“Come with me,” whispered the tall girl with the parasol to Theron; and he found himself pushing along in her wake until they intercepted the priest just outside the bedroom door. She touched Father Forbes on the arm.
“Just to tell you that I am here,” she said. The priest nodded with a grave face, and passed into the other room. In a minute or two the workmen, Mrs. MacEvoy, and her helper came out, and the door was shut behind them.
“He is making his confession,” explained the young lady. “Stay here for a minute.”
She moved over to where the woman of the house stood, glum-faced and tearless, and whispered something to her. A confused movement among the crowd followed, and out of it presently resulted a small table, covered with a white cloth, and bearing on it two unlighted candles, a basin of water, and a spoon, which was brought forward and placed in readiness before the closed door. Some of those nearest this cleared space were kneeling now, and murmuring a low buzz of prayer to the click of beads on their rosaries.
The door opened, and Theron saw the priest standing in the doorway with an uplifted hand. He wore now a surplice, with a purple band over his shoulders, and on his pale face there shone a tranquil and tender light.
One of the workmen fetched from the stove a brand, lighted the two candles, and bore the table with its contents into the bedroom. The young woman plucked Theron’s sleeve, and he dumbly followed her into the chamber of death, making one of the group of a dozen, headed by Mrs. MacEvoy and her children, which filled the little room, and overflowed now outward to the street door. He found himself bowing with the others to receive the sprinkled holy water from the priest’s white fingers; kneeling with the others for the prayers; following in impressed silence with the others the strange ceremonial by which the priest traced crosses of holy oil with his thumb upon the eyes, ears, nostrils, lips, hands, and feet of the dying man, wiping off the oil with a piece of cotton-batting each time after he had repeated the invocation to forgiveness for that particular sense. But most of all he was moved by the rich, novel sound of the Latin as the priest rolled it forth in the asperges me, Domine, and MISEREATUR VESTRI OMNIPOTENS Deus, with its soft Continental vowels and liquid R’s. It seemed to him that he had never really heard Latin before. Then the astonishing young woman with the red hair declaimed the confiteor, vigorously and with a resonant distinctness of enunciation. It was a different Latin, harsher and more sonorous; and while it still dominated the murmured undertone of the other’s prayers, the last moment came.
Theron had stood face to face with death at many other bedsides; no other final scene had stirred him like this. It must have been the girl’s Latin chant, with its clanging reiteration of the great names—Beatum MICHAELEM ARCHANGELUM, Beatum JOANNEM BAPTISTAM, SANCTOS APOSTOLOS PETRUM et PAULUM—invoked with such proud confidence in this squalid little shanty, which so strangely affected him.