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chargeable to us, and how much to our brothers or our fathers. We all participate in one another's sins. There is a community of responsibility attaching to every misdeed. No human since Adam-nay, nor Adam himself-ever sinned entirely to himself. And so I never am called upon to contemplate a crime or a criminal but I feel my conscience pointing at me as one of the accessories."
"In a word," said Evariste Varrillat, the physician, "you think we are partly to blame for the omission of many of your Paternosters, eh?"
Father Jerome smiled.
"No; a man cannot plead so in his own defense; our first father tried that, but the plea was not allowed. But, now, there is our absent friend. I tell you truly this whole community ought to be recognized as partners in his moral errors. Among another people, reared under wiser care and with better companions, how different might he not have been! How can we speak of him as a law-breaker who might have saved him from that name?" Here the speaker turned to Jean Thompson, and changed his speech to English. "A lady sez to me to"A lady sez to me today: Père Jerome, 'ow dat is a dreadfool dat 'e gone at de coas' of Cuba to be one corsair Aint it?' 'Ah, Madame,' I sez, "'tis a terrible! I 'ope de good God will fo'give me an' you fo' dat!'"
Jean Thompson answered quickly : "You should not have let her say that." "Mais, fo' w'y?"
"Why, because, if you are partly responsible, you ought so much the more to do what you can to shield his reputation. You should have said," the attorney changed to French,-"He is no pirate; he has merely taken out letters of marque and reprisal under the flag of the republic of Carthagena !""
"Ah, bah!" exclaimed Doctor Varrillat, and both he and his brother-in-law, the priest, laughed.
"How do we know?" said the little priest, returning to French. "Ah! there is no other explanation of the ninety-and-nine stories that come to us, from every port where ships arrive from the north coast of Cuba, of a commander of pirates there who is a marvel of courtesy and gentility—
"And whose name is Lafitte," said the obstinate attorney.
"And who, nevertheless, is not Lafitte," insisted Père Jerome.
"Daz troo, Jean," said Doctor Varrillat. "We hall know daz troo."
Père Jerome leaned forward over the board and spoke, with an air of secrecy, in French.
"You have heard of the ship which came into port here last Monday. You have heard that she was boarded by pirates, and that the captain of the ship himself drove them off."
"An incredible story," said Thompson.
"But not so incredible as the truth. I have it from a passenger. There was on the ship a young girl who was very beautiful. She came on deck, where the corsair stood, about to issue his orders, and, more beautiful than ever in the desperation of the moment, confronted him with a small missal spread open, and, her finger on the Apostles' Creed, commanded him to read. He read it, uncovering his head as he read, then stood gazing on her face, which did not quail; and then, with a low bow, said: 'Give me this book and I will do your bidding.' She gave him the book and bade him leave the ship, and he left it unmolested."
Père Jerome looked from the physician to the attorney and back again, once or twice, with his dimpled smile.
tell you w'ad is sure-sure! Ursin Lemaitre din kyare nut'n fo' doze creed; he fall in love!" Then, with a smile, turning to Jean Thompson, and back again to Père Jerome: "But anny'ow you tell it in dad summon dad 'e kyare fo' dad creed."
Père Jerome sat up late that night, writing a letter. The remarkable effects upon a certain mind, effects which we shall presently find him attributing solely to the influences of surrounding nature, may find for some a more sufficient explanation in the fact that this letter was but one of a series, and that in the rover of doubted identity and incredible eccentricity Père Jerome had a regular correspondent.
THE CAP FITS.
ABOUT two months after the conversation just given, and therefore somewhere about the Christmas holidays of the year 1821, Père Jerome delighted the congregation of his little chapel with the announcement that he had appointed to preach a sermon in French on the following Sabbath-not there, but in the cathedral.
He was much beloved. Notwithstanding that among the clergy there were two or three who shook their heads and raised their eyebrows, and said he would be at least as orthodox if he did not make quite so much of the Bible and quite so little of the dogmas, yet "the common people heard him gladly." When told, one day, of the unfavorable whispers, he smiled a little and answered his informant,-whom he knew to be one of the whisperers himself,-laying a hand kindly upon his shoulder:
"Father Murphy," or whatever the name was," your words comfort me." "How is that?"
"Because- Væ quum benedixerint mihi homines!'"*
Jerome's success as a preacher, that he took more thought as to how he should feel, than as to what he should say.
The appointed morning, when it came, was one of those exquisite days in which there is such a universal harmony, that worship rises from the heart like a spring.
"Truly," said Père Jerome to the companion who was to assist him in the mass, "this is a Sabbath day which we do not have to make holy, but only to keep so."
May be it was one of the secrets of Père
* "Woe unto me, when all men speak well of me!"
The cathedral of those days was called a very plain old pile, boasting neither beauty nor riches; but to Père Jerome it was very lovely; and before its homely altar, not homely to him, in the performance of those solemn offices, symbols of heaven's mightiest truths, in the hearing of the organ's harmonies, and the yet more eloquent interunion of human voices in the choir, in overlooking the worshiping throng which knelt under the soft, chromatic lights, and in breathing the sacrificial odors of the chancel, he found a deep and solemn joy; and yet I guess the finest thought of his soul the while was one that came thrice and again:
"Be not deceived, Père Jerome, because saintliness of feeling is easy here; you are the same priest who overslept this morning, and overate yesterday, and will, in some way, easily go wrong to-morrow and the day after."
He took it with him when-the Veni Creator sung-he went into the pulpit. Of the sermon he preached, tradition has preserved for us only a few brief sayings, but they are strong and sweet.
My friends," he said,-this was near the beginning," the angry words of God's book are very merciful-they are meant to drive us home; but the tender words, my friends, they are sometimes terrible! Notice these, the tenderest words of the tenderest prayer that ever came from the lips of a blessed martyr-the dying words of the holy Saint Stephen, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.' Is there nothing dreadful in that? Read it thus: 'Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.' Not to the charge of them who stoned him? To whose charge then? Go ask the holy Saint Paul. Three years afterward, praying in the temple at Jerusalem, he answered that question: 'I stood by and consented.' He answered for himself only; but the Day must come when all that wicked council that sent Saint Stephen away to be stoned, and all that city of Jerusalem, must hold up the hand and say: We, also, Lord-we stood by.' Ah! friends, under the simpler meaning of that dying saint's prayer for the pardon of his murderers is hidden the terrible truth that we all have a share in one another's sins."
Thus Père Jerome touched his key-note. All that time has spared us beside may be given in a few sentences.
"Ah!" he cried once, "if it were merely my own sins that I had to answer for, I might
hold up my head before the rest of mankind; but no, no, my friends—we cannot look each other in the face, for each has helped the other to sin. Oh, where is there any room, in this world of common disgrace, for pride? Even if we had no common hope, a common despair ought to bind us together and forever silence the voice of scorn!"
And again, this :
"Even in the promise to Noë, not again to destroy the race with a flood, there is a whisper of solemn warning. The moral account of the antediluvians was closed off and the balance brought down in the year of the deluge; but the account of those who come after runs on and on, and the blessed bow of promise itself warns us that God will not stop it till the Judgment Day! O God, I thank thee that the day must come at last when thou wilt destroy the world, and stop the interest on my account!"
It was about at this point that Père Jerome noticed, more particularly than he had done before, sitting among the worshipers near him, a small, sad-faced woman, of pleasing features, but dark and faded, who gave him profound attention. With her was another in better dress, seemingly a girl still in her teens, though her face and neck were scrupulously concealed by a heavy veil, and her hands, which were small, by gloves.
"Quadroones," thought he, with a stir of deep pity.
Once, as he uttered some stirring word, he saw the mother and daughter (if such they were), while they still bent their gaze upon him, clasp each other's hand fervently in the daughter's lap. It was at these words:
"My friends, there are thousands of people in this city of New Orleans to whom society gives the ten commandments of God with all the nots rubbed out! Ah! good gentlemen! if God sends the poor weakling to purgatory for leaving the right path, where ought some of you to go who strew it with thorns and briers!"
The movement of the pair was only seen because he watched for it. He glanced that way again as he said:
"O God, be very gentle with those children who would be nearer heaven this day had they never had a father and mother, but had got their religious training from such a sky and earth as we have in Louisiana this holy morning! Ah! my friends, nature is a big-print catechism!"
The mother and daughter leaned a little farther forward, and exchanged the same spasmodic hand-pressure as before. The mother's eyes were full of tears.
"I once knew a man," continued the little priest, glancing to a side aisle where he had noticed Evariste and Jean sitting against each other, "who was carefully taught, from infancy to manhood, this single only principle of life: defiance. Not justice, not righteousness, not even gain; but defiance: defiance to God, defiance to man, defiance to nature, defiance to reason; defiance and defiance and defiance."
"He is going to tell it !" murmured Evariste to Jean.
"This man," continued Père Jerome, "became a smuggler and at last a pirate in the Gulf of Mexico. Lord, lay not that sin to his charge alone! But a strange thing followed. Being in command of men of a sort that to control required to be kept at the austerest distance, he now found himself separated from the human world and thrown into the solemn companionship with the sea, with the air, with the storm, the calm, the heavens by day, the heavens by night. My friends, that was the first time in his life that he ever found himself in really good company.
"Now this man had a great aptness for accounts. He had kept them-had rendered them. There was beauty, to him, in a correct, balanced, and closed account. An account unsatisfied was a deformity. The result is plain. That man, looking out night after night upon the grand and holy spectacle of the starry deep above and the watery deep below, was sure to find himself, sooner or later, mastered by the conviction that the great Author of this majestic creation keeps account of it; and one night there came to him, like a spirit walking on the sea, the awful, silent question: "My account with God-how does it stand ?' Ah! friends, that is a question which the book of nature does not answer.
"Did I say the book of nature is a catechism? Yes. But, after it answers the first question with God,' nothing but questions follow; and so, one day, this man gave a ship full of merchandise for one little book which answered those questions. God help him to understand it; and God help you, monsieur, and you, madame, sitting here in your smuggled clothes, to beat upon the breast with me and cry, 'I, too, Lord-I, too, stood by and consented.""
Père Jerome had not intended these for
his closing words; but just there, straight away before his sight and almost at the farthest door, a man rose slowly from his seat and regarded him steadily with a kind, bronzed, sedate face, and the sermon, as if by a sign of command, was ended. While the Credo was being chanted he was still there, but when, a moment after its close, the eye of Père Jerome returned in that direction, his place was empty.
As the little priest, his labor done and his vestments changed, was turning into the Rue Royale and leaving the cathedral out of sight, he just had time to understand that two women were purposely allowing him to overtake them, when the one nearer him spoke in the Creole patois, saying, with some timid haste :
"Good-morning, Père-Père Jerome; Père Jerome, we thank the good God for that sermon."
"Then, so do I," said the little man. They were the same two that he had noticed when he was preaching. The younger one bowed silently; she was a beautiful figure, but the slight effort of Père Jerome's kind eyes to see through the veil was vain. He would presently have passed on, but the one who had spoken before said:
"I thought you lived in the Rue des Ursulines."
"Yes; I am going this way to see a sick person."
The woman looked up at him with an expression of mingled confidence and timidity.
"It must be a blessed thing to be so useful as to be needed by the good God," she said.
Père Jerome smiled:
"God does not need me to look after his sick; but he allows me to do it, just as you let your little boy in frocks carry in chips." He might have added that he loved to do it, quite as much.
It was plain the woman had somewhat to ask, and was trying to get courage to ask it.
"You have a little boy?" asked the priest.
"No, I have only my daughter;" she indicated the girl at her side. Then she began to say something else, stopped, and with much nervousness asked:
"Père Jerome, what was the name of that man ?"
"His name?" said the priest. "You wish to know his name?"
Yes, Monsieur" (or Miché, as she spoke
it); "it was such a beautiful story." The speaker's companion looked another way.
"His name," said Father Jerome,-"some say one name and some another. Some think it was Jean Lafitte, the famous; you have heard of him? And do you go to my church, Madame ———— ? "
"No, Miché; not in the past; but from this time, yes. My name" she choked a little, and yet it evidently gave her pleasure to offer this mark of confidence - "is Madame Delphine-Delphine Carraze."
A CRY OF DISTRESS.
PÈRE JEROME's smile and exclamation as some days later he entered his parlor in response to the announcement of a visitor were indicative of hearty greeting rather than surprise.
Yet surprise could hardly have been altogether absent, for though another Sunday had not yet come around, the slim, smallish figure sitting in a corner, looking very much alone, and clad in dark attire, which seemed to have been washed a trifle too often, was Delphine Carraze on her second visit. And this, he was confident, was over and above an attendance in the confessional, where he was sure he had recognized her voice.
She rose bashfully and gave her hand, then looked to the floor, and began a faltering speech, with a swallowing motion in the throat, smiled weakly and commenced again, speaking, as before, in a gentle, low note, frequently lifting up and casting down her eyes, while shadows of anxiety and smiles of apology chased each other rapidly across her face. She was trying to ask his
"Sit down," said he; and when they had taken seats she resumed, with downcast eyes:
Père Jerome remained silent, and presently she turned again, with the evident intention of speaking at length.
"It began nineteen years ago—by”— her eyes, which she had lifted, fell lower than ever, her brow and neck were suffused with blushes, and she murmured-" I fell in love."
She said no more, and by and by Père Jerome replied:
"Well, Madame Delphine, to love is the right of every soul. I believe in love. If your love was pure and lawful I am sure your angel guardian smiled upon you; and if it was not, I cannot say you have nothing to answer for, and yet I think God may have said: She is a quadroone; all the rights of her womanhood trampled in the mire, sin made easy to her-almost compulsory, charge it to account of whom it may concern."
"No, no!" said Madame Delphine, looking up quickly, "some of it might fall upon Her eyes fell, and she commenced biting her lips and nervously pinching little folds in her skirt. "He was good as good as the law would let him be-better, indeed, for he left me property, which really the strict law does not allow. He loved our little daughter very much. He wrote to his mother and sisters, owning all his error and asking them to take the child and bring her up. I sent her to them when he died, which was soon after, and did not see my child for sixteen years. But we wrote to each other all the time, and she loved me. And then-at lastMadame Delphine ceased speaking, but went on diligently with her agitated fingers, turning down foolish hems lengthwise of her lap.
"At last your mother-heart conquered," said Père Jerome.
"The sisters married, the mother died; I saw that even where she was she did not escape the reproach of her birth and blood, and when she asked me to let her come "The speaker's brimming eyes rose an instant. "I know it was wicked, but I said, come."
The tears dripped through her hands upon her dress.
"I suppose she is a sweet, good daughter?" said he, glancing at Madame Delphine without changing his attitude.
Her answer was to raise her eyes rapturously.
"Which gives us the dilemma in its fullest force," said the priest, speaking as if to the floor. "She has no more place than if she had dropped upon a strange planet." He suddenly looked up with a brightness which almost as quickly passed away, and then he looked down again. His happy thought was the cloister; but he instantly said to himself: "They cannot have overlooked that choice, except intentionallywhich they have a right to do." He could do nothing but shake his head.
"And suppose you should suddenly die," he said; he wanted to get at once to the worst.
The woman made a quick gesture, and buried her head in her handkerchief, with the stifled cry:
"Oh, Olive, my daughter!"
"Well, Madame Delphine," said Père Jerome, more buoyantly, "one thing is sure: we must find a way out of this trouble." "Ah!" she exclaimed, looking heavenward, "if it might be!"
"But it must be!" said the priest.
"But how shall it be?" asked the desponding woman.
"Ah!" said Père Jerome, with a shrug, "God knows."
"Yes," said the quadroone, with a quick sparkle in her gentle eye; "and I know, if God would tell anybody, He would tell you!"
The priest smiled and rose.
"Do you think so? Well, leave me to think of it. I will ask Him."
"And He will tell you!" she replied. "And He will bless you!" She rose and gave her hand. As she withdrew it she smiled. "I had such a strange dream,"
"Was it she who was with you last Sunday?"
"And now you do not know what to do she said, backing toward the door. with her?"
“Ah! c'est ça, oui !—that is it."
"Yes. I got my troubles all mixed up