacht, which, as a contrast to his own turbulent
spirit, he had so named? Was it not everywhere said that Campion loved
that yacht more than his child,--that he spoke to her and caressed her
as a living thing,--and how they slept on the calm deep on summer
nights, whilst phosphor-laden waves lapped around them, and only the dim
dawn, with her cold, red finger woke them to life? And was it not told
with pride and terror in every coracle along the coast with what fierce
exultation he took her out on stormy days, and headed her straight
against the billows, that broke into courtesies on every side, and how
she leaped up the walls of water which lay down meekly beneath her, and
shook out her white sail to the blast, until its curved face brushed the
breakers, and her leaden keel showed through the valleys of the sea? and
men leaned on their spades to see her engulfed in the deep, and the
coast-guards levelled their long glasses, and cried: "There goes mad
Campion and the witch again!"

"What do you know about the _Halcyone_?" said I.

"A good deal by hearsay; not a little by personal experience," he
replied.

"Why, you don't mean to say that you have seen the famous yacht?" I
asked, in amazement.

"Seen her, steered her, laughed at her, feared her, like Campion
himself."

"Why, I thought Campion never allowed any one but himself and his
daughter to cross her gunwale?"

"Well, all that I tell you is, I have been out several evenings with the
Captain; and if you want to examine me in jibs, and mainsails, and
top-gallants, now is your time."

Look here! This curate of mine is becoming quite humorous, and picking
up all our Celtic ways. I don't at all like it, because I would much
rather he would keep up all his graceful dignity. But there again--the
eternal environments. How far will he go?

"Don't mind your lessons in navigation now," I said, "but come to the
point. How--did--you--catch--Campion?"

"Well, 't is a long story, but I shall try to abridge it. I knew there
was but one way to this man's heart, and I was determined to try it. Has
not some one said, 'All things to all men?' Very well. Talk to a farmer
about his crops, to a huntsman about his horses, to a fisherman about
his nets, you have him in the palm of your hands. It is a kind of
Christian diplomacy; but I would much rather it were not necessary."

He was silent, leaning his head on his hands.

"Never mind," I said, "the question of honor. Human nature is a very
crooked thing, and you can't run a level road over a hill."

"I never like even the shadow of deception," he said; "I hate
concealment; and yet I should not like Campion to know that I practised
even so innocent a stratagem."

"Oh, shade of Pascal!" I cried, "even you could detect no casuistry
here. And have you no scruple, young man, in keeping an old gentleman on
the tenter-hooks of expectation whilst you are splitting hairs? Go on,
like a good fellow, I was never so interested in my life. The idea of
landing Campion!"

"Well, 't was this way. I knew a little about boats, and made the
Captain cognizant of the fact. I expected an invitation. He did not rise
to the bait. Then I tried another plan. I asked him why he never entered
the _Halcyone_ for the Galway regatta. He muttered something of contempt
for all the coast boats. I said quietly that I heard she tacked badly in
a strong gale, and that it was only in a light breeze she did well. He
got furious, which was just what I wanted. We argued and reasoned; and
the debate ended in his asking me out the first fresh day that came last
September. I don't know if you remember that equinoctial gale that blew
about the 18th or 19th. It was strong, much stronger than I cared for;
but I was pinned to my engagement. I met him down at the creek. The wind
blew off the land. It was calm enough in the sheltered water; but when
we got out, by Jove, I wished a hundred times that I was here. I lay
down in the gangway of the yacht whilst Campion steered. From time to
time great waves broke over the bow of the yacht, and in a little while
I was drenched to the skin. Campion had his yellow oil-skins, and
laughed at me. Occasionally he asked, Does she tack well? I answered
coolly. I knew he was trying my nerve, as we mounted breaker after
breaker and plunged down into awful valleys of the sea. Then, as one
great squall broke round and the yacht keeled over, he turned the helm,
until she lay flat on a high wave, and her great sail swept the crest of
its foam, and her pennon dipped in the deep. I thought it was all over,
as I clutched the gunwale to prevent my falling into the sea. He watched
me narrowly, and in a moment righted the yacht.

"'We were near Davy Jones's locker there?' he said coolly.

"'We wouldn't remain long together,' I replied.

"'How?'

"'Well, you know, you'd go a little deeper, and I should hope I would
get a little higher.'

"'You mean I'd have gone to Hell?'

"'Certainly,' I replied.

"'I'm not a bad man,' he said, taken aback.

"'You are,' I replied; 'you persecute the poor and drag their faces
through the dust. You're an irreligious man, because you never kneel to
God; you're a dishonest man, because you profess to belong to a faith
whose doctrines you do not accept, and whose commands you disobey.'

"'Hallo, there!' said he, 'I'm not used to this kind of language.'

"'Perhaps not,' I said; for with the thorough drenching and the fright I
was now thoroughly angry. 'But you'll have to listen to it. You cannot
put your fingers in your ears and steer the _Halcyone_. It will take us
an hour to reach land, and you must hear what you never heard before.'

"'I've a strong inclination,' he said, 'to pitch you overboard.'

"'I'm quite sure you're perfectly capable of murder,' I said. 'But
again, you cannot let go the ropes in this gale. Besides, there are two
sides to that question.'

"Then and there I pitched into him, told him how he was breaking his
child's heart, how he was hated all along the coast, etc., etc.; but I
insisted especially on his dishonesty in professing a creed which he
denied in daily practice. I was thoroughly angry, and gave my passion
full swing. He listened without a word as we went shoreward. At last he
said:

"'By Jove! I never thought that a priest could speak to a gentleman so
boldly. Now, that damned old landlubber'--I beg your pardon, sir," broke
in my curate, "the words escaped me involuntarily."

"Never mind," I said, "go on."

"But it was very disrespectful--"

"Now, I insist on hearing every word he said. Why, that's the cream of
the story."

"Well, he said: 'That damned old landlubber and bookworm never addressed
me in that manner,'--but perhaps he meant some one else."

"Never fear! He meant his respected old pastor. The 'landlubber' might
apply to other natives; but I fear they could hardly be called
'bookworm' with any degree of consistency. But go on."

"Well, you know, he spoke rather jerkily, and as if in soliloquy. 'Well,
I never!' 'Who'd have thought it from this sleek fellow?' 'Why, I
thought butter would not melt in his mouth!' 'What will Bittra say when
I tell her?' At last we pulled into the creek; I jumped ashore from the
dingey, as well as my dripping clothes would let me, and lifting my hat,
without a word, I walked towards home. He called after me:--

"'One word, Father Letheby! You must come up to the house and dry
yourself. You'll catch your death of cold.'

"'Oh! 't will be nothing,' I said. He had come up with me, and looked
humbled and crestfallen.

"'You must pardon all my rudeness,' he said, in a shamefaced manner.
'But, to be very candid with you, I was never met so boldly before, and
I like it. We men of the world hate nothing so much as a coward. If some
of your brethren had the courage of their convictions and challenged us
poor devils boldly, things might be different. We like men to show that
they believe in Hell by trying to keep us from it.' But now I am
sounding my own praises. It is enough to say that he promised to think
the matter over; and I clinched the whole business by getting his
promise that he would be at the altar on Christmas morning."

I thought a good deal, and said: "It is a wholesome lesson. We have no
scruple in cuffing Jem Deady or Bill Shanahan; but we don't like to
tackle the big-wigs. And they despise us for our cowardice. Isn't that
it? Well, my dear fellow, you are a [Greek: tetragônos anêr], as old
Aristotle would say,--an idea, by the way, stolen by Dante in his 'sta
come torre ferma.' In plainer language, you're a _brick_! Poor little
Bittra! how pleased she'll be!"



CHAPTER XIV

FIRST FRIDAYS


I notice, as I proceed with these mnemonic scraps from my diary, and try
to cast them into shape, a curious change come over me. I feel as one
waking from a trance, and all the numbed faculties revive and assert
their power; and all the thoughts and desires, yea, even the
capabilities of thirty years ago, come back and seem to claim their
rightful places, as a deposed king would like to sit on his throne, and
hold his sceptre once more before he dies. And so all my ideas are
awakening; and the cells of memory, as if at some magic _Sesame_, yield
up their contents; and even the mechanical trick of writing, which they
say is never fully lost, appears to creep back into my rheumatized
fingers as the ink flows freely from my pen. I know, indeed, that some
say I am passing into my second childhood. I do not resent it; nor would
I murmur even at such a blessed dispensation. For I thank God I have
kept through all the vicissitudes of life, and all the turbulence of
thought, the heart of a little child.

There is nothing human that does not interest me. All the waywardness of
humanity provokes a smile; there is no wickedness so great that I
cannot pity; no folly that I cannot condone; patient to wait for the
unravelling of the skein of life till the great Creator willeth,
meanwhile looking at all things _sub specie æternitatis_, and ever
finding new food for humility in the barrenness of my own life. But it
has been a singular intellectual revival for me to feel all my old
principles and thoughts shadowing themselves clearer and clearer on the
negatives of memory where the sunflames of youth imprinted them, and
from which, perhaps, they will be transferred to the tablets that last
for eternity. But here God has been very good unto me in sending me this
young priest to revive the past. We like to keep our consciousness till
we die. I am glad to have been aroused by so sympathetic a spirit from
the coma of thirty years.

It is quite true, indeed, that he disturbs, now and again, the comforts
of senile lethargy. And sometimes the old Adam will cry out, and sigh
for the leaden ages, for he is pursuing with invincible determination
his great work of revival in the parish. He has doubled, trebled, the
confessions of the people on Saturday, and the subsequent Sunday
Communions. He has seized the hearts of all the young men. He is forever
preaching to them on the _manliness_ of Christ,--His truthfulness, His
honor, His fearlessness, His tenderness. He insists that Christ had a
particular affection for the young. Witness how He chose His Apostles,
and how He attached them to His Sacred Person. And thus my curate's
confessional is thronged every Saturday night by silent, humble,
thoughtful young fellows, sitting there in the dark, for the two candles
at the altar rails throw but a feeble light into the blackness; and Mrs.
Darcy, under all improvements, has retained her sense of economy.

"Where's the use," she says, "of lighting more than wan candle, for wan
candle is as good as fifty?"

She has compromised with Father Letheby for two, for his slightest wish
is now a command.

And so the young girls and all the men go to Father Letheby's
confessional. The old women and the little children come to me. They
don't mind an occasional growl, which will escape me sometimes. Indeed,
they say they'd rather hear one roar from the "ould man" than if Father
Letheby, "wid his gran' accent," was preaching forever. But young men
are sensitive; and I am not sorry.

Yet, if my Guardian Angel were to ask me, What in the world have you to
grumble about? I couldn't tell him. For I never come away from that
awful and sacred duty of the confessional without a sense of the deepest
humiliation. I never sit in "the box," as the people call the
confessional. A slight deafness in one ear, and the necessity of
stretching occasionally a rheumatized foot, make it more convenient for
me to sit over there, near and under the statue of our Blessed Mother.
There in my arm-chair I sit, with the old cloak wrapped round me that
sheltered me many a night on the mountains. And there the little
children come, not a bit shy or afraid of old "Daddy Dan." They pick
their way across the new carpet with a certain feeling of awkwardness,
as if there were pins and needles hidden somewhere; but when they arrive
at safe anchorage, they put their dirty clasped fingers on my old
cassock, toss the hair from their eyes, and look me straight in the
face, whilst they tell their little story to me and God. They are now
well trained in the exact form of confession. Father Letheby has drilled
them well. But dear me! what white souls they are! Poverty and purity
have worked hand in hand to make them angelic, and their faces are
transfigured by the light that shines within. And their attenuated
bodies show clearly the burning lamp of holiness and faith, as a light
shines soft and clear through the opal shades of porcelain or Sèvres.
And the little maidens always say, "Tank you, Fader," when they receive
their penance; and the boys say, "All right." I sometimes expect to hear
"old fellow" added. Then the old women come; and, afraid to touch the
grand carpet with their feet, they leave rather vivid impressions in
brown mud on the waxed floor, which is the very thing that Miss Campion
does not want; and they throw themselves backward whilst they recite in
the soft, liquid Gaelic the _Confiteor_; and then raise themselves
erect, pull up their black cloaks or brown shawls with the airs and
dignity of a young barrister about to address the jury, arrange the coif
of shawl or hood of cloak around their heads, and then tell
you--nothing! God bless them, innocent souls! No need for these
elaborate preparations. Yet what contrition, what sorrow, what love they
pour forth over some simple imperfections, where even a Jansenist cannot
detect the shadow of a venial sin! No wonder that my curate declares
that we have material in Ireland to make it again a wonder to the
world,--an Island of Saints once more! But something is wanting. He does
not know what, nor do I. But he says sometimes that he feels as if he
were working in the dark. He cannot get inside the natures of the
people. There is a puzzle, an enigma somewhere. The people are but half
revealed to us. There is a world of thought and feeling hidden away
somewhere, and unrevealed. Who has the key? He is seeking for it
everywhere, and cannot find it. Now, you know, he is a transcendentalist,
so I don't mind these vagaries; yet he is desperately in earnest.

But he is very kind and tender towards his old pastor. When he "started"
the devotion of the Nine Fridays in honor of the Sacred Heart, of
course he set them all wild. Their eternal salvation depended on their
performing the Nine Fridays successively. And so one Thursday night,
when the wind was howling dismally, and the rain pattering on the
windows, and the fire in my little grate looking all the brighter from
the contrast, a timid knock came to my door. I put down the _Pensées_ of
Pascal,--a book for which I have a strange predilection, though I do
not like the man who wrote it.

"Some children want to see you, sir," said Hannah. "I hope you're not
going to leave the house in this weather."

"Send them in and let us see," I replied.

They came to the door reluctantly enough, one pushing the other before
her, and there they stood bashfully, their fingers in their mouths,
staring at the lamp, and the pictures, and the books, like Alice in
Wonderland.

"Well, what's up, now?" I said, turning around.

"'T is the way we wants to go to confession, Fader."

"Hallo! are ye going to die to-night that ye are in such a mighty
hurry?"

"No, Fader, but to-morrow is the fust Friday."

"Indeed! so it is. What has that to do with the matter?"

"But we are all making the Nine Fridays, Fader; and if we break wan, we
must commence all over again."

"Well, run down to Father Letheby; he'll hear you."

"Father Letheby is in his box, Fader; and"--here there was a little
smile and a fingering of the pinafores--"we'd rader go to you, Fader."

[Illustration: "'T is the way we wants to go to confession, Fader."]

I took the compliment for what it was worth. The Irish race appear to
have kissed the Blarney stone _in globo_.

"And have you no pity on a poor old man, to take him out this dreadful
night down to that cold church, and keep him there till ten or eleven
o'clock to-night?"

"We won't keep you long, Fader. We were at our juty last month."

"All right, get away, and I'll follow you quickly. Mind your
preparation."

"All right, Fader."

"'T isn't taking leave of your seven sinses you are, going down to that
cowld chapel this awful night," said Hannah, when she had closed the
door on the children. "Wisha, thin, if I knew what them whipsters
wanted, 't is long before they crossed the thrishol of the door. Nine
Fridays, begor! As if the Brown Scaffler and the first Sunday of the
month wasn't enough for them. And here I'll be now for the rest of the
winter, cooking your coughs and cowlds. Sure, you're no more able to
take care of yerself than an unwaned child."

She brought me my boots, and my old cloak, and my muffler, and my
umbrella all the same; and as I passed into the darkness and the rain, I
heard anathemas on "these new fandangos, as if there weren't as good
priests in the parish as ever he was."

I slipped into the church, as I thought, unperceived; but I was hardly
seated, when I heard the door of Father Letheby's confessional flung
open; and with his quick, rapid stride, and his purple stole flying from
his shoulders, he was immediately at my side, and remonstrating
vigorously at my imprudence.

"This is sheer madness, sir, coming out of your warm room on this
dreadful night. Surely, when I got your permission to establish this
devotion, I never intended this."

"Never mind, now," I said, "I'm not going to allow you to make a
somersault into heaven over my head. In any case, these little mites
won't take long."

They looked alarmed enough at his angry face.

"Well, then, I shall ask you to allow me to discontinue this devotion
after to-night."

"Go back to your confessional. Sufficient for the day is the evil
thereof. There's plenty of time to consider the future."

He was much annoyed over my indiscretion; but he resumed his work. Mine
was quickly gone through, and I passed up the dimly lighted aisle,
wondering at myself. Just near the door, I could not forbear looking
around the deep sepulchral gloom. It was lit by the one red lamp that
shone like a star in the sanctuary, and by the two dim waxlights in tin
sconces, that cast a pallid light on the painted pillars, and a brown
shadow farther up, against which were silhouetted the figures of the
men, who sat in even rows around Father Letheby's confessional. Now and
again a solitary penitent darkened the light of the candles, as he moved
up to the altar rails to read his penance or thanksgiving; or the quick
figure of a child darted rapidly past me into the thicker darkness
without. Hardly a sound broke the stillness, only now and then there was
a moan of sorrow, or some expression of emphasis from the penitents; and
the drawing of the slides from time to time made a soft sibilance, as of
shuttles, beneath which were woven tapestries of human souls that were
fit to hang in the halls of heaven. Silently the mighty work went
forward; and I thought, as there and then the stupendous sacrifice of
Calvary was brought down into our midst, and the hands of that young
priest gathered up the Blood of Christ from grass, and stone, and
wood,--from reeking nails and soldier's lance, and the wet weeping hair
of Magdalen, and poured it softly on the souls of these young
villagers,--I thought what madness possesses the world not to see that
this sublime assumption of God's greatest privilege of mercy is in
itself the highest dogmatic proof of the Divine origin of the Church;
for no purely human institution could dare usurp such an exalted
position, nor assume the possession of such tremendous power.

As I knelt down, and turned to leave the church, I felt my cloak gently
pulled. I looked down and faintly discerned in the feeble light some one
huddled at my feet. I thought at first it was one of the little
children, for they used sometimes to wait for the coveted privilege of
holding the hand of their old pastor, and conducting him homeward in
the darkness. This was no child, however, but some one fully grown, as I
conjectured, though I saw nothing but the outline of wet and draggled
garments. I waited. Not a word came forth, but something like the echo
of a sob. Then I said:--

"Whom have I here, and what do you want?"

"Father, Father, have pity!"

"I do not know who you are," I replied, "and wherefore I should have
pity. If you stand up and speak, I'll know what to say or do."

"You know me well," said the woman's voice, "too well. Am I to be cast
out forever?"

Then I recognized Nance, who had followed and blessed Father Tom the
evening he left us. She did not bless me nor address me. I had to speak
publicly of poor Nance; perhaps, indeed, I spoke too sharply and
strongly,--it is so hard to draw the line between zeal and discretion,
it is so easy to degenerate into weakness or into excess. And Nance
feared me. Probably she was the only one of the villagers who never
dared address me.

"What do you want here?" I gently said.

"What do I want here? 'T is a quare question for a priest to be afther
asking. What did the poor crature want when she wint to a bigger man dan
you, and she wasn't turned away aither?"

"Yes, Nance; but she repented and loved Christ, and was prepared to die
rather than sin again."

"And how do you know but I'm the same? Do you know more than the God
above you?--and He is my witness here to-night before His Blessed and
Holy Son that all hell-fire won't make me fall again. Hell-fire, did I
say?" Her voice here sunk into a low whisper. "It isn't hell-fire I
dread, but His face and yours."

I stooped down and lifted her gently. The simple kindness touched the
broken vase of her heart, and she burst into an agony of passionate
tears.

"Oh, wirra! wirra! if you had only said that much to me three months
ago, what you'd have saved me. But you'd the hard word, Father, and it
drove me wild to think that, as you said, I wasn't fit to come and mix
with the people at Mass. And many and many a night in the cowld and
hunger, I slept there at the door of the chapel; and only woke up to
bate the chapel door, and ask God to let me in. But sure His hand was
agin me, like yours, and I daren't go in. And sometimes I looked
through the kayhole, to where His heart was burnin', and I thought He
would come out, when no one could see Him, and spake to me; but no! no!
Him and you were agin me; and then the chapel woman 'ud come in the
cowld of the mornin', and I would shlink away to my hole agin?"

"Speak low, Nance," I whispered, as her voice hissed through the
darkness. "The men will hear you!"

"They often heard worse from me than what I am saying to-night, God help
me! 'T isn't the men I care about, nor their doings. But whin the young
girls would crass the street, les' they should come near me, and the
dacent mothers 'ud throw their aprons over their childres' heads, les'
they should see me, ah! that was the bitter pill. And many and many a
night, whin you wor in your bed, I stood down on dem rocks below, with
the say calling for me, and the hungry waves around me and there was
nothin' betune me and hell but that--"

She fumbled in her bosom and drew out a ragged, well-worn scapular with
a tiny medal attached, and kissed it.

"And sure I know if I wint with 'em, I should have to curse the face of
the Blessed and Holy Mary forever, and I said then, 'Never! Never!' and
I faced the hard world agin."

I detected the faintest odor of spirits as she spoke.

"'T is hardly a good beginning, Nance, to come here straight from the
public house."

"'Twas only a thimbleful Mrs. Haley gave me, to give me courage to face
you."

"And what is it to be now? Are you going to change your life?"

"Yerra, what else would bring me here to-night?"

"And you are going to make up your mind to go to confession as soon as
you can?"

"As soon as I can? This very moment, wid God's blessing."

"Well, then, I'll ask Father Letheby to step out for a moment and hear
you."

"If you do, then I'll lave the chapel on the spot, and maybe you won't
see me agin." She pulled up her shawl, as if to depart.

"What harm has Father Letheby done you? Sure every one likes him."

"Maybe! But he never gave me word or look that wasn't pison since he
came to the parish. I'll go to yourself."

"But," I said, fearing that she had still some dread of me that might
interfere with the integrity of her confession, "you know I have a bad
tongue--"

"Never mind," she said, "if you have. Sure they say your bark is worse
than your bite."

And so, then and there, in the gloom of that winter's night, I heard her
tale of anguish and sorrow; and whilst I thanked God for this, His sheep
that was lost, I went deeper down than ever into the valleys of
humiliation and self-reproach: "Caritas erga homines, sicut caritas Dei
erga nos."[5] Here was my favorite text, here my sum total of
speculative philosophy. I often preached it to others, even to Father
Letheby, when he came complaining of the waywardness of this imaginative
and fickle people. "If God, from on high, tolerates the unspeakable
wickedness of the world,--if He calmly looks down upon the frightful
holocaust of iniquity that steams up before His eyes from the cities and
towns and hamlets of the world,--if He tolerates the abomination of
paganism, and the still worse, because conscious, wickedness of the
Christian world, why should we be fretful and impatient? And if Christ
was so gentle and so tender towards these foul, ill-smelling, leprous,
and ungrateful Jews, why should we not be tolerant of the venial falls
of the holy people,--the kingly nation?" And I was obliged to confess
that it was all pride,--too much sensitiveness, not to God's dishonor,
but to the stigma and reproach to our own ministrations, that made us
forget our patience and our duty. And often, on Sunday mornings in
winter, when the rain poured down in cataracts, and the village street
ran in muddy torrents, and the eaves dripped in steady sheets of water,
when I stood at my own chapel door and saw poor farmers and laborers,
old women and young girls, drenched through and through, having walked
six miles down from the farthest mountains; and when I saw, as I read
the Acts and the Prayer before Mass, a thick fog of steam rising from
their poor clothes and filling the entire church with a strange incense,
I thought how easy it ought to be for us to condone the thoughtlessness
or the inconsiderate weaknesses of such a people, and to bless God that
our lot was cast amongst them. I heard, with deeper contrition than
hers, the sins of that poor outcast; for every reproach she addressed to
me I heard echoed from the recesses of that silent tabernacle. But all
my trouble was increased when I insisted on her approaching the Holy
Table in the morning. The thought of going to Holy Communion appalled
her. "Perhaps in eight or twelve months she'd be fit; but to-morrow--"

Her dread was something intense, almost frightful:--

"Sure He'll kill me, as He killed the man who towld the lie!"

I tried to reassure her:--

"But they say he'll _bleed_ if I touch Him."

I gently reasoned and argued with her. Then her objections took a more
natural turn:--

"Sure the people will all rise up and lave the chapel."

Then it became a question of dress. And it was with the greatest
difficulty, and only by appealing to her humility, and as a penance,
that I at last induced her to consent to come up to the altar rails
after all the people had received Holy Communion. There was a slight
stir next morning when all the people had reverently retired from the
Holy Table. I waited, holding the Sacred Host over the Ciborium. The
people wondered. Then, from the farthest recess of the church, a draped
figure stole slowly up the aisle. All knew it was Nance. So far from
contempt, only pity, deep pity, filled the hearts of old and young; and
one could hear clearly the _tchk! tchk!_ that curious click of sympathy
which I believe is peculiar to our people. The tears streamed down the
face of the poor penitent as I placed the Sacred Host upon her tongue.
Then she rose strengthened, and walked meekly, but firmly, back to her
place. As she did, I noticed that she wore a thick black shawl. It was
the quick eye of my curate that had seen all. It was his gentle, kind
heart that forestalled me.

I got an awful scolding from Hannah when I came home that night in the
rain.

"Never mind, Hannah," I said, when she had exhausted her diatribe, "I
never did a better night's work in my life."

She looked at me keenly; but these poor women have some queer way of
understanding things; and she said humbly:--

"Than' God!"

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 5: Charity towards men, as the charity of God towards us.]



CHAPTER XV

HOLLY AND IVY


The progress of my curate and myself in our study of the Greek authors
is not so steady or so successful as we had anticipated. Somehow or
other we drift away from the subject-matter of our evening lessons, and
I am beginning to perceive that his tastes are more modern, or, to speak
more correctly, they tend to less archaic and more interesting studies.
Then again I have read somewhere that the Hebrew characters, with their
minute vowel-points, have driven blind many an enthusiastic scholar, and
I fear these black Greek letters are becoming too much for my old sight.
There now, dear reader, don't rush to the conclusion that this is just
what you anticipated; you knew, of course, how it would be. You never
had much faith in these transcendental enterprises of reviving Greek at
the age of seventy-five, and you shook your incredulous head at the
thought of an Academia of two honorary members at Kilronan. Now we
_have_ done a little. If you could only see the "Dream of Atossa" done
into English pentameters by my curate, and my own "Prometheus"--well,
there, this won't do--_Vanity of vanities_, said the Preacher.

But this much I shall be pardoned. I cannot help feeling very solemn and
almost sad at the approach of Christmas time. Whether it is the long,
gloomy tunnel that runs through the year from November to April,--these
dark, sad days are ever weeping,--or whether it is the tender
associations that are linked with the hallowed time and the remembrance
of the departed I know not; but some indescribable melancholy seems to
hover around and hang down on my spirits at this holy season; and it is
emphasized by a foreboding that somewhere in the future this great
Christian festival will degenerate into a mere bank holiday, and lose
its sacred and tender and thrice-sanctified associations. By the way, is
it not curious that our governments are steadily increasing the number
of secular holidays, whilst the hands of Pharisees are still uplifted in
horror at the idleness and demoralization produced amongst Catholics by
the eight or ten days that are given in the year to the honor of God's
elect?

Well, we shall stand by the old traditions to the end. And one of my
oldest habits has been to read up at Christmas time every scrap of
literature that had any bearing whatever on the most touching and the
most important event in all human history. And so, on the Sunday evening
preceding the celebration of Father Letheby's first Christmas in
Kilronan, I spoke to him at length on my ideas and principles in
connection with this great day; and we went back, in that rambling,
desultory way that conversation drifts into,--back to ancient prophecies
and forecastings, down to modern times,--tales of travellers about
Bethlehem, the sacrilegious possession of holy places by Moslems, etc.,
etc., until the eyes of my curate began to kindle, and I saw a possible
Bernard or Peter in his fine, clear-cut face, and a "Deus vult" in the
trembling of his lips. Ah me! what a glorious thing is this enthusiasm
of the young,--this noble idealism, that spurns the thought of
consequences, only sees the finger of God beckoning and cares not
whither!

"Hand me down that Virgil," I said, to avert an explosion, for when he
does break out on modern degeneracy he is not pleasant to hear.

"Now spare my old eyes, and read for me, with deliberation, those lines
of the Fourth Eclogue which forecast the coming of our Lord!"

He read in his fine sonorous voice, and he did full justice to the noble
lines:--

    "Ultima Cumæi venit jam carminis ætas;
    Magnus ab integro sæclorum nascitur ordo.
    Jam redit et Virgo, redeunt Saturnia regna;
    Jam nova progenies cælo demittitur alto,"--

down to the two lines which I repeated as a prayer:--

    "O mihi tam longæ maneat pars ultima vitæ
    Spiritus et, quantum sat erit tua dicere facta."

"No wonder," he said, at length, "that the world of the Middle Ages,
which, by the way, were _the_ ages of enlightenment, should have
regarded Virgil as a magician and even as a saint."

"But," he said, after a pause, "the 'Dream of the Dead Christ' would be
almost more appropriate nowadays. It is terrible to think how men are
drifting away from Him. There's Ormsby now, a calm, professed infidel;
and absolutely nothing in the way to prevent his marriage with Miss
Campion but his faith, or want of faith."

"Ormsby!" I cried. "Infidel! Marriage with Miss Campion!--want of
faith!!! What in the world is this sudden discharge of fireworks and
Catherine-wheels upon your pastor? Or where has all this gunpowder been
hitherto stored?"

"I thought I had told you, sir," he said, timidly, "but I have so many
irons in the fire. You know that Ormsby's marriage is only a question of
weeks but for one thing."

"And, if I am not trespassing too much on the secrecy of your
confidential intercourse with these young people," I said (I suppose I
was a little huffed), "may I ask how long is all this matrimonial
enterprise in progress, and how does Campion regard it?"

"I am afraid you are offended, sir," he said, "and indeed quite
naturally, because I have not spoken about this matter to you before;
but really it appears so hopeless, and I hate speaking of things that
are only conjectural. I suppose you had set your heart on Miss Campion's
becoming a nun?"

"God forbid!" I said fervently. "We don't want to see all our best girls
running into convents. I had set my heart on her being married to some
good, excellent Catholic Irishman, like the Chief over at Kilkeel."

"Neil Cullen? Campion wouldn't listen to it. His name is a red rag to a
bull. He never forgave Cullen for not firing on the people at that
eviction over at Labbawally, some two or three years ago."

"And what does the person most interested think of the matter?" I asked.

"Well, I think she is quite in favor of it," he said. "Her father likes
him, he will live in the old house, and she likes him,--at least, she
asked me to do all in my power to bring him into the Church."

"The little puss," I could not help saying. "Who would ever have thought
it? And yet, would it not be best? I pity her living with that old
sea-dog,--that Viking in everything but his black mane of hair. But now,
look here; this matter is important; let us talk it over quietly. Who or
what is Ormsby? You have met him?"

"Several times. He is a young Trinity man, good-looking, gentlemanly,
correct, moral. He has a pension of two hundred a year, his salary as
Inspector of Coast Guards, and great expectations. But he has no faith."

"And never had any, I suppose. That's the way with all these fellows--"

"On the contrary, he was brought up a strict Evangelical, almost a
Calvinist. Then he began to read, and like so many others he has drifted
into unfaith."

"Well, lend him some books. He knows nothing, of course, about us. Let
him see the faith, and he'll embrace it."

"Unfortunately, there's the rub. He has read everything. He has
travelled the world; and reversing the venerable maxim, _Cœlum, non
animum mutant_, he has taken his faith from his climate. He has been a
Theosophist in London, a 'New Light' in 'Frisco, as he calls it, a
Moslem in Cairo (by the way, he thinks a lot of these Mussulmans,--fine,
manly, dignified fellows, he says, whose eloquence would bring a blush
almost to the cheek of a member of Parliament). Then he has been hand in
glove with Buddhist priests in the forests of Ceylon, and has been
awfully impressed with their secret power, and still more with their
calm philosophy. I believe," said my curate, sinking his voice to a
whisper of awe and mystery, "_I believe--he has
kissed--the--tooth--of--Buddha!_"

"Indeed," I replied, "and what good did that operation do him?"

"Not much, I suppose, except to confirm him in that gospel of the
sceptic: 'There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are
dreamt of in our philosophy!'"

"Humph! Here, then, stands the case. Our most interesting little
parishioner has set her heart on this globe-trotter. There is a big wall
in the way, and it won't do to repeat the tragedy of Pyramus and Thisbe.
Now, what is to be done to make the young fellow a Catholic? Has he any
prejudices against us?"

"Not one? On the contrary, he rather likes us. He has received all kinds
of hospitality from Catholic priests the wide world over, and he thinks
us a right honest, jolly lot of fellows."

"H'm! I am not sure that that is exactly what St. Liguori or Charles
Borromeo would fancy. But never mind! Now does he know what we hold and
believe?"

"Accurately. He has read our best books."

"Has he had any intercourse with Catholics?"

"A good deal. They have not impressed him. Look at Campion now. Would
any man become a Catholic with his example before him?"

"Hardly indeed, though we must speak kindly of him now, since you
converted him. Had you any chat with him about his difficulties?"

"Yes, several. I walked home with him a few evenings from Campion's. You
know that path over the cliff and down to the coast-guard station?"

"Well. And what is his special trouble? Does he think he has an immortal
soul?"

"There you struck it. That's his trouble; and how to convince him of
that beats me. I asked him again and again whether he was not
self-conscious, that is, perfectly cognizant of the fact that there was
a something, an Ego, outside and beyond the brain and inferior powers
that commanded both? Was there not some intellectual entity that called
up memory, and bade it unseal its tablets? And did he not feel and know
that he could command and control the action of his brain, and even of
every part of it? Now, I said, if the brain is only dumb matter, which
you admit, and cannot create thought, where is this volition, or what is
it? It is not cerebral, for then matter would create thought; that is,
be the creator and the created at the same time."

"Well?"

"He listened attentively and then said quietly: 'Quite true. But if the
Ego is different from the brain and is self-conscious, where does the
self-consciousness go when the brain becomes anæmic and sleeps, or when
the faculties are chloroformed?' 'Oh,' I said, 'the organ is shut down,
the stops are closed.' 'Yes,' he said, 'but where goes the performer?'
By Jove, I was stranded. I tell you what it is, Father Dan, though
you'll call it treason, I'll pitch Æschylus to the mischief, and study
what is of human and vital interest to us priests."

"That little objection needn't alarm you," I said, "you'll find the
answer in every handbook of Catholic philosophy."

"What manual of Catholic philosophy in English could I get for Ormsby?"
asked my curate.

"Alas! my dear young friend, I don't know. There is the great hiatus.
You cannot put a folio calf-bound volume of Suarez in his hands,--he may
not understand Latin. I know absolutely no book that you can put into
the hands of an educated non-Catholic except Balmez's 'Letters to a
Sceptic.'"

"_He has read it_," said my curate.

We were both silent.

"Now, you know," he continued, after a long pause, "I don't attach the
least importance to these objections and arguments. I lived long enough
in England to know that faith is a pure, absolutely pure gift of the
Almighty, not to be acquired by learning or study, but possibly by
prayer. I see, therefore, only one hope, and that is, in our Lord and
His Blessed Mother."

"A profound and true remark," I replied, as he rose up to depart. "Get
these mites of children to pray, and to say the Rosary for that
particular purpose. I can't understand how God can refuse them
anything."

"By the way," he said, as he put on his great coat, "it is a curious
fact that, with all his incredulity, he is exceedingly superstitious.
You can hardly believe how troubled he is about some gibberish of that
old hag that sets charms for lame horses, etc. I'm not at all sure but
that she set charms in the other way for my little mare."

"Well, what has she told Ormsby?"

"Her language was slightly oracular. Out of a joke, he crossed her palm
with a sixpence. She looked him all over, though she knew well what he
had in his mind, examined the lines of his hand minutely, and then
delivered three Sibylline sentences:--

     'Set a stout heart to a steep brae.'

That did not disconcert him. Then she said:--

     'He that tholes, overcomes.'

He quite agreed with her. It was a naval simile, and it pleased him.

     'But a white cloth and a stain never agree.'

He was struck as if by a blow. 'Mind you,' he said,'I am very candid. I
have had my own faults and human weaknesses; but I never did anything
immoral or dishonorable. What did she mean?' 'She meant,' I said, to
reassure him, 'that you have kept her carefully out of the coast-guard
station; that you have not allowed her to interfere with the men, or
their wives, or their servants; that therefore you have put many a
sixpence out of her pocket; and that she must have her revenge. Dismiss
her jargon from your mind as soon as you can.' 'More easily said than
done, Father,' he replied, and he then began to mutter: 'A white cloth
and a stain never agree.' What _does_ she mean?"

"The old story of Voltaire," I said, when my curate had finished. "Don't
forget the children's prayers."

       *       *       *       *       *

On Christmas eve he called at noonday, just as we were going out to the
midday confessional. He had nothing new to tell. He was rather gloomy.

"You'll meet Miss Campion in the church," he said; "she'll tell you
all."

"I don't think," I said, to cheer him--for where is the use of fretting
in this queer world?--"there was so much need for Ormsby to go as far as
Ceylon to find Buddha and the Nirvana. Look there."

Leaning against the blank wall opposite my house were three silent
figures. They were a little distance apart, and they leaned against
their support with the composure of three cabinet ministers on their
green benches on the night of a great debate. Their feet were slightly
parted, and they gazed on the road with a solemn, placid expression, as
of men to whom the Atlantean weight of this weary world was as the down
on a feather. Calmly and judicially, as if seeing nothing, yet weighing
all things, they looked on pebble and broken limestone, never raising
their heads, never removing their hands from their pockets. They had
been there since breakfast time that morning, and it was now past noon.

"My God," said Father Letheby, when I told him, "'t is awful!"

"'T is the sublime," I said.

"And do you mean to tell me that they have never stirred from that
posture for two long hours?"

"You have my word for it," I replied; "and you know the opinion
entertained about my veracity,--'he'd no more tell a lie than the parish
priest.'"

"I notice it everywhere," he said, in his impetuous way. "If I drive
along the roads, my mare's head is right over the car or butt, before
the fellow wakes up to see me; and then the exasperating coolness and
deliberation with which he draws the reins to pull aside. My boy, too,
when waiting on the road for a few minutes whilst I am attending a
patient, falls fast asleep, like the fat boy in Pickwick; down there,
under the cliffs, the men sleep all day in, or under, their boats. Why
does not Charcot send all his nervous patients to Ireland? The air is
not only a sedative, but a soporific. 'T is the calm of the eternal
gods,--the sleep of the immortals."

"'T is the sleep of Enceladus in Etna," I replied. "When they wake up and
turn, 't is hot lava and ashes."

"That's true, too," he said, musingly; "we are a strange people."

My own voice again echoing out of the dead past.

       *       *       *       *       *

Miss Campion and "her friend from Dublin," Miss Leslie, were very busy
about the Christmas decorations. Mrs. Darcy helped in her own way. I am
afraid she did not approve of all that was being done. Miss Campion's
and Mrs. Darcy's ideas of "the beautiful" were not exactly alike. Miss
Campion's art is reticent and economical. Mrs. Darcy's is loud and
pronounced. Miss Campion affects mosaics and miniatures. Mrs. Darcy
wants a circus-poster, or the canvas of a diorama. Where Mrs. Darcy, on
former occasions, put huge limbs of holly and a tangled wilderness of
ivy, Miss Campion puts three or four dainty glistening leaves with a
heart of red coral berries in the centre. Mrs. Darcy does not like it,
and she thinks it her duty to art and religion to remonstrate.

"Wisha, Miss, I wouldn't be sparin' the holly if I was you. Sure 't is
chape."

"Ah, well, now, Mrs. Darcy, don't you think this looks neat and pretty?"

"As nate and purty as yourself, Miss; but sure the parish priest won't
mind the expinse. 'T is Christmas times, and his heart is open."

This wasn't too kind of Mrs. Darcy; but it does not matter. She looked
ruefully at the fallen forest of greenery that strewed the chapel floor.

Miss Campion saw her distress, and said, kindly:--

"Now, Mrs. Darcy, is there any improvement you would kindly suggest
before we conclude?"

"Wisha, Miss, there isn't much, indeed. You have made it lovely. But I'd
like to see a little bit of holly in the Blessed Virgin's crown, and
just a weeshy little bit in her Child's fingers. Sure, whatever is going
these Christmas times, them have the best right to it."

Miss Campion smiled, and yielded to the pious wishes of the chapel
woman, and then said:--

"Now, Mrs. Darcy, we'll put a few noble branches around the front porch,
and whatever is left you must take it home, and let Jemmy decorate the
dresser."

The first suggestion met Mrs. Darcy's tastes to perfection; the second
went straight to her mother's heart.

"May God bless you, Miss; and may it be many a long day till throuble or
sorrow crass the thrishol' of your dure."

The neighbors flocked in on Christmas eve to see Mrs. Darcy's cabin.
Jemmy had risen to the occasion. The polished pewter vessels and the
brass candlesticks shone resplendent from the background of black holly
and veined ivy, and the red pearls of the berries. The comments, like
all human criticisms, varied according to the subjectivity and
prejudices of the visitors.

"Wisha, 't is purty, indeed. God bless those that gave it to the poor
widow."

"Wisha, Jemmy, agra, there's no knowing what you'll be when you grows
up."

"Wisha, thin, Mrs. Darcy, you wor always the good nabor. Would it be
asking too much, ma'am, to give us thim few kippeens on the floor? Sure
Abby says she'd like to have a little bit of holly to stick round the
Infant Jesus this holy and blessed night."

"'T is aisy for some people to be proud. Aisy got, aisy gone. But 't is
quare to be taking what ought to go to the house of God to make a
babby-show for ourselves."

"Yerra, whisht, 'uman, we must hould our heads as high as we can while
we have it. It may go soon, and Mary Darcy may wish to be no betther
thin her nabors."

Ah me! Here is the great world in miniature.

"There is not a word of news going?" I said to Miss Campion, as we
walked up and down the moss-covered walk that lay to the south side of
the little church.

"Nothing, Father," she said, "except, indeed, that father makes his
Christmas Communion in the morning; and oh! I am so thankful to God and
to Father Letheby."

"It is really good news, Beata," I replied. I sometimes called her
Beata, for Bittra sounds horrid. I intend to compromise on her wedding
morn by calling her Beatrix. "Really good news. It will add considerably
to the happiness of one, whose only object in life appears to be to make
every one around her happy. But there is no other news that may be
supposed to interest in a far-off way the old pastor, who gave Beata her
First Communion, and--?"

She blushed crimson, and held down her head.

"Now," I said, "give your old parish priest your arm, for I am getting
more and more feeble every day, and tell him all. Perhaps he could help
you too."

"Oh, Father, if you could; but it is almost too much to expect from God.
Perhaps I'd forget Him."

"Not much fear of that," I exclaimed fervently; "but now let us
calculate the chances."

"But oh, Father, if you only knew Rex,--he is so good, so gentle, he
takes so kindly to the poor, ("the clever rascal," I ejaculated under my
breath,) and he likes us so much, I'm sure it needs but little to make
him an excellent Catholic."

Well, now, what is a poor old man to do? Here am I, prepared to
calculate and balance chances of this young man's conversion,--the
_pros_ and _cons_ of a serious matter; and here this young lady
branches off into a magnificent apotheosis of her young demigod! What
has the cold yellow candle light of reason to do in the _camera obscura_
of the human heart? Let us fling open the shutters, and let in the
golden sunshine.

"So I've heard," I said. "And I also know this, Beata, that is, I've
read something like it in good books, written by holy and thoughtful
men, that the gift of faith is given freely by the Holy Spirit to those
who, like your _fiancé_, have led pure and unsullied lives."

She started at the word _fiancé_, and the smile on her face was a study.
Poor old Dante! no wonder you walked on air, and lightly spurned the
stars, when your lady beckoned.

     "Beatrice in suso, ed io in lei guardava."

So shall it be to the end.

Well, we talked the whole thing over; debated all possibilities, laughed
at difficulties, cut through obstacles, leaped over obstructions, and,
at last, saw in imagination, written on the cold, frosty air of
December, the mystic legend, I WILL, surrounded by a gorgeous corona of
orange blossoms.

Then, of course, the superb unreason of women. Beata began to cry as I
handed her over to Miss Leslie, who looked daggers at me, and I am quite
sure called me, in her own mind, "A horrid old thing!"

Father Letheby, after his unusually heavy confessional, was jubilant.
Nothing exhilarates him like work. Given a scanty confessional, and he
is as gloomy as Sisyphus; given a hard, laborious day, and he is as
bright as Ariel. He was in uncommonly good spirits to-day.

"By Jove, Father Dan," he said, as we walked home together to our little
bit of fish, "I have it. I'll try him with the _Kampaner Thal!_"

"The very thing," I replied.

"Don't you think it would do? You know he regards all our arguments as
so much special pleading, and he discounts them accordingly."

"Of course," I said. "Wonder you never thought of it before!"

"That is curious now. But you always find things in unexpected quarters.
But you're sure 't will do?"

"Quite sure. By the way, what _is_ the _Kampaner Thal?_"

He looked squarely at me.

"'Pon my word, Father Dan, I confess I sometimes think you are rather
fond of a joke."

"Come along, never mind," I replied. "After air and water, the power of
a pleasant and kind word is the best and cheapest thing God gives us,
His children."



CHAPTER XVI

VIOLENT CONTRASTS


Christmas Day was a day of undiluted triumph for Father Letheby. There
were great surprises in store for me. That is one of my curate's few
faults--is it a fault?--that he is inclined to be dramatic. As he says,
he hates to speak of a thing until it is beyond the reach of failure. Of
all criticisms, the one he most dreads is, "I told you so." And so, on
this Christmas morning, I had a series of mild, pleasant shocks, that
made the bright, crisp, frosty, sunny morning all the more pleasant. It
was a slight, because expected, surprise to see Captain Campion at the
altar rails. He appeared at eight o'clock Mass. Thanks be to God! I
manage still to use the sublime privilege given by the Church that
morning, of being allowed to celebrate three times. I have not omitted
it for fifty years. When I shall fail to say my three Christmas Masses,
then you may take up your _Exequiæ_, and practise the _Requiem æternam_
for poor Daddy Dan.

Well, I had said the first two Masses, commencing at seven o'clock. It
is a curious experience, that of seven o'clock Mass on Christmas
morning. The groping through the dark, with just the faintest aurora on
the horizon, the smell of the frost in the air, the crunching of icicles
under one's feet, the shadowy figures, making their way with some
difficulty to the church, the salutations of the people: "Is that you,
Mick?" "'Tis, Mrs. Grady; a happy Christmas to you, ma'am." "The same to
you, Mick, and manny of them." "Good morning, Mrs. Mulcahy; 't is a fine
Christmas morning, glory be to God." "'T is indeed, ma'am, glory be to
His Holy Name." "Hurry up, Bess, you'll never catch the priest at the
altar." "Yerra, sure, haven't we three Masses to-day." The more polite
people said: "The compliments of the saison to you, ma'am." "The same to
you, sir; may we be all alive and happy this time twelvemonth."

Well, just as I commenced the hymn of the angels at my first Mass, there
was a crash of music and singing from the gallery over the door, that
made my old heart leap with joy and pride. I never expected it; and the
soft tones of the harmonium, and the blending of the children's voices,
floating out there in the dark of the little chapel, made tears of
delight stream down the wrinkles of my cheeks. And what was the
_Gloria_, do you think? From Mozart's "Twelfth Mass," if you please.
Nothing else would do. The pride of Kilronan is gone so high since that
famous concert, that I am almost sure they would challenge the seraphim
to a fair contest, that is, if the latter would put aside their golden
viols and sambucæ, and compete only with their voices against the "new
choir of Kilronan." I violated egregiously one strict rubric at the
_Dominus vobiscum_. I raised my eyes and took a good long look at choir
and people. I couldn't help it. If Martinucci and Baruffaldi, Gavantus
and Merati, Gardellini and Bauldry, and the whole Congregation of Sacred
Rites were there in the front bench, I couldn't help myself. I kept my
hands open for at least a quarter of a minute, whilst I surveyed my
little congregation. It was a pathetic sight. The lights from the altar
shone on the faces of Captain Campion and Bittra, and one or two of the
better-class parishioners on the front bench; but all behind were buried
in a deep well of darkness. I could barely distinguish the pale faces of
the confused mass that stretched in the deep gloom towards the door; but
overhead, about a dozen dark figures were outlined against the light of
the two wax candles on the harmonium, over which, on this eventful
morning, Father Letheby presided. And this was the object of the concert
at last. I should have known that there was some supernatural object
behind it. This young man does not care much to develop or elicit the
dormant energies of the people, unless he can turn therewith the mills
of God. But what trouble it must have given him! How many a cold night
did he leave his room, and there, on that gallery, contend with the
rough and irregular voices, until he brought them into that stream of
perfect unison. I can imagine what patience he exercised, what subtle
flatteries he administered, what gentle sarcasm he applied, before he
succeeded in modulating the hoarse thunders of Dave Olden's voice, that
rose like a fog-horn over the winds and waves whenever he ventured upon
the high seas; and how he cut off remorselessly the grace-notes of Abby
Lyden, who has begun to think herself an Albani; and how he overcame the
shyness of the fisher lads, and brought clear to the front the sweet
tenors of the schoolboys, on whom, he said, all his hopes depended. And
how his own rich baritone ascended strongly and softly over all,
blending into perfect harmony all discordance, and gently smothering the
vagrant and rebellious tones that would sometimes break ambitiously
through discipline, and try to assert their own individuality. He sang
an Offertory solo, accompanying himself on the harmonium. Who will say
it was not sweet? Who will say it was not appropriate?

    "O Vergine bella!
    Del ciel Regina,
    A cui s'inchina
    La terra ed el mar.

    "O Tu che sei stella
    Del mare si bella,
    Ci guido nal porta
    Col tuo splendor."

And then when Bethlehem was repeated, with all its lowliness and
humility, there in that humble chapel; and the Divine Babe lay white and
spotless on the corporal, the glorious _Adeste_ broke forth. Ah me! what
a new experience for myself and people. Ah me! what a sting of
compunction in all the honeyed delights of that glorious morning, to
think that for all these years I had been pastor there. Well, never
mind; _meâ maximâ culpâ! Ignosce, Domine!_

I placed the Sacred Host on Captain Campion's tongue, and most heartily
forgave him his unflattering epithets. Tears of joy streamed down
Bittra's face as she knelt beside him at the altar rails. I was wearied
and tired from the large number of Communions I administered that
morning. The last communicant was poor Nance. She was hidden away in the
deep gloom; but I am not at all sure that the Child Jesus did not nestle
as comfortably in the arms of the poor penitent as in those of His
virgins and spotless ones. And there were many such, thank God, amongst
my Christmas congregation that morning.

But the great surprise of all was in store. For, after Mass was over,
there was a great rush to St. Joseph's Chapel; and I am afraid I cut my
own thanksgiving short, to move with silent dignity in the same
direction. I heard gasps of surprise and delight, exclamations of
wonder, suppressed hallelujahs of joy; I saw adoration and tenderness,
awe and love on the dimly lighted faces of the people. No wonder! For
there, under a rough, rustic roof of pines and shingles, was the
Bethlehem of our imaginations in miniature. Rough rocks lined the
interior, wet green mosses and lichens covering them here and there; in
front of the cave a light hoar-frost lay on the ground, and straw and
stubble littered the palace floor of Him who walks on the jasper and
chalcedony parquetting of the floors of heaven. And there was the gentle
Joseph, with a reverent, wondering look on his worn features; and there
the conscious, self-possessed, but adoring expression on the sweet face
of the Child-Mother; and there the helpless form and pleading hands of
Him whose omnipotence stretches through infinity, and in whose fingers
colossal suns and their systems are but the playthings of this moment in
His eternal existence, which we call Time. Three shepherds stood around,
dazed at some sudden light that shone from the face of the Infant; one,
a boy, leaned forward as if to raise in his arms that sweet, helpless
Babe; his hands were stretched towards the manger, and a string held the
broad hat that fell between his shoulders. And aloft an angel held in
his hand a starry scroll, on which was inscribed _Gloria in excelsis
Deo_. I stood amongst my awestruck congregation for a few minutes. Some
were kneeling, and uttering half-frantic ejaculations of adoration,
pity, and love; some leaned against a pillar, silent, but with tearful
eyes; little children pointed out to each other the different features
of this new wonder-world; but all around, the fervid Celtic imagination
translated these terracotta figures into living and breathing
personalities. It was as if God had carried them back over the gulf of
nineteen centuries, and brought them to the stable door of Bethlehem
that ever memorable night. I think it is this realization of the
Incarnation that constitutes the distinguishing feature of Catholicity.
It is the Sacred Humanity of our Lord that brings Him so nigh to us, and
makes us so familiar with Him; that makes the Blessed Eucharist a
necessity, and makes the hierarchy of Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and Calvary
so beloved,--beloved above all by the poor, and the humble, and the
lowly. Listen to this!

"Oh, dear, dear, and to think of our Lord with the straw under Him, and
His feet covered with the frost of that cowld night--"

"And the poor child! Look at her; why, she's only a little girl, like
Norah; and not a woman near to help her in her throuble."

"Look at His little hands stretched out, like any ordinary child. Glory
be to His Holy Name. Sure, only for Him where 'ud we be?"

"And poor St. Joseph! No wondher he's fretting. To think of thim two
cratures in his hands, and he not having house or home to shelter
thim!"

"Wisha, Mary, 't was a pity we worn't there that blessed night. Sure,
't is we'd give 'em the best we had in the world, an' our hearts'
blood."

I shared to the full this feeling about St. Joseph. And when, after
Father Letheby's Mass, I came down, and brought over my old arm-chair,
and placed it in front of the crib, and put down my snuff-box, and my
breviary, and my spectacles, and gave myself up to the contemplation of
that wonderful and pathetic drama, St. Joseph would insist on claiming
the largest share of my pity and sympathy. Somehow I felt that mother
and child understood each other perfectly,--that she saw everything
through the eyes of God, and that therefore there was not much room for
wonderment; but that to St. Joseph the whole thing was an unspeakable
mystery of humiliation and love, infinite abasement and infinite
dignity; and I thought I saw him looking from the child-face of his
spouse to the child-face of the Infant, and somehow asking himself,
"What is it all?" even though he explicitly understood the meaning and
magnitude of the mighty mystery.

Father Letheby has a new series of pictures of the Life of our Lord,
painted by a French artist, whose name I can never recall except when I
sneeze,--Tissot. I do not like them at all. They are too
realistic,--and, after all, the ideal is the real. I have a special,
undiluted dislike of one picture,--the _Magnificat_. I'd have torn it
up, and put the fragments in the fire, but that it was not mine. But how
in the world any Catholic could paint my beautiful child-prophetess of
Hebron as Tissot has done baffles comprehension. But he has one lovely
picture, "Because there was no Room." The narrow lane of the Jewish
city,--the steep stairs to the rooms,--the blank walls perforated by a
solitary, narrow window,--the rough stones, and the gentle animal that
bore Mary, treading carefully over them,--the Jewish women, regretfully
refusing admission,--the sweet, gentle face of the maiden mother,--and
the pathetic, anxious, despairing look on the features of St.
Joseph,--make this a touching and beautiful picture. Poor St. Joseph!
"Come, take the reins of the patient animal, and lead him and his sacred
burden out into the night! There is no room in the City of David for the
children of David. Out under the stars, shining brilliantly through the
frosty atmosphere, over the white, rugged road, into an unknown country,
and 'Whither, O my God?' on thy lips, as the child at thy side
shuddered, and no finger from heaven nor voice from earth directed thee;
unless, indeed, that faint flashes of light athwart the net of stars
told thee that the angels were cutting their way down through the
darkness, and into the spheres of men, and that all heaven was in a
tumult of expectation, whilst in yonder city men slept, as they always
sleep unconscious when God is near. And then, when the feeble plaint
broke from Mary's lips, I cannot go further, and the gentle beast turned
aside into the rocks and whins, and called to his companions of the
stable, and the meek-eyed ox looked calmly at the intruders, and
there--there--dear God! to think of it all--_In mundo erat, et mundus
eum non cognovit_."

I sat quietly there until Benediction at three o'clock, and then I
remained rolling my beads through my fingers, and singing in my heart
the grand majestic O's of the preceding day's offices, at the end of
every decade, until five o'clock struck. From time to time my little
children would come, and leaning on my knee, would gaze with wonder and
affection at the Child of Bethlehem; and then, looking up into my face,
put wonderful questions about deep mysteries to their old Father. For
all day long, a stream of visitors passed before the crib; and the next
day, and the next, crowds trooped over from Moydore and the neighboring
parishes, for the fame of it had gone abroad over the land; and men and
women came, jealous of their own pastors, and wondering at the sudden
uprise of Kilronan. Then the climax was reached on the twelfth day, when
the Kings appeared, and the group in the stable was complete. The "black
man" from Nubia came in for more than his share of honors; and it was
admitted all round that Kilronan was immortalized and the other parishes
were forever in the background.

"May God bless the man that gave us such a sight," said an old woman
fervently, as I left the wondering crowd and went home to dinner.

"May God bless all our priests," said another, fearing that I might be
offended.

"Wisha, thin, Father Dan," said a third, "what a wondher you never tould
us what you had in store for us. Wisha, thin, it wasn't worth while
keeping it such a grate sacret."

There is no end to the ingenious charity of these people. On my plate at
the dinner table, amidst a pile of Christmas cards, was a dainty little
duodecimo. I took it up. It was from Father Letheby. And what was it?
The _Imitation_ in Greek, by a certain George Mayr, S. J. Wasn't this
nice? My pet book done into my favorite language! It was the happiest
Christmas I ever spent. _Quam bonus Israel Deus!_ So too said Father
Letheby. But I had some dim presentiment that all his well-merited
pleasure would not be quite unalloyed,--that some secret hand, perhaps a
merciful one, would pluck a laurel leaf or two from his crown. We had a
pleasant academic discussion after dinner about the honorable retention
of ancient Irish customs,--he quite enthusiastic about them, I rather
disposed to think that the abuses which invariably accompanied them made
their final extinction altogether advisable. We put our respective
theories in practice next morning with the most perfect consistency; for
Hannah drove indignantly from the door the wren-boys, just as they were
commencing:

    "A thrate, a thrate, if of the best,
    We hope in heaven your sowl will rest;
    But if you give it of the small
    It won't agree with our boys at all."

And, on his part, Father Letheby listened with intense delight to this
dithyrambic, which ushers in St. Stephen's day all over Ireland; and he
dispensed sundry sixpences to the boys with the injunction to be always
good Irishmen and to buy sweets.

That night, just as I was thinking of retiring, for I am an early riser,
I heard a gentle tap at the hall door, then a hurried colloguing in the
hall; and Hannah put in her head and whispered:--

"Lizzie is afraid, sir, that the priest is sick. Would you mind coming
down to see him?"

"God bless me! no," I said, quite alarmed. I followed the servant
rapidly and was ushered into Father Letheby's parlor, unexpected and
almost unannounced.

"What's the matter, sir?" he cried; "what's the matter?"

"Nothing particular," I replied. "'T is a rather fine night, is it not?"

"Lizzie must have sent for you?" he answered.

"Yes," I said, "she did. She thought you were unwell. Are you?"

He looked ill enough, poor fellow, and at these words he sank wearily
into a chair.

"I am afraid you're unwell," I repeated.

"I'm not unwell," he said, blubbering like a child, "but--but--my heart
is broken."

"Oh," I cried, "if that's all, it's easily mended. Come now, let's hear
all, and see if we can't put the pieces together."

"I wouldn't mind," he cried, standing up and striding along the little
room, his hands tightly clasped behind his back, "but the poor little
altar boys--the poor little beggars--they looked so nice yesterday, and
oh to think of it! Good God!"

"Very dramatic, very dramatic," I said, "but not the quiet narrative and
consecutive style that I affect. Now, supposing you told me the story.
There's balm in Gilead yet."

And this was the story, told with much impressiveness, a fair amount of
gesticulation, and one or two little profane expressions, which made the
Recording Angel cough and look away to see how was the weather.

It appears that about seven o'clock Father Letheby had a sick-call
outside the village. There are generally a fair share of sick-calls on
the day succeeding the great festivity, for obvious reasons. He was
returning home through the village, when the sound of singing arrested
his steps just outside Mrs. Haley's public house. His heart gave a
bound of delight as he heard the familiar lines and notes of the
_Adeste_. "Thank God!" he said, "at last, the people are beginning to
bring our Catholic hymns into their own homes." As he listened intently
there was a slight reaction as he recognized the sweet liquid notes,
with all the curls and quavers that are the copyright and strictly legal
and exclusive possession of Jem Deady.

"Good heavens!" said the young priest, in a frenzy of indignation, "has
that ruffian dared to introduce into the taproom our Christmas melodies,
and to degrade them into a public-house chorus?"

He stepped into the shop. There was no one there. He turned softly the
handle of the door, and was in the taproom for several minutes before he
was recognized. What he witnessed was this. Leaning in a tipsy, maudlin
way against the wall were the holly bushes, which, decorated with pink
ribbons, and supposed to conceal in their dim recesses the "wren, the
wren, the king of all birds," had been the great attraction of the
morning. Leaning on the deal table, with glasses and pints of porter
before them, as they sat and lounged or fell in various stages of
intoxication, were the wren-boys; and near the fire, with his back
turned to the door, and his fingers beating time to the music in pools
of dirty porter, was Jem Deady. As Father Letheby entered he was
singing:--

    "Deum de Deo, Lumen de Lumine,
    Gestant puellæ viscera--"

the most awful and tender lines of the glorious hymn.

He was unconscious of the priest's presence, and quite unconscious of
his horrible sacrilege. Father Letheby continued gazing on the sad scene
for a few minutes, with mingled feelings of anger, horror, and disgust.
Then, closing the door softly after him, he strode through the street,
and knocking peremptorily at all the doors, he soon had a procession of
the fathers and mothers of the children following him to the public
house. What occurred then has passed into the historical annals of
Kilronan. It is enough to say here that its good people heard that night
certain things which made their ears tingle for many a day. Mrs. Haley
came up to my house the following morning to give up her license; and
there was a general feeling abroad that every man, woman, and child in
Kilronan should become total abstainers for life.

"But that's all," said Father Letheby; "and now I am really sick of the
entire business; and to-morrow I shall write to the Bishop for my
_exeat_, and return to England or go to Australia, where I have been
promised a mission."

It was rather late, and I should have been long ago in my comfortable
bed; but the text was too good to miss.

"My dear Father Letheby," I said, "it is clear to me that you are
working not for God's honor, but for your own _kudos_."

He started at these strong words, and stared at me.

"Because," I continued calmly, "if it was the honor of God you had at
heart, this calamity, the intensity of which I have no idea of
minimizing, would have stimulated you to fresh efforts instead of
plunging you into despair. But your pride is touched and your honor is
tarnished, and you dread the criticism of men. Tell me honestly, are you
grieved because God has been offended, or because all your fine plans
have _ganged aglee?_ There! Dear St. Bonaventure, what a burden you laid
on the shoulders of poor humanity when you said, _Ama nesciri, et pro
nihilo reputari_. You did not know, in the depths of your humility, that
each of us has a pretty little gilded idol which is labelled _Self!_ And
that each of us is a fanatic in seeking to make conversions to our own
little god. And I am not at all sure but that education only helps us to
put on a little more gilding and a little more tawdry finery on our
hidden deity; and that even when we sit in judgment upon him, as we do
when preparing for Confession, it is often as a gentle and doting
mother, not as an inflexible and impartial judge. Here are you now
(turning to Father Letheby), a good, estimable, zealous, and successful
priest; and because you have been touched in a sore point, lo! the voice
from the inner shrine demanding compensation and future immunity.
Everything has prospered with you. Religion has progressed, with leaps
and bounds, since you came to the parish; the people adore you, and you
have the satisfaction of knowing that you are that most difficult of
heroic successes, a conqueror because a reformer; and because you have
met one reverse, you are going to turn your back on your work, and seek
the curse of those who put pillows under their armpits and garlands of
roses in their hair. Did you imagine that Satan, a living, personal, and
highly intelligent force, was going to allow you to have everything your
own way here,--to fold his arms while you were driving back his forces
in utter rout and confusion? If you did, you were greatly mistaken. You
have met a slight reverse, and it has become a panic. _Sauve qui peut!_
And the commander--the successful general--is the first to turn his
back, throw down his sword, and flee."

"Say no more, Father Dan, for God's sake. I am heartily ashamed of
myself."

A good scolding is almost equal to a cold bath as a tonic for disordered
nerves.

I went home with a satisfied conscience, murmuring, _Per la impacciata
via, retro al suo duce_. I think I know whither he is tending.

A demoralized, woe-begone, wilted, helpless figure was before me in the
hall. If he had been under Niagara for the last few hours he could not
be more hopelessly washed out. It was Jem Deady in the custody of his
wife, who was now in the ascendant.

"Here he is, your reverence,--a misfortunate angashore! For the love of
God make him now a patthern to the parish! Cling him to the ground, or
turn him into somethin'; make him an example forever, for my heart is
broke with him."

Whilst I was turning over in my mind into which of the lower animals it
would be advisable to cause the immortal soul of Jem to transmigrate and
take up a temporary residence, I thought I saw a glance upwards from his
eye, visibly pleading for mercy.

"It is quite clear, Jem," I said, "that your Christmas dinner disagreed
with you."

"Begor, thin, your reverence," broke in Mrs. Deady, setting herself in a
rather defiant attitude, "he had as good a dinner as any poor man in
your parish. He had a roast goose, stuffed by thim two hands with
praties and inguns, until the tears ran down my face; and he had a pig's
cheek, and lashins of cabbage."

"And why don't you tell his reverence about the rice puddin'?" said Jem,
in a tone of honest indignation. "'T is a shame for you, Bess! She made
a rice puddin', your reverence, that was fit for the Grate House; and
begor, your reverence might sit down to worse yourself. Sich raisons and
currans!"

"Begor, I'm thinking you're thrying to put the comedher on me, you
blagard, with your blarney," said Mrs. Deady with angry suspicion,
drawing back and scrutinizing his face.

[Illustration: "And why don't you tell his reverence about the rice
puddin'?"]

"Thrying to put the comedher on _you_, Bess? Begor, I'd like to see the
man that could do it. But I'll say this, in the presence of his
reverence, and wid yerself to the fore, that there isn't in this
parish, nor in the nex', nor in the nex' again, nor widin the four walls
of Ireland, a betther wife nor a betther housekeeper den you, Bess
Clancy." And to emphasize this panegyric, Jem threw his battered hat on
the floor and brushed away a tear.

It was a pity not to come to the aid of such a superb diplomatist. No
wonder the British diplomatic service is manned by Irishmen from
Singapore to Halifax. What would Melikoff, and Von Schaffterhausen, and
De Laborie be in the hands of Jem Deady? He'd twist them around his
little finger. I saw the angry wrinkles smoothing themselves on the brow
of Mrs. Deady, as she melted under the gentle rain of flattery.

"I'd forgive you a good deal, Deady," I said; "your repeated violations
of solemn pledges, your sacrilege in bringing down to a public house the
most sacred melodies of the Church--"

"They were _at_ me," said Jem. "They said as how I couldn't get my
tongue around the Latin, and that Father Letheby--"

"I understand," I interrupted; "but even that I'd forgive. But to take
the innocent lambs of my flock, my choir boys and altar boys, the
children of sober and religious parents, whose hearts are broken by your
misconduct--"

"Childre' of sober and religious parents,--whose hearts are broken,"
chimed in Mrs. Deady. "Wisha, thin, without manin' any disrespect to
your riverence, would you be plazed to mintion these dacent people? An'
if these religious parents wor mindin' their childre', insted of
colloguing and placin' their nabors, their religious childre' wouldn't
be lying drunk in Mrs. Haley's public house. But of coorse 't is Jim
Deady here and Jim Deady there; and if the thruth wos towld, he's as
good as any of 'em, though I shouldn't say it to his face. Come along,
you poor fool."

"I must do what I came for," said Jem, solemnly. Then, with an air of
awful determination, as if he were binding iron bars and padlocks on his
thirsty lips, Jem took the pledge. Mrs. Deady, in high dudgeon, had gone
down the street. Jem and I were alone.

"Tell me, yer reverence," he whispered, "did that mane scut of a tailor
insult ye the other night?"

"Oh, not at all, Jem," I cried, fearing the consequences to the tailor.

"I have an eye on him this long time," said Jem, "and faith, he'll come
to grief soon."

"Now, Jem," I warned emphatically, "no violence, mind. The unfortunate
fellow is sorry."

"All right, your reverence; we are not going to waste violence on the
likes of him. But--"

Here Jem fell into a profound reverie.

"Begor, your reverence, ye did that little job nately," he cried, waking
up. "That woman's tongue didn't lave me worth tuppence. God bless yer
reverence, and spare ye long to us."

He took my hand, and kissed it till it was blistered by the sharp
bristles of his unshaven lips. Poor fellows! how they warm to us! and
how, with all their faults, we fling around them something more than
maternal love!



CHAPTER XVII

A CLERICAL SYMPOSIUM


There is no law, supernatural or natural, forbidding us (who, if we have
not many of the crosses, neither have we many of the pleasures of this
life) from meeting sometimes, and carrying out St. Paul's prescriptions
in the matter of hospitality. I believe, indeed, his words--and he was a
wise, kind saint--apply principally to bishops; but why should not we
imitate our superiors afar off, and practise the kindly virtue? It is
good to meet sometimes and exchange opinions; it softens the asperities
of daily life, makes the young think reverently of the old, and the old
charitably of the young. At least, these are my views, and acting upon
them there is always an open door and a _Cead Milé Failté_ for a
brother; and a few times in the year I try to gather around me my dear
friends, and thus to cement those bonds of friendship that make life a
little more pleasant, and, perhaps, may keep our memories green.
Sometimes, indeed, my dear old friends object to face a drive of eight
or ten miles on a cold night in winter; but the young fellows always
come. Nothing but extreme urgency would keep them away from an evening
with Daddy Dan. Now, we have no nonsense,--no soups, nor entrées, which
some of my more fashionable confrères are at present affecting, if you
please; but a plain turkey and ham, and a roast leg of mutton, and a few
little trimmings to fill up vacant spaces. There is an old tradition,
too, in Ireland, which I keep to pretty closely,--never to invite more
than the Muses, nor less than the Graces; but on this occasion--it was
during the Octave of the Epiphany--I departed from the custom, and,
owing to a few disappointments, the ominous number of thirteen sat down
to dinner. I must say, however, it had not a paralyzing effect on the
appetites of my guests, nor did they appear to have any apprehensions of
a sudden call to the places where turkeys and good mutton are not
appreciated. There were a few jokes about the intolerable longevity of
certain parish priests; and when my curate, who occupied the vice-chair
with infinite grace and dignity, remarked in his own grand style that
"really Da Vinci's 'Last Supper' was responsible for that unhallowed
superstition, and there really was nothing in it," some few wags
professed themselves greatly relieved, and showed it by new-born zeal in
the avocations of the evening. My duties as host engrossed all my
attention, until the table was cleared for action; and the call for
coffee from eight out of thirteen guests recalled me to my favorite
meditation on the mighty yet silent revolution that is progressing in
the Irish Church.

I have been now in touch with three generations of Irish priests, each
as distinct from the other, and marked by as distinctive
characteristics, as those which differentiate an Anglican parson from a
mediæval monk. My early education was colored by contact with the
polished, studious, timid priests, who, educated in Continental
seminaries, introduced into Ireland all the grace and dignity and
holiness, and all the dread of secular authority with the slight
tendency to compromise, that seemed to have marked the French clergy, at
least in the years immediately succeeding the revolutions and the
Napoleonic wars. These were the good men who fraternized with landlords,
and lent their congregations to a neighboring parson on the occasion of
some governmental visitation; who were slightly tinged with Gallican
ideas, and hated progress and the troubles that always accompany it.
They were holy, good, kindly men, but they could hardly be called
officers of the Church Militant. Then came Maynooth, which, founded on
governmental subsidies, poured from its gates the strongest, fiercest,
most fearless army of priests that ever fought for the spiritual and
temporal interests of the people,--men of large physique and iron
constitutions, who spent ten hours a day on horseback, despised French
claret, loved their people and chastised them like fathers, but were
prepared to defend them with their lives and the outpouring of their
blood against their hereditary enemies. Intense in their faith, of
stainless lives and spotless reputations, their words cut like razors,
and their hands smote like lightning; but they had the hearts of mothers
for the little ones of their flocks. They had the classics at their
fingers' ends, could roll out lines from Virgil or Horace at an
after-dinner speech, and had a profound contempt for English literature.
In theology they were rigorists, too much disposed to defer absolution
and to give long penances. They had a cordial dislike for new devotions,
believing that Christmas and Easter Communion was quite enough for
ordinary sancity. Later on they became more generous, but they clung
with tenacity to the Brown Scapular and the First Sunday of the month. I
am quite sure they have turned somersaults in their graves since the
introduction of the myriad devotions that are now distracting and
edifying the faithful. But they could make, and, alas! too often perhaps
for Christian modesty, they did make, the proud boast that they kept
alive the people's faith, imbued them with a sense of the loftiest
morality, and instilled a sense of intense horror for such violations of
Church precepts as a _communicatio cum hereticis in divinis_, or the
touching of flesh meat on a day of abstinence. I believe I belong to
that school, though my sympathies are wide enough for all. And as in
theology, I am quite prepared to embrace Thomists, and Scotists, and
Molinists, Nominalists and Realists in fraternal charity, so, too, am I
prepared to recognize and appreciate the traits and characteristics of
the different generations of clerics in the Irish Church. Sometimes,
perhaps, through the vanity that clings to us all to the end, I play the
part of "laudator temporis acti," and then the young fellows shout:--

"Ah, but, Father Dan, they were giants in those days."

And the tags and shreds of poor human nature wave in the wind of
flattery; and I feel grateful for the modest appreciation of a
generation that has no sympathy with our own.

Then, down there, below the water-line of gray heads is the coming
generation of Irish priests, who, like the [Greek: lampadêphoroi] of old
in the Athenian games, will take the torch of faith from our hands and
carry it to the Acropolis of Heaven,--clean-cut, small of stature,
keen-faced, bicycle-riding, coffee-drinking, encyclopædic young fellows,
who will give a good account of themselves, I think, in the battles of
the near future. It is highly amusing to a disinterested spectator, like
myself, to watch the tolerant contempt with which the older generation
regards the younger. They have as much contempt for coffee as for
ceremonies, and I think their mistakes in the latter would form a
handsome volume of _errata_, or add another appendix to our valuable
compendiums. To ask one of these old men to pass a cup of coffee is
equivalent to asking a Hebrew of the strict observance to carve a ham,
or a Hindoo to eat from the same dish with a Christian. And many other
objects that the passing generation held in high esteem are "gods of the
Gentiles" to the younger. They laugh profanely at that aureole of
distinction that used hang around the heads of successful students,
declaring that a man's education only commences when he leaves college,
and that his academical training was but the sword exercise of the
gymnasium; and they speak dreadful things about evolution and modern
interpretation, and the new methods of hermeneutics, and polychrome
Bibles; and they laugh at the idea of the world's creation in six days;
and altogether, they disturb and disquiet the dreams of the staid and
stately veterans of the Famine years, and make them forecast a dismal
future for Ireland when German metaphysics and coffee will first impair,
and then destroy, the sacred traditions of Irish faith. And yet, these
young priests inherit the best elements of the grand inheritance that
has come down to them. Their passionate devotion to their faith is only
rivalled by their passionate devotion to the Motherland. Every one of
them belongs to that great world-wide organization of Priests Adorers,
which, cradled in the dying years of our century, will grow to a
gigantic stature in the next; for at last it has dawned upon the world
that around this sacred doctrine and devotion, as around an oriflamme,
the great battles of the twentieth century will rage. And they have as
tender and passionate a love for the solitary isle in the wintry western
seas as ever brought a film to the eyes of exile, or lighted the battle
fires in the hearts of her heroes and kings. And with all my ancient
prejudices in favor of my own caste, I see clearly that the equipments
of the new generation are best suited to modern needs. The bugle-call of
the future will sound the retreat for the ancient cavalry and the Old
Guard, and sing out, Forward the Light Brigade!

This evening, as usual, the conversation was discursive. It ranged over
the whole area of human knowledge and experience, from the price of a
horse to Lehmkuhl's Latinity, and from the last political speech to the
everlasting question, ever discussed and never decided, What is meant by
the month's residence as a condition for the acquisition of a domicile?
That horrible drug was irritating the nerves of the younger men, until I
heard, as in a dream, a Babel of voices:--"The two Ballerini,"--"They'll
never arrest him,"--"He'll certainly fire on the people,"--"Daniel never
wrote that book, I tell you,"--"'T is only a ringbone,"--"Fifty times
worse than a sprain,"--"He got it in the Gregorian University,"--"Paddy
Murray, George Crolly,"--"I admire Balfour for his profound knowledge
of metaphysics,"--"Did you see the article in the _Record_ about the
Spanish dispensation?"--"He's got a first-class mission in
Ballarat,"--"No, the lessons were from the Scripture occurring,"--"I
don't think we're bound to these Masses,"--"'Twas a fine sermon, but too
flowery for my tastes,"--"Yes, we expect a good Shrove this year,"--"His
_Data of Ethics_ won't stand examination,"--"Our fellows will lick yours
well next time,"--"Picking the grapes and lemons at Tivoli,"--"Poor old
Kirby, what an age he is,"--"'Twilight and evening bell, and after that
the dark, And may there be no sadness of farewell, when I embark,'
that's the way it runs,"--"He cut in his physic year, and is running a
paper in Boston,"--"It is up now to thirty-five shillings a ton, and
will go higher," etc., etc. The older men, under the more kindly
influence, were calm as sophomores. Amidst the whirlpool of words, they
clung to two sheet-anchors,--O'Connell in politics, and St. Alphonsus in
theology.

At last, the conversation simmered down into an academic debate, whether
the centripetal system, which concentrates all Irish students in
Maynooth, or the centrifugal, which sends them scampering over the
Continent to the ancient universities, was the better. This was a calm,
judicious tournament, except now and again, when I had to touch the
gong, and say:--

"Gentlemen, only three at a time, if you please."

It was a curious thing to notice that those who had studied in Maynooth
were very much in favor of a Continental education; and those who had
been in foreign universities were rather inclined to give the verdict
for Maynooth.

"You see," said one, "it is an education in itself to go abroad. It
means expansion, and expansion is education. Then you have the immense
advantage of being able to learn and master the foreign languages and
literature, and nowadays a man that can't speak French at least is a
very helpless creature."

"You take it for granted," replied another, "that residence abroad
insures a knowledge of French. I spent six years in the seminary at
N----, and except _cela va sans dire, tant pis_, and a few other
colloquialisms, which you will find on the last page of an English
dictionary, I might as well have been in Timbuctoo."

"Well," said my curate,--and though he is not very popular, somehow or
other his words appear to carry great weight,--"I must confess that the
regret of my life is that I had not an opportunity of studying in Rome,
just as the hope of my life is that I shall see Rome before I die. I
consider that the greatest Irish college in the world, in numbers and in
the influence that arises from intellectual superiority, should be
somewhere within the shadows of the Seven Hills."

"Why not transfer the Dunboyne, with all its endowments and emoluments,
to Rome?" asked a young, eager fellow, who says he can read the Office,
going ten miles an hour on the bicycle.

"'T wouldn't ever do," said a Roman student; "you must be brought up in
Rome to understand its spirit. Transplanted shoots never thrive there."

"Psha!" said an old Maynooth man, who had been listening impatiently to
these suggestions; "we forgot more theology in Maynooth than you ever
learned."

"I don't want to disparage your knowledge of theology, Father," said my
curate, sweetly, "but you know there are other elements in priestly
education besides the mere propositions, and the _solvuntur objecta_ of
theology. And it is in Rome these subtle and almost intangible
accomplishments are acquired."

Now, this was getting a little warm; so I winked at a young fellow down
along the table, and he took the hint promptly, and cried out: "Look
here, Father Dan, this is tiresome. Tell us how you managed the Irish
Brigade in France in the fifties. Weren't they going to throw
Marseilles into the sea?"

"Now, now," said I, "that won't do. I'm not going to be trotting out
that old chestnut at every dinner party. Let us have a song!"

And we had, and a good many of them,--dear, old Irish melodies that
would melt an icicle and put blood into a marble statue. No nonsense at
my table, I assure you. No operatic rubbish, but genuine Irish music,
with the right lilt and the right sentiment. I did let a young fellow
once sing, "I Dreamt that I Dwelt in Marble Halls"; but I told him never
to repeat it. But it was worth while going miles to hear my curate
singing, in his own fine voice, that superb ballad of that true and
gentle patriot, Thomas Davis, "The Mess-tent is Full, and the Glasses
are Set."

Dear me! what a mercurial race we are; and how the mercury runs up and
down in the barometer of our human hearts! I could see the young
priests' faces whitening at the words:

    "God prosper old Ireland! You'd think them afraid,
    So pale grew the chiefs of the Irish Brigade!"

and softening out in lines of tenderness when the end came:

    "For, on far foreign fields, from Dunkirk to Belgrade,
    Lie the soldiers and chiefs of the Irish Brigade."

Then we had "The West's Awake," and "Dear Land," and then we all arose
and sang together, "God bless the Pope, the great, the good." I was
going to say "sang in unison," but I am afraid I should be trespassing
on the sacred precincts of truth; yet if that grand old man in Rome,
that electric spark in the vase of alabaster, sitting in that lonely
chamber, behind the long, empty, gas-lit state apartments, could hear
those voices there above the western seas, he would surely realize more
keenly what he understands already, that he can always call upon his
Irish reserves to ring, as with a fence of steel, the chair and the
prerogatives of Peter.

Then came the "Good nights." I pulled aside an old friend, a great
theologian, who has all kinds of musty, dusty, leather-bound,
water-stained volumes on his shelves.

"Did you ever hear," I whispered, "of a mysterious thing, called the
_Kampaner Thal?_"

"Never," he said, emphatically.

"You couldn't conjecture what it is?"

"No," he said, with deliberation; "but I can aver it is neither Greek,
Latin, nor Irish."

"Would you mind looking up your cyclopædias," I pleaded, "and letting me
know immediately that you find it?"

"Of course," he replied. Then, jerking his thumb over his shoulder: "I
suppose it is this chap?"

"It is," I said. "He reads a good deal--"

"Look here, Father Dan, I don't know what we're coming to. Did you ever
see such a sight as that table to-night?"

"Never," I replied, resignedly.

"Would any one believe, when we came on the mission, that we'd live to
see such things? Why, these fellows talk up to us as if we were their
equals. Don't you remember when a curate daren't open his mouth at
table?"

"Of course," I replied, demurely.

"And it is only now I am beginning to discover the vagaries of this chap
of mine. Do you know what he wants? A shrine, if you please,--some kind
of picture, with candles lighting before it all day. 'Can't you say your
Rosary,' I said, 'like your betters?' No, he should have the shrine. And
now he wants to force on Benediction every Sunday,--not every first
Sunday of the month, but every Sunday, if you please. And he has a big
red lamp, burning in what he calls his oratory. You can see it miles
away. I say to the boys, 'Don't be afraid to put to sea at night now,
boys. Begor, ye've got a lighthouse at last.' Well, good by! What's
this thing you want?"

And he jotted down the name, I presume phonetically, in his note-book.
Now, mind, that man has not had a scandal in his parish for fourteen
years; and he is up to his neck in securities for half the farmers of
the district.

All this time, shrinking into an obscure corner of the hall, was my Curé
d'Ars, as I call him. He now came forward to say good night, his thin
face wreathed in smiles, and his two hands stretched out in
thankfulness.

"Good night, Father Dan, and a thousand thanks. I never spent a
pleasanter evening. What fine young fellows! So clever, so jolly, and
so edifying! Won't it be a satisfaction for us when we are going to
leave behind us such splendid safeguards of the faith?"

His curate was waiting respectfully. He now got the little man into his
great-coat, and buttoned it from collar to boot, the latter murmuring
his thanks all the time:--

"Dear me! dear me! what a trouble I am! Many thanks! Many thanks! There,
now I am all right!"

Then his muffler was wrapped carefully around his neck by this big
grenadier, and his gloves were drawn over his hands.

"Dear me! dear me! how good! how kind! I'm a regular mummy! a real
Egyptian mummy, Father Dan! Good night! good night! Dear me, what a
pleasant gathering!"

And the stalwart curate lifted him on his car, as if he were an infant.

       *       *       *       *       *

A few days later we had a long chat over many things, I and my curate.

When he was going he said:--

"That was a real jolly evening, Father Dan! I never enjoyed anything so
much!"

"Yes," I said, "and you had a splendid audience for that noble song!"

"Yes, indeed; they were very kind."

"Oh, I don't mean _in foro interno_," I said, "but _in foro externo_.
There was a good crowd outside the window!"

"My God!" he cried, quite shocked. "What a scandal!"

"Not a bit of it," I said; "you've gone up a hundred per cent in the
estimation of the villagers. There was a real fight for the window-sill.
But your friend, Jem Deady, captured it."

He looked dreadfully annoyed.

"Jem says that he kept awake all night trying to remember the notes; and
if you'd give him the words of the song and whistle it--"

"What!" said Father Letheby, like a pistol-shot.

"And if you'd give him two or three audiences--I suppose he means
rehearsals on the piano--he is quite sure--"

    !              !!                !!!

Dear me! how some people despise popularity!



CHAPTER XVIII

THE KAMPANER THAL


Events are thickening around me these winter days; and much oftener than
in past years am I compelled to lay aside my pet authors, when my lamp
is lighted, and my fire is sparkling merrily, whilst the earth is waking
up from its winter's sleep, and stretching out its hands in the feeble
lengthening of the evenings towards the approaching spring. This evening
I had an unexpected visitor,--no less a person than Reginald Ormsby, the
betrothed of Bittra. He came in modestly and apologetically, with all
that gentlemanly deference that is so characteristic of the British
officer. He made a nice little speech, explaining his reasons for
visiting me so late, and mildly deprecating the anger of such a
potentate as the parish priest of Kilronan. I had pulled the bell in the
mean time, and Hannah had brought in the "materials"; and in reply to
his pretty eloquence, I merely pushed the decanter towards him, and
said:--

"Go ahead!"

He filled his wine-glass with a firm hand, until the blessed liquor made
an arc of a circle on the summit; then tilted it over into the tumbler,
without spilling a drop, then filled the tumbler to the top with hot
water, and I said in my own mind, "He'll do."

"Of course," I said, after this little ceremony had been proceeded with,
"you smoke?"

"I shouldn't venture to think of smoking in your pretty parlor, sir,"
said he. "You know cigar smoke hangs around the curtains for days,
and--"

"Never mind the curtains," I replied. "I don't keep Havanas here, though
I suppose we must soon, as that appears to be a constituent in the new
education to which we old fossils are being subjected. But if you have a
cigar-case about you, light up, like a good fellow. You have to say
something of importance, I think, and they say a cigar promotes easy and
consecutive thought."

"Very many thanks, sir," he said. "Then, with your permission, I will."

He smoked quietly for a few seconds, and it was a good cigar, I can tell
you. The fragrance filled the whole house. Then I broke the ice:--

"Now, my curate has had several conferences with you about religion, and
he told me he was going to try the _Kampaner Thal_."

"Oh, yes! so he did, indeed. He has been very kind."

I should say here that my theological friend and neighbor had written
me: "I have hunted up all my cyclopædias, and can find no trace whatever
of that thing about which you were inquiring. From the word _Kampaner_,
I suspect it has something to do with bells. Perhaps your curate wants a
chime for your cathedral at Kilronan. When you get them, select C sharp,
or B flat, and put it around his neck, that we may know where to find
him. Yours truly--"

"Now," I said to Mr. Ormsby, "I do not know whether that _Kampaner Thal_
is bird, beast, fish, or insect; whether it is a powerful drug or a new
system of hypnotism."

"Oh, 't is none of these dreadful things," he said, laughing; "'t is
only a little book. Here it is! I always carry it about with me. It is
really very beautiful."

I handled the little duodecimo with suspicion; then gave it back.

"It has done you a lot of good, I suppose?" I said, I am afraid, with a
certain amount of contempt.

"I can't say it has," he replied sadly; then lapsed into moody
reflection.

Now, gloom is the one thing I cannot tolerate; so to rouse him from his
reverie, and possibly from a slight, venial prompting of curiosity, I
asked him to read some passages for me.

"My old sight cannot bear much of a strain," I said, "and the print is
mighty small. Now, like a good fellow, pick out some good things, and
read them slowly, for perhaps I may require to punctuate them."

So he read in a calm even monotone, without inflection, but with many
pauses, whilst I watched every syllable and measured it.

     "I have a strong objection to a _voyage pittoresque_ through the
     planets; we bear in our own breasts a heaven full of
     constellations. There is in our hearts an inward, spiritual world,
     that breaks like a sun upon the clouds of the outward world. I mean
     that inward universe of goodness, beauty, and truth,--three worlds
     that are neither part, nor shoot, nor copy of the outward. We are
     less astonished at the incomprehensible existence of these
     transcendental heavens because they are always there, and we
     foolishly imagine that we create, when we merely perceive them.
     After _what model_, with what _plastic power_, and _from what_,
     could we create these same spiritual worlds? The atheist should ask
     himself how he received the giant idea of God, that he has neither
     opposed nor embodied. An idea that has not grown up by comparing
     different degrees of greatness, as it is the opposite of every
     measure and degree. In fact, the atheist speaks as others of
     _prototype_ and _original_."

"Stop there," I cried; "why that is the ontological argument of St.
Anselm, adopted afterwards by a soldier philosopher like yourself,
called Descartes. There's nothing new under the sun. It is wonderful how
modern artists can refurbish our old Masters and make wonderful pictures
from them!"

"Quite so," he replied, "in lieu of yourselves. There, now, I am always
too precipitate; pardon me, sir, if I am too bold; but you Catholics
have a wonderful talent for burying your treasures in napkins. Have you
any treatise on the immortality of the soul in English, and in such a
style as this?"

"I am afraid," I replied, as I looked askance at the volume, "that just
now I cannot mention one. But go on, if it does not tire you. Time is
the cheapest thing we have in Ireland."

He continued:--

     "'The inward world, that is indeed more splendid and admirable than
     the outward, needs another heaven than the one above us, and a
     higher world than that the sun warms; therefore, we say justly, not
     a second _earth_, or globe, but a second world beyond this
     universe.'

     "Gione interrupted me: 'And every virtuous and wise man is a proof
     of another world.'

     "'And,' continued Nadine quickly, 'every one who undeservedly
     suffers.'

     "'Yes,' I answered; 'that is what draws our thread of life through
     a long eternity. The threefold echo of virtue, truth, and beauty,
     created by the music of the spheres, calls us from this hollow
     earth to the neighborhood of the music. Why and wherefore were
     these desires given us? Merely that, like a swallowed diamond, they
     should slowly cut through our earthly covering. Wherefore were we
     placed upon this ball of earth, creatures with light wings, if
     instead of soaring with our wings of ether, we are to fall back
     into the earth-clods of our birth?... Is an angel to be imprisoned
     in the body to be its dumb servant, its stove-warmer and butler,
     its _cuisinier_ and porter at the door of the stomach? Shall the
     ethereal flame merely serve to fill the circular stove with life's
     warmth, obediently burn and warm, then become cold and
     extinguished?'"

"Very good, indeed," I interrupted. "He knows how to put things in a
virile way.'

     "'The discrepancy between our wishes and our relations, between the
     _soul_ and the _earth_, remains a _riddle_ if we continue; and if
     we cease to live, a _blasphemy_. Strangers, born upon mountains, we
     consume in lowly places, with unhealthy _heimweh_ (home-sickness).
     We belong to higher regions, and an eternal longing grows in our
     hearts at music, which is the _Kuhreigen_ of our native Alps....'

     "'From hence what follows?' asked the chaplain (a Kantian).

     "'Not that we are unhappy, but that we are immortal; and this world
     _within_ us demands and manifests a _second_ without us.... I
     cannot tell how painful, how monstrous and horrible the thought of
     an annihilating death, of an eternal grave, now appeared to me. Men
     often bear their errors, as their truths, about in words, and not
     in feeling; but let the believer in annihilation place before him,
     instead of a life of sixty years, one of sixty minutes; then let
     him look on the face of a beloved being, or upon a noble or wise
     man, as upon an aimless hour-long appearance; as a thin shadow that
     melts into light and leaves no trace; can he bear the thought? No!
     the supposition of imperishableness is always with him; else there
     would hang always before his soul, as before Mahomet's in the
     fairest sky, a dark cloud; and, as Cain upon the earth, an eternal
     fear would pursue him. Yes, if all the woods upon this earth were
     groves of pleasure; if all the valleys were Kampaner valleys; if
     all the islands were blessed, and all the fields Elysian; if all
     eyes were cheerful and all the hearts joyful,--yes, then--no! even
     then, had God, through this very blessedness, made to our spirits
     the _promise_, the _oath_ of eternal duration! But, now, O God!
     when so many houses are houses of mourning, so many fields
     battlefields, so many cheeks pale, when we pass before so many eyes
     red with weeping or closed in death: Oh! can the grave, that haven
     of salvation, be the last swallowing, unyielding whirlpool? No, the
     trampled worm dares raise itself towards its Creator, and say,
     "Thou durst not create me only to suffer!"'"

I was listening with closed eyes to the reading, the quiet rhythm of the
sentences, and the calm, deep music of his voice, sounding ineffably
soothing, when a quaver, then a break in his voice, just as he repeated
the last words, made me look toward him. The calm, strong man was
weeping silently; and just then he broke into a paroxysm of sobs that
shook his strong frame as by a palsy. Dear Lord! what hidden grief there
is in the world! Who would ever dream that the calm exterior of this
reasoning, cultivated atheist concealed such hidden fires? It was no
time to talk; I let the poor fellow alone. After a few moments he dried
his eyes, and said:--

"I am quite ashamed of this snivelling, Father. I shouldn't have
attempted to read this. It always upsets me."

"Never mind, my poor boy," I said. "It is good for men sometimes to
weep." I thought in my own mind, My little child will be in safe hands.

"Now, put it aside," I said gently, "and let us talk."

"One sentence more, Father, just to get over this weakness."

     "'Ah, Carlson (Carlson stands for myself), upon what a beautiful
     world do you throw your immeasurable gravestone, that no time can
     lift. Your difficulties, which are founded on the _necessary_
     uncertainties of men, if solved, would only have the effect to
     destroy our _faith_; which is the solution of a thousand other
     difficulties; without which our existence is without aim, our pains
     without solution, and the Godlike Trinity within our breasts three
     avenging angels. From the formless earthworm up to the beaming
     human countenance; from the chaos of the first day up to the
     present age of the world; from the first faint motion of the heart
     to its full, bold throbbing in the breast of manhood, the invisible
     hand of God leads, protects, and nourishes the inward being; the
     _nursling of the outward_ educates and polishes and makes it
     beautiful--and wherefore? That when it stands as a demigod in the
     midst of the ruins of the temple of the body, the blow of death may
     prostrate it forever, that nothing shall remain from the
     corpse-veiled, the mourning and mantled immeasurable universe, but
     the eternally sowing, never harvesting, solitary spirit of the
     world! One eternity looking despairingly at the other; and in the
     whole spiritual universe no end, no aim! And all these
     contradictions and riddles, whereby not merely the harmony, but the
     very _strings_ of creation are tangled, must we take, merely on
     account of the difficulties, that, indeed, our annihilation cannot
     solve? Beloved Carlson! into this harmony of the spheres, that is
     not _over_, but ever _around_ us, will you bring your shrieking
     discord? See how gently and touchingly the day departs, and how
     holily the night comes! Oh, can you not believe that even thus our
     spirits shall arise from the dust, as you once saw the full moon
     arise over the crater of Vesuvius?'

     "Gione took his hand and said:--

     "'Amongst us all, will you alone be tormented with this despairing
     faith?'

     "Two hot drops fell from his blinded eyes; he looked at the
     mountains, and said:--

     "'I can bear no annihilation but my own. My _heart_ is of your
     opinion; my _head_ will slowly follow.'"

"And that, sir," said Ormsby, closing the book and putting it into his
side pocket, "is just where I am. My heart is with you; if only my head
would follow. Put Bittra for Gione, and you will understand my emotion."

"Even that won't do," I said; "the head might follow, and you might be
as far from us as ever."

"I don't understand," he said in a bewildered way. "Surely all that's
wanting now is a conviction of the truth of your teaching?"

"There's your grave mistake," I replied; "conviction is not faith. There
are thousands of your countrymen filled with conviction of the truths of
Catholicity; but they are as far outside the Church as a Confucian or a
Buddhist. Faith is not a matter to be acquired by reading or knowledge.
It is a gift, like the natural talent of a great painter or musician--a
sixth sense, and the pure gratuity of the All-Wise and the All-Good."

This appeared to him to be a revelation which he could not comprehend;
it seemed to be such an inevitable logical sequence--conviction and
profession.

"I am attracted by everything," he said, "in your Church. The whole
thing appears to be such a well-connected scheme, so unlike the religion
in which I was born and educated, where you had to be forever searching
after a missing link. And then your Church seems to be founded on
love--love of a supernal kind, of course, and almost unintelligible; but
it is the golden chain in the string of pearls. You will have noticed
how rapidly sometimes the mind makes comparisons. Well, often, at our
station over there, I have thought, as I searched the sea, that we
Protestants look at God through the large end of a telescope and throw
Him afar off, and make Him very small and insignificant; whilst you look
at Him through the narrower end, and magnify Him and bring Him near. Our
God--that is, the God in whom I was taught to believe--is the God of
Sinai, and our Christ is the historic Christ; but that won't do for a
humanity that is ever querulous for God, and you have found the secret."

I was quite astonished at the solemn, thoughtful manner in which this
young fellow spoke, and his words were so full of feeling and
self-sympathy for his great privation. He was silent for a long time,
smoking freely, whilst I was pondering many things, mostly in humility
for our slow appreciation of the great gift of divine faith. At last, he
said:--

"I do not quite follow you, sir, in your remark about a sixth sense; for
this is not a question of sense, but of the soul."

We were now getting into deep water, and when an old gentleman hasn't
opened a book of philosophy for nearly thirty years, he may be well
excused for a certain timidity in approaching these deep questions. But,
"keep to the metaphorical" has always been a great rule of mine, which
never failed me.

"Let me explain," I said. "Have you ever been to an ophthalmic hospital
or a blind asylum?"

"Yes," he replied, "principally abroad."

"Well," I continued, "you might have noticed various forms of the dread
disease of blindness. Some are cases of cataract; in some the entire
ball is removed; some have partial sight behind the ugly film. But the
most pathetic case to my mind is that of the young boy or girl who comes
toward you, looking steadily at you with large, luminous eyes, the iris
perfectly clear, the pupil normally distended, and even the white of the
eye tinged with that delicate blue that denotes perfect health in the
organ; but in one moment the truth flashes upon you--that poor patient
is stone-blind. Now, where's the disease?"

"The optic nerve is destroyed," he answered promptly.

"Precisely. And now, if you were to pour in through the dark canal of
the pupil the strongest sunlight, or even the flash of your electric
searchlight, would it make any difference, do you think?"

"None," he said, "so far as sight was concerned; but it might possibly
paralyze the brain."

"Precisely. And if you, my dear young friend, were pouring, till the
crack of doom, every kind of human light--philosophical, dogmatic,
controversial--upon the retina of the soul without the optic nerve of
faith, you will be blind, and go blind to your grave."

Somehow this appeared to be a relief, though it looked like
discouragement.

"It is something to know," he said, "that the fault is not altogether my
own. But," after a pause, "this demands a miracle."

"Quite so. A pure light from God. And that is the reason that my
excellent curate is storming the citadels of heaven for you by that
terrible artillery--the prayers of little children. And if you want to
capture this grace of God by one tremendous _coup_, search out the most
stricken and afflicted of my flock (Bittra has a pretty good catalogue
of them), and get him or her to pray for you, and very soon the sense
of faith will awaken within you, and you will wonder that you were ever
blind."

"Ten thousand thanks," he said, rising; "I had no anticipations of so
pleasant and instructive an evening."

"You were told to expect to meet a funny old fellow," I said, "with as
many quips, and cranks, and jests, as old Jack Falstaff?"

"Well," he said, pulling his mustache nervously, "I should not like to
put it so brusquely."

"Of course not. But there lies a big mistake, my dear boy. Democritus
was as much a philosopher as Heraclitus, and he lived fifty years
longer. There is a good deal of philosophy behind a laugh, and we put
our gargoyles on the outside of our churches."

"Indeed, I must say, from a long experience," he replied, "and a
grateful experience, that your men are the most cheerful class I have
met,--if I except our own sailors,--although the comparison sounds
grotesque. And," he said hesitatingly, "that just reminds me; if I may
take the freedom of showing my gratitude in a small way, permit me to
say to you as pastor, what I have already hinted to himself, that your
most excellent curate will involve himself in a great deal of trouble
and possible expense if he perseveres in that matter of the
fishing-boat. Indeed, I have been working the matter for him, because
his heart is set on it; but I have misgivings. I'm not sure that I am
quite right in mentioning the matter to you, sir; but I am really
anxious, and I speak from long experience."

He lighted another cigar at the door, and I returned to think somewhat
anxiously whether I had done credit to Catholic philosophy. But my
thoughts would revert to these last words of Ormsby's. What if Father
Letheby should get into a bad mess, and everything so promising? How
little these young men reflect what a trouble they are to their old
pastors!



CHAPTER XIX

LITERARY ATTEMPTS


I broke Captain Ormsby's advice to Father Letheby as gently as I could;
and I flatter myself I have the talent of putting things in as
roundabout a way as any professional diplomat. He took it badly. He is
clearly overworking himself, for he now becomes irritable on the
slightest provocation.

"Blocked everywhere!" he said, walking up and down his little room.
"Father Dan, you are right; and I am a fool. There is no use attempting
to do any good in Ireland."

Now, this was not exactly the conclusion I wanted him to come to; but we
have a national failing of generalizing from rather minute particulars.

"I'm not so sure of that," I said. "I think you have a fair share of
work to do here, and that you have done it and are doing it remarkably
well."

Absurd! There was not half enough to do to satisfy his Napoleonic
ambition. Nothing but the Vicariate of the whole of the Dark Continent
for this young man.

"Look here, Father Dan. My parochial work is over every day at four
o'clock; and you have taught me to finish the Office, even by
anticipation, before dinner. Now, what on earth is a young fellow to do
between four o'clock of a winter's evening and ten o'clock, when he
retires? Once in a month I dine at Campion's; but the rest of the time,
except when I run up to you--"

"And you don't come half enough, you, sir," I said. "I never saw
anything like the--pride of young fellows nowadays."

"That's all right, Father Dan," he replied, somewhat more calmly; "but
even with all your kindness, what in the world am I to do with my
leisure time?"

"Read, and read, and read," I said. "Have you not the whole ocean of
human knowledge to dip into?"

"Ah! _cui bono?_" he replied.

"_Cui bono?_ from you! I never thought I'd hear that fatal word again.
_Cui bono?_ from you! _Cui bono?_ from you!"

I was never so startled in my life. It was a dread revelation of
dissatisfaction and ennui, that might lead no one knew whither.

"_Cui bono?_" I said. "Is there any pleasure on this earth comparable to
the pleasure of acquiring knowledge? Is there any satisfaction equal to
the continuous pursuit of ideas--always coming up to them, and passing
them in the insatiable thirst and pursuit? Now, I see clearly that my
tastes are not your tastes, and I was wrong in forcing the studies of
the classics upon you. But take up philosophy, arrange a _horarium_ for
the evenings--so much time for reading, so much for thinking, so much
for writing--"

"Ah! there you've struck it," he broke in. "If I could only write, I
should always have an incentive, and a strong incentive for reading and
studying what I read."

"And why don't you write?" I repeated. "Paper is cheap; pens and ink
don't cost much--"

"Write for what, and for whom?" he cried.

"Write for the magazines," I said. "Write brisk, crisp, lively articles
for our reviews and periodicals; get paid for them; and then the
ineffable pleasure of seeing your own work in print!"

"And what if they were rejected contumeliously?"

"Impossible," I replied; "there is room and to spare for good writers.
Why, we are always crying out about the barrenness of our literature!"

He had gone over to a portfolio, and had taken out a few rolls of
manuscript, to each of which a letter was tagged. He handed them to me
without a word. It needed only a glance to see that if the editors had
used up all the polite words of the language, nevertheless, "Rejected!"
was written in capital letters on every page. I knew well what it meant
to a proud, sensitive spirit; and although it was only the usual
probation for literary novices, it might have a different effect from
successful training in the case of a thoughtful if irritable mind. I
pretended to read carefully the two essays, the three short stories, and
the half-dozen poems that had come back to the author's hands without
proofs, whilst I was rapidly turning over in my mind what I should say
or do; for the recollection of my own experience at his age led me to
believe that this was a critical moment for him. Happy the stupid souls
that can gaze, without the constant fretting of thought, into the fire
for hours together! Happy we, who, going down the decline of life, have
the brake put on by a merciful Providence, and the wheels move slowly,
and day blends with night, and night dawns to day, almost imperceptibly!
But thrice unhappy they in whose souls the mills of thought whirl round
and round without ceasing the wheelstones that grind together, if the
grist is not between! How often to dreaming poet and idealist has the
eternal fretting of the wheels become intolerable, and then--

"I shouldn't mind," he interjected on my reverie, "but these papers
issue such lamentable stuff! Such vapid essays, such aimless stories,
such bread-and-butter school-girl poetry,--'sing' and 'spring,' 'bird'
and 'heard,'--not an elevating idea or thought through the whole thing
from beginning to end; and then look at these: 'We consider your story
too long;' 'We regret that the style of your article is unsuited to our
pages;' 'We see some promise in your poem, but it is not quite up to the
level of our requirements;' 'Try blank verse.... We shall be glad to
hear from you again.' Did you ever hear such mockery, and these very men
printing such intolerable rubbish!"

Of course, he never thought of the poor editor, leaning over his chair
in a brown study, biting the pen-handle, and wondering how he can please
"A Constant Subscriber," who objects to the rather light nature of the
articles he is now giving to the public; or, "Sacerdos," who does not
like poetry; or, "Senex," who asks sarcastically: Is he putting himself
in rivalry with the "Edinburgh" or "Quarterly," or who the mischief
cares one brass pin about "Aristotle's Constitution of Athens;" and
wouldn't he give them something light and agreeable to help to digest
their dinners? Oh no! he only thought then and there that there should
be an _auto da fe_,--a summary crematory process of all the editors
under the sun.

"Look here, young man," said I, at last, "there is only one thing for
you to do. You must write a book."

"Look here, Father Dan," said he, "I'm not in much humor for joking. Any
priest that would attempt to write a book nowadays should have the
spirit of the martyrs, who stepped onto the sands in the Coliseum and
saw the brutal Romans in the _auditorium_ and wild beasts in the cages
beneath!"

"Well, my dear boy," I replied, "you _will_ write the book; but for
goodness' sake write it in your present humor, before the fires die
down."

He laughed.

"Write a book? What in the world should I write about? The world is
deluged and drowned by books. And if I wrote it, who could or would
publish it? Imagine me hawking around a wretched manuscript from
publisher to publisher, until it was tattered, yellow, and
undecipherable. Why, the big London fellows accept only ten MSS. out of
five hundred on the average, and you know I cannot publish at my own
risk."

"Who the mischief spoke about publishing?" I replied, trying to keep up
the flame; "I only asked you to write. Write, write, write, and leave
the publishing to God."

"And what am I to write about? Every subject under the sun is threshed
out and threadbare, from the origin of ideas down to the microbe of
typhoid fever. Not at all; the world is grown too wise for books; we
must devise something else."

"It is not many days ago," I replied, "since I heard you lament the
awful and culpable defects in our popular Catholic literature. Hadn't
you to fall back upon that barbarous book to enlighten Ormsby on the
existence of his immortal soul?"

"Barbarous? I wish to heaven that I could write anything half as good.
But, as you see, there are whole fields of literature yet untrodden by
us, but where heretics and others are reaping rich harvests. Yet, who
would dare make the attempt? Don't you know that the ablest professors
in your own time in Maynooth never ventured into print? They dreaded the
chance shots from behind the hedge from the barrels of those masked
banditti, called 'critics.'"

"Dear me, how you do run on! One would think you had the MS. cut and dry
in your pocket, you talk so glibly about publishers and critics. Can't
you write the book first and then take circumstances as they occur?"

"Well, go on, suggest a subject, sir."

"Now, this is rather sudden, young man. Give me one day, and I'll give
you a list of subjects that would bewilder you! Only promise me you'll
take one up."

"All right!" said he; "I promise. Hallo! where are you taking those
papers?"

"I'm taking them home for the present. They are confiscated to the
Crown."

He looked at them wistfully, as if they were going to the holocaust, as
we might imagine the great mother of the Maccabees watched half with
pain, half with pride, wholly with resignation, her sons mount the
funeral pyre.

[Illustration: "It broke in my fingers and revealed the little dreams
and ambitions of nearly forty years ago."]

"Never fear," I replied, "they won't go up the chimney. At least, I'll
answer for the prose. I'm not so sure about the poetry. Now, good day!
I'll keep you to your promise."

And I did, but with what cost to myself. I had to search in the
cemeteries of the past for the skeletons of designs, once gladly
adopted, then as gladly laid to rest. At last, I found, hidden away
amongst episcopal documents, dispensations, etc., a yellow, frayed
paper, tied up in string that once was red, but now was white and
fragile. It broke in my fingers and revealed the little dreams and
ambitions of nearly forty years ago. Need I say they never ripened, or
came within even measurable distance of perfection. They were three
large quarto sheets, and they were darkened thus:--

A. M. D. G.

_Subjects for Articles and Papers to be written, wholly or partially,
during the Coming Years_.

I. MENTAL PHILOSOPHY.

I. The Influence of Plato on the Early Christian Church.

II. The Influence of Aristotle on the Mediæval Church.

III. The Neo-Platonists.

IV. The Argument in St. Augustine on the Immortality
of the Soul. (Is it Tenable?)

V. The Atomic Theory of Democritus, and the Modern Discoveries
in Astronomy.

VI. The Influence of the Inductive Philosophy on Modern
Disbelief.

VII. Was Spinoza an Atheist?

VIII. Is Descartes the Father of Modern Rationalism?

IX. St. Anselm's Proof of the Existence of God.

X. The Cosmological Argument of St. John Damascene.

XI. The Argument from Intuition.

XII. Aspects of Modern Pantheism.

XIII. Christian Idealism.

XIV. Malebranche and Fénelon.

XV. Boëthius.

XVI. Catholic Philosophers of the Nineteenth Century.

XVII. The Connection between Soul and Body (Tertullian).

XVIII. The Chaldæan Doctrine of the Soul ([Greek: essamenos pyriryr]).

XIX. The Idea of Personality.

XX. The Identification of Life and Motion.

XXI. Maine de Biran.

XXII. The Popularization of Catholic Philosophy.


II. ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY.

I. The Alexandrian School.

II. The Writings of Clement.

III. Origen, and his Works.

IV. Ephrem the Syrian, and his Works.

V. The Apologists.

VI. The Three Cappadocians.

VII. Julian and his Contemporaries.

VIII. The Council of Nicæa.

IX. St. Augustine and the Donatists.

X. The Saints of the Catacombs.

XI. The Discipline of the Secret.

XII. The Libyan and Nitrean Anchorites

XIII. The Stylites.

XIV. Communion in the Early Church.

XV. Mediævalism.

XVI. The Case of Honorius.

XVII. Hildebrand.

XVIII. Alexander VI. and Savonarola.

XIX. Origin and Spread of Monasticism.

XX. The Influence of the Irish Monks on the Continent
of Europe.

XXI. Schools of Philosophy.

XXII. Port-Royal, Pascal, Nicole, Arnauld.

XXIII. The Rise and Progress of Jansenism.

XXIV. Gallicanism and National Churches.

Rather a large order, I thought, as I looked with pitying eyes on the
far vision of a curly-headed young priest of forty years ago, and
thought of the day-dreams of youth; and what a very slender precipitate
of work fell from the vast effervescence of the idealism of
inexperience. There remained another page of projected inspiration on
the scope and meaning of Holy Scripture; but this I put aside. I found
my knowledge, little as it was, was derived from such obsolete and
antique commentators as á Lapide, Maldonatus, Estius, and the _Triplex_;
and I was ashamed to produce such fossilized literature to the advanced
thinkers of the present day. I did not like to face this ordeal:--

"Then you haven't heard of the new schools of interpretation? You know
that the great thinkers of Germany, Bahrdt, and Semler, and Eichhorn,
have upset all our preconceived ideas about the Bible. The Wolfian ideas
have been expanded and developed; and advanced Catholic apologists have
set themselves to the task of reconciling our ancient traditions with
the discoveries of modern science. The tremendous advances made by
philological scientists and experts during these last years--"

I don't say, indeed, that my curate would indulge in this affectation,
for he is rather disposed to take the old, unlearned modes of saving
souls and going with them to Heaven, than the new, brilliant mimetism of
a world that knows not God. But still I know he would think it waste of
time to pursue such studies, until the modern _Luciferi_ tell us exactly
what they have placed beyond the borderland of conjecture, and into the
certain and unshaken fields of mathematical demonstration. So I left my
Scriptural syllabus at home.

He looked slightly appalled at the large schedule of science I showed
him. I reassured him by telling him I insisted positively on his taking
only one subject in each department.

"The grand mistake," I declared, "made by us, Catholics, is in taking
too wide, too bird's-eye a view of human history and philosophy, instead
of mapping them into sections, as the astronomical photographers are
mapping the skies from the Papal Observatory in Rome to the Lick
Observatory in California. What we want most is sectional treatises on
single subjects. Now, what you are to give us is not a vast diorama from
Thales to Rosmini, and from the persecutions of Julian to the
_Kulturkampf_ of Bismarck, but a neat etching of some particular persons
and events, and a clear photograph of some practical point of Catholic
philosophy. If you throw in a few side-lights from the errors of
non-Catholic thinkers, so much the better. Now, look it over carefully;
as the strolling player declares--'You pays your money, and you takes
your choice.'"

He thought that question of inductive philosophy very nice. He had read
something about it in Macaulay. He liked that Platonic question very
much. It bordered upon poetry and mysticism Then St. Augustine! That
would be charming. He had always such a love for St. Augustine! But
Fénelon? The "dove of Cambrai" _versus_ the "eagle of Meaux!" What a
delightful idea! No good housekeeper, at a cheap sale, was ever so
puzzled. Finally, we decided that, in philosophy, he was to take up the
question of "Modern Aspects of Pantheism;" and in Ecclesiastical History
he selected "The Cappadocians."

"But what about books?" he asked in dismay. "I haven't a single book on
these blessed subjects."

"Buy them," I said. "Every good workman buys his tools and materials."

"I have a strong suspicion, Father Dan," he said, "that this is all a
practical joke. Why, that means a whole library. And if I had money,
which I have not, I do not know the name of a single blessed Catholic
author on these subjects."

"Why, my dear fellow, there are hundreds. Let me see! On the Fathers,
Basil and the two Gregories. Let me see! Haven't you--my memory is
failing--haven't you Cardinal Newman's essays on these Fathers?"

"Well? You don't want me to give a verbatim version of Cardinal Newman,
surely, do you?"

"Let me see! Why, we have hundreds of English Catholic writers on these
subjects. What in the world is becoming of my memory? Why, we have whole
libraries in the English language on these subjects! Isn't there Alzog
and--and--Darras?--"

"I have Darras," he cried triumphantly.

"Well, look it up, and see all you can get about St. Basil."

"But their writings! Wouldn't it be nice to give Greek extracts from
their sermons and homilies?"

"'T would indeed. Well, I'll look up all the old catalogues I have kept,
and let you know about books of reference. Meanwhile, commence somewhere
by way of preface. Now, what are you going to do about that
fishing-boat? Ormsby says it is certainly a troublesome and may be a
perilous enterprise!"

"It's gone too far now to draw back," said Father Letheby. "The Board
has yielded at last, thanks to Ormsby himself."

"They'll advance all the money?"

"No; two thirds; four hundred pounds."

"That's very kind of them; and no interest, no security. I did not think
Boards could be so generous."

"No, indeed. They have full security to be paid back, principal and five
per cent interest, in less than five years."

"By Jove! You are a clever fellow. And where have you got all this Midas
wealth?"

He asked me to be good enough to move with him to the window. True
enough, even under the cold light, the broad sea stretched sparkling
before us, with all its magic and glamour, but unruffled and unploughed
by even one Nautilus-sail of busy man.

"There," he cried, "there lie the gold mines of Ireland, unworked and
neglected. In these depths is wealth enough to make Kilronan a busy
emporium of merchandise for half the world!"

"I see. And the other two hundred? Where do they come from?"

"Subscribed by twenty merchants, who have taken shares in the boat."

"And you never asked your old pastor to invest in this patriotic bank.
Shame! Shame! And I wanted a little return as well as the rest of the
world."

He laughed.

"The mackerel fishery alone," he continued, in a calculating way, "is
worth a hundred pounds each for each boat in the Manx and French
fishing-fleets that anchor off our shores every year, and take our
wealth back to their thriving villages. I calculate another cool hundred
on cod, haak, etc. I think we shall pay back the Board's loan in three
years, besides paying handsome dividends to our shareholders. The boat
is in the hands of a Belfast firm. She will be ready by the first of
May. On that day she will be christened the 'Star of the Sea,' and will
make her first run to the fishing-fleet."

"And what about the shirt-factory?"

"That's all right, too," he said, though his face grew a little clouded.
"I shall have twenty sewing-machines in full swing by the middle of
April. The manager was here and dined with me last Thursday; he's a fine
fellow. He assures me that, after the initial expenses are over, the
girls can earn from eight to ten shillings a week easily."

"By Jove! That's good. That will be a great help to the poor people."

"Yes; he sends the shirts here, ready and cut for sewing, by the new
system of scientific shirt-making. Then all they have to do is to tack
them together with the machines."

"God bless you!" I said fervently. "You're a wonderful fellow."

I was sorry that I gave him Ormsby's message of warning.



CHAPTER XX

MADONNA MIA


The winter had nearly rolled by, and the sky was opening out its eyelids
wider and wider, and letting in light to man and all his wondrous train
of servitors. It was a cold, steely light indeed, particularly on those
March evenings; and the sunsetting was a dreary, lonesome thing, as the
copper-colored rays rested on hamlet or mountain, or tinged the cold
face of the sea. But it was light, and light is something man craves
for, be it never so pale. Will not one of heaven's delights be to see
the "inaccessible light" in which God--our God--is shrouded, and to
behold one another's faces in the light that streams from the Lamb? And
so, very tempting as my fire is--and I am as much a fire-worshipper as
an Irish Druid or a Peruvian Inca--I always like to go out as the days
are lengthening and the sun is stretching out his compasses to measure
in wider arcs the sky.

This evening, too, I had a little business with Father Letheby. As I
entered his parlor, I carried a tiny slip of printed paper in my hand.

"You'd hardly guess what it is?" I said, holding it from the light.

"A check for a hundred pounds, or my removal!" he exclaimed.

"Neither. Read it!"

I am quite sure it was infinitely more gratifying than the check, to say
nothing of the removal; and I am quite sure the kindly editor, who had
sent me that proof of Father Letheby's first poem, would have been amply
repaid for his charity if he had seen the shades and flushes of delight
and half-alarm that swept like clouds across the face of the young
priest. And it was not all charity, either. The good editor spoke truly
when he declared that the poem was quite original and out of the beaten
track, and would probably attract some attention. I think, next to the
day of his ordination, this was the supreme day in Father Letheby's life
hitherto.

"It was very kind," he said, "very kind indeed. And how am I to thank
you, Father Dan?"

"By keeping steadily at the work I pointed out for you," I replied.
"Now, let me see what you have done."

"Do you mean about the books?" he asked.

"Yes," I said determinedly, "and about the _horarium_ I marked out and
arranged for you. Have you conscientiously studied during the two hours
each evening, and written from 11 A.M. to noon every day, as I
appointed?"

"To be candid," he said at once, "I have not. First came the lack of
books. Except Butler's 'Lives of the Saints,' I cannot come across a
single indication of what Basil and the Gregories did or wrote; and my
edition of Butler is expurgated of all the valuable literary notes
which, I understand, were in the first editions. Then the moment I take
the pen into my hand, in comes Mrs. Luby to know wouldn't I write to
the colonel of the Connaught Rangers to get her little boy discharged
and sent home. He enlisted in a fit of drink. Then comes Mrs. Moriarty
with the modest request to write to the pastor of Santa Barbara about
her little girl who emigrated to America sixteen years ago. Then
comes--"

"Never mind," I said, "I have been there. But I won't accept these
excuses at all. You _must_ work, whether you like or no. Now, I am going
to take away all excuses. I have been searching a lot of old catalogues,
and I have discovered that these are the books for you. On the subject
of 'Modern Pantheism' we will get:--

"(1) Lewes' 'History of Philosophy,' 4 vols.

"(2) Brucker's 'Historia Critica Philosophiæ,' 6 vols.

"(3) Tenneman's 'History of Philosophy' (Cousin).

"(4) Émile Saisset's 'Modern Pantheism,' 2 vols.

"(5) 'History of Pantheism' (Plumtre).

"(6) 'An Essay on Pantheism,' by J. Hunt, D.D.

"(7) 'Spinoza,' by Principal Caird, LL. D.

"(8) 'Spinoza,' by D. J. Martineau.

"(9) 'Spinoza, his Ethics and Correspondence,'
by R. Willis, M.D.

"(10) 'Spinoza,' by Nourrisson.

"Now, on the subject of Ecclesiastical History we will get, read, and
consult:--

"(1) 'Historia Literaria Ecclesiæ,' by Cave.

"(2) Farrar's 'Lives of the Fathers,' 2 vols.

"(3) Cave's 'Lives of the Fathers,' 3 vols.

"(4) 'Lives of the Fathers,' by the S. P. C. K.

"(5) The Bishop of Lincoln (Kaye) on 'The
Fathers and Early Councils.'

"(6) 'Lives of the Fathers,' by the author of
'A Dominican Artist,' 3 vols.

"(7) Neander's 'Church History,' 8 vols.

"(8) Neale's 'Oriental Church.'"

Here Father Letheby stopped me, as he broke from a suppressed chuckle
into uncontrollable laughter.

"Why, Father Dan, what in the world are you reading? Don't you know that
you are calling out a list of the most rampant heretics and
disbelievers, every one of whom is probably on the Index? Is it possible
that you cannot discover any English Catholic authorities on these
subjects?"

"I have not seen them," I said mournfully. "And do you mean to say that
all these Protestants, and many of them, you say, infidels, have not
been interested in these subjects?"

"Well, I presume they would not have gone to the vast trouble of
accumulating material, and writing ponderous volumes otherwise."

"And what are we doing? And if ever these grave subjects become of
importance or interest to our youth, say in the higher systems of
education, what books can we put into their hands?"

We were both in a brown study. These things make men thoughtful. At last
Father Letheby said:--

"How do they manage in the German and French universities, I wonder?"

"Depend upon it," I replied, "there is no lack of Catholic authors on
every subject there. And I'm told the Italian priests take an
extraordinary interest in these higher studies. And in France every
French priest thinks he is bound to write at least one book."

"I never understood the importance of this matter till I met Ormsby,"
said Father Letheby. "He opened my eyes. By the way, Father Dan, I must
congratulate you on the impression you have made there. Some things you
said have made a vivid impression on him. He keeps on saying: 'A sixth
sense! A sixth sense. Perhaps he is right, after all.' And that
dependence on the prayers of little children and the afflicted touched
him deeply. Do you know, I think he'll come 'round."

"God grant it," I said, rising. "But I suppose this little project of
ours is knocked on the head."

"You mean the books?"

"Yes."

"I fear so. The fact is, Father Dan, I find I have no time. Between my
two hours with the choir on Tuesdays and Fridays, the Saturday and
Sunday evenings in the church, the occasional evening out, and my
correspondence, I don't know where to get time to fit in everything. And
now that you have been so good as to secure the sympathy of the editor
of the----for me, I think I may do something for him at intervals."

"I have regretted a few things during my life, young man," I said; "but
I never regretted anything so much as to have sent on that poem of yours
instead of sending it up the chimney."

"My dear Father Dan," said he, "what are you saying? Don't you know that
the Pope himself writes poetry, and writes it well?"

"May God forgive him!" I said fervently. Then I got sorry, as this was
not reverent, and a bright thought struck me.

"What kind of poetry does His Holiness write?"

"Why, the most beautiful Latin elegiacs and hexameters."

"I thought so," I said triumphantly. "I knew that the Holy Father would
write nothing but in the style of the divine Mantuan. If you do anything
that way, my boy, I'll forgive you. Keep to your classics, keep to your
classics, and you're all right."

It was delightful to find us, the last remnant of the great generation
of the classical priests of Ireland, backed up by the first authority in
the world.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was twilight when I left, and I made my usual detour around our
hamlet. Outside the village and just beyond the school-house, in a
little cottage whose diamond windows are almost hidden under green
creepers, lived Alice Moylan, the head monitress in our little school. I
rather liked Alice, for when she was a little child of seven years, she
gave me an idea of something for which I had been long seeking. It was a
few years back, when I had not laid up my pen finally, but still
retained the belief, with a certain author, that "there is no greater
mental excitement, and scarcely a sweeter one, than when a young man
strides up and down his room, and boldly resolves to take a quire of
writing paper and turn it into a manuscript." And in these latter days
of life I still sought for a vision of our Lady, which I could keep
before my imagination when writing certain things in her honor. Now
(perhaps I have already said it), I had a peculiar devotion to the
Child-Virgin of the Temple and of the House of Nazareth, where in the
noontide the Archangel entered and spoke his solemn words. And I never
said the _Magnificat_ but on my knees and with a full heart, as I
thought on the Child-Prophetess of Hebron and the wondering aged saints.
But I sought her face everywhere in vain--in pictures, in the faces of
my little children; but not one came up to my ideal of what the little
maiden of the Temple and Nazareth was like. At last, one day, little
Alice came, and in her sweet oval face, and calm, entreating eyes and
raven hair, subdued beneath such a dainty frilled headdress, I saw our
Blessed Lady and wondered and was glad. And in those days of her simple
childhood, before the awful dawn of self-consciousness, I used dream and
dream, and put into form my dreams; and the face that haunted all my
sacred and poetic conceptions of our dear Queen was the face of little
Alice. But the child grew, and waxed in strength, but waned in
beauty,--at least the beauty I regarded when the white soul looked out
of the beautiful childish face. But Alice grew to be the village beauty,
and she knew it. Every one told her of it; but her chief admirer was the
little milliner, who lived down near the post-office, and whose simple
life was a mixture of very plain, prosaic poverty, and very high and
lofty romance. From this Miss Levis, who was a confirmed novel-reader,
Alice learned that "she had the face and form of an angel"; that "her
eyes had a velvety softness that drew you like an enchanted lake"; that
these same eyes were "starry in their lustrous beauty"; that she had
"the complexion of a creole, or rather the healthy pallor of the
high-born aristocracy of England"; that "her figure was willowy and
swayed like a reed in the wind"; and all the other curious jargon of the
novelette--the deadly enemy of simplicity and innocence. Then Alice grew
proud and vain, and her vanity culminated on the night of our concert in
November, when she drew up for the first time her luxuriant black hair
and tied it in a knot and bound it in a fillet, which was said to be the
_mode à la Grecque_. But she was a very pure, innocent girl withal, and
exceedingly clever in her work at school.

I had missed her recently, but had been occupied with other thoughts
until the time came for the quarterly salaries of the teachers; and I
noticed in the returns from the principal teacher that Alice had been
absent the greater part of the time. This evening, after leaving Father
Letheby, I determined to call, unprepared to witness the little tragedy
that was before me--one of those little side-scenes in the great drama
of existence, which God turns suddenly to the front lest we should ever
mistake the fact that our little world is a stage, and that we have all
the denizens of the veiled eternities for our audience. Mrs. Moylan was
one of those beautiful Irish mothers, who, having passed through the
stress and storm of life, was moving calmly into the great sea of Death
and Eternity. She had one of those Irish faces that were so typical of
our race some years ago, and the intense resignation and patience of
which rivalled the sweet innocence of our little Irish children for the
admiration of such a keen and sympathetic observer as Dr. Newman. There
were a few wrinkles in the pallid cheeks, and one or two lines across
the white forehead, crowned with the clean white cap which our Irish
mothers wear. She looked, I thought, a little reproachfully at me as I
entered, but only welcomed me with that courteous reverence which makes
us priests so often humbled and ashamed. After a few words I inquired
for Alice.

"My poor child hasn't been well, your reverence. We were jealous that
you never asked for her."

I protested my utter ignorance of her illness, and inquired what was the
ailment.

"You can see yourself, your reverence," the poor mother said, silently
wiping away a tear. "But," she whispered, "don't pretend to see
anything. She feels it very much."

I passed into the little chamber and was making my apologies to the
poor child, when, in spite of her mother's warning, I started back,
shocked and horror-stricken.

"Good God," I could not help crying out, "what has happened to you, my
poor child?"

She smiled faintly, and then a tear rolled down the leprous cheek. Ay!
indeed! my poor little Madonna, my little child, whose beauty was such a
dream of Paradise, was changed. The large, lustrous eyes were untouched;
but the fair cheek was one hideous, leprous sore. The black, glossy hair
was now a few dirty wisps. The child, whose face and figure every one
turned around to look at a second time, was now a revolting mummy,
seamed and scarred by some terrible disease. I had presence of mind
enough to take up the thin, white hand; she picked the coverlet and said
nothing. Her heart was too full of her misery to utter a word. I could
only say:--

"My poor child! my poor child!"

I turned to the mother.

"This is too dreadful! What has happened?"

"Dreadful enough, your reverence," she cried; "but welcome be the will
of God!"

"But what has happened?" I cried.

Then I thought it would be a relief to the poor child's feelings to tell
me her own sad tale, so I said:--

"Never mind! Alice will tell me all herself. Now, my child, tell me
all."

She did, with all the humility and such gentle submission to God's
decree that I wept freely. It would appear that on the afternoon of that
November concert, Alice, like so many other girls, was very much
engrossed in her preparations for the evening. She had studied the
"Young Lady's Journal" and several other works of interest and
usefulness, and all day long was highly excited over her appearance.
Once, when she was particularly engaged at the looking-glass, she heard
some one fumbling at the half-door, as if anxious to come into the
kitchen. Angry at being disturbed, she burst from her room, and saw in
the framework of the door an awful sight. It was a poor woman, whose
face was completely eaten away by a dread disease called nasal polypus.
The nose was completely gone and the upper lip. The eyes stared out as
if from a death's-head. The poor creature begged for alms; but Alice,
flushed at the thought of her own beauty, and in a rage from being
called away from her glass, clapped her hands and shouted:--

"Well, you _are_ a beauty."

"Not so handsome as you, alanna," said the afflicted one. "There was
wance when, perhaps, I was. But your time may come. Mockin' is catchin'.
Mockin' is catchin'."

And with these words the woman strode away.

"I could not get the thought of my sin out of my head all that day,"
continued Alice; "her face was always coming before me, until at last I
gave up looking at the glass. But when the night came and we were all in
the concert-room, my vanity came back again, for I heard people whisper
as I was passing, and my foolish head was turned. Then, when it was all
over, and the girls broke into groups, and the people were all around, I
tried to attract more attention. And I had been reading of a trick in
the novels for making one's self more interesting by standing on tiptoe
and opening the eyes widely; and, God help me! I was practising this
foolishness, thinking that some of the young men were admiring me for
it, when suddenly Father Letheby saw me, and he gave me a look that
struck me like a flash of lightning. I felt dazed and blinded, and asked
one of the girls to take me from the room and lead me home. But all that
night I never slept, the woman's face and the awful look that Father
Letheby gave me were staring at me out of the curtains and out of the
dark, until late in the morning I fell into a sleep, only to dream the
same dreadful things."

Here the poor girl broke down and sobbed in an agony of remorse.

"Well, then, Father, I got up sick and sorrowful, and before my
breakfast I went over there to the Blessed Virgin's altar and said a
Rosary, and begged and prayed her not to punish me for what I had done.
Sure, I said, 't was only a girl's foolishness and I was young; and I
promised then and there to give up novel-reading and to be good, and to
let my hair fall down, and to drop all my foolish notions; but 't was no
use. I saw something in the face of the Blessed Virgin that frightened
me, and I knew I was in for something. I didn't think my punishment
would be so dreadful."

Here the poor child sobbed again, and picked the coverlet mournfully as
she tried to choke down her emotion. I looked over at that statue of the
Blessed Virgin and shook my head reproachfully.

"Oh! Father, why does God punish us so terribly for such small sins?"
the poor girl went on. "And what must purgatory be, and what must hell
be when He punishes us so dreadfully here! I thought 't was all over and
my fear was vanishing, when one Sunday morning, dressing for Mass, I
noticed a tiny pimple here on my cheek. It wasn't as big as the head of
a pin; but it gave me great trouble. Not that I suspected anything; but
when our poor heads are turned with vanity, you don't know, Father, what
a worry these little blemishes are. I just touched it with my finger and
it bled. That night 't was an angry spot. I used everything I could
think of--lard, and butter, and ointment. No use. Every day it grew and
grew and grew into an ugly sore. Then I wrote, as Miss Levis advised
me, to a London doctor, recommended in the journals; he sent me a
prescription--"

"For nothing?" I interjected.

"No, indeed, Father. Before I was done with him it cost me a pound. But
I applied his cosmetics and became daily worse. Then my mother spoke of
making rounds. But I wouldn't leave her. I went to the school every
day, but I saw the girls watching me. I heard them whisper to each
other, and sometimes I caught their words. They weren't kind. Then I
stopped away. One day, while I was sitting at the door knitting,
suddenly the sun was darkened, and there was the dreadful face of that
woman over me.

"'I'm asking charity for God's sake,' she said.

"I got up humbly and gave her bread and twopence. She looked at me
keenly and said: 'God save you, alanna, and purtect you from misfortune.
Sure, 't was only a hasty word you said. God save you and purtect you,
alanna!'

"Then the frightful anger of God coming down upon me suddenly flashed
upon me, and I flung aside my knitting and rushed into this room, and
cried and screamed, and bit the counterpane until I tore it in threads,
and shrieked:--

"'Don't! don't, O Lord; Oh, don't! don't!'

"And then I turned to the Blessed Virgin and said the little prayer
'Remember' that you taught us, Father; 'Remember;' and then I said:--

"'You won't let Him, Mother! you won't let Him! Didn't you say you
wouldn't let Him?'

"But the face stared down at me pitilessly, pitilessly. There was no
hope."

The poor child stopped again, and to relieve her from the pain of memory
I said:--

"But wasn't the doctor called in all this time? The doctor is very
clever, you know."

"Oh, he was, Father! And he was very kind. But he was very angry; and I
think, Father, he cursed when I told him about these London cosmetics.
And one day he asked mother a lot of queer questions about father and
grandfather; and then he said something about 'strumous' and
'hereditary;' and he has done me no good."

"Did Father Letheby call?" I asked.

"Oh, dear, yes, that was my only consolation. He calls twice a week,
sometimes three times; and he brought Miss Campion, and she comes every
day and reads for hours with me; and look at those violets and lilies of
the valley--'t was she brought them; and sometimes a strange gentleman
comes with her, and he sits down and talks and puts queer questions to
me--all about God, and what I do be doing, and what I do be thinking.
But since Father Letheby told me that there is something behind it all
that I don't understand, and that some day I will understand it, and see
it is all God's love and not His anger, I am quite resigned, Father, and
I do be saying all day: 'Thy Will be done! Thy Will be done.' But I
break down when I think of all I've gone through."

"Let me see," I said, as a light began to dawn upon me; "you are now
perfectly resigned, my poor child, are you not?"

"Oh! yes, Father; and really happy. Only for mother, who frets about me
so much, I wouldn't care to be well again. Sure, as Father Letheby
says, I don't know but that something dreadful was in store for me; and
that God, in His mercy, has just saved me."

"Quite right! quite right! my child. And tell me now,--this strange
gentleman,--has he ever asked you to pray for him?"

"He did, Father. And I didn't like it at first; but Father Letheby said
I should. And I have been saying a Rosary for him every day since. And
the last day he was here he asked me: 'Now, Alice, tell me the plain
truth. Are you glad this has happened you?' I hesitated for a moment,
then I looked at the Wounds of our Lord, and I said firmly: 'I am.' And
he said: 'Do you believe God will give you back your beauty, and make it
a hundred times greater in heaven for all you have suffered here?' And I
said confidently: 'I do.' 'Alice, my child, will you pray and pray
strongly for me?' I said: 'I will, sir.' And he went away looking happy.
But, you know, Father, these are my good times, when I feel resigned
and think God is using me for His own wise purposes; welcome be His Holy
Will! But I am sometimes bad, and I get unhappy and miserable, and I ask
myself: 'Why did God do it? Why did God do it?' And once I said to our
Blessed Lady, when she looked so cold and stern,--I said--"

"What did you say, dear?"

"I said: 'If Daddy Dan was here, he wouldn't let you do it.'"

And the poor child smiled at her own childishness and simplicity.

"But that's not all, Father. I have told no one but mother and you; but
I'm all one running sore down to my feet, and the doctor said something
about an operation the other day. Sure, you won't allow that, Daddy Dan,
will you?"

She was rolling one of the buttons in my sleeve round and round in her
thin fingers, and looking wistfully at me.

"No, my child, no operation! You have gone through too much for that.
But now cheer up, Alice, it will all come right. Some of these days you
will see how our dear Lord and His Holy Mother love you. Why, don't you
know, you little goose, that these are signs of your predestination?
Don't you remember all that you have learned about the saints, and how
they prayed to be afflicted?"

"I do, Daddy Dan."

"And don't you remember all about those holy women that were marked with
the wounds of our Divine Lord?"

"I do, Daddy Dan."

"Very well! Now you're one of them. The Lord has made you His own. Now,
good by. I'll come to see you every day in future. But pray! pray! pray!
won't you?"

"I will, Daddy Dan! Will you come to-morrow?"

       *       *       *       *       *

This was all very well; but I was as cross as a bear with a sore head,
notwithstanding.

"Wisha, then, Mrs. Moylan," I said, as I was leaving the house, "aren't
you the mighty proud woman entirely, never to call in your parish
priest, nor send him word about your poor child! What are we coming to,
I wonder, when poor people are getting so much above themselves?"

"Well, then, I didn't like to be troubling your reverence. And sure, I
thought you knew all about it, and that Father Letheby told you."

"He didn't, then. You and he have kept it a great secret,--a great
secret entirely. Never mind. But tell me, is the poor child really
resigned?"

"Well, indeed she is, your reverence, excep' now and then, when the
whole thing comes back to her. In fact, she's less trouble than when she
was well. Then nothing could please her. She was always grumblin' about
her clothes, an' her food; and she was short and peevish. Now she is
pleased with everythin'. 'T is 'whatever you like, mother;' or ''t is too
good for me, mother;' or 'thank you kindly, mother,' until sometimes I
do be wishing that she had some of the old sperrit, and take me short in
her answers. But, sure, 't is all God's Blessed and Holy Will. Glory be
to His Holy Name!"

I went back through the village again and called upon Father Letheby. He
was just sitting down to dinner.

"I don't want to take away your appetite," I said, refusing the chair
which he proffered; "but I am for the first time genuinely angry with
you. I suppose you had your reasons for it; but you ought to know that a
parish priest has, by every law, natural and canonical, the right to
know about his sick or distressed poor people, and that a curate has no
right to be keeping these things a secret from him. Reticence and
secretiveness are excellent things in their way; but this too may be
overdone. I have just been down to Mrs. Moylan's to learn for the first
time that her child has been sick for nearly two months. You knew it and
you never told me. Now, I'll insist for the future that a sick-call book
shall be kept in the sacristy, and that the name of every patient, in
the parish shall be entered there. Good evening."

He flushed up, but said nothing.

I passed the chapel door and went in straight up to the altar of the
Blessed Virgin.

"Now," I said, "you've carried this entirely too far. Is this the return
I've got for all I've done for you for the past fifty years? Think of
all the Rosaries I said for you, all the Masses I offered for you, all
the May devotions I established for you, all the Brown Scapulars I gave
for you--all--all--and this is your return; and she your own child, that
I thought was so like you. 'Pon my word, I think I'll blow out that lamp
and never light it again."

The mild, brown eyes looked down on me calmly, and then that queer thing
called Conscience, that jumps up like a jack-in-the-box when you least
expect it, started at me and began:--

"What folly is this, Father Dan? Do you think you know more than God and
His Blessed Mother? Do you? Your head is so turned with heathen vanity
that you think you ought to get the reins of the universe into your
hands. Here's your classics, and your Spinoza, and your Cappadocians,
and your book-writing, and all your castles in the air, and your little
children lying on their sick-beds and you knowing nothing about it. Look
sharp, old man, your time is at hand, and think what the Judge may do
with you when His hand presses so tightly on His little children."

I sat down to my dinner, but couldn't touch a bit. It was a nice little
dinner, too,--a little roast chicken and a scrap of bacon and some nice
floury potatoes. No use. The thought of that child would come before me,
and her piteous cry: "Oh, don't, dear Lord, don't!" and, "Sure you won't
let Him, Mother; you said you wouldn't;" and with a great big lump in
my throat I pushed aside the plate and went over to the darkening
window.

After a time Hannah came in, looked at the dishes, and looked at me.

"Was there anything wrong with the chicken?" she said, thinking I was
reflecting on her cookery.

"No, Hannah, 't was all right; but I'm not in a humor for eating."

She was surprised. So was I. It was the first time for many years that I
bolted. Thank God, a good appetite and His Divine Grace have never
deserted me.

"I'm thinkin' you're in for somethin'," she said. "And no wondher! I
niver knew a man to timpt Providence like you. Will you have the hot
wather, as you ate nothin'?"

"Don't mind, Hannah. I'll have a cup of tea by and by."

I sat down to the fire, looking into all its glowing crevices and
crannies, thinking, thinking of many things. By and by, in came Father
Letheby. He was subdued and deferential, but evidently very much hurt at
my unaccustomed rudeness. He stood with his back to the fire, looking
down on me, and he said, in his best Sunday accent, smoothed and
ironed:--

"I confess, sir, I am still quite at a loss to understand your
rather--well--forcible remarks this evening. I can see, certainly, a
great deal of reason in your irritation; and I am not at all disposed to
contravene the principle that you have an indefeasible right to be
acquainted with the sorrows and trials of your parishioners; but pardon
me for saying it, I was only carrying out, perhaps too logically, your
own reiterated teaching."

"Look here," said I, "have you had your dinner?"

"Yes, sir," said he.

"Well, then, sit down, and have your coffee here. Touch that bell."

He sat down, and somehow this took a lot of the starch out of him.

"You were saying something," said I, "about my teaching. When did I ever
teach you to keep the most vital interests of these poor people a secret
from me?"

"Well," said he, balancing the sugar in his spoon over the cup, "if
there was one lesson more than another that was continually dinned into
my ears, it was: 'When a young man comes into a strange parish, he
must be all eyes and ears, but no tongue,' and I think you quoted some
grave authorities for that aphorism."

[Illustration: "Was there anything wrong with the chicken?"]

"Quite so," I replied. "I think it is a most wholesome advice. For there
never yet was a young man that was not disposed to think that he could
run a parish better than all the pastors that lived for generations
there. But did you understand me to say that we were never to talk over
and discuss parochial affairs?"

"Well, I confess," said he, "I did not. But you see, sir, your thoughts
were running in quite another channel. You were interested in the
classics and in literary matters."

"My conscience, my dear boy, has already made me aware of that, and in
somewhat more forcible and less polite language than you have used. Now,
I admit that I have been a surly old curmudgeon this afternoon, and I am
sorry for it; but hereafter, don't leave me in the dark any longer about
my parishioners. It seems to me that, if we dropped our occasional
uncharitableness about each other and our more occasional criticisms on
our superiors, and addressed ourselves to the work God gives us to do in
that limited circle He has drawn about us, it would be all the better."

"Well, sir, I quite agree with you. But I must say that for the few
months I have been here, I do not remember to have heard much
uncharitableness about our brethren from you."

There now! How can you be angry with a fellow like that? The black cloud
turned softly into gray, and the gray turned slowly round, and showed
only the silver lining.



CHAPTER XXI

THE FACTORY


Notwithstanding my gloomy forebodings, I find that Father Letheby has
eagerly grasped the idea of writing on the historical and philosophical
subjects I had suggested. Where he got books of reference I know not,
nor can I conjecture; but he has a silent way of accomplishing things
that would seem to a slow-moving mind like my own little short of a
miracle. When, therefore, one fine day in early April I strolled in to
see him (for that little tiff about the sick child has only cemented our
friendship), I gasped to see a huge pile of quarto manuscript paper in a
fair way to be soon well blackened, and by the side of his writing-table
several heavy, leather-lined folios, which a certain visitor described
as "just the kind of book you would take with you for a stroll by the
seashore, or your annual holiday at Lisdoonvarna."

"Hallo!" I cried; "so you're at it. I thought you had given it up."

"I'm in for it," he replied modestly, "for good or ill. You see, I
recognized some truth in what you said, and I determined to do a little
to take away our reproach."

"I must say you are a singularly acute and deep thinker to recognize my
far-seeing, almost Promethean wisdom; but to tell you the truth, I
haven't the faintest idea of what I said to you, except to recommend
you to do something for the spread of Catholic literature."

"Never mind, Father Dan," he replied, "the seed is sown; the die is
cast. I intend to scribble away now and to submit my manuscript to the
editor of some ecclesiastical journal. If he accepts it, well and good;
if he doesn't, no harm done. By the way, you must help me, by looking
over this translation of the funeral oration of St. Gregory Nazianzen on
St. Basil. I depend on your knowledge of Greek a great deal more than on
these garbled versions of Scotch or Oxford translators."

Isn't that a nice young man? What could I do but go over, then and
there, that famous panegyric, that has made the author as great as his
subject. At the end of his papers on the "Three Cappadocians," Father
Letheby intends to give in Greek, with English translation, passages
from their sermons and poems. A happy idea!

"Now, so far so good!" said Father Letheby, after this little
conference. "The metaphysical subject is more difficult to tackle,--a
fellow can be tripped up so easily; but we'll postpone that for the
present. Now here are three matters that concern us. I think Ormsby is
on the point of coming over. The prayers of the little children and of
that poor Dolores, Alice, have nearly pushed open the gates of the
Kingdom. At least, they're creaking on their hinges. Secondly, I'm
beginning to get afraid of that young girl. Under her awful cross she's
developing such sanctity as makes me nervous about guiding her any
longer. She is going up the eternal hills, and my spiritual sight cannot
follow. Thirdly, we open the shirt-factory on the 20th. I give you
timely warning, Father Dan, for you are to be chairman, and your speech
is to be the event of the occasion."

"Quite an anti-climax from the eternal hills," I said, noticing his
tendency to practical issues rather than to supernatural evolutions;
"but now, let us see. Are you sure of Ormsby?"

"Nearly so. I have left him severely alone--told him the matter
concerned himself altogether. He has given up reading and argumentation
of every kind. He says the _Veni Creator_ every day. But I think, under
Heaven, it is the patience and divine serenity of this poor child that
affect him most deeply."

"Then he isn't shocked at her appearance?"

"Oh, dear, yes! He cannot bear to look at her. He says it is more like
Oriental leprosy than anything he has seen in these countries. But her
gentleness and patience and her realization of the unseen startle him--"

"It has startled me more than once," I replied.

"And me. I begin to feel almost nervous about directing so high a soul.
I am glad you have noticed it, because you can give me lights."

"H'm. You are becoming sarcastic, young man. But I feel we are treading
on holy ground. Let us look to ourselves. How often do you give the
child Holy Communion?"

"Every Sunday and holiday."

"Has she asked for more frequent Communion?"

"Yes, indeed; but I hesitated."

"Hesitate no longer. _Digitus Dei est hic_."

Of course, I had seen all this myself; for in a quiet, unconscious way
this poor child had manifested even to my purblind eyes the dealings of
God's munificence with her. By degrees all the old vain regrets after
her beauty had yielded to perfect resignation; and resignation had grown
into peace, and peace had been transformed into rapture.

"I used be thinking, Daddy Dan, a good deal of what you said to me--how
these poor bodies of ours were but a little lime, and phosphorus, and
water; and that we must all go through the terrible changes of death;
and what you told me of that great saint in Spain and the dead queen;
but it was only when Father Letheby read to me about our Lord, 'a worm
and no man,' 'a leper and accursed by God and afflicted'; 'and one huge
sore from the crown of his head to the sole of his feet'--that I began
to think He had made me like Himself, welcome be His Will, and Holy be
His Name!"

Then I got her a fine big brass Crucifix from the Passionist Fathers at
Mount Argus, and left her to her wonder-working and merciful Master. But
she has impressed Ormsby profoundly. "The weak things of the world hast
Thou chosen to confound the strong." "Thy ways are upon the sea, and Thy
pathway on the mighty waters, and Thy footsteps are unknown."

"Well, now," I said to Father Letheby, getting out of my reverie, "to
come down from the Holy Mountain, what's this you are saying about the
shirt-factory? You don't mean to aver it is a _fait-accompli_?"

"Certainly," he replied, "everything is arranged; and on the 20th a
dozen sewing-machines will be clicking merrily in the old mill."

"You have the lamp of Aladdin," I said admiringly. "Now, who's to be
there?"

"All the gentry and the _élite_ of the neighborhood," he said.

"Rather a limited audience for a great occasion," I couldn't help
saying.

"No matter," he cried, rising up; "it is a good work, however. But
you'll take the chair, Father Dan, won't you?"

"All right," I replied, but with a little misgiving, for no one knows
what necromancy this fellow is capable of, and I had already conjured up
visions of the Lord Lieutenant and the Dowager This and the Countess
That--"but mind you, my speech is to come in at the end; and I promise
you they won't have to look long at their watches."

"Very good, sir," he replied, "all is now arranged."

I went down to see my little martyr, for she is pleased to say that I do
her good by my visits. There she lay meekly, the big crucifix in her
hands, and her lips always moving in silent prayer. The children often
come in to see her, she told me, and read by her bedside; for now there
is no jealousy, nor triumph, but all have begun to think that there is a
saint in the parish. The little milliner used come at the beginning, and
bring her little novelettes and journals, and talk about the fashions,
which only made the sufferer unhappy. All that is now stopped; and the
"Clock of the Passion" and the "Visions of Catherine Emmerich" are now
her only reading.

"Mr. Ormsby was here again to-day," she said.

"Indeed. And was he as inquisitive as usual?"

"Nearly," she said, with a smile. "But do you know, Daddy Dan, I think
he'll become a Catholic. Isn't it an awful thing not to be a Catholic,
Daddy Dan?"

"'Tis, my child. It's worse than being born blind."

"Now, what would I do if I had not our dear Lord"--kissing the
crucifix--"and His holy Mother? I'd rather a thousand times be as I am
than Queen of England."

"Of course. Who brought these flowers?"

"Miss Campion. She calls them lilies of the valley. Is it a sin to smell
them, Daddy Dan?"

"No, child, it is no sin. Nay, 't is a prayer if you glorify God for the
wonders He has wrought in these tiny leaves."

"But they'll fade away and die in a day or two, Daddy Dan!"

"So shall all beautiful things, my child, only to be transplanted where
there is no rust or fading."

"Thank you, Daddy Dan. That's just what I said to Mr. Ormsby. 'Do you
really believe,' he said, 'that it is the love of God that has smitten
you?' 'Yes,' I said firmly. 'Do you believe that you are all the dearer
to Him for that He has smitten you?' 'Yes,' I said, 'I'm sure of it.'
'And do you believe that God will take you out of the grave and build
you up far fairer than you have been?' 'I believe it most certainly,' I
replied. 'It's the sublime and the impossible,' he cried. And then he
said,--but I shouldn't repeat this, Daddy Dan,--'Mind, little one, if I
become a Catholic, it's you have made me one.' But it would be so nice,
if only to repay Miss Campion for all her goodness."

Then I began to think of some holy man that said: There should be an
invalid and an incurable one in every religious community, if only to
bring God nearer to them in His great love.

As I was leaving, Mrs. Moylan pulled me aside.

"Is there any chance at all, your reverence, of her recovery?"

She looked with a mother's wistfulness at me.

"For I do be praying to the Lord morning, noon, and night, that if it be
His Blessed and Holy Will, He would take her out of suffering, or
restore her to me."

I made no answer.

"You could do it, your reverence, if you liked. Sure, I don't want you
to do any harm to yourself, God forbid; but you could cure her and
restore her to me, if you plazed."

"I couldn't, Mrs. Moylan," I replied; "and what is more, I wouldn't
now take her away from God if I could. I was as bitter as you about it;
but now I see that God has His own designs upon your child, and who am I
that I should thwart Him?"

"Perhaps your reverence is right," she replied; "but the mother's heart
will spake up sometimes whin it ought to be silent."

I passed by my little chapel as I went home, and knelt down for a
prayer. I thought the Blessed Virgin looked queer at me, as if to say:--

"Well, are you satisfied now? Who was right--you or my Son?" And I went
home very humbled.

       *       *       *       *       *

The great day at last arrived. And if I was surprised the evening of the
concert at the transformation effected in the old mill, I was still more
surprised when, entering its precincts on the opening day of the
Kilronan Shirt-Factory, I came face to face with quite a distinguished
gathering. There were carriages drawn up at the door, the liveried
coachmen hardly able to hold the prancing horses' heads; and the owners
were in the great room upstairs, chatting in groups or examining the
machines, that, clean and bright and polished, only awaited the soft
touch of human fingers to work wonders. And there, on the large table
filling up the whole centre of the room, was displayed an assortment of
linen and flannels cut up into as many sections as you could take out of
all the diagrams of Euclid. And there, of course, was the stage,
undisturbed since the evening of the concert; and there were the same
flowers and palms, and the same little girls dressed in satin, and the
same piano, and Miss Campion, only waiting the signal to commence.

I moved up through the long hall, making my bows to right and left.
Father Letheby was chatting gayly with some very grand people, and
pointing out his little improvements here and there. He was in his best
optimistic humor, and was quite at his ease in the groups that
surrounded him. It is curious how we differ. I did not feel at all
comfortable, for I'd rather be talking over the cross-door to any old
woman about her chickens, or settling the price of a bonham, or
lecturing about the measles and the croup, than conversing with the
grandest people of the land. But every one to his tastes; and sure, I
ought to be proud that my good curate--

"I move that the parish priest take the chair."

"I beg to second the proposal," said a dapper young fellow, who looked
as if he had stepped out of a bandbox. And before I knew where I was, I
was on the stage ensconced in a comfortable chair; and then there was a
burst of music around me, which gave me leisure to look about and take
stock. It was all very nice. There was a great group of fine ladies in
front, and they were all staring at me as if I were a dime-museum
prodigy. I was "Gorgonized from head to foot with a stony, British
stare"; a cool, unblushing, calculating stare, that made me feel as if
I were turning into stone. I did not know what to do. I tried to cross
my legs coolly, but the arm-chair was too low, and I fell back in a most
undignified manner. Then I placed my hands on my knees, thinking that
this was the correct thing; but it struck me immediately that this was
the attitude at High Mass, and I gave it up as out of place. Then I
assumed an air of frigid composure, and toyed with my watch-chain. But a
little girl screwed her eyes into me, and said, evidently, in her mind:
"That old gentleman is a fidget." Then I leaned back gracefully, but
something whispered: "That's all right at home, Father Dan, but please
remember that the _convenances_ of society require a different posture;"
and I sat bolt upright in a moment. My eye caught in a blissful moment
my new handsome umbrella that lay against my chair. I took it up and
leaned with dignity upon it; but that aforesaid little girl looked at
me, and looked at her mamma, and said--I know she said in her own
mind--"That old gentleman thinks it is going to rain, and he wants to
open his umbrella. Mamma, tell him that there is no danger of rain
here." I put down my umbrella. Then Miss Campion--God bless her! she
always comes to my relief--tore her little fingers along the keys in a
grand finale, and then tripped over to her old pastor, and said
gayly:--

"Hurrah! Now, Father Dan, for the grand speech. Won't you astonish these
heretics?"

I believe I did astonish them. For, after a few preliminaries, I settled
down coolly into a quiet, deliberate talk; and I saw by degrees the
stony stare melt away into sunny smiles, and the sunny smiles broadened
into genteel laughter, and there was great clapping of hands, and
suppressed cheers, and altogether I felt that I held them all in the
palms of my hands. But that wicked little girl in the front seats held
out a long time. She did not know whether to laugh or to cry. She
blinked her eyes at me, as if to be sure it was not a spectral vision;
then looked dreadfully alarmed; then consulted her mother's face, now
wreathed in smiles; and then, when her brother was falling off the seat
laughing, and poking her with his stick, she condescended to relax her
awful stare, to smile, to look surprised at herself for smiling--at
last, to laugh. I knew then I had the victory, and I sang, _lo
Triumphe!_ in my own mind.

It is curious and interesting to notice how thoroughly these Protestant
folk warm to a priest the moment they discover he is not quite an ogre.
All these great people gathered round me; they were so delighted, etc.

"What's your name, my dear?" I said to the wicked little girl.

"Nonna!" she replied.

"By Jove!" I exclaimed, "St. Gregory's mother!"

"Naw," she said, "it's grandmaw's name."

"It's a pretty name all the same," I replied; "may you wear it as long
as grandma."

The girls were all sitting at the machines waiting. Down near the end of
the hall were two individuals in close conversation. They looked prosaic
and dull amid all the excitement. When I got near them I saw the man,
who was looking at me steadily, with one eye closed, whilst I was
speaking. He was an infidel, a Giaour, an incredulous, questioning,
calculating unbeliever in all my rosy forecastings. He was the manager
over from Loughboro'. The lady was manageress, and had come over to
superintend the initial proceedings at Kilronan. Somehow I didn't like
them. They chilled the atmosphere. There was that cool, business-like
air about them, that L. S. D. expression that shears off the rays of
imagination, and measures and weighs everything by the same low
standard. I saw Father Letheby buoyant, enthusiastic, not merely
hopeful, but certain of the success of his enterprise. I saw these two
business people chatting and consulting together, and I knew by their
looks that they were not quite so sanguine. It was "the little rift
within the lute."

As I went home, pondering and thinking,--for I didn't wait for the tea
and cake that are supposed to be essential to all these gatherings,--I
heard the patter of a light foot behind me, and in a minute Bittra was
by my side.

"Dear me!" she panted, "you are so young and active, Father Dan, it is
hard to keep up with you."

By which kind sarcasm I knew that Bittra had something good to tell me.

"Shall I call you Bittra or Beata?" I replied, looking down at her
flushed face.

"Beata! Beata! Beatissima!" she said, in a kind of ecstasy; "it is all
right; and God is _so_ good!"

"I always object to the fireworks style of elocution on the part of my
curate," I said, "and if you could shed a calm, lambent light on this
ecstatic episode, it would suit my slow intellect."

"Slow," she said, stopping,--"do you know, Father Dan, that is, you _do_
know, that you have just made one of the nimblest, wittiest, drollest,
most eloquent speeches that ever was made. I heard Mrs. S---- say that
she never could have believed--"

"Beata," I interrupted seriously, "my purgatory will be long enough, I
believe. Indeed, if I get out in the general exodus on the Day of
Judgment I shall consider myself happy. Where's the use in your adding
to it, and making an old vain man so much vainer? Tell me about what is
nearest to your heart to-day."

Thus soberized, she gave me a fairly consecutive account of what had
happened. I say "fairly," because, of course, there were many
exclamations, and notes of interrogation, and "asides," which I let pass
without comment.

Ormsby had paid the suffering child a visit that morning, and had put
his final theses and difficulties before her. Disbeliever in miracles,
he was face to face with a miracle. That such an awful affliction as
befell Alice should be accepted, not only with resignation, but with
joy; that she would consider it a positive misfortune to be restored to
her old beauty, and that she was forever thanking God that He had
elected her to suffering, was either of two things--insanity or
inspiration. And her faith in the supernatural--her intense realization
of the existence and the daily, hourly influence of our Lord and His
Blessed Mother, and her profound conviction that one day her physical
shame and torment would intensify her glory in Heaven--all this struck
him as a revelation, before which the antics of spiritualists, and the
foreknowledge of Brahmins, and the blank agnosticism of science paled
into contemptible insignificance.

Bittra, as usual, had been speaking to Mrs. Moylan in the kitchen.
Sitting on the straw chair, she spoke for the hundredth time her words
of consolation to the poor mother. The murmur of voices came clear, but
indistinct, from the little chamber of the sick girl. Then, after a
long conference, Ormsby came out, grave and collected as usual, and
Bittra having said good by to the mother, and kissed the leprous face of
the sick girl, they both walked on in silence, until they came to the
bridge that spanned the fiord near the "great house." Ormsby leaned on
the parapet of the bridge looking out over the tumbling waters for a
long time. Then, turning, he said:--

"Bittra, I _must_ become a Catholic."

Then Bittra put her hand in his gloved palm, and that was all.

"And was that all?" I exclaimed incredulously.

"That's all," said Bittra, "and wasn't it enough?"

"That's not the way a novelist would wind up such a delightful romance,"
I said. "There would have been at least twenty or thirty pages of lurid
description."

"Ah! but this is not a romance," said Bittra; "this is stern reality."

And she tried ineffectually to frown.

"It only remains now," she continued, "that Rex shall be instructed, and
that won't take long; and then received, and make his First Communion,
and that won't take long; and then--and then--"

She paused. I was studying attentively a seagull that was poised
motionless over the heaving waters.

"Father Dan, you're becoming very unkind."

"Indeed? I was only waiting for the date and circumstances of the
'then.'"

"Well, you see, it can't be May; because the people have a foolish
superstition about May; though I should _so_ like to be--to be--married
under our Lady's auspices. But the first day in June. Won't that be
delightful? And it must be right under the statue of the Sacred Heart;
and I shall put there such a mass of roses that day; and we shall both
go to Holy Communion, and you'll say the nuptial Mass, Father Dan--"

"I?"

"Yes, of course. Who else, I should like to know?"

"I thought you would be bringing down an Archbishop or even a
Cardinal--"

"Now, you're jesting as usual. I'll have no one but you--you--you--to
marry me; and perhaps, if I were not asking too much, the choir might
sing--"

"Certainly! They _must_. But I won't promise you that wedding-march by
that German fellow--"

"Mendelssohn?"

"Yes. That's his name, I believe. Nor that other march of that other
fellow, whom we see on the papers."

"I know. You mean the grand march in 'Lohengrin.' Why, Father Dan, what
a musician you are! Who would ever think it?"

"Ah, my dear, I'm not understood at all. But I'll promise you one
thing, my little child, such an ovation from the poor of Kilronan as
will make the angels cry with envy."

Here Bittra was silent.

"One word more, Father Dan," she said, wiping away a happy tear, "I must
be running back. Rex is waiting. But he doesn't speak enthusiastically
about this sewing business. You know he has great experience of the
world--"

I nodded "Of course."

"And he has seen all kinds of things, and he is awfully shrewd and
clever, and he knows people so well, and he understands business matters
so thoroughly--"

"Go on," I said, admiringly.

"Well," she continued, with a laugh, "he does not like this affair at
all, nor the boat business at all. He's afraid that Father Letheby, for
whom he has the greatest admiration, will become embarrassed in money
matters, and that there will be trouble--"

"Don't let this imaginary shadow darken your sunshine, Bittra. It will
be all right. Trust Father Letheby. He is very far-seeing."

"Well, good-by, Father Dan. Pray for me. And won't you go see our little
saint, and tell her? I have no time to-day."

"Good-by, and God bless you!" I said fervently.

It is these white souls that brighten the gray landscapes of life, and
make death desirable; for shall we not meet their sisters and compeers
in Heaven?



CHAPTER XXII

THE MAY CONFERENCE


My mail is not generally a heavy one, thank God! and when I do see a
sheaf of letters on my table, I feel pretty certain that there is
something unpleasant amongst them. I make it a rule, therefore, never to
read a letter until breakfast is over; for I think we ought take our
food, as the Lord intended, with a calm mind. And I am not one of those
ascetics whom every mouthful they swallow seems to choke. I take what
God sends with a thankful heart, and bless Him for it. And sure it was
well I followed this wholesome practice the following morning; for I do
not think I ever lost my equanimity so thoroughly as when, on opening a
circular, I saw a formal and extended and appalling syllabus of our
Conferences for that year. Up to this, our Conferences had been
conferences--informal conventions, where we met, talked over our little
troubles, discussed a rubrical or theological question in an academic
fashion, and listened with patience and edification to some young man,
who nervously read for an hour or so some carefully prepared paper on a
given subject. Then, if the Master of Conferences wanted to show how
well read he was, he put a few questions here and there around the
table. But if he was very persistent, and the chase became too hot, it
was easy to draw a red herring across the track, the aforesaid red
herring generally taking the shape of one of those venerable questions,
which, like the trisection of an angle, or the quadrature of a circle,
or the secret of perpetual motion, shall never be finally solved. The
red herring that did us most service, and was now, after the lapse of
forty years' discussion, a battered skeleton, was "whether invincible
ignorance on the part of the penitent as to the reservation of a
particular sin excused from the reservation, or whether faculties in
every case were withdrawn from the confessor." I believe the question
has been warmly debated in the schools; but there it remains, suspended,
like the Prophet's coffin (I am afraid my metaphors are getting mixed),
between heaven and earth.

But altogether these conferences were nice, pleasant occasions for
meeting the brethren and exchanging ideas. What was my consternation
this morning to read a series of new rules, as dogmatic as an Act of
Parliament, which put an end forever to the old order of things, and
reduced our delightful meetings to a number of monthly examinations on
Rubrics, Sacred Hermeneutics, Theology, and Ecclesiastical History. Our
names were all to go into a hat, and the unfortunate prizeman was to be
heckled and cross-examined by the chairman for ten minutes, like any
ordinary Maynooth student at the Christmas and Easter examinations. Then
came _the_ Conference, after three or four poor fellows had been turned
inside out. This was a paper to be read for three-quarters of an hour.
Then came another cross-examination of that unhappy man; then a series
of cross-questions, after we had all gone into the hat again. "And
then," I said to myself with chagrin and disgust, "they will gather up
all that remains of us from the floor and send us home for decent
interment." Here is one little trifle, that would easily fill up a
half-year's study in a theological seminary:--

    PRO MENSE AUGUSTO.

    (_Die I^ma Mensis._)

    1. Excerpta ex Statutis Dioecesanis et Nationalibus.
    2. De Inspiratione Canonicorum Librorum.
    3. Tractatus de Contractibus (Crolly).

"Good heavens," I exclaimed, as Father Letheby came in and read down the
awful list in the second copy which I handed him, "imagine that! What in
the world do bishops think? It is easy for them to be twirling their
rings around their little fingers and studying the stones in their
mitres. They have nothing else to do, as we all know, except the
occasional day's amusement of knocking curates around, as you would pot
balls on a billiard-table. But what consideration have they for us, poor
hard-working missionary priests? What do they know about our heavy
confessionals, our sick-calls, our catechising in the schools, our
preparing for our sermons, our correspondence for our people, with
Europe, Asia, Africa, America, and Oceanica, our--our--our--look at
this! 'Excerpta ex Statutis!' That means reading over every blessed
diocesan and national statute, that is, two ponderous volumes. Again,
'De Inspiratione'--the whole question of the Higher Criticism, volume
after volume, Bull after Bull, articles in all the magazines, and the
whole course of German exegetics. That's not enough! But here, as
dessert, after junks of Rubrics, and indigestible slabs of controverted
hermeneutics, come the light truffles and _pâté de foie gras_ of
Crolly's 'Contracts.' Begor, the next thing will be they'll want us to
preach our sermons before them; and then this Master of
Conferences,--he's a good fellow and an old classmate of my own; but of
course he must exhibit his learning, and bring in all his Christy
minstrel conundrums, as if any fool couldn't ask questions that twenty
wise men couldn't answer;--and then he'll cock his head, like a duck
under a shower, and look out of the window, and leave me stuck dead--"

There was a quiet smile around Father Letheby's mouth during this
philippic. Then he said, smoothing out the paper:--

"There is a little clause here at the end, which I think, Father Dan,
just affects you."

"Affects me? If there is, it didn't catch my eye. Show it to me."

I took the paper, and there, sure enough, was a little paragraph:--

     "6° The privilege, in virtue of which parish priests of a certain
     standing on the mission are exempted from the obligations of the
     Conference, will be continued."

I read that over three times to make quite sure of it, my curate looking
down smilingly at me.

"If _you_ are not of a certain standing, Father Dan, I'd like to know
who is."

"True for you," I replied musingly. "I believe I am called the Patriarch
of the Conference."

Visions of an old man, leaning back in his chair, whilst he was
proof-protected against theological bullets, swam before me; and I began
to feel like a man on a safe eminence, overlooking the battlefield, or a
Spanish lady at a bullfight.

"'Pon my word," I said, at length, "I'm beginning to think there is
something in it, after all. The Holy Ghost has something to say to our
good and holy prelates. There is no doubt there was a great waste of
time at these Conferences, and young men got into idle habits and
neglected their theology; and, you know, that's a serious matter. In
fact, it reaches sometimes to a mortal sin. We must _all_ study now. And
you see how practical the bishop is. There's Rubrics. Now, there's no
doubt at all that a good many of us don't respect the ceremonies of the
Mass. Go to Lisdoonvarna, and every fellow appears to have his own idea
of--"

[Illustration: "I read that over three times to make quite sure of it."]

"Pardon me, sir," said Father Letheby, "I cannot quite follow you
there. I must say I never saw the Rubrics half so well carried out in
England as here at home. In fact, this complaint appears to be one of
these satires on racial characteristics that are only half true, and
take all their force from traditional misrepresentations."

Isn't that fine language? You see, he's taking a leaf or two out of my
book.

"Well, but you can't deny that this question of Scriptural exegesis is
one of these dominant questions that must arrest the attention of all
who are interested in ecclesiastical or hieratical studies," said I,
trying to keep pace with him.

"Quite true," he said; "and yet I should like to see these new-fangled
theories about Scriptural inspiration, plenary or otherwise, lifted from
the shaking quagmires of conjecture onto the solid ground of
demonstration."

"You cannot deny whatever," I replied, just before giving in, "that
Crolly's 'Contracts' is solid and well-reasoned and coherent argument;
and look at its vast importance. It touches every question of social and
civil life--"

"It is an excellent heliograph in sunny weather," he said; "but what
about a muggy and misty day?"

"Well, God bless the bishop, whatever," I replied, throwing up the
sponge; "if we haven't the ablest theologians, the smartest Master of
Ceremonies, and the best Orientalists in Ireland, it won't be his fault.
Dear me, how far-seeing and practical he is!"

"But about his ring and his mitre, sir?" said my curate. "You were
pleased to make some observations a few minutes ago--"

"That'll do now," I replied. "My mare will be ready the morning of the
Conference. You'll drive, and we must be in time."

That was a pleasant drive. May in Ireland! What does it mean? It means
coming out of a dark tunnel into blinding sunshine; it means casting off
the slough of winter, and gliding with crest erect and fresh habiliments
under leafy trees and by the borders of shining seas, the crab-apple
blossoms, pink and white, scenting the air over your head, and primroses
and violets dappling the turf beneath your feet; it means lambs frisking
around their tranquil mothers in the meadows, and children returning at
evening with hands and pinafores full of the scented cowslip and the
voluptuous woodbine; it means the pouring of wine-blood into empty
veins, and the awakening of torpid faculties, and the deeper, stronger
pulsations of the heart, and the fresh buoyancy of drooping and
submerged spirits, and white clouds full of bird-music, as the larks
call to their young and shake out the raptures of their full hearts, and
the cheery salutations of the ploughmen, as the coulter turns over the
rich, brown soil, and the rooks follow each furrow for food.

"A grand day, Mick!"

"Grand, your reverence, glory be to God!"

"Good weather for the spring work."

"Couldn't be better, your reverence."

We're out of hearing in a flash, for the little mare feels the
springtime in her veins, and she covers the road at a spanking pace.

"You've thrown off twenty years of age, to-day, Father Dan," said Father
Letheby, as he looked admiringly at his old pastor, then turned swiftly
to his duty, and shook out the ribbons, and then drew them together
firmly, and the little animal knew that a firm hand held her, and there
was no fear.

"No wonder, my boy," I cried; "look at that!" And I pointed to the
[Greek: anêrithmon gelasma] of old Æschylus; but what was his Ægean or
even his Mare Magnum to the free and unfettered Atlantic? Oh! it was
grand, grand! What do I care about your Riviera, and your feeble,
languid Mediterranean? Give me our lofty cliffs, sun-scorched,
storm-beaten, scarred and seamed by a thousand years of gloom and
battle; and at their feet, firm-planted, the boundless infinity of the
Atlantic!

We were in time, and I was snugly ensconced in my old corner up near the
bishop's chair before the priests began to throng in. Now, I'd like to
know this. If an old gentleman, not hitherto very remarkable for
dandyism, chooses to brush his white, silvered hair over his
coat-collar, and has put on a spotless suit of black cloth, and sports
his gold chain and seals conspicuously, and wears his spectacles easily,
and drops them in a genteel manner on the silk ribbon that is suspended
around his neck; and if he is altogether neat and spruce, as becomes an
ecclesiastic of some standing in his diocese, is that a reason why he
should be stared at, and why men should put their hands in their pockets
and whistle, and why rather perky young fellows should cry "Hallo!" and
whisper, "Who's the stranger?" And even why the bishop, when he came in,
and we all stood up, should smile with a lot of meaning when I kissed
his sapphire ring and told him how well he looked?

"And I can reciprocate the compliment, Father Dan," his Lordship said;
"I never saw you look better. All these vast changes and improvements
that you are making at Kilronan seem to have quite rejuvenated you."

Father Letheby, at the end of the table, looked as demure as a nun.

"I must congratulate your Lordship also," I said, "on these radical
changes your Lordship has made in the constitution of our Conference. It
is quite clear that your Lordship means to give full scope to the
budding talent of the diocese."

A groan of dissent ran round the table.

"I'm afraid you must give up your Greek studies, Father Dan," said the
bishop; "you'll have barely time now to master the subject-matter of the
Conference."

"That's true, my Lord, indeed," I replied, "it would take twenty hours
out of the twenty-four, and seven days out of every week to meet all
these demands, at least for a valetudinarian ('Oh! Oh!' from the table).
But your Lordship, with your usual consideration, has taken into account
the nimble intellects of these clever young men, and exempted the
slow-moving, incomprehensive minds of poor old parish priests like
myself." ("No! No!! No!!!" from the table.)

"Now, now," said the Master of Conferences, a thin, tall, high
cheek-boned, deep-browed, eagle-eyed priest, whom I have already
introduced as "a great theologian," "this won't do at all. We're
drifting into the old ways again. I mustn't have any desultory
conversation, but proceed at once to business. Now, my Lord, would you
kindly draw a name?"

"Put in Father Dan! Put in Father Dan!" came from the table.

The bishop smilingly drew up number four; and the chairman called upon
Father Michael Delany.

Father Michael squirmed and twisted in his seat. He was a very holy man,
but a little peppery.

"Now, Father Michael," said the chairman blandly, "we'll take the
Rubrics first. Let me see. Well, what do you do with your hands during
the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice?"

"What do I do with my hands?" said Father Michael sullenly.

"Yes; what do you--do--with your hands?"

"That's a queer question," said Father Michael. "I suppose I keep them
on me."

"Of course. But I mean what motions--or shall we call them gestures?--do
you use?"

"What motions?"

"Yes. Well, I'll put it this way. There's an admirable book by an
American priest, Father Wapelhorst, on the Ceremonies. Now, he wisely
tells us in the end of the book what things to avoid. Could you tell me
what to avoid--what _not_ to do in this matter?"

"Don't you know, Father Michael?" said a sympathetic friend; "go on.
_Elevans et extendens_--"

"Young man," said Father Michael, "thank you for your information, but I
can manage my own business. What's this you were saying?" he cried,
turning to the Master of Conferences.

"What mistakes might a priest make with his hands during celebration?"

"What mistakes? Well, he might put them in his pocket or behind his
back, or--"

"Never mind, never mind. One question more. If you wore a pileolus,
zucchetto, you know, at what part of the Mass would you remove it?"

"I wouldn't wear anything of the kind," said Father Michael; "the five
vestments are enough for me, without any new-fangled things from
Valladolid or Salamanca."

The chairman had graduated at Salamanca.

"My Lord," I interposed charitably, "I don't want to interfere with this
interesting examination, but my sense of classical perfection and
propriety is offended by this word in the syllabus of to-day's
Conference. There is no such word in the Latin language as
'Primigeniis,'--'De Primigeniis textibus Sacræ Scripturæ--'"

"Now, Father Dan, this won't do," shouted the chairman. "I see what
you're up to. There must be no interruptions here. Very good, Father
Michael, very good indeed! Now, we'll take another. Father Dan, if you
interrupt again, I'll put you into the hat. Well, number eighteen! Let
me see. Ah, yes. Father Irwin!"

Poor Father Michael looked unhappy and discomfited. It is a funny
paradox that that good and holy priest, who, his parishioners declared,
"said Mass like an angel," so that not one of his congregation could
read a line of their prayer-books, so absorbed were they in watching
him, couldn't explain _in totidem verbis_ the Rubrics he was daily and
accurately practising.

Which, perhaps, exemplifies a maxim of the Chinese philosopher:--

    "One who talks does not know.
    One who knows does not talk.

    Therefore the sage keeps his mouth shut,
    And his sense-gates closed."

Before Father Irwin was questioned, however, there was a delightful
interlude.

Some one asked whether it was lawful for any one, not a bishop, to wear
a zucchetto during the celebration of Mass. As usual, there was a
pleasant diversity of opinion, some contending that the privilege was
reserved to the episcopate, inasmuch as the great rubricists only
contemplated bishops in laying down the rules for the removal and
assumption of the zucchetto; others again maintained that any priest
might wear one; and others limited the honor to regulars, who habitually
wore the tonsure. The chairman, however, stopped the discussion
peremptorily, and again asked (this time a very aged priest) the
question he had put to Father Delany. The old man answered promptly:--

"The zucchetto, or pileolus, is removed at the end of the last secret
prayer, and resumed after the ablutions."

"Quite right," said the chairman.

"By the way," said the old man, "you pronounce that word pileōlus.
The word is pileŏlus."

"The word is pileōlus," said the chairman, whose throne wasn't
exactly lined with velvet this day.

"Pardon me. The word is pileŏlus. You find it as such in the
scansions of Horace."

"This is your province, Father Dan," said the bishop. "There's no one in
the diocese so well qualified to adjudicate here--"

    "'Vixere fortes ante Agamemnona
    Multi--'

my Lord!" said I. I was drawing the bishop out. "There were ironical
cheers at 'Agamemnona.'"

                "'Mutato nomine, de te
    Fabula narratur,'"

said the bishop, smiling. "Of course, we have many a rich depositary of
classical lore here,

    "'At suave est ex magno tollere acervo.'"

"My Lord," said I, pointing around the table,

    "'Omnes hi metuunt versus, odere poetas,'"--

("Oh! Oh! Oh!" from the Conference.)

    "'Nec recito cuiquam nisi amicis, idque coactus
    Non ubivis coramve quibuslibet.'"

Here the Master of Conference, seeing that the bishop was getting the
worst of it, though his Lordship is a profound scholar, broke in:--

                                    "'Ohe!
    Jam satis est! Dum æs exigitur, dum mula ligatur,
    Tota abit hora.'"

He looked at me significantly when he said, "dum mula ligatur," but I
had the victory, and I didn't mind.

"Now, look here, Father Dan, you're simply intolerable. The Conference
can't get along so long as you are here. You are forever intruding your
classics when we want theology."

"I call his Lordship and the Conference to witness," I said, "that I did
not originate this discussion. In fact, I passed over in charitable
silence the chairman's gross mispronunciation of an ordinary classical
word, although I suffered the tortures of Nessus by my forbearance--"

"There will be no end to this, my Lord," said the chairman. "That'll do,
Father Dan. Now, Father Irwin."

I was silent, but I winked softly at myself.



CHAPTER XXIII

A BATTLE OF GIANTS


"Now, Father Irwin," said the chairman, addressing a smart, keen-looking
young priest who sat at the end of the table, "you have just come back
to us from Australia; of course, everything is perfect there. What do
you think--are the particles in a ciborium, left by inadvertence,
outside the corporal during consecration consecrated? Now, just reflect
for a moment, for it is an important matter."

"Unquestionably they are," said the young priest confidently.

"They are _not_," replied the chairman. "The whole consensus of
theologians is against you."

"For example?" said Father Irwin coolly.

"Wha-at?" said the chairman, taken quite aback.

"I doubt if all theologians are on your side," said Father Irwin. "Would
you be pleased to name a few?"

"Certainly," said the chairman, with a pitying smile at this young man's
presumption. "What do you think of Benedict XIV., Suarez, and St.
Alphonsus?"

The young man didn't seem to be much crushed under the avalanche.

"They held that there should be reconsecration?"

"Certainly."

"Let me see. Do I understand you aright? The celebrant intends from the
beginning to consecrate those particles?"

"Yes."

"The intention perseveres to the moment of consecration?"

"Yes!"

"And, the _materia_ being quite right, he intends to consecrate that
objective, that just lies inadvertently outside the corporal?"

"Quite so."

"And you say that Benedict XIV., Suarez, and St. Alphonsus maintain the
necessity of reconsecration?"

"Yes."

"Then I pity Benedict XIV., Suarez, and St. Alphonsus."

There was consternation. The bishop looked grave. The old men gaped in
surprise and horror. The young men held down their heads and smiled.

"I consider that a highly improper remark, as applied to the very
leading lights of theological science," said the chairman, with a frown.
And when the chairman frowned it was not pleasant. The bishop's face,
too, was growing tight and stern.

"Perhaps I should modify it," said the young priest airily. "Perhaps I
should have rather said that modern theologians and right reason are
dead against such an opinion."

"Quote one modern theologian that is opposed to the common and universal
teaching of theologians on the matter!"

"Well, Ballerini, for example, and the Salmanticenses--"

"Psha! Ballerini. Ballerini is to upset everything, I suppose?"

"Ballerini has the Missal and common sense on his side."

"The Missal?"

"Yes. Read this--or shall I read it?

     "'Quidquid horum deficit, scilicet materia debita, forma cum
     intentione, et ordo sacerdotalis, non conficitur Sacramentum; et
     his existentibus, quibuscunque aliis deficientibus, veritas adest
     Sacramenti.'"

"Quite so. The whole point turns on the words _cum intentione_. The
Church forbids, under pain of mortal sin, to consecrate outside the
corporal; consequently, the priest cannot be presumed to have the
intention of committing a _grave_ just at the moment of consecration;
and, therefore, he cannot be supposed to have the intention of
consecrating."

"Pardon me, if I say, sir," replied the young priest, "that that is the
weakest and most fallacious argument I ever heard advanced. That
reasoning supposes the totally inadmissible principle that there never
is a valid consecration when, inadvertently, the priest forgets some
Rubric that is binding under pain of mortal sin. If, for example, the
priest used fermented bread, if the corporal weren't blessed, in which
case the chalice and paten would be outside the corporal, as well as the
ciborium; if the chalice itself weren't consecrated, there would be no
sacrifice and no consecration. Besides, if you once commence
interpreting intention in this manner, you should hold that if the
ciborium were covered on the corporal, there would be no consecration--"

"That's only a venial sin," said the chairman.

"A priest, when celebrating," said Father Irwin sweetly, "is no more
supposed to commit a venial than a mortal sin. Besides--"

"I'm afraid our time is running short," said the bishop; "I'll remember
your arguments, which are very ingenious, Father Irwin. But, as the
chairman says, the _consensus_ is against you. Now, for the main
Conference, _de textibus Sacræ Scripturæ_."

"Father Duff will read his paper, my Lord, and then we'll discuss it."

"Very good. Now, Father Duff!"

Father Duff was another representation of the new dispensation, with a
clear-cut, smooth-shaven face, large blue-black eyes, which, however,
were not able to fulfil their duties, for, as he took out a large roll
of manuscript from his pocket, he placed a gold-rimmed _pince-nez_ to
his eyes, and looking calmly around, he began to read in a slow,
rhythmic voice. It was a wonderful voice, too, for its soft, purring,
murmurous intonation began to have a curious effect on the brethren. One
by one they began to be seized by its hypnotic influence, and to yield
to its soft, soporific magic, until, to my horror and disgust, they
bowed their heads on their breasts, and calmly slept. Even the Master of
Conference, and the bishop himself, gently yielded, after a severe
struggle. "I shall have it all to myself," I said, "and if I don't
profit much by its historical aspects, I shall at least get a few big
rocks of words, unusual or obsolete, to fling at my curate." And so I
did. Codex Alexandrinus, and Codex Sinaiticus, and Codex Bezæ, and Codex
Vaticanus rang through my bewildered brain. Then I have a vague
recollection that he actually laughed at the idea of six literal days of
creation, which made an old priest, out of his dreams, turn over to me
and whisper: "He's an infidel"; then, again, he ridiculed the idea of
the recognized authorship of the Pentateuch; spoke of Chaldean and
Babylonian interpolations; knocked on the head the Davidical origin of
the Psalms; made the Book of Daniel half-apocryphal; introduced the
Book of Job, as a piece of Arabian poetry, like the songs of some man
called Hafiz; talked about Johannine Gospels and Pauline Epistles; and,
altogether, left us to think that, by something called Ritschlian
interpretations, the whole Bible was knocked into a cocked hat. Then he
began to build up what he had thrown down; and on he went, in his
rhythmical, musical way, when just as he declared that "the basal
document on which everything is founded is the ur-evangelium, which is
the underlying cryptic element of the Synoptic Gospels,"--just as he
reached that point, and was going on about Tatian's "Diatessaron," a
deep stertorous sound, like the trumpeting of an elephant, reverberated
through the conference room. They all woke up, smiling at me, and as
they did not seem inclined to apologize to Father Duff for their
misbehavior, I said gravely and most angrily:--

"My Lord, I think the Conference should be a little less unconscious of
the grave discourtesy done to one of the most able and erudite papers
that I have ever heard here--"

There was a shout of irreverent laughter, in which, I am sorry to say,
the bishop joined. At least, I saw his Lordship taking out a silk
handkerchief and wiping his eyes.

"I propose now, my Lord, as an _amende_ to the most cultured and
distinguished young priest, that that valuable paper be sent, with your
Lordship's approbation, to some ecclesiastical journal in Ireland or
America. Its appearance in permanent print may give these young men some
idea of the contents of the document, the main features of which they
have lost by yielding, I think too easily, to the seductions of
ill-timed sleep--"

Here there was another yell of laughter, that sounded to my ears
ill-placed and discourteous; but the chairman again interposed:--

"Now, Father Duff, if you are not too highly flattered by the encomiums
of Father Dan, who was your most attentive and admiring listener, I
should like to ask you a few questions on the subject-matter of your
paper."

"Surely," I declared, "you are not going to attack such a stronghold?
Besides, the time is up."

"There is a full hour yet, Father Dan," said the bishop, consulting his
watch; "but you won't mind it, you are able to pass your time so
agreeably."

I did not grasp his Lordship's meaning; but I never do try to penetrate
into mysteries. What's that the Scripture says? "The searcher after
majesty will be overwhelmed with glory."

But the little skirmishes that had taken place before the paper was read
were nothing to the artillery-duel that was now in progress.

"With regard to the Septuagint," said the chairman, "I think you made a
statement about the history of its compilation that will hardly bear a
test. You are aware, of course, that Justin, Martyr and Apologist,
declares that he saw, with his own eyes, the cells where the Seventy
were interned by order, or at the request, of Ptolemy Philadelphus. How,
then, can the letter of Aristeas be regarded as apocryphal?"

"Well, it does not follow that the whole letter is authentic merely
because a clause is verified. Secondly, that statement imputed to Justin
may be also apocryphal."

"Do you consider the names of the seventy-two elders also unauthentic?"

"Quite so."

"And altogether you would regard the Septuagint as a rather doubtful
version of the Ancient Law?"

"I'd only accept it so far as it agrees with the Vulgate and the
Codices."

"But you're aware it was in common use amongst cultivated Jews years
before the coming of our Lord; in fact, it may be regarded as a
providential means of preparing the way of the Lord for the Jews of
Greece and Alexandria."

"That proves nothing."

"It proves this. It is well known that the Hebrews were scrupulously
exact about every title and letter, and even vowel-point--"

"I beg your pardon, sir; the Hebrews before Christ didn't use
vowel-points."

"That's a strong assertion," said the chairman, reddening.

"It is true. I appeal to his Lordship," said Father Duff.

"Well," said the bishop diplomatically, "that appears to be the received
opinion; but the whole thing is wrapped up in the mists and the twilight
of history."

I thought that admirable.

"To pass away from that subject," said the chairman, now somewhat
nervous and alarmed, "I think you made statements, or rather laid down a
principle, that Catholics can hardly accept."

Father Duff waited.

"It was to the effect that in studying the history of the Bible, as well
as in interpreting its meaning, we must take into account the
discoveries and the deductions of modern science."

"Quite so."

"In other words, we are to adopt the conclusions of German rationalistic
schools, and set aside completely the supernatural elements in the
Bible."

"Pardon me; I hardly think that deduction quite legitimate. There are
two schools of thought in the Church on this question: the one maintains
with Dr. Kaulen, of Bonn, that the conclusions of modern criticism are
so certainly erroneous that young students should not notice them at
all. The other holds that we must read our Bibles by the light of modern
interpretation. The official Encyclical of the present Pope Leo XIII.
('Providentissimus Deus') should have closed the controversy; but men
are tenacious of their opinions, and both schools in Germany utilize the
Encyclical for their own ends. Professor Aurelian Schöpfer, of the
Brixen, at once published his book ('Bible and Science'), in which he
maintained that the teaching of the natural sciences may be used by
Catholics not only to confirm Biblical statements, but to interpret
them. As I have said, he was opposed by Kaulen, of Bonn. There was a
second duel between Schantz of Tübingen, and Scholz of Würzburg. The
former insisted that no new principle of Biblical interpretation has
been introduced by the Encyclical; the latter that the principle of
scientific investigation was recognized, and was to be applied. Now, a
Protestant, König of Rostock, was interested in this Catholic
controversy, and collected seventy reviews of Schöpfer's work by leading
scholars in Germany, Austria, France, Ireland, America; and he found
that five sixths endorse the position of the author--"

"You might add, Father Duff," said my curate, who was an interested
listener to the whole argument, and who had been hitherto silent, "that
these reviewers found fault with Schöpfer for ignoring the _consensus
patrum_, and for decidedly naturalistic tendencies."

The whole Conference woke up at this new interlude. The chairman looked
grateful; the bishop leaned forward.

"But the 'Civiltà Cattolica,'" said Father Duff, "which we may regard as
official, says, in its review of the same book: 'Biblical history cannot
be any longer stated except in agreement with the true and correct
teaching of the Bible and the reasonable conclusions of the natural
sciences.'"

"Quite so," said Father Letheby, "that applies to the certain
discoveries of geology and astronomy. But surely you don't maintain that
philology, which only affects us just now, is an exact science."

"Just as exact as the other sciences you have mentioned."

"That is, as exact as a mathematical demonstration?"

"Quite so."

"Come now," said my curate, like a fellow that was sure of himself,
"that's going too far."

"Not at all," said Father Duff; "I maintain that the evidence of history
on the one hand, and the external evidence of monuments on the other,
combined with the internal evidence of Scriptural idiomatisms of time
and place, are equivalent to a mathematical demonstration."

"You'll admit, I suppose," said Father Letheby, "that languages change
their structures and meanings very often?"

"Certainly."

"The English of Shakespeare is not ours."

"Quite so."

"Even words have come to have exactly antithetical meanings, even in a
lapse of three hundred years."

"Very good."

"And it is said that, owing to accretions, the language we speak will be
unintelligible in a hundred years' time."

"Possibly."

"Now, would you not say that a contemporary of Shakespeare's would be a
better judge of his poetry and its allusive and natural meaning than
ever so learned a linguist, after an interval of change?"

"Well, I should say so. I don't know where you are drifting."

"What is the reason that we never heard of these 'internal evidences,'
these 'historical coincidences,' these 'exclusive idioms,' from Origen
or Dionysius, or from Jerome or Augustine, from any one of the Fathers,
who held what we hold, and what the Church has always taught, about the
authorship of the Sacred Books, and to whom Hebrew and Greek were
vernacular?"

"But, my dear sir, there are evident interpolations even in the
Gospels. Do you really mean to tell me that that canticle of the
_Magnificat_ was uttered by a young Hebrew girl on Hebron, and was not
rather the deliberate poetical conception of the author of St. Luke's
Gospel?"

I jumped from my seat; but I needn't have done so. I saw by the
whitening under my curate's eyes, and the compression of his lips, and
his eyes glowing like coal, that our dear little Queen's honor was safe
in his hands. Father Duff couldn't have stumbled on a more unhappy
example for himself. Father Letheby placed his elbows on the table and,
leaning forward, he said in a low, tremulous voice:

"You may be very learned, Father, and I believe you are; but for all the
learning stored up in those German universities, which you so much
admire, I would not think as you appear to think on this sacred subject.
If anything could show the tendency of modern interpretations of the
Holy Scriptures, it would be the painful and almost blasphemous opinion
to which you have just given expression. It is the complete elimination
of the supernatural, the absolute denial of Inspiration. If the
_Magnificat_ is not an inspired utterance, I should like to know what
is."

There was a painful silence for a few seconds, during which I could hear
the ticking of my watch. Then the Master of Conference arose, and,
kneeling, said the _Actiones nostras_. We were all gathering up our
books and papers to disperse, when the Bishop said:--

"Gentlemen, the annual procession in honor of our Blessed Lady will be
held in the Cathedral and College grounds on the evening of May the
31st. I shall be glad to see there as many of you as can attend. Dinner
at four; rosary and sermon at seven o'clock. Father Letheby, would you
do me the favor of preaching for us on that occasion?"

Father Letheby blushed an affirmative; and then the bishop, with
delightful tact, turned to the humbled and almost effaced Father Duff,
and said:--

"Father Duff, leave me that paper; I think I'll adopt the admirable
suggestion of our friend, Father Dan."

Some of the young fellows, wits and wags as they were, circulated
through the diocese the report that I tried to kiss the bishop. Now,
there is not a word of truth in that--and for excellent reasons. First,
because like Zacchæus, I am short of stature; and the bishop--God bless
him!--is a fine, portly man. Secondly, because I have an innate and
congenital dread of that little square of purple under his Lordship's
chin. I'm sure I don't know why, but it always gives me the shivers. I'm
told that they are allowing some new class of people called
"Monsignori," and even some little canons, to assume the distinctive
color of the episcopate. 'T is a great mistake. Our Fathers in God should
have their own peculiar colors, as they have their own peculiar and
tremendous responsibilities. But I'll tell you what I did. I kissed the
bishop's ring, and I think I left a deep indentation on his Lordship's
little finger.

The Master of Conference detained me.

"I'm beginning to like that young fellow of yours," he said. "He appears
to have more piety than learning."

"He has both," I replied.

"So he has; so he has, indeed. What are we coming to? What are we coming
to, at all?"

"Then I suppose," I said, "I needn't mind that bell?"

"What bell?"

"The bell that I was to tie around his neck."

"Father Dan, you have too long a memory; good by! I'm glad you've not
that infidel, Duff, as curate."

We went home at a rapid pace, my curate and I, both too filled with
thought to speak much. At last, I said, shaking up:--

"I'm beginning to think that I, too, took forty winks during the reading
of that paper."

"I think about forty minutes of winks, Father Dan," he replied. "You
slept steadily for forty minutes out of the forty-five."

"That's a calumnious exaggeration," I said; "don't I remember all about
Job, and Daniel, and the synoptic Gospels."

"These were a few preliminaries," replied my curate.

"But who was that undignified and ungentlemanly fellow that woke us all
with such a snore? I suppose it was Delaney?"

"No; it was not Delaney. He was too agitated after his rencontre with
the chairman to fall asleep."

"Indeed? Perhaps it would be as well for me not to pursue the subject
further. This will be a great sermon of yours."

"I'm very nervous about it," he said, shaking the reins. "It is not the
sermon I mind, but all the dislike and jealousy and rancor it will
cause."

"You can avoid all that," I replied.

"How?"

"Break down hopelessly and they'll all love you. That is the only road
to popularity--to make a fool of yourself."

"I did that to-day," he said. "I made a most determined cast-iron
resolution not to open my lips unless I was interrogated, but I could
not stand that perkiness and self-sufficiency of Duff, especially when
it developed into irreverence."

"If you had not spoken I should have challenged him; and I am not sure I
would have been so polite as you were. The thing was unpardonable."

We dined at Father Letheby's. Just after dinner there was a timid knock
at the door. He went out, and returned in a few minutes looking
despondent and angry. I had heard the words from the hall:--

"She must give it up, your reverence. Her little chest is all falling
in, and she's as white as a corpse."

"One of the girls giving up work at the machines," he replied. "She's
suffering from chest trouble, it appears, from bending over this work."

"Who is she?" I queried.

"Minnie Carmody--that tall girl who sat near the door."

"H'm," I said. "I think it would be nearer the truth to say that Minnie
Carmody's delicacy comes from the vinegar bottle and white paper. She
was ashamed of her red face, and this is the latest recommendation of
the novelette to banish roses, and leave the lilies of anæmia and
consumption."

"It augurs badly, however," he replied. "The factory is not open quite a
month yet."



CHAPTER XXIV

THE SERMON


I am quite sure that sermon cost me more anxiety and trouble than Father
Letheby suffered. I was deeply interested in its success, of course. But
that was not the point. I am probably the feeblest and worst preacher in
my diocese. This gives me the indefeasible right to dogmatize about
preaching. Just as failures in literary attempts are the credentials of
a great critic, so writers on sermons can claim the high authority and
ambassadorship to dictate to the world, on the grounds that they are
incapable of producing even a catechetical discourse. But they fall back
upon that universal and indisputable privilege of our race--the belief
in their own infallibility. It often surprised me that the definition of
Papal Infallibility, which concentrated in the Vicegerent of the Most
High the reputed privilege of our race, did not create a greater outcry.
It was the final onslaught of the Holy Spirit on the unspeakable vanity
of the race. It was the death-blow to private judgment. At least, it
ought to have been. But, alas! human vanity and presumption are eternal
and indestructible. From the corner-boy here at my window, who asks
indignantly, "Why the deuce did not Gladstone push his Bill through the
House of Lords, and then force the Commons to accept it?" to the flushed
statesman, whose dream is Imperialism; from the little manikin critic,
who swells out his chest, and demands summary vengeance on that idiot of
an author who has had the daring presumption to write a book on the
Greek accent, or binary stars, up to the _Jupiter Tonans_ of the
world-wide circulating journal, which dictates to the universe, it is
all the same. Each from his own little pedestal--it may be the shuffling
stilts of three feet high, or it may be the lofty security of the
Vendôme column--shrieks out his little opinion, and demands the silence
or assent of the universe. Would that our modern Stylites, like to those
of old, might, from their eminences, preach their own nothingness! Would
that, like the Muezzins of Islam, they might climb the minarets of
publicity and fame, only to call the world to praise and prayer!

But I, sharing the weaknesses, and, therefore, the privileges of a
common humanity, claim the right to the luxury of preaching, which comes
nearest to that of criticising, and is only in the third degree of
inferiority from that supreme pleasure that is involved in _I told you
so_.

And so, here by the western seas, where the homeless Atlantic finds a
home, do I, a simple, rural priest, venture to homilize and
philosophize on that great human gift of talk. Imagine me, then, on one
of those soft May evenings, after our devotions in my little chapel, and
with the children's hymns ringing in my ears, and having taken one pinch
of snuff, and with another poised in my fingers, philosophizing thus:--

"I think--that is, I am sure--that the worst advices I ever heard given
in my life were these:--

     "On Preaching.--Try to be simple; and never aim at eloquence.

     "On Meditation.--Keep your fingers in your Breviary, and think over
     the lessons of the Second Nocturn.

"And they are evil counsels, not _per se_, but _per accidens_; and for
precisely similar reasons. They took no account of the tendency of human
nature to relax and seek its ease. When the gray-haired counsellor said,
'Be simple,' he said, 'Be bald and vulgar.' For the young men who
listened aimed at simplicity, and therefore naturally argued, the
simpler the better; in fact, the conversational style is best of all.
Where, then, the need for elaborate preparation? We shall only vex and
confuse the people, consequently preparation is superfluous. We know the
results. 'A few words' on the schools; an _obiter dictum_ on the
stations; a good, energetic, Demosthenic philippic against some scandal.
But instruction,--oh, no! edification,--oh, no! That means preparation;
and if we prepare, we talk over the people's heads, and we are
'sounding brasses and tinkling cymbals.'"

"But surely, sir, you wouldn't advise young men to study the eloquence
of Massillon, or Bourdaloue, or Lacordaire? That would be talking over
their heads with a vengeance."

"Do you think so?" I said. "Now, listen, young man. Which is, you or I,
the elder? I am. All right. Now, my experience is that it is not the
language, however eloquent, the people fail to follow, but the ideas,
and they fail to follow the ideas because they are ill-instructed in
their religion. Of course, I'm involved in the censure myself as well
as others. But I proved this satisfactorily to myself long ago. We were
in the habit of 'reading a book' at the Lenten exercises in the last
town wherein I officiated as curate. Now, the people hate that above all
things else. They'd rather hear one word from a stuttering idiot than
the highest ascetical teaching out of a book. Nevertheless, we tried it;
and we tried the simplest and easiest books we could find. No use. They
couldn't follow one paragraph with intelligence. One evening I read for
them--it was in Passion week--the last discourse of our Lord to His
disciples--words that I could never read without breaking down. I assure
you, they failed to grasp the meaning, not to speak of the pathos and
divine beauty, of those awful words. They told me so."

"Do you mean then to conclude that we, young priests, should go in for
high, flowery diction, long phrases, etc.? I could hardly imagine any
man, least of all you, sir, holding such a theory!"

"You're running away with the question, my boy. The eloquence that I
recommend is the eloquence of fine taste, which positively excludes all
the ornaments which you speak of."

"By Jove, we don't know where to turn," said my curate. "I never
ventured, during my late English experience of seven years, to stand in
the pulpit and address the congregation, without writing every word and
committing it to memory. I daren't do otherwise; for if I made a
mistake, fifty chances to one, some Methodist or Socinian would call at
the presbytery next morning and challenge me to deadly combat."

"And why should you give up that excellent habit here," I said, "and go
on the _dabitur vobis_?"

"Because you may conjecture easily that I shall be talking over their
heads."

"Better talk over their heads, young man, than under their feet. And
under their feet, believe me, metaphorically, they trample the priest
who does not uphold the dignity of his sacred office of preacher. 'Come
down to the level of the people!' May God forgive the fools who utter
this banality! Instead of saying to the people: 'Come up to the level of
your priests, and be educated and refined,' they say: 'Go down to the
people's level.' As if any priest ever went down in language or habit
to the people's level who didn't go considerably below it."

"'Pon my word, Father Dan," said Father Letheby, "if I did not know you
so well, I would think you were talking nonsense."

"Hear a little more nonsense!" I said. "I say now that our people like
fine, sonorous language from the altar; and they comprehend it! Try them
next Sunday with a passage from Lacordaire, and you'll see what I mean.
Try that noble passage, 'Il y a un homme, dont l'amour garde la
tombe,'--'There is a man whose tomb is guarded by love,'--and see if
they'll understand you. Why, my dear fellow, fifty years ago, when the
people were a classical people, taught only their Homers and Virgils by
the side of the ditch, they could roll out passage after passage from
their favorite preachers, and enjoy them and appreciate them. It was
only a few days since, I was speaking on the subject to a dear old
friend, who, after the lapse of fifty years, quoted a passage on Hell
that he had heard almost as a child: 'If we allowed our imagination, my
dear brethren, to dwell persistently on this terrific truth, Reason
itself would totter on its throne.' But the people of to-day cannot
quote, because they cannot get the opportunity. The race of preachers is
dead."

I shut him up, and gave myself time to breathe.

"Would you say then, sir," he said meekly, "that I should continue my
habit of writing out verbatim my sermons, and then commit them to
memory?"

"Certainly not," I replied, "unless you find it necessary to maintain
the high level on which all our utterances should be placed. And if now,
after the practice of seven years, you cannot command your language, you
never will. But here is my advice to you, and, as you are a friend, I
shall charge nothing for it, but I make it copyright throughout the
universe:--

      I. Study.
     II. Preach not Yourself, but God.
    III. Live up to your Preaching.

That's all."

He appeared thoughtful and dissatisfied. I had to explain.

"A well-filled mind never wants words. Read, and read, and read; but
read, above all, the Holy Scriptures. Never put down your Breviary, but
to take up your Bible. Saturate yourself with its words and its spirit.
All the best things that are to be found in modern literature are simple
paraphrases of Holy Writ. And interweave all your sentences with the
Sacred Text. All the temporal prosperity of England comes from the use
of the Bible, all its spiritual raggedness and nakedness from its
misuse. They made it a fetish. And their commentators are proving, or
rather trying to prove, that it is only a little wax and
pasteboard--only the literature of an obscure and subjugated race. But,
even as literature, it has had a tremendous influence in forming the
masculinity of the British character. They are now giving up the Bible
and the Sabbath. And the _débâcle_ is at hand. But I often thought we
would have a more robust piety, a tenderer devotion, a deeper reverence,
if we used the Sacred Scriptures more freely. And our people love the
Sacred Writing. A text will hang around them, like a perfume, when all
the rest of our preaching is forgotten. Why, look at myself. Forty years
ago I attended a certain Retreat. I forget the very name of the Jesuit
who conducted it; but I remember his texts, and they were well chosen:--

     'I have seen a terrible thing upon the earth: a slave upon
     horseback, and kings walking in the mire.'

     'You have taken my gold and silver, and made idols unto
     yourselves.'

     'If I am a father, where is my honor?'

     'If I am a master, where is my fear?'

I have made hundreds of meditations on these words, and preached them
many a time. Then, again, our people are naturally poetic; the poetry
has been crushed out of their natures by modern education. Yet they
relish a fine line or expression. And again, their own language is full
of aphorisms, bitter and stinging enough, we know, but sometimes
exquisite as befits a nation whose forefathers lived in tents of skins.
Now give them a few of the thousand proverbs of Solomon, and they will
chew them as a cow chews the cud. But I should go on with this subject
forever."

"But what about the use of sarcasm, sir? Your allusions to the Gaelic
sarcasms reminded me of it. I often heard people say that our
congregations dread nothing so much as sarcasm."

"I'm glad you reminded me of it. I can speak on the matter like a
professor, for I was past-master in the science. I had a bitter tongue.
How deeply I regret it, God only knows. I have often made an awful fool
of myself at conferences, at public meetings, etc.; I have often done
silly and puerile things, what the French call _bêtises_; I think of
them without shame. But the sharp, acrid things I have said, and the few
harsh things I have done, fill me with confusion. There's the benefit of
a diary. It is an examination of conscience. I remember once at a
station, a rather mean fellow flung a florin on a heap of silver before
me. He should have paid a half-crown. I called his attention to it. He
denied it. It was the second or third time he had tried that little
game. I thought the time had come for a gentle remonstrance. I said
nothing till the people were about to disperse. Then I said I had a
story to tell them. It was about three mean men. One was an employer of
labor in America, who was so hard on his men that when his factory blew
up he docked them, or rather their widows, of the time they spent
foolishly up in the sky. There was a titter. The second was a fellow
here at home, who stole the pennies out of the eyes of a corpse. There
was a roar. 'The third, the meanest of the three, I leave yourselves to
discover. He isn't far away.' The bolt went home, and he and his family
suffered. He never went to a fair or market that it was not thrown in
his face; and even his little children in the schools had to bear his
shame. I never think of it without a blush. Who wrote these lines?--

    'He who only rules by terror
      Doeth grievous wrong;
    Deep as Hell I count his error,
      Listen to my song.'"

"I'm not sure," said Father Letheby. "I think it was Tennyson."

"Thank God, the people love us. But for that, I should despair of our
Irish faith in the near future."

"You said, 'Preach not yourself, but God'?"

"Aren't you tired?"

"No!" he said; "I think you are speaking wisely." Which was a direct
implication that this was not in my usual style. But never mind!

"Let me carry out my own suggestion," I said. "Take down that Bible.
Now, turn to the prophecy of Ezekiel--that lurid, thunder-and-lightning,
seismic, magnetic sermon. Now find the thirty-third chapter. Now find
the thirtieth verse and read."

He read:--

     "And thou, son of man: the children of thy people, that talk of
     thee by the walls and in the doors of the houses, and speak, one to
     another, each man to his neighbor, saying: Come and let us hear
     what is the word that cometh forth from the Lord. And they come to
     thee, as if a people were coming in, and my people sit before thee;
     and hear thy words, and do them not; for they turn them into a song
     of their mouth, and their heart goeth after their covetousness. And
     thou art to them as a musical song that is sung with a sweet and
     agreeable voice; and they hear thy words and do them not."

"Very good. Now, there is the highest ambition of many a preacher: 'to
be spoken of by the walls, and in the doors of the houses.' And, when
judgment came, the people did not know there was a prophet amongst
them."

"It isn't easy to get rid of ourselves in the pulpit," said Father
Letheby.

"No, my dear boy, it is not. Nowhere does the [Greek: egô] cling more
closely to us. We are never so sensitive as when we are on ceremonies,
never so vain as in the pulpit. Hence the barrenness of our ministry.
The mighty waters are poured upon the land, to wither, not to
fertilize."

"You said, thirdly, 'Live up to your preaching' That's not easy,
either."

"No; the most difficult of the three. Yet here, too, your words are
barren, if they come not supported by the example of your life. A simple
homily from a holy man, even though it were halting, lame, and
ungrammatical, will carry more weight than the most learned and eloquent
discourse preached by a worldly priest. I know nothing more significant
in all human history than what is recorded in the Life of Père
Lacordaire. In the very zenith of his fame, his pulpit in Toulouse was
deserted, whilst the white trains of France were bringing tens of
thousands of professional men, barristers, statesmen, officers,
professors, to a wretched village church only a few miles away. What was
the loadstone? A poor country parish priest, informed, illiterate,
uncouth,--but a saint. And I know nothing more beautiful or touching in
all human history than the spectacle of the great and inspired
Dominican, coming to that village chapel, and kneeling for the blessing
of M. Vianney, and listening, like a child, to the evening catechetical
lecture, delivered in a weak voice, and probably with many a halt for a
word, by the saint of Ars."

Here I could proceed no further. These episodes in the lives of our holy
ones fill me up to the throat, for my heart swells for their beauty. And
I am a soft old fool. I can never read that office of St. Agatha or St.
Agnes without blubbering; and St. Perpetua, with her little babe, kills
me outright.

We had a great debate, however, the following evening about the
subject-matter of the sermon. He wanted to preach on the _Magnificat_.
I put down my foot there, and said, No!

"That poor Duff will be there; and you'll be like the victor rooster
crowing over a fallen antagonist."

"But Duff and I are the best friends in the world."

"No matter. I suppose he has nerves and blood, like the rest of us. Try
something else!"

"Well, what about the _Ave Maria_, or _Tu gloria Jerusalem, tu lætitia
Israel_, etc.?"

"The very thing."

"Or, the place of the Blessed Virgin in Scripture?"

"You've hit the nail on the head. That's it!"

"Well, now," said he, taking out a note-book, "how long shall it be?"

"Exactly forty-five minutes."

"And I must write every word?"

"Every word!"

"How many pages will that make?"

"Twenty pages--ordinary copy-book. The first fifteen will be expository;
the last five will be the peroration, into which you must throw all the
pathos, love, fire, and enthusiasm of which you are capable."

"All right. Many thanks, Father Dan. But I shall be very nervous."

"Never mind. That will wear off."

I said to myself, you have heavier troubles in store; but why should I
anticipate? The worst troubles are those that never arise. And where's
the use of preaching to a man with the toothache about the perils of
typhoid fever?

I went down to see my little saint.

She was "happy, happy, oh! so happy! But, Daddy Dan, I fear't won't last
long!"

"You are not going to heaven so soon, and leaving us all desolate, are
you?"

"No, Daddy Dan. But Mr. Ormsby, who thinks that I have made him a
Catholic, says he will bring down a great, great doctor from Dublin to
cure me. And I don't want to be cured at all."

"If it were God's Holy Will, dear, we should be all glad. But I fear
that God alone can cure the hurt He has made."

"Oh, thank you! thank you! Daddy Dan. You have always the kind word. And
sure you know more than all the doctors. And sure, if God wished me to
be cured, you'd have done it long ago."

"I'm not so sure of that, my child," I said; "but who is the great
doctor?"

"He's a doctor that was in the navy--like my poor father--and he has
seen a lot of queer diseases in India, and got a lot of cures."

"Well, we're bound to try every natural specific, my child. But if all
fails, we must leave you in the hands of the great Physician."

"That's what I should like best, Daddy Dan!"

"You must pray now for Father Letheby. He is going to preach a great
sermon."

"On what?"

"On our Blessed Lady."

"I should like to be there. The children tell me he preaches lovely.
They think he sees the Blessed Virgin when he is talking of her. I
shouldn't be surprised."

"I think he'll have crosses, too, like you, my dear. No, no, I don't
mean illness; but crosses of his own."

"I should be sorry," she said, her eyes filling with tears.

"Of course, you want heaven all to yourself. Aren't you a selfish
saint?"

"I'm not a saint at all, Daddy Dan; but Father Letheby is, and why
should he be punished?"

"Why, indeed? Except to verify that line of Dante's of the soul in
Paradise:

    "'E dal martirio venni a questa pace.'"



CHAPTER XXV

MAY DEVOTIONS


I often wonder if the May devotions in other countries are as sweet and
memory-haunting and redolent of peace as here in holy Ireland. Indeed, I
suppose they are; for there are good, holy Catholics everywhere. But
somehow the fragrance and beauty of these May evenings hang around us in
Ireland as incense hangs around a dimly lighted church, and often cling
around a soul where faith and holiness have been banished. I cannot
boast too much of the picturesqueness and harmony of our evening prayers
at Kilronan, at least until Father Letheby came. We had, indeed, the
Rosary and a little weak homily. Nevertheless, the people loved to come
and gather around the beautiful statue of our Mother. But when Father
Letheby came, he threw music and sunshine around everything; but I
believe he exhausted all his art in making the May devotions attractive
and edifying. He said, indeed, that they were imperfect, and would
always remain imperfect, until we could close them with Benediction of
the Most Blessed Sacrament; and he urged me again and again to apply for
permission, but, to tell the truth, I was afraid. And my dear old
maxim, which had done me good service during life--my little pill of all
philosophy--_lente! lente!_ came again to my aid. But I'll tell you what
we had. The Lady altar had all its pretentious ugliness hid under a mass
of flowers--great flaunting peonies burning in the background, beautiful
white Nile lilies in the front, bunches of yellow primroses between the
candles, great tulips stained in flame colors, like the fires of
Purgatory around the holy souls in our hamlet pictures. And hidden here
and there, symbolical of the Lily of Israel, and filling the whole
church with their delicate perfumes, were nestled lilies of the valley,
sweetest and humblest of all those "most beautiful things that God has
made and forgot to put a soul in." Then such hymns and litanies! I do
not know, I am sure, what people feel in grand city churches, when the
organ stops are loosed and the tide of music wells forth, and great
voices are lifted up; but I think, if the Lord would allow me, I would
be satisfied to have my heaven one long May devotion, with the children
singing around me and the incense of flowers in the air, and our dear
Mother looking down on us; only I should like that there were life in
those wondrous eyes of Mother and Child, and I should like that that
Divine Child, who holds us all in the palms of His little hands, would
get a little tired sometimes of contemplating His Mother's beauty and
turn in pity towards us.

Our order of service was: Rosary, Hymn, Lecture, Hymn, Litany of
Loretto. Did you ever hear:

    "Oh, my Mother, still remember
      What the sainted Bernard hath said,--
    None hath ever, ever found thee wanting
      Who hath called upon thine aid."

or:

    "Rose of the Cross! thou mystic flower!"

or Father Faber's splendid hymn:

    "Hark, hark, O my soul! angelic songs are swelling."

Well, if you didn't, God help you!

I used to read a book sometimes--sometimes Father Gratry's "Month of
May," sometimes that good little book by the Abbé Berlioux. But when the
people began to yawn I flung the book aside, and said a few simple words
to the congregation. And I spoke out of a full heart, a very full heart,
and the waters flowed over, and flooded all the valleys.

       *       *       *       *       *

The 31st of May fell on Sunday; and it was on this Sunday evening Father
Letheby was to preach in the cathedral. I told the people all about it;
and we offered the evening devotions for his success. Somehow I thought
there was a note of emphasis in the "Holy Marys" that evening; and a
little additional pathos in the children's voices. Miss Campion presided
at the harmonium that evening in place of Father Letheby. I think,
indeed, that the people considered that prayers for their young curate
were a little superfluous; because, as we came out, I was able to hear a
few comments and predictions:--

"Faith, you may make your mind aisy about him. They never heard anything
like it before, I promise you."

"I heard they used to say over there in England that Father Burke
himself couldn't hould a candle to him."

"If he'd spake a little aisier," said a village critic, who had a great
opinion of himself, since he was called upon to propose a resolution at
a Land-League meeting, "and rise his wice, he'd bate thim all."

"Did you ever hear Father Mac?" said an old laborer, dressed in the
ancient Irish fashion, but old Father Time had been snipping at his
garments as he couldn't touch himself. "That was the pracher! He hadn't
his aiqual in Ireland. I rimimber wance a Good Friday sermon he
prached in Loughboro'. Begor, you couldn't stick a pin between the
people, they were so packed together. He kem out on the althar, and you
could hear a pin dhrop. He had a crucifix in his hand, and he looked
sorrowful like. 'In the Name av the Father,' sez he; thin he shtopped
and looked round; 'and av the Holy Ghost,' sez he, and he shtopped
ag'in; 'but where's the Son?' sez he, rising his wice; and begor, 't was
like the day of gineral jedgment. Thin he tore off a black veil that
was on the crucifix, and he threw it on the althar, and he held up the
crucifix in the air, and he let a screech out of him that you could hear
at Moydore; and--"

"Was that all the sarmon?" said a woman who was an interested listener.

"Was that all?" cried the narrator indignantly. "It wasn't all. He
prached that night two mortial hours, and"--he looked around to command
attention and admiration--"_he never fetched a sup of wather the whole
time, though it was tender his hands_."

"Glory be to God," said the listeners; "sure 't was wandherful. And is
he dead, Jer?"

"Dead?" cried Jer, rather contemptuously, for he was on the lofty
heights of success; "did ye never hear it?"

"Wisha, how could we, and 't is so far back?"

"Some other time," said Jer, with a little pitying contempt.

"Ye may as well tell it now," said an old woman; "I hard the people
shpake av him long ago; but sure we forget everything, even God
sometimes."

"Well," said Jer, sitting on a long, level tombstone, "maybe ye don't
know how the divil watches priests when they are on a sick-call. He
does, thin. Fram the time they laves the house till they returns he is
on their thrack, thrying to circumwent them, ontil he gets the poor
sowl into his own dirty claws. Sometimes he makes the mare stumble and
fall; sometimes he pulls down a big branch of a three, and hits the
priest across the face; sometimes he hangs out a lanthern to lade him
into a bog. All he wants is to keep him away, and WHAT he has wid him,
and thin he gobbles up that poor sowl, as a fox would sling a chicken
over his showlder, and takes him off to his din. Well, this night Father
Mac was called out late. It was as dark as the caves down there by the
say av a winter's night. As he wint along the road, he began praying
softly to himself, for he knew the divil was watching him. All of a
suddint he was taken out av his saddle and pitched head foremost in a
brake of briars. When he recovered himself he looked around him and saw
at a distance--"

"I thought it was dark, Jer," said a young mason, who knew that Jer was
drawing the long bow.

"Av coorse it was, but couldn't ye see a light shining even on a dark
night, my fine young man?" said Jer, in a temper.

"Oh, was it a light?" said the mason.

"Ye ought to think twice before intherrupting yer elders," said Jer.
"Well, as I was saying, when he come to himself, he looked around, and
he asked, in a loud wice, 'Is there anny wan there who could sarve Mass
for a priest?' There was no answer. Thin he said a second time, 'For
the love av God, is there anny wan there who could sarve Mass for a
priest?'"

"Begor, I always thought that was the shtory about the priest that
forgot to say the Masses for the dead, and kem out av of his grave on
Christmas night," said an old woman.

"Thrue for ye, so it is," said another. "Many and many's the time we
heard it."

"Begor, Jer," said a young man, "ye 're getting mixed."

"There's a hole in the ballad and the song fell out," said another.

"Jer could tell that story betther, if he had a couple of glasses in, I'm
thinking," said the young mason, as they strolled away and left Jer
sitting on the monument.

"Yes; or if he had the clay in his mouth, and the pint on the dresser,"
said his companion.

So was this great actor hissed off the stage. It was a bad breakdown,
and there was no mercy. It turned the women's conversation back to their
curate.

"May the Lord stringthen and help him in his endeavor, our darlin' man,"
said one.

"Amin, thin, and may the Blessed Vargin put the words into his mouth
that he has to shpake," cried another. The children listened gravely.
All that they could conjecture was that Father Letheby was engaged on a
great and dangerous enterprise.

I never had a moment's doubt but that their prayers were heard and their
predictions verified, although when Father Letheby called the next day
he looked depressed and gloomy enough.

"Well," I said, "a great success, of course?"

"I'm afraid not," he said moodily.

"You broke down badly just in the middle?"

"Well, no, indeed; there was certainly no breakdown, but the whole thing
was evidently a failure."

"Let me see," I cried. "There are certain infallible indications of the
success or failure of a sermon. Were there any priests present?"

"About twenty, I think," he replied. "That was the worst of it. You
don't mind the people at all."

"And weren't they very enthusiastic," I asked, "when you returned to
the sacristy?"

"No, indeed. Rather the contrary, which makes me think that I said
something either perilous or ill-advised."

"Humph! Didn't any fellow come up to you and knock the breath out of
your body by slapping you on the back?"

"No!" he replied sadly.

"Didn't any fellow say: _Prospere procede, et regna?_"

"No!" he said. "It was just the other way."

"Didn't any fellow shake you by the hand even, and say: _Prosit!
prosit!! prosit!!!_"

"I'm afraid not," he said gloomily.

"That's bad. Nor even, _macte virtute esto, Titus Manlius_?"

"No," he said. "There was no indication of sympathy whatsoever."

"Didn't any fellow drop into the vernacular, and say: 'Put the hand
there. Sure I never doubted you,' and wring your hand as if he wanted to
dislocate it?"

"No, no, no! There was simply dead silence."

"And perhaps they looked at you over their shoulders, and whispered
together, as they put their surplices into their bags, and stared at you
as if you were a sea-monster?"

"Something that way, indeed," said my poor curate.

"Did the bishop make any remark?"

"Yes. The bishop came over and said he was very grateful, indeed, for
that beautiful sermon. But that, of course, was purely conventional."

"And the people? How did they take it?"

"They were very quiet and attentive, indeed: apparently an intelligent
congregation."

"You don't think you were talking over their heads?"

"No, indeed. Even the poor women who were gathered under the pulpit
stared at me unmercifully; and I think a few persons in front were much
affected."

I waited for a few minutes to draw my deductions. But they were logical
enough.

"My dear boy," I said at length, "from a long and profound experience of
that wilful thing called human nature, allow me to tell you that every
indication you have mentioned points to the fact that you have preached
not only an edifying and useful, but a remarkable sermon--"

"Oh, that's only your usual goodness, Father Dan," he broke in. "I'm
quite certain it was a failure. Look at the attitude of the priests!"

"That is just my strongest foundation," I replied. "If their enthusiasm
had taken the other shapes I suggested, I should have despaired."

"Well, 't is over, for better, for worse," said he; "I did my best for
our Lady, and she won't blame me if I failed."

"That is sound Christian philosophy," I replied; "leave it there. But
don't be too flushed if my predictions come true."

"I suppose we may have a procession of the children on Corpus Christi?"
he said abruptly.

"Hallo! another innovation! Where are you going to stop, I wonder?"

"Why not have it?" he said. "It will be a sermon to the people!"

"Around the church, you mean," I conjectured, "and back again to the
High Altar?"

"No! but through the village, and out there along the path that cuts the
turf over the cliffs, and then back to the mill, where we can have
Benediction (I'll extemporize an altar), and down the main road, and to
the church."

"Go on! go on!" I said in a resigned manner; "perhaps you'll invite our
pious friend, Campion, down to Benediction--"

"He'll be carrying the canopy."

I looked at this young prestidigitateur in a bewildered manner. He was
not noticing me.

"You know," he said, "I'll put Campion and Ormsby and the doctor, and
the old Tertiary, Clohessy, under the canopy. It's time that these men
should be made to understand that they are Catholics in reality as well
as in name."

I was dumfounded at his audacity.

"I have got faculties from the bishop," he continued, "to receive
Ormsby, and to use the short form. He'll be a noble Catholic. He is
intelligent, and deeply in earnest."

"And who is this great man he is bringing from Dublin?" I asked.

"Oh! the doctor? An old chum. They have seen some rough and smooth
weather together. This fellow is gone mad about his profession, and he
studies eighteen hours out of the twenty-four--"

"He ought to be a Master of Conference," I interrupted. "But won't our
own man be jealous?"

"Not at all. He says he has done his best for Alice; and if any one else
can help her on, he'll be delighted. But he is not sanguine, nor am I."

"Nor I. It appears a deep-rooted affair. But what a visitation--God's
angel, cloaked from head to foot in blackness, and with a flaming
sword."

We were both silent, thinking of many things.

"Then the procession will be all right, sir?" he said at last, waking
up.

"I hope so," I said resignedly. "Everything else that you have touched
you have adorned. This will follow suit."

"Thank you, sir," he said. "It will be a glorious day for the children."

"By the way," I said, as he was going, "was Duff at the sermon?"

"He was, poor fellow; and I am afraid he got a wigging from the bishop.
At least they were walking up and down there near the sacristy for at
least half an hour before dinner. You know Duff is an awfully clever
fellow. He has written some articles in the leading English magazines,
in which, curiously enough, he quite agrees with Professor Sayce, the
eminent Assyriologist, who has tried to disprove the theories about the
Pentateuch originated by Graf and Wellhausen--"

"My dear fellow, this is not a conference. Spare my old nerves all that
nonsense. The Bible is God's own Word--that is enough for me. But what
about Duff?"

"Well, at table, the bishop was specially and expressly kind to him, and
drew him out about all these matters, and made him shine; and you know
how well Duff can talk--"

"I wouldn't doubt the bishop," I said; "he always does the kind and the
right thing."

"By the way, I forgot a moment ago to say that Duff met me this morning
at the station, and said, I am sure with perfect sincerity: 'Letheby, I
must congratulate you. You taught me a sharp lesson the other day; you
taught me a gentler lesson last evening. Pray for me that I may keep
farther away from human will-o'-the-wisps, and nearer the Eternal Light
than I have been.' I shook his hand warmly. _Sedes sapientiæ, ora pro
nobis_."

"Amen!" I said humbly.

"I've asked him over to dine on the day our fishing-boat will be
launched," said Father Letheby, after a pause. "Some of the brethren are
coming; and you'll come, sir? Duff is very anxious to meet you."

"Of course," I replied. "I never refuse so delightful an invitation. But
why should Duff be anxious to meet me?"

"I really don't know, except that you are, as you know yourself, sir, a
celebrity. He thinks a great deal of you."

"Probably a great deal more than I am disposed to think of myself. Did
he say so?"

"Oh, dear, yes! He said: 'I must make the acquaintance of that pastor of
yours, Letheby, he's an _immortal genius_!'"

"An immortal genius! Well, you must know, my innocent young man, that
that expression is susceptible of a double interpretation--it may mean
an immortal fame like William Shakespeare's, or an immortal fame like
Jack Falstaff's; it may mean a Cervantes, or a Don Quixote, a fool who
has eclipsed the name of his Creator. But, as I am charitably inclined,
I shall give your learned friend the benefit of the doubt, and meet him
as one of my many admirers, rather than as one of my few critics.
Perhaps he may change his opinion of me, for better, for worse, on a
closer acquaintance."

"I'm quite sure, sir, that there will be a mutual appreciation. That's
arranged, then--the procession on Corpus Christi, and dinner the day of
our launch."



CHAPTER XXVI

AT THE ZENITH


For one reason or another, the great events to which our little history
is tending were deferred again and again, until at last the Monday
within the Octave of Corpus Christi was chosen for the marriage of
Bittra Campion and the launch of the great fishing-boat, that was to
bring untold wealth to Kilronan. Meanwhile our faculties were not
permitted to rust, for we had a glorious procession on the great
_Fête-Dieu_, organized, of course, and carried on to complete success by
the zeal and inventive piety of my young curate. My own timidity, and
dread of offending Protestant susceptibilities--a timidity, I suppose,
inherited from the penal days--would have limited that procession to the
narrow confines of the chapel yard; but the larger and more trusting
faith of Father Letheby leaped over such restrictions, and the
procession wound through the little village, down to the sheer cliffs
that overhang the sea, along the narrow footpath that cuts the turf on
the summit of the rocks, around the old mill, now the new factory, and
back by the main road skirting the bog and meadowland, to the village
church again. It would be quite useless to inquire how or where Father
Letheby managed to get those silken banners, and that glittering
processional cross, or the gorgeous canopy. I, who share with the
majority of my countrymen the national contempt for minutiæ and mere
details, would have at once dogmatically declared the impossibility of
securing such beautiful things in such a pre-Adamite, out-of-the-way
village as Kilronan. But Father Letheby, who knows no such word as
impossibility, in some quiet way--the legerdemain of a strong
character--contrives to bring these unimaginable things out of the
region of conjecture into the realms of fact; and I can only stare and
wonder. But the whole thing was a great and unexampled success; and,
whilst my own heart was swelling under the influence of the sweet hymns
of the children, and the golden radiance of June sunlight, and the
sparkling of the sea, and the thought that I held the Lord and Master of
all between my hands, my fancy would go back to that wondrous lake on
whose waters the Lord did walk, and from whose shores He selected the
future teachers of the world. The lake calm in the sunlight, the fish
gleaming in the nets, the half-naked Apostles bending over the gunwales
of their boats to drag in the nets, the stately, grave figure of our
Lord, the wondering women who gazed on Him afar off with fear and
love--all came up before my fancy, that only came back to reality when I
touched the shoulders of Reginald Ormsby and the doctor, who, with two
rough fishermen, belonging to the Third Order of St. Francis, held the
gilded poles of the canopy. They manifested great piety and love and
reverence all the way. Ormsby had brought over all his coast-guards
except the two that were on duty at the station, and they formed a noble
guard of honor around the canopy; and it was difficult to say which was
the more beautiful and picturesque--the demonstrative love of the
peasant women, who flung up their hands in a paroxysm of devotion,
whilst they murmured in the soft Gaelic: "Ten thousand, thousand thanks
to you, _O white and ruddy Saviour_!" or the calm, deep, silent
tenderness of these rough men, whose faces were red and tanned and
bronzed from the action of sun and sea. And the little children, who
were not in the procession, peeped out shyly from beneath their mothers'
cloaks, and their round, wondering eyes rested on the white Host, who in
His undying words had once said: "Suffer little children to come unto
me!" Let no one say that our poor Irish do not grasp the meaning of this
central mystery of our faith! It is true that their senses are touched
by more visible things; but whoever understands our people will agree
with me that no great theologian in his study, no philosopher in his
rostrum, no sacred nun in her choir, realizes more distinctly the awful
meaning of that continued miracle of love and mercy that is enshrined on
our altars, and named _Emmanuel_.

But all things come around, sooner or later, in their destined courses,
and Monday dawned, fair and sunny and beautiful, as befitted the events
that were to take place. There was a light summer haze on sea and land;
and just a ripple of a breeze blown down as a message from the
inhospitable hills. Father Letheby said early Mass at eight o'clock; and
at half-past nine, the hour for the nuptial Mass, there was no standing
or sitting-room in the little chapel. Of course, the front seats were
reserved for the gentry, who, in spite of an academical dislike to
Ormsby's conversion, gathered to witness this Catholic marriage, as a
rare thing in Ireland, at least amongst their own class. But behind
them, and I should say in unpleasant proximity (for the peasantry do not
carry handkerchiefs scented with White Rose or Jockey Club,--only the
odor of the peat and the bogwood), surged a vast crowd of men and women,
on whose lips and in whose hearts was a prayer for her who was entering
on the momentous change in her sweet and tranquil life. And young
Patsies and Willies and Jameses were locked by their legs around their
brothers' necks, and trying to keep down and economize for further use
that Irish cheer or yell, that from Dargai to Mandalay is well known as
the war-whoop of the race invincible. I presume that I was an object of
curiosity myself, as I awaited in alb and stole the coming of the bridal
party. Then the curiosity passed on to Ormsby, who, accompanied by Dr.
Armstrong, stood erect and stately before the altar-rails; then, of
course, to the bride, who, accompanied by her father, and followed by a
bevy of fair children, drew down a rose-shower of benedictions from the
enthusiastic congregation. Did it rest there? Alas, no! Bridegroom and
bride, parish priest and curate, were blotted out of the interested
vision of the spectators; and, concentrated with absorbing fascination,
the hundreds of eyes rested on the snowy cap and the spotless streamers
of Mrs. Darcy. It was the great event of the day--the culmination of
civilization in Kilronan! Wagers had been won and lost over it; one or
two pitched battles had been fought with pewter weapons at Mrs. Haley's;
ballads had been written on it in the style, but not quite in the
polished lines, of "Henry of Navarre"; and now, there it was, the "white
plume" of victory, the cynosure of hundreds of wondering eyes. I dare
say the "upper ten" did not mind it; they were used to such things; but
everything else paled into insignificance to the critical and censorious
audience behind them.

"Didn't I tell you she'd do it?"

"Begor, you did. I suppose I must stand the thrate."

"Father Letheby cud do anything whin he cud do that."

"Begor, I suppose she'll be thinkin' of marryin' herself now, and Jem
hardly cowld in the clay."

"Yerra, look at her! She thinks she's wan of the gintry. Oh my! she's
blushin'. 'T wasn't so long ago that you could sow praties in her
face."

"I suppose thim cost a lot of money. But, shure, it was the priests give
'em to her."

"Wisha, thin, there's many a poor creature that would want the money
more."

Now, all this was not only sarcastic, but calumnious. The cap and
streamers were Mrs. Darcy's own, bought out of her hard earnings, and
donned to-day to honor the nuptials of her idol and benefactress. She
knew the mighty ordeal that was in store for her; but she faced it, and
thanked God she was "not behoulden to wan of thim for what she put into
her mout' and upon her back." And she stood there at the altar-rails,
erect and defiant, and there was not a tremor in the hand that held the
holy-water vase, nor in the hand that held the aspergill.

But it was very embarrassing to myself. I am not disposed to be nervous,
for I have always conscientiously avoided tea and too much study, and I
have lived in the open air, and always managed to secure eight hours of
dreamless, honest sleep; but I was "discomposed," as some one charitably
explained it that morning; and Mrs. Darcy's cap was the cause. I couldn't
take my eyes away from it. There it was, dancing like a
will-o'-the-wisp before my dazzled vision. I turned my back
deliberately upon it, and lo! there it was in miniature in the convex
arc of my spectacles; and if I looked up, there was my grinning
congregation, and their half-audible remarks upon this dread and
unwonted apparition. At last I commenced:

"Reginald Darcy, wilt thou take Bittra Ormsby here present--"

A forcible reminder from Father Letheby brought me to my senses; but
away they scattered again, as I heard Campion muttering something
uncomplimentary under his black mustache.

"Ahem!--Reginald Ormsby, wilt thou take Mrs. Darcy--"

Here Father Letheby nudged me again, and looked at me suspiciously. I
got a sudden and violent paroxysm of coughing, a remnant of an old
bronchial attack to which I am very subject. But I managed to say:--

"For the love of God, send that woman into the sacristy."

She covered her retreat nobly, made a curtsey to the priests,
genuflected calmly, laid down the aspergill, and, under pretence of
having been sent for something which these careless priests had
forgotten, retired with honors; and then I suppose had a good long cry.
But poor Bittra was blushing furiously; Ormsby was calm as on the
quarterdeck; but Dr. Armstrong was pulling at his mustache, as if
determined to show the world that there was no use any more for razors
or depilatories; and Miss Leslie had bitten right through her under
lip, and was threatened with apoplexy. We got through the rest of the
ceremony with flying colors: and the moment I said, _In nomine Patris,
et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti_, the hush of death fell on the
congregation. Then the nuptial blessing was given, the choir threw all
their vocal strength into the grand _finale_; the registers were signed;
Campion kissed his beloved child, and shook hands with Ormsby; and then
commenced the triumphal march. I forgot to say that for the glorious
procession on the Thursday before the village was _en fête_. Great
arcades of laurel were stretched from chimney to chimney, because there
were no upper rooms in the cabins; the posts and lintels of the humble
doors were covered with foliage and flowers; and the windows were
decorated with all the pious images that had been accumulating in the
cabins for generations. Little _ëikons_ of the Sacred Heart, gorgeous
statues of our Lady of Lourdes, colored prints of Leo XIII., and
crucifixes without number dappled the dark background of the
windows,--and all the splendor was allowed to remain untouched during
the octave. And glad they were, poor people, to show their love for
their young idol and mistress, even with the decorations of their Lord
and King. But what a shout tore open the heavens as Bittra appeared,
leaning on her husband's arm; and what prayers echoed round and round
them, as Ormsby handed Bittra into the victoria that was waiting! No
genteel showers of rice, no casting of slippers nor waving of jealous
handkerchiefs here, but--

"Come down out o' dat, you grinning monkey," and the gorgeous coachman
was hauled down ignominiously, and a score of strong arms replaced the
panting horses under the bridal carriage. And so it moved on, this
bridal procession, amidst a strange _epithalamium_ of cheering and
blessings, whilst rough hands from time to time grasped the strong
fingers of the smiling bridegroom or the tiny gloved hand of the bride.
Ay, move down the valley of life together, you two, linked hand-in-hand,
having said your farewells to the world, for you are entering on a new
and altogether consecrated life. No wonder that the Church insists on
the sacramental nature of this stupendous compact between two human
souls; no wonder that the world, anxious to break its indissolubility,
denies its awful sacredness; no wonder that the Catholic girl enters
beneath the archway of the priest's stole[6] with the fear of great joy,
and that the Catholic bridegroom is unnerved with dread at undertaking
the responsibilities of a little universe.

We had a little chat over this matter, my curate and I, the evening
before Bittra's marriage. It came around quite naturally, for we had
been debating all kinds of possibilities as to the future; and he had
been inveighing, in his own tumultuous manner, against the new and
sacrilegious ideas that are just now being preached by the modern
apostles of free thought in novel and journal. We agreed in thinking
that the Christian ideal of marriage was nowhere so happily realized as
in Ireland, where, at least up to recent times, there was no lurid and
volcanic company-keeping before marriage, and no bitter ashes of
disappointment after; but the good mother quietly said to her child:
"Mary, go to confession to-morrow, and get out your Sunday dress. You
are to be married on Thursday evening." And Mary said: "Very well,
mother," not even asserting a faintest right to know the name of her
future spouse. But, then, by virtue of the great sacramental union, she
stepped from the position of a child and a dependent into the regal
position of queen and mistress on her own hearth. The entire authority
of the household passed thereby into her hands, as she slung the keys at
her girdle; she became bursar and _econome_ of the establishment; and in
no instance was her right to rule supreme ever questioned by husband or
child, unless drink came in to destroy this paradise, as the serpent
fouled with his slime the flowers of the garden of Eden. Married life in
Ireland has been, up to now, the most splendid refutation of all that
the world and its gospel, the novel, preach about marriage, and the
most splendid and complete justification of the supernaturalism of the
Church's dogmas and practices. But, reverting to the new phases in the
ever-shifting emotionalism of a godless world, with which marriage has
become a question of barter--a mere lot-drawing of lambs for the
shambles--he compared the happy queenly life of our Irish mother with
that of the victim of fashion, or that of uncatholic lands, where a poor
girl passes from one state of slavery to another.

"I hope," he said, "that we never shall be able to compare Bittra, like
so many other brides, to the sleeping child that Carafola has painted,
with an angel holding over it a crown of thorns, and whom marriage, like
the angel, would awake by pressing the thorns on her brow."

"God forbid!" I said fervently. How little I dreamed of the troubles
that were looming up out of the immediate future to shroud her marriage
sunshine in awful gloom!

As the marriage procession passed the door where Alice lived, Bittra
gave a little timid, imperious command to her admirers to stop. She and
Ormsby alighted and passed into the cottage. The orange blossoms touched
the crown of thorns on the head of the sick girl; but, somehow, both
felt that there was need of a sisterhood of suffering on the one part to
knit their souls together. Ormsby remained in the kitchen, talking to
Mrs. Moylan; and from that day forward she was secured, at least, from
all dread of dependence or poverty forevermore.

At the breakfast table it was, of course, my privilege to propose the
health of the bride and bridegroom, which I most gladly did; and, let me
say, so successfully as to bring back unwonted smiles to Campion's face,
who now freely forgave me for the _gaucheries_ at the marriage service.
Then the guests strolled around, looking at the marriage presents--the
usual filigree and useless things that are flung at the poor bride.
Bittra took me into a little boudoir of her own to show me her _real_
presents.

"Father," she said, "who is a great artist, wanted me to give back all
this rubbish, as he calls it; but I would much rather sacrifice all that
_bijouterie_ outside." And she exhibited with glistening eyes the bridal
offerings of the poor fisherwomen and country folk of Kilronan. They
were fearfully and wonderfully made. Here was a magnificent three-decker
battleship, complete from pennant to bowsprit, every rope in its place,
and the brass muzzles of its gun protruded for action. Here was a pretty
portrait of Bittra herself, painted by a Japanese artist from a
photograph, surreptitiously obtained, and which had been sent 15,000
miles across the ocean for an enlarged replica. Here were shells of all
sizes and fantastic forms, gathered during generations, from the vast
museums of the deep. Here was a massive gold ring, with a superb ruby,
picked up, the Lord knows how, by a young sailor in the East Indian
Islands. Here, screaming like a fury, was a paroquet, gorgeous as a
rainbow, but ill-conducted as a monkey; and here was a gauze shawl, so
fine that Bittra hid it in her little palm, and whispered that it was of
untold price.

"But, of course, I cannot keep all these treasures," she said; "I shall
hold them as a loan for a while; and then, under one pretext or another,
return them. It is what they indicate that I value."

"And I think, my little child," I said, "that if you had them
reduplicated until they would fill one wing of the British Museum, they
would hardly be an exponent of all that these poor people think and
feel."

"It should make me very happy," said Bittra.

And then we passed into the yard and dairies, where the same benevolent
worship had congregated fowl of strange and unheard-of breeds; and there
was a little bonham; and above all, staring around, wonder-stricken and
frightened, and with a gorgeous blue ribbon about her neck, was the
prettiest little fawn in the world, its soft brown fur lifted by the
warm wind and its eyes opened up in fear and wonder at its surroundings.
Bittra patted its head, and the pretty animal laid its wet nozzle in
her open hand. Then she felt a little shiver, and I said:--

"That bridal dress is too light. Go in and change." But she said,
looking up at me wistfully:--

"It is not the chill of cold, but of dread, that is haunting me all the
morning. I feel as if some one were walking over my grave, as the people
say."

[Illustration: "Ahem!--Reginald Ormsby, wilt thou take Mrs. Darcy--" (p.
382.)]

"Nonsense!" I cried. "You are unnerved, child; the events of the morning
have been too much for you."

Here we heard her father's voice, shouting: "Bittra! Bittra! where are
you?"

"Here, father," she said, as Ormsby came into the yard with Campion,
"showing all my treasures to Father Dan."

She linked her arm in her husband's, and Campion looked from one to the
other admiringly. And no wonder. They were a noble, handsome pair, as
they stood there, and the June sunlight streamed and swam around them.

"Go in," he said at last. "The guests expect you."

He and I walked around the farmyard, noting, observing, admiring. He
called my attention to this animal and to that, marked out all his
projected improvements, and what he would do to make this a model
country residence for his child; but I could see that he had something
else to say. At last he turned to me, and there was a soft haze in his
gleaming black eyes as he tried to steady his voice:--

"I have been a hard man," he said, "but the events of this morning have
quite upset me. I didn't know that my child was so worshipped by the
people, and it has touched me deeply. You know, brought up in the school
where I graduated, I have never been able to shake off a feeling of
contempt for these poor, uneducated serfs; and their little cunning ways
and want of manliness have always disgusted me. I am beginning to see
that I have been wrong. And then I have been a bad Catholic. Ormsby,
lately an unbeliever, has shown me this, not by his words, for he is a
thorough gentleman, but by his quiet example. You know I did not care
one brass pin whether he was Turk, Jew, or atheist, so long as he
married Bittra. Now I see that the Church is right, and that her
espousal would have been incomplete if she had not married a Catholic,
and a true one. All this has disturbed me, and I intend to turn over a
new leaf. I am running into years; and although I have, probably, thirty
years of life before me, I must brush up as if the end were near. I am
awfully sorry I was not at the rails with Bittra and Ormsby this
morning; but we shall all be together at Holy Communion the Sunday after
they return from the Continent. By Jove! there goes the Angelus; and
twelve is the hour to start the boat!"

He took off his hat, and we said the _Angelus_ in silence together. I
noticed the silver gathering over his ears, and the black hair was
visibly thinning on the top. I watched him keenly for those few seconds.
I did not know that those musical strains of the midday Angelus were his
death-knell--the ringing up of the great stage-manager, Death, for his
_volté subito_--his leap through the ring to eternity.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 6: In many places in Ireland the priest places the broad ends
of the stole on the heads of the newly married couple.]



CHAPTER XXVII

THE "STAR OF THE SEA"


There was a vast crowd assembled down where the extemporized pier jutted
into the creek, and where the new fishing-boat, perfect in all her
equipments, lolled and rolled on the heaving of the tide. Her high mast
made an arc of a circle in the warm June air, as the soft, round
wavelets lifted her; and many was the comment made on her by those whose
eyes had never rested but on the tarred canvas of the coracle.

"She has a list to port!" said an old mariner, critically.

"Where's yer eyes, Jur?" cried another. "Don't ye see she lanes to
stabbord?"

"I'll bet dhrinks all round she's level as the althar," said a third.

"'Twill take six min to navigate her," cried an old salt, who had been
around the world.

"'T is aisy to get 'em for the big wages the priest is offering."

"How much?" cried a mariner from Moydore.

"Fifteen shillings a week, an' a share in the profits."

"Here's the capt'n and the priests. Now, boys, for a cheer."

And there was a cheer that made the ocean shiver, and fluttered the
flags over the tents, and made even the trick-o'-the-loop men pause in
their honest avocation, and the orange-sellers hold their wares
suspended in midair.

"Is that him?" was the cry, as Father Letheby, his face aglow with
excitement and pride, came down the by-path to the pier.

"That's him, God bless him!" said the Kilronan men. "'Twas a lucky day
brought him among us. What are yere priests doing?"

"Divil a bit!" said the strangers, who felt themselves humiliated.

There was a ring of merchants around Father Letheby, the shopkeepers
over from Kilkeel and Loughboro' who had subscribed to the balance of
local aid required by the Board of Works. They scanned the boat
critically, and shuffled, in imagination, the boundless profits that
were to accrue.

A light breeze blew off the land, which was another favorable omen; and
it was reported that the coast-guards had seen that morning the Manx
fishing-fleet about twelve miles to the south'ard.

There had been a slight dispute between Father Letheby and Campion about
the naming of the craft, the latter demanding that she should be called
the "Bittra Campion of Kilronan," and Father Letheby being equally
determined that she should be called the "Star of the Sea." Bittra
herself settled the dispute, as, standing in the prow of the boat, she
flung a bottle of champagne on the deck, and said tremulously: "I name
her the 'Star of the Sea.'"

But she grew pale, and almost fainted, as the heavy bottle, without a
break, pirouetted down between sails and cordage, and seeking an opening
in the gunwale of the boat flopped into six fathoms of sea-water.

It was a dread omen, and all felt it. Nothing could have been more
inauspicious or unlucky. But the Celtic wit and kindness came to her
aid.

"Never mind, Miss; 't isn't you, but the d----d old hulk that's
unlucky."

"Thim bottles are made of sheet-iron; they're so tick they don't hould a
glassful."

"One big cheer, byes, for the 'Star of the Say.'"

It was a big cheer; but somehow there was a faltering note somewhere;
and when Father Letheby handed Bittra ashore and the decks were cleared,
and the crew summoned to make her ready to clear off, the men held back,
cowed and afraid.

"You miserable cowards," said Father Letheby; "afraid of every little
accident! I'll not let one of you now aboard; I'll get a crew of men
from Moydore!"

This stung them to the quick; and when a few Moydore boys stood forward
and volunteered, they were rudely flung aside by the four stalwart
fishermen, and we went near having a good free fight to crown the
morning's proceedings. Yet it was easy to see that their hearts were
heavy with superstition and fear; and it was just at this crisis that
Campion stepped forward and offered himself as captain and helmsman.
There was a genuine ringing cheer when he walked down her deck; for
every one knew what a splendid seaman he was, and it is exhilarating to
see a strong man, self-reliant and confident, assume an authority and
premiership by natural right, where weaklings are timid and irresolute.
The clouds moved off from Father Letheby's face only to gather more
deeply upon poor Bittra's. Campion saw it and came over to where she
stood, leaning on Ormsby's arm.

"I would be miserable up at that old castle, mignonne," he said fondly,
"when you and Ormsby depart. It is only a few hours at sea, and it will
give nerve to these poor fellows."

"Father! father!" was all that she could say through her tears. What
dreadful forebodings filled that gentle heart!

"Tell her it's all right, Ormsby!" Campion said, turning away from the
tearful face. "You know all about the sea, and that there's no danger.
What a noble craft she is! Good by, little woman! You have no time to
lose if you want to catch the mail. Good by, Ormsby! Take care of her!"

He choked down his emotion as he kissed his child, and then sprang on
deck.

"All right, lads! Ease off her head first! There, cast away aft!"

And the pretty craft was caught up by the flowing tide; and with the
strong hand at the helm, floated calmly down the deep creek until she
reached a wider space, where the wind could catch her. Then they raised
a white sail, half-mast high, and she leaned over to the pressure until
she shot out amongst the breakers, and her mainsail and topsail shook
out to the breeze, and she cut the calm sea like a plough in the furrow,
and the waters curled and whitened and closed in her wake. Then, at a
signal, her pennant was hauled to the masthead; and every eye could read
in blue letters on a white ground "Star of the Sea." There was a
tremendous cheer, and the fishing-boat went forward to her fate.

Long after the crowd had dispersed, two figures leaned on the
battlements of the bridge that spanned the fiord higher up near the
great house. Bittra fluttered her little handkerchief as long as the
dark speck at the helm could be discerned. Then the boat, now but a tiny
white feather in the distance, was lost in the haze; and Bittra and her
husband set out on their wedding journey.

       *       *       *       *       *

As we went home, Father Letheby showed me a letter received that morning
from the manager of the great firm at Loughboro', complaining that the
work lately sent from the Kilronan factory was very imperfect, and,
indeed, unsalable, and calling for the first instalment payable on the
machines.

"I called the girls' attention to this," he said, "some weeks ago, when
the first complaints were made; and some pouted, and some said they were
doing too much for the wages I gave them, although, to encourage them, I
gave them nearly double what I had stipulated for, and have left myself
without a penny to meet this first instalment."

"Come," I said, "this won't do. Let us go in and see all about this!"

We went upstairs to the great room, to find it empty of workers. The
girl who was placed in the position of superintendent was knitting in a
corner, and rose as we entered.

"Where are the girls, Kate?" he said, not unkindly.

"I don't know, your reverence. They were saying yesterday that this
should be a holiday."

"They knew all this work was waiting, and that the manager was
complaining."

"They did, indeed, your reverence. I told them so, and one said: 'Let
them wait.' They're grumbling about the wages, though they were never
better off in their lives before."

"Are they all of the same mind in that matter?"

"Oh, no, your reverence. Nine of the girls are anxious, and are really
grateful for the work; but there are three doxies, who have bachelors,
if you please, and they think themselves quite above the work."

"I see. I think I know them. They won't come here again. Can you supply
their places?"

"Easy enough, your reverence, but--"

"Never mind. I'll do that myself."

He did. He dismissed the recalcitrants promptly; but when it became a
question of obtaining substitutes, it was not so easy.

The rest of the girls went to work the following day; but as they passed
through the village in the evening on the way home, they were hooted
unmercifully, called "staggeens," "thraitors," "informers," and, as a
result, remained at home, and sent in their resignation to Father
Letheby. Not that the entire body of villagers sympathized with this
disgraceful conduct; but the powers of evil are more aggressive than the
agents of goodness; and the children of darkness are wiser in their
generation than the children of light. I suppose it is the same the wide
world over; but, of a surety, in Ireland one rebel makes a thousand. No
one thinks himself called upon to be a martyr or witness to the right.
Of course, Father Letheby had sympathizers; but they limited their
sympathy to kindly criticism:--

"He was well in his way, making ladies of thim that ought to be diggin'
praties in the fields."

"He's young, Maurya; when he gets oulder, he'll know betther."

"Shure, they were bad enough to say he was puttin' the money in his own
pocket, and dem goin' to their juty every month."

"I hard my lady with the fringes and the curls and the cuffs say that
the poor priest was turning a good pinny by it; and that he larned the
thrade from his father."

"The dirty whipster; an' I saw the chops and the steaks goin' in her
door, where a fryin'-pan was never known to sing before."

"An' her kid gloves an' her bonnet on Sunday. Begor, the Lady G---- is
nothin' to her."

"Well, the poor priest is well rid av thim, however. I suppose 't will be
shut up now."

Nevertheless, the girls never came back. The terror of some nameless,
undefined apprehension hung over them.

       *       *       *       *       *

But I am anticipating. We dined with Father Letheby the evening of this
eventful day. We had a pretty large party of priests; for a good many
had come over to witness the launch of the fishing-boat. And, Father
Letheby's star being in the ascendant, he had a few worshippers,
unenvious, except with the noble emulation of imitating him. This is the
rarest, but most glorious success that life holds forth to the young and
the brave. Fame is but a breath; Honor but the paint and tinsel of the
stage; Wealth an intolerable burden; but the fire of noble rivalry
struck from the souls of the young in the glow of enthusiasm--here is
the only guerdon that the world can give to noble endeavor, and the
kingly promises of success. And my brave curate, notwithstanding the
reverses of the morning, rose to the occasion, kindled by the sincere
applause that rang around him for noble efforts that had passed into
completeness and fruition; and I, an old man, just about to make my bow
and exit, felt almost young again, as the contagion of youth touched me,
and I saw their eyes straining afar after the magnificent possibilities
of the future. God bless them! for they need every square inch of energy
and enthusiasm to meet the disappointments and defeats, the lack of
sympathy and appreciation, and the superabundance of criticism that
await them. Dear me! if only the young had fair play and the tonic of a
kindly word--but no, kind words appear to be weighed out like gold;
and then comes deadly depression and heart-searching, and all brave
courage is extinguished, and all noble aspirations checked, until in
middle age we find only the dried-up, cauterized, wizened soul, taught
by dread experience to be reticent and cautious, and to allow splendid
opportunities to pass unutilized rather than risk the chances of one
defeat. And the epitaph on these dead souls is: _Foris pugnæ, intus
timores_.

This evening we let ourselves out bravely. It was a great occasion; we
were all proud of the success of my brave young confrère; and when
Father Duff rose to propose his health, the table rang and rocked with
our applause. The westering sun threw a soft glory over the beautiful
flowers and plants that decorated the table, and lingered long in the
ruby flames of the glasses; the room was filled with a hundred odors
from plant and shrub, and the blood of grapes that were crushed in the
wine-presses of Languedoc and Dauphiny; and from afar through the open
window came the scented June air and the murmurs of the ever restless
sea. Father Duff spoke well, and feelingly, and generously, and wound up
a fine, eloquent speech with the words:--

"And whilst we heartily wish him many years of increased utility in
wider and loftier spheres of action, and, with successful work, the
laurels and the prizes that should follow it, may we be tempted to
follow his noble initiative, and to learn that the very war against
difficulties, and their conquest, is one of the richest prizes of labor
and effort, and that toil and battle, even of themselves, have the
faculty of ennobling and refining."

Then we all stood up, with our glasses poised, and sang: "For he's a
right good fellow." There were greetings of "Ad multos annos," etc.; and
just then there came across the fields from the direction of the pier a
low, wailing sound, so thin and faint that we almost doubted the
testimony of our ears. Presently it was renewed, in increased volume,
then died away again as the land breeze caught it and carried it out to
sea. We looked at one another in surprise, and Father Letheby, somewhat
disturbed, said:--

"I did not know that any of our people was dead."

"You expected no funeral this evening?"

"No! I got no intimation that any one was to be buried."

Then he rose to respond to the toast of his health. He spoke well, and
with a good deal of grateful feeling; and he seemed to appreciate mostly
the generous congratulations of the younger clergy, whom he had gathered
around him. But ever and anon, that wail for the dead broke over the
moorland, and interrupted his glowing periods, until it came quite close
to the village, and appeared to be circling round the house in dismal,
funereal tones of agony and distress.

"I must bring my remarks to an abrupt conclusion, gentlemen," he said
anxiously; "something is seriously wrong in the village, and I must go
and see."

He had not far to go. For now a tumultuous throng had burst into the
village, as we could feel by the hurried tramp of feet, and the sound of
many voices, and the awful accents of hysterical women raising that
chant for the dead that is so well known in Ireland. The crowd gathered
in thick masses around the door and we went out.

"She's gone, your reverence, and they are all drowned."

"Sunk by a steamer--"

"Struck her foreships--"

"No! abaft--"

"The captain's drowned--"

"Can't you let the min spake for theirselves?" said Jem Deady, who
assumed at once the office of Master of Ceremonies. "Bring these fellows
for'ard, and let them tell the priest."

They were brought forward, the four fishermen, but were not too well
able to sustain conversation, much less to detail a thrilling narrative
of events; for the poor fellows had been filled up to the epiglottis
with whiskey, and were in momentary peril of asphyxia. By piecing and
patching their ejaculations together, however, it was ascertained that
the "Star of the Sea" had a glorious run to the fishing-fleet, was
welcomed cheerily by the Manx boats, and even more enthusiastically by
the Cherbourg fleet; had made all arrangements for the sale of her fish;
and then, with renewed vigor, was making for home. The haze that had
hung over the sea all the morning had deepened, however, into a thick
fog; and one wary old fisherman had ventured to warn Campion that he had
too much way on, and to keep a good lookout. He laughed at the notion of
their meeting any vessel in those desolate waters, and had freed the
helm for a moment whilst he lit a cigar, when just then there was a
shout, and a large steamer loomed out of the fog, running at right
angles with the fishing-craft. Screams of warning came from the steamer,
her fog-whistle was sounded, but Campion took it coolly.

"He thought it was the wather-witch, the 'Halcyonia,' he had, your
reverence, and she swung to the touch of a baby's finger."

But the heavy craft was not so obedient, and Campion's attempt to show
his seamanship was disastrous. He ran right under the steamer's nose,
and had just almost cleared her when her prow struck the boat, six or
eight feet from the stern, sheared off her helm and steering apparatus
as if cut with a knife, and struck Campion as he fell. Then in a moment
the boat filled and careened over, throwing her crew into the sea. The
four fishermen were saved, two by clinging to the suspended anchors of
the steamer, two by ropes flung from the deck. Campion went down.

"The last we saw of him was his black head bobbing in the wather; and,
faith, it wasn't his prayers he was sayin'."

Here, indeed, was the dread descent of the sword on Damocles. And all
looked to Father Letheby to know what he would say. He received the
dread intelligence, which foreboded ruin to himself and others, like a
man, and merely turned to the expectant crowd and said:--

"Get these poor fellows home as soon as possible. Their clothes are
dripping wet, and they'll catch their death of cold."

True, indeed, there were little pools of water in the hall where the
shipwrecked fishermen were standing.

As we turned to go in, whilst the crowd dispersed, Jem Deady took
occasion to whisper:--

"Look here, your reverence, 't was all dhrink."

Jem had kept his pledge for six weeks, and by virtue thereof assumed all
the privileges of a reformer.

It was a dread ending of the day's business, and it came with crushing
effect on the soul of Father Letheby. They were bad omens,--the revolt
at the factory and the destruction of the boat. We remained for hours
talking the thing over, whilst my thoughts ran away to the happy girl
who was just then speeding from Kingstown on her bridal tour. I followed
her in imagination through smoky England to sunny France. I saw her,
leaning on her husband, as he led her from church to church, from
gallery to gallery, in the mediæval cities of the Continent; I saw her
cross from the Riviera into Italy, and I realized her enthusiasm as she
passed, mute and wonder-stricken, from miracle to miracle of art and
faith, in that happy home of Catholicism. I could think of her even
kneeling at the feet of the Supreme Pontiff whilst she begged a special
blessing on her father, and he, rolling with the tide, a dead mass in
ooze and slime, and uncouth monsters swimming around him in curiosity
and fear, and his hands clutching the green and purple _algæ_ of the
deep.

Some one asked:--

"Was the boat insured?"

"No," said Father Letheby. "We were but waiting the result of her trial
trip to make that all right."

"Then the committee are responsible for the whole thing?"

"I suppose so," said Father Letheby, gloomily.

"I should rather think not," said Father Duff, who was quietly turning
over the leaves of an album. "Depend upon it, the Board of Works never
allowed her to leave her wharf without having her fully insured, at
least for the amount payable by the Board!"

"Do you think so?" said Father Letheby, as the cloud lifted a little at
these words.

"I know it," said Father Duff, emphatically.

After a little time, and ever so many expressions of sympathy, the
guests departed and left us alone. In a few minutes a knock came to the
door, and Lizzie summoned Father Letheby.

"You're wanting just for a minute, sir."

He went out, leaving the door ajar. I heard Father Duff saying with
emphasis:--

"I am deputed to tell you, Letheby, that we are all determined to stand
by you in this affair, no matter what it costs. As for myself, I want
to assure you that if you are good enough to trust me, I can see my way
to tide you over the crisis."

"Ten thousand thanks, Duff," Father Letheby replied. "I shall show you
my friendship for you by demanding your assistance should I need it."

He came in to tell me.

"Never mind," I said; "I heard it all, God bless them!"

I then regretted, for the first time in my life, that I had not loved
money; I would have given a good deal for the luxury of drawing a big
check with these brave young fellows.

I remained till twelve o'clock, debating all possibilities, forecasting,
projecting all manner of plans. Now and then a stifled wail came up from
the village. We agreed that Bittra should be allowed to proceed on her
wedding trip, and that when she returned we would break the dreadful
news as gently as possible.

"No chance of seeing the dread accident in the London papers?"

"None! It cannot reach London before to-morrow night. They will then be
in Paris."



CHAPTER XXVIII

SUB NUBE


Glorious summer weather, gold on sea and land, but gloom of death and
dole on our hearts, and dark forebodings of what the future has in
store. I could hardly believe it possible that one night's agony could
work such a change in the appearance; but when, next morning, I saw the
face of Father Letheby, white and drawn, as if Sorrow had dragged his
rack over it, and the dark circles under his eyes, and the mute despair
of his mouth, I remembered all that I had ever read of the blanching of
hair in one night, and the dread metamorphoses that follow in the
furrows where Anguish has driven his plough. It appeared, then, that
between the buoyancy of the day's success, and the society of friends,
and the little excitements of the evening, he had not realized the
extent of his losses and responsibilities. But in the loneliness of
midnight it all came back; and he read, in flaming letters on the dark
background of his future, the one word: _Ruin_! And it was not the
financial and monetary bankruptcy that he dreaded, but the shame that
follows defeat, and the secret exultation that many would feel at the
toppling over of such airy castles and the destruction of such ambitious
hopes. He was young, and life had looked fair before him, holding out
all kinds of roseate promises; and now, at one blow, the whole is
shattered, and shame and disgrace, indelible as the biting of a burning
acid, was his for all the long years of life. It was no use to argue:
"You have done nothing wrong or dishonorable"; here was defeat and
financial ruin, and no amount of whitewashing by reason or argument
could cover the dread consequences.

"Come out," I cried, after we had talked and reasoned to no purpose;
"sufficient for the day is the evil thereof. Let us have a walk; and the
sea air will clear the cobwebs off our brains."

We strolled down by the sea, which to-day looked so calm and beautiful,
its surface fluted with grooves where the sunlight reposed, and the
colored plaits of the waves weaving themselves lazily until they broke
into the white lace-work of sandy shoals. Nothing was there to show the
pitiless capacity or the deep revenge it takes from time to time on its
helpless conquerors. As we passed down by the creek, the "Great House"
came into sight, all its blinds drawn and the white windows staring
blankly at the sea.

"This poor child has a heavier cross before her than you," I said.

"Yes, but hers shall be healed in time. But who will wipe out
dishonor?"

"I cannot see where the dishonor comes in," I replied. "You have neither
robbed nor embezzled."

"I am a hopeless insolvent," he said. "I am security, sole security, for
those men over at Kilkeel, whom I promised and guaranteed to safeguard.
That I am bound to do on every principle of honor."

"Well, looking at it in its worst aspect," I replied, "insolvency is not
dishonorable--"

"It is the very acme of dishonor in a priest," he said.

Then I saw the inutility of reason in such a case.

We dined together that evening; and just as the Angelus bell rang, we
heard the hootings and derisive shouts of the villagers after the new
hands that had been taken on at the factory. In a few minutes these poor
girls came to the door to explain that they could not return to work. It
was the last straw. For a moment his anger flamed up in a torrent of
rage against these miscreants whom he had saved from poverty. Then it
died down in meek submission to what he considered the higher decree.

"Never mind, girls," he said; "tell Kate Ginivan to close the room and
bring me the key."

That was all, except that a certain listener treasured up all this
ingratitude in his heart; and the following Sunday at both Masses, the
walls of Kilronan chapel echoed to a torrent of vituperation, an
avalanche of anger, sarcasm, and reproach, that made the faces of the
congregation redden with shame and whiten with fear, and made the ladies
of the fringes and the cuffs wish to call unto the hills to cover them
and the mountains to hide them.

       *       *       *       *       *

Nothing on earth can convince the villagers that the shipwreck was an
accident and not premeditated.

"They saw us coming, and made for us. Sure we had a right to expect it.
They wanted to make us drunk at the fishing-fleet; but the cap'n wouldn't
lave 'em."

"You don't mean to say they dreaded your poor boat?"

"Dreaded? They don't want Irishmen anywhere. Sure, 't was only last
year, whin they wanted to start a steamer between Galway and
Newfoundland--the shortest run to America--the captain was bribed on his
first trip, and tho' there isn't nothing but ninety fathoms of blue
say-wather betune Arran and Salthill, he wint out of his way to find a
rock, three miles out av his coorse, and--he found it. The Liverpool min
settled Galway."

"And didn't the cap'n cry: 'Port! d--n you, port!' and they turned her
nose right on us."

"But they were kind when they picked you up?"

"So far as talking gibberish and pouring whiskey into us, they were; but
whin they landed us, one dirty frog-eater sang out:--

"It's addiyou, not O revwar!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Just a week after these events, that is, the Wednesday after my great
sermon, which is now a respectable landmark, or datemark, at Kilronan, I
got the first letter from Bittra. Here it is, brief and pitiful:--

     Hotel Bristol, Paris, Sunday.

     Rev. dear Father Dan:--Here we are in the world's capital. The air
     is so light that you should sift the heavy atmosphere of Kilronan a
     hundred times to make it as soft and exhilarating. We ran through
     London, seeing enough to make one wish to escape it; and we are
     boulevarding, opera-seeing, picture-gallery-visiting, church-going
     since. The churches are superb; but--the people! Fancy only two men
     at Mass at Ste. Clotilde's, and these two leaned against a pillar
     the whole time, even during the Elevation. I had a terrible
     distraction; I couldn't help saying all the time: "If Father Dan
     was here, he'd soon make ye kneel down;" and I fancied you standing
     before them, and making them kneel down by one look. But the women
     are pious. It's all beautiful; but I wish I were home again! Rex is
     all kindness; but he's a little shocked at our French customs.
     "Are these Catholics?" he says, and then is silent. How is dear
     father? I fear he'll be lonesome without his _petite mignonne_.
     Mind, you are hereby invited and commanded to dine every evening
     with papa, and also Father Letheby. Love to St. Dolores! Tell Mrs.
     Darcy I inquired for her. What havoc she would make of the cobwebs
     here!

     Dear Father Dan,
         Always your affectionate child,
         Bittra Ormsby.

     P. S. Remember you dine with papa every day. No ceremony. He likes
     to be treated _en bon camarade_! Isn't that good French?

"You never know what a pitiful thing human wisdom is," said Father
Letheby, one of these dismal days of suspense, "until you come to test
it in sorrow. Now, here's a writer that gives me most intense pleasure
when I have been happy; and I say to every sentence he writes: 'How
true! How beautiful! What superb analysis of human emotion and feeling!'
But now, it's all words, words, words, and the oil of gladness is dried
up from their bare and barren rhetoric. Listen to this:--

     "'A time will come, must come, when we shall be commanded by
     mortality not only to cease tormenting others, but also ourselves.
     A time must come, when man, even on earth, shall wipe away most of
     his tears, were it only from pride. Nature, indeed, draws tears out
     of the eyes, and sighs out of the breath so quickly, that the wise
     man can never wholly lay aside the garb of mourning from his body;
     but let his soul wear none. For if it is ever a merit to bear a
     small suffering with cheerfulness, so must the calm and patient
     endurance of the worst be a merit, and will only differ in being a
     greater one, as the same reason, which is valid for the forgiveness
     of small injuries, is equally valid for the forgiveness of the
     greatest.... Then let thy spirit be lifted up in pride, and let it
     contemn the tear, and that for which it falls, saying: "Thou art
     much too insignificant, thou every-day life, for the
     inconsolableness of an immortal,--thou tattered, misshapen,
     wholesale existence!" Upon this sphere, which is rounded with the
     ashes of thousands of years, amid the storms of earth, made up of
     vapors, in this lamentation of a dream, it is a disgrace that the
     sigh should only be dissipated together with the bosom that gives
     it birth, and that the tear should not perish except with the eye
     from which it flows.'"

"It sounds sweetly and rhythmically," I replied, "but it rests on human
pride, which is a poor, sandy foundation. I would rather one verse of
the 'Imitation.' But he seems to be a good man and an eloquent one."

"He apologizes for the defects of philosophy," said Father Letheby. "He
says:--

     "'We must not exact of philosophy that, with one stroke of the pen,
     it shall reverse the transformation of Rubens, who, with one stroke
     of his brush, changed a laughing child into a weeping one. It is
     enough if it change the full mourning of the soul into
     half-mourning; it is enough if I can say to myself, "I will be
     content to endure the sorrow that philosophy has left me; without
     it, it would be greater, and the gnat's bite would be the wasp's
     sting."'

"Now, this is a tremendous admission from a philosopher in love with his
science. It shows that he cares for truth more than for mere wisdom--"

"Look here, young man, something has brightened you up; this is the
first day for the fortnight that you have condescended to turn your
thoughts away from the luxury of fretting."

"Ay, indeed," he said, and there was a faint halo around his face.
"Three things--work, Dolores, and my weekly hour. I have trampled all my
bitterness under the hoofs of hard work. I have my first chapter of 'The
Cappadocians' ready for the printer. I tell you work is a noble tonic.
It was the best thing Carlyle wrote,--that essay on Work. Then this
afflicted child shames me. She takes her crucifixion so gloriously. And
last, but not least, when I pass my hour before the Blessed
Sacrament--an hour is a long time, Father Dan, and you think of a lot of
things--and when all the Christian philosophy about shame, and defeat,
and suffering, and ignominy comes back to me, I assure you I have been
angry with myself, and almost loathe myself for being such a coward as
to whimper under such a little trial."

"Very good! Now, that's common sense. Have you heard from the Board?"

"Yes; that's all right. They are going to hold an investigation to try
and make that French steamer responsible, as I believe she is, for two
reasons: she was going full speed in the fog; and she should have
observed the rule of the road, or of the sea, that a steamer is always
bound to give way to a sailing vessel. And I am becoming thoroughly
convinced now, from all that I can hear, that it was no accident. I
should like to know what took that steamer away from the fleet, and five
miles out of her ordinary course. I'm sure the Board will mulct her
heavily."

"But has the Board jurisdiction over foreign vessels ten or twelve miles
from shore?"

"That I don't know. I wish Ormsby were home."

"So do I, except for the tragedy we'll have to witness with that poor
child."

"Have you heard lately?"

"Not since she wrote from Paris."

"Alice had a letter from Florence yesterday. Such a pitiful letter, all
about her father. There was a good deal that Alice did not
understand,--about Dante, and Savonarola, and the Certosa,--but she said
I'd explain it. Clearly she knows nothing as yet."

But the revelation was not long delayed, and it came about in this wise.
I had a letter--a long letter--from Bittra from Rome, in which she wrote
enthusiastically about everything, for she had seen all the sacred
places and objects that make Rome so revered that even Protestants call
it home and feel lonely when leaving it. And she had seen the Holy
Father, and got blessings for us all,--for her own father, for Daddy
Dan, for Dolores, for Father Letheby. "And," she wrote, "I cannot tell
you what I felt when I put on the black dress and mantelletta and veil,
which are _de rigueur_ when a lady is granted an audience with the Pope.
I felt that this should be my costume, not my travelling bridal dress;
and I would have continued to wear it but that Rex preferred to see me
dressed otherwise. But it is all delightful. The dear old ruins, the
awful Coliseum, where Felicitas and Perpetua suffered, as you often told
us; and here Pancratius was choked by the leopard; and there were those
dreadful emperors and prætors, and even Roman women, looking down at the
whole horrible tragedy. I almost heard the howl of the wild beasts, and
saw them spring forward, and then crouch and creep onwards towards the
martyrs. Some day, Rex says, we'll all come here together again--you,
and papa, and Father Letheby,--and we'll have a real long holiday, and
Rex will be our guide, for he knows everything, and _he'll charge
nothing_." Alas! her presentiment about the mourning dress was not far
from verification. They travelled home rapidly, up through Lombardy,
merely glancing at Turin and Milan and the Lakes. At Milan they caught
the Swiss mail, and passed up and through the mountains, emerging from
the St. Gothard tunnel just as a trainful of passengers burst from the
refreshment rooms at Goschenen and thronged the mail to Brindisi. Here
they rested; and here Bittra, anxious to hear English or Irish news,
took up eagerly the "Times" of a month past, that lay on a side table,
and, after a few rapid glances, read:--

     "A sad accident occurred off the Galway coast, on Monday, June----.
     The 'Star of the Sea,' a new fishing-smack, especially built for
     the deep-sea fisheries, was struck on her trial trip by a French
     steamer and instantly submerged. Her crew were saved, except
     Captain Campion, the well-known yachtsman, who had taken charge of
     the boat for the occasion. He must have been struck insensible by
     the prow of the steamer, for he made no effort to save himself, but
     sank instantly. As the disaster occurred ten miles from land, there
     is no hope that his body will be recovered."

How she took the intelligence, her blank stare of horror, when Ormsby
entered the dining-room, whilst she could only point in mute despair to
the paper; how, the first shock over, she fell back upon the sublime
teachings of religion for consolation; and how the one thing that
concerned her most deeply manifested itself in her repeated exclamations
of prayer and despair: "His soul! his soul! poor papa!"--all this Ormsby
told us afterwards in detail. They hurried through Lucerne to Geneva,
from Geneva to Paris, from Paris home, travelling night and day, his
strong arm supporting her bravely, and he, in turn, strengthened in his
new-born faith by the tenderness of her affection and the sublimity of
her faith.

Of course, we knew nothing of all this whilst the days, the long days,
of July drew drearily along with cloudless skies, but, oh! such clouded
hearts! Suspense and uncertainty weighed heavily on us all. We did not
know what to-morrow might bring. Occasionally a visitor came over
through curiosity to see the theatre of the accident, shrug his
shoulders, wonder at the folly of young men, and depart with an air of
smug self-satisfaction. There were a few letters from the factory at
Loughboro', complaining and then threatening, and at last came a bill
for £96.0.0, due on the twelve machines, and an additional bill for
£30.0.0, due on material. Then I wrote, asking the proprietor to take
back machines and material, and make due allowance for both. I received
a courteous reply to the effect that this was contrary to all business
habits and customs. There the matter rested, except that one last letter
came, after a certain interval, peremptorily demanding payment and
threatening law proceedings.

One shamefaced, dreary deputation came to me from the young girls who
had been employed in the factory. They expressed all kinds of regrets
for what they had done, promised amendment, guaranteed steady work for
the future, would only ask half pay, would work for some weeks for
nothing even until the debts were paid off. I referred them briefly to
Father Letheby.

"They couldn't face him. If he was mad with them and scolded them, they
could bear it and be glad of it; but they couldn't bear to see his white
face and his eyes. Would I go and see him for them, and bring back the
key to Kate Ginivan?"

I did, and came back with a laconic _No_! Then for the first time they
understood that they had knocked their foolish heads against adamant.

"There's nothing for us, then, but America, your reverence," they said.

"It would be a good thing for the country if some of you went,
whatever," I said.

       *       *       *       *       *

The following Sunday a deputation appeared in the village,--the good
merchants from Kilkeel, who had subscribed the balance of two hundred
pounds for the boat. They called just as Father Letheby was at
breakfast, immediately after his last Mass. He received them
courteously, but waited for what they had to say.

"That was an unfortunate thing about the boat, your reverence," said the
spokesman.

"Very much so, indeed," said Father Letheby.

"A great misfortune, entirely," said another, looking steadily at the
floor.

"We come to know, your reverence, what's going to be done," said the
foreman.

"Well, the matter lies thus, gentlemen," said Father Letheby. "The Board
of Trade is making careful investigations with a view to legal
proceedings; and, I understand, are sanguine of success. They hope to
make that steamer responsible for the entire amount."

"The law is slow and uncertain," said the foreman.

"And we understand that the crew do not even know the name of the
steamer that ran them down," said another.

"You may be sure, gentlemen," said Father Letheby, "that the Board will
leave nothing undone to secure their own rights and those of the
proprietors. They have already intimated to me that I shall be called
upon to prosecute in case the Inspector of the Board of Trade finds that
there was malice prepense or culpable negligence on the part of the
master of the steamer, and I am fully prepared to meet their wishes.
This means a prosecution, out of which, I am sanguine, we shall emerge
victorious; and then there will be no delay in discharging our
obligations to you individually."

"Live, horse, and you'll get grass," said one of the deputation
insolently, presuming on the quiet tone Father Letheby had assumed.

"'T is hunting for a needle in a bundle of straw," said another.

Father Letheby flushed up, but said nothing. The foreman assumed a calm,
magisterial air.

"You will remember, Reverend sir," he said, "that this subscription to
what some considered a Uropean[7] idea was not, I may say, advanced on
our part. It was only at your repeated solicitations, Reverend sir, that
we consented to advance this sum out of our hard earnings--"

"Hard enough, begor," said a member; "'t isn't by booklarnin', but by
honest labor, we got it."

"If you would kindly allow me, Mr. ----," said the foreman, in a
commiserating tone, "perhaps I could explain to the Reverend gentleman
our views in a more--in a more--in a more--satisfactory manner."

"There's simply nothing to be explained," said Father Letheby. "The boat
is at the bottom of the sea; I am responsible to you for two hundred
pounds. That's all."

"Pardon me, sir," said the eloquent foreman, who was nettled at the idea
that his oratory was not acceptable--and he had once proposed a Member
for Parliament--"pardon me, that is not all. We--a--are accustomed to
repose in our clergymen the highest, and indeed, I may add, the deepest
confidence. When that good lady--I quite forget her name, it is so long
since I read my classics--perhaps, sir, you could help me--ahem!"

"I am quite at a loss to know to what excellent lady you refer," said
Father Letheby.

"I'm very sorry to hear such a statement from the lips of a clergyman,"
said the foreman, with much severity; "for the lady to whom I refer is
the representative, and, indeed, the personification of Justice--"

"Oh, you mean 'Astræa,'" said Father Letheby.

"Quite so, sir," said the merchant, pompously. "When Astery left the
earth she took refuge in the Church."

"Indeed!" said Father Letheby, "I was not aware of that interesting
fact."

"Well, sir," said the merchant, nettled at this sarcastic coolness, "at
least we, laymen, are accustomed to think so. We have been taught to
repose unbounded confidence in our clergy--"

"And how have I forfeited that confidence?" said Father Letheby, who
began to see a certain deliberate insult under all this silliness.

"Well, you see, sir," he continued, "we relied on your word of honor,
and did not demand the usual securities for the advance of our money.
And now we find ourselves in a curious predicament--our money gone, and
no redress."

"You doubt my word of honor now?" said Father Letheby, who, to his own
seeming, had been a miracle of patience.

"We have been deceived, sir," said the merchant, grandly.

"Pray, how?" said Father Letheby. "You may not be aware of the meaning
of your language, nor of the usual amenities of civilized society, but
you should at least know that your language approaches very closely to
insult."

"We _have_ been deceived, sir," said the other, severely.

"Might I repeat my question, and ask you how?" said Father Letheby.

"We got the most repeated assurance, sir," said the merchant, "that this
boat would be a mine of wealth. Instead of that, it is, if I may so
speak, a tornado of ruin and misfortune. It lies, if I may use the
expression, at the bottom of the briny sea."

"To cut a long story short," said another of the deputation, "that boat
was a swindle from beginning to end, and I know it--"

"Pardon me, gentlemen," said Father Letheby, rising, "but I must now cut
short the interview, and ask you to retire--"

"Ask us to retire with our money in your pocket!"

"Turn us out, and we--"

"Now, gentlemen, there is no use in prolonging this unpleasantness. Be
good enough to leave my house. Lizzie, show these gentlemen the door."
He had touched the bell.

"We retire, sir, but we shall come again. We retreat, but we return.
Like Marius,"--the foreman was now in the street, and there was a pretty
fair crowd around the door,--"like Marius, like Marius--"

"Who the d----l would marry the likes of you, you miserable omadhaun,"
said Jem Deady, who knew by instinct that this was a hostile expedition.
"Give us de word, your reverence, and we'll chuck the whole bloomin' lot
into the say. It was many a long day since they had a bat', if we're to
judge by dere dirty mugs."

This was the signal for a fierce demonstration. In a moment the village
was in arms, men rushed for stones, women, hastily leaving the
dinner-tables, gathered up every kind of village refuse; and amidst the
din of execration and abuse the shopkeepers of Kilkeel climbed on their
cars and fled; not, however, without taking with them specimens, more or
less decayed, of the _fauna_ and _flora_ of Kilronan, in the shape of
eggs redolent of sulphuretted hydrogen, a few dead cats, and such
potatoes and other vegetables as could be spared from the Sunday dinner.
The people of Kilronan had, of course, a perfect right to annoy and
worry their own priests, especially in the cause of Trades-Unionism; but
the idea of a lot of well-dressed malcontents coming over from Kilkeel
to insult their beloved curate was simply intolerable.

Nevertheless, that lonely walk by the sea-cliffs that Sunday afternoon
was about the most miserable experience in Father Letheby's life. He did
not know whither to turn. Every taunt and insult of these ignorant men
came back to sting him. What would it be if the whole thing came to
publicity in the courts, and he was made the butt of unjust
insinuations by some unscrupulous barrister, or the object of the lofty,
moral indignation of the bench! Yet he felt bound, by every law of
honor, to pay these men two hundred pounds. He might as well be asked to
clear off the national debt. Now and again he paused in his walk, and,
leaning on his umbrella, scrutinized the ground in anxious reverie; then
he lifted up his eyes to the far horizon, beneath whose thin and misty
line boat and captain were sleeping. Then he went on, trying in vain to
choke down his emotion. "Star of the Sea! Star of the Sea!" he muttered.
Then, half unconsciously: "Stella maris! Stella maris!! Porta manes, et
stella maris, succurre cadenti surgere qui curat populo!"

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 7: "Utopian," I suppose, the poor man meant.]



CHAPTER XXIX

STIGMATA?


I do not think it was personal humiliation, or the sense of personal
shame, or dread of further exposure, that really agitated Father Letheby
during these dreary days, so much as the ever-recurring thought that his
own ignominy would reflect discredit on the great body to which he
belonged. He knew how rampant and how unscrupulous was the spirit of
criticism in our days; and with what fatal facility the weaknesses and
misfortunes of one priest would be supposed, in the distorted mirrors of
popular beliefs, to be reflected upon and besmirch the entire sacred
profession. And it was an intolerable thought that, perhaps in far
distant years, his example would be quoted as evidence of folly or
something worse on the part of the Irish priesthood. "When Letheby
wasted hundreds of pounds belonging to the shopkeepers of Kilkeel," or,
"Don't you remember Letheby of Galway, and the boat that was sunk?"
"What was his bishop doing?" "Oh, he compelled him to leave the
diocese!" These were the phrases, coined from the brazen future, that
were flung by a too fervid or too anxious imagination at his devoted
head; and if the consolations of religion healed the wounds rapidly,
there were ugly cicatrices left behind, which showed themselves in
little patches of silver here and there in his hair, and the tiny
fretwork of wrinkles in his forehead and around his mouth. Then, whilst
speaking, he grew frequently abstracted, and would start and murmur: "I
beg pardon! I didn't quite catch what you were saying." Then I
understood that he had sleepless nights as well as troublous days; and
all the time I was powerless to help him, though I yearned to be able to
do so. What was most aggravating was the complete silence of Father Duff
and his contemporaries during these days of trial, and the contemptuous
and uncharitable criticisms that reached me, but did not reach Father
Letheby, from quondam admirers and friends.

"Sure, we knew well how it would all turn out! These Utopian schemes
generally do end in failure."

"If he had only followed the beaten track, there was every prospect of
success before him; for, mind you, he had a fair share of ability."

"I wonder what will the bishop do?"

"I dare say he'll withdraw faculties and ask him to seek a mission
abroad."

"Well, it is a warning to the other young fellows, who were tempted to
follow him."

I was hoping that the return of Bittra and Ormsby would wean him away
from his anxiety. But this, too, was pitiful and sad beyond words. I
ventured to go see her the morning after their arrival. Ormsby came into
the drawing-room first, and told me all particulars of their journey,
and prepared me to see a great change in his young wife. Nevertheless, I
was startled to see what a transformation a few days' agony had caused.
Bittra had a curious habit of holding her face upwards, like a child,
when she spoke; and this innocent, ingenuous habit, so typical of her
candor and openness of mind, was now accentuated by the look of blank
and utter despair that had crept over her. If she had wept freely, or
been hysterical, it would have been a relief; but no! she appeared
dazed, and as if stricken into stone by the magnitude of her sorrow; and
all the little accidents of home life,--the furniture, the gardens, her
father's room and his wardrobe, his few books, his fishing-rods and
fowling-pieces,--all were souvenirs of one whose place could not be
filled in her soul, and whose tragic end, unsupported by the
ministrations of religion, made the tender and reverent spirit of his
child think of possibilities which no one can contemplate without a
shudder. How different the Catholic from the non-Catholic soul! What an
intense realization of eternity and the future of its immortal spirits
in the one! How utterly callous and indifferent to that immortality is
the other! What an awful idea of God's justice in the one! What cool
contempt for God's dispensations in the other! And how the one realizes
the bursting of bonds and the setting free of the immortal spirit unto
the vast environments and accidents of life, whilst the other sees but
dead clay with some dim ideas of a shadowy and problematical eternity!
"His soul! his soul!" Here was the burden of Bittra's grief. Ormsby
could not understand it; he was frightened and bewildered. I tried every
word of solace, every principle of hope, that are our inheritance, only
to realize that--

    "Not all the preaching since Adam
    Can make Death other than Death!"

Then I took her out into the yard, and placed her where her father had
stood on the morning of her marriage, and where he heard "the Mass of
his sad life ringing coldly to its end." I repeated every word he
said,--his remorse, his faith, his determination for a future, his
regret that he was not with her on the morning of her nuptial Communion,
his promise to be at Communion the Sunday after they returned from the
Continent. "And here," I said, "he stood when the Angelus rang, and,
taking off his hat, reverentially said it; and I counted the silver in
his hair. And do you think, you little infidel, that our great Father
has not numbered the hairs of his head also--ay, and the deep yearnings
of his heart?"

She looked relieved.

"Come now," I said, "put on your hat and let us see Dolores. She knows
eternity better than you or I."

"May I ask Rex to come with us?"

"Certainly," as I thought what a merciful dispensation it was that a new
love had been implanted where an old love was rudely snatched away.

"And Dr. Armstrong? He journeyed down from Dublin with us."

"Of course. He intends, I believe, to see Alice professionally."

"Yes. He is to arrange for a consultation with our doctor."

"Very good. We shall all go together."

So we did. And I had the supreme consolation to see these two afflicted
ones mingling their tears in the chalice that was held to them to drink.

"One little word, Father Dan," said Alice, as I departed. "I don't mind
Mrs. Ormsby. There is to be no operation, you promised me."

"No, my dear child, don't think of that. You will be treated with the
greatest delicacy and tenderness."

The result of the investigation made next day was a curious one. It was
quite true that her poor body was one huge sore; even the palms of her
hands and the soles of her feet were not exempt. But Dr. Armstrong made
light of this.

"I cannot promise to make her as handsome as I am told she was," he
said; "but I can restore her health by powerful tonics and good food.
That's no trouble. I've seen worse cases at least partially cured. But
the poor girl is paralyzed from the hips down, and that is beyond human
skill."

Here was a revelation. I told Alice about it after the doctors had left.
She only said "Thank God!" But Dr. Armstrong's predictions were
verified. Slowly, very slowly, in a few weeks, the external symptoms of
the dread disease disappeared, until the face and forehead became
thoroughly healed, and only a red mark, which time would wear off,
remained. And her general strength came back, day by day, as fresh blood
drove out all that was tainted and unwholesome, and even her hair began
to grow, first in fluffy wisps, then in strong, glossy curls, whilst a
curious, spiritual beauty seemed to animate her features, until she
looked, to my eyes, like the little Alice I had worshipped as a child.
In a mysterious way, also, Alice and Bittra seemed to pass into each
other's souls; and as the thorns withered and fell away from each young
brow and heart, little roses of Divine love, reflected in human sympathy
and fellowship, seemed to sprout, and throw out their tender leaves,
until the Rose of Love took the place of the red Roses of Pain; and
Time, the Healer, threw farther back, day by day, the memories of trials
surmounted, and anguish subdued in its bitterness to the sweetness of
resignation. And when, one day in the late autumn, when all the leaves
were reddening beneath the frosts of night and the hushed, hidden grays
of sombre days, Alice was rolled to the door of her cottage, and saw the
old, familiar objects again; and the children clustered around her
bath-chair with all kinds of presents of lovely flowers and purple and
golden fruits; and as the poor, pale invalid stretched out her thin
hands to the sky, and drew in long draughts of pure, sweet air, she
trembled under the joy of her resurrection, and seemed to doubt whether,
after all, her close little room, and the weary bed, and her own dread
cross, and her crucifix, were not better. But now she understood that
this recovery of hers was also God's holy will, and she bowed her head
in thankfulness and wept tears of joy.

And so the cross was lifted from the shoulders of two of my children,
only to press more heavily on the third. As the dreary days went by, and
no relief came to Father Letheby, his suspense and agitation increased.
It was a matter of intense surprise that our good friends from Kilkeel
seemed to have forgotten their grievance; and a still greater surprise
that their foreman and self-constituted protagonist could deprive
himself of the intense pleasure of writing eloquent objurgations to the
priest. But not one word was heard from them; and when, in the
commencement of the autumn, Father Letheby received a letter from the
Board of Works, stating that the Inspector of the Board of Trade
despaired of making the owners of the steamer amenable, and stated,
moreover, that they might be able to indemnify eventually the local
subscribers out of the receipts accruing from the insurance on the boat,
no reply came to this communication which he had immediately forwarded
to Kilkeel. He had one other letter from the solicitor of the Loughboro'
Factory Company, stating that law proceedings were about being
instituted in Dublin, at the Superior Courts. He could only reply by
regretting his inability to meet the demand, and offering, as an
instalment, to auction all his furniture and books, and forward the
proceeds. And so things went on, despair deepening into despair, until
one morning he came to me, his face white as a sheet, and held out to
me, with tremulous hands, a tiny sheet, pointing with his finger to one
particular notice. It was not much, apparently, but it was the verdict,
final and irrevocable, of insolvency and bankruptcy. It was a list of
judgments, marked in the Superior Courts, against those who are unable
to meet their demands; and this particular item ran thus:--

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
County.|Defendants.    |Plaintiff. |Court.|Date of       |Amount.  | Costs.
       |               |           |      |Judgment.     |         |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Galway.|Letheby, Rev.  |Loughboro' |Q. B. |Oct. 12, 187--|£126.0.0.| £8.12.6.
       |Edward,        |Factory    |      |              |         |
       |R.C. Clergyman.|Co., L't'd.|      |              |         |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

"This is the end," said he, mournfully. "I have written the bishop,
demanding my _exeat_."

"It is bad, very bad," I replied.

"I suppose the Kilkeel gentlemen will come next," he said, "and then the
bailiffs."

"The whole thing is melancholy," I replied; "it is one of those cases
which a man requires all his fortitude and grace to meet."

"Well, I made a complete sacrifice of myself this morning at Mass," he
said, gulping down his emotion; "but I didn't anticipate this blow from
on high. Nevertheless, I don't for a moment regret or withdraw. What is
that you quote about suffering:--

    '... aspera, sed nutrix hominum bona'?

I'll make arrangements now to sell off everything, and then for

    'Larger constellations burning, mellow moons, and happy skies,
    Breadths of tropic shade, and palms in cluster, knots of Paradise.'

But the name I leave behind me--Letheby!--Letheby! It will go down from
generation to generation--a word of warning against shame and defeat.
Dear me! how different the world looked twelve months ago! Who would
have foreseen this? And I was growing so fond of my work, and my little
home, and my books, and my choir, and--and--the children!"

"Alice and Bittra have been pulled out of the fire unscathed," I said
feebly. "Why may not you?"

"Ay, but they had physical and domestic troubles," he said; "but how can
you get over disgrace?"

"That, too, may be overcome," I replied. "Is there not something about
'opprobrium hominum et abjectio plebis,' in Scripture?"

"True," he said, "there it is. I am forever grasping at two remedies, or
rather supports--work, work, work, and the Example you have quoted; and
sometimes they swing me up over the precipices and then let me down into
the abysses. It is a regular see-saw of exultation and despair!"

"Let me know, when you have heard from the bishop," I said; "somehow I
believe that all will come right yet."

"No, no, Father Dan," he said, "it is only your good nature which you
mistake for a happy presentiment. Look out for a new curate."

       *       *       *       *       *

The events of the afternoon, indeed, did not promise favorably for my
forecast. About three o'clock, whilst Father Letheby was absent, a
side-car drove into the village, from which two men alighted; and having
made inquiries, proceeded to Father Letheby's house, and told the
bewildered and frightened Lizzie that they had come to take possession.
Lizzie, like a good Irish girl, stormed and raged, and went for the
police, and threatened the vengeance of the Superior Courts, at which
they laughed and proceeded to settle themselves comfortably in the
kitchen. Great fear fell, then, upon the village, and great wrath
smouldered in many breasts; and, as surely as if they had lighted
beacon-fires, or sent mounted couriers far and wide, the evil news was
flashed into the remotest mountain nooks and down to the hermitages of
the fishermen. And there was wrath, feeble and impotent, for here was
the law, and behind the law was the omnipotence of England.

What Father Letheby endured that evening can only be conjectured; but I
sent word to Lizzie that he was to come up to my house absolutely and
remain there until the hateful visitors had departed. This was sooner
than we anticipated. Meanwhile, a few rather touching and characteristic
scenes occurred. When the exact nature of Father Letheby's trouble
became known, the popular indignation against the rebellious factory
girls became so accentuated that they had to fly from the parish, and
they finally made their way, as they had promised, to America. Their
chief opponents now were the very persons that had hooted their
substitutes through the village, and helped to close the factory
finally. And two days after the bailiffs had appeared, an old woman,
who had been bed-ridden for years with rheumatism, managed to come down
into the village, having got a "lift" from a neighbor, and she crept
from the cart to my door. Father Letheby was absent; he hid himself in
the mountains or in the sea-caves these dread days, never appearing in
the village but to celebrate his morning Mass, snatch a hasty breakfast,
and return late at night, when the shadows had fallen. Well, Ellen
Cassidy made her way with some difficulty into my little parlor, where,
after I had recovered from my fright at the apparition, I ventured to
address her:--

"Why, Nell, you don't mean to say that this is yourself?"

"Faith it is, your reverence, my own poor ould bones. I just kem down
from my cabin at Maelrone."

"Well, Nell, wonders will never cease. I thought you would never leave
that cabin until you left it feet foremost."

"Wisha, thin, your reverence, naither did I; but God give me the strinth
to come down on this sorrowful journey."

"And what is it all about, Nell? Sure, you ought to be glad that the
Lord gave you the use of your limbs again."

"Wisha, thin, your reverence, sure, 't is I'm wishing that I was in my
sroud[8] in the cowld clay, before I saw this sorrowful day. Me poor
gintleman! me poor gintleman! To think of all his throuble, and no wan
to help him!"

"You mean Father Letheby's trouble, Nell?"

"Indeed, 'n' I do,--what else? Oh! wirra, wirra! to hear that me poor
gintleman was gone to the cowld gaol, where he is lying on the stone
flure, and nothing but the black bread and the sour wather."

Whilst Nell was uttering this lonely threnody, she was dragging out of
the recesses of her bosom what appeared to be a red rag. This she placed
on the table, whilst I watched her with interest. She then commenced to
unroll this mummy, taking off layer after layer of rags, until she came
to a crumpled piece of brown paper, all the time muttering her Jeremiad
over her poor priest. Well, all things come to an end; and so did the
evolutions of that singular purse. This last wrapper was unfolded, and
there lay before me a pile of crumpled banknotes, a pile of sovereigns,
and a handful of silver.

"'T isn't much, your reverence, but it is all I have. Take it and give
it to that good gintleman, or thim who are houlding him, and sind him
back to us agin."

"'T is a big sum of money, Nell, which a poor woman like you could hardly
afford to give--"

"If it were tin millions times as much, your reverence, I'd give it to
him, my darlin' gintleman. Sure, an' 't was he came to me up on that
lonesome hill in all the rain and cowld of last winter; and 't was he
said to me, 'Me poor woman, how do you live at all! And where's the
kittle?' sez he; but sure, I had no kittle; but he took up a black burnt
tin, and filled it with wather, and put the grain of tay in it, and
brought it over to me; and thin he put his strong arm under my pillow,
and lifted me up, and 'Come, me poor woman,' sez he, 'you must be wake
from fastin'; take this; and thin he wint around like a 'uman and set
things to rights; and I watchin' him and blessin' him all the time in
_my_ heart of hearts; and now to think of him without bite or
sup;--wisha, tell me, your reverence," she said, abruptly changing her
subject, "how much was it? Sure, I thought there was always a dacent
living for our priests at Kilronan. But the times are bad, and the
people are quare."

It needed all my eloquence and repeated asseverations to persuade her
that Father Letheby was not gone to gaol as yet, and most probably would
not go. And it was not disappointment, but a sense of personal injury
and insult, that overshadowed her fine old face as I gathered up her
money and returned it to her. She went back to her lonely cabin in
misery.

When Father Letheby came in and sat down to a late dinner, I told him
all. He was deeply affected.

"There is some tremendous mine of the gold of human excellence in these
good people," he said; "but the avenues to it are so tortuous and
difficult, it seems hardly worth while seeking for. They are capable of
the most stupendous sacrifices provided they are out of the common; but
it is the regular system and uniformity of the natural and human law
that they despise. But have you any letter for me?"

"None. But here is a tremendous indictment against myself from Duff."

"No letter from the bishop?" he said despondently, as he opened and read
the letter, which ran thus:--

     Atheloy, 13/10/7--.

     Rev. dear Father Dan:--How has all this miserable business
     occurred? Well, to our minds, you alone are culpable and
     responsible. We must seem to Letheby to be utter caitiffs and
     cowards, to allow matters to come to such a horrible crisis,
     especially in the case of a sensitive fellow like him. But up to
     the date of that horrible exposure in Stubbs', we had no idea there
     were complications with those factory people--nothing, in fact,
     beyond the responsibilities of that unhappy boat. Now, why didn't
     you let us know? You may not be aware that the evening of the
     disaster I made a solemn engagement to stand by him to the end; and
     now all this must seem the merest braggadocio. And yet, the thing
     was a trifle. Would you tell Letheby now, that it will be all right
     in a few days, and to cheer up; no harm done, beyond a temporary
     humiliation! But we'll never dine with you again, and we shall,
     one and all, brave the Episcopal anger by refusing to be your
     curates when Letheby is promoted.

                             Yours, etc.,
                         Charles L. Duff, C. C.


"He's very kind, very kind, indeed," said Father Letheby, meditatively;
"but I cannot see how he is going to make it all right in a few days."

"It wouldn't surprise me much," I replied, "if that good young fellow
had already put a sop in those calves' mouths over there at Kilkeel."

"Impossible!" he cried.

"Well, time will tell."

I called down to see Alice and talk over things. It is wonderful what a
_clairvoyante_ she has become. She sees everything as in a magic mirror.

"I think the Holy Souls will come to his relief," she said, in a cool,
calm way. "He has, I think, a great devotion to the Holy Souls. He told
me once, when we were talking about holy things, that he makes a
_memento_ in every Mass of the most neglected and abandoned priest in
purgatory; but, sure, priests don't go to purgatory, Father Dan, do
they?"

"Well, my dear, I cannot answer you in general terms; but there's one
that will be certainly there before many years; and unless you and
Father Letheby and Bittra pull him out by your prayers, I'm
afraid--But continue what you were saying."

"He makes a _memento_, he said, for the most abandoned priest, and for
the soul that is next to be released. And whenever he has not a special
intention, he always gives his Mass to our Blessed Lady for that soul.
Now, I think, that's very nice. Just imagine that poor soul waiting
inside the big barred gates, and the angel probably her warder for many
years, outside. They don't exchange a word. They are only waiting,
waiting. Far within are the myriads of Holy Souls, praying, suffering,
loving, hoping. There is a noise as of a million birds, fluttering their
wings above the sea. But here at the gate is silence, silence. She dares
not ask: When?--because the angel does not know. Now and again he
looks at her and smiles, and she is praying softly to herself. Suddenly
there is a great light in the darkness overhead, and then there is a
dawn on the night of purgatory; for a great spirit is coming down
swiftly, swiftly, on wings of light, until he reaches the prison-house.
Then he hands the warder-angel a letter from the Queen of Heaven; and in
a moment, back swing the gates, and in plunges the guardian angel, and
wraps up that expectant soul in his strong wings, and up, up, up,
through starry night and sunny day they go, until they come into the
singing heavens; and up along the great avenues of smiling angels, until
at last the angel lays down that soul gently at the feet of Mary. And
all this was done by a quiet priest in a remote, whitewashed chapel,
here by the Atlantic, and there was no one with him but the little boy
who rang the bell."

I had been listening to this rhapsody with the greatest admiration, when
just then Bittra came in. She has got over the most acute period of her
grief, "except when," she says, "she looks at the sea and thinks of what
is there."

"Alice is prophesying," I said; "she is going to take Father Letheby out
of his purgatory on Monday."

"Ah, no, Daddy Dan, that's not fair. But I think he will be relieved
from his cross."

"And what about your own troubles, Alice?" said Bittra. "Is the healing
process going on?"

"Yes, indeed, thank God," she replied, "except here and there."

Bittra was watching me curiously. Now it is quite a certain fact, but I
never dreamed of attaching any importance to it, that this child had
recovered her perfect health, so far as that dreadful scrofulous
affection extended, except in the palms of her hands and the soles of
her feet, where there remained, to the doctor's intense disappointment,
round, angry sores, about the size of a half-crown, and each surrounded
with a nimbus of raw, red flesh, which bled periodically.

"And here, also," she said innocently this evening, "here on my side is
a raw sore which sometimes is very painful and bleeds copiously. I have
not shown the doctor that; but he gets quite cross about my hands and
feet."

"It is very curious," I said, in my own purblind fashion, "but I suppose
the extremities heal last."

"I shall walk home with you, Father Dan, if you have no objection," said
Bittra.

"Come along, child," I replied. "Now, Alice, we shall be watching
Monday, All Souls' Day."

"Very well, Daddy Dan," she said, smiling. "Everything will come right,
as we shall see."

As we walked through the village, Bittra said to me wonderingly:--

"Isn't it curious about those sores, Father? They won't heal."

"It is," I said musingly.

"I have been thinking a lot about it," she said.

"And the result of your most wise meditations?"

"You'll laugh at me."

"Never. I never laugh. I never allow myself to pass beyond the genteel
limits of a smile."

"Then I think--but--"

"Say it out, child. What are you thinking of?"

"I think it is the _stigmata_," she said, blushing furiously.

I was struck silent. It was too grand. Could it be? Had we a real,
positive saint amongst us?

"What do you think, Father Dan? Are you angry?"

"God forbid, child. But tell me, have you spoken to Alice on the
matter?"

"Oh, dear no! I wouldn't dream of such a thing. It would give her an
awful shock."

"Well, we'll keep it a profound secret, and await further revelations.
'Abscondisti hæc a prudentibus, et revelasti ea parvulis.'"

But next evening, I think I threw additional fervor into the _Laudate's_
and _Benedicite's_ at Lauds.

But as I looked at Father Letheby across the table in the lamplight, and
saw his drawn, sallow cheeks and sunken eyes, and the white patch of
hair over his ears, I could not help saying to myself: "You, too, have
got your _stigmata_, my poor fellow!"

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 8: Shroud.]



CHAPTER XXX

ALL'S WELL


The soul of Jem Deady was grievously perturbed. That calm and placid
philosopher had lost his equanimity. It showed itself in many ways,--in
violent abstraction at meal-times, and the ghoulish way in which he
swallowed cups of tea, and bolted potatoes wholesale; in strange
muttered soliloquies in which he called himself violent and opprobrious
names; in sacrilegious gestures towards Father Letheby's house. And
once, when Bess, alarmed about his sanity, and hearing dreadful sounds
of conflict from his bedroom, and such expressions as these: "How do you
like that?" "Come on, you ruffian!" "You'll want a beefsteak for your
eye and not for your stomach, you glutton!" when Bess, in fear and
trembling, entered the bedroom, she found her amiable spouse belaboring
an innocent bolster which, propped against the wall, did service
vicariously for some imaginary monster of flesh and blood. To all Bess's
anxious inquiries there was but one answer: "Let me alone, 'uman; I'm
half out o' my mind!" There should be a climax, of course, to all this,
and it came. It was not the odor of the steaks and onions that, wafted
across intervening gardens from Father Letheby's kitchen, precipitated
the crisis; nor the tears of Lizzie, who appeared from time to time, a
weeping Niobe, and whose distress would have touched the heart of a less
susceptible Irishman than Jem Deady; nor yet the taunts of the women of
the village, who stung him with such sarcasms as these: "Yes; Faynians
begor, with their drilling, an' their antics, an' their corporals, an'
their sergeants,--they couldn't hunt a flock of geese. Dere goes de
captain!--look at him an' his airs; and thim Dublin jackeens above in
the priest's house, atin' him out o' house and home, and not a man in
Kilronan able to lay a wet finger on 'em." But, as in all great crises,
it is the simple thing that proves the last straw, so in this. What
steaks and onions, tears and taunts, could not do, was done by an
innocent Havana, whose odors, sprung from a dainty weed, held between
the lips of one of these great representatives of Her Majesty's law, and
wafted to the senses of Jem Deady, as he bent over his cabbages in his
little garden, made him throw down his spade with something that seemed
like, and most unlike, a prayer, and rush into the house and shout:
"Tare an' houns! Flesh and blood can't stand this! Don't shpake a word,
'uman! Don't shpake a word! but get me soap, and hot wather, and a
towel, while you'd be saying thrapsticks!"

[Illustration: "Come down to Mrs. Haley's--there isn't a better dhrop
betune this and Dublin." (p. 452.)]

[Illustration: "Come on, you ruffian!"]

Bess did as she was directed; and then paused anxiously in the kitchen
to conjecture what new form her husband's insanity was taking.
Occasionally a muttered growl came from the recesses of the bedroom; and
in about a quarter of an hour out came Jem, so transformed that Bess
began to doubt her own sanity, and could only say, through her tears:--

"For the love of God, Jem, is 't yourself or your ghost?"

It certainly was not a ghost, but a fine, handsome man, over six feet
high, his hair curled, and his whiskers shining with Trotter Oil, and
his long pilot coat with the velvet collar, which he had got from Father
Laverty, and on which the merciful night, now falling, concealed the
abrasions of time. Bess looked at him with all a wife's admiration; and
then, half crying, half laughing, said:--

"And what new divilmint are ye up to now?"

Jem answered not a word. He was on the war-path. He only said
sarcastically:--

"Ye needn't expect me home to tay, Mrs. Deady. I'm taking tay with
shupparior company to-night."

An hour later there were three gentlemen in Father Letheby's parlor, who
appeared to have known each other in antenatal times, so affectionate
and confidential were they. The gentleman in the middle was sympathizing
with his brethren in the legal profession--for he had introduced himself
as the local bailiff--on their being sent down from the metropolis and
its gayeties, from their wives and children, into this remote and
forsaken village called Kilronan.

"It ain't too bad," said one, with a strong Northern accent. "A' have
bun in wuss diggins thon thus!"

[Illustration: "For the love of God, Jem, is 't yourself or your
ghost?"]

Then the conversation drifted to possible dangers. And it appeared there
was not, in Her Majesty's dominions, a more lawless and fiendish set of
ruffians than those who lurked in Kilronan. Why, what did they do in the
days of the Lague? Didn't they take his predecessor, as honest a man as
ever lived, and strip him, and nail him by the ears to his door, where
his neighbors found him in the morning? But "the poluss? the poluss?"
"Oh! they're always looking the other way. But let us get the taste of
these murderin' ruffians out o' our mout'! Come down to Mrs. Haley's.
There isn't a better dhrop betune this and Dublin."

"But the proputty? the proputty?" said the bailiffs, looking around
anxiously.

"As safe as if ye had it in yere waistcoat pockets," they were assured.

The three well-dressed gentlemen moved with easy dignity down the one
dark street of the village, piloted carefully by the central figure, who
linked his arms affectionately in his comrades', and smoked his weed
with as much dignity as if he had been born in Cuba.

"Powerful dark hole!" said one; "one mut git a blow o' a stun and nuvver
be the wiser."

"Or the prod of a pike," suggested the middle gentleman.

"Huv tha' no gaws here?" cried his neighbor.

"No. But we're thinkin' of getting up the electric light; at laste the
parish priest do be talkin' about it, and sure that's the same as havin'
it. But here we are. Now, one word! There's one ruffian here whose name
mustn't pass yere mout', or we don't know the consekinces. He's a most
consaited and outrageous ruffian, doesn't care for law or judge, or
priest or pope; he's the only one ye have to be afeard of. Listen, that
ye may remimber. His name is Jem Deady. Keep yere mouths locked on that
while ye 're here."

It was a pleasant little party in Mrs. Haley's "cosey" or "snuggery."
There was warmth, and light, and music, and the odor of rum-punch and
lemon, and the pungency of cigars, and the pleasant stimulus of
agreeable conversation. Occasionally one of the "byes" looked in, but
was promptly relegated to the taproom, at a civil distance from the
"gintlemin." By and by, however, as more charity and less exclusiveness
prevailed under the generous influences of good liquor, the "gintlemin"
requested to be allowed to show the light of their glowing faces in the
plebeian taproom; and the denizens of the latter, prompt at recognizing
this infinite condescension, cheered the gentlemen to the echo.

"'T is the likes of ye we wants down here," they cried; "not a set of
naygurs who can't buy their tay without credit."

But the local bailiff didn't seem to like it, and kept aloof from the
dissipation. Also, he drank only "liminade." It was admitted in after
years that this was the greatest act of self-denial that was recorded in
history. His comrades chaffed him unmercifully.

"Come, mon, and git out o' the blues. Whoy, these are the jolliest
fullows we uver mot."

"And there isn't better liquor in the Cawstle cellars. Here's to yer
health, missus."

So the night wore on.

But two poor women had an anxious time. These were Lizzie, who, in some
mysterious manner, persuaded herself that she was responsible for the
custody and safe keeping of the bailiffs in the eyes of the law; and if
anything happened to them she might be summoned up to Dublin, and put on
her trial on the capital charge. The other was Mrs. Deady. When eleven
o'clock struck, she expected to hear every moment the well-known
footsteps of her spouse; but no! Half-past eleven--twelve struck--and
Jem had not returned. At half-past twelve there was a peculiar
scratching sound at the back-door, and Bess opened it and dragged Jem
into her arms, whilst she poured into his face a fire of
cross-questions.

"Ax me no questions an' I'll tell ye no lies," said Jem. "Have ye
anythin' to ate?"

Bess had, in the shape of cold fat bacon. Jem set to hungrily.

"Would ye mind covering up the light in the front windy, Bess?" said
Jem.

Bess did so promptly, all the while looking at her spouse in a
distressed and puzzled manner.

"Jem," said she at length, "may the Lord forgive me if I'm wrong, but I
think ye're quite sober."

Jem nodded. A knock came to the door. It was Lizzie.

"Have ye no news of the bailiffs, Jem?"

"I have, acushla. I left them at your dure half an hour ago, and they're
now fast asleep in their warm and comfortable beds."

"They're not in our house," said Lizzie, alarmed. "Oh, Jem, Jem, what
have ye done, at all, at all?"

"I'll tell ye, girl," said Jem, emphatically. "I left the gintlemin at
your dure, shook hands wid them, bid them good-night, and came down
here. Is that thrue, Bess?"

"Every word of it," said Bess.

"Go back to your bed, alanna," said Jem, "and have pleasant dhreams of
your future. Thim gintlemin can mind theirselves."

"'T is thrue, Lizzie," said Bess. "Go home, like a good girl, and make
your mind aisy."

Lizzie departed, crying softly to herself.

"What mischief have ye done, Jem?" said Bess, when she had carefully
locked and bolted the door. "Some day ye'll be dancin' upon nothin',
I'm thinkin'."

"Nabocklish!" said Jem, as he knelt down and piously said his prayers
for the night.

The following day was Sunday and All Saints' Day besides; and Jem, being
a conscientious man, heard an early Mass; and being a constitutional
man, he strolled down to take the fresh air--down the grassy slopes that
lead to the sea. Jem was smoking placidly and at peace with himself and
the world. One trifle troubled him. It was a burn on the lip, where the
candle had caught him the night before at Mrs. Haley's, when he was
induced to relax a little, and with his hands tied behind his back,
grabbed at a rosy apple, and caught the lighted candle in his mouth. But
that was a trifle. As Jem calmly strolled along, he became suddenly
aware of a marine phenomenon; and Jem, as a profound student of natural
history, was so interested in the phenomenon that he actually took the
pipe from his mouth and studied the marvel long and carefully. About
twenty yards from where he was standing, a huge pile of rock started
suddenly from the deep--a square, embattled mass, covered by the short,
springy turf that alone can resist the action of the sea. Beside it, a
tall needle of rock, serrated and sharp, shot up. These two solitary
islands, the abode of goats and gulls, were known in local geography as
the Cow and Calf. Now the Cow and Calf were familiar to Jem Deady from
his childhood. So were the deep, hollow caves beneath. So was the angry
swirl of the tide that, parted outside the rocks, swept around in fierce
torrents, and met with a shock of strength and a sweat of foam at the
angle near the cliffs. Therefore, these things did not surprise the
calm, equable mind of Jem. But perched on the sward on the top were two
strange beings, the like of whom Jem had never seen before, and whom his
fancy now at once recognized as the mermen of fable and romance. Their
faces were dark as that of his sable majesty; their hair was tossed
wildly. But they looked the picture of despair, whereas mermen were
generally reputed to be jolly. It might be no harm to accost them, and
Jem was not shy about strangers.

"Hallo, there!" he cried across the chasm; "who the--are ye? Did ye
shwim across from ole Virginny, or did ye escape from a throupe of
Christy Minstrels?"

"You, fellow," said a mournful voice, "go at once for the poluss."

"Aisier said than done," said Jem. "What am I to say suppose the
gintlemin are not out of their warm beds?"

"Tell them that two of Her gracious Majesty's servants are here--brought
here by the worst set of ruffians that are not yet hanged in Ireland."

"And what do ye expect the police to do?" said Jem, calmly.

"To do? Why, to get a boat and tuk us out o' thus, I suppose!"

"Look at yere feet," said Jem, "and tell me what kind of a boat would
live there?"

True enough. The angry waters were hissing, and embracing, and swirling
back, and trying to leap the cliffs, and feeling with all their awful
strength and agility for some channel through which they might reach and
devour the prisoners.

By some secret telegraphy a crowd had soon gathered. One by one, the
"byes" dropped down from the village, and to each in turn Jem had to
tell all he knew about the mermen. Then commenced a running fire of
chaff from every quarter.

"Where are yere banjoes, gintlemin? Ye might as well spind the Sunday
pleasantly, for the sorra a wan o' ye will get off before night."

"Start 'Way down the Suwanee River,' Jem, and we'll give 'em a chorus."

"You're Jem Deady, I suppose," said one of the bailiffs. "Well, Deady,
remember you're a marked mon. I gut yer cherickter last night from a
gentleman as the greatest ruffian amongst all the ruffians of
Kilronan--"

"Yerra, man, ye're takin' lave of yer sinses. Is 't Jem Deady? Jem
Deady, the biggest _omadhaun_ in the village."

"Jem Deady, the greatest _gommal_[9] that ever lived."

"Jem Deady, that doesn't know his right hand from his left."

"Jem Deady, who doesn't know enough to come in out of the wet."

"Jem Deady, the innocent, that isn't waned from his mother ayet."

[Illustration: "Hallo, there!... who the ---- are ye?" (p. 457.)]

During all these compliments Jem smoked placidly. I had forgotten one of
the most serious duties of a novelist--the description of Jem's
toilette. I had forgotten to say that a black pilot coat with velvet
collar, red silk handkerchief, etc., was a veritable Nessus shirt to
Jem. So passionately fond of work was he, and so high an idea had he
conceived on the sacredness and nobleness of work, that integuments
savoring of Sabbath indolence were particularly intolerable to him. He
moved about stiffly in them, was glad to shake them off, and resume his
white, lime-stained, patched, and torn, but oh! such luxuriously easy
garments of every-day life. Then I regret to have to record an act of
supreme vanity, that might be pardonable or venial in a young lady going
to a ball or coming out in her first concert, but was simply shocking in
a middle-aged man going out to Mass on a Sunday morning. Jem Deady
actually _powdered his face_! I do not say that it was violet powder or
that he used a puff. His methods were more primitive and more
successful. He went to a pot where lime was seething, or rather had been
seething. He took up the thick lumps and crushed them into dust. He made
his face as white as if he were going to play the king in Macbeth, and
Banquo's ghost was arising; and he turned his glossy locks into a
cadaverous and premature grayness, and Bess didn't like it. She wanted
to see him only one Sunday in "his best shuit"; but Jem, unkind fellow,
would not grant her that gratification.

Where was I? Oh, yes!

Jem, nothing loth, "ruz" the "Suwanee River," and accompanying himself
on an imaginary banjo, drew tears from all eyes by singing, with mingled
pathos and regret:--

    "All the world am sad and dreary
      Eberywhere I roam;
    Oh! darkies, how my heart grows weary,
      Far from the old folks at home."

Then commenced a fresh cross-fire of chaff.

"The gintlemin in the orchaystra will now favor the company wit' a
song."

Suddenly one young rascal shouted out:--

"Begor, perhaps it's badin' ye were goin'. Don't ye know the rigulations
of the coast? If ye were caught takin' off even yere hats here without
puttin' on a badin' dress, ye'd be dragged before the Mayor and Lord
Lieutenant of Kilronan, and get six weeks' paynal servitude."

Then suddenly a bright idea seemed to dawn on these scamps. There was a
good deal of whispering, and nodding, and pointing; and at last Jem
Deady stepped forward, and in a voice full of awe and sorrow he said:--

"Wan of the byes is thinkin' that maybe ye're the same strange gintlemin
that are on a visit with the priest for the last three days, and who
were dacent enough to shtand 'dhrinks all round' last night at Mrs.
Haley's. 'Pon the vartue of yere oath, are ye?"

"We are. Und dom fools we made of ourselves."

"Now, aisy, aisy," said Jem. "Ye don't know us as yet; but sure wan good
turn desarves another."

"Ye appear to be a dacent sort of fellow," said one of the bailiffs.
"Now, look here. If ye get us 'ut of thus, we'll gev ye a pun' note, and
as much dhrink as ye can bear."

Here there was a cheer.

"The tide goes down at four o'clock," said Jem, "and thin for eight
minits there is a dhry passage across the rocks. Thin ye must run for
yere lives, and we'll be here to help ye. But how the divil did ye get
there? We never saw but a goat there afore."

"That's a matter for the Queen's Bench, my fine fellow. God help those
who brought us here!"

"Amen!" cried all devoutly, lifting their ragged hats. Then they
departed to make the needful preparation. After they had half mounted
the declivity, one was sent back.

"The gintlemin who are going to resky ye," he said, "wants to know if ye
have any conscientious objection to be brought over on the Sabbath; or
wud ye rather remain where ye are till Monday?"

He was answered with an oath, and went away sadly. He was scandalized by
such profanity. "Sich language on a Sunday mornin', glory be to God!
What is the world comin' to?"

Four o'clock came, and the entire village of Kilronan turned out to the
rescue. There were at least one thousand spectators of the interesting
proceedings, and each individual of the thousand had a remark to make, a
suggestion to offer, or a joke to deliver at the unhappy prisoners. And
all was done under an affectation of sympathy that was deeply touching.
Two constables kept order, but appeared to enjoy the fun. Now, in any
other country but Ireland, and perhaps, indeed, we may also except Spain
and France and Italy, a simple thing is done in a simple, unostentatious
manner. That does not suit the genius of our people, which tries to
throw around the simplest matter all the pomp and circumstance of a
great event, and in the evolution thereof every man, woman, and child is
supposed to have a personal interest, and a special and direct calling
to order and arrange and bring the whole proceeding to perfection. Now,
you would say, what could be simpler than to fling a rope to the
prisoners and let them walk across on the dry rocks? That's your
ignorance and your contempt for details; for no Alpine guides, about to
cross the crevasses of a dangerous glacier, with a nervous and timid
following of tourists, ever made half the preparations that Jem Deady
and his followers made on this occasion. Two stout fishermen, carrying a
strong cable, clambered down the cliff, and crossed the narrow ledge of
rock, now wet with seaweed and slippery. They might have gone down, with
perfect ease, the goat-path, sanded and gravelled, by which the bailiffs
were carried the night before; but this would not be value for a pound
and the copious libations that were to follow. They then tied the cable
around the bailiffs and around themselves, and proceeded on their
perilous journey. With infinite care they stepped on rock and seaweed,
shouting hoarse warnings to their mates; but all their warnings were not
sufficient to prevent the bailiffs from slipping and floundering in the
deep sea-water pools left by the receding tide. Somehow the rope would
jerk, or a fisherman would slip, and down all would come together.
Meanwhile hoarse shouts echoed from the gallery of spectators above.

"Pull aft there, Bill."

"Let her head stand steady to the cliff."

"Port your helm, you lubber; don't you see where you're standing for?"

"Ease her, ease her, Tim! Now let her for'ard." And so, with shouts, and
orders, and a fair sprinkling of profane adjurations, the rescuers and
the rescued were hauled up the roughest side of the cliff, until the
black visages of the bailiffs were visible. Then there was a pause, and
many a sympathetic word for the "poor min."

"Where did they come from, at all?"

"No one knows. They're poor shipwrecked furriners."

"Have they any talk?"

"Very little, except to curse."

"Poor min! and I suppose they're all drowned wet."

Whilst the rescuing party halted, and wiped the perspiration from their
brows, one said, half apologetically:--

"I am axed by these gintlemin to tell ye--ahem! that there's a rule in
this village that no credit is given, from the price of an ounce of tay
to a pound of tobakky. An' if ye'd be so plasin' as to remimber that
poun' note ye promised, an' if it is convanient and contagious to ye,
perhaps--"

One of the bailiffs fumbled at his pockets in his critical condition,
and making a round ball of the note, he flung it up the cliff side with
a gesture of disgust. Jem Deady took up the missive, opened it calmly,
studied the numbers, and put it in his pocket.

"Now, byes, a long pull, a sthrong pull, and a pull thegither!"

And in an instant the bailiffs were sprawling on the green turf. Such
cheers, such congratulations, such slapping on the back, such hip! hip!
hurrahs! were never heard before. Then the procession formed and passed
on to the village; and to the melodious strains of "God save Ireland!"
the bailiffs were conducted to Father Letheby's house. Lizzie, half
crying, half laughing with delight for having escaped arrest and capital
punishment, prepared dinner with alacrity; and then a great hush fell on
the village--the hush of conjecture and surmise. Would the bailiffs
remain or depart? Would they recognize the deep hatred of the villagers
under all the chaff and fun, or would they take it as a huge joke? The
same questioning agitated their own minds; but they decided to go for
two reasons, viz., (1) that, fresh from the conflict, they could give a
more lurid description of their adventure, and obtain larger
compensation; and (2) that whilst Jem Deady was scraping, with no gentle
hand, the oil and lampblack from their faces, that he had placed there
the evening before, he told them, confidentially, to put a hundred miles
between themselves and the villagers that night, if they did not care to
leave their measures for a coffin. And so, at six o'clock a car was
hired, and amidst a farewell volley of sarcastic cheers and
uncomplimentary epithets, they drove to catch the night-mail to Dublin.
Father Letheby promptly took possession, and found nothing wrong, except
the odor of some stale tobacco smoke.

       *       *       *       *       *

Next day was All Souls', and it was with whitened lips, and with
disappointment writ in every one of his fine features, that he came up
after Mass to ask had I received any letter. Alas, no! He had pinned
his faith, in his own generous, child-like way, to Alice's prophecy, and
the Holy Souls had failed him. I went down to see Alice. She looked at
me inquiringly.

"No letter, and no reprieve," I said. "You false prophetess, you child
of Mahomet, what did you mean by deceiving us?"

She was crying softly.

"Nevertheless," she said at length, "it will come true. The Holy Souls
will never fail him. The day is not past, nor the morrow."

Oh, woman, great is thy faith!

Yet it was a melancholy day, a day of conjecture and fear, a day of sad
misgivings and sadder forebodings; and all through the weary hours the
poor priest wore more than ever the aspect of a hunted fugitive.

Next morning the cloud lifted at last. He rushed up to my house, before
he had touched his breakfast, and, fluttering one letter in the air, he
proffered the other.

"There's the bishop's seal," he cried. "I was afraid to open it. Will
you do it for me?"

I did, cutting the edges open with all reverence, as became the purple
seal, and then I read:--

     Bishop's House, All Souls' Day, 187--.

I nodded my head. Alice was right.

     My dear Father Letheby:--

"What?" he cried, jumping up, and coming behind my chair to read over my
shoulder.

     I have just appointed Father Feely to the pastoral charge of
     Athlacca, vacated by the death of Canon Jones; and I hereby appoint
     you to the administratorship of my cathedral and mensal priest
     here. In doing so, I am departing somewhat from the usual custom,
     seeing that you have been but one year in the diocese; but in
     making this appointment, I desire to mark my recognition of the
     zeal and energy you have manifested since your advent to Kilronan.
     I have no doubt whatever but that you will bring increased zeal to
     the discharge of your larger duties here. Come over, if possible,
     for the Saturday confessions here, and you will remain with me
     until you make your own arrangements about your room at the
     presbytery.

              I am, my dear Father Letheby,
                    Yours in Christ,
                            ----


"I never doubted the bishop," I said, when I had read that splendid
letter a second time. "His Lordship knows how to distinguish between the
accidents of a priestly life and the essentials of the priestly
character. You have another letter, I believe?"

"Yes," he replied, as if he were moonstruck; "a clear receipt from the
Loughboro' Factory Co. for the entire amount."

"Then Alice was right. God bless the Holy Souls!--though I'm not sure
if that's the right expression."

There never was such uproar in Kilronan before. The news sped like
wildfire. The village turned out _en masse_. Father Letheby had to stand
such a cross-fire of blessings and questions and prayers, that we
decided he had better clear out on Thursday. Besides, there was an
invitation from Father Duff to meet a lot of the brethren at an _agape_
at his house on Thursday night, when Father Letheby would be _en route_.
God bless me! I thought that evening we'd never get the little mare
under way. The people thronged round the little trap, kissed the young
curate's hand, kissed the lapels of his coat, demanded his blessing a
hundred times, fondled the mare and patted her head, until at last,
slowly, as a glacier pushing its moraine before it, we wedged our way
through a struggling mass of humanity.

"God be wid you, a hundred times!"

"And may His Blessed Mother purtect you!"

"And may your journey thry wid you!"

"Yerra, the bishop, 'oman, could not get on widout him. That's the
raison!"

"Will we iver see ye agin, yer reverence?"

Then a deputation of the "Holy Terrors" came forward to ask him let his
name remain as their honorary president.

"We'll never see a man again to lift a ball like yer reverence."

"No, nor ye'll niver see the man agin that cud rise a song like him!"
said Jem Deady.

Father Letheby had gone down in the afternoon to see Alice. Alice had
heard, and Alice was crying with lonely grief. He took up her small
white hand.

"Alice," he said, "I came to thank you, my child, for all that you have
done for me. Your prayers, your tears, but, above all, your noble
example of endurance under suffering, have been an ineffable source of
strength to me. I have wavered where you stood firm under the cross--"

"Oh! Father, don't, don't!" sobbed the poor girl.

"I must," he said; "I must tell you that your courage and constancy have
shamed and strengthened me a hundredfold. And now you must pray for me.
I dare say I have yet further trials before me; for I seem to be one of
those who shall have no peace without the cross. But I need strength,
and that you will procure for me."

"Father, Father!" said the poor girl, "it is you that have helped me.
Where would I be to-day if you had not shown me the Crucified behind the
cross?"

He laid in her outstretched hand a beautiful prayer-book; and thus they
parted, as two souls should part, knowing that an invisible link in the
Heart of Christ held them still together.

The parting with Bittra was less painful. He promised often to run over
and remain at the "Great House," where he had seen some strange things.
Nor did he forget his would-be benefactress, Nell Cassidy. He found time
to be kind to all.

What a dinner was that at Father Duff's! Was there ever before such a
tumult of gladness, such Alleluias of resurrection, such hip! hip!
hurrahs! such grand and noble speeches? The brave fellows had joined
hands, and dragged the beaten hero from the battlefield, and set the
laurels on his head. Then they all wanted to become my curates, for
"Kilronan spells promotion now, you know." But I was too wise to make
promises. As we were parting for the night, I heard Father Letheby say
to Duff:--

"I am under everlasting obligations to you. But you shall have that boat
money the moment it comes from the Insurance Office. And those
sewing-machines are lying idle over there; they may be of use to you
here."

"All right! Send them over, and we'll give you a clear receipt. Look
here, Letheby, it's I who am under obligations to you. I had a lot of
these dirty shekels accumulated since I was in Australia; and I'm
ashamed to say it, I had three figures to my credit down there at the
National Bank. If I died in that state, 't would be awful. Now I have a
fairly easy conscience, thanks again to you!"

When I reached my room that ev--morning, I was shocked and startled to
find the hour hand of my watch pointing steadily to two A.M. I rubbed
my eyes. Impossible! I held the watch to my ear. It beat rhythmically. I
shook my head. Then, as I sat down in a comfortable arm-chair, I held a
long debate with myself as to whether it was my night prayers or my
morning prayers I should say. I compromised with my conscience, and said
them both together under one formula. But when I lay down to rest, but
not to sleep, the wheels began to revolve rapidly. I thought of a
hundred brilliant things which I could have said at the dinner table,
but didn't. Such coruscations of wit, such splendid periods, were never
heard before. Then my conscience began to trouble me. Two A.M.!
two A.M.! two A.M.! I tried back through all my philosophers for an
apology. Horace, my old friend, came back from the shades of Orcus.

    "Dulce est desipere in loco,"

said he. Thank you, Flaccus! You were always ready:--

    "Quandoque bonus dormitat Homerus,"

he cried, as he vanished into the shades. Then came Ovid,
laurel-crowned, and began to sing:--

    "Somne, quies rerum, placidissime somne deorum!"

But I dismissed him promptly. Then Seneca hobbled in, old usurer as he
was, and said:--

    "Commodis omnium læteris, movearis incommodis."

"Good man!" I cried; "that's just me!"

Then came dear, gentle St. Paul, with the look on his face as when he
pleaded for the slave:--

    "Rejoice with them that rejoice, and weep with them that weep!"

Lastly, came my own Kempensis, who shook his head gravely at me, and
said:--

    "A merry evening makes a sad morning!"

I like À Kempis; but indeed, and indeed, and indeed again, Thomas, you
are sometimes a little too personal in your remarks.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 9: A half-idiot.]



CHAPTER XXXI

FAREWELL


Thomas À Kempis was right in saying that next morning would be a sad
one--not on account of previous merriment; but, as I drove home alone,
the separation from Father Letheby affected me keenly. He had, to use a
homely phrase, grown into my heart. Analyzing my own feelings, as I
jogged along the country road, I found that it was not his attractive
and polished manners, nor his splendid abilities, nor his sociability
that had impressed me, but his open, manly character, forever bending to
the weak, and scorning everything dishonorable. It was quite true that
he "wore the white flower of a blameless life"; but that is expected and
found in every priest; it was something else,--his manliness, his truth,
that made him

            "--my own ideal knight,
    Who reverenced his conscience as his king,
    Whose glory was redressing human wrongs;
    Who spake no slander, no, nor listened to it.

           *       *       *       *       *

    ... We have lost him; he is gone;
    We know him now; all narrow jealousies
    Are silent; and we see him as he moved,
    How modest, kindly, all-accomplished, wise,
    With what sublime repression of himself,
    And in what limits, and how tenderly!"

My poor boy! my poor boy! I thought he would be over me in my last hour
to hear my last confession, and place the sacred oils on my old limbs,
and compose me decently for my grave; but it was not to be. _Vale, vale,
longum vale!_

There was a letter from the bishop, and a large brown parcel before me
when I reached my home. I opened the letter first. It ran thus:--

     My dear Father Dan:--The prebendary stall, vacated by the death of
     the late Canon Jones, I now have much pleasure in offering for your
     acceptance. I suppose, if the [Greek: to prepon] always had force
     in this world, you would have been canon for the last twenty or
     thirty years; but at least it is my privilege now to make
     compensation; and I sincerely hope I may have the benefit of your
     wise counsel in the meetings of the Cathedral Chapter. It will also
     give you a chance of seeing sometimes your young friend, whom I
     have so suddenly removed; and this will weigh with you in accepting
     an honor which, if it has come tardily, may it be your privilege to
     wear for many years

                                         I am, my dear Father Dan,
                                              Yours in Christ,
                                                             ----


"Kind, my Lord, always kind and thoughtful," I murmured.

Then I cut the strings of the parcel. It contained the rochet, mozzetta,
and biretta of a canon, and was a present from some excellent Franciscan
nuns, to whom I had been formerly chaplain, and who were charitable
enough not to have forgotten me. So there they were at last, the dream
of half a lifetime. God help us! what children we are! Old and young,
it's all the same. I suppose that is why God so loves us.

I took up the dainty purpled and ermined mozzetta. It was soft, and
beautiful, and fluffy. I could fold the entire rochet in the palms of my
hands, the lace work was so fine and exquisite. I put them down with a
sigh. My mind was fully made up.

Hannah came in, and took in the situation at a glance.

"Did he give 'em to ye at last?"

"He did, Hannah. How do you like them?"

"'Twas time for him! Lor', they're beautiful!"

"Hannah," I said, "have you any camphor or lavender in the house?"

She looked at me suspiciously.

"I have," she said. "What for? Aren't you going to wear them?"

"They are not intended to form the every-day walking-suit of a country
parish priest," I replied. "They must be carefully put by for the
present."

I took my hat and strolled down to see Alice. After telling her all the
news, and Father Letheby's triumphs, I said:--

"The bishop wants me to change my name, too!"

"_You_ are not going?" she said in alarm.

"No; but his Lordship thinks I have been called Father Dan long enough;
he wants me now to be known as the Very Rev. Canon Hanrahan."

"It's like as if you were going away to a strange country," she said.

"Do you think the people will take kindly to it?" I said.

"No! no! no!" she cried, shaking her head; "you will be Father Dan and
Daddy Dan to the end."

"So be it!" I replied.

I returned home, and just before dinner I penned two letters--one to my
good nuns, thanking them for their kindness and generosity; the other to
the bishop, thanking his Lordship _ex imo corde_ also, but declining the
honor. I was too old, _et detur digniori_. Then I got my camphor and
lavender, and laid the fragrant powder between the folds of the
mozzetta. And then I took a sheet of paper and wrote:--

     To the
     Very Reverend Edward Canon Letheby, B.A., P.P.,
     a gift from the grave
     of his old friend and pastor,
     the Rev. Daniel Hanrahan, P.P.,
     more affectionately and familiarly known as
     "Daddy Dan."

Then the old temptation came back to wind up with a lecture or
quotation. I ransacked all my classics, and met with many a wise and
pithy saying, but not one pleased me. I was about to give up the search
in despair, when, taking up a certain book, my eye caught a familiar red
pencil-mark. "Eureka!" I cried, and I wrote in large letters, beneath
the above:--

    "Amico, Io vivendo cercava conforto
      Nel Monte Parnasso;
    Tu, meglio consigliato, cercalo
      Nel Calvario."

[Illustration: Waiting for my New Curate.]

I placed this last testament in the folds of the lace, tied the parcel
carefully, carefully put it away, and, after the untasted dinner had
been removed, I lowered the lamp-flame, and sat, God only knows how
lonely! as I had sat twelve months before, in my arm-chair, listening
for the patter of the horse's hoofs, and the knock at the door, and the
sounds of alighting, that were to mark the advent of

MY NEW CURATE.





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