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" How much love you have offered you!” said Alice, sighing.
“Yes, quite too much of this kind. On my way here, I saw the modest relative, standing at the corner of the street, hanging his head in this way.” And she imitated the melancholy Hiram Adolphus, and the young friends laughed.
" I hope you did not notice him?” resumed Alice.
“ Certainly not. But what do you suppose he did? As soon as he saw me, he began to walk backward down the street only a short distance in front of me, staring at me most impertinently. Of course, I took no notice of this strange conduct. I felt myself blushing to the eyes with indignation, and yet could hardly suppress my desire to laugh."
“ If you had laughed, he would have taken it for an encouragement; and I have no doubt it would have brought on the catastrophe.'
“ And that would have ended the matter. I half wish I had laughed.”
“But think of the immortal glory of marrying a poet!”
“ And of inscribing on my cards, Mrs. H. Adolphus Hawkins !
“ A few days ago, I went to buy something at his shop; and, leaning over the counter, he asked me if I had seen the sun set the evening before, — adding, that it was gorgeous, and that the grass and trees were of a beautiful Paris green!”
And again the young friends gave way to their mirth.
“ One thing, dear Alice, you must consent to do for me. You must write to Miss Martha Amelia, the author of all these epistles, and tell her very plainly how indelicate her conduct is, and how utterly useless all such proceedings will prove in effecting her purpose."
“I will write this very day. You shall be no longer persecuted.”
“ And now let me give you a few extracts from these wonderful epistles.”
So saying, Cecilia drew forth a small package of three-cornered billets, tied with a bit of pink ribbon. Taking one of them at random, she was on the point of beginning, but paused, as if her attention had been attracted by something out of doors. The sound of passing foot steps was heard on the gravel walk.
“ There goes Mr. Kavanagh,” said she, in a half-whisper.
Alice rose suddenly from her low chair at Cecilia's side, and the young friends looked from the window to see the clergyman pass.
“ How handsome he is !” said Alice involuntarily.
" He is indeed."
At that moment Alice started back from the window. Kavanagh had looked up in passing, as if his eye had been drawn by some secret magnetism. A bright color flushed the cheek of Alice; her eyes fell; but Cecilia continued to look steadily into the street. Kavanagh passed on, and in a few moments was out of sight.
The two friends stood silent, side by side.
ARTHUR KAVANAGH was descended from an ancient Catholic family. His ancestors had purchased from the Baron Victor of St. Castine a portion of his vast estates, lying upon that wild and wonderful sea-coast of Maine, which, even upon
attracts the eye by its singular and picturesque indentations, and fills the heart of the beholder with something of that delight which throbbed in the veins of Pierre du Gast, when, with a royal charter of the land from the Atlantic to the Pacific, he sailed down the coast in all the pride of one who is to be prince of such a vast domain. Here, in the bosom of the solemn forests, they continued the practice of that faith which had first been planted there by Rasle and St. Castine; and the little church where they worshipped is still standing, though now as closed and silent as the graves which surround it, and in which the dust of the Kavanaghs lies buried.
In these solitudes, in this faith, was Kavanagh born, and grew to childhood, a feeble, delicate boy, watched over by a grave and taciturn father, and a mother who looked upon him with infinite tenderness, as upon a treasure she should not long retain. She walked with him by the seaside, and spake to him of God, and the mysterious majesty of the ocean, with its tides and tempests. She sat with him on the carpet of golden threads beneath the aromatic pines, and, as the perpetual melancholy sound ran along the rattling boughs, his soul seemed to rise and fall, with a motion and a whisper like those in the branches over him. She taught him his letters from the Lives of the Saints, -a volume full of wondrous legends, and illustrated with engravings from pictures by the old masters, which opened to him at once the world of spirits and the world of art; and both were beautiful.
She explained to him the pictures; she read to him the legends, — the lives of holy men and women, full of faith and good works, — things which ever afterward remained associated together in his mind. Thus holiness of life, and
self-renunciation, and devotion to duty, were early impressed upon his soul. To his quick imagination, the spiritual world became real; the holy company of the saints stood round about the solitary boy; his guardian angels led him by the hand by day, and sat by his pillow at night. At times, even, he wished to die, that he might see them and talk with them, and return no more to his weak and weary body.
Of all the legends of the mysterious book, that which most delighted and most deeply impressed him was the legend of St. Christopher. The picture was from a painting of Paolo Farinato, representing a figure of gigantic strength and stature, leaning upon a staff, and bearing the infant Christ on his bending shoulders across the rushing river. The legend related, that St. Christopher, being of huge proportions and immense strength, wandered long about the world before his conversion, seeking for the greatest king, and willing to obey no other. After serving various masters, whom he in turn deserted, because each recognized by some word or sign another greater than himself, he heard by chance of Christ, the king of heaven and earth, and asked of a holy hermit where he might be found, and how he might serve him. The hermit told him he must fast and pray; but the giant replied that if he fasted he should lose his strength, and that he did not know how to pray. Then the hermit told him to take up his abode on the banks of a dangerous mountain torrent, where travellers were often drowned in crossing, and to rescue any that might be in peril. The giant obeyed; and tearing up a palm-tree by the roots for a staff, he took his station by the river's side, and saved many lives. And the Lord looked down from heaven and said, “Behold this strong man, who knows not yet the way to worship, but has found the way to serve me!”
And one night he heard the voice of a child, crying in the darkness and saying,
Christopher! come and bear me over the river !” And he went out, and found the child
sitting alone on the margin of the stream; and taking him upon his shoulders, he waded into the water. Then the wind began to roar, and the waves to rise higher and higher about him, and his little burden, which at first had seemed so light, grew heavier and heavier as he advanced, and bent his huge shoulders down, and put his life in peril; so that, when he reached the shore, he said, “Who art thou, O child, that hast weighed upon me with a weight, as if I had borne the whole world upon my
shoulders?" And the little child answered, Thou hast borne the whole world upon thy shoulders, and Him who created it. I am Christ, whom thou by thy deeds of charity wouldst serve. Thou and thy service are accepted. Plant thy staff in the ground, and it shall blossom nd bear fruit!” With these words, the child van
There was something in this beautiful legend that entirely captivated the heart of the boy, and a vague sense of its hidden meaning seemed at times to seize him and control him. Later in life it became more and more evident to him, and remained forever in his mind as a lovely allegory of active charity and a willingness to serve. Like the giant's staff, it blossomed and bore fruit.
But the time at length came, when his father decreed that he must be sent away to school. It was not meet that his son should be educated as a girl. He must go to the Jesuit college in Canada. Accordingly, one bright summer morning, he departed with his father, on horseback, through those majestic forests that stretch with almost unbroken shadows from the sea to the St. Lawrence, leaving behind him all the endearments of home, and a wound in his mother's heart that never ceased to ache, - a longing, unsatisfied and insatiable, for her absent Arthur, who had gone from her perhaps forever.
At college he distinguished himself by his zeal for study, by the docility, gentleness, and generosity of his nature. There he was thoroughly trained in the classics, and in the dogmas of that august faith, whose turrets gleam with such crystalline light, and whose dungeons are so deep, and dark, and terrible. The study of philosophy and theology was congenial to
his mind. Indeed, he often laid aside Homer for Parmenides, and turned from the odes of Pindar and Horace to the mystic hymns of Cleanthes and Synesius.
The uniformity of college life was broken only by the annual visit home in the summer vacation ; the joyous meeting, the bitter parting; the long journey to and fro through the grand, solitary, mysterious forest. To his mother these visits were even more precious than to himself; for ever more and more they added to her boundless affection the feeling of pride and confidence and satisfaction, — the joy and beauty of a youth unspotted from the world, and glowing with the enthusiasm of virtue. At length his college days were ended.
. He returned home full of youth, full of joy and hope; but it was only to receive the dying blessings of his mother, who expired in peace, having seen his face once more. Then the house became empty to him. Solitary was the sea-shore, solitary were the woodland walks. But the spiritual world seemed nearer and more real. For affairs he had no aptitude ; and he betook himself again to his philosophic and theological studies. He pondered with fond enthusiasm on the rapturous pages of Molinos and Madame Guyon ; and in a spirit akin to that which wrote, he read the writings of Santa Theresa, which he found among his mother's books,- the Meditations, the Road to Perfection, and the Moradas, or Castle of the Soul. She, too, had lingered over those pages with delight, and there were many passages marked by her own hand. Among them was this, which he often repeated to himself in his lonely walks: “Oh, Life, Life! how canst thou sustain thyself, being absent from thy Life? In so great a solitude, in what shalt thou employ thyself? What shalt thou do, since all thy deeds are faulty and imperfect ?
In such meditations passed many weeks and months. But mingled with them, continually and ever with more distinctness, arose in his memory from the days of childhood the old tradition of Saint Christopher, - the beautiful allegory of humility and labor. He and his service had been accepted, though he would not fast, and had not learned to pray! It became more and more clear to him, that the life of man consists not in seeing visions, and in dreaming dreams, but in active charity and willing service.
Moreover, the study of ecclesiastical history awoke within him many strange and dubious thoughts. The books taught him more than their writers meant to teach. It was impossible to read of Athanasius without reading also of Arius; it was impossible to hear of Calvin without hearing of Servetus. Reason began more energetically to vindicate itself; that Reason, which is a light in darkness, not that which is a thorn in Revelation's side." The search after Truth and Freedom, both intellectual and spiritual, became a passion in his soul; and he pursued it until he had left far behind him many dusky dogmas, many antique superstitions, many time-honored observances, which the lips of her alone, who first taught
them to him in his childhood, had invested with solemnity and sanctity.
By slow degrees, and not by violent spiritual conflicts, he became a Protestant. He had but passed from one chapel to another in the same vast cathedral. He was still beneath the same ample roof, still heard the same divine service chanted in a different dialect of the same universal language. Out of his old faith he brought with him all he had found in it that was holy and pure and of good report. Not its bigotry, and fanaticism, and intolerance; but its zeal, its self-devotion, its heavenly aspirations, its human sympathies, its endless deeds of charity. Not till after his father's death, however, did he become a clergyman. Then his vocation was manifest to him. He no longer hesitated, but entered upon its many duties and responsibilities, its many trials and discouragements, with the zeal of Peter and the gentleness of John.
A WEEK later, and Kavanagh was installed in his little room in the church tower. A week later, and the carrier-pigeon was on the wing. A week later, and Martha Amelia's anonymous epistolary eulogies of her relative had ceased forever.
Swiftly and silently the summer advanced ; and the following announcement in the Fairmeadow Advertiser proclaimed the hot weather and its alleviations :
“I have the pleasure of announcing to the Ladies and Gentlemen of Fairmeadow and its vicinity, that my Bath House is now completed, and ready for the reception of those who are disposed to regale themselves in a luxury peculiar to the once polished Greek and noble Roman.
“ To the Ladies I will say, that Tuesday of each week will be appropriated to their exclusive benefit; the white flag will be the signal; and I assure the Ladies, that due respect shall be scrupulously observed, and that they shall be guarded from each vagrant foot and each licentious eye.
Moreover, the village was enlivened by the usual travelling shows, — the wax-work figures representing Eliza Wharton and the Salem Tragedy, to which clergy men and their families were “respectfully invited, free on presenting their cards”; a stuffed shark, that had eaten the exhibitor's father in Lynn Bay; the menagerie, with its loud music and its roars of rage; the circus, with its tan and tinsel, — its faded Columbine and melancholy Clown; and, finally, the standard drama, in which Elder Evans, like an ancient Spanish Bululú, impersonated all the principal male characters, and was particularly imposing in Iago and the Moor, having half his face lamp-blacked, and turning now the luminous, now the eclipsed side to the audience, as the exigencies of the dialogue demanded.
There was also a great Temperance Jubilee, with a procession, in which was conspicuous a large horse, whose shaven tail was adorned with gay ribbons, and whose rider bore a banner with the device, “Shaved in the Cause!” Moreover, the Grand Junction Railroad was opened through the town, running in one direction to the city, and in the other into unknown northern regions, stringing the white villages like pearls upon its black thread. By this, the town lost much of its rural quiet and seclusion. The inhabitants became restless and ambitious. They were in constant excitement and alarm, like children in story-books hidden away somewhere by an ogre, who visits them regularly every day and night, and occasionally devours one of them for a meal.
Nevertheless, most of the inhabitants considered the railroad a great advantage to the village. Several ladies were heard to say that Fairmeadow had grown quite metropolitan; and Mrs. Wilmerdings, who suffered under a chronic suspension of the mental faculties, had a vague notion, probably connected with the profession of her son, that it was soon to become a seaport.
In the fields and woods, meanwhile, there were other signs and signals of the summer. The darkening foliage; the embrowning grain ; the golden dragon-fly haunting the blackberrybushes; the cawing crows, that looked down from the mountain on the cornfield, and waited day after day for the scarecrow to finish his work and depart; and the smoke of far-off burning woods, that pervaded the air and hung in purple haze about the summits of the mountains, these were the vaunt-couriers and attendants of the hot August.
Kavanagh had now completed the first great cycle of parochial visits. He had seen the Vaughans, the Archers, the Churchills, and also the Hawkinses and the Wilmerdingses, and many more.
With Mr. Churchill he had become intimate. They had many points of contact and sympathy. They walked together on leisure afternoons; they sat together through long summer evenings; they discoursed with friendly zeal on various topics of literature, religion, and morals. Moreover, he worked assiduously at his ser
He preached the doctrines of Christ. He preached holiness, self-denial, love; and his hearers remarked that he almost invariably took his texts from the Evangelists, as much as possible from the words of Christ, and seldom from Paul, or the Old Testament. He did not so much denounce vice, as inculcate virtue; he did not deny, but affirm; he did not
lacerate the heart of his hearers with doubt and disbelief, but consoled, and comforted, and healed them with faith.
The only danger was that he might advance too far, and leave his congregation behind him ; as a piping shepherd, who, charmed with his own music, walks over the flowery mead, not perceiving that his tardy flock is lingering far behind, more intent on cropping the thymy food around them, than upon listening to the celestial harmonies that are gradually dying away in the distance.
His words were always kindly; he brought no railing accusation against any man; he dealt in no exaggerations nor over-statements. But while he was gentle, he was firm. He did not refrain from reprobating intemperance because one of his deacons owned a distillery ; nor war, because another had a contract for supplying the army with muskets ; nor slavery, because one of the great men of the village slammed his pew-door, and left the church with a grand air, as much as to say, that all that sort of thing would not do, and the clergy had better confine themselves to abusing the sins of the Hindoos, and let our domestic institutions alone.
In affairs ecclesiastical he had not suggested many changes. One that he had much at heart was, that the partition wall between parish and church should be quietly taken down, so that all should sit together at the Supper of the Lord. He also desired that the organist should relinquish the old and pernicious habit of preluding with triumphal marches, and running his fingers at random over the keys of his instrument, playing scraps of secular music very slowly to make them sacred, and substitute instead some of the beautiful symphonies of Pergolesi, Palestrina, and Sebastian Bach.
He held that sacred melodies were becoming to sacred themes; and did not wish, that, in his church, as in some of the French Canadian churches, the holy profession of religion should be sung to the air of “ When one is dead 't is for a long time,” — the commandments, aspirations for heaven, and the necessity of thinking of one's salvation, to “ The Follies of Spain, “ Louisa was sleeping in a grove,” or a grand “ March of the French Cavalry."
The study in the tower was delightful. There