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Lord, lay not that sin to his charge
alone! But a strange thing followed. Being in command of men of a sort
that to control required to be kept at the austerest distance, he now
found himself separated from the human world and thrown into the solemn
companionship with the sea, with the air, with the storm, the calm the
heavens by day, the heavens by night. My friends, that was the first
time in his life that he ever found himself in really good company.

"Now, this man had a great aptness for accounts. He had kept them--had
rendered them. There was beauty, to him, in a correct, balanced, and
closed account. An account unsatisfied was a deformity. The result is
plain. That man, looking out night after night upon the grand and holy
spectacle of the starry deep above and the watery deep below, was sure
to find himself, sooner or later, mastered by the conviction that the
great Author of this majestic creation keeps account of it; and one
night there came to him, like a spirit walking on the sea, the awful,
silent question: 'My account with God--how does it stand?' Ah! friends,
that is a question which the book of nature does not answer.

"Did I say the book of nature is a catechism? Yes. But, after it answers
the first question with 'God,' nothing but questions follow; and so, one
day, this man gave a ship full of merchandise for one little book which
answered those questions. God help him to understand it! and God help
you, monsieur, and you, madame, sitting here in your _smuggled clothes_,
to beat upon the breast with me and cry, 'I, too, Lord--I, too, stood by
and consented.'"

Père Jerome had not intended these for his closing words; but just
there, straight away before his sight and almost at the farthest door, a
man rose slowly from his seat and regarded him steadily with a kind,
bronzed, sedate face, and the sermon, as if by a sign of command, was
ended. While the Credo was being chanted he was still there; but when, a
moment after its close, the eye of Père Jerome returned in that
direction, his place was empty.

As the little priest, his labor done and his vestments changed, was
turning into the Rue Royale and leaving the cathedral out of sight, he
just had time to understand that two women were purposely allowing him
to overtake them, when the one nearer him spoke in the Creole _patois,_
saying, with some timid haste:

"Good-morning, Père--Père Jerome; Père Jerome, we thank the good God for
that sermon."

"Then, so do I," said the little man. They were the same two that he had
noticed when he was preaching. The younger one bowed silently; she was a
beautiful figure, but the slight effort of Père Jerome's kind eyes to
see through the veil was vain. He would presently have passed on, but
the one who had spoken before said:

"I thought you lived in the Rue des Ursulines."

"Yes; but I am going this way to see a sick person."

The woman looked up at him with an expression of mingled confidence and
timidity.

"It must be a blessed thing to be so useful as to be needed by the good
God," she said.

Père Jerome smiled:

"God does not need me to look after his sick; but he allows me to do it,
just as you let your little boy in frocks carry in chips." He might have
added that he loved to do it, quite as much.

It was plain the woman had somewhat to ask, and was trying to get
courage to ask it.

"You have a little boy?" asked the priest.

"No, I have only my daughter;" she indicated the girl at her side. Then
she began to say something else, stopped, and with much nervousness
asked:

"Père Jerome, what was the name of that man?"

"His name?" said the priest. "You wish to know his name?"

"Yes, Monsieur" (or _Miché_, as she spoke it); "it was such a beautiful
story." The speaker's companion looked another way.

"His name," said Father Jerome,--"some say one name and some another.
Some think it was Jean Lafitte, the famous; you have heard of him? And
do you go to my church, Madame----?"

"No, Miché; not in the past; but from this time, yes. My name"--she
choked a little, and yet it evidently gave her pleasure to offer this
mark of confidence--"is Madame Delphine--Delphine Carraze."




CHAPTER VI.


A CRY OF DISTRESS.

Père Jerome's smile and exclamation, as some days later he entered his
parlor in response to the announcement of a visitor, were indicative of
hearty greeting rather than surprise.

"Madame Delphine!"

Yet surprise could hardly have been altogether absent, for though
another Sunday had not yet come around, the slim, smallish figure
sitting in a corner, looking very much alone, and clad in dark attire,
which seemed to have been washed a trifle too often, was Delphine
Carraze on her second visit. And this, he was confident, was over and
above an attendance in the confessional, where he was sure he had
recognized her voice.

She rose bashfully and gave her hand, then looked to the floor, and
began a faltering speech, with a swallowing motion in the throat, smiled
weakly and commenced again, speaking, as before, in a gentle, low note,
frequently lifting up and casting down her eyes while shadows of anxiety
and smiles of apology chased each other rapidly across her face. She was
trying to ask his advice.

"Sit down," said he; and when they had taken seats she resumed, with
downcast eyes:

"You know,--probably I should have said this in the confessional, but"--

"No matter, Madame Delphine; I understand; you did not want an oracle,
perhaps; you want a friend."

She lifted her eyes, shining with tears, and dropped them again.

"I"--she ceased. "I have done a"--she dropped her head and shook it
despondingly--"a cruel thing." The tears rolled from her eyes as she
turned away her face.

Père Jerome remained silent, and presently she turned again, with the
evident intention of speaking at length.

"It began nineteen years ago--by"--her eyes, which she had lifted, fell
lower than ever, her brow and neck were suffused with blushes, and she
murmured--"I fell in love."

She said no more, and by and by Père Jerome replied:

"Well, Madame Delphine, to love is the right of every soul. I believe in
love. If your love was pure and lawful I am sure your angel guardian
smiled upon you; and if it was not, I cannot say you have nothing to
answer for, and yet I think God may have said 'She is a quadroone; all
the rights of her womanhood trampled in the mire, sin made easy to
her--almost compulsory,--charge it to account of whom it may concern.'"

"No, no!" said Madame Delphine, looking up quickly, "some of it might
fall upon"--Her eyes fell, and she commenced biting her lips and
nervously pinching little folds in her skirt. "He was good--as good as
the law would let him be--better, indeed, for he left me property, which
really the strict law does not allow. He loved our little daughter very
much. He wrote to his mother and sisters, owning all his error and
asking them to take the child and bring her up. I sent her to them when
he died, which was soon after, and did not see my child for sixteen
years. But we wrote to each other all the time, and she loved me. And
then--at last"--Madame Delphine ceased speaking, but went on diligently
with her agitated fingers, turning down foolish hems lengthwise of her
lap.

"At last your mother-heart conquered," said Père Jerome.

She nodded.

"The sisters married, the mother died; I saw that even where she was she
did not escape the reproach of her birth and blood, and when she asked
me to let her come"--The speaker's brimming eyes rose an instant. "I
know it was wicked, but--I said, come."

The tears dripped through her hands upon her dress.

"Was it she who was with you last Sunday?"

"Yes."

"And now you do not know what to do with her?"

"_Ah! c'est ça oui_!--that is it."

"Does she look like you, Madame Delphine?"

"Oh, thank God", no! you would never believe she was my daughter, she is
white and beautiful!"

"You thank God for that which is your main difficulty, Madame Delphine."

"Alas! yes."

Père Jerome laid his palms tightly across his knees with his arms bowed
out, and fixed his eyes upon the ground, pondering.

"I suppose she is a sweet, good daughter?" said he, glancing at Madame
Delphine, without changing his attitude.

Her answer was to raise her eyes rapturously.

"Which gives us the dilemma in its fullest force," said the priest,
speaking as if to the floor. "She has no more place than if she had
dropped upon a strange planet." He suddenly looked up with a brightness
which almost as quickly passed away, and then he looked down again. His
happy thought was the cloister; but he instantly said to himself: "They
cannot have overlooked that choice, except intentionally--which they
have a right to do." He could do nothing but shake his head.

"And suppose you should suddenly die," he said; he wanted to get at once
to the worst.

The woman made a quick gesture, and buried her head in her handkerchief,
with the stifled cry:

"Oh, Olive, my daughter!"

"Well, Madame Delphine," said Père Jerome, more buoyantly, "one thing is
sure: we _must_ find a way out of this trouble."

"Ah!" she exclaimed, looking heavenward, "if it might be!"

"But it must be!" said the priest.

"But how shall it be?" asked the desponding woman.

"Ah!" said Père Jerome, with a shrug, "God knows."

"Yes," said the quadroone, with a quick sparkle in her gentle eye; "and
I know, if God would tell anybody, He would tell you!"

The priest smiled and rose.

"Do you think so? Well, leave me to think of it. I will ask Him."

"And He will tell you!" she replied. "And He will bless you!" She rose
and gave her hand. As she withdrew it she smiled. "I had such a strange
dream," she said, backing toward the door.

"Yes?"

"Yes. I got my troubles all mixed up with your sermon. I dreamed I made
that pirate the guardian of my daughter."

Père Jerome smiled also, and shrugged.

"To you, Madame Delphine, as you are placed, every white man in this
country, on land or on water, is a pirate, and of all pirates, I think
that one is, without doubt, the best."

"Without doubt," echoed Madame Delphine, wearily, still withdrawing
backward.



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