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and in the dust by every shrine I lately been. “By the seven sacrapassed, Save thou that soul,' I ments,' I said, and our Lord's prayed.
seven blood-sheddings, and the seven “God answered me. At Easter, griefs of our Lady, I will give thee pale and sad, she came down hum- back this soul that awful day, holy bly to the church, was shriven, and and pure as now.' once more side by side we knelt « Hear her, my God!' she said, to receive the Blessed Sacrament. and then she died. Then she went back again, and ten “I watched that night beside her. days later one came with haste to All night long, around a great camp bid me go to her, for her babe was fire, the gypsy men and women sang born, and she was dying. Did I and drank and made their hideous weep or moan as now ? My father, incantations, and the shadows danced while I sped along the steep ascent, about me in the lonely tent, and her following my little gypsy guide, I face shone white and still beside me, laughed and sang and gave God and her baby slept upon my knee. thanks. For the Padre was gone The winds blew through the forest before us, bearing our Lord to trees like funeral music, chanting strengthen her, and my sister, my even my own promise in my ears, Beatrice, was dying in his love, and I will give you back this soul, holy going to him, and no one could and pure as now, holy and pure as ever hurt her soul again.
now.' I sang it, too, with solemn - There she lay in a rough, rude gladness beside my dead. Presently tent; men and women far more the babe stirred on my knee, and rough and rude were standing round then I looked at him. Intent on her awestruck. The Padre had her till then, I had hardly marked already heard her make confession. his face. Now by the ghostly light I knelt by her and saw the sore con- I saw it, and lo! no sign of my Beatrition on her face; I saw her made trice was on it. Large, dark, and strong with the viaticum and an- beautiful, with a beauty that one ointed with the sacred oil; I saw and shrank from, he was all his father ; she saw her child made God's child and when he opened his eyes, they ere she died. When it was signed were great black eyes like those I with the holy sign, and lay all white dreaded most. and holy in my arms, she beckoned “And suddenly I understood me to come close to her. Promise what an awful vow I had bound me me,' she whispered, and the dews of with forever. The water of baptism death were on her lips, and her was hardly dry upon his brow, and breath struck chill against my face, holy and pure as now I had promised
promise me. Not like his father to restore him to his mother, this -never let him be like his father. child stamped with the likeness of Keep him good and pure.'
the worst of men. A great fear fell “ Then I knelt down by her and upon me; still holding her babe, I looked straight into her dying eyes. knelt again beside the mother. * At God's judgment-seat,' I said, "Jesus, Mary, help me,' I prayed. and my voice sounded in my ears And then—it was not as if I did it like some unknown voice solemn and of my own will, some divine thing dread to hear; 'at God's judgment moved me, God knows what-it was seat I will give you back this soul, no rash vow, God prompted it, ‘By holy and pure as now, God and our thy seven sacraments,' I cried, by Lady helping me.' And suddenly, thy seven blood-sheddings, by thy as one who knows not what he does, Mother's seven griefs, O Jesu, grant I bent me down and pressed my lips me to see this soul holy and pure as to hers where the Holy Host had now at the awful day, and wholly and forever I give myself and it to Yes, father, lost forever. In her thee, and to thee alone.' Then own month too, when who so happy peace fell upon my soul, and I waited as I before her shrine with my flowfor the dawn.
ers and my prayers, and my boy“I had hoped that they would my boy! It had been a day of bring my Beatrice and lay her in brightest sunshine- sun, that I consecrated ground, but when day can never love to see again !—I came, her husband utterly refused. brought my little Paolo down beside She was his, he said. I wept sore, the sea, to wait the coming of the but in my heart was a great rejoicing boats. Behind me, as I walked, I too. He had no power now to touch heard the women say how fair I was, her soul, it was safe forever in the and how I loved my sister's child ; hand of God; and her body which and they wondered what would be he thought was his to do with as he if ever I had children of my own to would, God could raise up at the claim my heart. I only smiled, and last from the wild mountain gorge clasped him closer to me. They to his own holy city in spite of him. knew not of my vow. I lifted the boy and essayed to go “Around the point came the my way. And then he claimed him. shouts of men calling for help to God and his angels were with me drag the nets to shore; I laid Paolo then. I stood there, a weak woman, on the soft white sand, and ran to before that lawless man ; I strained help them. It was so short a time the child to my heart, and I made that I was gone, the shadow of the the sign of the cross before the father rock near which I laid him had and myself. “In the name of God,' hardly moved a man's length on the I said, leave this child with me and sand, but when I came again he him. Wilt ruin his soul, too ?' was no longer there. We soughtHe drew back with a scared look on the whole town helping—we sought his face, and I went straight forth hour by hour in vain. At last a with my darling in my arms. My boat put in with haste and fear, and God! My God!"
the owner said they had fled home The anguish swept over her face before a foreign bark of pirates, again; the priest's lips moved as he and had seen on board a tall Moor saw it, but he spoke to God and not standing in the prow with a darkto her; he understood that it was no haired baby in his arms." word from him she needed now, but She was not weeping now; the that the truest comfort he could give passion had died down in her voice ; her was to let her speak as she would she spoke in tones of dull despair. without interruption. She wound “Can you fancy what it is to have her arms into each other and around held a child for eight months, night her, till he who saw her groaned in and day, upon your heart; to have pity at the sight of such self-inflicted loved it as you never loved an earthly pain, but he knew, too, that it was a thing before ; to have needed not, real relief for far worse mental tor- missed not, parent, sister, lover, ture.
while you had him? And then to “ Madonna," she cried, “where feel the baby hand no longer on your is he now? Do you see that my neck; to miss the baby cry and arms are empty, and my heart is smile; to have your home and your empty, and my vow is broken ? heart empty, empty ? Many and Thou who didst lose thy Son three many a woman knows that pang, days with no fault of thine, and father. I know more. Gone from mourned him sore, my boy is lost my heart, and gone from the Sacred forever, and forever, and forever. Heart as well ; gone from our Lady, What do you say to that, Madonna? gone from priest and prayer; gone where men mock at the holy faith; them to give of their goods and of gone, with his father's face and eyes their prayers to ransom their brethren, and soul, to be made like his father, perhaps their own kith and kin, from and to sin and die, in spite of all Satan's power. my prayers and vows. I have no Many gave of gold and silver that hope! I have no hope! My boy is night, and many prayed. One soul, lost forever and forever!”
listening with bated breath, moaning Up from the village by the sea no longer in despairing pain, heard came the sweet notes of the vesper and heeded the few words which bell. “Daughter," the priest said, called to a truer self-denial, an entire thoughtfully, “God has sent me to consecration. One woman, her reayou. I preach in the church to son unstrung by grief, but her faith night. Come there and listen to my and love strung up to intensest ferwords. Till then, farewell, and trust vor, caught the holy flame from those in God. Pray as you used—the holy lips, heard Christ call her to very prayers—and make the very leave all and follow him, and obeyed VOWS.
the call as far as she then knew how. He blessed her as she knelt beside “Rome, Rome"—that was what the the shrine, then hastened down the preacher said, or so at least she unpath. The woman lifted face and derstood him—at Rome the work hands, with a great hope awakening was done. Under that full blazing in her heart, and did as he had bid. moon whose tiny bow but two weeks den her, then followed him.
since had witnessed all her loss, The village church was thronged Luisa sped along the mountain-path that night; sailors were there, and which led north to Rome. How sailors' wives and children, for the far away it was she never thought or strange preacher was to speak of cared ; she would have gone round something which appealed strongly the whole world as if with winged to their hearts, living as they did in feet gladly, buoyed by the great constant danger from pirates, who hope filling all her heart, that her infested all that coast. He told them child would yet be saved. “I shall good tidings that fair May evening. keep my vow," she whispered He told them of the religious order through the night. “Madonna,'' founded many years previous by she prayed before the moonlit cominand of the Mother of God her- shrines, “ Madonna, thou and I self, for redeeming captives from the will find him yet, and I shall keep power of the infidel; of the great my vow.” It never crossed her need for such an order; of the dan- mind that the preacher meant that ger of eternal ruin for many baptized she should wait and speak to him ; souls if none came to rescue them she had listened as he bade, she had from their temporal slavery. He prayed the prayers and vowed the told of the many men who had vows again; her Lord had called joined the order; of those who her, and why should she delay? prayed, and those who preached, The priest asked for her, and peoand those who begged for alms; of ple sought her that evening, all in some who had given their very selves vain. “She knows not what she in exchange for captives, choosing does," they told him, speaking with to let their fellow-men go free, and pitying tenderness of one who had to live as slaves, and die, if need be, no need of pity now. They could in their stead. And looking on the not understand why the stranger eager faces lifted to his own-faces seemed to care so much for her, but pale with bitter memories and heart- he was conscious more and more of sore longings, and wet with tears for some strange prescience that God the loved and lost-he pleaded with had meant this woman to be of use
to him and to his order, and now was the priest's sense of Luisa's real where was she? “If she knows not vocation. what she does, God knows,” he said. "What do you say is your wish?”. “ He can work his work in his own he asked at length, his measured way ;' and praying for her, he too tones a strong contrast to her eager, set out for Rome. His journey was rapid answer. by sea, with favoring wind and tide; “I will go at once,” she said, soon he was at home, but no day “only tell me how. Wherever you passed without a prayer, a thought bid, alone, without money, without of pity, for her who, one short hour, friends, to save my boy; even to sell had come into his life. Pity for her! myself for him as you said that What though her feet bled, and her night." whole frame ached, and often hungry He listened to her with no sign of and weary, she slept beneath the emotion, but his heart was full of stars? She was going to find her prayer to God, and of thankfulness child; our Lady of Ransom would to him for his work on childlike surely give her back her child; God souls. She who had done so much had him in his holy keeping, wait for the sake of a baby not her own, ing, only waiting, for her to come. could do far more for Christ.
When at last Rome burst upon her “Is this your chief wish ?” he view, how was she to find, in those asked. crowded streets, the guide she She paused. He was conscious sought? How, but with the same that she was struggling with some dauntless prayer and patience where interior emotion. “I do not know," with she had made her way as far as she said at last. “I do not know this. One day a priest beheld a what it means. It is—I must- let woman kneeling at a shrine in one this be God's will." of Rome's great thoroughfares, too “Suppose,” he went on with the wrapped in prayer to notice those same perfect calmness, “suppose who passed, and he paused amazed God willed to grant your prayer, and at seeing his own prayers answered, to fulfil your vow, but not in your then chid himself for his little faith. way at all; not by any means which
“I know not how I came," she you saw fit and proper? Suppose told him. “God brought me. I that he has taken you at your word, drank of the brook and fed on roots, and wills that you shall indeed be herbs, anything. All the time I his wholly, apart from all earthly ties, prayed my prayer and vowed my even that which seemed to you so vow.' Now let me go to save my sacred, and that in some way which boy.”
perhaps you will never know in this Slowly, while she spoke, came back life. He will take care that your to him the story he had been told by child shall serve him thus, given, inothers in her southern home. Who deed, with the full meaning of your the pirates were whom the boatmen words, to God, and to God alone ? had seen, no one could guess; they Have you never thought that your differed from those who usually har- vow implied the giving up your child assed their coasts. It was doubtful itself for the love of God?". if the child was really Luisa's, and “And I do nothing, father?" even if it were, there had been time “Is this, then, nothing ?” he to sell him far inland. Moreover, asked. “Is it nothing to besiege many children were carried off to God night and day with prayers, not Africa from time to time ; how could for one soul which you love, but for she trace her own? But stronger all souls whom he loves ? He has than all such reasoning, though re- no need of you to love that child, ceiving additional weight from it, He asks of you your will alone, your faith, yourself. All else he will have Once more the cry broke forth in you leave to him. Remember that all its passionate wildness, but there you vowed to give everything for it stayed. For awhile she did not God.”
speak, she was not conscious that she Into a church near by, Luisa thought, she only gazed steadily, went, away from the glare and tu- while the silence and the peace mult of the world without, into the wrapped weary frame and tortured shadow and the silence, into the soul alike into a deeper rest than nearness of the marvellous Presence sleep could be, and “without noise whose Sacred Heart was calling her to of words " God the Holy Ghost Him, and to Him alone. There she taught her by his unearthly wisdom. was to make her choice; and there What was her grief compared to at first a flood of memories swept this grief; what was her loss compared over her, till it seemed for a time as to this? Yet grave and firm in all her if strength, and will, and life itself anguish, that Holy Mother stood must fail. Again she felt the baby there, and made no effort to spare hand upon her neck, the baby kiss her Son a moment's pain. God's upon her lips, again the child was will, not ours, God's will alone be lying in her arms, and she was on done, the beach and in the forest, and Still she looked upward; some climbing the mountain-paths, feeling divine voice was calling her, speakno weariness or grief while his smile ing to her inmost soul. This Blessed cheered her. And once more fancy One, with the wounded and broken painted his present and future lot, Heart, loved her, was asking for her sold into a slavery of soul far worse love. And overwhelming all else, an than that of the body, growing up answering love awoke within her, a evil, lawless, unbelieving; dying at foretaste of deeper rapture yet to be. last an infidel among infidels; meet- He could save her boy without her ·ing her and mocking her before the help; all He wanted of her was to throne.
plead and to suffer with Him. That A wild fire was blazing in her was all. heart. Miles seemed as nothing, and Beside or in that quiet church, the sea as solid rock, before her eager Luisa had her daily home. Where faith, and that strange land like some she slept few knew ; often she did familiar place where all would know not sleep at all, but watched the her, and she would find her boy at whole night through, beneath the once, or else die joyfully, seeing him stars. When the sun shone hottest forever free. How could she trust in the Roman sky, she stood, bareher sacred charge to any other, even headed, barefooted, in tattered raito God himself? Surely, he willed ment, begging alms of those who to vise her as his instrument.
passed, “ for the love of our Lady of So she looked up with all that pain Ransom.” The words were simple, tugging at her heart, rending it, yet people rarely heard them caredriving her almost mad, and behold, lessly; something in the tone thrilled she was quite alone in the silent one's soul with a sense of more than church, alone with her Lord. She ordinary want and woe. Three crept nearer to the altar, nearer to hours each day she begged from men. the sacred shrine, nearer to the The rest of her time, she knelt, a Sacred Heart. On the wall was a beggar, a queen, a royal handmaid, great painting, the Lord of all things before God. People came to the hanging dead upon a ghastly cross; church for the very purpose of watchat its foot the Mother of Sorrows ing her uplifted face in its more than looking intensely at her son.
angelic fervor of devotion, and to "Madonna!"
catch some sparks of such ardent