“Maria, Maria, ora pro nobis,
Ora, ora pro nobis, Sancta Maria.”
It is the evening hymn of the cure and his acolytes pealing out on the still evening air. Higher and higher one treble voice goes like the cry of a soul in agonized entreaty:
“Maria, Maria, Sancta Maria,
Ora, ora pro nobis.”
Then it dies away, and all is still except the ever-present swish! swish! of the rising tide against the great boulders on the beach.
“Oh! I say, Webster,” said young Brown, in his mincing, affected tone, “why not, after they have finished in there,” he pointed to the church, “go in and ask the priest whether he knows anything of these people? He ought to know them if anyone does. Good idea, eh?”
“Yes,” said the old lawyer, turning round suddenly and looking rather annoyed, for in spite of his hard crust of Scotch dryness, his young clerk’s voice has jarred on him at this moment. He had been deeply moved by the beauty of the scene, and the sweet tones coming from the church had stirred within him long-forgotten memories.
“Yes, for once you have hit on a bright idea, and we will act on it. Let us go in and see the priest. And, my young friend, remember that most of these priests are gentlemen, so mind your manners.”
“I expect that house next the church is his,” replied young Brown. “We can walk slowly on, and, in the meantime, the priest will come from his devotions.”
“A parish priest was of the pilgrim
An awful reverend and religious man.
His eyes diffused a venerable grace,
And charity itself was in his face.
Rich was his soul, though his attire was poor
(As God hath clothed his own ambassador),
For such, on earth, his bless’d Redeemer bore.”
Rene Bois-le-Duc, cure of Father Point, had just come home, and was preparing to take his ease after a hard day’s toil, anticipating the arrival of the pilgrims, who were about to visit the church of the Good St. Anne.
The cure was a man of some sixty years of age, though looking older, for his had been a hard and toilsome life. Though secluded from the busy world, he had had heavy responsibilities forced upon him, and there was no one of his own class and education in these parts to cheer and sympathize with him in his rare moments of leisure.
Belonging to one of the oldest families in Brittany, Rene Bois-le-Duc had, in spite of the strong attractions of worldly society, early conceived a high ideal of what life ought to be.
This ideal was fostered by the influence of his instructors at college. His enthusiastic temperament and ascetic leanings led him to think seriously of entering holy orders when quite young, but this idea met with strong opposition from his parents; so, for a time, he abandoned it.