MRS. ANNA H. DORSEY
P. J. KENEDY & SONS
NEW YORK AND PHILADELPHIA
P. J. KENEDY.
I.—UNCLE STILLINGHAST II.—MAY BROOKE III.—THE MORNING ERRAND IV.—AUNT MABEL V.—PAST AND PRESENT VI.—HELEN VII.—THINGS OF TIME AND ETERNITY VIII.—TROUBLED WATERS IX.—TRIALS X.—THE WARNING XI.—THE MIDNIGHT MESSENGER XII.—REPENTANCE XIII.—THE NEW WILL XIV.—THE SECRET SIN XV.—THE DISCOVERY XVI.—THE DEATH DREAM XVII.—REMORSE XVIII.—REPENTANCE XIX.—CONCLUSION
THE TRIALS OF MAY BROOKE.
"Do you think they will be here to-night, sir?"
"Don't know, and don't care."
"The road is very bad,"—after a pause, "that skirts the Hazel property."
"Well, what then; what then, little May?"
"The carriage might be overturned, sir; or, the horses might shy a little to the left, and go over the precipice into the creek."
"Is that all?"
"Is it not dreadful to think of, sir?"
"Well, I don't know; I should be sorry to lose the horses—"
"Oh, sir! and my cousin! Did you forget her?"
"I care nothing about her. I suppose my forefathers must have committed some crime for which I am to suffer, by being made, willy-nilly, the guardian of two silly, mawkish girls."
"But, sir, you have been very kind to me, and it shall be the endeavor of my life to prove my gratitude."
"Very fine, without being in the least consoling! I'd as lief have two African monkeys under my care—don't laugh—it exasperates, and makes me feel like doing as I should do, if I had the cursed animals—"
"How is that, sir?"
"Beat you. I hate womankind. Most of all do I hate them in their transition stages. They are like sponges, and absorb every particle of evil that the devil sprinkles in the air, until they learn to be young hypocrites—triflers—false—heartless."
"Oh, dear uncle! has such been your experience? Have you ever met with such women?"
"Have I ever met with such women, you holy innocent? I have never met with any other. Now, be still."
"Oh! Uncle Stillinghast—"
"I pity you, sir; indeed, I pity you. Something very dreadful must in times past have embittered you—"
"You are a fool, little May. Don't interrupt me again at your peril."
And so there was a dead silence, except when the rain and sleet lashed the window-panes, or a lump of coal crumbled into a thousand glowing fragments, and opened a glowing abyss in the grate; or the cat uncurled herself on the rug, and purred, while she fixed her great winking eyes on the blaze. The two persons who occupied the room were an old man and a young maiden. He was stern, and sour-looking, as he sat in his high-back leather chair, with a pile of ledgers on the table before him,—the pages of which he examined with the most incomparable patience. A snuff-colored wig sat awry on his head, and a snuff-colored coat, ornamented with large horn buttons, drooped ungracefully from his high, stooping shoulders. His neckcloth was white, but twisted, soiled, and tied carelessly around his thin, sinewy throat. His legs were cased in gray lamb's-wool stockings, over which his small-clothes were fastened at the knees with small silver buckles. His face was not originally cast in such a repulsive mould, but commerce with the world, and a succession of stinging disappointments in his early manhood, had woven an ugly mask over it, from behind which glimpses of his former self, on rare occasions, shone out. Such was Mark Stillinghast at the opening of our story: old, cynical, and rich, but poor in friendship, and without any definite ideas of religion, except, that if such a thing really existed, it was a terra incognita, towards which men rather stumbled than ran.
Opposite to him, on a low crimson chair, as antique in its pattern as the owner of the mansion, sat a maiden, who might have passed her seventeenth summer. She was not beautiful, and yet her face had a peculiar charm, which appealed directly to the softer and kindlier emotions of the heart. Her eyes, large, gray and beautifully fringed with long, black lashes, reminded one of calm mountain lakes, into whose very depths the light of sun and stars shine down, until they beam with tender sweetness, and inward repose. There was a glad, happy look in her face, which came not from the fitful, feverish glow of earth, but, like rays from an inner sanctuary, the glorious realities of faith, hope, and love, which possessed her soul, diffused their mysterious influence over her countenance. Thick braids of soft, brown hair, were braided over her round, childlike forehead: and her dress of some dark, rich color, was in admirable harmony with her peculiar style. Her proportions were small and symmetrical, and it was wonderful to see the serious look of dignity with which she sat in that old crimson chair, knitting away on a comfort, as fast as her little white fingers could shuffle the needles. For what purpose could such a fragile small creature have been created? She looked as if it would not be amiss to put her under a glass-case, or exhibit her as a specimen of wax-work; or hire her out, at so much per night, to fashionable parties, to play "fairy" in the Tableaux. But the wind howled; the leafless branches of the old trees without were crushed up, shivering and creaking against the house; the frozen snow beat a wild reville on the windows, and May's face grew very sad and thoughtful. She dropped her knitting, and with lips apart listened intently.
"Thank God! They are come. I am sure I hear carriage-wheels, uncle!" she exclaimed, clasping her hands together.
"Of course; I knew they would come. There was to be no such good luck as their not coming," said Mr. Stillinghast, looking annoyed. "One sister ran off—married a papist—died, and left you on my hands. I was about sending you off again, when news came that your father had died on his voyage home from Canton, and been buried in the deep: so here you stayed. Brother—spendthrift, shiftless, improvident—marries a West Indian papist; turns one; dies with his wife, or, at least, soon after her leaving another ne'er-do-weel on my hands. I wish you'd all gone to purgatory together. To be shut up in my old days with two wild papists is abominable!" muttered the old man, slamming the ledgers together, until every thing on the table danced. He pushed back his chair, and in another moment the door opened, and a tall, slender, beautiful girl entered, clad in deep mourning, with a wealth of golden curls rolling over her transparently fair cheeks. She came with a graceful, but timid air, towards Mr. Stillinghast; and holding out her hand, said in a low, sweet tone,
"Yes, I have the misfortune to be your uncle; how do you do?"
"I am well, sir, I thank you," she replied, whilst she cast down her eyes to conceal the tears which suffused them.
"I won't pretend," he said, at last, "to say you are welcome, or that I am glad to see you, because I should lie; but you are here now, and I can't help it, neither can you, I suppose; therefore, settle yourself as quickly as possible in your new way of living. She will show you what is necessary, and both of you keep as much out of my way as possible." He then took his candlestick, lighted his candle, and retired, leaving the poor girl standing with a frightened, heart-broken look, in the middle of the floor. For a moment she looked after him; then a sharp cry burst from her lips, and she turned to rush out into the wintry storm, when she suddenly felt herself enfolded in some one's arms, who led her to the warmest corner of the sofa, untied her bonnet, folded back the dishevelled curls, and kissed the tears away from her cold, white cheeks. It was May, whose heart had been gushing over with tenderness and sympathy, who had longed to throw her arms around her, and, welcome her home the moment she entered the house, but who dared not interfere with her uncle's peculiar ways, or move until he led.
"Do not mind him, dear Helen; it is his ways: he seems rough and stern, but in reality he is kind and good, dear," she exclaimed.
"You are very kind; but, oh, I did not expect such a reception as this. I hoped for something very, very different. I cannot stay here—it would kill me," she sobbed, struggling to disengage her hand from Mary's.
"Yes you will, dear," pleaded May. "Uncle Stillinghast is like our old clock—it never strikes the hour true, yet the hands are always right to a second. So do try, and not to mind."
"Who are you?"
"I?" asked May, looking with a smile of astonishment at her. "I am your cousin, May Brooke; an orphan like yourself, dear, to whom our uncle has given house and home."
"Are you happy here?"
"Very happy. I have things to contend with sometimes which are not altogether agreeable, but I trip along over them just as I do over muddy places in the street, for fear, you know, of soiling my robe, if I floundered in them!" said May, laughing. Helen did not understand the hidden and beautiful meaning couched under May's expressions; she had heard but little of her baptismal robe since the days of her early childhood, and had almost forgotten that she was "to carry it unspotted to the judgment-seat of Christ."
"I am glad you are here—such a nice, soft-voiced little one," said Helen, passing her long, white hand over May's head.
"I am glad, too; so come with me, and take something warm. Your supper is on the kitchen hearth. Come," said May, rising.
"Where—to the kitchen? Do you eat in the kitchen?"
"I lunch there sometimes; it is a very nice one."
"Excuse me; I do not wish any thing."
"But a cup of hot tea, and some nice toast, after your fatiguing, wet journey," argued May.
"Nothing, I thank you," was the haughty reply.
"Perhaps you wish to retire?"
"Yes! Oh, that I could go to sleep, and never wake again," she cried, bursting into tears.
"You will feel better to-morrow, dear," said May, gently, "and then it will soothe you to reflect that each trial has its heavenly mission; and the thorns which pierce us here give birth to flowers in heaven, which angels weave into the crown for which we contend!"
"I am not a saint!" was the curt reply.
"But you are a Catholic?" asked May, chilled by her cold manner.
"Yes," she replied, languidly, "but I am too ill to talk."
Refusing all aid, after they got into their chamber, Helen disrobed herself; and while May's earnest soul was pouring out at the foot of the cross its adoration and homage, she threw herself on her knees, leaned her head on her arm, and yielded to a perfect storm of grief and fury; which, although unacknowledged, raged none the less, while her burning tears, unsanctified by humility, or resignation, embittered the selfish heart which they should have sweetened and refreshed.
May slept but little that night. The low sobs and shivering sighs of Helen, disturbed and troubled her, and she longed to go to her, and whisper in her ear all those arguments and hopeful promises which she felt would have consoled her under the same circumstances; but it was a wild, defiant kind of grief, which she thought had better exhaust itself, so she lay quite still until towards dawn, when it ceased, and the sound of low regular breathing, assured her that she had fallen asleep. She rose up gently, wrapped her wadded gown about her, lowered the blinds, and closed the shutters, that the light might not disturb Helen; then laid an additional blanket over her, for it was bitter cold, and placed the candle which she had lighted behind an old-timed Chinese screen, that formed a sort of a niche in a corner of the room, which she, in her pious thoughtfulness, had converted into an oratory. A small round table, covered with white drapery, supported a statue of the Immaculate Mother, a porcelain shelf for holy water and her prayer-book. Over it hung an old and rare crucifix of carved ivory, stained with color which time had softened to the hues of life, while the features wore that mingled look of divine dignity and human woe which but few artists, in their delineations of the "thorn-crowned head," can successfully depict. It had been brought from Spain many years before by her father, with a cabinet picture of Mater Dolorosa, which now hung over it. Both were invaluable, not only on account of their artistic excellence and age, but as mementos of her father, and incentives to devotion. Thither she now went to offer the first fruits of the day to heaven in mingled thanksgiving and prayer. Almost numbed with the intense cold, she felt inclined to abridge her devotions, but she remembered the cold, dreary journey of the holy family from Nazareth to Bethlehem—the ruggedness of the road, and the bitter winds which swept through the mountain defiles around them—then she lingered in the poor stable, and knelt with the shepherds beside the manger where Jesus Christ in the humility of his sacred humanity reposed. She pictured to herself the Virgin Mother in the joyful mystery of her maternity, bending over him with a rapture too sublime for words; and St. Joseph—wonderfully dignified as the guardian of divinity, and of her whom the most high had honored, leaning on his staff near them. "Shall I dare complain?" thought May, while these blessed images came into her heart warming it with generous love. "No sweet and divine Lord, let all human ills, discomforts, repinings, and love of self vanish before these sweet contemplations. With thee, in Bethlehem, poverty and sorrow grow light; and the weariness of the rough ways of life no more dismay. Let me follow with thee, sweet mother, after his footsteps, until Calvary is crowned by a sacrifice and victim so divine that angels, men, and earth wonder; let me, with thee, linger by his cross, follow him to his sepulture, and rejoice with thee in his resurrection." Do not let us suppose that May, in the overflowing of her devout soul, forgot others, and thought only of herself; oh, no! that charity, without which, all good works are as "sounding brass," animated her faith; as tenderly and lovingly she plead at the mercy seat for her stern old guardian; and although she knew that he scorned all religion, and would have given her rough jibes and scoffs for her charity, she prayed none the less for his salvation; and now she sought Heaven to strengthen and console the wounded and bereaved stranger who had come amongst them. By the time she left her oratory, she had laid by a store of strength and happiness, more than sufficient for the trials of the day. Yet May was not faultless. She had a quickness and sharpness of temper, which very often tempted her to the indulgence of malice and uncharitableness; and a proud spirit, which could scarcely brook injustice. But these natural defects were in a measure counterbalanced by a high and lofty sense of responsibility to Almighty God—a feeling of compassion and forgiveness for the frailties and infirmities of others, and a generous and discriminating consideration for the errors of all.
When Mr. Stillinghast came down that morning, everything was bright and comfortable in the sitting-room. A clear fire burned in the grate; the toast and coffee sent up an inviting odor; and the table was spread with the whitest of linen, on which the cups and saucers were neatly arranged. The morning paper was drying on a chair by the fire, and over all, flickered the glorious sunshine, as it gushed like a golden flood through the clustering geraniums in the window.
"Good morning, sir!" said May, blithely, as she came in from the kitchen with a covered plate in her hand.
"Good morning," he growled; "give me my breakfast."
"I thought you'd like a relish for your breakfast, sir, and I broiled a few slices of beef; see how very nice it is," said May, uncovering the plate, and placing it before him.
"Humph! well, don't do it again. I cannot afford such extravagance; I must curtail my expenses. 'Gad! if I should have another beggar thrown on my hands, we must starve," he said, bitterly.
May did not relish this speech at all; up rose the demon, pride, in her soul, instigating her to a sharp retort, and vindictive anger; but she thought of Bethlehem, and grew calm.
"I hope not, sir," she said, gently. "You have cast bread on the waters; after many days it will return unto you—perhaps in an hour, and at a time, dear uncle, when it will be much needed."
"Fudge, fudge!" he said, testily; "I—I cast bread on the waters, do I? Well, I am doing what is equally as foolish—it is truly like throwing bread into a fish-pond; but where's what's her name?"
"She slept poorly last night, and I would not awaken her this morning," said May, diverted in spite of herself.
"How do you know she didn't sleep, pray? did she tell you so?"
"No, sir; I heard her weeping all night, and, indeed, sir, I hope you'll speak kindly to Helen when you come in this evening, because she feels so very sorrowful on account of her recent losses, and—and—"
"And what, Miss Pert?"
"Her dependence, sir!" said May, bravely.
"She's no more dependent than you are."
"No, sir; but—but then I am happy somehow. It is the state of life Almighty God has chosen for me, and I should be very ungrateful to him and you if I repined and grumbled," said May, cheerfully.
"If He chose it for you, I suppose he chose it for her too; for I didn't. At any rate, don't waste any more candles or coal sitting up to watch people crying, and tell what's-her-name to rise when you do; she's no better than you are; and let her take her share of the duties of the house to-morrow," said Mr. Stillinghast, surlily.
"Helen will soon feel at home, sir, no doubt; only do—do, dear uncle, try and speak kindly to her for a few days, on account of her lonely situation."
"Fudge! eat your breakfast. Hold your plate here for some of this broiled beef, and eat it to prevent its being wasted."
"Thank you, sir," said May, laughing, as he laid a large slice on her plate, which, however she did not touch, but put it aside for Helen; then observing that Mr. Stillinghast had finished his breakfast, she wheeled his chair nearer the fire, handed him his pipe, and the newspaper, and ran upstairs, to see if Helen was awake. But she still slept, and looked so innocently beautiful, that May paused a few moments by her pillow, to gaze at her. "She is like the descriptions which the old writers give us of the Blessed Virgin," thought May; "that high, beautifully chiseled nose; those waves of golden hair; those calm finely cut lips, that high, snowy brow, and those long, shadowy eyelashes, lying so softly on her fair cheeks, oh, how beautiful! It seems almost like a vision, only—only I know that this is a poor frail child of earth; but, oh! immaculate Mother, cherish, guard, and guide her, that her spirit may be conformed to thine."
"I suppose," said Mr. Stillinghast, when May came down, "that you'll go trotting presently through the snow and ice to church."
"No, sir; I fear I cannot go this morning," said May.
"Cannot go? well, really! I wonder if an earthquake will swallow me before I get to the wharf today," said Mr. Stillinghast, drawing on his boots.
"I trust not, sir; I'd be happier to go, but Helen is a stranger, and she might awake when I am gone, and want something. To-morrow we will go together."
"So, there's to be a regular popish league in my house, under my very nose," he growled.
"Which will do you no evil, dear uncle, in soul, body, or estate; but you had better wrap this comfort around your throat; I finished knitting it last night for you," said May, in her quiet, cheerful way.
"For me, eh? It is very nice and soft—so—that does very well," said Mr. Stillinghast, while one of those rare gleams, like sunshine, shot over his countenance.
"I shall be very happy all day, sir," said May, gathering up the cups and saucers.
"Because, sir, I thought—you might—"
"Throw it at your head, or in the fire, eh? I shall do neither; I shall wear it. I have not forgot that confounded attack of quinsy I had last winter, nor the doctor's bill that followed it, and which was worse on me than the choking I got," said Mr. Stillinghast, while the old, grim look settled on his face again. He went away, down to his warehouse on the wharf, to grip and wrestle with gain, and barter away the last remnants of his best and holiest instincts, little by little; exchanging hopes of heaven for perishable things, and crushing down the angel conscience, who would have led him safely to eternal life, for the accumulated and unholy burthen of Mammon.
And May, singing cheerily, cleaned, and swept and rubbed, and polished, and touched up things a little here and there, until the room was arranged with exquisite taste and neatness; then took her work-basket, in which lay a variety of little infant's socks, and fine fleecy under-garments, knit of zephyr worsted, which looked so pure and soft that even she touched them daintily, as she lifted them out to find her needles, and sat down by the fire. "Now for a nubae," she said, throwing on stitch after stitch; "ladies who frequent theatres and balls find them indispensable: this shall be the handsomest one of the season—worth, at least four dollars."
THE MORNING ERRAND.
After the slender ivory needles had traversed the fleecy mesh backwards and forwards some three or four times, May suddenly bethought herself of Helen, and laying her work carefully down in her basket, she ran upstairs to see if she was awake. Turning the knob of the door softly, she entered with a noiseless step, and went towards the bed; but a low, merry laugh, and a "good morning," assured her that her kind caution had all been needless.
"Dear Helen, how are you to-day?"
"Very well, thank you, little lady, how do you do, and what time is it?"
"Half-past nine. You need your breakfast, I am sure. Shall I fetch it to you?"
"Just tell me, first, have you a fire downstairs?"
"A very nice one!"
"And we can't have one here?"
"Decidedly, then, I shall accompany you downstairs, if that horrid old man is gone. Oh, I never was so terrified in my life; I thought he'd beat me last night. Is he gone?"
"Uncle Stillinghast has been gone an hour or more," replied May, gravely.
"Do tell me, May, does he always jump and snarl so at folk as he did at me?" inquired Helen; seriously.
"I see that I must initiate you, dear Helen, in the mysteries of our domicile," said May, pleasantly. "I must be plain with you, and hope you will not feel wounded at my speech. Our uncle is very eccentric, and says a great many sharp, disagreeable things; and his manners, generally, do not invite affection. But, on the other hand, I do not think his health is quite sound, and I have heard that in his early life he met with some terrible disappointments, which have doubtless soured him. He knows nothing of the consolations of religion, or of those divine hopes which would sweeten the bitter fountains of his heart, like the leaves which the prophet threw into Marah's wave. His commerce is altogether with and of the world, and he spares no time for superfluous feelings: but notwithstanding all this there is, I am sure, a warm, bright spot in his heart, or he never would have taken you and me from the cold charities of the world, to shelter and care for us. Now, dear, you must endeavor to fall in with his humor."
"And if I should happen to please him?" inquired Helen, sweeping back the golden curls from her forehead and cheeks.
"You will be happy in the consciousness of duties well done," replied May, looking with her full, earnest eyes, in Helen's face. "It is a bad thing, dear, to stir up bitterness and strife in a soul which is not moored in the faith and love of God; as it is a good work to keep it, as far as we can, from giving further offence to heaven by provoking its evil instincts, and inciting it, as it were, to fresh rebellions. But I am sure, dear Helen, you will endeavor to do right."
"Yes," said Helen, slowly, "it will be the best policy; but, May Brooke, I feel as if I am in a panther's den, or, better still, it's like Beauty and the Beast, only, instead of an enchanted lover, I have an excessively cross and impracticable old uncle to be amiable to. Does he give you enough to eat?"
"Have I a starved look?" asked May, laughing.
"No; I confess you look in tolerably good plight. Do you ever see company?"
"Not often. My uncle's habits are those of a recluse. When he comes home from the bustle of the city, it would be a great annoyance to have company around him: in fact, I do not care for it, and, I dare say, we shall get on merrily without it."
"I dare say I shall die. Have you a piano here?"
May laughed outright, and answered in the negative.
"Well, how in the name of wonder do you manage to get on?" asked Helen, folding her hands together, and looking puzzled.
"Just as you will have to, by and by," she replied; "but come, pin your collar on, and come down to breakfast."
"I must say my prayers first," said Helen, dropping down suddenly on her knees, and carelessly blessing herself, while she hurried over some short devotion, crossed herself, and got up, saying:—
"But you keep servants, don't you?"
"I have heretofore attended to the domestic affairs of the house," replied May, shocked by her cousin's levity.
"Oh, heavens! I shall lose my identity! I shall grow coarse and fat; my hands will become knobby and red; oh, dear! but perhaps you will not expect me to assist you?"
"And why?" asked May, while the indignant blood flushed her cheeks, and her impulse to say something sharp and mortifying to the young worldling's pride, was strong within her; but she thought of the mild and lowly Virgin, and the humility of her DIVINE SON, and added, in a quiet tone, "Uncle Stillinghast will certainly expect you to make yourself useful."
"And if I don't?"
"I fear you will rue it."
"Well, this looks more civilized!" said Helen, after they went down. "What nice antique furniture! how delightful those geraniums are; and how charming the fire looks and feels!"
"Here is your breakfast, dear Helen; eat it while it is warm," said May, coming in with a small tray, which she arranged on a stand behind her.
"Thank you, dear little lady; really this coffee is delicious, and the toast is very nice," said Helen, eating her breakfast with great gout.
"I am glad you relish it; and now that you are comfortably fixed, if you will excuse me, I will run out for an hour or so; I have some little matters to attend to down street. You will find a small bamboo tub in the next room, when you finish eating, in which you can wash up your cup and saucer, and plate."
"Yes, dame Trot, I will endeavor to do so!" said Helen, with a droll grimace.
"The tea-towel is folded up on the first shelf in that closet near you; so, good morning," said May, laughing, as she took up her work-basket, and went upstairs to get her bonnet and wrappings, and make other arrangements; then drawing on her walking-boots, and twisting a nubae around her throat, she went out, with a bundle in her hand, and walked with a brisk pace down the street. She soon approached a gothic church—a church of the Liguorian Missions, and at the distance of half a square, heard the solemn and heavenly appeals of the organ, rolling in soft aerial billows past her. She quickened her steps, and pushing gently against the massive door, went in. A solemn mass was being offered, and a requiem chanted, for the repose of the soul of a member of the arch-confraternity of the Immaculate Heart of MARY. "I thank thee, dear Jesus, for giving me this opportunity to adore thee," whispered May, kneeling in the crowd, "for all thy tender mercies, this is the most touching and consoling to me; when thou dost come, clad in the solemn and touching robes of propitiation, to offer THYSELF for the eternal repose of the souls of thy departed children."
The crowd increasing, and finding it impossible to penetrate through the masses in the aisle, she quietly edged her way along, until she came to the steps leading to the side gallery, which she ascended, and happily obtained a place where she had a full view of all that was passing below. On a plain catafalque, covered with black velvet, in front of the sanctuary and altar, rested a coffin. It was made of pine, and painted white. A few white lilies and evergreens were scattered among the lights which burned around it; and May knew that some young virgin had gone to her espousals in the kingdom of the LAMB. Half of the coffin-lid was turned back, and as she looked more attentively on the marble features, turned to strange and marvellous beauty by the great mystery—death—she recognized them. They belonged to a poor crippled girl, who had suffered from her childhood with an incurable disease, and who had been almost dependent on the alms of the faithful for her daily support.
"What a change for thee, poor Magdalen!" whispered May, as she gazed down through her tears. "I look on the pale vestment of clay in which you suffered, and know that for you the awful mystery is solved. Thorns no more wound your heart; poverty and disease have done their worst; while far up, beyond the power of earth and evil, your destiny is accomplished. A poor mendicant no longer, the King of glory himself ushered you into the unrevealed splendors of that region which mortal eye hath never seen. You have beheld the glorious face of the sacred humanity of Jesus Christ; your eyes have seen the Queen of heaven; and the veiled vision of the Eternal Father has greeted you. Oh, what cheer! Oh, what hope, to make joyful the purifying sufferings of purgatory! and now, on your altar, Jesus, the high-priest and powerful Lord, full of clement mercy and majestic power, offers himself for thy speedy liberation and admission into the beatific vision. Oh, Magdalen! how art thou exalted! how beyond all imperial splendor and royal power art thou lifted up!"
And while the divine mystery approached its consummation, still upward arose the voice of the church in plaintive chants, interceding for the departed, who, in the "suffering church" rejoiced with a mournful rapture amidst its patient agony which would ere long be exchanged from dreary Calvary to an eternal Thabor. But now the awful moment arrived; the Lord Jesus had come; and although they saw him veiled under the form of bread, they knew HE was there; they felt that august presence thrilling down like a still, small voice, into their souls, It is I; and the aspirations of that kneeling crowd went forth in solemn adoration; and returning sweetness filled each devout mind with benediction, which flowing thence again to its divine source, offered worthy homage to the LAMB. A ray of wintry sunlight stole through a curtained window near the altar, and flickered on the silent face of the dead virgin, as she lay an image of heavenly repose. May felt that it was a type of the brightness which would soon crown her; and while a flood of warm and joyful rapture flowed into her soul, she exulted in the thought that she, too, was a member of the household of faith. It was a profitable time to May; for death was suddenly stripped of its thrilling horrors; its gaunt outlines were softened and brightened, and she thought of him as a tireless and faithful guide, who led souls beyond the dark tide, over the lonely and shadowy ways, and through the fathomless abyss, to the very portals of eternal rest. She had almost forgotten the object which brought her out that morning, so absorbed was she in the contemplation of the scene she had witnessed; until on rising to leave the church after the divine rites were over, her bundle fell to her feet. She snatched it up, ashamed of her carelessness, and, slipping through the crowd, emerged once more into the street. Picking her way through snow and ice, she came to a neat fancy store, and went in. Behind the counter stood a neat, pleasant old lady assorting worsteds, who smiled a welcome the moment she saw who it was who had entered.
"Ah, my dear Miss May how do you do? come near the stove and sit down. It is not yet our busy time of day, and we can have a nice chat."
"You will please excuse me now, dear Mrs. Tabb, I have been away much longer from home than I expected, and must hurry off, as I have another errand to do. I have brought more of those little zephyr worsted shirts, four pair of socks, and two or three mats—lamp mats," said May, unfolding her bundle.
"Bless me, dear child! you are making a fortune. I have sold all that you left with me two weeks ago; and after deducting my commission, here is a half eagle for you."
"All sold!" exclaimed May, joyfully.
"Every one, and more ordered. The way was this. Two fine ladies, who both have infants, came in one day, and both wanted the things; but both couldn't have them, and neither would purchase a part; so at last one offered two dollars more than the other, and got them," said Mrs. Tabb, deliberately taking a pinch of snuff.
"Oh, Mrs. Tabb! dear me, it was more than they were worth."
"Not to her, my child. She would have given ten dollars rather than not get them; and she's so rich she don't know what to do with her money. So these will just do for Mrs. Osmond, who, I expect, will call this very day for them.
"I do not feel quite satisfied," said May; "but as it was all voluntary on her part, I suppose there's nothing very wrong in it."
"Bless you—no. She paid the value of the things, then paid for her pride and ostentation, which is the way with all worldly people, and which, thank God, I am not responsible for."
"Thank you, dear Mrs. Tabb; you are very kind to take so much trouble for me. I must run away now. I shall knit up all my worsted this week, so please have another package ready for me when I come again. Good by."
"Good by, Miss May. I declare, if you don't hop about through the snow like a robin; there—she's gone. Now, I should like to know what business old Stillinghast's niece has to be doing such work as this,—the nipping old miser; and I'd like to know what she does with the money."
And so should we; therefore, we will leave Mrs. Tabb to her cogitations, follow May, and find out.
Fearing she would not have time to accomplish all that she desired, May stepped into a jewelry establishment to ascertain the hour; but it was only half-past twelve, and, with a light heart and fleet step, she treaded her way through the hurrying and busy crowds, crossed B—— Street, then in the height of its din, uproar, and traffic, and soon found herself among the dark, narrow thoroughfares, and large gloomy warehouses of the lower part of the city. Turning a corner, she looked up and down, but finding herself at fault, hurried into another street, where she encountered quite a procession of merchants, old, young, and middle-aged, on their way to the Exchange, to learn the latest European news, which a steamer, just arrived, had brought in. Many passed her with a glance of surprise; some laughed, and gazed into her face with looks of insolent curiosity: while others regarded her with unconcern and indifference. "It is strange," thought May, shrinking back into a doorway, "I was so sure of the way; but it will never do to stand here, yet how am I to get on? Sir," she said to a benevolent-looking old gentleman, whose white hairs and respectable appearance were a guarantee of protection to her, "will you be so obliging as to direct me to the wood-yard of Carter & Co. I believe I have lost my way."
"Certainly, my dear," said the old man, with a pleasant smile; "I am on my way to the Exchange, and shall be obliged to go right by it, so if you will walk by my side, or take my arm, I will leave you at their office door."
"Thank you," replied May, as with a feeling of safety she laid her little hand on the fatherly arm, so kindly offered. Some ten minutes' walk brought them to the office of Carter & Co., and while May stood an instant, with her veil lifted, to thank her conductor, she saw a face approaching through the crowd—then lost, then visible again, which blanched her cheeks by its sudden appearance. The cold, stern eyes were turned another way, yet she felt that they had recognized her; but it passed on, without seeming to notice her. "Uncle Stillinghast!" thought May, while her little fluttering heart felt an icy chill pass over it; "what will Uncle Stillinghast think? Oh, how stupid I was, not to wait until they all got by, then look for the place myself. Oh dear, dear! I hope he did not see me."
"What will you have, ma'am?" asked the clerk, coming forward, more anxious to shut out the cold air from his comfortable snuggery than to effect sales.
"I wish to purchase a quarter of a cord of wood, sir."
"Oak, hickory, or pine, ma'am?"
"Oak, if you please."
"It is just now six and a half per cord," insinuated the clerk.
"Yes, sir; here is the money. Can you send the wood with me at once?"
"If you can wait until it is carted, ma'am, certainly," replied the young man, taking the half-eagle she offered him, and returning the change.
"I will wait, and you will oblige me by sending a sawyer also."
The young man went out to give the necessary orders, and in a little while a sawyer made his appearance at the door, and announced that "all was ready, if anyone would be after telling them where to go."
"You will follow this lady, Dennis," said the indefatigable clerk, pointing to May.
"Where to, ma'am?" inquired Dennis.
"To the north-western section of the city. I shall stop at one or two stores in Howard Street, but you can go on slowly, and I will overtake you." May then made a few inquiries of the young man ere she bade him good morning, and went away, glad to escape from a portion of the city where she was such an utter stranger, and whose intricate, narrow streets, filled her with apprehension. When they came to Howard Street, May stepped into a shoe-store, and purchased a pair of warm carpet-shoes, nicely wadded inside; then flitted out, and ran into a drygoods emporium, where she bought a cheap, but soft woolen shawl, of a brilliant scarlet yellow, and black palm-leaf pattern, and a pair of long yarn stockings; then gathering her bundles close together on her arm, she hurried away to overtake the wood. When the carter came to Biddle Street, he stopped his horse, and declared "he would not go a step further with such a small load unless she paid him something extra; he had come a mile already."
"You have not much further to go," plead May.
"I won't go another step," he said, with an oath.
"And I will not submit to extortion," said May, speaking gently, but firmly, while she fixed her calm, bright eyes on his. "I know the number of your cart, and informed myself at the office of the charges you are authorized to make, and if you do not proceed, I will complain of you."
Intimidated by her resolute manner, the baffled driver muttered and swore, while he applied the whip to his horse's flanks, and pursued the route indicated by May until they came to the very verge of the city limits, where grand old oaks still waved their broad limbs in primeval vigor over sloping hills and picturesque declivities. Near a rustic bridge, which spanned a frozen stream, stood a few scattered huts, or cottages, towards the poorest of which she directed her footsteps. Standing on one of the broken flags, which formed a rude sort of pathway to the door, she waited until the wood was emptied near by, and paying the man, requested the sawyer to commence sawing it forthwith; then lifting the latch softly, she entered the humble tenement. It contained one small room, poorly furnished, and with but few comforts. An old negro woman sat shivering over a few coals on the hearth, trying in vain to warm her half-frozen extremities.
"Why, Aunt Mabel, have you no fire?" said May, going close to her, and laying her hand on her shoulder.
"Oh, Miss May! Lord bless you, honey! You come in like a sperrit. No, indeed, honey; I ain't had none to speak on these two days."
"And your feet are almost frozen," said May, with a pitying glance.
"They's mighty cold, misses; but sit down, and let me look at you; it will warm me up," said the old woman, trying to smile.
"Let me put these on your poor old feet first," said May, kneeling down, and drawing off the tattered shoes from her feet, while she chafed them briskly with her hands; then slipped the soft warm stockings and slippers on them, ere the old creature could fully comprehend her object; then opening the shawl, she folded it about the bowed and shivering form. With a blended expression of gratitude and amazement, old Mabel looked at her feet, then at the shawl, then at May, who stood off enjoying it, and finally covered her face with her hand, and wept outright.
"Now, indeed, Aunt Mabel, this is not right; why, I thought you'd be pleased," said May, lifting up her paralyzed hand, which lay helplessly on her knees, and smoothing it gently between her own.
"Pleased, honey! I am so full I'm chokin', I b'lieve. What you do all this for Miss May? I'm only a poor old nigger; I got no friends; I can never do nuffin for you. What you do it for?" she sobbed.
"Just because you are poor, because you are friendless, because you are old and black, Aunt Mabel. And more than that, I shall be well paid for my pains. Oho, you don't know every thing," said May, cheerfully.
"I used to hear buckra parson read out of the Book, when I was down in the plantation, that whomsoever give to the poor lend it to the Lord; is that it, honey?" she asked, wiping the tears from the furrows of her swarthy cheeks.
"That is just it, my dear old aunty, so you have found out how selfish I am, after all. You are the creature of God as well as I; in His sight your soul is as precious as mine. We are truly brethren in our eternal interests. Then you are very old and helpless, which makes me pity you. Now, let me have some wood in here, and make you a fire—a regular, rousing fire."
"Maybe so—maybe so," said old Mabel, thoughtfully; "but, look here, Miss May, what that you say 'bout wood, eh? You gwine out to cut some of the trees down in Howard's Park, I reckon?" she said, laughing and chuckling, highly diverted at the idea.
"No, ma'am, for there is a load of good wood at your door, which is now being sawed for your benefit."
"Did you do that too, Miss May?"
"Never mind who did it," said May, who ran out and gathered up a few small pieces of wood, which she hurried in with, and soon kindled a bright blaze on the hearth: after which, she requested the sawyer to bring in two large logs to lay behind.
"Now, Aunt Mabel, are you comfortable?" she inquired, as she drew a low chair up by the old woman's side, and seated herself in it.
"Ah, honey, if you could only know how good the warm blood feels creeping up to my shaky old heart, you wouldn't ask me; and this beautiful shawl, Miss May! it 'minds me so of the bright swamp flowers in old Ca'lina, that it takes me clean back thar. I had good times then, honey; but I can't say nuffin. I feel it all here, and I hope your heavenly Father will make it out, and pay you back ten thousand times," said old Mabel, laying her shrivelled hand on her heart.
"Your Father and God too, Aunt Mabel," said May, leaning towards her, and lifting her sunshiny face close to hers.
"No, missis; I ain't good enough. He don't think of the likes of me."
"Oh, Aunt Mabel, you must not say that. You are his creature, and from him proceeded your life and soul: for you, as well as me, his divine Son died that we might inherit eternal life. He knows no distinction in the distribution of his divine charity; the humblest slave, and the most powerful king, are alike the objects of his tender solicitude. And if I, a poor frail child of earth, pity and love you in your low estate, how much more does He, the sweet and merciful Jesus, regard with tender compassion the soul for whose salvation he has shed his precious blood."
"Do your religion teach the same to every body, honey; or is you only sayin' so of your own 'cord?" inquired old Mabel, wistfully.
"Our holy religion teaches it to all. Into her safe and ancient fold she invites all; and when we know that this fold is the kingdom established on earth by Jesus Christ himself, how we ought to fly, and never rest until we are gathered in. In this divine faith we are taught to 'love one another,' without regard to race, color, or nation, and bring forth fruits unto righteousness; which, if we fail to do, we disobey,—we bring scandal on it, and the love of God is not in us," said May, earnestly.
"Fruits unto righteousness, which mean good works, I reckon, honey!" said the old creature, musingly. "Well, I dunno, but it do seem like 'tinkling cymbals,' and 'sounding brass' to go preaching the gospel to poor sufferin' folks like me, and telling of 'em to be patient and resigned, and suffer the will of Heaven, and all that, if they don't give the naked clothes to cover 'em, and the hungry food to nourish 'em, and to the frozen fire to warm 'em. I tell you what, Miss May, such religion aint no 'count it 'pears to me, and jest minds me of a apple-tree used to grow in ole mass'r's garden; it would get its leaf and blossom; like the rest on 'em, but never a sign of apple did it bear; so one day ole missis tells him he better cut it down for firewood—and so it was, and split up, and sent to my cabin; and I tell you what, honey, I was glad, 'cause somehow it seemed to 'cumber the airth."
"Yes, Aunt Mabel, if the true love of God is not in us, we are like fruit-trees cursed with barrenness—only fit to be cast into the fire," said May, sighing.
"Well, honey, I never was a professor, 'cause I never yet heard professors agreein'. The Baptists hated the Methodists; the Methodists hated the Presbyterians; the Protestants looked down, like, on all of 'em, and they all hated each other. I never could understand it, so I thought I'd go to heaven my own way."
"Well, Aunt Mabel, leaving these to their discords," said May, smiling at her rude but truthful description, "did the thought never enter your mind that Jesus Christ might have established a faith and rule on earth to guide souls, which would be upheld and governed by His Holy Spirit until the end of time?"
"I often thought he ought to, honey; but I'm a poor ignorant creetur—what do I know?" was the naive reply.
"He did, Aunt Mabel; and from the time he established it until now, during eighteen hundred years it has never changed; it will never change until it exchanges for eternity its reign upon earth. All other religions were founded by men,—wicked, blood-thirsty, ambitious men, who wanted a broad license to sin, and who reserved only such fragments of our divine faith, as would give plausibility to their new doctrines without fettering theirs with responsibilities to spiritual tribunals. This is why all these discords, exist among professors. In leaving the one faith which acknowledges one Lord and one baptism, they have hewn out for themselves 'broken cisterns which hold no water.' But do you understand me?"
"Yes, honey, that I do. But I'm too old and ignorant to hear larning and argumentation. I want the faith of Jesus Christ; and it 'pears to me that I never he'erd the true story until now. Whatever it is, your religion suits me, if you will jest show me the way. I'm gwine down, honey, to the valley and shadow of death, and the way'll be mighty dark without the help of the Lord."
"He will be your guide and staff, Aunt Mabel, when the dark hour comes," said May, dashing a tear from her cheek. "But I must go away now, and I want you to think a great deal about Almighty God, until I come again; then tell me if you think His word and promise are worthy of belief. Turn it over in your mind; view it in every way, and let me hear the result. I see your grandchild coming with a bundle of faggots; here is a little change to buy something—tea, or whatever you want."
"Good by, missis. Lord bless you and reward you." But May was out of the cot, going at full speed towards home, which was not very far distant.
Mr. Stillinghast had purchased the house some thirty years before, when it stood three quarters of a mile from the city. It was then a villa, and had been built by a French refugee, who, in those days of courtly customs, was famed for his elegant hospitality. One of the old noblesse, and but little acquainted with the practical management of business affairs, he became embarrassed, and was finally compelled to dispose of his elegant house and furniture, and retire to a life of obscurity and poverty. But the city was growing around it rapidly; in a few more years it would be hemmed in and walled around by streets and houses. Mr. Stillinghast fretted and chafed; then calculated its increased value, and grew almost savage at the idea that he would be dead and forgotten when heaps of gold would be paid down for the few feet of earth it covered.
When May went in, glowing with exercise and happiness, she found Helen moping over the grate, in which the fire was nearly extinguished.
"Why, Helen, it is very cold here, is it not?"
"I am nearly frozen."
"Why on earth did you not step into the next room and get coal? There is a hod full on the hearth."
"I am not in the habit of fetching coal and building fires," she said, haughtily.
"And supposing that I was, I presume you waited for me," said May, with a feeling of exasperation she could not control. Then laying off her bonnet and wrappings, she went out and brought in the hod, emptied it into the grate, let down the ashes, and put up the blower; and by the time she finished, the recollection of the fire which she had kindled that morning in old Mabel's cottage came like a sweet memory into her heart, and the bitterness passed away.
"When do we dine? I suppose the ogre of the castle will be in soon!" said Helen.
"My uncle generally dines down town; and I beg, Helen, that you will speak more respectfully of him," said May.
"And shall we get nothing until he comes?" screamed Helen.
"Yes," said May, laughing at her cousin's consternation. "We can dine now. I have some cold roast beef, bread and butter, and a pie, left from yesterday."
"Oh, heavens! what a bill of fare; but let us have it, for I am famishing."
"Before you get even that, my dear, you must help about a little. Here, spread the cloth, and cut the bread; I will do the rest."
"Spread the cloth, and cut the bread! I don't know how!"
"Learn," said May, half diverted, half angry with the selfish one, as she handed her the tablecloth, which was put on one-sided, while the bread was cut in chunks. When May came in from the pantry, a butler's room as it used to be in the time of the old marquis, Helen was crying over a bleeding finger, which she had cut in her awkward attempts to slice the bread.
"This is a bad business," said May, binding it up. "Helen, I really feel very sorry for you. You will have so many disheartening trials in your new way of life; but keep a brave heart—I will learn you all that I know, if you are only willing."
"Thank you, May, that is very nice. I don't care much about learning such low pursuits; but give me something to eat," was her polite reply.
May crossed herself when she sat down, and asked the blessing of God on the food she was to partake of. Helen fell to, without a thought of anything but the cravings of hunger. They conversed cheerfully together; and while Helen rallied her cousin on her long absence. May thought, more than once, with sad forebodings, of her encounter with her uncle down town that morning. But she determined to keep her own secrets; for she well knew that if he discovered it, he would forbid her exertions in behalf of old Mabel, her visits, and be perhaps furiously angry at the traffic she was carrying on with Mrs. Tabb.
PAST AND PRESENT.
The day waned; and that soft, silent hour, which the Scotch so beautifully call the "gloaming" was over the earth. Subdued shadows crept in through the windows, and mingled with the red glow which the fire-light diffused throughout the room, and together they formed a phantasmagoria, which seemed to ebb and flow like a noiseless tide. And with the shadows, memories of the past floated in, and knocked with their spirit-hands softly and gently against the portals of those two hearts which life's tempest had thrown together. Helen wept.
"Do you remember your mother, dear Helen?" asked May, while she folded her hand in her own.
"No and yes. If it is a memory, it is so indistinct that it seems like a dream; and yet, how often at this hour does a vision come to my mind of a dark-eyed, soft-voiced woman, holding kneeling child against her bosom, to whom she taught a whispered prayer to the madonna! And the child seems me—and the lady, my mother; but it flits away, and then I think it is a dream of long ago."
"Angel mothers! Oh, how beautiful the thought—angel mothers!" said May, in a low, earnest tone. "Do you know, I think with so much pleasure of going to mine! Even when I was a little child, it was sufficient for my old maummy to say, 'Ah, how grieved your poor mamma would be, if she was here!'"
"Do you remember her?"
"Not at all. She died when I was a little wailing infant. Four months afterwards, my father, who was an officer in the navy, died at Canton. He never saw me."
"And you have been here ever since?"
"Ever since. A faithful servant of my mother's, who had been many years in the family, brought me in my helplessness to my uncle for protection. But he, unused to interruptions, would not have received me, only the news which came of my father's death, left him no alternative; so my old maummy remained to nurse me, and keep house for him. I can never express how much I owe her. She was ignorant in worldly knowledge, and only a poor slave; but in her simple and earnest faith, she knew much of the science of the saints. With a mother's tenderness, she shielded me from spiritual ignorance and error, and led my soul to the green pastures of the fold of Christ."
"Had you no other instructor?" inquired Helen.
"Oh yes. Father Fabian. He instructed me in the divine mysteries of our holy faith. He has been my director ever since I was a little child. But how was it with you, dear Helen?"
"I have lived a great deal with Protestants, May," replied Helen, after a short pause. "My father was a major in the army—the only brother of the old man here. He was a Catholic, but he was always so full of official business that he had very little time to attend to religion, and all that kind of thing. His official duties engrossed his time entirely. But he always impressed it on my mind that it would be extremely dishonorable not to avow myself a Catholic when occasions demanded it; and I believe he would have been pleased to see me practise my faith. I was sent to a convent school in Louisiana when I was ten years of age, but was suddenly removed, to accompany my father to Boston, to which place he was ordered. There I was surrounded by persons of fashion and position, who made eyes at me when I told them I was a Catholic, and declared I would lose caste if I went to a church which was attended only by the 'low Irish, and servant girls.' Then I heard Catholics derided as superstitious and ignorant, until, I must confess it, I grew ashamed of being one. My father was too busy to think of me,—he always saw me well-dressed and in good company, and imagined that all else was going well with me; while I, proud, flattered, and enjoying the world, fancied that it was of little importance while I was so young. My poor father was a brave and gallant officer; and I think when he sometimes declared with a dignified air that 'he and his daughter were Catholics,' it was more from the feeling which makes a soldier swear by his flag, than any higher motive. This has been my religious training; but my dear, indulgent father is dead—gone for ever, and I am here—here—Oh, May!" and Helen wept on May's shoulder.
"And how, dear Helen, did my uncle die?" said May, in a tone of tender sympathy.
"Very suddenly. He was not conscious from the moment he was taken ill until he died," she replied.
May could not utter a word. Her heart was filled with a strange horror at the idea of that sudden and unprovided death. She could have cried out with anguish for that soul, which, in the midst of its careless pride and criminal indifference, had been summoned by an inexorable decree to the tribunal of judgment! where it appeared alone—alone—alone, to be weighed in the balance of justice. "But, perhaps, sweet Jesus!" she whispered; "oh, perhaps, Thou didst in the last struggle hear it from its abyss of misery plead for mercy; perhaps, through thy bitter passion and death Thou didst rescue him from eternal woe—"
"What are you saying, May! No doubt I have shocked you; you are so very pious!"
"Pained me, dear Helen; but you will do better now. You feel, I am very sure, that a life of prevarication and indifference does not answer for a Catholic; and now there will be nothing to hinder you."
"Perhaps so, dear May. I really wish to do right—but what, in the name of mercy, is that noise!" cried Helen, starting up.
"It is Uncle Stillinghast coming in. He is beating the snow from his feet," said May, lighting the candles. By this time Mr. Stillinghast had thrown off his wrappings, hung up his hat, and come in. He was evidently in no amiable mood, and to the greetings of his nieces condescended no reply.
"It is colder this evening, Sir, is it not?" said May, flitting around the tea-table.
"Shall I get your tea now, uncle?"
"Here it is, sir; it is very nice and hot; every thing is ready. Come, Helen," said May, placing the chairs. They took their seats in silence.
"What's your name?" Mr. Stillinghast said abruptly, turning to Helen.
"Can you make bread?"
"No, sir," replied Helen, in trembling tones.
"Learn, d'ye hear?"
"Can you sweep—make a shirt—wash—iron?" he burst out.
"No, sir," she said, trembling.
"What are you good for, then?" he inquired, sternly.
"I don't know, sir; I can play on the harp," faltered Helen.
"Play the devil! You are a pretty, curly wax doll—good for nothing, and cumbering the very earth that you live on."
Helen said nothing, but tears rolled over her cheeks.
"But I will have no idlers about me. You shall learn to be useful and industrious. D'ye understand?"
"I will try, sir."
"Very well. And now, miss, what were you doing parading about with old Copeland down town?" he said, turning suddenly to May; "a man I detest with all my soul."
"I do not know any individual of that name, sir. I missed my way this morning, and inquired of an old gentleman who was passing the address of a person I had business with. Then he offered to show me, as he was going past the place," said May, lifting her clear, truthful eyes, to his face.
"And what business, pray, led you to a part of the city so little frequented by the respectable of your sex?"
"If you will excuse me, sir, I would prefer not telling you," she said, gently.
"I insist on knowing," he exclaimed, angrily.
"You will excuse me, sir, when I tell you that it was quite a little affair of my own," replied May, in a low voice.
"Very well, madam!" said Mr. Stillinghast, bowing with a sneer; "but depend on't I shall sift this matter—it shall not rest here."
"I am grieved, dear uncle, to have offended you," began May.
"Be silent! You are full of popish tricks; I suppose you were engaged in one this morning. Go, answer the bell!" Glad to escape, May stepped the hall to open the door, and ushered in a tall, fine-looking man, who said he had business with Mr. Stillinghast. He bowed with a well-bred air to May and Helen, then to Mr. Stillinghast, who invited him to be seated.
"My name is Jerrold, sir—Walter Jerrold, and I have come to bring you rents due for the property belonging to you which I occupy."
"Which of my houses is it?" inquired Mr. Stillinghast, gruffly.
"One on C—— Street, sir; and the warehouse on Bolton's Wharf. Here are the bills, which I hope you will find satisfactory," replied the young man, handing him a roll of notes, which he inspected carefully one by one.
"All right, sir: but the fact is, Mr. Jerrold, this is a very irregular way of doing business. The next time we can settle our matters better at my counting-room," said the old man, folding the notes away; after which he wrote a receipt, and handed to him. "Many things might happen: you might, have been robbed on your way hither; I may be robbed to-night."
"We young fellows are sadly deficient in prudence, Mr. Stillinghast, but your suggestions shall not be lost on me," replied Mr. Jerrold, pleasantly. Although Mr. Jerrold's visit was ostensibly one of business, he was not at all inattentive to the presence of the cousins. His eye lingered on the faultless face of Helen, until she lifted her large brown eyes, and caught his glance, when a soft blush tinted her cheeks, and the long fringed lids drooped over them. May dropped her handkerchief, which he picked up, and handed to her with a courteous bow.
"I fear, ladies, that my awkward visit has interrupted some domestic arrangement," he said, observing the tea-table.
"Not at all, sir," replied May, frankly.
"I beg a thousand pardons if I have; but good evening—good evening, Mr. Stillinghast. I shall beg your permission, sir, to-morrow to consult you about the investment of some funds I have lying idle."
"Of course, sir;" said Mr. Stillinghast, following him to the door. "A rising young man! Come, come, make haste, and clear off the table; I have accounts to look over."
"Come, dear Helen, it will be better for you to help a little," whispered May. "Here is the evening paper, sir, and your pipe when you are ready," she said to her uncle.
"Humph!" was the only reply she received. When every thing was finished, they bade him good night, and ran up to their chamber.
"Where were you to-day, May?" inquired Helen, as soon as May closed the door.
"I was at church—down town—up town—then I came home," said May, cheerfully; "and more than that I do not think proper to disclose. But let us prepare for bed. Dear Helen; we shall have to rise early in the morning, and you must get all the sleep you can."
"May, my firm impression is that this sort of life will extinguish me," said Helen, solemnly; "that horrid old man will certainly tear me to pieces, or bite off my head. Indeed—indeed, I am more afraid of him than any thing I ever saw."
"What nonsense! It will do you good. You will soon learn to have an aim in life; it will drive you for comfort where only comfort can be found, and you will learn patience, forbearance and meekness, long-suffering, and charity."
"Like yourself, I presume!" said Helen, with a slight sneer.
"Oh, no! oh no, dear Helen; did I say any thing like that? I did not mean it, for I am very often angered and impatient, and on the very eve of breaking out; but I don't."
"And why don't you? Do you expect to inherit the old man's gold?"
"Helen, I never think of it. I have a higher motive, I trust. My peculiar trials give me so many opportunities of learning the rudiments of Christian virtue; therefore, after the first sting is over, I feel thankful and happy."
"Help us all! I shall never attain such perfection."
"Nor do I ever expect to arrive at perfection. Oh, no! I am too imperfect; too full of infirmities and faults!" said May, earnestly. "But shall I read the night prayers, or do you prefer reading them alone?"
"Oh, read them by all means; but don't begin until I get on my cloak—it is freezing cold here," said Helen, shivering.
May read the beautiful prayers and litany of our Blessed Lady with such fervor and piety that Helen was touched in spite of herself, and responded with heartfelt earnestness; and at the De Profundis, she thought of her dead father, and wept bitterly.
"I am very, very sad, May," said Helen, when May kissed her good-night.
"To-morrow, dear Helen, we will seek a heavenly physician; He who comes to the lowly and repentant, and dispenses healing and divine gifts from his throne—the altar!" whispered May.
Helen sighed deeply, but made no reply.
The great bell of the cathedral was just tolling the Angelus, when May, laying her hand softly on Helen, awoke her.
"Rise, dear Helen; it is six o'clock."
"It is not daylight yet, and I shan't rise, I assure you," she said, in a fretful tone.
"Yes you will, I am sure. Uncle Stillinghast will be quite displeased if you do not. He said yesterday morning that you should rise when I do, and lo! you have slept an hour later. Come! it is hard I know to get up in the cold, but you'll soon become accustomed to it."
"I declare, May, you are as bad as your uncle. Heavens! what a pair to live with. One as exacting as a Jew, the other obedient as a saint, and obstinate as a mule! I never was so persecuted in my life!" exclaimed Helen, rising very unwillingly.
"That is right," said May, laughing, "be brisk now, for there is a great deal to do."
"What is it, May? Are you going to build a house before breakfast?"
"Come and see, and I promise you a nice time. The fire is already made in the kitchen-stove. Hurry down, I want you to grind the coffee."
"Grind the coffee! What is that?" asked Helen, with amazement.
"I will show you. Really, I would not ask you, only I have rolls to make."
"Coffee to grind, and rolls to bake, for that horrid old man—"
"And ourselves. I tell you what, Helen, he could get on vastly well without us, but how we should manage without him I cannot tell," said May, gravely, for when occasion offered, she could so inflate and expand her little form with dignity, and throw such a truthful penetrating light into her splendid eyes, that it was quite terrifying.
"Go on, then; I shall follow you in a few moments. I have some prayers to say." Helen's prayers were soon over. Religion was no vital principle in her mind. It is true she held the germs of faith in her soul, but they were like those bulbs and grains which are so often found on the breast of mummies—which, unless exhumed, and exposed to sunlight and air, never develop their latent life. So with her; swathed, and wrapped, and crusted over with evil associations, artificial feelings, and the maxims of the world, the germ was hidden—buried—until the angel of repentance should reveal to her the pearl she held, and lead her beyond the vestibule of faith. She had looked no farther; poor Helen; to the splendors, the consolations, and rapture beyond, she was a stranger. It is not remarkable, then, that when she encountered the stern changes and trials of life, the burden galled and fretted her.
"How are you, ma'am; you are very welcome!" laughed May, when Helen came down; "come near the fire, and while you warm yourself, take this coffee-mill on your knees—turn the handle so, until all the grains disappear, then begin the second stage."
"The what?" asked Helen, tugging at the handle, which she turned with difficulty. Her hands, unaccustomed to work of any kind, held it awkwardly; while May, with her hands in the dough, which she worked vigorously, laughed outright at her fruitless efforts.
"It's no use, May," at last she broke out, "I can't do it; and I've a mind to throw the thing out of the window and run away."
"Where, dear Helen?"
"I don't know. I will hire out as lady's-maid, companion, governess—any thing is preferable to this sort of life!" she exclaimed, flushing up.
"You would find greater difficulties than a harmless coffee-mill to contend with, I imagine!" said May, quietly, while she shaped her rolls, and placed them in a pan.
"What shall I do?" cried Helen, in a tone of despair, after another fruitless effort.
"Grind the coffee. Come, you are quite strong enough; put it on the table, here—steady it with one hand, and turn with the other—so; now it goes," said May, pleasantly.
"How ridiculous! what now?" said Helen, laughing.
"The second stage!" replied May, looking mysterious; "pull out that little drawer, and empty the powder you will find in it into the coffee-pot, which I have just scalded—that is it; now pour on a little cold water; put in this fish-sound; fill up with boiling water—there, that is enough. Now comes the third, and last stage. Set the pot on the stove, and watch it; when it boils up the third time, throw in a small cup full of cold water, and take it off to settle. It is ready then for immediate use."
"Gracious! what an indefatigable, old-fashioned little thing you are, May," said Helen, obeying her directions, and, after all, rather enjoying the novelty of the thing, than otherwise. May's cheerful face flitting about; the bright sunshine gushing in; the warmth of the room, and the feeling that she had really done something useful, inspired her with a healthful sentiment of enjoyment which she had never experienced before. Breakfast was ready; the rolls were light, and nicely browned; the coffee was clear and fragrant, and the idea of a good breakfast was no mean consideration with Helen.
"My uncle has not yet returned from market, and we can run in and arrange the sitting-room," said May.
And they flitted round, dusting, brushing, and polishing up, until they were both as merry as crickets. The morning paper was opened, and spread on the back of a chair to air; the cushioned arm-chair was wheeled into its accustomed corner; and, just as every thing was complete in their arrangements, Mr. Stillinghast came in. Helen was in the hall when he came in with a well-filled basket on his arm.
"Shall I help to draw off your coat, sir?" she asked, timidly.
He looked up a moment, and she seemed such a vision of loveliness that his cold, dull eye, opened and brightened with astonishment. It was the first time he had really looked at her. A low, chuckling laugh, burst from his lips, which Helen thought frightful, and he handed her the basket, saying, "I can do it myself; take this to the kitchen." She dared not excuse herself, but holding it with both hands, and feeling as if her wrists were breaking, she passed through the sitting-room with such a doleful countenance, while a red angry spot burned on her forehead, that May could not forbear laughing even while she went to assist her.
Mr. Stillinghast's humor was not quite so rasping as usual that morning, although he cast more than one angry look towards May, and scarcely noticed the remarks she made to him. When she told him that Helen had made the coffee, he nodded towards her, and with a grim smile told her that "she had made a good beginning;" but to May, never a word was uttered. Notwithstanding which, it was very evident that a pleasant thought, by some rare chance, had taken possession of his bleak heart, like birds, which, sometimes in flying, drop from their beaks the seeds of beauteous and gorgeous flowers into the crevice of some bare grey rock. He did not again advert to May's adventure down town, and she hoped he had forgotten it; but he was one of those who never forget.
At half-past eight, all her domestic affairs in order, May and Helen prepared to attend the 9 o'clock mass at the cathedral. Helen's worldly heart was pleased with the grandeur of the building, the dignity with which the ceremonies were conducted, and the appearance of the congregation, who appeared to belong to a better class than she had been accustomed to see in the Catholic churches North. And so they did. They were mostly individuals of fortune and leisure, who had their time in command. And there were those whose age and infirmities would not permit them to come out at an earlier hour; feeling thankful to know that He, the wonderful and humble Jesus, would be there to receive their homage, and dispense His blessings to their waiting hearts. Her old feelings would have triumphed, had she attended the earlier masses, when the artisan, the toil-worn, the laborer, with his habiliments covered with the moil and toil of earth; the tattered poor, who were ashamed to come out into the full light of day; the halt, the cripple, and the blind, led by little ones; the widow and orphan, the bereaved, who seek to hide their anguish from all eyes but His who can heal it; the dark children of Ethiopia, the slave, the outcast, had congregated there; all equal in HIS eyes, as they will be in the valley of Jehosaphat when the judgment is, to receive the divine manna and the vital heavenliness which His presence afforded; when, like pilgrims refreshed by pure water in the desert, they went forth to encounter again the heat, the simoon, the thirst and weariness of the way, but with renewed courage.
"Shall we go in to see Father Fabian a moment?" said May, after mass.
"No, not now, May. I think, perhaps I shall go to confession soon; and I do not wish to know him, or be known to him," she replied, shrinking back.
"Let it be soon, very soon, dearest Helen!" said May, pressing her hand.
"Perhaps," she answered, vaguely.
"Now, dear Helen, can you find your way back? I have to go a little way on business," said May, when they came within two squares of home.
"Oh, yes; but really, you seem to have a great many mysterious visits on hand!" observed Helen, rather sharply.
"You shall come with me soon, if you wish to;" replied May. Then they separated; Helen dissatisfied, and a little angry, and May rejoicing like a miser who goes to visit his treasure. Full of happy thoughts, she went on until she came to old Mabel's cottage, at the door of which stood a small, close carriage. The door was ajar, and she went in. There were two ladies in silks, velvets, and plumes, standing before Aunt Mabel, and both were speaking in an excited tone.
"A Roman Catholic!" they exclaimed.
"Yes, misses," was the meek reply.
"Why, don't you know you peril your eternal salvation, by becoming a papist?"
"No, misses, I don't know it, neither does you. I been living on and on, and never was a professor, and I'm gwine to do jest what is right at the 'leventh hour. It's a 'ligion that's older than all, and was know'd and practised afore any of yourn was ever thought on."
"Did you ever hear such preposterous ignorance!" exclaimed one; "why, old aunty, who has been tampering with you?"
"Nobody, honey, only them that's got a 'ligion that larns them to give bread to the hungry, warm clothes to the freezing, and fire to keep life in their bodies; and tells the poor ole nigger that God loves her soul as well as he do buckra folks. So I'm gwine to be one," replied old Mabel, striking her stick on the hearth.
"You are a poor, benighted creature, and I hope God will pity you on the score of your ignorance," said one of the well-meaning ladies.
"I hope he will, misses, I hope he will," she said, humbly.
"We had some things for you; but, of course, we cannot leave them now; the papists must take care of their own poor—we have enough of our own," observed one.
"Downright impudence!" they muttered, flouncing out to their carriage, without seeing May, who had taken refuge behind the bed, which was hung round with some faded patchwork, to keep out air.
"And so you're bearing testimony for Christ already, Aunt Mabel," said May, coming towards her with outstretched hands.
"Bless your dear face, honey, it seems best for me. I ben so long without sarving God, that I shall 'quire all the help I can get in this world and the next. Them ladies, honey, is well-meaning, I reckon. They 'tended me a little while last winter, but they wanted to send me out yonder—I wouldn't go; I'm mighty poor and helpless, Miss May, and was friendless then, but I couldn't go thar!"
"Where, Aunt Mabel?"
"To the poor-house, my child. But, honey, arter you went away yesterday, I all at once remembered a Catholic woman—she was a half-Indian, half-nigger, from the West Indies—that I used to do a good turn for now and then. She was dying with consumption, and she used to talk to me about the saints in glory praying for us, the blessed mother of Jesus Christ, and purgatory, in her broken lingo, till I b'lieved every word she said. I was trying to recollect, arter you left me, and it all come pat into my head at once."
"These are consoling, helpful, and holy doctrines, Aunt Mabel; but tell me if you are satisfied that the Roman Catholic Church is the true Church of God?" said May, smoothing her withered hand.
"I can't 'splain myself, honey; but thar's something in here that tells me it is," said the simple old creature, laying her hand on her breast.
"And that something is a great and glorious gift, Aunt Mabel—the gift of FAITH. But hear what our dear Lord said, before he ascended to his Father; here is your old Protestant Bible, which your good mistress used to read to you so long ago. I will find it in this," said May, taking down the shattered old copy of the Scriptures from its shelf. "First of all, our Lord established his Church on earth. It was the object of his divine mission. Then he endowed his apostles with heavenly gifts and authority to do even as he had done; and declared that his Church was 'founded on a rock, against which the gates of hell should never prevail.'"
"And his word and his promise never fail, honey, because he is the Lord God," said the old woman.
"No, never, never fail," said May, fervently; "and now listen. Here He, Infinite Truth, tells us himself why this Church can never be overcome, or err, or do wrong: 'I will pray the Father!' said Jesus Christ to his disciples, 'and he will send you another comforter, that he may abide with you for ever—even the SPIRIT OF TRUTH;' and again he says: 'When He, the Spirit of Truth, is come, he will guide you in all truth.' And this spirit was the Holy Ghost—the Spirit of God! Oh, Aunt Mabel, only think! the Spirit of the Eternal God—promised not only to the disciples, but to the Church for ever! Do you understand me?"
"I understand, honey; and it's the same now it was then, and will be for ever. Oh, no, Satan, you can't break up your master's inheritance! You may worrit His sheep, and steal off His stray lambs now and then, but, bless God, you'll get no furder, 'cause the Master is thar hisself. Oh, Miss May, lead me in, quick as you please!" cried the old woman, while tears streamed over her face.
"Dear Aunt Mabel, your wish will soon be gratified. I will see Father Fabian to-morrow morning, after mass, and he will come to visit and instruct you in many things, which it is necessary for you to understand. Were you ever baptized?"
"No, honey; my mother was a Baptist, and they don't baptize babies; and after I growed up, I didn't like 'em, somehow, and so it's never been done."
"In this case, I am glad it was not done," said May; "for now, when, after due preparation, you receive holy baptism, your soul will be washed white and stainless as that of a Christian babe. You will have a clean and beautiful banqueting room to receive the Lord Jesus when he comes to you, under the sacramental veil; and, being near the end of your pilgrimage, it is not likely that it will be again defiled by sin. Oh, how happy is the thought of going up through faith and repentance, without a stain, into the presence of our divine Lord!"
"Me, Miss May! all that for an old crippled nigger like me?" exclaimed Aunt Mabel, wiping her eyes.
"Yes, all that, and more—ten thousand times more. But now, Aunt Mabel, you must begin to examine carefully your past life; to remember the sins which have blotted it, and beg of Almighty God the grace of true repentance, sincere, humble repentance, that you may make a good general confession. And here," continued May, taking off her own medal, and hanging it around Aunt Mabel's neck, "say the little prayer on this a hundred times a day, if you can remember it: 'Oh, Mary, conceived without sin, pity me, a poor sinner, who have recourse to thee.' It is a medal of our Blessed Lady, who will obtain from her divine Son, for you, all that you may need. Can you say the prayer?"
"Oh, Mary, conceived without sin, pity me, a poor sinner, who have recourse to thee," repeated the old woman.
"Say it over and over again, until you know it perfectly," said May.
"I got it in here, honey, fast," replied the old woman, pointing to her heart.
"That is right. Now, can I do any thing for you?"
"No, my misses, only call my grandchild as you go 'long. I let her go out to have a run in the sunshine this morning."
"I will send her to you; and to-morrow I think you will see Father Fabian," said May, before she closed the door. And she went away, wrapped as with a royal mantle, in the blessings of the poor.
THINGS OF TIME AND ETERNITY.
In a small and elegant boudoir, which opened into a conservatory, and was crowded with articles of taste and vertu,—the gleanings of a tour through Europe,—a lady, somewhat past the prime of life, leaned over an Or-molu table, arranging with exquisite touches, a quantity of splendid flowers in a basket of variegated mosses which stood on it. There was a look of high-bred indolence about her, and an expression of pride on her countenance so earthly, that even the passing stranger shrunk from it. And, while with a fine eye for the harmony of colors, she blended the gorgeous flowers together, weaving the dark mosses amidst them, until they looked like a rare Flemish painting, the door opened, and a distinguished-looking young gentleman came in—called her mother—kissed her on the cheek, and threw himself with an easy air into a fauteuil.
"You see how busy I am, Walter, and until I am disengaged, look over these new engravings. They are just from Paris," said the lady.
"I see, dear mother, that you have the affairs of a nation on your shoulders. I hope, for your health's sake, you have no other momentous concerns to look after this morning," he said, playfully.
"One more, Walter; my goldfinch is half-starved, and the mocking-bird is really on his dignity, because he has not had egg and lettuce for his breakfast; but, apropos, what success had you with old Stillinghast?"
"Faith, mother, it is hard to tell. He is a tough personage to deal with. I got in, however, and saw the two nieces."
"One of them is extremely beautiful. I shall have no objections to making her Mrs. Jerrold, provided—"
"The old miser makes her his heiress," interrupted Mrs. Jerrold.
"Exactly. The other one is a nice, graceful, little thing, with such a pair of eyes! She has a spirit of her own, too, I fancy."
"I have been thinking over our plan to-day, and it really seems to be a feasible one, Walter, if you can only win Mr. Stillinghast's confidence. How do they live?"
"I presume they consider it comfortable;—it would be miserable to me. The old man appeared quite flattered this morning, when I got him to invest that money for me; and shook my hand warmly when I inveighed against the present mania for speculating in fancy stocks."
"You have tact enough, Walter, if you will only use it properly and prudently. The mortgage on Cedar Hall has nearly expired; I have not a solitary dollar to pay it, and the consequence will be—a foreclosure, unless some miracle occurs to redeem it. Your business must not be broken down, by drawing on your capital!" said Mrs. Jerrold, pressing the yolk of a hard-boiled egg through the gilded wires of her mocking-bird's cage.
"I'll move heaven and earth, mother, before Cedar Hall shall go out of the family. If I can bring things to pass with old Stillinghast, I might, on the credit of marrying one of his heiresses raise the money at a ruinous interest. At any rate, Cedar Hall, goes not from the Jerrolds," he exclaimed.
"But, Walter, I understand that both of those girls are Catholics?"
"That's bad; but I fancy I shall be able to put down all that sort of thing, in case I win the lady," he said, twirling an opal seal.
"And who are they? I have a horror of low families."
"Make yourself easy on that score, they are our equals, I imagine. I am very certain that none of them have been hung, or sent to the penitentiary; and I presume there have been more gentlemen in the family, than self-made men, from the simple fact, that both of those girls have been left quite penniless, and dependent on their uncle. I believe, however, that the father of one was a major in the army; the other, a captain in the navy," said Mr. Jerrold, laughing.
"I am glad to hear it. I assure you that family is no unimportant consideration with me," observed the lady.
"Dear lady mother, I had not the remotest suspicion that it was; but I must be off," he replied, while he consulted his watch. "I got a private despatch this morning from New York, giving me the very pleasant information of a failure in the coffee crop; and I am going to attend a sale at ten o'clock, and expect to purchase largely at the present prices. At one, my investment will double its value."
"You were fortunate, indeed," said Mrs. Jerrold. He kissed her cheek once more, said "good-by," and was gone. Neither mother nor son imagined they had been saying or doing any thing contrary to the laws of honor or morality. Had any one suggested such an idea, he would have felt grossly insulted; and that red spot of pride on her forehead would have glowed into a flame of resentment. They were only keeping a sharp eye on their interests. Thus, at least, they would have defined their plans. Protestants, practical and nominal, think of the judgment as an idea too remote to influence the acts of their daily life. They have no confessionals for ever reminding them of the right principles of a true rule of faith; and no spiritual guides, whose duty it is to probe the erring conscience, and heal, with divine gifts, the repentant soul. But we will leave Mrs. Jerrold's recherche boudoir, and accompany May from the Cathedral to Father Fabian's parlor. She was disappointed at not finding him there, but determined to wait, as the servant informed her that he had been sent for just as mass was over, to carry the Holy Viaticum to a laborer who had fallen from a scaffolding in the next square, and was dying from the effect of his injuries.
"I will go Into the church and wait. Will you please to call me when Father Fabian comes in? I have something of importance to say to him," said May, while awe and tender charity filled her heart.
"I shall certainly call you, ma'am," replied the respectable domestic.
And May went back and knelt in her accustomed place near the altar—that altar, which, to her clear faith, was a throne of majestic and clement love, where the Shepherd of souls was for ever present, to make intercession for those who, through His bitter passion and death, hoped for eternal life. Earnestly she besought His mercy for that soul in its last sudden agony. She besought the Queen of Sorrows, by the pangs she endured on Calvary, to come to his aid and obtain from her divine Son the grace of a good death! She implored the saints, who had gone up through much tribulation, and who pity those who suffer and weep in this valley of tears, to pray for him, that he might not be overcome in the hour of trial by the enemy of souls. In her earnest charity she took no heed of time, and was startled when the servant, kneeling beside her, informed her that Father Fabian had returned, and would see her. When she went in, he was taking a cup of coffee and some toast, which it was very evident, from his pale, excited countenance, he needed. His Breviary was lying open near him.
"Ah, my dear child!" he said, holding out his hand to May, "I am very glad to see you. How are you?"
"Quite well, father. But do not let me disturb you; you need refreshment after the late melancholy scene," she replied.
"Melancholy, indeed; but oh, so full of consolation!" observed Father Fabian, while his eyes filled up. "We priests, like physicians, are called on to witness a great many distressing scenes, which many a time appal our weak human nature, and almost overcome our charity by terror. This affair was truly heart-rending. When I arrived at the spot, I found the poor man lying on the sidewalk, crushed, and almost speechless. A crowd, collected together by curiosity, surrounded him. I asked a physician, who was examining the extent of his injuries, 'whether or not he could be removed?' 'He has not fifteen minutes to live, poor fellow,' was his reply! I threw on my stole, requested the crowd to stand back a little, and knelt on the bricks beside him, and bowed my ear close to his lips. He had recognized me, and his eyes already dim, lit up with joy; and in faltering and whispered words, he made his short confession. Happily, his conscience was not burdened with mortal sin. He was one of my penitents, and I knew how regular and pious his daily life had been. Quickly I gave him absolution, after which I administered the Holy Viaticum, which he received with great fervor. 'I am resigned; but, sweet Jesus, pity my little ones,' he whispered. Then, in a little while, with our dear Lord to conduct him, he passed into eternity. I doubt not that his sentence was full of mercy." There was a pause of several moments, during which May dashed more than one tear from her cheek.
"But who, think you, I saw, when I lifted my eyes from that dying countenance?"
"I cannot imagine, father."
"Your uncle. Yes, indeed! he stood watching the scene with a most intent and singular expression of countenance," said Father Fabian.
"It is, I believe, one of the first practical fruits of the Catholic faith he ever saw," said May, quite forgetting her own humble, patient example.
"Probably!" said Father Fabian, smiling; "but tell me now what is it you want. I have to run away out to the north-western limits of the city."
"That will suit precisely, dear father. It is a poor, paralytic old woman, I wish to direct you. She has determined to become a Catholic, and wishes to see you. She needs instruction; but her faith is so docile, that I do not think you will hesitate long to grant the ardent desire of her soul, which is, admission into the church of God."
"And where does our neophyte live?" asked Father Fabian.
"In the first of those small cottages west of Howard's Woods; but please, Father Fabian, don't mind any thing she may say about me," said May, blushing, and looking embarrassed. "She is so very grateful, that she imagines that I have done a great deal for her, and really makes me ashamed of the trifling amount of good I have extended to her. Will you give me your blessing, father?"