Mr. O’Brien of No. 32 Chestnut street had his entire family with him, as he hurried to the eight o’clock Mass. Mrs. O’Brien was already tired, though she had gone only a block from the house; for Elenora, who always was tardy, had to be dressed in a hurry. Then Tom had come down stairs with an elegant part to that portion of his hair which was right above his forehead, but the back section, which the mirror did not show, was tousled and unkempt. It took an effort on Mrs. O’Brien’s part to make the children presentable; and hurry plus effort was not good for—well, for folks who do not weigh as little as they did when they were younger.
Dr. Reilly met the O’Briens at the corner.
“Hello,” he called, “it’s the whole family, bedad. What brings ye all to the ’eight o’clock’?”
Mr. O’Brien answered his family doctor only when the children were left behind where they could not hear: “It’s Father Collins’ turn to preach at the High Mass, Doc,” he explained.
“Sure, it is,” said the Doctor. “Faith, I forgot that. I was going to High Mass meself, but I ran over to see ye. Yes, it’s his turn. Sure, the poor man puts me to sleep, and sleepin’ in the House of God is neither respectful nor decorous. But what is a man to do?”
“He is the finest priest in the city,” said Mr. O’Brien, looking back to see if his regiment was following, “and the worst preacher. I can’t sit still and listen to him. He loses his voice the minute he gets before the people, and some day I think he’ll pull the pulpit down, trying to get his words out. Faith, Doc, he makes me want to get up and say it for him.”
“Well, O ’Brien, I believe you could say it, judging from the way you lecture us at the council meetings. And that brings me to the business I had when I ran off to see you. Couldn’t you let the Missis take care of the children at this Mass? McGarvey wants to talk over something with us. He’s sick and can’t get out. We’d both go to the ’nine o’clock’ and that will miss the sermon, too.”
Mr. O’Brien nodded his head complacently. They had reached the front of the church, and whom should they meet but Father Collins hurrying out from the vestry on his way to the rectory across the street.
“Good morning, Father,” cried the children in chorus, just as they did when one of the priests visited their room in the parochial school. The two men touched their hats in greeting. Father Collins returned the salute. He crossed the street quickly and ran up stairs to his own room in the rectory, but did not notice that O’Brien and the doctor went past the church.
Be it known that Father Collins was the third assistant. He had been ordained one year. The first assistant, who was still fasting, with the obligation of singing High Mass upon him, was installed in Father Collins’ favorite chair, when the owner of it entered.