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He opened the conversation with compliments, I need not repeat, as to my services, which he was pleased to observe were invaluable among the poor. “It would have delighted me,” he said, “to avail myself of your kindness; but I am a worn-out recluse, who only leave my cell to perform the needful offices of my cloth. Indeed, doctor," he added, “I am a subject for your skill as much as any other one — being, if not much mistaken, far gone in decline, and not expecting to see another spring.” In effect, he shortly after took to his bed, and was no longer able to attend to his parishioners.
I often visited him, and ever found him unaffectedly cheerful, though swiftly-striding death was staring him in the face. It was a pleasure to administer to his requirements, in which I was zealously aided by the kind-hearted Joe. “By my faith,” he exclaimed “he is more an angel than a man!” And so indeed it seemed. He expressed a very superfluous gratitude for my attentions; and I saw, with regret, that my gentle patient should shortly need them no more. I was therefore not surprised, coming late one night from the hills, to find a message awaiting me, to the effect that Father Michael was much indisposed, and would be thankful for an early call.
A smile was on his lips, though the deathstruggle had begun : but there was nothing terrible. I had almost said sad — about it. “You will perceive,” said he, with considerable effort, “my good doctor, that this little business is wellnigh over. After all, what is the life of man? Each one looks at it, and truly, as of infinite moment to himself; yet in the eye of nature, what though lives were to drop like summer rain! But I must not trespass on your precious time — I can very well die alone.” Then handing me a manuscript from under
his pillow, - “Here,” said he, “ you will find some things relating to one whom you have so acceptably served. Please take this ring - I wear the diamond still — nay, it is a dying man that asks. I might have choice as to a place of rest; but any quiet spot among the hills or along the shore will suffice. Thrice thanks, then, kind doctor, and now, farewell!”
Here he turned his face to the wall; and, save that I heard, or thought I heard, the names of some who are mentioned in the following narrative, he never uttered word more.
I did not go away, however, but sat quietly on, while thoughts appropriate to the solemn occasion kept thronging on my mind. At last, noiselessly rising, I bent over the bed ; but already the spirit was filed, leaving the same sweet expression on the countenance it had worn in life. I left the room with the involuntary precaution one uses towards the gentle dead. “There,” said I, as I softly closed the door —“there lies the mortal residue of a good and pious man!” But it was not till I found myself at home, my singular gifts before me, that I was able to divest myself of a certain choking sensation which assailed me, I knew not well how or why.
There now ensued a sickly time among the hills; and it was long ere I had leisure to accompany my nephew to the great city for the purpose of initiating him into the first mysteries of his profession. This at length accomplished, I proceeded to spend my leisure at the house of an old friend. We had gathered round a blazing sea-coal fire ; and that famous contrivance, a dumb-waiter, spared us the infliction of servants.
In the course of conversation I came to relate the incidents already detailed.
“Did you never think of bringing it out ?” said a little man, with rubicund visage and double chin, an eminent publisher in the city.
“Bringing what out ?” it was now my turn, somewhat surprised, to exclaim.
“Why, “The Irish Priest,'” rejoined the publisher.
“Never,” replied I: “No Irish,’ you know, need apply.”” *
“ Pooh, pooh,” cried the little man; “send it me, and I shall see what I can do. And, doctor, will you just jot down some of those matters you have been telling us about ? ”
I did so. And now, thou precious reader, the very soul of him who traced these lines accosts thee from the page !