The sacristan moved down the aisle, kindled two other candles on the distant altar, and was lost in the shadows.
The woman in the pew across the aisle bent forward, resting her head on the back of the seat in front, drawing the child to her. The boy cuddled closer. As she turned, a spark of light trickled down her cheek. I caught sight of the falling tear, but could not see the face.
The music ceased; the last anthem had been played; a gas-jet flared in the organ-loft; the people began to rise from their seats. The sacristan appeared again from behind the altar, and walked slowly down the side aisle, carrying only his lantern. As he neared my seat the woman stood erect, and passed out of the pew, her hand caressing the child. Surely I could not be mistaken about that movement, the slow, undulating, rhythmic walk, the floating shadow of the night before. Certainly not with the light of the sacristan’s lantern now full on her face. Yes: the same finely chiseled features, the same waves of brown hair, the same eyes, the same drooping eyelids, like blossoms wet with dew! At last I had found her.
I walked behind,—so close that I could have laid my hand on her boy’s head, or touched her hand as it lay buried in his curls. The old, bent sacristan stepped in front, swinging his lantern, the ghostly shadows wavering about his feet. Then he halted to let the crowd clear the main aisle.
As he stood still, the woman drew suddenly back as if stunned by a blow, clutched the boy to her side, and fixed her eyes on the lantern’s ghostly shadows. I leaned over quickly. The glow of the rude lamp, with its squares of waving light flecking the stone flagging, traced in unmistakable outlines the form of a cross!
For some minutes she stood as if in a trance, her eyes fastened upon the floating shadow, her whole form trembling, bent, her body swaying. Only when the sacristan moved a few paces ahead to hold open the swinging door, and the shadow of the cross faded, did she awake from the spell.
Then, recovering herself slowly, she bowed reverently, crossed herself, drew the boy closer, and, with his hand in hers, passed out into the cool starlit night.
The following morning I was sitting under the Noah’s-ark trees, watching the people pass and repass, when a man in a suit of white flannel, carrying a light cane, and wearing a straw hat with a red band, and a necktie to match, stopped a flower-girl immediately in front of me, and affixed an additional dot of blood-color to his buttonhole.