« PreviousContinue »
“Already,” he observed, you can read and write ; and now have only to make diligent use of these treasures” – handing down, as he spoke, wellworn copies of the ancient classics.
I had the happy consciousness of efforts satisfied without constraint-objects realized without the semblance of a task. Every difficulty was smoothed in the presence, and if needs were, with the assistance, of my instructor. Often in after-life, when I witnessed the torture, the bullyings, and the strife, all to compass a little learning at the cost of infinite heart-burnings and time never to be recalled, I have thought on my wise and gentle teacher, and wished — vainly wished, that others had resembled him.
MARION ere long inquired as to my destination. I told her I was to be a priest, a servant of God. She listened with mute emotion, then exclaimed: “I shall be with you and help you always."
“ That, dearest, you cannot be; but there are those whom you might join.”
“ You speak of the good nuns,” she said; “but would they have a poor child like me?”
“ You too, dear Marion ; are you not of those of whom Christ has said: “Suffer them to come unto me, for they are of heaven.””
Tears gushed from her eyes. She kissed my cheeks, my hair ; then throwing her arms around me, whispered: “ Brother, Michael, I should like it well. Sometimes I see the Virgin in my dreams, borne on clouds as we see them at the setting of the sun; and she sings sweet lullabies that run through my veins; and when I waken, it is with tears of joy. And, Michael, my mother comes to me— my little sister; and they tell me of angel children that play among flowers that do not wither — fountains that never run dry. And I am not afraid, Michael ; for why—it was my mother-my sister that died so young.”
Nothing would satisfy the child but that I should teach her all I knew; and it was sweet as we lay on sunny banks where fox-gloves bloomed and ragworts waved, to hear her rehearse the immortal lays of Greece and Rome, which she even repeated in her sleep. Many a question did she address on subjects which I was ill-fitted to resolve. “ 'Tis true,” she said, “I am but a child, yet I think of the time that had no beginning — the space that never ends."
There she sat gazing on the sky, her flaxen hair streaming down her shoulders; for pale and thin was Marion, sparing her raiment, and scant her daily fare. Yet love and blessed hope animated those heaven-illumined features— beamed from those azure eyes! I see her yet, reclining by the spring, twining the wild rose and honey-suckle in her hair ; and it was “ Michael, brother, is it you,” as she hung on my arm, or chased bird or insect in many a sportive turn.
Multitudes sought Father Duigenan's spiritual aid; for who so willing as he to rise at midnight call — to watch with the sufferer, pray with the sinner alike. “ Alas!” he would say, “why peril your souls in vain processions, idle holydays, relics of the dead? The only penance is repentance; the only procession, the procession to heaven; the only holyday, to keep each day holy; the only relic, a pious, humble, yet faithful, striving heart! Help yourselves, and God will help you. I can but point the way: you must follow it."
And, truly, there was scope for exhortation. The substance was sacrificed to the shadow—the reality to the show. The needful tillage of the soil was neglected in favour of some reputed saint's day : and precious time was squandered at station or holy well — forgetful, or unconscious, that to work is also to pray—to do our duty purest orthodoxy. Pity so much zeal had not a surer mark! They wot not that God's temple was the living spirit; and unless that temple were pure, that neither priest, nor prayer, nor so-called sacred environment, could avail.
No one can say under what circumstances heart and soul are destined to expand. The tree of life, perchance, finds sustenance in barrenest soil! We listened and we learned ; and as our intelligence grew, so did we hold converse on sacred things. Often we spoke of Christ ; how hypocrites, traders in religion, had sworn his life away ; how he died, yet lived again.