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List Of Contents | Contents of The Golden House, by Charles Dudley Warner
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"I have called so long, and ye would not listen."

As he went on, still with an effort and feebly, there came over the
little group a feeling of awe and wonderment, and the silence was
profound.  Still steadying himself by the reading-desk, he went on to
speak of other things, of those of his followers who listened, of the
great mass swirling about them in the streets who did not listen and did
not care; of the little life that now is so full of pain and hardship and
disappointment, of good intentions frustrated, of hopes that deceive,
and of fair prospects that turn to ashes, of good lives that go wrong, of
sweet natures turned to bitterness in the unaided struggle.  His voice
grew stronger and clearer, as his body responded to the kindling theme in
his soul.  He stepped away from the desk nearer the rail, the bowed head
was raised.  "What does it matter?" he said.  "It is only for a little
while, my children."  Those who heard him that day say that his face
shone like that of an angel, and that his voice was like a victorious
clarion, so clear, so sweet, so inspiring, as he spoke of the life that
is to come, and the fair certainty of that City where he with them all
wished to be.

As he closed, some were kneeling, many were crying; all, profoundly
moved, watched him as, with the benediction and the sign of the cross, he
turned and walked swiftly to the door of the sacristy.  It opened, and
then Ruth Leigh heard a cry, "Father Damon!  Father Damon!" and there was
a rush into the chancel.  Hastening through the throng, which promptly
made way for the doctor, she found Father Damon lying across the
threshold, as he had fallen, colorless and unconscious.  She at once took
command of the situation.  The body was lifted to the plain couch in the
room, a hasty examination was made of pulse and heart, a vial of brandy
was produced from her satchel, and messengers were despatched for things
needed, and especially for beef-tea.

"Is he dead, Dr. Leigh?  Is he any better, doctor?  What is the matter,
doctor?"

"Want of nourishment," replied Dr. Leigh, savagely.

The room was cleared of all except a couple of stout lads and a friendly
German woman whom the doctor knew.  The news of the father's sudden
illness had spread rapidly, with the report that he had fallen dead while
standing at the altar; and the church was thronged, and the street
rapidly blocked up with a hushed crowd, eager for news and eager to give
aid.  So great was the press that the police had to interfere, and push
back the throng from the door.  It was useless to attempt to disperse it
with the assurance that Father Damon was better; it patiently waited to
see for itself.  The sympathy of the neighborhood was most impressive,
and perhaps the thing that the public best remembers about this incident
is the pathetic solicitude of the people among whom Father Damon labored
at the rumor of his illness, a matter which was greatly elaborated by the
reporters from the city journals and the purveyors of telegraphic news
for the country.

With the application of restoratives the patient revived.  When he opened
his eyes he saw figures in the room as in a dream, and his mind struggled
to remember where he was and what had happened; but one thing was not a
dream:  Dr. Leigh stood by his bedside, with her left hand on his brow
and the right grasping his own right hand, as if to pull him back to
life.  He saw her face, and then he lost it again in sheer weariness at
the effort.  After a few moments, in a recurring wave of strength, he
looked up again, still bewildered, and said, faintly:

"Where am I?"

"With friends," said the doctor.  "You were a little faint, that is all;
you will be all right presently."

She quickly prepared some nourishment, which was what he most needed, and
fed him from time to time, as he was able to receive it.  Gradually he
could feel a little vigor coming into his frame; and regaining control of
himself, he was able to hear what had happened.  Very gently the doctor
told him, making light of his temporary weakness.

"The fact is, Father Damon," she said, "you've got a disease common in
this neighborhood--hunger."

The father smiled, but did not reply.  It might be so.  For the time he
felt his dependence, and he did not argue the point.  This dependence
upon a woman--a sort of Sister of Charity, was she not?--was not
altogether unpleasant.  When he attempted to rise, but found that he was
too weak, and she said "Not yet," he submitted, with the feeling that to
be commanded with such gentleness was a sort of luxury.

But in an hour's time he declared that he was almost himself again,
and it was decided that he was well enough to be removed to his own
apartments in the neighborhood.  A carriage was sent for, and the
transfer was made, and made through a crowd in the streets, which stood
silent and uncovered as his carriage passed through it.  Dr. Leigh
remained with him for an hour longer, and then left him in charge
of a young gentleman from the Neighborhood Guild, who gladly volunteered
to watch for the night.

Ruth walked slowly home, weary now that the excitement was over, and
revolving many things in her mind, as is the custom of women.  She heard
again that voice, she saw again that inspired face; but the impression
most indelible with her was the prostrate form, the pallid countenance,
the helplessness of this man whose will had before been strong enough to
compel the obedience of his despised body.  She had admired his strength;
but it was his weakness that drew upon her woman's heart, and evolved a
tenderness dangerous to her peace of mind.  Yet it was the doctor and not
the woman that replied to the inquiries at the dispensary.

"Yes, it was fasting and overwork.  Men are so stupid; they think they
can defy all the laws of nature, especially priests."  And she determined
to be quite plain with him next day.

And Father Damon, lying weary in his bed, before he fell asleep, saw the
faces in the dim chapel turned to him in strained eagerness the moment
before he lost consciousness; but the most vivid image was that of a
woman bending over him, with eyes of tenderness and pity, and the smile
with which she greeted his awakening.  He could feel yet her hand upon
his brow.

When Dr. Leigh called next day, on her morning rounds, she found a
brother of the celibate order, Father Monies, in charge.  He was sitting
by the window reading, and when the doctor came up the steps he told her
in a low voice to enter without knocking.  Father Damon was better, much
better; but he had advised him not to leave his bed, and the patient had
been dozing all the morning.  The doctor asked if he had eaten anything,
and how much.  The apartment was small and scantily furnished--a sort of
anchorite cell.  Through the drawn doors of the next room the bed was in
sight.  As they were talking in low voices there came from this room a
cheerful:

"Good-morning, doctor."

"I hope you ate a good breakfast," she said, as she arose and went to his
bedside.

"I suppose you mean better than usual," he replied, with a faint attempt
at a smile.  "No doubt you and Father Monies are satisfied, now you've
got me laid up."

"That depends upon your intentions."

"Oh, I intend to get up tomorrow."

"If you do, without other change in your intentions, I am going to report
you to the Organized Charity as a person who has no visible means of
support."

She had brought a bunch of violets, and as they talked she had filled a
glass with water and put them on a stand by the head of the bed.  Then--
oh, quite professionally--she smoothed out his pillows and straightened
the bedclothes, and, talking all the time, and as if quite unconscious of
what she was doing, moved about the room, putting things to rights, and
saying, in answer to his protest, that perhaps she should lose her
reputation as a physician in his eyes by appearing to be a professional
nurse.

There was a timid knock at the door, and a forlorn little figure, clad in
a rumpled calico, with an old shawl over her head, half concealing an
eager and pretty face, stood in the doorway, and hesitatingly came in.

"Meine Mutter sent me to see how Father Damon is," she explained; "she
could not come, because she washes."

She had a bunch of flowers in her hand, and encouraged by the greeting of
the invalid, she came to the bedside and placed them in his outstretched
hand--a faded blossom of scarlet geranium, a bachelor's button, and a
sprig of parsley, probably begged of a street dealer as she came along.
"Some blooms," she said.

"Bless you, my dear," said Father Damon; "they are very pretty."

"Dey smells nice," the child exclaimed, her eyes dancing with pleasure at
the reception of her gift.  She stood staring at him, and then, her eye
catching the violets, she added, "Dose is pooty, too."

"If you can stay half an hour or so, I should like to step round to the
chapel," Father Monies said to the doctor in the front room, taking up
his hat.

The doctor could stay.  The little girl had moved a chair up to the
bedside, and sat quite silent, her grimy little hand grasped in the
father's.  Ruth, saying that she hoped the father wouldn't mind, began to
put in order the front room, which the incidents of the night had
somewhat disturbed.  Father Damon, holding fast by that little hand to
the world of poverty to which he had devoted his life, could not refrain
from watching her, as she moved about with the quick, noiseless way that
a woman has when she is putting things to rights.  This was indeed a
novel invasion of his life.  He was still too weak to reason about it
much.  How good she was, how womanly!  And what a sense of peace and
repose she brought into his apartment!  The presence of Brother Monies
was peaceful also, but hers was somehow different.  His eyes had not
cared to follow the brother about the room.  He knew that she was
unselfish, but he had not noticed before that her ways were so graceful.
As she turned her face towards him from time to time he thought its
expression beautiful.  Ruth Leigh would have smiled grimly if any one had

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