List Of Contents | Contents of The Golden House, by Charles Dudley Warner
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"Yes, dear, presently.  He never fails."

The girl closed her eyes again, and there was silence.  The dim rays of
the lamp, falling upon the doctor, revealed the figure of a woman of less
than medium size, perhaps of the age of thirty or more, a plain little
body, you would have said, who paid the slightest possible attention to
her dress, and when she went about the city was not to be distinguished
from a working-woman.  Her friends, indeed, said that she had not the
least care for her personal appearance, and unless she was watched, she
was sure to go out in her shabbiest gown and most battered hat.  She wore
tonight a brown ulster and a nondescript black bonnet drawn close down on
her head and tied with black strings.  In her lap lay her leathern bag,
which she usually carried under her arm, that contained medicines, lint,
bandages, smelling-salts, a vial of ammonia, and so on; to her patients
it was a sort of conjurer's bag, out of which she could produce anything
that an emergency called for.

Dr. Leigh was not in the least nervous or excited.  Indeed, an artist
would not have painted her as a rapt angelic visitant to this abode of
poverty.  This contact with poverty and coming death was quite in her
ordinary experience.  It would never have occurred to her that she was
doing anything unusual, any more than it would have occurred to the
objects of her ministrations to overwhelm her with thanks.  They trusted
her, that was all.  They met her always with a pleasant recognition.
She belonged perhaps to their world.  Perhaps they would have said that
"Dr. Leigh don't handsome much," but their idea was that her face was
good.  That was what anybody would have said who saw her tonight, "She
has such a good face;" the face of a woman who knew the world, and
perhaps was not very sanguine about it, had few illusions and few
antipathies, but accepted it, and tried in her humble way to alleviate
its hardships, without any consciousness of having a mission or making a

Dr. Leigh--Miss Ruth Leigh--was Edith's friend.  She had not come from
the country with an exalted notion of being a worker among the poor about
whom so much was written; she had not even descended from some high
circle in the city into this world, moved by a restless enthusiasm for
humanity.  She was a woman of the people, to adopt a popular phrase.
From her childhood she had known them, their wants, their sympathies,
their discouragements; and in her heart--though you would not discover
this till you had known her long and well--there was a burning sympathy
with them, a sympathy born in her, and not assumed for the sake of having
a career.  It was this that had impelled her to get a medical education,
which she obtained by hard labor and self-denial.  To her this was not a
means of livelihood, but simply that she might be of service to those all
about her who needed help more than she did.  She didn't believe in
charity, this stout-hearted, clearheaded little woman; she meant to make
everybody pay for her medical services who could pay; but somehow her
practice was not lucrative, and the little salary she got as a dispensary
doctor melted away with scarcely any perceptible improvement in her own
wardrobe.  Why, she needed nothing, going about as she did.

She sat--now waiting for the end; and the good face, so full of sympathy
for the living, had no hope in it.  Just another human being had come to
the end of her path--the end literally.  It was so everyday.  Somebody
came to the end, and there was nothing beyond.  Only it was the end, and
that was peace.  One o'clock--half-past one.  The door opened softly.
The old woman rose from the foot of the bed with a start and a low
"Herr! gross Gott."  It was Father Damon.  The girl opened her eyes with
a frightened look at first, and then an eager appeal.  Dr. Leigh rose to
make room for him at the bedside.  They bowed as he came forward, and
their eyes met.  She shook her head.  In her eyes was no expectation, no
hope.  In his was the glow of faith.  But the eyes of the girl rested
upon his face with a rapt expression.  It was as if an angel had entered
the room.

Father Damon was a young man, not yet past thirty, slender, erect.
He had removed as he came in his broad-brimmed soft hat.  The hair was
close-cut, but not tonsured.  He wore a brown cassock, falling in
straight lines, and confined at the waist with a white cord.  From his
neck depended from a gold chain a large gold cross.  His face was smooth-
shaven, thin, intellectual, or rather spiritual; the nose long, the mouth
straight, the eyes deep gray, sometimes dreamy and puzzling, again
glowing with an inner fervor.  A face of long vigils and the schooled
calmness of repressed energy.  You would say a fanatic of God, with a
dash of self-consciousness.  Dr. Leigh knew him well.  They met often on
their diverse errands, and she liked, when she could, to go to vespers in
the little mission chapel of St. Anselm, where he ministered.  It was not
the confessional that attracted her, that was sure; perhaps not
altogether the service, though that was soothing in certain moods; but it
was the noble personality of Father Damon.  He was devoted to the people
as she was, he understood them; and for the moment their passion of
humanity assumed the same aspect, though she knew that what he saw, or
thought he saw, lay beyond her agnostic vision.

Father Damon was an Englishman, a member of a London Anglican order, who
had taken the three vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, who had
been for some years in New York, and had finally come to live on the East
Side, where his work was.  In a way he had identified himself with the
people; he attended their clubs; he was a Christian socialist; he spoke
on the inequalities of taxation; the strikers were pretty sure of his
sympathy; he argued the injustice of the present ownership of land.  Some
said that he had joined a lodge of the Knights of Labor.  Perhaps it was
these things, quite as much as his singleness of purpose and his
spiritual fervor, that drew Dr. Leigh to him with a feeling that verged
on devotion.  The ladies up-town, at whose tables Father Damon was an
infrequent guest, were as fully in sympathy with this handsome and
aristocratic young priest, and thought it beautiful that he should devote
himself to the poor and the sinful; but they did not see why he should
adopt their views.

It was at the mission that Father Damon had first seen the girl.  She had
ventured in not long ago at twilight, with her cough and her pale face,
in a silk gown and flower-garden of a hat, and crept into one of the
confessional boxes, and told him her story.

"Do you think, Father," said the girl, looking up wistfully, "that I can-
-can be forgiven?"

Father Damon looked down sadly, pitifully.  "Yes, my daughter, if you
repent.  It is all with our Father.  He never refuses."

He knelt down, with his cross in his hand, and in a low voice repeated
the prayer for the dying.  As the sweet, thrilling voice went on in
supplication the girl's eyes closed again, and a sweet smile played about
her mouth; it was the innocent smile of the little girl long ago, when
she might have awakened in the morning and heard the singing of birds at
her window.

When Father Damon arose she seemed to be sleeping.  They all stood in
silence for a moment.

"You will remain?" he asked the doctor.

"Yes," she said, with the faintest wan smile on her face.  "It is I, you
know, who have care of the body."

At the door he turned and said, quite low, "Peace be to this house!"


Father Damon came dangerously near to being popular.  The austerity of
his life and his known self-chastening vigils contributed to this effect.
His severely formal, simple ecclesiastical dress, coarse in material but
perfect in its saintly lines, separated him from the world in which he
moved so unostentatiously and humbly, and marked him as one who went
about doing good.  His life was that of self-absorption and hardship,
mortification of the body, denial of the solicitation of the senses,
struggling of the spirit for more holiness of purpose--a life of
supplication for the perishing souls about him.  And yet he was so
informed with the modern spirit that he was not content, as a zealot
formerly might have been, to snatch souls out of the evil that is in the
world, but he strove to lessen the evil.  He was a reformer.  It was
probably this feature of his activity, and not his spiritual mission,
that attracted to him the little group of positivists on the East Side,
the demagogues of the labor lodges, the practical workers of the working-
girls' clubs, and the humanitarian agnostics like Dr. Leigh, who were
literally giving their lives without the least expectation of reward.
Even the refined ethical-culture groups had no sneer for Father Damon.
The little chapel of St. Anselm was well known.  It was always open.
It was plain, but its plainness was not the barrenness of a non-
conformist chapel.  There were two confessionals; a great bronze lamp
attached to one of the pillars scarcely dispelled the obscurity, but cast
an unnatural light upon the gigantic crucifix that hung from a beam in
front of the chancel.  There were half a dozen rows of backless benches
in the centre of the chapel.  The bronze lamp, and the candles always
burning upon the altar, rather accented than dissipated the heavy shadows
in the vaulted roof.  At no hour was it empty, but at morning prayer and
at vespers the benches were apt to be filled, and groups of penitents or
spectators were kneeling or standing on the floor.  At vespers there were
sure to be carriages in front of the door, and among the kneeling figures
were ladies who brought into these simple services for the poor something
of the refinement of grace as it is in the higher circles.  Indeed, at
the hour set apart for confession, there were in the boxes saints from
up-town as well as sinners from the slums.  Sometimes the sinners were
from up-town and the saints from the slums.

When the organ sounded, and through a low door in the chancel the priest

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