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List Of Contents | Contents of The Golden House, by Charles Dudley Warner
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where he knew, without making any decision, he must go, to the haven of
the house of his order, on the heights beyond Harlem.  A train was just
clattering along on the elevated road above him.  He could see the faces
at the windows, the black masses crowding the platforms.  It went
pounding by as if it were freight from another world.  He was in haste,
but haste to escape from himself.  That way, bearing him along with other
people, and in the moving world, was to bring him in touch with humanity
again, and so with what was most hateful in himself.  He must be alone.
But there was a deeper psychological reason than that for walking,
instead of availing himself of the swiftest method of escape.  He was not
fleeing from justice or pursuit.  When the mind is in torture and the
spirit is torn, the instinctive effort is to bodily activity, to force
physical exertion, as if there must be compensation for the mental strain
in the weariness of nature.  The priest obeyed this instinct, as if it
were possible to walk away from himself, and went on, at first with
almost no sense of weariness.

And the shame!  He could not bear to be observed.  It seemed to him that
every one would see in his face that he was a recreant priest, perjured
and forsworn.  And so great had been his spiritual pride!  So removed he
had deemed himself from the weakness of humanity!  And he had yielded at
the first temptation, and the commonest of all temptations!  Thank God,
he had not quite yielded.  He had fled.  And yet, how would it have been
if Ruth Leigh had not had a moment of reserve, of prudent repulsion!
He groaned in anguish.  The sin was in the intention.  It was no merit of
his that he had not with a kiss of passion broken his word to his Lord
and lost his soul.

It was remorse that was driving him along the avenue; no room for any
other thought yet, or feeling.  Perhaps it is true in these days that the
old-fashioned torture known as remorse is rarely experienced except under
the name of detection.  But it was a reality with this highly sensitive
nature, with this conscience educated to the finest edge of feeling.  The
world need never know his moment's weakness; Ruth Leigh he could trust as
he would have trusted his own sister to guard his honor--that was all
over--never, he was sure, would she even by a look recall the past;
but he knew how he had fallen, and the awful measure of his lapse from
loyalty to his Master.  And how could he ever again stand before erring,
sinful men and women and speak about that purity which he had violated?
Could repentance, confession, penitence, wipe away this stain?

As he went on, his mind in a whirl of humiliation, self-accusation, and
contempt, at length he began to be conscious of physical weariness.
Except the biscuit and the glass of wine at the hospital, he had taken
nothing since his light luncheon.  When he came to the Harlem Bridge he
was compelled to rest.  Leaning against one of the timbers and half
seated, with the softened roar of the city in his ears, the lights
gleaming on the heights, the river flowing dark and silent, he began to
be conscious of his situation.  Yes, he was very tired.  It seemed
difficult to go on without help of some sort.  At length he crossed the
bridge.  Lights were gleaming from the saloons along the street.  He
paused in front of one, irresolute.  Food he could not taste, but
something he must have to carry him on.  But no, that would not do; he
could not enter that in his priest's garb.  He dragged himself along
until he came to a drug-shop, the modern saloon of the respectably
virtuous.  That he entered, and sat down on a stool by the soda-water
counter.  The expectant clerk stared at him while waiting the order,
his hand tentatively seeking one of the faucets of refreshment.

"I feel a little feverish," said the father.  "You may give me five
grains of quinine in whisky."


"That'll put you all right," said the boy as he handed him the mixture.
"It's all the go now."

It seemed to revive him, and he went out and walked on towards the
heights.  Somehow, seeing this boy, coming back to common life, perhaps
the strong and unaccustomed stimulant, gave a new shade to his thoughts.
He was safe.  Presently he would be at the Retreat.  He would rest, and
then gird up his loins and face life again.  The mood lasted for some
time.  And when the sense of physical weariness came back, that seemed to
dull the acuteness of his spiritual torment.  It was late when he reached
the house and rang the night-bell.  No one of the brothers was up except
Father Monies, and it was he who came to the door.

"You!  So late!  Is anything the matter?"

"I needed to come," the father said, simply, and he grasped the door-
post, steadying himself as he came in.

"You look like a ghost."

"Yes.  I'm tired.  I walked."

"Walked?  From Rivington Street?"

"Nearly.  I felt like it."

"It's most imprudent.  You dined first?"

"I wasn't hungry."

"But you must have something at once."  And Father Monies hurried away,
heated some bouillon by a spirit-lamp, and brought it, with bread, and
set it before his unexpected guest.

"There, eat that, and get to bed as soon as you can.  It was great
nonsense."

And Father Damon obeyed.  Indeed, he was too exhausted to talk.




XVII

Father Damon slept the sleep of exhaustion.  In this for a time the mind
joined in the lethargy of the body.  But presently, as the vital currents
were aroused, the mind began to play its fantastic tricks.  He was a
seminary student, he was ordained, he was taking his vows before the
bishop, he was a robust and consecrated priest performing his first
service, shining, it seemed to him, before the congregation in the purity
of his separation from the world.  How strong he felt.  And then came
perplexities, difficulties, interests, and conflicting passions in life
that he had not suspected, good that looked like evil, and evil that had
an alloy of virtue, and the way was confused.  And then there was a
vision of a sort of sister of charity working with him in the evil and
the good, drawing near to him, and yet repelling him with a cold,
scientific skepticism that chilled him like blasphemy; but so patient was
she, so unconscious of self, that gradually he lost this feeling of
repulsion and saw only the woman, that wonderful creation, tender,
pitiful comrade, the other self.  And then there was darkness and
blindness, and he stood once more before his congregation, speaking words
that sounded hollow, hearing responses that mocked him, stared at by
accusing eyes that knew him for a hypocrite.  And he rushed away and left
them, hearing their laughter as he went, and so into the street--plainly
it was Rivington Street--and faces that he knew had a smile and a sneer,
and he heard comments as he passed "Hulloa, Father Damon, come in and
have a drink."  "I say, Father Damon, I seen her going round into Grand
Street."

When Father Monies looked in, just before daylight, Father Damon was
still sleeping, but tossing restlessly and muttering incoherently; and he
did not arouse him for the early devotions.

It was very late when he awoke, and opened his eyes to a confused sense
of some great calamity.  Father Monies was standing by the bedside with a
cup of coffee.

"You have had a good sleep.  Now take this, and then you may get up.  The
breakfast will wait for you."

Father Damon started up.  "Why didn't you call me?  I am late for the
mission."

"Oh, Bendes has gone down long ago.  You must take it easy; rest today.
You'll be all right.  You haven't a bit of fever."

"But," still declining the coffee, "before I break my fast, I have
something to say to you.  I--"

"Get some strength first.  Besides, I have an engagement.  I cannot wait.
Pull yourself together; I may not be back before evening."

So it was fated that he should be left still with himself.  After his
coffee he dressed slowly, as if it were not he, but some one else going
through this familiar duty, as if it were scarcely worth while to do
anything any more.  And then, before attempting his breakfast, he went
into the little oratory, and remained long in the attitude of prayer,
trying to realize what he was and what he had done.  He prayed for
himself, for help, for humility, and he prayed for her; he had been used
of late to pray for her guidance, now he prayed that she might be
sustained.

When he came forth it was in a calmer frame of mind.  It was all clear
now.  When Father Monies returned he would confess, and take his penance,
and resolutely resume his life.  He understood life better now.  Perhaps
this blow was needed for his spiritual pride.

It was a mild winter day, bright, and with a touch of summer, such as
sometimes gets shuffled into our winter calendar.  The book that he took
up did not interest him; he was in no mood for the quiet meditation that
it usually suggested to him, and he put it down and strolled out,
directing his steps farther up the height, and away from the suburban
stir.  As he went on there was something consonant with his feelings in
the bare wintry landscape, and when he passed the ridge and walked along
the top of the river slope, he saw, as it seemed to him he had not seen
it before, that lovely reach of river, the opposite wooded heights, the
noble pass above, the peacefulness and invitation of nature.  Had he a
new sense to see all this?  There was a softness in the distant outline,
villas peeped out here and there, carriages were passing in the road
below, there was a cheerful life in the stream--there was a harmony in
the aspect of nature and humanity from this height.  Was not the world
beautiful? and human emotion, affection, love, were they alien to the
Divine intention?

She loved beauty; she was fond of flowers; often she had spoken to him of
her childish delight in her little excursions, rarely made, into the
country.  He could see her now standing just there and feasting her eyes
on this noble panorama, and he could see her face all aglow, as she might
turn to him and say, "Isn't it beautiful, Father Damon?"  And she was

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