Saint Patrick’s Day has come
and is now fast waning. The sun has sunk behind
the chimney-stack of the New Albion dance-hall; the
street lamps are lighted and are faintly contending
against the dull glow of the late afternoon.
There is a lull between day and evening.
All day there has been a stir in the city. There
has been a procession in green sashes, with harps on
the banners, — a long procession, in barouches,
on horseback, and afoot. There have been impassioned
addresses before the Hibernian Society and the Saint
Peter’s Young Men’s Irish Catholic Benevolent
Association. There has been more or less celebration
in Ship Street.
The evening advances. It is seven
o’clock. Strains of invitation issue from
all the dance-halls. Already the people have begun
to file in to the Day-Star Mission. The audience-room
is on the street floor. The missionary stands
at the open door, with anxious smiles, urging decorum.
A knot of idlers on each side of the doorway, on the
sidewalk, comment freely on him and on those who enter.
Every moment or two a policeman forces them back.
At a quarter of seven a preliminary
praise-meeting begins. Singing from within jars
against the fiddling from over the way. You hear
at once “Come to Jesus just now!” and
“Old Dan Tucker.”
Already the seats are filled, — eight
in a settee; those who come now will have to stand.
Still, people continue to file in: laborers,
Portuguese sewing-women, two or three firemen in long-tailed
coats and silver buttons, from Hook and Ladder Six,
in the next block; gross-looking women, habitues
of the Mission, with children; women who are habitues
of no mission; prosperous saloon-keepers; one of the
councilmen of the ward, — he is a saloon-keeper
Dr. Parsons’s train brought
him to town in good season. He passed in with
other invited guests at the private door, and he has
been upon the platform for ten minutes. His daughter
is beside him; ten or a dozen of his parishioners,
who have come too, occupy seats directly in front.
The platform seats are nearly all
taken; it is time to begin. The street-door opens
and a passage is made for a new-comer. It is Mr.
Martin. A contingent from his church come with
him and fill the few chairs that are still reserved
about the desk.
Now all would appear to be ready;
but there is still a few moments’ pause.
The missionary is probably completing some preliminary
arrangements. The audience sit in stolid expectation.
Dr. Parsons, from beneath his eyebrows,
is studying the faces before him. In this short
time his address has entirely changed form in his
mind. It was simple as he had planned it; it must
be simpler yet But he has felt the pulse of the people
before him. He feels that he can hold them, that
he can stir them.
Meanwhile a whispered colloquy is
going on, at the rear of the platform, between the
missionary and the chairman of the committee for the
evening. The missionary appears to be explanatory
and apologetic, the chairman flushed. In a moment
a hand is placed on Dr. Parsons’s shoulder.
He starts, half rises, and turns abruptly.
There has been, it seems, an unfortunate
misunderstanding. Through some mistake Mr. Martin
has been asked to make the address upon the life of
Saint Patrick, and has prepared himself with care.
He is one of the Mission’s most influential
friends; his church is among its chief benefactors.
It is an exceedingly painful affair; but will Dr. Parsons
give way to Mr. Martin?
So it is all over. The Doctor
takes his seat and looks out again upon those hard,
dreary faces, — his no longer. He has
not realized until now how he has been looking forward
to this evening. But the vision has fled.
No ripples of uncouth laughter, no ready tears.
No reaching these dull, violated hearts through the
Saint whom they adore: that privilege is another’s.
But the chairman again draws near.
Will Dr. Parsons make the opening prayer?
The Doctor bows assent. He folds
his arms and closes his eyes. You can see that
he is trying to concentrate his thoughts in preparation
for prayer. It is doubtless hard to divert them
from the swift channel in which they have been bounding
Now all is ready. The missionary
touches a bell, the signal for silence.
The Doctor rises. For a moment
he stands looking over the rows on rows of hardened
faces, — looking on those whom he has so longed
to reach. He raises his hand; there is a dead
silence, and he begins.
It was inevitable, at the outset,
that he should refer to the occasion which had brought
us together. It was natural to recall that we
were come to celebrate the birth of an uncommon man.
It was natural to suggest that he was no creature
of story or ancient legend, floating about in the
imagination of an ignorant people, but a real man like
us, of flesh and blood. It was natural to add
that he was a man born centuries ago; that the scene
of his labors was the green island across the sea,
where many of us now present had first seen the light.
It was natural to give thanks for that godly life
which had led three nations to claim the good man’s
birthplace. It was natural to suggest that if
about the sweet memories of this man’s life fancy
had fondly woven countless legends, we might, with
a discerning eye, read in them all the saintly power
of the man of God. What though his infant hand
may not have caused earthly waters to gush from the
ground and heal the blindness of the ministering priest,
nevertheless doth childhood ever call forth a well-spring
of life, giving fresh sight to the blind, — to
teacher and taught.
But why go on? Who has not heard,
again and again, the old-fashioned prayer wherein
all is laid forth, in outline, but with distinctness!
We give thanks for this. May this be impressed
upon our hearts. May this lead us solemnly to
The heart that is full must overflow, — if
not in one way, then in another.
Mr. Martin has not been told about
Dr. Parsons. He sits and listens as the Doctor
goes on in the innocence of his heart, pouring forth
with warmth and fervor the life of the saint according
to William Bullen Morris, Priest of the Oratory, — pouring
forth in unmistakable detail Mr. Martin’s projected
The prayer is ended; a hymn is sung,
and then the missionary presents to the audience the
Rev. Mr. Martin, whom they are always delighted to
hear; he will now address them upon the life of Saint
Mr. Martin rises. He takes a
sip of water. He coughs slightly. He passes
his handkerchief across his lips. So far all is
well. But the prayer is in his mind. Moreover,
he unfortunately catches his wife’s eye, with
a suggestion of suppressed merriment in it.
What does he say? What can he
say? There are certain vague lessons from the
saint’s virtues; some applications of what the
Doctor has set forth; that is all. Saint Patrick
was sober; we should be sober. Saint Patrick
was kind; we should be kind.
Even his own parishioners admitted
that he had not been “happy” on this particular
But at the close of the meeting Dr.
Parsons received a compliment. As he descended
from the platform, Mr. John Keenan, who kept the best-appointed
bar-room on the street, advanced to meet him.
Mr. Keenan was in an exceedingly happy frame of mind.
He grasped the Doctor’s hand. “I
wish, sir,” he said, with a fine brogue, “to
congratulate you upon your very eloquent prayer.
It remind me, sir, — and I take pleasure to
say it, — it remind me, sir, of the Honorable
John Kelly’s noble oration on Daniel O’Connell.”
Late that evening the Doctor stood
at his study-window, looking out for a moment before
retiring to rest. There was no light in the room,
and the maps and the charts and the tall book-shelves
were only outlines. There was a glimmer from
a farm-house two miles away, where they were watching
with the dead.
The Doctor’s daughter came in
with a light in her hand to bid her father good-night.
“What did you think, Pauline,”
he said to her, “of Mr. Martin’s talk?”
It had not been mentioned till now.
Pauline hardly knew what to think.
She knew that it was not what the Rev. Dr. Parsons
would have given them! But, honestly, what did
her father think of it?
The Doctor mused for a moment; then
he gave his judgment. “I think,” he
said, “that it showed a certain lack of preparation.”