The Eleventh Hour

WHEN Jael Boltwood was carried into the Hôtel Dieu, the nuns cried out in amazement that one so old could have borne the hardships of the flight from Boston and the journey to Quebec.

They laid her in the softest bed in the big, bright room in which the sun shone all day long.

“ C’est incroyable a son age ! ” said Mother St. Anthony of Padua.

“ En voilà une qui est vaillante! ” Mother St. Bernard exclaimed, as she busied herself about the bed, smoothing the pillows and adjusting the coverlet.

The New England woman did not understand. She made no attempt to thank them, for she could not speak their tongue. She offered no response to their kind looks, to their gentle pressures of the hand, to their efforts to make her feel, without the use of words, that she was among friends.

When they had done their best, she lay back upon the pillows, with folded hands and fixed eyes, as though awaiting death.

“ It is enough,” she breathed. “ Now, O Lord, take away my life. Take it away. Take it away.”

But when, a little later, the nuns had forced her to eat and drink, she was stronger. She suffered them to bathe her face and hands, and smooth her snow-white hair. They tried to comfort her with caresses and to soothe her with endearing words, but she paid no heed. She was beyond the reach of superficial solace.

When they left her alone, she looked about her. There were two empty beds besides her own. The walls were whitewashed, but not quite bare. A roughly carved crucifix was fastened over the empty fireplace, and in a conspicuous position hung the engraved portrait of a lady in court dress and flowing curls. It was inscribed with the legend, Très haute et puissante dame, Marie de Vignerod, Duchesse d’Aiguillon, and represented Cardinal Richelieu’s niece, the foundress of the Hôtel Dieu. Apart from the picture and the crucifix, there was nothing in the room which was not of the simplest necessity. The floor was clean, but uncarpeted ; the linen white, but coarse.

Jael Boltwood turned her eyes away from this appalling emptiness. Her bed was near a window ; the window commanded the prospect of the meeting of the St. Lawrence with the St. Charles. The town in the foreground was little more than a stockade. The Indians squatting in the place before the hospital made the sick woman tremble. When a cassocked priest went by, she lifted her eyes with a shudder to the distant autumn-tinted hills.

She thought of her home in Sudbury Street, — the house which Philip had built after they had grown rich. She thought of its spacious, well-filled rooms in which she had taken so much pride; she thought of her Chippendale furniture, strong and slender, which Philip had bought in England; she thought of her service of Lowestoft, each piece bearing her initials in black and gold. She thought of her negro servants, her coach, her stores. People had called their house the Boltwood Mansion. She herself, since her three sons had taken wives, had been addressed as Madam Boltwood. Philip and she had held their heads high in Boston. They had begun poor, but had worked their way upwards. They had moved on the same level as the Faneuils, the Vassalls, the Royals, and the Lees. When the war began, Philip had been loyal to his friends and to the King. His three sons were in the Continental army, but he himself would not forsake the traditions in which he had lived for over ninety years.

The result had been flight. Their friends had told them to remain in Boston, for at their age they would be unmolested. Philip would not listen. He would not be spared through pity. He braved, provoked, and finally exasperated public opinion. When the moment came to flee, he had bidden his wife remain behind ; her sons’ influence would protect her. But it was her turn to be daring. After having lived with him for fifty years, she would not be parted from him now. She was as hale as he. She would die with him, if need were, on the road, but she would neither forsake him nor be forsaken.

Broken, penniless, and spent they had reached Quebec, just in time for Philip to die under the flag he had fought for. He had been buried that afternoon. The English governor had begged the Hospitalières of the Hôtel Dieu to take the heroic widow under their protection. She had neither assented nor refused. She had felt herself helpless, like a bit of a wreckage on the ocean. She was in a strange land, amid strange people, speaking a language she did not understand, and surrounding themselves with religious emblems of which she had always thought with horror.

“ Surely the bitterness of death is past,” she had moaned, as they took her husband’s body away.

She had neither wept nor prayed. Her old eyes had no more tears; and the God of this wild land of cliffs and rushing waters, the God who was worshiped with beads and crosses, was not the God of the Old South Church in Boston.

But now that all was over, and she was lying on a bed, she began to think again. Hitherto she had had time for nothing but each moment’s bitterness ; now all would be leisure to the end.

“ I said, I shall die in my nest,” she murmured, half aloud, as in thought she traversed the rooms of the Boltwood Mansion one by one. “ I said, I shall die in my nest. I shall multiply my days as the sand. And now my soul is poured out upon me ; the days of affliction have taken hold upon me. My harp is turned to mourning, and my organ into the voice of them that weep.”

She went back over her long life with Philip. She began with the days when she had first loved him; when she had planned and plotted and lied to make him love her in return. She recalled the triumph of their marriage, their removal to Boston, the coming of their children, and the long road by which they had climbed to wealth and honor.

“ My God,” she cried, “do not let me see him ! I am going fast. My feet are on the river’s brink. I feel its waters. Let me not cross where Philip is! Send me into some other world! Give me any other torture but that of my soul coming face to face with his ! He has loved and honored me all these years, and now he knows the truth. Shut me out from his presence! Shut me out from Thine! Let me not see him, even with the impassable gulf between us ! ”

Yet, because she was human, she could not relinquish every hope.

When, toward evening, Mother St. Anthony of Padua came in again, the dying woman, with eager inquiry in her eyes, watched her moving about the room.

“ Poor lady — dear lady,” the nun murmured caressingly, as she rearranged the pillows. She was a brisk, motherly French Canadian, with dark eyes twinkling under the severe white wimple and long black veil. Her wide white robes made her look short and stout. Since the conquest of Canada, sixteen years before, she had picked up a few English words.

“ Tell me,” Jael Boltwood said suddenly, as the nun stood beside her bed. “ In your religion they teach that sins can be forgiven by some one here on earth ; that we can know it and have peace before we die. Is it true?”

But the nun only smiled and spread her hands apart with an apologetic gesture.

“Not understand,” she stammered. “ No English. But Mother St. Perpetua speak English. I go. I send.”

But it was not until after the last night office that Mother St. Perpetua came.

Jael Boltwood, lying in sleepless despair, and gazing fixedly into the darkness which, by the light of the one candle burning beside the bed, became a haunted shadowland, suddenly saw the door opened, while a tall, slight figure, robed in white, with long, black, floating veil, came slowly in.

Mother St. Perpetua carried a candle in one hand, and in the other a cane, by the aid of which she walked. She stood erect, but as she came forward Madam Boltwood saw that she was very old.

“ As old as I,” she thought.

She saw, too, that the nun had a sort of aged beauty. The face framed in its white bands was delicate in feature, and the complexion of ethereal transparency.

The nun placed the candle on the table, and sat down beside the bed.

“The Reverend Mother,” she began, “ has allowed me to come and spend the night with you. She thought you might like to talk with me. I am the only one in the house who speaks English.”

The voice stirred something in Madam Boltwood’s memory. It was nothing that could be seized or understood. It was like the recollection of a dream, of which everything has passed but a vague emotion. The nun’s accent, too, was that of New England, Its very sound seemed to call the exiled woman back from the desert of despair.

“ You are very kind to come. But it will tire you.”

“ Mother St. Anthony of Padua will remain in the next room, in case we need anything. I am too old to run about. The Reverend Mother was only afraid you would be lonely.”

“I thank her,” said Madam Boltwood stiffly, “ but we must go down into the valley of the shadow one by one.”

“ I too feel that; for I, like you, am going down. And yet ’t is a comfort to feel the grasp of loving hands on earth, even to the moment when we see the angel’s arms outstretched to carry us into paradise.”

The nun’s voice was low and soft. She spoke slowly, as if choosing her words. A slight French intonation was perceptible.

“ I have almost forgotten my English,” she continued after a pause, during which the sick woman seemed to have retired into her own thoughts. “ I speak it so rarely ; but more now than formerly, — now since our nation has taken possession of Quebec.”

“ Do you believe in the forgiveness of sins ? ”

The question came abruptly, as though the dying woman forced herself with an effort back into the world of men.

“ Assuredly,” the nun said tranquilly.

“ Do you think God has mercy on us ? ”

“ I know it.”

“ How can you tell ? ” Jael Boltwood demanded almost fiercely. “You say so because your priests have told you. You do not know. I have never had any mercy.”

“ Oh, madame ! ”

“ Never, I tell you. I have had everything else a woman could have, but it has always been mingled with gall. And now I am dying, and there is no hope. Till to-day I have kept some trust that the crooked might be made straight, but the last chance was buried this afternoon.”

“I do not know your trouble, madame, but if you would pray ” —

“ Pray ? I have prayed for sixty years. And for answer I am sent here to die.”

“ Who knows ? That may be the best answer. God is love.”

“ I have tried to believe so. I believe it no more.”

“ Even your own religion teaches that. I know, for I have been a Protestant.”

“ Who are you ? I seem to have seen you before.”

Again the question came with fierce abruptness, but the nun was not disturbed.

“No, madame, I think not,” she said, with a faint, sweet smile. “I have been many years in the convent. It is long since I left my native land. I was born in Deerfield.”

“ Ah ! ” The exclamation was prolonged. Jael Boltwood raised herself on her arm, and looked with eager scrutiny into the nun’s pale, saintly face. “ How came you here ? ”

“ I was taken captive in a great massacre at that place, when I was a girl.”

“ And you exchanged your religion for your life ? There were many who did so.”

“ No. That is what my friends at home would think, but it was not so.”

“ What then ? Go on. Tell me. Begin at the beginning.”

“ The beginning was at dawn on a February morning, many years ago. My father and mother were dead, and I lived with my grandparents, having no other kin. There had been talk for some days of Indians being not far from the town, but the winter was so cold and the snow so deep that we thought they would not be able to attack us. But they came.”

“ Go on. Go on,” Madam Boltwood whispered hoarsely.

“ They came upon us stealthily, giving no sign until they were almost within our houses. When I awaked, a tall Indian was already at my door. Seeing that I was but a girl, he turned from me and entered the adjoining room, where my grandparents lay. By this time three or four more were stealing up the stair. I slipped from my bed, and, wrapping myself in a blanket, followed the Indian into the next room. My grandmother woke with a shriek. My grandfather seized the pistol from a shelf above the bed and fired. The Indian fell dead. But in an instant his companions were in the room, yelling and dancing. One of them seized me and threw me to the floor, and so I mercifully did not see the blow which killed my grandfather before he had time to rise. They dragged my grandmother from the bed and bound her. They bound me, too, and, carrying us like bundles down the stair, threw us into the snow. Then they fired the house, and only the heat from the flames kept us from perishing of cold.”

Mother St. Perpetua spoke tranquilly, as though telling a dream rather than an actual experience.

“ Yes, yes,” Jael Boltwood said impatiently. “ What then ? What then?”

“ As we lay in the snow, we could see fire and fighting everywhere in our village street. Many of the houses were in flames. Women and children who were still free ran shrieking from house to house. Some were caught, and, after being bound with thongs, were cast, like ourselves, into the snow, to await the captor’s pleasure. Our men fought bravely, but all were overpowered, and many slain. Here and there we could see the dead bodies of our neighbors lying in the snow, the crust of which was everywhere trampled down and stained with blood.”

The nun paused, and seemed for a moment lost in reflection.

“I was to have been married the next week,” she began tranquilly, again, “though I was only seventeen. My lover had built a house next to that of my grandparents, so that I might be near them. It was new and unfurnished, and so burnt quickly. Him I saw not, and feared he was among the slain. My grandmother, as she lay in the snow, prayed aloud, and repeated texts of Scripture, comforting and supporting all who were within sound of her voice. Mr. Williams, the minister, also sustained the faith of many. As he passed us, on his way to Canada, — for he was among the first of the captives to begin the march, — he called out to us, 'God is our hope and strength, a very present help in trouble.’ To which my grandmother replied in a ringing voice, quoting from the same psalm : 'The Lord of Hosts is with us ; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah ! Selah ! Selah ! ’ But,” said the nun, with a sudden change of tone, “you are tired, madame. You would like to sleep.”

“ No, no. I shall have time to sleep hereafter. Ho not stop. I must hear all.”

“ Then I shall put this candle out. We shall keep it in case we talk late. At our age sleep does not matter.”

She rose as she spoke, and extinguished one of the two candles. Jael Boltwood fell back again upon her pillows, gazing into the darkness with fixed eyes, but listening intently.

“ It was about ten by the clock,” Mother St. Perpetua resumed, as she took her seat again, “ when we set out for Canada. Most of the captives had already gone, but some few were left to follow after us. As we came near to the foot of our mountain, we saw my lover fastened hand and foot to a great oak tree, and guarded by two Macquas. His garments were torn, his head bare, and his face and hands streaming with blood. When he saw me he struggled to free himself, but in vain.

“ “Have no fear ! ’ he called out to me.

‘ Go on to Canada. I shall find means to meet you there and redeem you.’

“ 'When the Lord bringeth back the captivity of his people,’ my grandmother cried to him, ‘Jacob shall rejoice and Israel shall be glad.’

“ 'Tarry thou the Lord’s leisure and be strong,’ I whispered to him, as I went

by.

“ 'Commit thy way unto the Lord,’ he replied, 'and put thy trust in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.’

“ 'Now God Himself and our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ direct our way unto you ! ’ called out Eunice Williams, the minister’s wife, as she too passed my lover by.

“ 'Amen ! Amen ! Amen ! ’ cried Mary Brooks, pressing onward in the rear of our party, carrying her two years’ child.

“I could hear my lover’s voice calling out encouraging words to us until we were beyond earshot. Our masters would not suffer us to look back, but the thought that my lover would come for me gave me heart. It sustained me through all the three weeks’ march, when so many others of my sex fell by the way.

“The snow was very deep, and the surface, while crisp, was not strong enough to support us. We walked with difficulty, and the crust cut deeply into our ankles.

“In our party were four women, — my grandmother, Eunice Williams, Mary Brooks, and I. Eunice Williams had pleaded to have at least one of her living children with her, but the Indians would not suffer it. Two had been slain at their own door, and the others were scattered among the companies. Mary Brooks had kept her youngest in her arms, and one of our masters, after first attempting to snatch it from her, had allowed her to retain it. We were guarded by three Indians, of whom the youngest seemed to be a chief.

“ At noon they suffered us to sit down and rest, and gave us to eat a little frozen meat with some black bread, taken from one of the houses.

“ ‘ ’T is Remembrance Stebbins’s bread,’ said Mary Brooks; and at the thought of our pleasant homes in ashes, and all our ties of friendship and family broken up forever, our first tears fell.

“ ‘ Strengthen ye the weak hands and confirm the feeble knees,’ said my grandmother. ‘ Say to them of a fearful heart: Be strong, fear not. Behold your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense; He will come and save you.’

“ In the afternoon we were much distressed because of the heavy burdens of every kind of household stuff which the Macquas had bound upon us. Mary Brooks, carrying one child and expecting another, was ready to faint by the way. Fearing to lose a woman captive, one of the older Indians seized the child, and, as we were passing above a rushing mountain stream, threw it into the waters far below. The mother would fain have sprung after it, but the savages held her back and forced us on.

“ ‘ Thus saith the Lord,’ my grandmother cried to the stricken parent, ‘ Refrain thy voice from weeping and thine eyes from tears; for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the Lord, and they shall come again from the land of the enemy. And there is hope in thine end, saith the Lord, that thy children shall come again to their own border.’

“ At nightfall we came up with some of the other companies ; and though we were not permitted speech, the savages did not silence us when we raised our voices in a hymn. It was my grandmother who started it, and the tune was taken up from camp to camp.

‘ Jerusalem, my happy home !
Name ever dear to me,
When shall my labors have an end ?
Thy joys when shall I see ?
‘ O happy harbor of the Saints,
O sweet and pleasant soil,
In thee no sorrow may be found,
No grief, no care, no toil.
‘Jerusalem! Jerusalem!
God grant I soon may see
Thy endless joys, and of the same
Partaker aye to be.’ ”

Mother St. Perpetua repeated the words softly, lifting her thin white hand in time to the measure. Then she paused, and, raising her eyes, seemed to be looking at something visible to her in the darkness.

“And then? What then?” Jael Boltwood broke in, as though impatient of the nun’s gentle exaltation.

“ Then,” said Mother St. Perpetua, “ then we slept. The savages had made us wigwams and beds of boughs. It was cold, but we huddled together, and notwithstanding all that we had seen since dawn we slept as if at home. The next day our masters provided us with snowshoes and Indian moccasins, so that those of us who could use them walked with greater ease. But my grandmother, being old, and weary with the journey of yesterday, began to lag behind. The savages struck her and forced her forward, but under her heavy burden she repeatedly staggered and fell. At last, late in the afternoon, having fallen, she could not rise. I tried to go back to her, but the savages would not suffer me.

“ ‘ I will lay me down in peace and take my rest, for it is Thou, Lord ’ —

“ But I heard no more. The same Indian who had slain Mary Brooks’ babe had run back to my grandmother and given her her freedom. Next day we lost Eunice Williams. She had grown feeble, and had missed her footing while crossing a rapid stream. As she drifted down the waters a savage struck at her with his hatchet, and she too found peace. Mary Brooks and I were thus left together; but she losing strength we overheard our masters deciding to take her life also. Then she boldly prayed them to let her see once more our good minister, Mr. Williams, and take farewell of him. This, to our surprise, they consented to, and so she received before her death the blessing of the holy man, and gave him the tidings of his wife’s release.

“ Thus I was left alone with my masters. Suddenly their behavior toward me changed. I was no more beaten nor forced to carry burdens. They treated me with kindness, and gave me the best of all they had. In due time I learned the reason of this unexpected favor. When we neared Sorel, instead of being led with the other captives into the French fort, I was taken to the encampment of the savages, some miles away. Here I was made to understand that I should not be held for ransom, but should be adopted into their tribe, and become one day the wife of the young chief who had brought me from Deerfield. I was cast down, but not in despair, for I knew that God would not forsake me. My lover’s words,

‘ Have no fear,’ were always ringing in my mind, and I was sure that he would come and rescue me. For two years I lived among the Indians. In all that was outward I was a Macqua woman, like one of their own. The French priests came from time to time, and gave me both counsel and comfort. Then it was that I began to feel kindly toward their religion. At first I had held it in horror, and when the Macquas bade me sign the cross or go to mass I allowed myself to be beaten rather than obey. But little by little the French priests taught me much that was good, and I began to thank them.”

“ It was for their own purposes. It was to ensnare your feeble soul,” Madam Boltwood declared.

“ No, I think not,” the nun replied, speaking always in the same sweet voice. “ One of them, Père Duplessis, saved me from becoming the young chief’s wife, and at last helped me to escape. The Macquas had at that time moved their camp to Chambly. Having aided me, under cover of darkness, to slip away unseen, the priest conveyed me to Mount Royal. Thence I passed down the river to Quebec, disguised as an Ursuline nun. At Quebec the Intendant’s wife received me kindly, and took me to her house. By this time the captives had all been redeemed, and had gone back by sea to New England. But one Isaac Allis, a young Deerfield man, was belated. By him I sent word to my lover that I was alive and would wait for him, bidding him come for me here at the Hôtel Dieu, where the nuns had consented to shelter me.”

Jael Boltwood raised herself on her arm again, and peered into the aged face.

“ Yes ? Yes ? Then ? What then ? ”

“ He never came,” the nun said, with a sigh. “ When ten years had gone by, I knew he would not come. Then I embraced the Catholic religion, the faith of those whom I had learned to love, and took the veil. My lover never came.”

“ Because I kept him, Marah Carter.”

The dying woman dragged herself to the edge of the bed, and seized the nun by the arm. Mother St. Perpetua started, and became, if possible, whiter still.

“ Marah Carter, Marah Carter,” she murmured under her breath. “ It used to be my name in Deerfield. I have not heard it for over sixty years.”

“ I was Jael Hurst! ” Madam Boltwood cried. “ I was Jael Hurst! You remember me ? ”

“Yes,” said Mother St. Perpetua doubtfully, as if searching in her memory, “ I think so. I am not sure. Did you live at Green River ? ”

“At first; and then we moved to Deerfield. It was then I met your lover, Philip Boltwood! ”

The nun rose, trembling.

“ Sit down,” the sick woman said imperiously, and the nun obeyed. “ Yes, I met him, and I loved him. You did not know it, nor did he. I used to watch you together, and then go home to offer up tears and prayers that he might be mine.”

“ But” —

“No. Do not speak. My time is short. I must say it. I must lay bare my heart. When the time came for you to be married, I could endure no more. I begged my parents to take me to Boston, where we had kin. We had scarce arrived when we heard of the fate of Deerfield. After that I neither ate nor slept till I knew that Philip Boltwood was alive. He escaped from his captors, and reached Lancaster.”

“ Thank God ! ” the nun breathed fervently. “ I never knew it.”

“He was buried this afternoon. His funeral passed under these very walls.”

“And I saw it by hazard in looking out. Ah, God! Ah, God ! ”

“Yes, cry to God! There may be peace for such as you.”

“ For all, madame.”

“ No, not for me. But let me go on. Let me speak. In time your lover went back to Deerfield. I too went back. We became friends, but he had no love for any one but you. The redeemed captives returned one by one, but brought no tidings of Marah Carter. All the other women of her party were known to be gone, and she was numbered with them. Philip Boltwood was a stricken man, but I learnt the art to comfort him. I talked of Marah Carter, praised her, mourned for her, wept at the sound of her name. Yet we were only friends. He did not give up hope that Marah Carter might be alive, and so worked and saved that he might go into Canada with money for her redemption.”

“Ah, God! Ah, God!”

“ Two years later I was again in Boston, visiting my kin. One day they told me that Isaac Allis, long given up for dead, had come back again. I hurried to his ship, for he was of a mind now to be a sailor.

“ ‘ Have you any tidings of Marah Carter ? ’ was my first question.

“ ‘ Yes, she is alive, and waiting for Philip Boltwood in the nuns’ hospital at Quebec.’

“ 'Then I will tell him so,’ I said, ‘ for I go back soon to Deerfield.’

“‘And I,’ said he, ‘ intrust the task to you.’

“ Isaac Allis sailed for the China seas, and I went home again. I swear that at first I had no intention to do evil. My heart was breaking, but I meant to let it break. It was not until I saw Philip Boltwood that the temptation came to me. He was right on the eve of going into Canada, and I could not let him go.

“ ‘ I have seen Isaac Allis,’ I said to him. ‘ He had tidings for you.’

“ ‘ Speak, speak, in God’s name ! ’ he cried.

“ ‘ Marah Carter is dead. Your quest will be in vain.’ ”

Mother St. Perpetua sat with bowed head, her hands clasped in her lap. Tears rolled down her faded, waxlike cheeks. Then she took the cross hanging on her breast and pressed it to her lips. Beyond that she gave no sign.

“ When I had Spoken,” Madam Boltwood continued feverishly, “ I knew that Philip Boltwood’s heart was slain. It never lived again. Long years afterwards we were married, but his love was always Marah Carter’s. You were like an angel in his life, but like a haunting, torturing ghost in mine. We were happy together as lives go. I bore him three sons. We grew rich, and I made him a good wife. But the lie was always between us. I prayed that he might never know it; that no accident, no chance word, might uncover the foundation on which our married life was built. God was so far merciful that He granted that. When tidings came that Isaac Allis had been lost in the China seas, I felt as if the Divine Will itself were protecting me. And yet I suffered, — no one but God knows how. Sometimes it was remorse, sometimes it was dread. As I rose each morning I said, ‘ Perhaps he will know to-day ;’ as I laid me down each night ’t was with the thought, 'Perhaps he will know to-morrow.’ At last I came to have but one prayer : 'God, keep him from knowing in this life, and I will give him up in the next! ’ I was willing to buy for time at the price of eternity; and I bought, I paid, I received what I asked for. When his eyes closed, two days ago, I had had my request to the full. There was nothing left for me. Mine was a love with no future to it; for the future, the eternal future, must be yours.”

Jael Boltwood fell back upon her pillows, and sank into deathlike silence.

Mother St. Perpetua continued to sit with bowed head and hands clasping the cross. Then she rose slowly and knelt down beside the bed. She took the dying woman in her arms.

“ My sister, my dear sister,” she murmured, “ how you have suffered ! But be comforted. God is love.”

“ It is not God I fear; 't is you.”

“ And I forgive you, fully, freely, as I have been forgiven. You thought to do me wrong, but God overruled it to the highest good. How wonderful He is in his doings toward the children of men ! When earthly love was taken from me, He inspired me with his own. Do not pity me, Jael Hurst, Jael Boltwood, you who have been my lover’s wife. I am the Bride of Christ. You do not know that happiness; you cannot guess it; you cannot fancy it. Better than all human love, however close, however dear, is that which wraps me round ; which holds me nearer than I am holding you ; which breathes upon me, smiles upon me, lifts me up and draws me to itself, filling me, thrilling me, with a joy surpassing words, transcending thought, excelling every earthly passion, and making all other joys seem dim. Oh, Jael, Jael ! mine has been the better part. I thank and bless you. Much as I love Philip, I love my Bridegroom more. For I was made for Him.”

“ When you see Philip, will you tell him that ? ”

“ ’T is you shall tell him. You shall tell him first. You shall tell it him from me, from God, from all the records of God’s fact and truth. Tell him that you were best fitted to be his wife ; that I had other work to do.”

“ He will not believe me. He knows that I have lied.”

“ He is in the Land where all things are viewed in a clearer, juster light than that in which we see them here.”

“ ’T is justice that I dread.”

“ And yet ’t is perfect justice which makes perfect mercy possible.”

“ Light the other candle. It is growing dark. I want to see you plainly.”

The nun rose and obeyed.

“Stoop nearer me. I cannot see you yet.”

The nun bent down. The woman raised herself.

“ Yes, you are Marah Carter. But this is not the face that has haunted me for fifty years. There is a light around you. What is it ? Ah, I see, I see. It is the light of the love of God.”

“ It is round you too, my sister.”

“Is it? Is it? Is it? Are you sure ? Yes, something is shining. Put the candle out again. It is too bright. What is it ? What is it ? O ray soul, thou hast trodden down strength! Sister, hold me, kiss me. I am going away. My spirit is breaking forth. Put both the candles out. The light is blinding me. Yes, Philip, I am coming, dear. I hear your voice, but call me once again. Philip, Philip, here is Marah Carter! She is coming home with me. She is clothed in fine linen, pure and white, for she is the Bride of the Lamb of God. Yes, Philip, my husband, Marah’s lover, I am here. Ah, the dear, dear face ! Ah, the mercy of God ! See him, Marah! But who else is there ? Who is that in the garment of light, with the eyes like fire, with the feet like brass, and girt with the golden girdle ? Let me go. Let me go. Do not keep me. He is holding out His hands. I come. I come.”

When, a few minutes later, Mother St. Anthony of Padua came into the room to renew the lights, Mother St. Perpetua still stood beside the bed.

“ Our dear sister has gone home,” she said. “ Pray for her soul, and pray for mine, for I am going too. The hour has nearly come, and I am ready. I am going to my Lover, for whom I here renounce all other love I have ever cherished in my heart. I hear my Bridegroom’s voice, like the sound of many waters. I see his Face, his Form, and lo, it is the Son of God ! ”

Mother St. Anthony of Padua caught the aged woman as she fell.

Basil King.