The ladies and the commissary retired soon, fatigued with their long day’s ride. The friar was devoutly telling his beads, and L’Isle sat musing by the fire, while the servants, in turn, took their places at the supper table. Presently the friar, having got through his devotions, rose as if about to retire for the night; but, as he passed L’Isle, he loitered, as if wishing to converse, perhaps for the last time, with this foreigner, whose position, character, and ideas, differed so much from his own, and who yet could make himself so well understood. As L’Isle looked up, he said:
“Men of your profession see a great deal of the world.”
“Yes. A soldier is a traveler, even if he never goes out of his own country.”
“But the soldiers of your country visit the remotest parts of the world, the Indies in the east and west, and now this, our country, and many a land besides.”
“At one time the soldiers of Portugal did the same,” said L’Isle.
“Yes; there was a time when we conquered and colonized many a remote land, where the banner of no other European nation had ever been seen. We still have our colonies, but, some how or other, they do not seem to do us any good.”
“But men of your profession,” said L’Isle, “have been as great or even greater travelers than soldiers. They are few regions, however remote or inaccessible, which the priests of the Church of Rome, and members of your own order, have not explored.”
The friar was silent and thoughtful for a moment, and then said: “What you say is true; yet it seems to me, that is no longer the case, or, at least, that our order here has been remiss in sending forth missionaries to foreign lands. Here most of us follow through life the same dull round. It is, however, the round of our duties. But, perhaps, to find one’s self in a strange country, surrounded by new scenes, an unknown, perhaps heathen people, with difficulties to struggle with, obstacles to overcome, might awaken in a man powers that he did not know were slumbering in him, and enable him to do some good, perchance great work, he never would have accomplished at home.” And the young friar drew himself up to his full height, while his frame seemed to expand with the struggling energies that were shut up unemployed within him.
Visions of travel, toil, adventure, perhaps martyrdom, seemed to float before his eyes, and without another word, he strode off with a step more like that of a soldier than a Franciscan.
L’Isle gazed after him with interest and pity, then ordering the table to be cleared, stretched himself on it for the night, wrapped in his cloak, rather than rely on the accommodations of the large room up stairs, common to wayfarers of every grade, and populous with vermin.
When at morn the muleteer,
With early call announces day,
Sorrowing that early call I hear
That scares the visions of delight away;
For dear to me the silent hour,
When sleep exerts its wizard power.