“Poor boys! You console me, madame, for many sad thoughts. I was a young man then, and, as you see, I am now a very old one, but I have known few more sorrowful days than the one when I left Moose Island.”
“Yet it must have been a hard and wearisome life?”
“Hard?—Yes—but not wearisome. We were ready to bear the hardness as long as we hoped to see the fruit of our labours. I thought there had been no fruit, or very little; but you prove to me that I was too faithless.”
Mrs. Costello remained a moment silent. She was much inclined to trust her guest with that part of her story which referred to Christian—no doubt he was in the habit of keeping stranger secrets than hers.
While she hesitated he spoke again.
“But the whole face of the country must have changed since I knew it. Did you live in that neighbourhood?”
“For several years—all the first years of my married life, I lived on Moose Island itself, and my daughter—come to me a moment, Lucia,—was born there.”
She took Lucia’s hand and drew her forward. The remaining daylight fell full upon her dark hair and showed the striking outlines of her face and graceful head.
Father Paul looked in amazement—looked from the daughter to the mother, and the mother to the daughter, not knowing what to think or say.
Mrs. Costello relieved his embarrassment.
“My marriage was a strange one,” she said. “The old pupil of whom I spoke to you just now, was my husband.”
“Your husband, madame? Do I understand you? Mademoiselle’s father then was—”
He remained dumb with astonishment, not willing to give vent to the exclamations of surprise and almost sorrow which he felt might be offensive to his hostess, while she told him in the fewest possible words of her marriage to Christian and separation from him.
There was one thought in the old priest’s mind, which had never, at anytime, occurred to Mrs. Costello—Christian had been destined for the Church. He had taken no vows, certainly; but for years he had been trained with that object, and at one time his vocation had seemed remarkably clear and strong—his marriage, at all, therefore, seemed to add enormity to his other guilt.
And yet there was a sort of lurking tenderness for the boy who had been the favourite pupil of the mission—who had seemed to have such natural aptitude for good of all sorts, until suddenly the mask dropped off, and the good turned to evil. It might be that his misdoings were but the result of a temporary possession of the evil one himself, and that at last all might have been well.
Mrs. Costello spoke more fully as she saw how deep was the listener’s interest in her story; yet, when she came near the end, she almost shrank from the task. The sacred tenderness which belongs to the dead, had fallen like a veil over all her last memories of her husband; and now she wanted to share them with this good old man, whose teaching had made them what they were.