Over the mantelpiece hung a large oleograph of Leo XIII, in cope and tiara, blessing with upraised hand and that eternal, wide-lipped smile; a couple of jars stood beneath filled with dyed grasses; a briar pipe, redolent and foul, lay between them. The rest of the room was in the same key: a bright Brussels carpet, pale and worn by the door, covered the floor; cheap lace curtains were pinned across the windows; and over the littered table a painted deal bookshelf held a dozen volumes, devotional, moral, and dogmatic theology; and by the side of that an illuminated address framed in gilt, and so on.
Laurie looked at it all in dumb dismay. He had seen it before, again and again, but had never realized its horror as he realized it now from the depths of his own misery. Was it really true that his religion could emit such results?
There was a step on the stairs—a very heavy one—and Father Mahon came in, a large, crimson-faced man, who seemed to fill the room with a completely unethereal presence, and held out his hand with a certain gravity. Laurie took it and dropped it.
“Sit down, my dear boy,” said the priest, and he impelled him gently to a horsehair-covered arm-chair.
“Thank you, father; but I mustn’t stay.”
He fumbled in his pocket, and fetched out a little paper-covered packet.
“Will you say Mass for my intention, please?” And he laid the packet on the mantelshelf.
The priest took up the coins and slipped them into his waistcoat pocket.
“Certainly,” he said. “I think I know—”
Laurie turned away with a little jerk.
“I must be going,” he said. “I only looked in—”
“Mr. Baxter,” said the other, “I hope you will allow me to say how much—”
Laurie drew his breath swiftly, with a hiss as of pain, and glanced at the priest.
“You understand, then, what my intention is?”
“Why, surely. It is for her soul, is it not?”
“I suppose so,” said the boy, and went out.
“I have told him,” said Mrs. Baxter, as the two women walked beneath the yews that morning after breakfast. “He said he didn’t mind.”
Maggie did not speak. She had come out just as she was, hatless, but had caught up a spud that stood in the hall, and at that instant had stopped to destroy a youthful plantain that had established himself with infinite pains on the slope of the path. She attacked for a few seconds, extricated what was possible of the root with her strong fingers, tossed the corpse among the ivy, and then moved on.
“I don’t know whether to say anything to Mrs. Stapleton or not,” pursued the old lady.
“I think I shouldn’t, auntie,” said the girl slowly.
They spoke of it for a minute or two as they passed up and down, but Maggie only attended with one superficies of her mind.