Pere 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 Pere 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, Pere—Pere Jerome; Pere 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 Pere 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; but 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.
Pere 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:
“Pere Jerome, what was the name of that man?”
“His name?” said the priest. “You wish to know his name?”
“Yes, Monsieur” (or Miche, 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, Miche; 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.
Pere 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.