“Did you never go inside to pray?” How embarrassing such a question is, even to a child!
“No, ma’am. Does that count, too? The little baby didn’t pray, the flowers didn’t go inside, nor the birds. And they say the birds broke out singing all at once, and the flowers shined, like the sun was shining on ’em—like the sun was shining in ’em,” he corrected himself. “The birds they can see, and the flowers they can’t see, and they seed her.” He shivered with the damp cold—and perhaps too with hunger.
“Where do you live?”
He wouldn’t answer.
“What do you live on?”
He shook his head.
“Come with me.” He could not resist the grasp on his shoulder, and the firm directing of his bare, muddy feet through the gate, up the walk, and into the chamber which the Virgin found that day. He was turned to the altar, and pressed down on his knees.
One should not look at the face of a blind child praying to the Virgin for sight. Only the Virgin herself should see that—and if she once saw that little boy! There were hearts, feet, hands, and eyes enough hanging around to warrant hope at least, if not faith; the effigies of the human aches and pains that had here found relief, if not surcease; feet and hands beholden to no physician for their exorcism of rheumatism; eyes and ears indebted to no oculist or aurist; and the hearts,—they are always in excess,—and, to the most skeptical, there is something sweetly comforting in the sight of so many cured hearts, with their thanks cut deep, as they should be, in the very marble thereof. Where the bed must have stood was the altar, rising by easy gradations, brave in ecclesiastical deckings, to the plaster figure of her whom those yearning hearts were seeing, whom those murmuring lips were addressing. Hearts must be all alike to her at such a distance, but the faces to the looker-on were so different. The eyes straining to look through all the experiences and troubles that their life has held to plead, as only eyes can plead, to one who can, if she will, perform their miracle for them. And the mouths,—the sensitive human mouths,—each one distorted by the tragedy against which it was praying.
Their miracles! their miracles! what trifles to divinity! Perhaps hardly more to humanity! How far a simple looker-on could supply them if so minded! Perhaps a liberal exercise of love and charity by not more than half a dozen well-to-do people could answer every prayer in the room! But what a miracle that would be, and how the Virgin’s heart would gladden thereat, and jubilate over her restored heart-dying children, even as the widowed mother did over her one dying babe!
And the little boy had stopped praying. The futility of it—perhaps his own impotence—had overcome him. He was crying, and past the shame of showing it—crying helplessly, hopelessly. Tears were rolling out of his sightless eyes over his wordless lips. He could not pray; he could only cry. What better, after all, can any of us do? But what a prayer to a woman—to even the plaster figure of a woman! And the Virgin did hear him; for she had him taken without loss of a moment to the hospital, and how easy she made it for the physician to remove the disability! To her be the credit.