by Heman White Chaplin
By Heman White Chaplin
One of the places which they point out on Ship Street is the Italian
fruit-shop on the corner of Perry Court, before the door of which, six
years ago, Guiseppe Cavagnaro, bursting suddenly forth in pursuit of
Martin Lavezzo, stabbed him in the back, upon the sidewalk. All two
of them were to blame, so the witnesses said; but Cavagnaro went to
prison for fifteen years. That was the same length of time, as it
happened, that the feud had lasted.
Nearly opposite is Sarah Ward's New Albion dance-hall. It opens
directly from the street There is an orchestra of three pieces, one of
which plays in tune. That calm and collected woman whom you may see
rocking in the window, or sitting behind the bar, sewing or knitting,
is not a city missionary, come to instruct the women about her; it is
Sarah Ward, the proprietress. She knows the Bible from end to end. She
was a Sunday-school teacher once; she had a class of girls; she spoke
in prayer-meetings; she had a framed Scripture motto in her chamber,
and she took the Teachers' Lesson Quarterly; she visited the sick; she
prayed in secret for her scholars' conversion. How she came to change
her views of life nobody knows,that is to say, not everybody knows.
And still she is honest. It is her pride that sailors are not drugged
and robbed in the New Albion.
A few doors below, and on the same side of the street, is the
dance-hall that was Bose King's-. It is here that pleasure takes on its
most sordid aspect. If you wish to see how low a white woman can fall,
how coarse and offensive a negro man can be, you will come here. There
is an inscription on the bar, in conspicuous letters,Welcome Home.
By day it is comparatively still in Ship Street. Women with soulless
faces loll stolidly in the open ground-floor windows. There are few
customers in the bar-rooms; here and there two or three idlers shake
for drinks. Policemen stroll listlessly about, and have little to do.
But at nightfall there is a change; the scrape of fiddles, the stamp of
boot-heels, is heard from the dance-halls. Oaths and boisterous
laughter everywhere strike the ear. Children, half-clad, run loose at
eleven o'clock. Two policemen at a corner interrogate a young man who
is hot and excited and has no hat. He admits that he saw three men run
from the alley-way and saw the sailor come staggering out after them,
but he does not know who the men were. The policemen take him in, on
It is here that the Day-Star Mission has planted itself. Its white
flag floats close by the spot where Martin Lavezzo fell, with the long
knife between his shoulder-blades. Its sign of welcome is in close
rivalry with the harsh strains from Sarah Ward's and the lighted
stairway to Bose King's saloon. It stands here, isolated and strange,
an unbidden guest. It is a protest, a reproof, a challenge, an uplifted
But while, to a casual glance, the Day-Star Mission is all out of
place, it has, nevertheless, its following. On Monday and Thursday
afternoons a troop of black-eyed, jet-haired Portuguese women, half of
whom are named Mary Jesus, flock in to a sewing-school. On Tuesdays and
Fridays American, Scotch, and Irish women, from the tenement-houses of
the quarter, fill the settees, to learn the use of the needle, to enjoy
a little peace, and to hear reading and singing; and occasionally the
general public of the vicinity are invited to an entertainment.
It was a February afternoon; at the Mission building the board were
in monthly session. The meeting had been a spirited one. A proposition
to amend the third line of the fourth by-law, entitled Decorum in the
Hall, by inserting the word smoking, had been debated and had
prevailed. A proposition to buy a new mangle for the laundry had been
defeated, it having been humorously suggested that the women could
mangle each other. Other matters of interest had been considered.
Finally, as the hour for adjournment drew near, a proposition was
brought forth, appropriate to the season. Saint Patrick's Day was
approaching. It was to many a day of temptation, particularly in the
evening. Would it not be a good plan to hold out the helping hand, in
the form of a Saint Patrick's Day festival, with an address, for
example, upon Saint Patrick's life, with Irish songs and Irish
readings? Such an entertainment would draw; it would keep a good many
people out of the saloons. Such was the suggestion.
The proposition excited no little interest. Ladies who had begun to
put on their wraps sat down again. To one of the board, a clergyman,
who had lately been lecturing on Popery the People's Peril, the
proposition was startling. It looked toward the breaking down of all
barriers; it gave Romanism an outright recognition. Another member, a
produce-man, understood,in fact he had read in his denominational
weekly,that Saint Patrick could be demonstrated to have been a
Protestant, and he suggested that that fact might be brought out.
Others viewed the matter in that humorous light in which this festival
day commonly strikes the American mind.
The motion prevailed. Even the anti-papistic clergyman was
comforted, apparently, at last, for he was heard to whisper jocosely to
his left-hand neighbor: Saint Patrick's Day in the Morning!
A committee, with the produce-man at the head, was appointed to
select a speaker, and to provide music and reading. It was suggested
that perhaps Mr. Wakeby and Mrs. Wilson-Smith would volunteer, if
urged,their previous charities in this direction had made them famous
in the neighborhood. Mr. Wakeby to read from Handy Andy; Mrs.
Wilson-Smith to sing Kathleen Mavourneen,there would not be
So finally unanimity prevailed, and with unanimity, enthusiasm.
The committee met, and the details were settled. The chairman
quietly reserved to himself, by implication, the choice of a speaker.
He knew that it would be an audience hard to hold. The occasion
demanded a man of peculiar gifts. Such a man, he said to himself, he
The single meeting-house of Lstands on the main street, with
its tall spire and its two tiers of gray-blinded windows. Beside it is
the mossy burial-ground, where prim old ladies walk on Sunday
afternoons, with sprigs of sweet-william.
Across the street, and a little way down the road, is the square
white house with a hopper-roof, which an elderly, childless widow,
departing this life some forty years ago, thoughtfully left behind her
for a parsonage. It is a pleasant, home-like house, open to sun and
air, and the pleasantest of all its rooms is the minister's study. It
is an upper front chamber, with windows to the east and the south.
There is nothing in the room of any value; but whether the minister is
within, or is away and is represented only by his palm-leaf
dressing-gown, somehow the spirit of peace seems always to abide there.
There is the ancient desk, which the minister's children, when they
were little, used to call the omnibus, by reason of a certain vast
and capacious drawer, the resort of all homeless things,nails,
wafers, the bed-key, curtain-fixtures, carpet-tacks, and dried rhubarb.
Perhaps it was to this drawer that the minister's daughter lately
referred, when she said that the true motto was, One place for
everything, and everything in that one place.
Over the chimney-piece hangs a great missionary map, showing the
stations of the different societies, with a key at one side. This blue
square in Persia denotes a missionary post of the American Board of
Commissioners; that red cross in India is an outpost of a Presbyterian
missionary society; this green diamond in Arrapatam marks a station of
the Free Church Missionary Union. As one looks the map over, he seems
to behold the whole missionary force at work. He sees, in imagination,
Mr. Elmer Small, from Augusta, Maine, preaching predestination to a
company of Karens, in a house of reeds, and the Rev. Geo. T. Wood, from
Massachusetts, teaching Paley in Roberts College at Constantinople.
Thus the whole Christian world lies open before you.
Pinned up on one of the doors is the Pauline Chart. Have you never
seen the Pauline Chart? It was prepared in colored inks, by Mr. Parker,
a theological student with a turn for penmanship, and lithographed, and
was sold by him to eke out the avails of what are inaptly termed
supplies. You would find it exceedingly convenient. It shows in a
tabulated form, for ready reference, the incidents of Saint Paul's
career, arranged chronologically. Thus you can find at a glance the
visit to Berea, the stoning at Lystra, or the tumult at Ephesus. Its
usefulness is obvious. Over the desk is a map of the Holy Land, with
The walls of the room are for the most part hidden by books. The
shelves are simple affairs of stained maple, covered heavily with
successive coats of varnish, cracked, as is that of the desk, by age
and heat. The contents are varied. Of religious works there are the
Septuagint, in two fat little blue volumes, like Roman candles;
Conant's Genesis; Hodge on Romans; Hackett on Acts, which the
minister's small children used to spell out as Jacket on Acts; Knott
on the Fallacies of the Antinomians; A Tour in Syria; Dr. Grant and the
Mountain Nestorians, and six Hebrew Lexicons, singed by fire,a
There are a good many works, too, of general literature, but rather
oddly selected, as will happen where one makes up his library chiefly
by writing book-notices: Peter Bayne's Essays; Coleridge; the first
volume of Masson's Life of Milton; Vanity Fair; the Dutch Republic; the
Plurality of Worlds; and Mommsen's Rome. That very attractive book in
red you need not take down; it is only the history of Norwalk, Conn.,
with the residence of J. T. Wales, Esq., for a frontispiece; the cover
is all there is to it. Finally, there are two shelves of Patent Office
Reports, and Perry's Expedition to Japan with a panoramic view of
Yeddo. This shows that the minister has numbered a congressman among
It is here that Dr. Parsons is diligently engaged, this cold March
afternoon, to the music of his crackling air-tight stove. He is deeply
absorbed in his task, and we may peep in and not disturb him. He has a
large number of books spread out before him; but looking them over, we
miss Lange's Commentaries, Bengel's Gnomon, Cobb on Galatians,those
safe and sound authorities always provided with the correct view.
The books which lie before the Doctor seem all to, deal with a
Romish Saint, and, of all the saints in the world, Saint Patrick. In
full sight of his own steeple, from which the bell is even now counting
out the sixty-nine years of a good brother just passed away in hope of
a Protestant heaven,tolling out the years for the village housewives,
who pause and count; under such hallowing influences,beneath, as it
were, the very shadow of the Missionary Map and the Pauline Chart, and
with a gray Jordan rushing down through a scarlet Palestine directly
before him, suggestive of all good things; with Knott on the Fallacies
at his right hand, and with Dowling on Romanism on his left, the Doctor
is actually absorbed in Papistical literature. Here are the works of
Dr. Lanigan and Father Colgan and Monseigneur Moran. Here is the Life
and Legends of Saint Patrick, illustrated, with a portrait in gilt of
Brian Boru on the cover. Here are the Tripartite Life, in Latin, and
the saint's Confession, and the Epistle to Co-roticus, the Ossianic
Poems, and Miss Cusack's magnificent quarto, which the Doctor has
borrowed from the friendly priest at the factory village four miles
away, who borrowed it from the library of the Bishop to lend to him.
Perhaps you have never undertaken to prepare a life of Saint
Patrick. If so, you have no idea of the difficulties of the task. In
the first place, you must settle the question whether Saint Patrick
ever existed. And this is a disputed point; for while there are those,
like Father Colgan, whose clear faith accepts Saint Patrick just as he
stands in history and tradition, yet, on the other hand, there are
sceptics, like Ledwick, who contend that the saint is nothing but a
prehistoric myth, floating about in the imagination of the Irish
Having settled to your satisfaction that Patrick really lived, you
must next proceed to fix the date of his birth; and here you enter upon
complicated calculations. You will probably decide to settle first, as
a starting-point, the date of the saint's escape from captivity; and to
do this you will have to reconcile the fact that after the captivity he
paid a friendly visit to his kinsman, Saint Martin of Tours, who died
in 397, with the fact that he was not captured until 400.
Next you will come to the matter of the saint's birthplace; and this
is a delicate question, for you will have to decide between the claims
of Ireland, of Scotland, and of France; and you will very probably find
yourself finally driven to the conclusionfor the evidence points that
waythat Saint Patrick was a Frenchman.
Next comes the question of the saint's length of days; and if you
attempt to include only the incidents of his life of which there can be
no possible doubt, you will stretch his age on until you will probably
fix it at one hundred and twenty years.
But when you have settled the existence, the date of birth, and the
nationality of Saint Pat-rick, you are still only upon the threshold of
your inquiries; for you next find before you for examination a vast
variety of miracles, accredited to him, which you must examine, weeding
out such as are puerile and are manifestly not well established, and
retaining such as are proved to your satisfaction. You will be struck
at once with the novel and interesting character of some of them.
Prince Caradoc was changed into a wolf. An Irish magician who opposed
the saint was swallowed by the earth as far as his ears, and then, on
repentance, was instantly cast forth and set free. An Irish pagan, dead
and long buried, talked freely with the saint from out his turf-covered
grave, and charitably explained where a certain cross belonged which
had been set by mistake over him. The saint was captured once, and was
exchanged for a kettle, which thenceforth froze water over the fire
instead of boiling it, until the saint was sent back and the kettle
returned. Ruain, son of Cucnamha, Amhalgaidh's charioteer, was blind.
He went in haste to meet Saint Patrick, to be healed. Mignag laughed at
him. My troth, said Patrick, it would be fit that you were the blind
one. The blind man was healed and the seeing one was made blind;
Roi-Ruain is the name of the place where this was done. Patrick's
charioteer was looking for his horses in the dark, and could not find
them; Patrick lifted up his hand; his five fingers illuminated the
place like five torches, and the horses were found.
You see that one has a good deal to go through who undertakes to
prepare a life of Saint Patrick.
But our thoughts have wandered from Dr. Parsons. He has gathered the
books before him with great pains, from public and private libraries,
and he religiously meant to make an exhaustive study of them all; but
sermons and parish calls and funerals, and that little affair of Mrs.
Samuel Nute, have forced him, by a process of which we all know
something, to forego his projected subsoil ploughing and make such
hasty preparation as he can.
He has read the Confession and the Epistle to Coroticus, and he has
glanced over the Life and Legends, reading in a cursory way of the
leper's miraculous voyage; of the fantastic snow; of the tombstone that
sailed the seas; of the two trout that Patrick left to live forever in
The two inseparable trout,
Which would advance against perpetual streams,
Without obligation, without transgression
Angels will be along with them in it.
And being very fond of pure water himself, the Doctor is touched by
Patrick's lament when far away from the well Uaran-gar:
O well, which I have loved, which loved me!
Alas! my cry, O my dear God,
That my drink is not from the pure well of Uaran-gar!
But finally he has settled down, as most casual students will, to
the sincere and charming little sketch by William Bullen
Morris,Saint Patrick, the Apostle of Ireland. He is reading it now
by the east window, holding the book at arm's-length, as is his wont.
The theme is new to him. There opens up a fresh and interesting
field. The dedication of the little book strikes his imagination: To
the Members of the Confraternity of Saint Patrick, established at the
London Oratory, who, with the children of the saint in many lands, are
the enduring witnesses of the faith which seeth Him who is invisible.
He is interested in the motto on the title-page,En un mot, on
y voit beaucoup le caractère de S. Paul, and in the
authorization,Nihil obstat. E. S. Keagh, Cong. Orat.
Imprimatur, + Henricus Eduardus, Card.
The Doctor looks through the book in order. First, the introduction;
and here he considers the questionsFirst, was there in fact such a
man as Saint Patrick? Second, what was his nationality? Third, when was
he born: and, herein, does the date of his escape from captivity
conflict with the date of his visit to his kinsman, Saint Martin of
Tours? Fourth, to what age did he live? Fifth, where and by whom was he
converted? Sixth, are his miracles authentic? and so forth.
After this introductory study the book takes up the saint's life in
connected order. Patrick was the son of a Roman decurio. From his
earliest days wonders attended him. When he was an infant, and was
about to be baptized, it happened that no water was to be had for the
sacrament; whereupon, at the sign of the cross, made by the priest with
the infant's hand upon the earth, a fountain gushed forth from the
ground, and the priest, who was blind, anointing his own eyes with the
water, received his sight.
As Patrick grew older, wonders multiplied. He came as an apostle of
the faith to Strangford Lough. Dichu, the prince of that province,
forewarned by the Druids, raised his sword at Patrick; but instantly
his hand was fixed in the air, as if carved of stone; then light came
to Dichu's soul, and from a foe he became a loving disciple.
Then comes the story of the fast upon the mountain. It was on the
height ever since called Cruachan Patrick, which looks to the north
upon Clew Bay, and to the west on the waters of the Atlantic. It was
Shrove Saturday, a year and a little more from the apostle's first
landing in Ireland. Already he had carried the gospel from the eastern
to the western sea. But his spirit longed for the souls of the whole
Irish nation. Upon the mountain he knelt in prayer, and as he prayed,
his faith and his demands assumed gigantic proportions. An angel came
down and addressed him. God could not grant his requests, the message
ran, they were too great. Is that his decision? asked Patrick. It
is, said the angel. It may be his, said Patrick, it is not mine;
for my decision is not to leave this cruachan until my demands are
The angel departed. For forty days and forty nights Patrick fasted
and prayed amid sore temptations. The blessing must fall upon all his
poor people of Erin. As he prayed, he wept, and his cowl was drenched
with his tears.
At last the angel returned and proposed a compromise. The vast
Atlantic lay before them. Patrick might have as many souls as would
cover its expanse as far as his eyes could reach. But he was not
satisfied with that; his eyes, he said, could not reach very far over
those heaving waters; he must have, in addition, a multitude vast
enough to cover the land that lay between him and the sea. The angel
yielded, and now bade him leave the mountain. But Patrick would not. I
have been tormented, he said, and I must be gratified; and unless my
prayers are granted I will not leave this cruachan while I live; and
after my death there shall be here a care-taker for me.
The angel departed. Patrick went to his offering.
At evening the angel returned. How am I answered? asked Patrick.
Thus, said the angel: all creatures, visible and invisible,
including the Twelve Apostles, have entreated for thee,and they have
obtained. Strike thy bell and fall upon thy knees: for the blessing
shall be on all Erin, both living and dead. A blessing on the
bountiful King that hath given, said Patrick; now will I leave the
It was on Holy Thursday that he came down from the mountain and
returned to his people.
One afternoon at about this time you might have seen Mr. Cole, the
missionary of the Day-Star,a small, lithe man, with a red
beard,making his way up town. He walked rapidly, as he always did,
for he was a busy man.
He was an exceedingly busy man. During the past year, as was shown
by his printed report, he had made 2,014 calls, or five and one-half
calls a day; he had read the Scriptures in families 792 times; he had
distributed 931,456 pages of religious literature; he had conversed on
religious topics with 3,918 persons, or ten and seven-tenths persons
per day, Sabbaths included. It was perhaps because he was so busy that
there was complaint sometimes that he mixed matters and took things
upon his shoulders which belonged to others.
Mr. Cole's rapid pace soon brought him to a broad and pleasant
cross-street; he went up the high steps of one of the houses, rang the
bell, and was admitted.
Rev. Mr. Martin was in his study, and the missionary was shown up.
Precisely what the conversation was has not been reported; but certain
it is that the next day after Mr. Cole's call, Mr. Martin began to
prepare himself for an address upon the life of Saint Patrick. It was
an entirely new topic to him; but he soon found himself in the full
current of the stream, consideringFirst, did such a man really exist,
or is Saint Patrick a mere myth, floating in the imagination of the
Irish people? Second, what was his nationality? Third, where was he
born, and, herein, how are we to reconcile his escape from captivity in
493, with his visit to his kinsman, Saint Martin of Tours, after his
escape from captivity, in 490? Fourth, to what age did he live?
Fifth,and so forth.
Mr. Martin had begun his labors by taking down his encyclopaedia and
such books of reference as he had thought could help him, and had
succeeded so far as to get an outline of the saint's life, and to find
mention of several works which treated of this topic. There were
Montalembert's Monks of the West, and Dr. O'Donovan's Annals of the
Four Masters, the works of Monseigneur Moran and Father Colgan, the
Tripartite Life, and a certain magnificent quarto by Miss Cusack. All
these and many more he had hoped to find in the different libraries of
the city. But great had been his surprise, on visiting the libraries,
to find that the books he wanted were invariably out. It was a little
startling, at first, to come upon this footprint in the sand; but a
little reflection set the feeling at rest. The subject was an odd one
to him, to be sure, but there were thousands of people in the city who
might very naturally be concerned in it, particularly at this time,
when Saint Patrick's Day was approaching. None the less the fact
remained that the books he wantedscattered through two or three
librarieswere always out.
As he stepped out from the Free Library into the street, it occurred
to him to go to a Catholic bookstore near at hand to look for what he
It was a large, showy shop, with Virgins and crucifixes and altar
candelabra's in the windows, and pictures of bleeding hearts. He went
in and stood at the counter. A rosy-faced servant-girl, with a shy,
pleased expression, was making choice of a rosary. A young priest, a
few steps away, was looking at an image of Saint Joseph.
The salesman left the servant-girl to her hesitating choice, and
turned to Mr. Martin.
What have you, asked Mr. Martin, with a slightly conscious tone,
upon the life of Saint Patrick?
The priest turned and looked; but the salesman, with an unmoved
countenance, went to the shelves and selected two volumes and laid them
in silence on the counter. One was the Life and Legends of Saint
Patrick with a picture in gilt of Brian Boru on the cover. The other
was Saint Patrick, the Apostle of Ireland, by William Bullen Morris,
Priest of the Oratory. They were both green-covered.
Early in the evening Mr. Martin settled down by his study fire to
his new purchases. First he took up the Life and Legends. He read the
saint's own Confession, and the Letter to Co-roticus, and looked
through the translation of the Tripartite Life, with its queer mixture
of Latin and English: Prima feria venit Patricius ad Talleriam, where
the regal assembly was, to Cairpre, the son of Niall. Interrogat
autem Patricius qua causa venit Conall, and Conall related the reason
He glanced over the miracles and wonders of which this book was
full. But before very long he laid it aside and took up the Life by
William Bullen Morris, Priest of the Oratory, and decided that he must
depend upon that for his preparation.
It was late at night. It was full time to stop reading; but it laid
strong hold of his imagination,this strange, intense, and humorous
figure, looming up all new to him from the mists of the past. He read
the book to the end; he read how the good Saint Bridget foretold the
apostle's death; how two provinces contended for his remains, and how a
light shone over his burial-place after he was laid to rest.
It was very late when Mr. Martin finished the book and laid it down.
Thus it happens that the Rev. Dr. Parsons and the Rev. Mr. Martin
are both preparing themselves at the same time on the life of Saint
Patrick, from this one brief book by William Bullen Morris, Priest of
Saint Patrick's Day has come and is now fast waning. The sun has
sunk behind the chimney-stack of the New Albion dance-hall; the street
lamps are lighted and are faintly contending against the dull glow of
the late afternoon.
There is a lull between day and evening. All day there has been a
stir in the city. There has been a procession in green sashes, with
harps on the banners,a long procession, in barouches, on horseback,
and afoot. There have been impassioned addresses before the Hibernian
Society and the Saint Peter's Young Men's Irish Catholic Benevolent
Association. There has been more or less celebration in Ship Street.
The evening advances. It is seven o'clock. Strains of invitation
issue from all the dance-halls. Already the people have begun to file
in to the Day-Star Mission. The audience-room is on the street floor.
The missionary stands at the open door, with anxious smiles, urging
decorum. A knot of idlers on each side of the doorway, on the sidewalk,
comment freely on him and on those who enter. Every moment or two a
policeman forces them back.
At a quarter of seven a preliminary praise-meeting begins. Singing
from within jars against the fiddling from over the way. You hear at
once Come to Jesus just now! and Old Dan Tucker.
Already the seats are filled,eight in a settee; those who come now
will have to stand. Still, people continue to file in: laborers,
Portuguese sewing-women, two or three firemen in long-tailed coats and
silver buttons, from Hook and Ladder Six, in the next block;
gross-looking women, habitués of the Mission, with children;
women who are habitués of no mission; prosperous saloon-keepers;
one of the councilmen of the ward,he is a saloon-keeper too.
Dr. Parsons's train brought him to town in good season. He passed in
with other invited guests at the private door, and he has been upon the
platform for ten minutes. His daughter is beside him; ten or a dozen of
his parishioners, who have come too, occupy seats directly in front.
The platform seats are nearly all taken; it is time to begin. The
street-door opens and a passage is made for a new-comer. It is Mr.
Martin. A contingent from his church come with him and fill the few
chairs that are still reserved about the desk.
Now all would appear to be ready; but there is still a few moments'
pause. The missionary is probably completing some preliminary
arrangements. The audience sit in stolid expectation.
Dr. Parsons, from beneath his eyebrows, is studying the faces before
him. In this short time his address has entirely changed form in his
mind. It was simple as he had planned it; it must be simpler yet But he
has felt the pulse of the people before him. He feels that he can hold
them, that he can stir them.
Meanwhile a whispered colloquy is going on, at the rear of the
platform, between the missionary and the chairman of the committee for
the evening. The missionary appears to be explanatory and apologetic,
the chairman flushed. In a moment a hand is placed on Dr. Parsons's
shoulder. He starts, half rises, and turns abruptly.
There has been, it seems, an unfortunate misunderstanding. Through
some mistake Mr. Martin has been asked to make the address upon the
life of Saint Patrick, and has prepared himself with care. He is one of
the Mission's most influential friends; his church is among its chief
benefactors. It is an exceedingly painful affair; but will Dr. Parsons
give way to Mr. Martin?
So it is all over. The Doctor takes his seat and looks out again
upon those hard, dreary faces,his no longer. He has not realized
until now how he has been looking forward to this evening. But the
vision has fled. No ripples of uncouth laughter, no ready tears. No
reaching these dull, violated hearts through the Saint whom they adore:
that privilege is another's.
But the chairman again draws near. Will Dr. Parsons make the opening
The Doctor bows assent. He folds his arms and closes his eyes. You
can see that he is trying to concentrate his thoughts in preparation
for prayer. It is doubtless hard to divert them from the swift channel
in which they have been bounding along.
Now all is ready. The missionary touches a bell, the signal for
The Doctor rises. For a moment he stands looking over the rows on
rows of hardened faces,looking on those whom he has so longed to
reach. He raises his hand; there is a dead silence, and he begins.
It was inevitable, at the outset, that he should refer to the
occasion which had brought us together. It was natural to recall that
we were come to celebrate the birth of an uncommon man. It was natural
to suggest that he was no creature of story or ancient legend, floating
about in the imagination of an ignorant people, but a real man like us,
of flesh and blood. It was natural to add that he was a man born
centuries ago; that the scene of his labors was the green island across
the sea, where many of us now present had first seen the light. It was
natural to give thanks for that godly life which had led three nations
to claim the good man's birthplace. It was natural to suggest that if
about the sweet memories of this man's life fancy had fondly woven
countless legends, we might, with a discerning eye, read in them all
the saintly power of the man of God. What though his infant hand may
not have caused earthly waters to gush from the ground and heal the
blindness of the ministering priest, nevertheless doth childhood ever
call forth a well-spring of life, giving fresh sight to the blind,to
teacher and taught.
But why go on? Who has not heard, again and again, the old-fashioned
prayer wherein all is laid forth, in outline, but with distinctness! We
give thanks for this. May this be impressed upon our hearts. May this
lead us solemnly to reflect.
The heart that is full must overflow,if not in one way, then in
Mr. Martin has not been told about Dr. Parsons. He sits and listens
as the Doctor goes on in the innocence of his heart, pouring forth with
warmth and fervor the life of the saint according to William Bullen
Morris, Priest of the Oratory,pouring forth in unmistakable detail
Mr. Martin's projected discourse.
The prayer is ended; a hymn is sung, and then the missionary
presents to the audience the Rev. Mr. Martin, whom they are always
delighted to hear; he will now address them upon the life of Saint
Mr. Martin rises. He takes a sip of water. He coughs slightly. He
passes his handkerchief across his lips. So far all is well. But the
prayer is in his mind. Moreover, he unfortunately catches his wife's
eye, with a suggestion of suppressed merriment in it.
What does he say? What can he say? There are certain vague lessons
from the saint's virtues; some applications of what the Doctor has set
forth; that is all. Saint Patrick was sober; we should be sober. Saint
Patrick was kind; we should be kind.
Even his own parishioners admitted that he had not been happy on
this particular occasion.
But at the close of the meeting Dr. Parsons received a compliment.
As he descended from the platform, Mr. John Keenan, who kept the
best-appointed bar-room on the street, advanced to meet him. Mr. Keenan
was in an exceedingly happy frame of mind. He grasped the Doctor's
hand. I wish, sir, he said, with a fine brogue, to congratulate you
upon your very eloquent prayer. It remind me, sir,and I take pleasure
to say it,it remind me, sir, of the Honorable John Kelly's noble
oration on Daniel O'Connell.
Late that evening the Doctor stood at his study-window, looking out
for a moment before retiring to rest. There was no light in the room,
and the maps and the charts and the tall book-shelves were only
outlines. There was a glimmer from a farm-house two miles away, where
they were watching with the dead.
The Doctor's daughter came in with a light in her hand to bid her
What did you think, Pauline, he said to her, of Mr. Martin's
talk? It had not been mentioned till now.
Pauline hardly knew what to think. She knew that it was not what the
Rev. Dr. Parsons would have given them! But, honestly, what did her
father think of it?
The Doctor mused for a moment; then he gave his judgment. I think,
he said, that it showed a certain lack of preparation.